Writing for B5 Media – Come on over to Startup Spark

Hello all, just wanted to let you know that I have been offered an opportunity to write for a great blog on the B5 Media Network.

The blog is called Startup Spark and is similar to Venture Files but is a broader version on all types of entrepreneurship.

I invite you to check it out and subscribe. This blog will continue but in the coming months I will be focusing this blog more on innovation topics and will be unveiling a new design.

So keep reading Venture Files and add Startup Spark to your feed reader and your daily viewing.

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Leadership Lessons: When the CEO is synonymous with the brand

There are different types of CEO’s out there. Some are the operational types who crunch the numbers, those who are sales people at heart, those who are visionaries who guide a company in new directions and many more variations of these major archetypes.

Then there are what I call “luminaries”.

Luminaries are those leaders that are identified with their companies so much that their name is pretty much a synonym for their company. Some examples are:
– Bill Gates – Microsoft
– Richard Branson – Virgin Group
– Jack Welch – GE
– Steve Jobs and Apple

The last one there, Steve Jobs, is of particular focus in light of the emerging stock options scandal. When someone who is so closely identified with the brand and is responsible for its growth and innovation and recent rebirth can there be any type of succession planning.

Analysts from Bloomberg to Piper Jaffray think that the stock would immediately drop 25-33% if Mr. Jobs were to leave. That is about $20 billion in market value as of this writing (yikes!).

So as an entrepreneur, you work hard every day to evangelize your ideas, promote your company, lead your team and make your company a success. What you can learn from this?

1.) Evangelize but don’t act like God – You love your company, your people and your products. We get it. Stay humble because it takes one wrong move to knock you down the ladder. The more you think you are a God the more people will be convinced you are the devil.

2.) Share the spotlight and reward others publicly
– Remember that you are not the center of the universe and many smart people in the company helped you get there. If you reward them publicly people will be more familiar with other people especially if they are in the succession plan. Plus spreading the love makes you appear to be the benevolent leader.

3.) Implement a succession plan - This is not to tell people that you are leaving, but rather that you are mortal and will leave one day so there must be a smooth transition. This makes people confident that the company will not suffer abrupt changes when you exit and will get people in place when the change does come.

So for the entrepreneur’s out there. What are you doing to ensure you don’t run the same risk?

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An Entrepreneur's View: 5 Things Digg needs to do or it will die in 2008

I was guest blogging for my friend Aaron Brazell who writes Technosailor. We live near each other and run into each other at Starbucks living the Bedoin lifestyle.

We talk alot about the techology scene and I made the comment that Digg would be dead or made irrelevant by next year. So he challenged me to write about it on his blog.

The original post is here.

I did a repost below to read the article as an alternative:

The Future of Web Apps (FOWA) conference this week and Kevin’s presentation “The Future of Crowd Generated Media” got me thinking about how long Digg might last or stay relevant.

Granted, Jason Calcanis wrote a month ago about how Digg would “die a death of 1000 cuts”. He is right that they own the “Young Tech Male” or YTM demographic and it is hard to go beyond that group. I subscribe to Netscape and the quality of articles are dramatically different. Netscape has far fewer votes but the news is real and relevant (their interface just needs work).

The death of Digg will not be 1000 cuts but because of its failure to extend and protect its brand. So much time has been spent on covering them and how cool they are that they have ignored the fact that there is no reasonable way it can meet its revenue goals.

Jason does a good analysis of the deal and I agree on the valuation. To quote directly:

“The real challenge for Kevin and Co. at digg now is that they probably raised their $8.5m round at 60-80M post-money. That means that the latest round of investors are going to look for 10-20x that amount as an exit. That’s a 600M -1.6B exit. That means they have to get to $30-50M in revenue. That means that Kevin is right when he says they have no interest in selling the company–they’ve got 4-5 years of work to get to those revenue numbers… start building the sales for now because to hit those numbers you need a 20-person sales team.”

Kevin Rose says that they have not interest in selling and that is smart. Unfortunately, in 4-5 years Digg will be irrelevant so he has about 1-2 years to make it work for an exit. You are seeing the beginnings of chinks in the armor. Friends list or no friends list, spammers, censorship, gaming the system and a lot more. Digg did not invent “social voting”, Slashdot did and Digg only got popular because the YTM saw this as a better venue to troll and trash each other. Their community is powerful (900K as of this writing) and the “Digg effect” is far reaching for what geeky things they find interesting.

In fact, every new site that adopts “social voting”, Netscape included, has been profiled as “taking the Digg approach”.

So is Digg going to become a verb like Xerox or Tivo and lose its brand equity?

In order to save this company and keep it going here are the five things I would do in the next 12 months to maintain Digg’s leadership:

#1 – Don’t fight the Digg Clones – Own them – There are Digg clones popping up all over the place. Why not screen them and make them niche sites within the digg community. Similar to a blog network (like B5 Media). This will create a niche army of targeted sites. Digg has created a brand for the Young Tech Male so it is going to be near impossible to break away from that perception. It needs this to stay on top.

#2 – Do a deal with MySpace – These are your future users and huddled masses looking for ways to make MySpace more relevant. The Digg model for artists, MySpace blog entries and news could add a whole new dimension to the ugliest site in the world. The revenue share could be gigantic.

#3 – Create a relevance metric for contributors – We should know that there is more weight on a submission from a 50 year old PhD with expertise in that topic than a pseudo-intellectual 16 year old.

#4 – Hire topic editors – Now, we don’t want to run the risk of paying Digg members to submit. This is quite the opposite. We want new people who can help monitor and own a topic to add value, prevent bias and . Social voting is great but there must be oversight or the “Wisdom of Crowds” will turn into the “Wisdom of Mobs”.

#5 – License the Digg software to major news outlets and Fortune 500 companies – Let’s face it, traditional media can’t keep up. Some are just now finding blogs and a limited few are experimenting with the Social Voting/Digg approach. Why not have Digg show them how to do it and take ad money and license revenue from the deal? Dell’s new site should have been running a Digg system feeding back to the mothership. In this case, it just borrowed the concept, baked it up and served it to customers. Digg not included….

Otherwise, if things like this are not done in the next 12 months, Digg will be outdone by a site that is cooler and sucks the core “Diggers” to the new site.

If you were the entrepreneur in charge of Digg, what would you do?

I look forward to everyone’s feedback.

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