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Showing posts from February, 2007

Divine profits

At lunch today, I attended a talk by David Salyers, a VP of Marketing at Chick-Fil-A.
I'd heard of the company for the very first time just last week, when someone brought it up in my Channel Marketing class as an example of a company that managed to stay true to it's corporate values.

The talk was organized by the Christian Business Students Association at school and was, in terms of both content and presentation amongst the better talks I've attended at the GSB. David was extremely charismatic (they train em well at that HBS place) and had really good stuff to say. The talk, titled "What is the ultimate business question?" centered around both business strategy and personal strategy, two topics I love just sitting back and thinking about. I ended up leaving pretty happy with the way I'd spent my time.

However, what intrigued me most was something that came up towards the end of the Q&A session: their corporate mission. Here's what it is:

""to …

Call me...well maybe not..

To the mild annoyance of my friends, the surprise of acquaintances and to the extreme consternation of my parents, I have effectively not had a cellphone (or any other phone) for the last 3 months.

Why this condition still persists is hard to explain, but the answer certainly includes my incredible laziness and a sudden determination to believe that fixing a hardware device by oneself is within reach (even ordered batteries and phone screws online.)
But the experience made me realize a few things:
how disconnected an existence it's possible for me to lead, and how there are aspects of it I've actually like
how easy it is to substitute my phone with other technology (how do you pronounce Skype?)
and how easy it is to just ask people for their phones
Sure, people think its a little weird that I never give them my number and say that I'll call them, but they get used to it fast. The inconvenience is balanced by the fact that I now have a genuine reason to avoid so many interruptin…

Finally, a Simpons movie trailer...

... that doesn't suck.
I now concur with the (fairly) popular opinion that The Simpsons have jumped the shark. I cannot ascertain when this happened, but do believe it has. I should have suspected it when I realized that the Simpson's was no longer necessary Sunday viewing for me, and then when they decided that they were actually going to do a movie after all, but better late than never I suppose.:)

Their first two movie trailers did nothing to ease my anxiety. In fact quite the opposite; the first two teaser trailers, I thought, just sucked. There was some wit there along with the trademark kind of stupid jokes that you need smart people to make, but the overall predictability of the trailers made them only marginally enjoyable. Kinda like if you had a smart kid and he/she didn't do so well one year in school. You'd still be happy and supportive; you'd tell yourself he's/she's so much better than all the other kids, but you'd know inside that you'd …

The Problem with an Original Idea....

...is that someone's already thought of it first.

Someone said that to me in my final year of engineering. I had just pitched to him my idea for a final-year project, with conviction only possible when you're still under the legal drinking age, that it was the most brilliant thing since sliced bread. A grizzled veteran of the software industry, he begged to differ. He pointed out a couple of other systems that did something very similar.
I responded with, "It doesn't matter who gets there first, but who makes the most noise about it." Yeah, I was pretty amusing at 20!

Something similar happend to me just now. I've been reading about DRM issues quite a bit lately (for class cases and projects.)
I'd thought to myself that the content owners (and the DRM solution providers) were thinking about it all wrong. A good fix would be to tie digital rights to the user, rather than devices. It's not a perfect fix, but the shame could be a powerful tool (especially i…

Great, great idea that won't work.

As I was waiting for the bus coming back home today, I started thinking about LinkedIn, which is admittedly a strange thing to start thinking about, but I can be weird that way.

One of the site's visions is to be a "Resume 2.0": not just can you post your entire background and accomplishments, but have (trusted) people comment on it, give you recommendations, testify to your experiences etc. etc. It's a great idea, especially if you consider all the applications: for example, for business schools recommendations, for renter's background checks etc. etc. It's sort of already in place on a very one-dimensional basis on sites like eBay through user feedback mechanisms. I love the way the founder, Reid Hoffman described it: "removes the inefficiencies of the resume process", i.e. so much harder to lie, exaggerate and hide information about your experiences.

But here's why I think it won't work: more people lose from the inefficiency going away tha…

Wow...I'm a little bit of jerk...

...well I don't really believe that (I think), but I just realized how much context and mood can color everything that you do, and how much depends on the reader's mindset and what they think of you even before they start reading the article.

I was recycling this chibus article for an upcoming Admit Weekend issue and just realized how many of the things I put in for humorous effect can actually make me sound like a bit of a pompous jerk, and more disturbingly...just pure mean.

Some of it I can blame on a lack of comedic talent, some on the fact that I was a little bitter about a few things then, but still...I can't help wondering how much of this happens in real life. Great..more existential angst for me to deal with.

Update: Wow, that article was so bad it was not salvageable. Nothing from me for this ChiBus issue either.:)

Yet another pseudonym...

Did a last minute stand-in, rush job on the Four To Follow feature in ChiBus.

And the best part: the regular writer decreed that I go by (Former Editor Posing As) TheInternetGuy, while (and if) I write the column again. Talent is so hard to work with.

I should link to all my ChiBus articles at some point. Might be fun to look at, at some point.

Its about character(s)

I suddenly remembered one of the best parts of blogging. There are times when you come across something so cool, you want to tell somebody about it, or write it down so that you can remember it for a little while longer. Blogging lets you kill both birds with one stone.:)
So, what got me so enthused?

I really liked the first half of the Business Policy class that I'm auditing this quarter. The topic being discussed was creativity, but the concept that really appealed to me was the idea that each of us have a set of "characters" that reside within us, and that if your interactions with people were akin to a play, you could use these different characters to have the effect that you want.

For example, within each of us there is a rich set of personal characteristics e.g. in my case there is a shy "me", an ambitious "me", a studious "me", an overconfident "me", an optimistic "me", a pessimistic "me", a laid-back "…

Ahoy there...

Ahh...the world of movie piracy can get so very amusing. I'd read reference now and then to The Pirate Bay, but never bothered finding out what they were.

Their Wikipedia entry is hilarious. The short story seems to be that they used the Swedish copyright law (or rather the lack of one) to run a torrent indexing site (and apparently a very successful one.) Just for fun they sent rude replies to all the threats they received. They made the standard rule of the new Internet work for them: get the eyeballs, get the money. A Swedish newspaper reported they had an ad take of $75K a month!

The best part of the story is their attempt to buy Sealand.
As digital copyright law, and international law, struggle to catch up the world over, there won't there be many such opportunities and instances?

Just Another Manic Monday...

Mondays are beginning to get a little rough. Last monday was bad (defined as interesting and tiring), but I wasn't expecting anything too eventful this week. Well, think again.
My ability to create interesting situations for myself continues to amaze (and distressa) me.

Let's just say assignments for this class (Macroeconomics) and this class (Going to Market), combined with certain time-testedprocrastinationtools, meant that I just had 3 hours of sleep before completing the assignment for this class (Technology Strategy.)

As always, the class was a lot of fun and I really enjoy discussing these topics. Headed straight after that to a talk by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.
I'd read about the UN's millenium goals a while back and was really excited to see him in person, so it was a little strange that I started dozing off during his speech.
Part of the problem was of course the sleep deprivation, but the other was..quite frankly...I don't think I was the audience for that talk. 3-4…

You just have to fit....

One of the delights of giving up this gig, is that I have a little (just a little) more time to myself. While I manage to spend most of this extra time unproductively, I've managed to spend a little bit of it in a manner that leaves me very briefly proud of myself.

I've been auditing this class with Prof. Davis, which means I get to sit in, but do none of the work.:)
I really like the class: I don't know how much of it I'll be able to keep with me, but these are the kind of conversations I like to be part of...

He made an observation in class that friends had brought up before in conversation. I don't remember the exact phrasing, but he said something to the effect: "I worry about the diversity of thought in organizations, for example McKinsey, where I have quite a few friends but they tend to hire people who think like them."

Sounds familiar?

I think that's part of it, but there's more to it than even that. It's not just that people in companies t…

It's all about the network...

So, I couldn't helping noticing that the activity on LinkedIn amongst GSB students was getting pretty high off late. Now LinkedIn has been steadily increasing in popularity, so maybe that's just part of it, but I couldn't help wondering if another part of that was as second-years see their MBA experience coming to an end, they're looking for a tangible way to "build their network", as they were told they were supposed to do.

In an interesting co-incidence, I ended up catching Reid Hoffman's podcast on the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders seminar. His track record of investments/involvements with consumer Internet startups is pretty impressive:LinkedIn, Paypal, Facebook, Six Apart, Kiva, Mozilla, Flickr, Friendster....yikes! Fun podcast, too.

Interesting tit-bit: They have a 2-person team working on ensuring a person's LinkedIn profile shows up on the first page of a Google search for that person. Works for me, here's mine.

Best/worst line to …

Yet another innovation..

Well, first of all I think after a year and half, I'm finally ready to write a little code. I might start slow to avoid the shock. Yahoo! Pipes seems an interesting way to get started. I'm glad to see Yahoo! doing something cool after such a while, especially given all the problems they've had lately.

Now, about that innovation thingy: here's the idea. Well actually, before that you need some context. Last weekend, in yet another successful effort to waste what should have been productive time, I ended up watching this movie on YouTube (surprisingly funny and stylistically interesting actually!)

Now, some random user took the trouble to rip, split and upload the movie on YouTube. His/her only motivation seems to be: the "thank yous" that other users posted. YouTube's motivation to keep the content on there: the ad revenue. The content owner gets nothing, even though they've done most of the work, and the classic economic argument is that eventually they…

Money makes the office go round.

I loved this post on salary discussions over at FreeExchage (and yes I agree with my Macro Professor, the Economist is the best business/econ magazine that there is). The dynamic once you're in school changes a little bit: at least for me. I'm kinda touchy talking about money, not because I care, but because I think most others do.
So basically, if you ask me how much I make, and I know you reasonably well, I'll tell you. However, unless I had a good reason to, I'd never ask you....it'd feel weird. Yeah, I know I have issues.

Kinda touched on that money part in this chibus article.

How not to Venture...

Alright, the NVC is kind of a big deal around here...well given that it's Chicago and entrepreneurship, its a surprisingly big deal.

The reason I think it is the deal that it is, is (look ma..3 is's) the fantastic job the Polsky Center does of both organizing and marketing it. Now, as I look back upon what will have been my MBA education, what stands out is the suprising lack of what are the traditional "entrepreneurship" classes out here at the GSB. I mean didn't I come here wanting to be an entrepreneur? Then why did I just keep finding other classes more interesting? This guilted me into doing at least something entrepreneurial-ish before leaving here.

Anyway, the entry form and initial "feasibility summary" (an introduction to the idea and some business model analysis) for the New Venture Challenge was due yesterday.
Now, fortunately for anyone considering entering the competition next year, you can learn a lot from my experience over the last weekend…

Basket case or not..?

Mark Cuban's blog is a surprisingly good read. Now, my first introduction to Mark Cuban was seeing him randomly shout at an NBA referee; and not normal crazed-fan shouting; this was more like criminally insane, violent shouting. This has been a fairly common sighting at most Dallas Maverick's games over the last few years.

It's really easy to not believe he actually founded and sold Broadcast.com (to Yahoo for something like a billion), which is how we bought the Dallas Mavericks in the first place. Oh, I really like the Mavs, but I don't think they'll ever win the NBA championship. I'll take that back; "ever" is too strong. This bunch of players, as brilliant as they are, are not destined to go all they way. I can't explain it; I just feel it. Leave it at that.

Anyway, back to Mr. Cuban. I've been following his blog for the past couple of months and he's surprisingly articulate and insightful sometimes. This post is not his most insightful…

48 hours of VCing.

I have many excuses for not blogging much over the last week. Some of them are actually legitimate reasons: midterms, class projects etc. But one of the more interesting reasons I haven't been getting the recommended amount of sleep (I don't know what that is, but I'm not getting anywhere close to it, dammit!): VCIC.

The creatively named Venture Capital Investment Competition was a blast. The rules are available on the website, but in short: teams read 3 business plans, grill the entrepreneurs the next day and present their decisions to a panel of VCs.

I was lucky I had a great team; we worked hard but were pretty laid-back about the whole competition. Sample e-mail exchange, the day the competition applications were due:

Me: "Hey, do you want to do the VCIC?"
Team member: "Sure...what is it?"

Seventeen teams applied, seven teams were selected for the round based on our resumes/application and we were one of them. (Team member's comment after looking at …

Eating the dog food.

Sigh...I've crossed over. I recently accepted this position and I'll start work in August.
It took me a while to make my decision and one of the reasons I chose to accept the offer was that I used so many of their products. At the moment I finally decided, I realized I had 5 Google properties open at that time.

However, I've avoided using Google Calendar, Docs and Spreadsheets for a while now. I've had a number of good reasons to do so, but for some reason a flip switched when I signed that offer letter and I'm eating the dog food (interesting Wikipedia entry by the way.) I'm trying to use both for 2 class projects this quarter.
And yes, everyone to whom I've complained endlessly about Gmail: that's my primary non-school email id now, and I really like it; no seriously, really!

I also find that I have a very, very different perspective when I read articles like this one.:)