TalkAnything – Interview with Joe Cannon


Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 11.57.16 PMAlright, the TalkAnything podcast is back. This week I’m talking with my buddy Joe Cannon. Joe is the Director of Marketing at Sports Studio. He probably has one of the coolest jobs you’ve never heard of. He outfits commercials, TV shows, and movies, with any sports apparel you see.

Joe and I have a great discussion about how he got into this line of work and how all the moving pieces go together when you’re dealing with brands, production companies, networks, leagues, etc. I thought our discussion about why you sometimes see official logos and why you sometimes don’t was really interesting. It’s something I’ve always wondered.

Here’s the link to the Jabari Parker/Gatorade commercial mentioned in the interview.

You can find Joe online everywhere with the username “joecannonballs,” like his Instagram account.

The audio is good, but the volumes change between my three transition. Whoops! So just be prepared for that. Otherwise, enjoy!

On Wisconsin! #FinalFour


I’ve got all year to write about growth hacking, mobile payments, and other tech related topics. Today, I’m still basking in the glory of the Wisconsin Badgers’ return to the Final Four.

It’s no secret that I’m a proud alum of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I love my alma mater. I love the campus, the school spirit, and our athletic programs. We have a lot to be proud of.

Our athletic department is one of the finest in the country. We do things right. Our football team doesn’t lower admission standards for athletes, yet we still have the second highest revenue of all college programs. In addition to winning on the field, we graduate athletes.

Congratulations to the Wisconsin Men’s Basketball team and the rest of Badger Nation. Looking forward to next week and our rematch with the University of Kentucky in the Final Four!

I Am a Feminist


This is my follow up post to, “Am I a Feminist?

Just a few months ago, I wrote a post, essentially asking out loud if I was a feminist. At the time I had a point of contention with the word “feminist.” I wrote:

My first thought when I hear this word is an eccentric woman, who makes a big fuss with every single issue related to women’s rights. I’d say my feelings toward this first reaction leans towards annoyance.

In hindsight, I sounded misguided. But I’m not going to apologize. I was being honest and I think that’s how you start conversations of change. (FWIW: Even women have issues with the word feminism) Since I wrote that post I’ve thought a lot about the word feminism.

In my meager attempt to offer some type of solution, I thought we had two options when it came to the word “feminist.”

Either we need to desensitize everyone to the word feminism, or we need to come up with a new phrase.

Perhaps desensitize wasn’t the right way to present change, but my intention was to find a way for people (both men and women) to feel comfortable calling themselves a feminist. Then I saw Aziz Ansari’s interview on David Letterman the other night. I think he explains feminism and the fear people have with the word perfectly.

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Like Ansari says in the video, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

When you break it down like that, it’s much easier to align yourself as a feminist. Block out Precious’ mom attacking you, and it’s hard not to feel comfortable calling yourself a feminist.

Hi, my name is Jesse and I’m a feminist.

 

Last week, I posted on Facebook that I had backed Girls Driving for a Difference on Kickstarter. Four female Stanford students will be driving around the country and teaching middle school girls the design process and empowering them to be tomorrow’s leaders.

In my Facebook status I wrote:

If we want more women in tech and leadership roles, we need to start empowering young girls today. I want my niece to have every opportunity available to her in twenty years. If you are aware of other noteworthy organizations/projects that I can support in some way, please let me know how I can help.

I love my niece to pieces. I don’t have children or know when I will. But as I get older, I’m starting to feel that desire to make the world better for the next generation. To me, that’s my niece. She’s an extremely bright five-year old. I hope she pursues a career in math and science. But it’s her life, not mine. I’ll support her in whatever endeavor she chooses. But what I do want is for her to have all the opportunities at her disposal. I want her to expel her energy for greatness, not equality.

My niece, Aya.

My niece, Aya.

Therefore I will be doing my part to help fight for equality. Right now, I don’t have a ton of money or influence. I’m not in a position to hire more women executives in technology (yet!). But what I do have is this blog and my everyday life. I’m going to do what I can to spread the word around me that feminism isn’t a bad word and encourage others to stand up for feminism (including you reader!).

Please let me know of any events, organizations, or projects that I can support in some way to continue to spread the word. In my youth, I fear I might have been misogynistic and I’m paranoid I still project misogyny on occasion to the world. I’m not a perfect person, but I’m striving to improve myself and the world around me. Let’s do it together.

TWIST: David Heinemeier Hansson


I’m in Phoenix this weekend, getting some much needed R&R with my friends. We’re going to be going to a Brewer’s spring training game and some hip hop festival in Tempe. It’s going to be a blast. I know you can’t wait for my Sunday posts (sarcasm) I’m leaving you with this fantastic interview with David Heinemeier Hansson.

David is the co-founder of Basecamp and the creator of Ruby on Rails. He’s a a top notch entrepreneur/technologist (and a race car driver on the side). But the best part about him, to me, is how pragmatic he is when it comes to building businesses. He has great insights on companies, especially tech valuations.

This interview (conducted by Jason Calacanis for This Week in Startups) is more than 90 minutes long, but it’s entirely worth your time. Enjoy!

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Bad Startup Ideas


Launch

 

I was at the Launch Festival last week up in San Francisco. I met a lot of people and heard a lot of pitches. As someone who aspires to be an investor, I like to put on an investor’s hat when I listen to these startup pitches. Would I invest? Why or why not? Since I can’t do much due diligence on the team and traction, this exercise is mostly about the idea behind the startup. It’s a limited exercise, but it’s good to fire up that part of my brain anyway.

I left San Francisco a little discouraged. Usually I feel reinvigorated by smart people, bursting with enthusiasm. Instead, I felt discouraged because I felt like I was hearing the same idea, packaged with a different bow. Maybe that’s what it’s like being an investor? The usual buzzwords like big data, mobile, and real-time were prevalent. The biggest buzzword was “connect.” So much so, one of the main sponsors was a startup called Connect. Whether it’s your cloud apps or someone in your immediate vicinity, startups wanted to connect you using your mobile device, analyzing big data, in real-time.

Hyperbolic app descriptions aside, I felt like I was listening to the same businesses over and over again. Startups and products are supposed to be about building great problems that solve real problems by unquestionably intelligent and determined people. I felt like there were too many people who just wanted to get into the startup game and were forcing a “problem.” As I tweeted later, the problems being solved felt more like minor inconveniences than real problems.

This mindset is also a double edged sword. That’s because we don’t know what the next big ideas are. No one really does. Venture investors can give you a good idea based on the volume of pitches they receive, but even they don’t really know. Case in point, Twitter. When I first signed up for Twitter in 2008, I didn’t get it. It took me a few weeks from the time I signed up to the time I sent my first tweet. You could argue it wasn’t solving a real problem I had. But today Twitter is a $30 billion company and I use it nearly every day. It solved an information and communication problem I didn’t really know I had. Could the minor inconvenience I overlook actually be the root of the next billion dollar company? The other day, I was skimming Twitter and I saw a great tweet from Sam Altman (President of Y Combinator).

I had to read it a few times, but this tweet rang true to me. It is easy to make fun of someone’s startup. I’m sure I’ve made fun of someone’s location-based, social network for dogs at some point. But that’s not what I like about startups. That’s not what I like to talk about with my startup friends. I much prefer to discuss the viability of an idea and how it can be tweaked into something great. How can I help the founder gain customers or tighten their messaging? How can this idea go from zero to a million? I love the high of walking away from a meeting with someone, feeling smarter and rethinking how I do business. That’s exciting and part of the reason why I aspire to be an investor.

I love startups because of its blend of hope, passion, naiveté, and possibly ignorance. The world is not perfect and there is always a problem to solve. I hope anyone out there reading this thinks twice before mocking an entrepreneur’s ideas and dream. It’s easy to be a dick and laugh. It’s not easy being helpful, like really helpful and not that generic advice you hear “advisors” give out.

Instead, figure out a way to help the entrepreneur. Everyone has had a bad idea. But it might just take a slight nudge to the left to turn that bad idea into a great one. Would you rather be the person nudging someone along? Or the “realist” who masks negativity by “telling it how it is?”

TalkAnything – Interview with Gerald Tang


Gerald-Tang

After a lengthy three week hiatus, the TalkAnything podcast is back!

This week I’m chatting with my friend, Gerald Tang. I met Gerald when we shared a Hermosa Beach duplex back in 2009-2010. He was a part of my first friend group in LA. We enjoyed many enjoyable evenings as neighbors, often supremely drunk. It’s a year that I will always recall with great fondness.

When I met Gerald, we were in our mid-twenties, starting our careers, and largely trying to figure things out. So when I caught wind that Gerald wrote a book years later, documenting many of the stories and internal thoughts of this twenties, I immediately bought it.

I invited Gerald to the TalkAnything podcast because I’m interested in writing a book and find it very impressive that he has already published a book. It’s no easy feat. I wanted to hear about his experience and learn what it takes to get a book published.

Tangalang: Your 20s Focused Through a Lens of Erratic Rationality is a fantastic read. It’s quick, humorous, and enlightening. You’ll laugh out loud and I’m sure you’ll connect with Gerald during one of his many personal anecdotes. I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

 

Snapchat Will Be More Valuable Than Instagram


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I am always on my phone. My friends hate it. My family hates. I hate it. I can’t put my phone down, and the two apps I spend the most time on are Snapchat and Instagram.

We live in a mobile age and whether we like it or not, we’re becoming much more attached to our phones. The businesses that will dominate in the future will eventually become mobile only, not mobile first. Facebook is doing great things with mobile. So is Tinder. But Snapchat and Instagram are starting to distance themselves from the pack.

In December 2014, Citigroup estimated Instagram to be worth $35 billion. That’s just a few short years after Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion. What once seemed like an outrageous amount to pay for a mobile app with no revenue, now seems like a steal.

via Money American

via Money American

 

Around the same time, Snapchat raised $485 million of venture capital at an estimated valuation of $20 billion. That’s nearly seven times the amount Snapchat turned down from Facebook just a year earlier. It’s not just an app for sexting, as so many foolishly label it. It’s the real deal.

To put in perspective how far ahead of the pack these two are, the aforementioned Tinder is valued around $750 million.

I wrote shortly after Snapchat turned down Facebook that I was bullish on Snapchat. Fifteen months later, I still am. The reason being, I think Snapchat cracked mobile engagement between brands and users.

Just last month I wrote a post, reaffirming my belief that Snapchat is a growing juggernaut. In the post, I outlined three things I think Snapchat is doing well, Stories, Sponsored Stories, and Live Events. And since my post, Snapchat has launched Discover, a feature that allows users to “discover” video and written content from major brands (like CNN, ESPN, Comedy Central). Together, these features are adding up to be a powerful way for brands to connect with users.

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The reason I think Snapchat will be more valuable than Instagram is the same reason why I think Snapchat has figured out mobile engagement. Snapchat is inherently interactive, while Instagram is still a holdover of the disruptive advertising model. That’s why Snapchat’s ads, no matter how expensive they are, will ultimately be more valuable than Instagram’s sponsored posts.

In order to view a snap, even from a friend, you have to voluntarily click the message and continue to hold down your finger. Truthfully, that’s asking a lot of a user. But, if the user does follow through with this action, the information gleaned from the message is much more effective (I don’t have facts to back that up, poke holes as you wish). Instagram still uses the old fashion model of inserting an ad into your organic stream of content. You have no choice but to see it. But you don’t have to pay close attention to it and can quickly scroll past it. Which ad unit do you think is more effective?

Discover is a feature that has huge monetization potential behind it. Discover can be what Pages was to Facebook. It will be a reason for brands and marketers to leave Twitter and leverage Snapchat. Think about the possibilities if Snapchat allowed any brand to open a Discover account and produce editorial content on a daily basis? What if they charged brands for the right to do so? Unlike Facebook and Twitter that shove ads down your throat via the timeline, users can choose to watch a brand’s content…on-the-go, the way they like to consume content.

I can definitely see a world where people open up Snapchat first thing in the morning. They can check their friend’s snaps (because personal stories are becoming the new status update). Then they can head over and read the daily headlines from their favorite publications. Snapchat gives the users the power to choose, something no other mobile app does right now (if you can think of an example, let me know).

Pitch Perfect 2 trailer.

Pitch Perfect 2 trailer.

 

Brands are starting to see the value. Take the movie Pitch Perfect 2. At the end of their trailers, they’re starting to push Facebook AND Snapchat. Not Twitter. I followed the account and they’re doing really creative things to engage users before the movie comes out. Whether it’s exclusive content, crowdsourced snaps, or fun and personal snaps like your friend would send you, they’re all effective.

In 2013 I predicted Snapchat would be acquired for ~$10 billion. I was wrong about that, but I wasn’t wrong to be bullish on the app. Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ll make another prediction. I think Snapchat will eventually go public and its opening market value will be $100 billion. If you want to keep up with me on Snapchat, my username is JessePaul.

[Money Image Courtesy of Money American]

It Just Takes One


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Today is the Academy Awards (aka the Oscars). It’s the moment where Hollywood crowns individuals for their achievements in film. Often, it’s the pinnacle of a person’s career, or what defines them. This got me thinking about the parallels entertainment has with tech (there are many). But today I’m reminded that it just takes one victory to erase all  your past failures.

Failure sucks. But it’s a necessary step toward success. No one is successful right away. There are dozens, hundreds of failures along the way. Many times these failures are only apparent to the individuals. Every year at the Oscars there’s someone who comes out of  “nowhere” to win the golden statue. To viewers, we’re excited to see this actor picked out of obscurity and into the limelight. From that moment on, they will always be known as Oscar winner [First and Last name]. But as viewers, we also don’t understand the struggle that person went through to get to that stage.

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Lupita Nyong’o 2014 Oscar Acceptance Speech

 

Same goes for entrepreneurs. We fail on a daily basis. Whether it’s a sales call, a marketing tactic, or the entire company going under, we fail. I wrote a post a while ago about “Your First Company Won’t Be Your Last.” In it, I gave examples of famous entrepreneurs that had started several unknown companies before their major success. We see someone’s current and biggest success and think very highly of them. But we don’t see the years of rejection and failure it took to get to that level.

A fictional example I like to refer back to from time-to-time is Toby Ziegler from the West Wing. Toby was the Director White House Communications for Jed Bartlett’s presidency. He was also an integral part of President Bartlett’s two presidential campaigns. By all definitions of the word, he was a success. Yet, when we look back at Toby’s resume before Jed Bartlett, he was…a failure.

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Toby Ziegler on West Wing.

 

Toby Ziegler’s fictional resume includes work on a city council campaign, two Congressional races, a Senatorial, and gubernatorial race. All resulting in defeat. He was a “loser.” But it just took one victory to change all of that. The 1998 Presidential Election was his first win on a campaign and that’s how people remember him. (Yes, I know it’s fiction, but the lesson still applies.)

Failure sucks, but it’s going to happen. You have to fight through it. The difference between people who are “successes” and those who have failed is that they didn’t give up. They fought through the shit that others couldn’t. You’re closer to success than you think. As Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Because it just takes one victory to change the perception of all your past failures.

My Journey Trading Stocks


Robinhood App

Robinhood App

Up until this year, I never bought a stock (not including 401k or mutual funds). But I’ve been very interested in investing money into a few particular stocks. I don’t follow the stock market religiously, or different industry trends, but I do keep my eye on specific tech stocks. I have felt for some time that I have a keen eye for tech stocks that are being undervalued.

I told people to buy Netflix when it dropped to $84 and Facebook when it was trading at $27. They’re both trading at $466.10 and $75.74. But since I’m poor and wasn’t buying the stocks…no one cared. Now, I’m putting my money where my mouth is…sort of.

I’m still cash poor. Almost all of my money is invested in Prepare.io (my company). I try to save as much money as I can in my Betterment account, but I’ve recently been able to invest a few hundred dollars in the stock market with the help of the Robinhood app. I’m going to chronicle my journey trading stocks on here from time to time. It will be a fun experiment.

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I use Robinhood over apps like ScottTrade for two reasons. One, they don’t require you to deposit a minimum of $500. Second, its commission free trading. This is much more conducive to someone like me who is just dabbling in trading stocks and doesn’t want to commit that much money to start. So I deposited a very modest $225 into my account.

My options for trades are very limited with my budget. So stocks like Google, Amazon, and Tesla are out of my range (BTW: I’m bullish on Tesla and think they’re a steal while they hover around $200). But there are a handful of tech stocks I was watching that I could buy.

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The initial stocks that I was looking at were Twitter (TWTR) and Apple (AAPL). I felt that both were undervalued by analysts and would rebound. I watched the price for a few weeks after I opened my account and deposited my cash. I was waiting for the stocks to drop a few dollars in value before buying. Again, I was investing a nominal amount of money that wouldn’t hurt me if I lost it all, so I could only buy a share or too. So when the time was right, I bought one share of Apple at $107.98 (1/16/15) and two shares of Twitter at $37.57 (1/20/15). Six days later (1/26/15) I bought two shares of Lending Club (LC) at $19.24.

On February 5, I sold my two shares of LC at $20.61 a share. I wasn’t feeling like there would be much of an upside with LC. I’m looking for really undervalued stocks that can bump. I’m not buying stable stocks for dividends. I made a very modest profit of $2.74 on my two shares. Not great, but at least I didn’t lose money.

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A day later, I sold my two shares of Twitter. In the wake of its quarterly earnings report, Twitter’s stock popped. I felt that I should take advantage of this and sell now. I sold at my two shares at $47.92. Total profit: $20.70. It’s currently sitting at $48.19 a share.

I am still holding on to my Apple share. I know how pathetic that sounds, one share. But for me buying Apple was more or less for my own personal satisfaction. I am very bullish on Apple and I wanted to buy when I thought their stock was low. Apple is currently trading at $127.08, on paper I’m up $19.10. But I don’t plan on selling anytime soon.

I’m not a professional trader. Nor do I aspire to be. This is fun for me and validates my opinions when I say a stock is undervalued, even if it’s for my own personal satisfaction. I have arguments with my friends who are professional investors, who think my strategy is risky and unsustainable (it probably is). But I’m enjoying it and plan on updating you as I progress. We’ll see if I can turn my $225 into something more significant over time. My current account value is $267.97, with just my single stock of Apple and cash. Let’s see if I can finish 2015 with at least 15% growth.

The stocks that I’m keeping an eye out for are Tesla (which would require me to add some more money), Yahoo, and Box.  Tesla is the most promising in my opinion. I may have missed the low at ~$195, but low $200s is good IMO. I think eventually it will reach $300+. Yahoo and Box are wait and see. Yahoo is trending down. I’d like to wait to see if it drops below $40. Box is just off it’s IPO. I’m still trying to figure out where that price will be, but I did like it at $16, I just had all my money tied up at the time. I’ll probably wait until it drops below $20 again.

*This is not stock advice, just my opinions and what I’m doing with my money.