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When I started this blog in 2006, my first post was about my belief in the 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto principle.
I've lived my entire entrepreneurial career with the 80/20 rule as a guiding principle, and it's served me very well. As an entrepreneur, you simply can't put all of your time into everything, so putting 20% into any one thing and reaping 80% of the benefits is a very time-maximizing way to live.
But over the past 2 years at PointAbout, I've begun to feel like it's also limiting, but I haven't been able to put my finger on exactly how. Part of what I've been feeling I expressed in my Nov 2009 post on ABBA, which, as my co-founder Sean Shadmand puts it, is really just the thought that you have to be focused on what you're unfocused on (read the whole post if that doesn't make sense).
What's been gnawing on me is more than just a focus on preventing ABBA, though. I've been wondering what's truly possible with extreme focus.
This very insightful post on "Why the 80-20 Rule is Wrong" by David Wurtz just put me over the edge. I'm becoming a believer.
Time is our most precious asset, and none of us know how much of it we have left.
It's ironic, then, how easily we let it slip away. An hour for a meeting, an hour in traffic.
Next time you get asked to spend an hour doing something, just hold it up to this filter before you decide:
One of the advantages of focusing on focus is the ability to go "deep" instead of "wide" on what a company's actual business is.
A fantastic example is Dropbox. They do one thing, and they do it with such an intense focus that I continue to be amazed by the level of innovation they achieve.
It seems like every day, their entire team is asking itself "what can we do to go deeper on our main objective?" And their main objective is to acquire as many users as possible, and then get them to store as much of their content on Dropbox as possible. Simple.
They do this so incredibly well, and their valuation is north of $4 billion, just for doing that one thing better than anyone else on the planet, with an incredible depth of focus.
Back in January of 2010, my co-founders Sean, Isaac and I created one of the first mobile app creation platforms, AppMakr.
At the time, we had a thriving mobile app consulting business called PointAbout, and we were building high-end (and expensive) apps for large brands. Our team made the iPhone app for The Washington Post and Cars.com. We built the Newsweek iPad app and an iPad app for Disney, along with apps for clients like General Motors, US Army, the Entertainment Software Rating Board and others.
Making custom apps was really expensive -- especially in those early days. We had a dream of democratizing app creation so it was accessible to anyone. From that idea, AppMakr was born.
The day before we launched AppMakr, our team took bets on how many apps would be made in AppMakr's first month. Some people guessed 10, others 100. We had no idea what were about to unleash: In AppMakr's first 3 months, users made many thousands of apps. We had to scramble to support the growth. We even got angry calls from Apple's app review team who were overwhelmed by the number of apps being submitted; that's how our App Quality Index came to be, as a way to turn their frown upside down.
That's Barg wearing Google Glass above and also below
A DC-based startup called dSky9 is creating some super interesting apps for Google Glass. At yesterday's Mobile Outlook 2013 event, the founders Barg & Greg showed off a Glass Simulator they've created to develop apps for Google Glass.
A few interesting things about Glass:
I had to get back to our new SF office after a meeting, and instead of taking a cab, I decided to try Lyft. One the way over to the meeting, I had taken an Uber car that my colleague Adam ordered from his phone, making it a "taxi-free" day.
This was my first time trying Lyft. I submitted a request for a pickup using the iPhone app and was told "Romeo will arrive in 9 minutes." Funny enough, this was also Romeo's first day as a Lyft driver. So we had a great convo about what the experience was like for both me, and him, as first timers. Lyft drivers are the ones with pink moustaches on their cars. Here's what Romeo's car looks like:
I took a video as I used Lyft for the first time. Here's what my experience was like:
I used to push production code -- back in '99 when I worked at GE, my buddy Jason taught me how to code, and I was fascinated by it. I spent much of the early 2000's building dynamically driven websites with mySQL back-ends for several startups, including an e-commerce website along with its back-end administration and inventory management system (screenshot below). We had to host the e-commercie site at a colo facility. That was way before AWS, or Stripe, or any of the technologies today that make something like that much easier today.
While it's been years since I've pushed any production code, that experience has left me with a deep appreciation for what engineers do. Most business people don't have that, and it hurts them in ways they don't even realize. As Paul Graham wrote in his essay "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule," it's easy for managers to completely torpedo the productivity of the "makers" -- those who are actually building the business and really creating value.
It's for this reason that I really encourage managers to learn to code. It's even in our Socialize manifesto, point #1: "Every new hire has a 'Hello World' in at least one language."
The first thing that a manager will find is that coding is a lot harder than they imagined it would be. Most managers have an attitude like "Yeah I could code if I really wanted to, but I can add much more value by being a manager." That attitude is actually a smokescreen for an insecurity: If it's so easy for you to learn how to code, then let me see you do it. Because it's not easy. It's hard. And it's even harder to do it well.
Last night I met Ray, the CEO of Blue Octopus Matrix at a Silicon Vikings event where I spoke on a panel about the impact mobile is having on social as we know it.
We were chatting before the event started, and Ray whipped out two Android phones running a network sniffer app created by his company, which showed in a very striking visual manner the latency and speed differences between AT&T and Sprint LTE 4G networks.
The verdict: Sprint -- at least in Palo Alto CA that day -- was horrible. But it's not in just one location that I've noticed this -- a friend with a Sprint iPhone5 and I did a SpeedTest when we were in the DC area last week. I was getting 31mbps on my AT&T iPhone 5 and he was getting 0.3mbps on his Sprint iPhone5.
Sprint might be offering unlimited data. But the pipe that serves that data appears to be about the size of a straw.
We've been using scrum all over the company for the past year, and the more I use it, the more i love it. I previously wrote a blog about using the scrum agile development methodologies in a non-development capacity -- i.e., with a sales or marketing team. I got a lot of questions from that blog about exactly why Scrum was so great, so in this post my goal is to tell you why I love Scrum so much, and why I recommend it to be adopted within any company (and if the US Government ever implemented Scrum -- correctly -- we'd seriously save trillions of dollars. That's probably an impossible wish, but after all, thinking big is free.)
Here's a good 7 minute video describing Scrum. If you're not at all familiar with the methodology, you might want to read my case study below before you watch the video -- it'll make more sense that way.
Video: Scrum in 7 Minutes:
Scrum Case Study:
I've been meaning to write this post for a while now, and a recent post by Bill French of iPadCTO spurred me into action.
It's been interesting to experience the changing definition of an "app".
The most popular definition of an "app" is native software that typically runs on a smartphone, and most commonly the iPhone. It's compiled software built using ObjectiveC in X Code, an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Mac OS X. If it sounds complicated, that's because it is - developers who have the ability to build "apps" are in high demand these days.
But the line that defines an app is being massively blurred. Take for example, OpenAppMkt, run by my friend Teck Chia, which packages "web apps" into an "app store". These aren't apps in the traditional sense -- in fact they're just websites packaged up to look and feel like native apps.
But what Teck and many others are doing gets to a fundamental tenet of the allure of apps: while you browse the web, you don't own the web. Being on the web is a very nomadic experience. You visit your favorite sites, then you visit other sites, but there's very little sense of ownership on the web.