Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ultimate Warrior is Insane

I try to explain to people how much energy and enthusiasm I have for starting my company, but it's always tough. I think this guy has almost as much energy as I do. Almost.

"Seeding the Market" - June 30, 2007

The iPhone…simple in design, innovative in function, overpriced, and highly coveted.
Steve Jobs’ goal is to sell 10 million of these suckers by 2008. Challenging yes, but given that the wildly successful Motorola Razr sold 50 million in a year and a half proves people are maniacally obsessed with style and form factor. However, getting them to shell out $500+ for a phone that will never come with cell phone insurance (thank you AT&T policy) might prove to be harder than they think. Also worth noting, the average revenue per user reported by all the major wireless carriers is coming mostly from phone calls and text messaging. Middle America isn’t quite ready to surf the web, watch videos, moblog, and email from their cell phones, so convincing them they need a device that does just that will be tricky.

Beyond trying to saturate the cell phone market with iPhones, the real brilliance here is the strategy Apple is using to take over the PC and OS market, and make Microsoft and IBM a thing of the past. The iPhone is just one more step Apple has taken to begin to take back market share.

First off, Apple has given all of its employees that have been at Apple for more than a year, or any full-time employees, a free 8 gig iPhone. That’s roughly 17,000 free phones they are giving away. The intent is to ensure that these 17,000 people advocate the iPhone to their friends and family, and basically, it’s probably the most cost-efficient form of advertising Apple can do.

Secondly, Apple has managed to start to amalgamated programs such as iTunes onto Windows run PCs, giving those users the opportunity to experience the excellence and innovation in Apple programming. People will truly begin to appreciate the visceral application function and simple layout that Apple creates that eventually they will no longer want to deal with the middle man, a.k.a. Steve Balmer.

Finally, the deadly combo of giving non-Mac users the ability to play around with toys like the iTV, iPod, and iPhone is going to slowly persuade them into buying into the whole Apple product package, because hey, Apple products talk better to each other than an Apple to a PC, right?If the delightful design and easy to use experience isn’t enough to get them to buy Apple, then I guess Apple is screwed, but given that more and more students, business executives, and average day schmos are starting to buy Apple, I don’t think that Microsoft and IBM should be sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

5 Great Disruptors - June 25, 2007

1. Charles Babbage (1791-1871)

The inventor of the programmable computer “difference engine”, creator of the “pilot”, the metal thingy that pushes cows out of the way on a train, and architect of the heliograph.

This guy is the man. He figured out how to build a computer using steam power. STEAM POWER!!!!!! Seriously, who does that? Babbage paved the way for how we live today.
2. William Levitt (1907-1994)

Ever wonder why most of America doesn’t live in cities anymore? Thank Mr. Levitt, inventor of the first planned neighborhood, otherwise known as a suburb. In the 1950s in upstate New York Levittown was born, America’s first prototype for today’s modern suburb. We haven’t been the same since.

3. Nikola Tesla (1856 -1943)

You like electricity? This guy learned how to lasso it using alternating current (AC), and make it safe enough for everyone to have an outlet in their house without risking shock, fire, or rigor mortis.
4. Craig Newmark (1952 - )

Single handedly rocking the newspaper classifieds market, Newmark, created an online classified community that united millions of individuals with things the really really need like cars, roommates, jobs, late night hook-ups, etc….did I mention it’s free!!! The man could make millions off advertising each year, but refuses, as it intrudes on the space! All hail Newmark.
5. Si Ling-Chi (2640 B.C.)

She invented the process to make silk from silk worms. Without her we wouldn’t have all sorts of great materials, including stuff like Kevlar. Oh yeah, she was also the first legendary Empress of China.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Top 5 Favorite Innovative Products - June 24, 2007

5. Folding Aluminum Tent Poles

Light-weight, compactable, easy to use tent poles revolutionized camping. Gone are the headaches of figuring out what piece goes to what. Going camping is fun, until you realize that you have to pee at 3am, and that weird animal noise outside the tent won’t go away.

4. Digital Video Recorder

Wow! It’s one hell of a tweaked out VCR, but I never have to deal with any physical tape to record my favorite shows. Oh yeah, and it has a great user interface, so it’s easy to select what and when I want to record. Finally, NO MORE SUCKY COMMERCIALS, I fast forward through them all!!!!

3. Speedo Fastskin

I happen to spend a lot of my time in the water, and I truly appreciate any new advancement in swimwear. In 2000, Speedo launched the Fastskin, a material that wicks away water and claims to reduce drag by 3-7%. Proven studies have shown that Fastskin has reduced drag by .34%, which isn’t much, but hey as long as I don’t have to shave my body anymore, that works for me.

2. Custom T-Shirts

Wait a second, you mean I don’t have to walk around with someone else’s logo on my t-shirt, and I can decide what I want on the shirt? Online eStores like Café Press allow users to set-up their own shops too, and over 800,000 people have done so, selling 36 million diferent products. 1. The “Wide Mouth” Beer Can

This little design adjustment to beer cans allowed a much freer passage of the delicious barley and hop liquid to the drinker. Once they were introduced in the early nineties, they haven’t gone back. It’s my number one favorite innovation, and probably the reason why the average beer chug time has dropped from 7.8 seconds to 3.9.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mr. Cool Ice - June 23, 2007

I think this speaks for itself.

Friday, June 22, 2007

"Blind Bus Ride" - June 22, 2007

This morning as I waited for the bus (I normally walk, but I sprained my ankle), I was in deep thought about how I should communicate with my intended target audience. Yes, I realize I don’t even have a product yet, but per my “Product vs. Plan” post, I am trying to build a product and a brand/marketing plan at the same time.

So, I’m sitting on the bus, and I randomly decide that I am going to close my eyes for the entire bus ride. I wanted to explore what it was like to really open my ears to the sounds of a bus ride during a morning commute. I wasn’t just going to hear things around me, I was intent on listening to them.
The ride, as one can imagine, was weird. Homeless people mumbling, screeching breaks, cell phone conversations about shoes, random smells, old women complaining, various people brushing and smooshing against you, and the occasional humming near my ear. However, it gave me a perspective that I had never gained before.

I think if I can apply interesting tactics to listen to my target audience in ways that reveal details that I would not have expected before, like the ones I experienced while closing my eyes on the bus, I will be able to develop an intriguing set of communications with them.

"Edumacated" - June 21, 2007

As stated, this blog’s intention is to chronicle my journey of starting a business from absolutely nothing.

Nothing = No business plan, no products, no know-how, no marketing plan, no piles of cash lying around, no guidebook, zip, zilch, nada, zero, nothing!

However, I do have an IDEA!!!
In order to bring my idea to life, I need to be able to build prototypes that eventually become finished products, which I can sell. Basically, I need to educate myself on how to make the best products possible, which involves educating myself on advanced mold making skills. Soooo…I just ordered these really great DVDs!!!! YAY!!! They should be here soon, and that means some really great posts to look forward to.

Here is a pic of two of the three DVDs I’m getting. This guy looks kinda scary, I'm kinda nervous.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

LEDs and Sexual Innuendos - June 20, 2007

In the past couple months, I have become intrigued with LED technology, and I have been doing a lot thinking about how to incorporate them into my products. Before I get into how LED lights have anything to do with sexual references, I want to tell you about some specific LED gadgets that have caught my attention.

1. LED “Throwie

This little thing invented by the Graffiti Research Lab is great for placing an LED(s) anywhere you want, and it lasts about 2 weeks until the battery power runs out.

2. Glowing LED “Ice Ball

Some guy filled a water balloon with water and an LED, and then froze. Attach battery, and then relax. It’s easy on the eyes, and very very cool.

3. LED “Floaties

These little guys would be a hit, but make sure you use enough helium, as the weight of the LED and power supply may bring the balloon down.

4. Infrared LED “TV Be Gone” Hat

Load a baseball hat with infrared LEDs and shut down any TVs in the area.

5. Altoid’s LED “Bike Light

This is pretty sweet, save yourself $25 bucks, and maybe start some trend that will be rapidly adopted by bike riding hipsters!

So I hope that you enjoyed these little toys, all of which you should be able to make on your own for under $5. Now, I’m sure you must still be wondering how LEDs and sexual innuendos go together. Simple, I was reading up on how to wire LEDs with resistors, and I came across a electrical guidebook from a company called Transtronics. In the guide, they were explaining that resistors are color coded so that one can figure out their electrical level of resistance. Each color represents a number, and the sequence of the colors will tell you what its resistance is. However, to make sure it is easy to remember the sequence of colors and their associated numbers, Transtronics suggested this nice little mnemonic device. See the picture from the screenshot below. WOW! Need I say more? But let me ask you this, will you forget that?

Getting into the Blogosphere, First Step - June 20, 2007

It’s great that I have this blog, but it would be better if people actually read it! And as much as this blog is a ritualistic process for me to ensure I remain dedicated to achieving my goal, I want this to be a resource or inspiration for others.

So, in order to get this blog out into the world and in front of the eyes of other entrepreneurs, I've been seeding it into the major search engines using their submission processes. However, I also want to link up with the other big blog search engines, such as Technorati.

I highly recommend that anyone who is blogging about something meaningful, that they try to get as many people to read it as possible.

Within this post, I have included this link so that the Technorati spiders recognize the blog and link it to their search engine.

Technorati Profile

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

1 Million 1 Shot Paraphernalia!!!

Want to support my cause? Or maybe you just like the bullet logo?

Check out the 1 Million 1 Shot products you can buy to show your support.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sweet San Francisco - June 18, 2007

Insight - June 12, 2007

Research and development is heavily invested in by major corporations to ensure that the next big thing they develop “works.” I can’t imagine the countless beta testers or focus groups they go through to perfect the product. I, unfortunately, will not have the bandwidth or the deep pockets to invest in perfecting my product. As a result, I will have to rely on sharpened research skills to uncover unique insights about my target audience, which I can utilize to create intriguing and engaging communication strategies.

In between developing my product lines and forming the brand behind the product, I have selected an appropriate audience to initially market the products to. As of now, I know what sex they are, what age bracket they fit into, and that’s about it. The next steps for me are to begin to uncover the motivations, perceptions, and purchase habits of this group, and begin to build a personality (psychographic) around how they act, how they learn about new products, what is likely to influence them or grab their attention, how they communicate with another, what is important to them, and what types of media they pay most attention to. A sophisticated dissection of the target audience will empower me with the relevant knowledge necessary to craft a successful marketing and communications plan to launch the brand and the products it represents. I firmly believe that someone could be selling the best product in the world, but if it is not marketed properly then it will never survive.

Beyond compiling a smart profile of my target audience to launch the brand, this knowledge will empower me to better create and design product lines to fit the needs of my consumer. The smart profile will also hopefully eliminate days of unnecessary time and money spent on product or communications development, the key word being “hopefully.”

I am writing this post because above all, I am a massive proponent about combining all available knowledge to build a picture of why, when, how, and what your target audience is going to do with your product or brand.

I believe that consumer insight is not only important for manufacturers and marketers, it is becoming a mainstay within engineering, architecture, and urban planning. A local architecture firm in San Francisco, MKThink, relies on ethnographers, sociologists, and ergonomic engineers to understand how and why people use certain spaces. The insights gained from these studies provide MKThink architects with actionable knowledge to design truly usable spaces. This means that less can equal more, and that precious land is utilized to its maximum potential.

Insight is king!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

"Inspiration in Consumer Empowerment" - June 8,2007

5:45pm - My Apartment – Packing for the Weekend

Business 2.0’s June issue is about to be thrown into the garbage.

I scan the cover title and find it to be overly sensational, “The Man Who Owns the Internet.” Seriously? I couldn’t believe that Biz 2.0 would make such an outrageous claim. Then again, had some guy named Kevin Ham actually had the moxie, smarts, and due diligence to single-handedly take control of the Internet?

Ok, fine, I’ll take the magazine on the flight to Denver.

6:38pm – Civic Center Bart Station – Waiting for the Train

iPod dead. Resuscitation has no effect. R.I.P. iPod #4. Thank god I have a magazine.

8:24pm – Airplane – Killing Time

I pull the magazine from out of my bag and begin to flip through its pages. The first article is about the next best products, trends, and ideas, all of which is intriguing. The next article, “What Works: The People and the Companies That Get It”, details a handful of companies that are founded on innovative thinking and paradigm shifting practices.

I learn about this company called Threadless. Threadless was founded by two guys who knew each other in High School. They sell t-shirts, simple enough. However, there’s a twist. The designs that go onto the shirts are voted on before they even get printed, which ensures no massive failures. Better yet, all the designs are user submitted, and winners get some cash and name recognition. Buyers of the shirts earn credits for inviting friends, and get credits for sending in pictures of themselves wearing the designs. Credits can be used to purchase other shirts.

The idea has taken off like wildfire. Threadless now sells 1,500 t-shirts on an average day, and is launching a retail store in Chicago.

Here are a couple designs from Threadless to admire their awesomemity!

8:45pm – Airplane – Where the Big Idea Lives
Companies founded on principles similar to Threadless are starting to see good traction in the marketplace. This is due to a variety of factors, from widespread broadband adoption to trends in product customization to streamlined and low cost manufacturing processes. In the end, the reason they are successful is because they are giving consumers the ability to manipulate products according to THEIR specifications. Crazy idea, huh?
I was recently asked to help contribute material to help support a workshop in Cannes that is centered on “consumers in control.” According to Keith Reinhard, chairman of ad agency DDB worldwide, consumers have always been in control, it’s just that they are now finally realizing it. I believe consumers are in control because it is no longer about advertisers and marketers shoving ads and products down their mouths on 3 T.V. channels (NBC, ABC, CBS) and in huge retail chain stores(Sears Roebuck, Macy’s, Montgomery Ward).

Advertisers now have to adjust when, where, and how they communicate with their audiences, and company’s now have to study what, why, and how people are using their products. It’s no longer a one-way street where consumers are forced to take it or leave it.

What does this mean for advertisers? Maybe it’s a bar mat, maybe it’s a coupon in the newspaper, maybe it’s a viral video, or maybe it’s guerilla street team. Because consumers are able to “turn off” many of 3,000+ ads they see each day, advertisers have to be precise about when, how, and where they decided to engage with their audience. When it comes down to it, how many ads do you remember seeing yesterday? The only thing I remember is a huge outdoor ad for the Helio “Ocean” cell phone, and a TV commercial with a bunch of girls in spandex promoting the NBA.

What does this mean for consumer product manufacturers? It’s time to interact with your target audience beyond product functionality testing groups. Begin to develop products that truly meet their needs at substantiated levels. Think beyond product usage propensity statistics, and think of how your product can work with them on a psychographic level.

Consumers have always been in control, but this time they are stronger and more powerful than before. They are smarter, “weathered”, uncompromising, and not trustworthy of advertising. Technologies have empowered them with an international voice. They can mobilize, unify, and make an impact at anytime.

My company is dedicated to putting the control firmly in the hands of the consumer, with apt guidance when necessary, and helping them buy, create, or develop what they want, when they want it.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"Karma" - June 6, 2007

As I teetered back and forth in my chair this morning at work checking email, my friend Nina surprised me and gave me a month long Muni Pass she had found on the ground. I was psyched. That sweet ticket retails for $45 street!

Sadly, my hopes of free riding the San Francisco streets in dilapidated and habitually tardy buses vanished before my eyes. On the back of the Muni Card was the name and telephone number of the woman whom the Muni Card belong. I was summoned by Karmic forces to call her on the phone. I arranged to meet with her so I could give her the Muni Card. The woman was kind enough to give me a card for a free cookie, which was too kind of her.

Sigh…..dreams of being surrounded by ornery and malodorous homeless people will only be that….dreams.

Karma is good. It’s how I am going to run the company, and how I will treat those that I work with. I believe in being good.

"Product or Plan" - June 5, 2007

I keep giving myself headaches whenever I logistically try to plan out how this start-up is going to work. On one side of the spectrum I have to develop a business plan and operations model, and on the other side, I have to actually finalize the product and manufacturing process.

I am struggling with trying to decide where I focus my energy first…should I work on the product or the plan?

If I only focus on the plan, then I will begin to gain understanding about what the company is going to be about, how it will operate, how it will go to market, and what audience it is going to target. However, I will then be stuck trying to create products that only fit the goals of the company.

If I only focus on product development, I will understand how the manufacturing process should work and how to create finished products, but I will have no idea how to market the product.

Based on this stream of consciousness I’ve got going, I have some ideas, and I think that I am going to have to tackle both the product and plan at the same time. However, I first need to develop a rough draft for the plan as soon as possible, so that I can coordinate company and brand development exercises, both of which will take more time than the manufacturing.

I am setting a goal to have a plan written at the end of June. Stay tuned.

"Brand Building" - June 2, 2007

Launching a product is not as straightforward as simply putting it into a box and onto store shelves. Products are bought by consumers based on a preconceived preference formulated within their minds about that specific product. They buy “A” over “B” because of practical or emotional reasons, or sometimes both.

These dish soaps all do the same thing, yet consumers prefer Dawn over PalmoliveConsumer preferences are affected by strategic marketing communications, most likely in the form of advertising, created by the company that sells the product. Companies create and steward brands to represent their products in order to guide consumer preference. A brand is intended to symbolize the product’s value set and create preference and differentiation for that specific product in a saturated market environment.

The end goal is to get consumers to repeatedly pay a premium for a product, hopefully, because of what the brand contributes to the product’s uniqueness.

There are literally hundreds of corporations around the world that sell the same product, however, some are more successful than others. Why? Is it because their product is superior? No! The answer is that the companies who are succeeding have managed to create a brand that represents their product’s heart and soul. They build, shape, and utilize the characteristics behind the brand to build preference for their product. They are then able to externally communicate that brand to their target audience.

Take Apple for instance. Anything that has an Apple logo slapped onto it is immediately considered to be innovative, artistic, and different. Think about it, the iPod doesn’t play music any better than the Zune or SanDisk, but iPods make up more than 75% of the music player market.

I believe that a brand is like an iceberg. The top, or visible part of the iceberg, represents a consumers’ gut feeling about a brand. It is an initial reaction. The submerged part of the iceberg that is not visible, but makes up 90% of the iceberg, substantiates the real reasons why a consumer feels a specific way about the brand. These feelings can be deep seeded rationale.

Corporations typically take two directions when they begin to formulate a brand. See the charts below.
Being a “Branded House” is a great way to go about building a brand. Firstly, they develop a “Masterbrand” that is responsible for guiding the positioning of any products launched within the corporation. It is important the products are positioned in consideration of the Masterbrand, as they are inevitably going to represented by it. Secondly, this set-up ensures that no sub-brands within the company are created. Finally, with this brand structure, consumers will never form a disconnect between the Masterbrand and the value it brings to the products it represents. This is great because in the long-run, people will develop trust around any product represented by the Masterbrand.

A House of Brands on the other hand, like Procter & Gamble, has many brands contained underneath one massive corporate “hood.” This set-up is good for the individual brands underneath the “hood” because they maintain a certain independence from another, and they can provide different values and positioning to a variety of target audiences. It is a smart approach, because unlike having a Masterbrand, if one brand within your “House of Brands” goes bad, then the entire product portfolio isn’t affected.

In comparing the two, I believe in the Masterbrand. I think that taking the time to invest in building depth around a brand from every angle (internal and external communication) makes more strategic sense then attempting to guide a dozen different brands under one “hood.”

The chart above aptly shows how a Masterbrand that is continually invested in over time will positively affect any products that are represented by the brand. Remember, in the end, it is only about getting consumers to repeatedly pay a premium for a product, and it is the brand that is responsible for coaxing them into doing so.

"I Love Music" - June 1, 2007

I love music. I think I love it so much I might be going deaf. Damn you iPod and your awesome capability of letting me listen to countless hours of music whenever and wherever.

Music has provided me with much inspiration throughout countless art projects, and is the only thing that lets me “get away” when I am at work. I have a truly eclectic taste, but I really do love electronic music. My Dad has a theory that I love this type of music because I spent so much time in the water that the sound of the waves constantly undulating against my head has cause me to like music with a strong rhythmic and deep base.

That said, I frequent music happenings around San Francisco. Tonight I headed out to see my friend’s band play, Rubber Side Down, at Café Du Nord. Café Du Nord is a great underground venue, with cheap beers, low ceilings, and music a little louder than it should be. RSD played a great set, and has an uncanny ability to rock incredibly hard and loud, yet maintain a crisp and comprehensible set of vocals over the music.

Me and Mike from RSD
Afterwards, I headed out to Madrone Lounge to see my friend, Lucaso (a self proclaimed digital gypsy), spin some music at an event he hosts called the Sound Culture. The music was great, and my neighbor, Annie, even performed some of her hoolahoop dancing for us.

For more music pioneered by Lucaso, check out the podcast he helps broadcast: iodaCast.

Solid beats at the Sound Culture
Annie being a hoolahoop badass

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Quick How To on Mold Making - May 31, 2007

As I mentioned in my intro to this website, a majority of my time will be spent actually manufacturing products from my kitchen under a makeshift hood. In the spirit of education, I want to walk you through the step-by-step process I use to make a mold. Pardon the picture quality, but my digi cam was at a friend’s house, and I had to use my phone cam.


Pick an object to make a mold of, but be careful to pick something that is relatively simple in design. For instance, a block is a lot easier to make a mold of then an action figure that is holding a sword. Objects that have many complicated angles, “limbs”, or holes in them will be hard to make molds of.

Here is the object I chose (it’s a wooden knob):


Take the object and glue it down to a piece of cardboard. I use glue that is made for sealing cracks in gutters on houses. It’s great because it works instantly, and takes very little time to dry. I think any silicon based glue would work well for this too.

After you glue the object to the piece of cardboard, you will need to build a wall around it. The wall needs to be high enough to cover at least ½” higher than the top of your object. Also, be sure also not to build walls that are farther than 1 ½” from your object either. I’ll explain later.

In the picture below, I took the wooden knobs, and glued them to the cardboard, then glued sections of PVC pipe around them to act as walls.


Once you have your object glued down, and walls surrounding it, you will need to spray a release agent into it so that when you pour the rubber, or whatever you want, into it, the mold making material doesn’t stick. I use this stuff called Universal Release Spray.


Mix up whatever mold making material you bought, and pour it into your molds.I use a product from Smooth-On called PMC 121/30.

BTW, I buy all my supplies in San Francisco from this place called Douglass and Sturgess.

Now wait! Overnight!!!!!

….and be sure to ventilate….the stuff gets smelly (see fan)


Time to get your mold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So you had the patience to wait long enough for your material to set overnight, and it’s ready to be released.

Gently tear your object and makeshift walls away from the cardboard. You will be left with this. Notice your object is still stuck inside the mold, and stuck inside the walls you made around it.

Thank god you sprayed the release spray. Right?!?!
Simply push the mold out of the wall you put around it, or tear the walls away.


Time to rip out the object embedded in your mold. This takes a little patience, especially since it is sealed inside the rubber.

Side Note: Oh sweet sweet rubber, how I love your stretchy properties.

In order to get your object out, you will need to push it out of the mold. Depending on what type of object you have in there, you might be able to simply push it out, but because my knob is mushroom shaped, I will have to cut it out.

In order to cut it our, simply cut from the base of the object, where it was glued to the cardboard, and slice through the rubber in an “S” pattern (as not to cause more tearing than necessary in the long run). DO NOT cut all the way to the bottom, only cut enough to get the object out.


Once the object is out, you are free to make as many molds as you want from that mold. Just remember to ALWAYS use release spray inside the negative space in the mold, otherwise whatever you pour inside will get stuck.