Tag Archive | "culture"

The Great Fragmentation: We Are All Weirdos Now

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App: A Documentary About The Human Side Of The App Revolution

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The Valley Has Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

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A Mash Note To George Lucas’ Museum, Signed By M.C. Hammer (And Tech Leaders, Too)

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A Mash Note To George Lucas’ Museum On His Birthday, Signed By M.C. Hammer (And A Bunch Of Important Tech People)

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Star Wars cupcakes

Facebook promotes Chris Cox to Chief Product Officer

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Facebook has announced that Chris Cox, formerly the company’s VP of Product, has been promoted to the position of Chief Product Officer. This doesn’t reflect an organizational change, but will fortify his position as a chief member of the Facebook team. Cox is the first person to hold the role of CPO for Facebook.

A Facebook spokesperson commented on the announcement to Inside Facebook:

Chris Cox’s elevation to Chief Product Officer is a reflection of the major role he plays in overseeing the products and features at Facebook. Chris has been instrumental in shaping the evolution of people’s experience using Facebook, our culture and our company, and he’ll continue to do the same as CPO.

Cox currently leads Facebook Product Management, Design and Marketing teams around the world. He joined Facebook in 2005 as a software engineer and built the early versions of key Facebook products such as News Feed. Cox has also served as Facebook’s Director of Human Resources.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Twitter’s Dick Costolo On What It Takes To Be A Good CEO

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2013 was a very good year for Twitter, so it’s only fitting that Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo took home the award for CEO of the year at the 7th annual Crunchies Awards held this week in San Francisco.

Backstage at the show, TechCrunch co-editor Matthew Panzarino pulled Costolo aside for a quick interview to talk about Twitter’s success over the past year and what it means to be a good CEO. When Panzarino asked Costolo to share his “playbook” for leading Twitter, he had a really thoughtful response. He said:

“I’ll say two things. We had the good fortune to have Adam Silver, the new commissioner of the NBA, in the office the other day, and someone asked him about the culture of the NBA. Adam said, ‘One of the great players in the NBA told me that championships aren’t won on the court, they’re won on the bus.’ And what he was referring to is that sense of team building, and making sure that it feels like a team, and that you’re all pulling for each other and working together. That is what makes something work. And I think that’s something I just really pay very careful attention to.

Someone asked me once in an interview, ‘If you had to describe yourself as a CEO how would you describe yourself?’ And I thought about it for a second, and I said, ‘Well, I think I’m present.’

I try to be really present and there for the team, and to understand what everybody else understands. Because when you have that understanding of what everybody else understands, you can provide the proper context for the decisions that are being made, and help communicate those decisions. And then, it’s easier for everybody else in the company to feel like they have a sense of why decisions are being made…

…If I could sum up my advice in one sentence, it would be to make sure that everybody understands what you understand.”

You can watch that and the rest of the conversation in the video embedded above.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

How Louis CK And The Hare Krishnas Can Make You A Better Entrepreneur With This One Trick

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Editor’s note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and several-times entrepreneur. His latest book is “Choose Yourself!” (foreword by Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter). Follow James on Twitter @jaltucher.

I once wanted to be a stand-up comedian but I was too afraid to even go on a stage. Then I wanted to do a TV show but kept getting rejected. So finally I switched industries and started an Internet business.

Louis CK is my favorite comedian. He is the high priest of understanding our culture. I watch him every day. I watch the same routine over and over. I can spend hours breaking down every line of his routines. I watch him before I give talks because I get to borrow his confidence. I used to watch him before dates. I even watch him before I hang out with my kids.

I first saw him perform live in 1995 or 1996 at the Aspen Comedy Festival. I went two years in a row. One time I bored Dave Chapelle to death. I kept talking and talking and finally he said, “Excuse me, I have to get out of here and find me a girl for tonight!”

Another time there I asked Al Franken if I could interview him. He looked me up and down and said, “No” and walked on. Fair enough. Now he’s a U.S. senator, and I just write random stuff on my Facebook wall.

They both said “no” and moved on. But I needed them to say “yes” and didn’t know how to get them to.

Louis CK did a bit in his last show that was sort of outrageous. It begins with killing kids and ends with justification for slavery. In it, to get laughs, he uses the exact same sales technique that has made the Hare Krishnas billions of dollars and should be used by everybody on a daily basis. He starts off saying “Children who have nut allergies need to be protected… of course, but maybe…if touching a nut kills you…you’re supposed to die.”

Everyone laughs and claps.

He has funny delivery. He says “Of course not, Of course not, but maybe, but maybe,” and then he holds his hand over his eyes and says “if we all do this for a year we’d be done with nut allergies forever.”

Everyone laughs. It’s funny. He has some compassion in it (“of course not, but“), so he’s forgiven. I forgive him. He makes it funny and we clap.

He does a few more. Then he says, “Of course… slavery was bad.” And suddenly he hit a third rail. Everyone stops for a second. They don’t know whether to clap or not. It’s against the rules!

But then he hits the entire point of the joke. The reason the joke is so funny. The entire reason Louis CK is an artist and has risen to the top of his profession. He goes up against that awkward pause from the audience. He then goes past it and brings them with him.

Society (parents, schools, colleagues, government, etc.) builds up walls. Evolution builds up walls. The walls are in our brain. Art bangs against them and forces us to go “OUCH!” or have some other reaction (laughter, creation, innovation, excitement).

When people stop laughing for a second at the word “slavery,” Louis CK stops his joke and unveils the real joke:

“Listen, listen, you all clapped for dead kids and the nuts.” He then mimicked the clapping. In every way he reminds them of how funny they thought kids dying of nut allergies was. And how ludicrous it is but they still laughed.

Then he points out the whole audience: “So you’re in this with me now, do you understand? You don’t get to cherry pick. Those kids did nothing to you.”

And now the audience was laughing again. Even louder than before. Some people were cheering. He was ready now for his joke on slavery.

This was what was funny. The reality is: they did have the right to cherry pick.

But he used a clever psychological technique to make them think they didn’t. And it’s the same trick Hare Krishnas have used to raise billions of dollars.

It’s a trick you need to be aware of if you want to succeed in life — to say “no” when you need to and to help others get to “yes” when you need them to.

When the Hare Krishnas first started preaching in airports they had nothing going for them. Nobody would listen to them.

They raised no money. They were failures. Who would give money to a strange-looking shaved guy dressed in robes with totally different beliefs who had his hand out?

Answer: Nobody.

Then everything changed and they became the fastest-growing religious movement in the United States in the 1970s. They raised billions of dollars.

What did they do? What changed?

Flowers.

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The first thing they did when they met you was give you a 5-cent daisy. In fact, since so many people threw out the daisies, they often gave you a used daisy because they would fish them out of the garbage cans.

And yet, once you took that daisy, your brain flipped an evolutionary switch. You were on!

You would now have to listen and maybe even agree with the rest of their story and give them money.

There are two rules at work here:

1) The law of reciprocity. If someone does something for you, the brain feels obligated to return the favor. Evolution weeded out the people who would not do anything for you. People learned to cooperate like this so they would survive in the jungle.

Robert Cialdini covers this rule in his book “Influence.” That said, I do not believe this rule is applicable here but a slightly different and more critical rule.

The law of reciprocity is really just a subset of the rule that governs almost every transaction and conversation in our lives.

2) Commitment bias. If you say “yes” to something small, your brain has already decided, “this is someone I can trust and say ‘yes’ to.”

For instance, in a study, if someone asks you “Would you be interested in hearing about causes that can help the environment?” (almost everyone says “yes” because that’s an easy “yes”) then you are about 50 percent more likely to donate when a donation is asked for than if you hadn’t been asked that simple first question.

Commitment bias works because you had to know who was reliable in the jungle 100,000 years ago. You had to know if someone was on your side or not. If they demonstrated it once, then chances are they are on your side and were trustworthy.

Do you want to know what the most popular article ever on my blog is? It’s the one where I say nobody should ever own a home again. People hate this article. They hate it because there’s probably nothing else in life with higher commitment bias.

If you just put $100,000 (or $10,000) down on a home and more on maintenance, taxes, etc., you don’t want anyone telling you you made a mistake. You have huge commitment bias as opposed to the second before you put any money down.

Louis CK made use of the second law (the first law is implicit – he is putting on a show for them so he is giving them something) in this joke.

He got them to laugh to a milder version of the joke (peanut allergies, where even he says, “of course not. I have a nephew with peanut allergies and I would be devastated if something were to happen to him, so he shows his compassion. He’s one of us.)

But now they are in. They took the flower. Now they have to hear the more extreme version of the joke (“slavery”) and they even have to laugh (like people would have to donate billions to the Hare Krishnas).

He knew this (“You’re all in this with me now” even though they weren’t really) and their brains were sucked in and, when you listen to the video, they are actually laughing even harder now.

When dealing with people in business or even in relationships, get them to “yes” on something simple. Then they are in.

This is why learning the “Power of No” is so important. It fights our evolutionary tendencies that were important for 500,000 years but are no longer as important.

I love this joke. I laughed. Because he also makes subtle reference to history.

Each major language in the world — English, Spanish, Han Chinese, and Arabic — are the languages of genocidal empires that at one point or another conquered the entire world.

So as much as you like to speak English, and as much as you like our culture and art and everything, it’s the result of centuries of conquest and killing and slavery. And we live in it and order take-out and watch “American Idol” and participate in the culture.

So you’re all in on this now. You can’t cherry pick your history.

Which is what Louis CK’s joke is really about without him explicitly saying it. It turns history upside down. It uses clever psychological tactics that are used (and often abused) in marketing, and he gets people to laugh all at the same time.

That’s why Louis CK is the master. That’s why I love him.

I’ve also lately been really enjoying CK, Daniel Tosh, Marina Franklin, Jim Norton and Anthony Jeselnik. If you have other favorites, please put them in the comments. I need new people to watch.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Billion-Dollar M&A Club Admission Guidelines

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Editor’s note: Glenn Solomon is a Partner with GGV Capital. Some of his recent investments include Pandora, Successfactors, Nimble Storage, Isilon, Domo, Square, Zendesk, Quinstreet and AlienVault. His personal blog,goinglongblog.com, focuses on growth-stage entrepreneurs who are thinking big. Follow him on Twitter @glennsolomon.

Average valuations for venture-backed M&A deals typically come in a pretty tight range.  According to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), in 2013 there were 377 total M&A exits of venture-backed companies with mean pricing of $161 million. This compares with total deal count of 499 and 488 and mean pricing of $143 million and $173 million in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Every once in a while, however, a $1 billion or even multi-billion M&A deal for a venture-backed, relatively young company pops up, such as the recent Nest/Google announcement. These deals defy conventional valuation logic since the acquired companies are early in their revenue curve or sometimes even pre-revenue. Where do these billion-dollar deals come from and what factors are involved in their creation? Below I’ve identified three primary drivers that motivate acquirers.

Billion-Dollar M&A Drivers

Rocket Ship Riding. Sometimes a target achieves such incredibly fast early growth that acquirers become enamored with the potential for the future. Particularly in the consumer Internet context, these companies are often pre-revenue, with growth coming in other key metrics. Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram is a good example. Facebook clearly saw Instagram’s growth as both a threat to its own popularity and an opportunity to continue to expand engagement among its core constituents. Price didn’t matter as much as this future potential. Google’s near $1 billion acquisition of Waze was similarly driven by the traffic app’s growing popularity and Google’s recognition that it could integrate Waze functionality into Google Maps, further enhancing its own product line.

Fear of Losing Out. In addition to perceived potential, fear is also a very powerful motivator.  Acquisition prices can be driven up to billion dollar levels when an acquirer develops the fear, real or not, that they might lose an opportunity, either to a competitor or to the target itself gaining enough traction that it will remain independent and become a threat to the acquirer over time.

When DoubleClick was acquired by Google for $3.1 billion, Microsoft was widely rumored to be aggressively pursuing the deal, as well. No matter that DoubleClick had been acquired by private equity firms Hellman & Friedman and JMI Equity for approximately a third of that price just a few years earlier. The perception that the inventory DoubleClick controlled was extremely strategic gained footing in Google’s board room, similar to Microsoft, which led to the outsized outcome.

When VMWare acquired early-stage Nicira for $1.3 billion, VMWare execs saw this as a move to protect their core server virtualization franchise and extend into network virtualization, as well. When looked at from this vantage point, the price makes more sense.

Lottery Pick on Draft Day. Innovation is rarely a core competency at large tech companies.  In fact, executional excellence, at which large tech companies usually excel, often runs counter to the culture of risk taking required to spawn new, disruptive initiatives. Execs at large tech companies know this and it can be very frustrating. This can motivate the desire to bring in a team of people who are perceived to have skills and abilities to drive innovation that otherwise won’t occur. With this logic, acquisition price becomes a minor issue.

Google’s recent $3.2 billion Nest acquisition must have been driven, at least in part, by Google’s desire to bring in a talented consumer hardware team, headed by Tony Fadell, that can innovate in the connected home area. This is a market Google has identified as important, but without a tiger team like the one from Nest, Google execs recognize they will likely never get from here to there.

Consideration and Considerations

Although entrepreneurs who end up selling for $1 billion or more rarely begin their journeys thinking they sell their companies, there are several issues that should be considered carefully if this becomes an option.

Cash vs Stock. With growing piles of cash on the balance sheets of many large tech companies, the ability to pay cash for some or all of the purchase price in a billion-dollar M&A is more common these days. Cash obviously removes any uncertainty with respect to the ultimate price. Stock prices can plummet, adding possible risk to a stock deal for entrepreneurs, their employees and investors. Especially if you’re being acquired as a lottery pick, expect acquirers to want you and your key team to stay for many years. The purchase price will highly incentivize you to stay, including stock vesting. Each entrepreneur has a very unique and personal situation and needs to weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Certainty of Closure. When an acquirer floats a very large acquisition price, the risk of the deal not going through to completion increases.  Recognize that someone at your potential acquirer is probably staking her or his career on the decision to pay up to acquire your company.  Its human nature to get cold feet.  Pay close attention to who the acquirer is – what’s their reputation is for going through with acquisitions?  what’s the status of the company right now?  how powerful is the board and/or CEO and are they behind the deal?  It’s not atypical for a target to go with a lower price from an acquirer who has a higher perceived certainty of closure versus other higher offers from riskier would-be acquirers.

Fit and Alignment. For entrepreneurs, there’s no rule that you must accept an acquisition price once it hits a certain level. Many potential acquisitions don’t consummate because the perceived cultural fit and/or alignment on the future vision doesn’t completely align.  Most entrepreneurs with whom I’ve spoken who have sold their companies (whether at billion dollar levels or lower) regret the decision later due to poor fit with the acquirer.  It’s critical to get this right.

For many entrepreneurs, their own indomitable will doesn’t waver, even in the face of a billion-dollar M&A offer, and it’s go long and go big or bust.  For example, Snapchat appears to be on this path, at least for now.  For some others, the appeal of taking a billion dollar offer is high enough to veer off the independent path.  Instagram went this route.  There isn’t a right answer.  But, recognizing the motivation of would-be suitors – be it rocket ship, fear of losing out, all-star draft picks, or some combination of the above – can help navigate the waters.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

What Games Are: Sports And Video Games

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Editor’s note: Tadhg Kelly is a veteran game designer and creator of leading game design blog What Games Are. He has recently moved into managing developer relations at OUYA. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Though I was never a big fan of sports as a kid I’ve often found them to be valuable as a lens to interpret video games. Sports are usually played in real time and under limited conditions, and they require both skill and smarts to succeed. Sports are usually played with abstract goals in mind, such as scoring points. Sports usually have an overriding win condition, and winning is essentially the whole point of playing. So are many video games. 

Traditionally a big difference between sports and video games is that most sports are played multiplayer, but most video games are played single player. To some it’s only a matter of time before that happens but personally I think not. There isn’t and never will be a pressing need for a game like Gone Home to go multiplayer. The world is not crying out for The Stanley Parable to become a team sport.

However another traditional difference between sports and video games is slowly disappearing, and that is whether they are watched or played. Sports have long been a spectator activity, whether in guise of physically going to see a match or watching on TV. But video games were supposed to be about the playing rather than the watching, and so were a private activity. Who would really want to watch you play through a game?

Well it turns out the answer to that question is “everybody”. Live streaming, speed runs, let’s-play, spectator matches, social video sharing and so on have all quickly become big business. According to figures recently released by Twitch.tv, 12 billion minutes of video game coverage was watched on their service in 2013, doubling 2012′s number. 45 million people tuned in to watch video gaming. 6 million videos were broadcast on their service. And, perhaps most incredibly, the average viewer spent 106 minutes per day watching.

Anecdotally I see people all across my Twitter feed talking about games they’re watching or broadcasting. Just as soccer fans often share best-goal clips on Youtube, it’s become a thing in video games to share around best-run clips from games like Spelunky or big battles from League of Legends. I know several friends who have streams open all day long, for example, almost like listening to the radio while they work, and what’s even more fascinating to me is the degree to which their conversation around the games they watch is starting to look like sports chatter.

Streaming of video games creates all sorts of legal gray areas (if I stream-play a narrative-driven game and essentially share the story with 100 other viewers, has the game maker lost 100 sales?) there’s no denying its appeal. But there’s still a distance to go before the participatory culture emerging around video games crosses over into the mainstream. Even though Twitch.tv’s numbers are very impressive, for example, they are dwarfed by real-world sports. Video games have not yet built to that level.

For example this weekend the streets of Seattle are filled with an urgent hope. Thousands of flags are flying high, everyone’s wearing indigo-and-green sports jerseys and a chant can be heard in every pub and bar. It starts with one person shouting “Seeeeaaa” and the crowd responding “Haawwwks!”, and then again and again. The big game has come against the rival 49ers (boo hiss) and the winner gets a shot at the Super Bowl.

There’s really no video game equivalent to that kind of cultural ubiquity. Not yet. One missing piece is television. Sports are so influential because they’re on TV, and TV is in homes and bars and everywhere else. TV is focused through channels and so mass attention can still be harnessed through it. Indeed sports are one of the few kinds of programming that can still do that. And while some sports (such as WWE) start to evolve from pure TV shows into more rounded services, TV is still the primary point of access.

Digital game streaming has gained a foothold on TV through devices like gaming consoles and media streamers. They also have tablet apps and so can get to TV via technologies like AirPlay or Chromecast. But as yet there’s no serious coverage on regular TV (in the West at least), no dedicated channels on cable, nothing that could conceivably be easy enough for a sports bar to show. While arguably certain parts of the TV model of doing business are going away anyway, the easy access that TV can provide is still not quite in-reach as of yet.

Another missing piece is familiarity. The NFL is so popular in the U.S. because of its deep roots in schools and communities that keep the passion of the game alive. The same is true of soccer in Europe and many other sports in different parts of the world. People grow up with these sports and so are inducted into their culture from a very early age.

Video games are very different in that respect. For one thing they’re still seen as outsider-enough by the people who don’t consider themselves “gamers” (but play Candy Crush Saga in bed every night) and still believe that games rot the brain despite all the evidence. Set against that backdrop can be hard to see how they cross the gap into acceptance, but in reality those kinds of attitudes are increasingly held by the minority. We’re all geeks about one thing or another these days and we’re slowly allowing ourselves to admit it.

Finally the third piece is the pace at which video games change. Sports are vast and relatively unchanging rule sets that transcend the generations, and their rules often become colloquial terms of reference. A home run is a home run, same as it was 100 years ago, and that has cultural value.

Few are the video games whose appeal lasts five years, never mind 100. There are always new hits, new innovations and new genre kings. This years’s big first-person-shooter becomes last year’s with great regularity. And so to really enjoy a service like Twitch you arguably need to know something about video games in general, to be a part of the constant ever-evolving culture. So there’s an accessibility gap of the kind that TV has great difficulty with. TV is generally unable to broadcast the dorky and the geeky without injecting it full of cringe, and maybe this is why eSports and Twitch and the like have not made it onto ESPN yet. 

But surely that’s only a matter of when, not if. As TV continues to be disrupted regardless and new entrants to broadcasting emerge that don’t play by its rules, it’s entirely conceivable that those blocks will just go away. Will a day come, for example, when Twitch offers a subscription service to gamer bars rather than sports bars, where the establishments themselves change to get in line with where the viewers are going?

Of course it will. One day, maybe sooner than you think, the fans in the streets will be cheering for their digital teams.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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