Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Innovation - Commercializing Art

If you have been in tee shirts and apparel any length of time you naturally development relationships with artists and I have known some really awesome artists.

There was a time with screen printed tees could be sold wholesale at $9 to $10 each and the market could not get enough of these lines; it was the golden era for artists and lines of screenprinted tees.

From time to time I am contacted by artists with a line of tee shirt art and a contract for royalties, oh, and I think how 20th century!

Then you find an artist that is using the internet in new and exciting ways to promote and sell their art.  My favorite is TEKSTartist and here is a sample of his art:

A few years ago I stumbled upon a company called, I Wear Your Shirt, which was such a wacky idea that you just knew it would be a big hit, and what started as one guy promoting your product via wearing your tee shirts and promoting it on social media has now become a full fledged company.

Well, TEKSTartist has adopted the same business model for himself and his art:

Its great to see people allowing the opportunity that the internet and social media provides to lead them to embrace the opportunity in new ways.  It seems that we continue to want to have technology conform to our old ways of doing things rather than allowing it to create new ways of doing old things.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Paying With Cash for Online and Mobile Transactions

A start up in Des Moines, Iowa has found a way for online and mobile payments to be made from your bank account at a fee of only 25 cents per cash transfer; read about it here:  The 28-year old Out To Kill Credit Cards!

If anything represents a true "changing the world" technology, then this start up is a sure revolution.

For all retailers tired of paying 3 to 4% per transaction this represents an ideal opportunity.

Visit their website at DWOLLA.

Here is information on their mobile application:

And, finally, information on their location based mobile payment system:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thinking About "Value"

More consumers opened accounts at Credit Unions since Bank of America announced its new debit card fee than were opened in all of 2010.

Credit Unions have added 4.5 Billion dollars in new savings accounts since September 27th:
"More than four in every five credit unions experiencing growth since Sept. 29 attributed the growth to consumer reaction to new fees imposed by banks, or a combination of consumer reactions to the new bank fees plus the social media-inspired Bank Transfer Day," the association said in a statement.

Christian said she did not intend to start a big movement when she shared her plans with her 500 Facebook friends. But as of Friday, 77,327 people have said via Facebook that they will "attend" the movement's Nov. 5 event.
The reality is that while we are viewing Occupy Wall Street and the various subsidiary protests as political movements we may, especially those in business, want to begin to accept these protests as a social movement.

Regardless of one's personal beliefs and or opinions, there is no denying that these recent protests are growing, have a worldwide focus, represent a broad spectrum of issues, encompass a broad demographic base, and are not going away anytime soon.

Successful businesses have to look toward the future and plan accordingly; and thus ask the question, "...what if these current protests represent the beginning of a fundamental shift in consumers?"

What if the concept of "value" is changing from low cost and mass consumption to something totally different?  

What if we are witnessing a fundamental shift from a "Wally World" economy to one where consumers demand a concept of value that does not involve only price?

What if the future belongs to "B Corporations?" Or, corporations that are founded on the following principles:
B Corps, unlike traditional businesses:

Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards;
Meet higher legal accountability standards;
Build business constituency for good business.
What if consumers begin to expect corporations to not only provide product and services but also engage in solving social and environmental problems?

Maybe, as Steve Jobs noted;
Jump To The Next Curve:

Big wins happen when you go beyond better sameness. The best daisy-wheel printer companies were introducing new fonts in more sizes. Apple introduced the next curve: laser printing. Think of ice harvesters, ice factories, and refrigerator companies. Ice 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Are you still harvesting ice during the winter from a frozen pond?
Which side of this new curve will you find yourself and your company on?

The reality is this new curve is here.  Patagonia has announced a new program that asks its customers to buy less by instituting a program to resell and or repair their existing Patagonia products.  Starbucks, which has been hugely successful by being ahead of the curve in a variety of areas has taken the lead in sponsoring a program of holding off on political contributions and now creating jobs in the United States.

Again, from Steve Jobs;
“Value” Is Different From "Price:"
Woe unto you if you decide everything based on price. Even more woe unto you if you compete solely on price. Price is not all that matters—what is important, at least to some people, is value. And value takes into account training, support, and the intrinsic joy of using the best tool that’s made. It’s pretty safe to say that no one buys Apple products because of their low price.
The concept of "brand" has always been about "lifestyle" and maybe now the concept of lifestyle is no longer about image but more about substance.  Maybe now the concept of "brand" has to be more a mission statement rather than a marketing tool?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Pattern Making" And Success

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?  Or, should all venture capitalists actually have experience at starting a company? 

In a recent blog post, Want To Be A VC?  Start A Company, Fred Wilson, who in my humble opinion is truly an "outlier," which is a complement of the highest degree that I bestow on few people, wrote about how he agrees that successful VC's need to have start up experience.  He has also written, in another post, Program Or Be Programmed, that one needs programming experience.

If you calculated the years it would take to acquire all the skill sets necessary to be successful then you would realize that no one under 50 could ever dream of starting a company, being a VC, or being successful.  Its like teaching entrepreneurship in college; exactly what classes would you have to add to your curriculum to truly prepare students to be entrepreneurs?  If you ask successful entrepreneurs they would tell you that success is due to "passion," "vision," and "people skills."  Yet our colleges come up with required classes like this.

Not real sure, within that curriculum, where a student of entrepreneurship would learn how to be passionate, or visionary, or come to understand how to motivate and lead people, oh, and shouldn't a class on "Ethics And Critical Thought" be taught by the Philosophy department rather than the Management department?

That then brings us to the concept of "Meritocracy" and the recent special by CNN:  Silicon Valley Is No Meritocracy For Minorities.  In the article the author states:
But I firmly believe, based on my 25 years in this industry, that market makers, both investors and the people who help you get ready to approach them, seek out entrepreneurs who appeal to them on some less than objective, visceral level, who feel "comfortable" to them. They don't need to actively filter out undesirable profiles. They just focus on what does appeal to them. They focus on the "patterns" they find appealing -- age is arguably a part of many investors' ideal pattern, but so are perhaps unacknowledged criteria like race, gender, cultural affinity, etc. On some level this should not be shocking, as it reflects socialization that all of us must work hard and consciously not to act on.

Yes, we all seek out "patterns" that reaffirm our own biases.  Of course a 20 something tech start up founder is going to believe that success is tied to being 20 something.  Just like an MBA is going to believe that success is tied to earning an MBA; and I have yet to meet a CPA who didn't believe they hung the moon!  The idea that taking up golf as a great way to move up in the world or the old saying, "...its not what you know but rather who you know that makes all the difference" is all socialization, its all bias', and its all about patterns.

The reality is that success may come from questioning ones own bias more than seeking out that which reinforces them; there may be safety in seeking reaffirmation but not necessarily success.  If skill set was all that was required then we could easily clone or program our way into success; but what if knowledge, experience, and success were more of an art than a science?