The Jobs Act — not so fast

The Jobs Act has done good things to jump-start funding.

Title II, already in place, has led to a dramatic increase in crowdfunding. However, only accredited investors (i.e. rich people) can invest.

Title IV (popularly known as Reg A+), set to take place in a couple of months, opens the field to non-accredited investors (i.e. everyone else). This is what people are talking about. (There is no Title III. While Title III significantly broadens the field for startups to raise capital, it is still not finalized.)

Among some breathless enthusiasm for Title IV are some facts that aren’t broadly understood by both investors and startups.

To explain, there are two levels to Title IV:

  • Tier 1 allows companies to raise up to $20 million.
  • Title 2 allows companies to raise up to $50 million.

Tier 1 companies do not need audited financials. However, they will still need to file their offerings in every state where the securities are offered. This could cost startups tens of thousands of dollars in legal and compliance fees (if you’ve ever been through this process, you’ll know it’s really not a big deal, but it just costs money for lawyers to file the paperwork).

Tier 2 companies don’t have to register with each state, but will have the requirement to have audited financials. Now, this is where it gets tough: audited financials for a startups are about as rare as a brass monkey’s bottom. And if they do get audited financials, it is quite expensive. (In a side story, two states have filed lawsuits against the SEC over the state exemption. They want some control over the process.)

For startups, this is tough, which means the primary beneficiaries will be companies that can actually afford these fees or have audited financials. And those companies, of course, may be just what the SEC wanted in the first place: to protect the grandmothers and orphans who may lose their money in these investments (putting aside the fact that there is actually a cap on how much a non-accredited person can invest anyway, no more than 10% of their income/net worth on a deal).

So, I don’t see the funding world changing overnight with this change, although I do think that we will see some impact.

However, another side of me can’t help but worry that we have opened a pandora’s box with all of these new investment vehicles. In fact, I’m actually glad that the SEC is being so cautious. They, like me, are quite concerned about creating a funding bubble. But that horse may have already left the proverbial barn door (pardon the mixing of metaphors).

 

Facebook’s move to animated gifs — what it means

Hey, you want to post an animated gif on Facebook?

Just post the url and *poof*, you’ll get your animated gif.

Animated cat viceo1231203909

 

However, for marketers, this is gold.

Animated gifs are easy, fast and effective ways to get a message across. People do love them (especially cats, Carlton, Will Farrel and Jonah Hill). They create an emotional response that’s hard to get with other mediums.  

And users share them, increasing the network effect of your advertising.

But they will make your Facebook page look like something similar to a Korean candy store.

With an increasingly mobile world, are web advertisers getting screwed?

There’s a troubling side effect of Google’s (and Bing’s) nearly total focus on mobile (when I say “mobile”, I mean both smartphone and tablet usage).

Search engine marketers are getting screwed, at least if they don’t want tablet or app traffic.

There are plenty of advertisers who don’t care for tablet traffic — or if there is going to be tablet (or app) traffic, they want to be able to shape it for a possibly different offering.

With Google, you can shape your Adwords spend by simply setting your mobile bid to -100%.  Poof! No more mobile ad spending.

Abidadwords19818213

But you can’t change tablets. And with tablets usage starting to really make a difference, that’s a challenge.

With Bing, one can reduce tablet spend by 20%. But not by 100%. They’re playing close to the same game that Google is.

Bing12888123000a

App traffic is another problem. Some publishers don’t want app traffic, and as one SEM expert told me recently:

“The sneaky thing is this: in Google we routinely have to play whack-a-mole with new websites and apps they’re sending traffic from and exclude them. In one case Google lifted ~$1,000 from our wallets from app traffic, then out-and-out refused to issue a credit.”

There are already problems with SEM (fake clicks, etc.). But now, without the ability to completely fine-tune SEM spending, the impact is significant. When you’re a major Adwords buyer (I know of companies that routinely spend millions on Adwords per year), there’s a real impact to the bottom-line.

Dissecting the dissector: Mary Meeker’s presentation

Each year, Mary Meeker of KPCB does a data-overwhelming presentation on the state of the internets.  Her slides and slide volume are famous: this woman knows data (there are even attempts to make her slides better).

There are not many surprises in this year’s presentation, but there are important highlights that are valuable.

There’s a lot of money being made. Tell us something we didn’t know.
The presentation starts with a nice throwaway slide. It’s largely useless but a nice way for Kleiner Perkins to pat itself on the back and for Warren Buffet to feel silly.

(So the market cap of internet companies is massively bigger, because, well, the internet is massively bigger. Plus there’s this asset inflation thing going on.)

ASSET INFLATION

Okay, on to the meaty stuff…

If you haven’t figured it out, it is all about mobile.
Mobile, peeps! Just yesterday, I went to the website of a well-known technology company, only to find that the website was unusable on mobile (clearly, they ignored me).

But this is all not about creating mobile websites. It’s about mobile as the fundamental paradigm. The desktop is a “who cares” proposition. If this isn’t clear to everyone within hailing distance, I don’t know what else to say.

So, we start off with the obligatory OMG THERE ARE SO MANY MOBILE USERS!!112!!

Whatever.

Mobiel12931888123818231A

But this is interesting:

Thisisinteresting 1231231238

In other words, the daily usage of digital media on mobile is now the majority of the time spent during the day. Kind of obvious, but it’s still yet another wake-up call.

But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of greenfield:

Greenfield19238123818

 

ARPU (not a typo)
Then, she talks about advertising, but in the context of Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), it’s up but the growth rate is slowing.

It’s still incredible, but…

Here’s the impossible-to-understand chart by Mary Meeker:

Arpu12398123

But someone (namely, me) puts the data into a spreadsheet and then it’s clearer what’s happening.

Averagerevenueperusers123123

Okay, that looks sweet.

But now let’s graph the growth of Facebook:

Facebook average growth 19238

And Twitter:

Twitteraverage user growth 12988

Yeah.  The growth is slowing. Ugh.

Desktop advertising. A big fat “meh”.
Oh, and just in case you didn’t get the memo, desktop advertising isn’t where the party is.

Desktop yoy

 

TV is so… not
Now, again on that whole mobile thing, take a look at mobile screen viewing.

It’s beating TV.

Tv viewing 123008123

 

(And she also basically says not to even bother with horizontal videos for ads, stick to vertical.)

Enterprise software is dead. Long live enterprise software.
There are quite a few slides spent on something that I really consider important.

Enterprise software as we have known it is dying.

Instead, we have innovative and (often) amazing tools by companies like Slack (reducing email traffic materially), payment gateways (Square and Stripe), business intelligence (Domo, my personal man crush on an enterprise software company), secure documents (Docusign), customer messaging (Intercom), customer service (Directly), HR (Zenefits), spreadsheets (Anaplan), recruiting (Greenhouse), and much more.

The future 12980801823123

 

This is important and what I’m spending a lot of my time right now working on — the complete revolution in enterprise software, from stuff that was disintegrated and required proactive action on the part of the user, to products that are integrated and are themselves proactive (domo is a perfect example). Some of these solutions are truly awesome, and I mean that.

Big data was the first big breakthrough, but there’s a lot more behind the story. It brings the vision of software as a unifying activity, not what it has been in the past — by any stretch of the imagination.

Do I sound breathless? Yup, guilty.

So onward, soldiers, let’s look at some more slides and have a bit of fun.

Messaging is huge.
Okay, messaging is big. I mean — really big. Messaging apps are top in global usage and sessions. No surprise, since human beings spend a vast amount of their time communicating (even if it is cat videos and other crap).

Messagign123912381823123

 

Will mobile be the central communication hub? Of course. It’s already happening. And that’s really important to understand if you are into that space. Or any similar space, for that matter.

Power to the peeps.
Now, along the way, some people may have forgotten about the most critical aspect to this whole community thing: the actual user.

And the user is now the curator and creator of content. It’s really massive.

Look at this data: Power to the people, indeed.

Apowertothepeople 129381823

And listen to the kids. They are leading the pack:

Cherishthechildren12391238

 

Cybersecurity wake-up call.
Then we move into my wheelhouse, security, where there are no surprises. But certainly some clarity. Again, mobile, BYOD, these are real issues.

A security 1293818123

 

A security 18833

 

The global stuff.
So then we get to a touchy subject, the global economy. If you’re pro-China, now is the time to pay attention. And if you’re pro-America, now is the time to really pay attention.

Usa loving 12888123

 

Now the good news: Americans will have more time to spend on cat videos on their smart phones.
And with US population growth outpacing job growth, more and more people are on the dole. There is probably a bit of bread and circus going on, but one cannot discount what has happened to the US.

The dole18881233

 

Immigration is slightly up. And that’s good, not bad.
Immigration is up. I think this is very positive, as immigrants, despite some who scream otherwise, infuse our economy and culture with freshness and vitality.

(Wait, you think that with downward job growth, this is a problem? Actually, no. Immigrants boost economies.)

Immigrants 128388123

 

Life still sucks for wedding planners.
And another reason we need immigration: We are going to need fresh citizens, because a) Americans don’t marry much anymore and b) the average household size has plummeted.

Marriage and household

 

Pay attention to the millennials. They are the biggest portion of our workforce now.
And now, with millennials being the biggest percentage in the workforce, expect the workplace to change.

Because they have different needs and wants than other types of employees:

Millenials 12888123

Keep a spare lance around.
And freelancers (yay fiverr) are 34% of the workforce. Yup.

And that’s good news, because the economy is not going to help them.

 

Freelancers 1888123

 

Elance, Airbnb, Etsy, Thumbtack, Uber, Fiverr, etc. are all a big help to freelancers.

China is doing the Estonia thing.
Okay, in China you can use WeChat to interact with the government.

Hey — I want that here.

China wechart 999123

There’s more on China and India starting on page 150 and the rest is other useful information, particularly on UI design.

So that’s my color commentary for now. You can see the whole report, here.

 

Top 10 Corporate email etiquette rules

Many years ago, I held a talk at one of my companies about email etiquette. We certainly had a problem.

But by putting in place some simple rules, it really made a difference in our internal culture.

More importantly, realize that your email is a broadcast of who you are. A well-written email really is noticed by the people who matter — those who will promote you, work with you, help you. Sloppy, crappy emails are very annoying.

Email is the prime communication medium for an organization. So I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned over the years.  Probably none of this is new to you, but you might find a reinforcement of your own viewpoint in this list.

1. Never vent or show anger in an email. It’s so tempting to write a blistering email that gives you the last word. But it’s incredibly toxic and unproductive (and I know, because I’ve done it!). Instead, cool off and talk to the person directly.

If you’re a manager and you are cc’d on an email with this kind of behavior, kill the thread immediately. Direct communication is the only way to resolve upsets.Email1999129399991111

2. Don’t ever say anything in an email that you wouldn’t like to see on the front cover of the New York Times. Privacy is an illusion and nothing is private anymore. I don’t even need to use examples of recent embarrassments. They are a dime a dozen.
Em19123
(Peter Chung’s incredibly embarrassing leak that lost him his job.)

3. Always reply to an email within 24 hours. Ideally, sooner.

There is nothing more frustrating that sending an email, only to get zero response. When it spreads as a habit by many employees, it hurts corporate culture, something I’ve seen first hand.

If you can’t reply immediately with an answer, write something to the effect that “I’ve read this, and I’ll get back to you a bit later on this.”

Organizations rely on rapid communication, and those who ignore emails are actually hurting their own company.

It’s common to think that someone who doesn’t answer your email is ignoring you, lazy, not doing their job, or a whole host of other “reasons” for not replying, when all that might be happening is that the recipient is traveling and hasn’t gotten to their inbox. But you still have to try to reply in 24 hours. It is important.

4. Don’t use fancy formatting. Stay away from colors. Stay away from different types of fonts. No pictures of unicorns, rainbows, puppies or any other such happiness. Keep it very, very clean.

Keep your signature simple. No pictures of your kids, flowers, huge and unnecessary graphics and other clutter.

Also remember that graphics often just become attachments (and too many attachments can make a spam filter suspicious), so use them carefully – if at all. (Of course, your LinkedIn information and typical business contact info is totally fine and expected.)

And don’t use patterned or colored backgrounds.

Ema1200123000123

5. Grammar: Write normal, full sentences. Don’t use “ain’t”, “gonna”, and other non-standard English words.

Be careful with emoticons — use them sparingly, if at all (and only if you have familiarity with the person). I saw an email once that had something like 10 emoticons in one paragraph. It looked, well, ridiculous.

Just because it’s an email does not mean it’s a free-for-all in casualness. The basic version of Grammarly is free. Or get my book. Or just be more careful.Email2

6. Don’t write all lower case or all upper case. Write normally. Writing all in lower case means you have aspirations to be the next e.e.cummings or that you’re old or uneducated or can’t use a keyboard. And, of course, UPPER CASE MEANS YOU’RE YELLING (or old, or uneducated, or just can’t use a keyboard).

7. Punctuation: Don’t overuse exclamation marks (!!!!) or question marks (???). Separate your paragraphs. Don’t place a space between the end of your sentence and the period (surprisingly common).
Email3
Don’t overuse ellipses (ellipses show that some text has been removed). And if you do use them, remember that ellipses are always three periods…
Email 5

8. Don’t overuse CCs and don’t abuse Reply All.

Be considerate.

I had to really drill this into my employees at one company. “You don’t have to worry about covering your ass and including me on a million emails. Think of who you’re including — it should only be the people who vitally need to know about what you’re sending.”

And the Reply All — don’t get me started. However, one thing that is important is to Reply to those who need to be on the thread. You can reply to the recipient and another person(s) who need to be on the mail, noting that you’ve removed the others.  If it’s important, you can also Reply All to the group, saying you’re taking the issue off-line with a few people, so that they know the situation is under control. Just don’t abuse Reply Alls.

Also, be very careful of Blind CCs. I’ve seen this bite people in the (you know what). They Blind CC me, I reply and then everyone knows there’s a Blind cc. Use it carefully, if at all.

9. Be considerate of the recipient’s device. Not everyone reads on a desktop. Realize that your beautiful HTML email, with your italics and boldface text, may just become plaintext. Or that the big attachment you’re sending might not be viewable on someone’s mobile device.

10. Write to be understood. Don’t use a lot of scientific jargon or big words that the recipient(s) won’t absolutely understand. Write at the level of a 15–year old.

In general, good writing (whether in email or in life) is:

  • Pure
  • Clear
  • Precise

Pure means that the writing is in just correct English, without anything else added. Pure writing doesn’t include:

  • foreign language words
  • unnecessary technical words
  • old, unused words
  • slang

Clear means writing that uses normal, simple words, and does everything possible to avoid confusion. Words are not used that might be misunderstood to mean something else. Clear writing also does not show off, or use complicated terms that no one understands.

Precise means writing that intends to have the reader completely understand what is being communicated with as few words as possible. Precise writing has the goal of getting something immediately understood by the reader. It is writing that doesn’t use long, boring sentences. It doesn’t overuse words. However, it is not too short to be baffling.

The folks over at EmailTray have some more pointers.

What do you think? Are there any other items that should be on this list?

More on the Tom Cruise redesign of the NASA website

A bit of news going around that Tom Cruise helped redesign the NASA website.

From CNET:

O’Keefe, who was NASA administrator from 2001-2005, said that Cruise is a “big space nut” and that when he paid a visit to NASA offices, the actor said the agency’s website wasn’t really designed for the masses. He then offered one of his “tech heads” who worked on his movie trailers to help the agency out by redesigning the site.

“So I took him up on the offer,” O’Keefe says in the video, “and it changed the appearance of that website in a way that made it inviting, interesting. Folks wanted to participate — you know, here it is, it jumps out at you.”

The work by Cruise’s team was done for free to the government, and was a major improvement.  It’s worth noting that Cruise never mentioned this to anyone or attempted to take any credit. It was mentioned by O’Keefe 13 years later.

Keeping in mind that this was done in 2002 (before a lot of current thinking in web design), here’s the original (and truly wretched) site:

Nasan1238810088383

 

 

Nasa129919293199

Ugh. Memories of Geocities!

The new website was substantially better.

Getting past a Flash intro (hey, it was 2003…), we can see the changes: 

Nasanew91101003

You had the ability to actually navigate the site, find what you needed, and it didn’t look like someone just threw up on your screen. In short, a very credible improvement.

You can enjoy it all yourself at Archive.org.

Of course, NASA went through evolutions, and the current website is a whole world different than the past.

In short, Cruise should be thanked for pitching in to help this very valuable agency.

Leading in a time of crisis

Stop2131123113a

An excellent overview of crisis management, complementing a few earlier posts by me on this blog.

There are two rules to follow in a crisis. Rule number one is this: Protect other people first – customers, employees and citizens. Not your shareholders or yourself. Protect the public and your customers, and the shareholders will follow. Why? Because the longterm reputation and goodwill of your organization are more important than any shortterm risk to shareholder value or your own job security.

Rule number two is a corollary to the first: Be prepared to reframe and expand your level of responsibility. In other words, accept responsibility even if you’re not at fault. This may feel counterintuitive, especially when someone else is clearly culpable. But reframing and expanding your level of responsibility will help lead you out of the crisis.

PDF link here.

How about a BMW laptop?

Apple-iMove-Concept-Car-By-Liviu-Tudoran-08_small1

Here’s a reply I used recently to an Apple fanboy just dying for an Apple car (because it would be sooo cool):

Me: “What’s your favorite car.”

Fanboy: “BMW”

Me: “How about a BMW laptop?”

Fanboy:  (silence)

What was the first thing Jobs did when he came back to Apple? FOCUS.

He was killing more products than he was making.

And now, amidst Apple car rumours, we have Carl Icahn in a one-man bozo explosion today, urging Tim Cook to get into making cars.

As autonomous driving would release drivers’ attention from the activity of driving and navigating, and perhaps even increase the time people actually want to spend inside a car, both an automobile and the services provided therein become even more strategically compelling. While Apple currently addresses this market with CarPlay, it seems logical that Apple would view the car itself as a the ultimate mobile device to which it could bring its peerless track record of marrying superior industrial design with software and services, along with its globally admired brand, and offer consumers an overall automobile experience that not only changes the world but also adds a robust vertical to the Apple ecosystem.  And for Apple, the car market is more than big enough to “move the needle” significantly, even as the world’s largest company.

All great ideas, but as I’ve said in a previous blog post, it would be a deadly move, due to something called the Line Extension Trap (a term originally coined by Al Ries and Jack Trout).

That’s when a company says “Oh, our brand is so powerful, we’ll extend it to other completely unrelated products”.

As Ries says:

Bayer non-aspirin. Dial deodorant. Life Savers gum. Kleenex towels. Eveready alkaline batteries. A1 poultry sauce…

If everyone in an industry line extends their brands (as happened in the beer business) then it’s not an issue at all. The winner will be the leading brand and its line extension (Budweiser and Bud Light) regardless of what the competition does or doesn’t do. (And in the cola business, Coke and Diet Coke.)

The case against line extension is a philosophical exercise. For a brand to exist, it needs to be filed away in the mind. And where does a consumer put your brand in the mind?

If you say, “Would you like a Budweiser?” the consumer thinks “beer.” Why is this so? Because apparently the Budweiser brand is filed in a mental category called “beer.”

Or if you say, “Xerox this document,” the consumer thinks “make a copy.” The Xerox brand is apparently filed in a mental category called “copier.”

So what happened when Xerox, the copier company, introduced Xerox computers?

Nothing. And Xerox went on to lose billions of dollars.

It is not only an issue of focus, it’s also an issue of brand extension into an unrelated area. I’m no saying it won’t work. But history is not on Apple’s side in this argument.

(Oh, and yeah, there is no big-screen Apple TV on the horizon.)

I like Icahn, for odd and various reasons. But as a marketer, I would give him a fail.

Using Google Image Search to filter out scammers

We all get invaded with friend requests on Facebook, LinkedIn and whatever else. Sometimes, it’s difficult to figure out if the person is kosher.

I got a very pretty woman friending me on Facebook recently. I don’t get pretty women friending me on Facebook, apart from my wife (yup, I’m playing to the crowd here!). Anyway, she looked familiar… and it turned out it was someone using Taylor Swift’s photo.

This is very common.

So… one quick way to check to see if someone is a scammer is by right-clicking on the photo image of the person, and choosing Search Google for this image (you need Chrome for this).

I’ve found two of these scammers in my LinkedIn inbox just today. Here’s one:

Johnkerry1200013311

 

We simply search for the image…

Johnkerry1200013311a

 

And find he’s a complete fake. Probably some guy in India.

Johnkerry1200013311b

Be careful out there.

 

Calculating MRR correctly

As more business go to subscription and SaaS models, they incresingly report to investors MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) and ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue).

But it’s not a standardized method of reporting (it’s not GAAP or IFRS), and I’ve certainly seen some serious mistakes myself.

Eric Yu does a good job of breaking the problem down.  Link here.

A trip down memory lane — Robertson Stephens commercials from 2000

RobertsonStephensLogo

(Note: there seems to be an intermittent WordPress problem displaying these YouTube videos on the main blog site. If you have trouble, you can access them directly here.)

I remember seeing this commercial in December 2000 (nine months into the dot com nuclear winter). I was a venture investor at the time, getting my ass kicked as my portfolio turned into a toxic sludge. One or two of the investments were sourced from Robbie Stephens. The irony was deep.

Robbie was out of business by 2002.

And there are others:

 

 

 

I happened to find this collection on the Errol Morris’ site (the agency that did these ads) where this gem of a collection still exists. I’ve done the internet a favor and put them on Vimeo and YouTube. Enjoy.

a16z

Asdfasdfasdfasdfasdf

If you haven’t seen the article on Andreeson Horowitz over at the New Yorker, it’s a worthy read.

This is priceless:

A16z was designed not merely to succeed but also to deliver payback: it would right the wrongs that Andreessen and Horowitz had suffered as entrepreneurs. Most of those, in their telling, came from Benchmark Capital, the firm that funded Loudcloud, and recently led the A rounds of Uber and Snapchat—a five-partner boutique with no back-office specialists to provide the services they’d craved. “We were always the anti-Benchmark,” Horowitz told me. “Our design was to not do what they did.” Horowitz is still mad that one Benchmark partner asked him, in front of his co-founders, “When are you going to get a real C.E.O.?” And that Benchmark’s best-known V.C., the six-feet-eight Bill Gurley, another outspoken giant with a large Twitter following, advised Horowitz to cut Andreessen and his six-million-dollar investment out of the company. Andreessen said, “I can’t stand him. If you’ve seen ‘Seinfeld,’ Bill Gurley is my Newman”—Jerry’s bête noire.

I can’t help but feel that this firm has a bit of the high-flyer in it, that’s a bit reminscernt of the Robbie Stephens of the 90s. Time will tell. They are making some very sharp investments, but they sure are paying a price for them.

Link here.

 

 

The rich untapped power of Pinterest

Consider this: There is a website that 28% of adult internet users and 22% of the entire adult population use. That’s bigger than Twitter. And yet to some, due to its quirkiness, it’s not fully understood.

Of course, I’m talking about Pinterest.

Now, Pinterest is an interesting animal. It’s heavily female-dominated (over 70% of users are female), and it’s heavily foodie, crafts and home decor oriented. But that’s the fat tail. Look at the top categories of Pinterest:

Untitled

There’s gold there. Certainly, housewares and food are top. But consider that photography, which makes up a smaller proportion, is still massive when taking into account the sheer scale of Pinterest.

And the average spend on conversation is higher than Facebook.

1sadfaafff

QuickSprout has a lot more in their useful infographic, here.