“If I was a video game, I would think this is a bug… my health bar is at zero, but I’m not dying.”—A founder friend of mine, battling against the odds. Maybe the most determined person I’ve ever met, and a great sense of humor about it all.
“there’s a lot of people in the world with real problems and running a venture funded startup isn’t a real problem… It’s a privilege… That doesn’t mean it isn’t mentally, socially, emotionally, and economically hard as hell.”—
“Each time we lose a customer, I feel like my girlfriend dumped me AND told me what guy she’s gonna sleep with next.”—A quote from a friend - edited for profanity as their version was a bit more “colorful” - via a post I just published on Medium.
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”—RIP Nelson Mandela
“We were changing things, and we saw from the church groups who protested us, the plain clothes cops that would come to our shows and camp out outside SST, we knew we were making a difference. And while I don’t think we were important, I knew we were onto something, and we never—didn’t make us think that we were any big damn deal at all. But we knew we were making ripples in an otherwise placid pool.”—Henry Rollins, talking about the influence Black Flag had on Southern California at the time. (via matyus)
Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself…
…Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
There is so much good stuff in this post, but these two really stick out to me as I believe they are intricately linked together and our relationships hinge upon the ability to understand and be understood, even in the face of uncertainty. It’s obviously relatable in startups, but is much more widely applicable to all of our relationships.
From an interview with designer/artist/soul searcher Elle Luna:
So I was using Uber all the time in San Francisco, even though I hated the design. And then I went to the Crunchies awards ceremony and at a post-ceremony event, where I was in a ball gown, I saw the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, sitting at the bar. I was three whiskeys deep at this point and I walked up to him and said, “I use Uber all the time and I absolutely hate the app. I think you should bring me in to fix it.” He replied, “Oh, yeah? What are the three things you’d fix about it?” I said, “I’d redo the logo, redo the entire app, and change the rating system.” I think there was something about being in a dress that empowered me to say such things (laughing). And do you know what he said? He said, “Be at the Uber office at 9am on Monday.” I told him I couldn’t do it alone and he said he’d have a team for me.
I thought the offer was bogus, but I went to Uber’s office on Monday at 9am, laughing to myself, and Travis led me back to a project room with two other designers—they were from outside of Uber and he had flown them in from New York! We took on the Uber app and redesigned it in three weeks. In fact, one of the guys he flew in from New York, Shalin Amin, ended up staying on full-time. The app is gorgeous and last night it won the Fast Company 2013 Innovation By Design Awards for the transportation category, beating out Mars Rover and Tesla.
Most people want to be fit, most people aren’t.
Most people want to build a successful business, most people won’t.
Most people want to be the best version of themselves, most people aren’t.
Most people have dreams they want to fulfill, most people won’t.
Everyone wants to quit something, build something, be something, do something. Most people won’t.
How many things have we wanted? How many opportunities have we craved? How many broken things have we wanted to fix?
And how many of those have we shrunk from. Hid from. Or, excused away.
We’re not alone.
Most people won’t.
But every once in a while someone puts themselves out there. Makes the leap. Faces rejection or failure or worse. And comes out the other side. Better. Changed. Bolder.
Most people won’t. Which means those that do change everything.
This is how it should be… at least, how I like things to be. Is meeting with some other founder who’s just starting up who has nothing to offer me “work?” Well, it doesn’t pay the bills, but I learn from it, I make new connections, I enjoy it… It’s not “work” but it sure feels like something I should be doing.
On the flip-side, is my weekly digital sabbath and trip to the ocean “work?” Well, again, it doesn’t put money in my pocket, but it’s where I find my balance, my energy, my inspiration to keep me challenging myself at Shelby.
It all starts to change once you break down the walls of “work” vs. “life.” Just consider it all your “life’s work.” Or call it “art” like Seth Godin does…
“Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another. Most painters, it turns out, aren’t artist at all — they’re safety-seeking copycats.”
Whatever you do, just don’t waste your time. As I heard recently, ‘Be phenomenal or be forgotten.’
“In my next post I’ll cover why online video is such an exciting opportunity for company building right now and how we think about building businesses with appropriate margins nearing 50-60%. I’ll cover why most VCs have stayed away from online video networks and why I believe they’re missing an important growth trend that looks more like a scalable tech business than the “hits driven” business they all fear.”—
“I have a whole new appreciation for what a white screen represents, how much work it takes to craft something with purpose, and how the tiniest details can affect your overall message. I think this kind of professional experience could have only been possible at a startup. Only a startup would take a 19-year-old after after his first year of college and treat him with respect, while holding him to a standard usually reserved for those at least a couple years older than him.”—
So for those who ask the question, this is in my opinion the true character of Elon Musk. Undeterred in the face of all odds, undaunted by the fear of failure, and forged in the battlefields of some of the most terrifyingly technical, and capital intensive challenges that any human being could choose to take on. Somehow he comes out alive, every time - with the others guy’s head on a platter.
Working with him isn’t a comfortable experience, he is never satisfied with himself so he is never really satisfied with anyone around him. He pushes himself harder and harder and he pushes others around him the exact same way. The challenge is that he is a machine and the rest of us aren’t. So if you work for Elon you have to accept the discomfort. But in that discomfort is the kind of growth you can’t get anywhere else, and worth every ounce of blood and sweat.
“But the truth, and the wonderful thing about entrepreneurship, is those things that got you into trouble before will get you onto magazine covers now. Know which rules to follow, which rules to break and how to channel that unruliness into things that matter.”—
Great post @bryce, and I didn’t know it then, but certainly explains how I felt growing up. Often clashing with those teachers, those coaches, who rule with justtoo much authority… not hurting others, but still questioning the rules and pushing the boundaries just because they were there! The same could be said for the closest company I kept, my hometown best buddy @bralfucious and my college buddy/cofounder @spinosa… the best possible mischiefs I could meet.
I had a great conversation with Gwen Moran who writes for Entrepreneur. Just reposting here:
It’s a gutsy move to start a business in a territory dominated by a behemoth like YouTube. But New York City-based Shelby.tv co-founders Reece Pacheco and Dan Spinosa have carved out a growing niche for themselves against a seemingly insurmountable competitor. They have attracted rock star venture capitalists and mentors like Brad Feld, co-founder and mentor at super-incubator TechStars and venture capitalist Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union Square Ventures.
Pacheco shared some of his dos and don’ts for leading companies against sizeable competitors.
1. Don’t obsess about what the competition is doing. Race car drivers are told to keep their eyes on the track because if you look at the wall, you’re going to crash into it, Pacheco says. Businesses with big competitors should do the same. The more attention you’re paying to your competitor, the less you’re paying to your company. Focus on your goals and objectives and don’t obsess about what the other company is doing, he says.
2. Do build your advantage. The weakness of many big competitors is that they don’t do everything well. Pacheco says a critical part of leading your startup to success in an environment with a dominant player is to focus on your key strengths and build your company around them. In Shelby.tv’s case, the social media component, which harnesses contacts’ Likes and shares on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to help curate a personalized video stream leads to users spending an average of 30 to 40 minutes on the site. While YouTube has an unwieldy amount of content, Shelby.tv suggests videos you likely want to see because your friends and contacts like them.
3. Do surround yourself with good people.
In addition to his power mentors, Pacheco also runs a CEO peer group with business owners in various stages. There, he shares challenges and gets support from fellow entrepreneurs. Shelby.tv hires carefully, looking for talented, committed team members, and take good care of their employees.
It can be daunting to compete with a huge company and employees worry about job security and being able to trust the company leaders. He holds meetings with his team members every six weeks. “You’ve got to rally your team. Be honest and say ‘We’re going to get through these challenges together. They trust you and they’re willing to stick by you through challenges,” he says.
4. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. The current version of Shelby.tv is the second iteration of the company. The company actually shut down its operations in July 2012 to build a more social-media focused video brand. While some thought that spelled doom for the company, Pacheco and Spinosa stayed focused on the product they would want to use, themselves. And it worked: The team raised $1.5 million in funding for its first iteration, then raised an additional $2.2 million for the next round.
"You can’t be afraid to scrap what you’ve done and do something new, especially when you’re competing against a big company. Go in a new direction," he says.
“When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend. Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start. Occasionally you will be disappointed, but your network will broaden rapidly if you follow this path.”—
“Jack Dorsey wrote a blog post a while ago saying that ‘users’ is the wrong word to describe people who, well, use your service. He was perfectly right in the sense that the word elides the obligation you should feel to a customer. However, an equal problem is the use of the possessive itself. You can think of people as users or customers - but they’re not yours. They don’t belong to you, and they may barely even care that you exist. The old Google rejoiced in sending people away from the site as fast as possible, because the result mattered, not the search. Glass points to a risk of forgetting that.”—
I agree with Jack and with Benedict here. I’ve always disliked the word “users” and trying to possess them seems silly… but, what other way is there to refer to the people who visit your site? Who use your product?
And when it comes to satisfying investors who demand growth and retention, what other business is there than attempting to own the relationship with them — even if it’s artificially manufactured?
Tough questions and worth thinking through for your startup.
I remember having dinner with my family some time after we raised our first round for Shelby.TV.*
My mom just looked at me at one point and said, “Where’d you learn how to do all of this? I don’t remember you studying this in school.” **
And she’s right, I didn’t.
“I taught myself and learned from people in the industry,” I told her at the time.
Yup. I read blogs.
From guys like Fred and Brad and Mark and Paul and Ben and Dixon, to any of the other awesome founders, creators, and investors who blog about their best practices, there is a litany of posts scattered across the web.
Launching a startup was a painstaking process of research, trial, error, more research, meeting veterans, finding mentors, more iteration, and more trials … but I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the knowledge I’d picked up from these guys.
And the truth is, if you ask any first-time founder they’ll admit they had no idea what they were doing when they started their company. Such is the life of a startup founder. You have to just dive in and learn as you go.
This morning I was excited to discover that budding startup founders now have a great resource to turn to, one which is aggregating all of this awesome knowledge into one place.
“Nor do I think it will be a problem that founders keep control of their companies for longer. The empirical evidence on that is already clear: investors make more money as founders’ bitches than their bosses. Though somewhat humiliating, this is actually good news for investors, because it takes less time to serve founders than to micromanage them.”—Startup Investing Trends
There needs to be a clear social contract when you take a job at a startup. Founders need to be upfront about the bad. You will work longer hours. It will be emotional. You may not get vacations, and even if you do, you may feel pressured not to take them. Your job description is fluid; ditto, org charts. You may not grow along with the company. The goal posts — whether you are in sales or product — are really a suggestion more than a rule. They are subject to change. The company may change what it does over the time you are there…
In exchange for all of that, you get to help build something. You will likely have more fun than working at other companies. You have the chance to get rich– no matter how slim that chance is. And you have the opportunity to have more responsibility and professional growth than you might on a typical career tract.
“Intuition, like a flash of lightning, lasts only for a second. It generally comes when one is tormented by a difficult decipherment and when one reviews in his mind the fruitless experiments already tried. Suddenly the light breaks through and one finds after a few minutes what previous days of labor were unable to reveal.”—Cryptonomicon (via henrysztul)
Your web video experience is exhausting. Clicking in and out of YouTube, across your social web, discovering great videos among disparate Tweets and scattered Facebook updates. It takes time and energy — we believe we can make that easier for you.
We’re very excited to announce that as of today, your video experience is both simpler and smarter with the latest update to Shelby TV.
Shelby TV now delivers you a single stream of video, tailored to your interests, influenced by your friends.
So, What’s Really New Here?
In addition to rolling out a new and improved landing page on Friday, we’ve made some more changes in this simpler, more streamlined Shelby, including:
Sharing video has never been easier. Share a video in your stream with followers on Shelby or to your Facebook and Twitter friends with just one click. Just click the Share button and add a comment and you can easily share the video to multiple networks from one place. We’ve also added a shortlink field in case you feel like sending a video to a friend in an IM or an email.
The Right Recommendations
Each video you watch, like, and share will sharpen our ability to deliver the videos that you want to see, when you want to see them. Your Shelby stream will get better every time you use it.
New “Community” Stream
Discover what Shelby’s community of awesome curators are sharing in one place. It’s constantly updated, so every time you sign into Shelby you’ll see the latest videos trending in our community.
New “Me” Section
See your your shares, likes and the list of people you follow in the redesigned “me” section. We’ve updated the section so you can quickly and easily find the content and friends you’re looking for.
And Yes, There’s More
The promise of Shelby has always been about delivering a simpler, better video experience. We’re doubling down on efforts to surface some of the great technology we’ve built to make your Shelby stream more intelligent. Stay tuned — and in the meantime, please do let us know what you think!
Really excited about these updates. Thanks to all who have sent in feedback. You guys rock.
YouTube dominates in video hosting, but that won’t be the case forever. Competition will emerge from both likely and unlikely players. And that’s a GOOD thing.
Is the demise of YouTube closer than we think?
Crazy question. Let me back up.
YouTube is an amazing platform. Certainly the most impactful platform in online video to date. So much of our world is shared via YouTube videos - at this point, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube per minute! Its growth, in terms of content and viewership, is second to none…
But NO ONE, even YouTube, can keep that up forever.
Already, we are seeing signs of attrition on YouTube, as guys like Jason Calacanis leave the platform for better opportunity elsewhere. In a takedown post he penned on Sunday, Jason goes into the depth of why YouTube is amazing … and why he turned down YouTube’s funding for the greater opportunity of striking out on his own.
Jason is not the first, but his departure is a strong indicator for anyone in the video ecosystem and it became a double whammy when a rumor surfaced that outright video-hosting competition will soon emerge from the likes of Maker Studios, which has built its entire business to date ON YouTube.
So … What might the future hold?
Competition is coming.
My prediction is that we’ll see a blend of different types of competitors. Some existing (Vimeo, Blip), some climbing the ladder of the disruptive innovation model (Maker, Machinima, et al), and some completely new.
Competition will come from all sides.
How could anyone compete with YouTube you ask? Yes - video is expensive to host and stream, but data continues to get cheaper by the second. More importantly, a new competitor doesn’t have to compete with ALL of YouTube. If Machinima, Maker, Fullscreen or any one of them break free, taking their talent and channels with them, they could focus all of their effort on building a new platform - JUST FOR THEIR AUDIENCE - with all the bells and whistles they’ve always wanted, and never had, with YouTube. Just imagine how much the audience would love it?! (Guess what? We’ve seen this story before). Finally, and most importantly, there IS at least one competitor with deep enough pockets to play this game at scale, and that’s Facebook. Yup. I think Facebook is getting sick of watching YouTube videos be so dominant in their News Feed, meanwhile video ad CPMs are the best ad rates on the web and they want a piece of that pie.
Competition is great for video and viewers alike.
Really. It is. With YouTube dominating this space, commanding ~50% of any revenues right off the bat, it’s nearly impossible for content creators to make a real business. Competition doesn’t necessarily fix all of these things, but new entrants mean new ideas, and teams put to the test will have to come up with innovative business solutions to accompany their great tech. And more importantly, it’s better for the consumer - the person who just wants to see great video, and wants an easy way to do it.
From my perspective, this could all be great for the ecosystem, even necessary for a balanced, healthy existence, but it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s certainly not going to follow any particular script that we’ve seen before.
All us little guys can do is embrace the chaos and change of the industry, while creating our own value for you viewers at home.
D11 - Apple’s iTV Coming Soon, but Tim Cook’s Silence is Deafening
Like many of us who are obsessively tracking the TV/video industry, I took the time to watch Tim Cook’s interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg yesterday at D11. In particular, the conversation starting at ~10 minutes when Swisher shoots at Cook with “Let’s talk about television…” It’s worth watching, but it leaves me wondering, is Cook’s reticence accidentally setting expectations for Apple TV way too high?
Cook’s response to Swisher, as has been Apple’s canned response for a long time, was that it’s still a hobby, his exact line being “We’re still playing in TV through Apple TV.” But he then goes on to illustrate all the demand (+13M devices sold - almost half in the last year), as well as everything Apple has learned from the Apple TV as an MVP, and finally says “There are lots of things about the TV experience that can be better… we answered some of those, clearly not all of those, and we’re going to continue to make that better.”
From that, and all the other rumors, we know Apple’s going to do more than just “play” in this space. They’re going to come in guns blazing, aimed at full disruption…
…But what does that actually look like?
In the preamble to this discussion, Cook says “We have some incredible plans… we have incredible ideas…” but when Swisher and Mossberg press him on what. those. ideas. are… he just stonewalls with “I don’t want to go into detail…”
Point is, Steve Jobs had a charisma and story around him that made you think “oh man… whatever Jobs delivers is going to be great.” Cook, on the other hand, doesn’t have that same natural gift (and it’s honestly ridiculous for Apple fans to expect it), but by dodging questions the way he does, I really fear that he’s setting expectations too high for himself, and for the future iTV.
If anything, Cook needs to start planting the seeds of a real vision for the eventual iTV… Hell, he doesn’t even need to plant them, he just needs to let the world know that he has the vision! Cable subscriptions disrupted! Digital hearth of the modern home! Whatever it is… tease it out a bit like Jobs used to. Who cares if it’s misleading? Just get an idea out there, otherwise the rumor mill will keep churning out expectations and hype-fatigue that Apple can’t meet.
“Startups, like professional football, are best done by the most desperate people on the planet. Products don’t just walk out the door on their own. Sooner or later, to ship something amazing, you have to dig deep and bring out your beast. A horse running wild is a rare sight, but it takes your breath away every time.”—Searching For Beasts In Silicon Valley’s “War For Talent” | TechCrunch
Yesterday, Microsoft finally demo’d their new “game center,” The Xbox One. It comes complete with HDMI Pass-thru for cable and satellite; Blu-ray player for HD movies, a trending content section of videos your friends are watching; capacity to Skype while watching TV, movies, and videos; tons of memory to store all your movies, TV shows, and music; and slick voice/gesture controls to navigate through your movies and TV shows without the remote… All in all, an amazing way to experience all of your favorite… games, err… videos, movies, and TV.
From its industrial design - shaped like a cable box - to its UX - the ability to “pin” favorite shows to your home screen - this is a big move by Microsoft to own the digital hearth of the modern home… that means, going beyond hard-core gamers and making the Xbox One all about TV and entertainment.
Don’t believe me? Just watch the highlights of the keynote.
Clearly, Microsoft’s commander’s intent is to own the digital living room. As everyone in the space knows, it’s an all-out war for your TV between the likes of Samsung, Google, Amazon, Roku, Boxee, the cable operators, and oh yeah, that fruit company.
But this update by Microsoft isn’t as revolutionary as it seems. Yes, the tech itself is a step forward and the social integrations will be interesting, but it’s not that disruptive to the actual video industry. It still requires a cable subscription and the VOD experience just isn’t there. Really, it’s evolutionary… an upgrade to their tech with (classically) lots of features to fill out the tech specs on the back of the box.
The real win in this space will be a disruptive move for consumers on their cable subscription AND/OR a robust app ecosystem that allows smart, creative developers to build the next generation experiences for these amazing devices. Look no further than the iOS developer ecosystem to see what I mean.
At the end of the day, I’m still excited about the Xbox One. I’m not a gamer, but any move to make my TV more powerful, more alive, and (ironically) more human,** is a good one in my mind. While it’s still lacking the developer ecosystem I’d like to see, it’s another step in the right direction of making TV suck less.
That being said, I am still betting on Apple to open up an app ecosystem - whether it’s on their current device or on a giant 60 inch screen - and when they do, it’s going to be awesome.
It’s been a while since we’ve said much here, but I can assure you it’s not for lack of activity. We’ve been busy building the new infrastructure of Shelby TV — your hub for videos that matter to you, your friends, and the world around you.
But with spring in full swing, there are a few things worth mentioning, so here’s what’s been up!
Fueling these updates is our most recent addition to the team: Edon Ophir, who comes to us by way of Waze and FashionTV. Edon is great — passionate and thoughtful — and is here to serve as your Community Manager. Any and all questions, concerns, or suggestions, Edon is your guy.
Also joining the team is James Aviaz, our resident Australian and Marketing Specialist, who joins us from Songtrust, by way of Uber. I’ve known James for a while personally, I love his passion for great online content, and I am super excited to work with him as he focuses on refining the Shelby TV story and how to tell that to the world.
So, what more can you expect from us in the months to come?
Firstly, video that matters to you. Shelby TV is still the best way to build your personal channel of video, but occasionally we’ll share some of the standout vids. For instance, have you seen “This Is Water“ yet? If not, do yourself a favor and watch now.
Secondly, we spend a lot of time thinking about the video ecosystem and its rapid changes. If you’re interested in the future of TV, stay tuned to this space.
Finally, and most importantly, we’ll keep you posted on Shelby TV itself. Product updates, sneak peeks at new features, and opportunities to make a direct impact on Shelby TV. After all, it’s you who powers Shelby TV and the future of video.
Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.
Saying “no” has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. No guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know. We are not taught to say “no.” We are taught not to say “no.” “No” is rude. “No” is a rebuff, a rebuttal, a minor act of verbal violence. “No” is for drugs and strangers with candy.
I used to say “Yes” a lot. Yes is the catalyst of serendipity and socializing. It is an amazing way to traverse the world and I love seeing friends and meeting new people.
Lately however, I’m saying “No” so much more. I feel badly, but I also get giddy when I see a day on my calendar with ZERO appointments. And frankly, I need that. I need those long unstructured days to get in the zone and think through the building of a company.
Point is, it’s hard to balance and I’ll never get it perfect. None of us ever will. Anyway, this post is a call to arms for those who say “No.”
“Many people my age or older half-joke about wishing to be younger. Wishing to be young is a coward’s wish. People who wish to be younger would squander that miracle. They’re wasting the time they have now pretending they’d make better use of a different now.”—On Getting Old(er)