Mentoring

Funny Aussie US Translation for Americans and Australians

Here in sydney we are uniquely connected to most major cultures in the world as a result of years of overcoming geographic  isolation and also managing our immigration in a fairly haphazard manner.

What could be perceived as a structural disadvantage or government policy failure has actually ended up being fairly good to the extent that we now have an awesomely connected and multi-cultural society.

Arguably the best connected axis is the UK since we drew our first settlers (after the original indigenous Australians of course) followed by strong links with Asia (for example the gold rushes over a century ago) and also North America. This is before we consider the specific cultures of Europe (particularly Mediterranean countries) and the old French Empire and of course specific strong corridors of trade and immigration like South East Asia.

So we are fortunate to have as a result around 150 languages widely spoken here on the East Coast of Australia. At the same time 61% of the people on the internet are in our timezone (and 68% on the West Coast) both of these numbers are arguably the highest of any country/continent in our categories of development, education, economic strength, quality of life and force of law.

It is fun to highlight a little of our simple differences since we have to work with so many different cultures.

Here is a great primer on language differences. It is fairly informative and also pretty funny.

I am going to share this with our international offices at Freelancer.com and try and find equivalent videos for the AU-UK, AU-EU, AU-CN and AU-SEA corridors that are also fun and informative. Feel free to add them in the comments if you know any.

It is a great primer for anyone doing international business especially tech startups, students or anyone planning to travel.

Bill Gates On The Limits of Capitalism

‘The market does not drive the scientists, the communicators, the thinkers, the government to do the right things. And only by paying attention to these things, and having brilliant people who care and draw other people in, can we make as much progress as we need to make.’ – quote from Bill Gates

With thanks to Business Insider Australia.

Gandhi The Entrepreneur

Shared with me by my good friend Amarsh Anand who is currently in China returning to Australia. A wonderful set of insights on how all of us can change the world. I believe Amarsh started this series off, I suspect it will be the first of many once people start to understand the depth of power from these approaches in out modern internet enabled context.

Transclusion In Startups

Most technologists are familiar with the concept of transclusion, but this is not necessarily the case for entrepreneurs.

It is another example of why innovation happens at the intersections of life or business.

  • Cut across traditional boundaries and you will find places, people, products and processes that are often central to where or how new improvements are found.
  • Tech startups founded by one or more geek entrepreneurs would have awareness of transclusion from their technology (usually software) training and naturally apply it to their business design.

Basically, to me (with my geek hat on), transclusion means avoid duplication or reuse existing code or apply use best practice PLUS be open to how these are employed or integrated.

  • Why copy a piece of code from another place when you can refer to it (or call it in at run time or integrate it) and hence benefit in both places if the original source is improved.
  • The downside is it introduces a new dependency into your software or business but usually it creates a new network effect or shared upside incentive to collaboration too.

As an entrepreneur however I think we can interpret transclusion to have other wider meanings, hence the reason for this article.

Why Apply Transclusion?

  • Speed to market. Stop reinventing the wheel. Reuse an existing thing rather than rebuilding it.
  • Confidence. Usually the original has been tested and used by others already.
  • Best practice. You spend your time picking the best code (or service) to reuse rather than design, build and test your own.
  • Open Innovation. We might have started talking about code here but in reality you should be looking at services (e.g. payments, reputation, social network connectors, analytics), communities and marketplaces (especially integrity and liquidity). Others are relying on and often improving these services so you get benefits.
  • Focus on Outcomes. As above, you start looking at wider benefits (e.g. is it easier to login with social APIs like linked/facebook/twitter) not just code.
  • Adaptability. If I reused an existing (e.g language translation) service rather than build my own, when I want to add another option/feature (e.g. new language to the list of supported translations) it is a standardised step that has been done many times before not a hardwired stove pipe built only for one set of situations.

How to Apply Transclusion?

  • Example implementations out in the wild are extensive and go by many names such as include files, include scripts, application programming interfaces (API)s, service orientated architecture (SOA), service design, functional partitioning etc…
  • The purists will comment below and point out to me the subtle (and sometimes dramatic) differences between each of the above technical terms, they are not lost on me technically (I did do comp. sc. at university) but today we are talking about transclusion in a entrepreneurial context and hence include business growth considerations more than pure technical definitions.
  • The gist of all this to me is simply thinking about reuse from the outset so that your technology or business is architected to allow the use of open innovation ideas AND techniques including transclusion if the opportunity arises and more importantly you make sure your culture keeps it in mind each time you do something new, make the decision to allow a considered decision where you evaluate options rather than just diving into a particular path.

Why not use Transclusion?

  • Risk. New dependencies you could otherwise avoid and might fail. (e.g our project management system we use in Sydney Australia was recently taken out by a hosting provider to one of our information management tools when New York City was hit by a hurricane but the productivity benefits of the tool outweigh the risks and longer term they will fix that issue for all current and future clients).
  • Over Analysis. You could spend more time looking around than it takes you to build one or grab the first alternative that comes along. Usually people use this excuse. But often it is the area of greatest upside. e.g. Would you prefer to build you own card payments connector or reuse an API that give access to hundreds of millions of existing customers than not only can pay with it but are familiar with the user experience, you are getting additional trust and confidence in your customers mind – something that is very expensive and time consuming to build/acquire.
  • Lots more but they are the main ones.

So how to decide?

  • Buy?
  • Build?
  • Integrate?
  • Which technology?
  • Which service?
  • Which vendor?
  • Which options?

Often it is all just made a lot easier if you ask these questions –

  1. Is it my core business? ie is it one of the things you plan to differentiate on or is it a marginal side service that is needed but not core to our unique offering. Another way of looking at this is can I leave it out all together (focus) or can I change it easily (later if in the unlikely event our decision was wrong and creates a problem) or do our key stakeholders already have a certain expectations (e.g. email and phone as obvious contact methods with acceptable costs).
  2. Is it available and acceptable to all my stakeholders (i.e. can I buy it at the right price and service/risk level to keep customers, investors, team, regulators, community) all happy?
  3. Is it going to add other benefits? e.g. a network effect of other users that already know how to use that payments system or a cost reduction trend because leading cloud computing providers are dropping prices.

So next time you are considering a feature, think about transclusion.

Read For Growth

So you want to grow your business. So maybe you want help with your business or maybe mentoring. Cool. I/we want to help.

But before we start you have to do some stuff that is important for both of us in the interests of saving a lot of people a lot of time. Don’t want to sound tough but this will really help us both…

Of course if you are a customer or prospect and you just want to pay for consulting stop reading now. You just have to pay for our experience, methodologies, information, tools and of course our time and we will tailor this material for you.

Otherwise read on.

Do yourself (and me and others) a favour –

  • If you have not read the books/blogs below or some summary version of the same then please don’t contact me for mentoring/advice/advisory board roles/director roles etc.Basically there is plenty of the foundation stuff you need to learn first before we could move any discussion onto the next (important) level anyway.
  • If we haven’t met in person or done a proper skype teleconference (which only arise after a good fresh meaningful mutual contact introduction) then please don’t connect with me on linkedin.Rationale here is simple and not trying to be difficult, you see even after deleting heaps I still have 425 linkedin connection request invitations and messages outstanding not to mention emails.  Just because I have a freaky large number of connections on some social media doesn’t mean I am an open networker, I am simple good at being time efficient and pretty well connected. For a reason: To be productive and meet my goals.
  • Understand that my current personal goals are to –
    a) grow a hyper connected hyper successful startup ecosystem in Australia, particularly Sydney and
    b) build my businesses (e.g. Coinr and Cooper & Co) and investments for income and self fulfilment and to help goal a) and to
    c) give my  family (especially kids) the best I can and
    d) live a full life which includes a bunch of other lesser goals like improving the planet in other ways.Note: Helping you with your startup is part of the first goal but time on this is necessarily very limited

However, on a more positive note, if you have read some or ideally most of the material on the list below and have a considered opinion (not a one of trash of insight, sit on it for a few days or ideally weeks) and you still want to discuss the nuances of how it applies to your disruptive innovation then awesome lets rock!

Start by reading my twitter feed which has a lot of the latest thinking and short links to time efficient summaries of these sources. Yes this is me – Peter Cooper is @pc0 on twitter.

Key Concepts (Mandatory)

  1. Disruptive innovation
  2. Why software is eating the world
  3. Lean startup principles
  4. Being An Autodidact Entrepreneur

Books (Very Highly Desirable)

  1. Rework By 37 Signals
  2. Lean Startup By Eric Ries
  3. Innovators Dilema By Clayton Christensen
  4. Inside The Plex By Steven Levy
  5. Getting Things Done By David Allen
  6. The Intelligent Entrepreneur By Bill Murray

Blogs (Good Practice)

  1. Steve Blanks blog
  2. Paul Graham’s blog
  3. Pete Cooper’s blog

Get Connected (Mandatory if you are in Sydney or Australia) – Ideally you should also look at attending/following/joining –

  1. @608Harris
  2. @SydStart
  3. Silicon Beach Australia

Sorry but No. I need to FOCUS

Why Is Focus Important?

This is the story of why focus is important (in my personal context) and how I have formally changed my approach to mentoring.

I have always been a big fan of Mick Liubinskas and his ‘Mr Focus’ persona he takes on stage when encouraging tech startup entrepreneurs to pick something to focus on, pick one differentiated thing, not ten things to build your business around. I have a great photo of one of the first times he ever gave that presentation back in 2009 or 2010 at an early SydStart and it still makes me smile.

Most people who know me well will know how productive I am, it really do punch through a lot of stuff with a system of people and processes around me and the initiatives I care about. It feels weird to talk like this and in some cultures this will sound big headed but it is simply to give a little context to what follows.

So What Has Worked Well?

Lately it has been obvious that the few things I focus on have gone well in fact after nearly 25 years of cool stuff in financial technology and more recently helping build the Sydney Startup Ecosystem it is obvious focus pays off big time. Well, in a work context that is, most of the time it does, lets put personal relationships aside for one moment.

For example –

  • SydStart recently ran for the fourth time (third if you don’t count the mini one). SydStart is a (normally) annual event has now become the leading professional tech startup event in Australia, I founded it a few years ago and it keeps pretty much doubling every time we run it. This time we had nearly a thousand people and probably more importantly the quality of the speakers, attendees and exhibitors keeps going up too. So that particular focused effort has paid off.
  • Family has been another focus area and I am super proud of how my daughter and son are growing up and have been able to see bits of the world first hand yet still know their family here in Australia especially grand parents and extended cousins. It is wonderful to see such bright, energetic, positive people slowly find their place in the world and learn just how much they can contribute.
  • Fishburners is really coming along nicely too. Those of you whom know me will see a recurring theme where I don’t step up to lead if others are already doing stuff. But I will be there quietly supporting and actively shaping. This is one of those projects and it is nice to see over a thousand people a week through the doors now, around 200 members and we have expanded to take over the whole building @608harris.
  • Cooper & Co is also coming along – by leveraging all those past glories (see Linkedin ‘cool stuff’ link above) and new technologies it complements the major consulting groups well by providing the business technology management (strategy to execution) component which the premium providers like McKinsey and Booz often tend to leave off and it is precisely where we pick up and really excel.  We are trying to focus on industries more aligned with our personal values, this might take a while given our focus has been in finance related tools, mergers and acquisitions and real-time (often trading) technologies.
  • Coinr is the main platform I want to focus on (read the Coinr Blog for the evolving details) but unfortunately I have some other distractions (good ones but still distractions) that need to be substantially reduced. The ideas I have in my mind for coinr need to get out into the real world, the benefits could be remarkable for a heap of people if we can execute well enough.
  • All my mentoring and growing the Sydney Startup Ecosystem is simply taking up a lot of time. On a typical week I will do 5-10 meetings directly related to the Sydney Startup Ecosystem plus a further 5-10 requests for mentoring by Startups. This might be about Silicon St or the NSW Govt Industry Action Plan or lobbying to Drop Paperwork for Australian Tech Startups(DPATS) or engaging local city of sydney people or engaging global thought leaders to visit, share with or set up branches in Sydney.

So What Does This Mean?

It is all fun and good for Sydney and the country but I can’t keep putting so much time it that stuff. Especially philanthropy and mentoring. I am also going to dial down the community time component.

Usually all this is pro-bono, ie free, zero pay, no income, no financial gain arrrggghhh. The money doesn’t worry me particularly but it does impact my other initiatives because there is a real quantifiable opportunity cost. Obviously I am adding value because people keep coming back and referring more people but frankly it is becoming unsustainable. I could charge for mentoring but really don’t want to do that.

It is not like I am starving, my financial technology work over the years has paid well and I do have acorns stashed away (mainly illiquid investments).

But the real issue is not money. I’d be equal happy with just instant noodles and good internet. The reason I remain excited about the startup scene here is simply I want my kids to grow up in a great environment where their chances of running randomly into great opportunities (i.e. great people doing great stuff) is as great or greater than in San Francisco or whatever the next hot tech startup entrepreneurial scene is going to be. In fact my bigger vision is for that wish to be shared with and realised by every Australian and for us to lead in greater Asia. I’ll write a detailed post (or book) on that eventually some time, it will probably be called Riding On The Geek’s Back.

I’d also like to lead the way by being a successful example. Many people would say I already have been ridiculously successful, having made some huge impact on the world in a few industries in a few countries and made serious money for a lot of stakeholders in various ventures. I think the point is that I’d like to do one that is all mine. End to end. Not all mine in the sense of not sharing the journey with stakeholders (e.g. co-founders) but one on the sense that I can say I/we did it from scratch to global success including all the potholes and mistakes along the way.

To put a ding in the world (thanks Steve). To make a difference. To have an impact. etc…

It all sounds like a cliche but it really isn’t. Especially if it can create sustainable rewards like financial onces I can reinvest, or like case study learnings or inspiration for others.

To do this I need to focus. A lot more.

So from today I am resolving to reduce the variables.

So What Is Going To Get Trimmed Back? Something Has To Give Right?

Philanthropy will be slashed. I’ll still donate money but not so much and certainly not donate time so much. I am also going to cut back on time at community related events. There are a lot (Sydney Angels, Push Start, Founders Institute, University judging/speaking for USYD + UNSW + UTS +  UWS, TiE, Silicon Beach, Fishburners, various schools + charities + sports + social clubs and other groups).

Mentoring will be also slashed. The quality and care factor will remain but the time commitment has to be trimmed. It is time that is not ‘leveraged’ enough and it is increasingly not unique (others can do a good job too, not just me – a good result of the Sydney Startup Ecosystem growing so fast). I will only provide two slots a week of LESS THAN 30 MINUTES on Friday at 10:30 and 11. If you want a slot get add this iCal format calendar if you can’t work out how to do it, then learn, don’t contact me, work it out yourself dude.

My time on so called ‘advisory boards’ will also be slashed. There are around 40 companies that regularly call on me for opinions on stuff. That is going to stop unless we broker agreements for equity or cash that allows me to reduce consulting time. I still need to pay the bills and bootstrap my own startup so this works well and since it is contributing to both the personal and ecosystem end goals it is one of the better distractions.

A GateKeeper. A Hurdle. A Barrier To Free Stuff.

Also, before we can meet you need to know what Silicon Beach Forums are. You need to know what Fishburners is. You need to have read the ReWork book. You need to know the principles of Lean Startup. It will also help if you know what SydStart is and if you have read a few of the more popular/recent articles on my AnyDex blog and the blogs of Steve Blank and other though leaders like him. Maybe also stuff like in The Plex and The Intelligent Entrepreneur. It will show me that you are serious and it will save us all time.

None of the above are linked because you need to learn how to cut and paste and google it dude. This is the real world.

The above reading list is a set of serious recommendations made with the very best of intentions because it will benefit most businesses especially tech startups. Feel free to ignore it but don’t bother making an appointment if you are not across them.

Why Go On About It So Much?

This blog post is deliberately a bit long. It is intended to sort out the serious people from the wanna-be people. I have made a huge impact in some the lives of some entrepreneurs in recent years. I take that responsibility very seriously indeed. So I’ll try to keep the core value proposition I have always done.

Appointments are free. No advice is provided, just opinions. You should not consider it advice in any legal sense. If I like you and  your team and your idea I will do my best to help. If I don’t well bad luck. All conversations are confidential. Don’t try to connect with me on social media unless we have actually met and shared some positive common ground.

This all sounds a bit too serious perhaps but when your backlog in Linkedin is in the many hundreds and your agile backlog of use cases to be implemented is also in the hundreds – it really is time to focus.

Ciao.

@pc0