As those of you who work in the industry may have seen, Buddy Media has been acquired by Salesforce.com for nearly $700 million. It’s an amazing outcome for Mike Lazerow and the Buddy team, but what’s even more amazing though is Mike’s life story, which he was brave enough to talk about publicly today, through a YouTube video. I urge you to take three minutes and watch it:
As many of you may already know, December saw the launch of The Kernel, a new technology-centric publication founded by one of London’s most vocal technology journalists, Milo Yiannopoulos (who’s name I still have to google whenever I write it but hey, nobody’s perfect – right?).
The Kernel’s mission is nothing if not incredibly ambitious, aiming to fix technology journalism by avoiding link-bait articles, SEO titles and boring tech news reporting. They promise to be rigorous in their enquiry, transparent about their methods and aggressive in defending entrepreneurs. It’s a laudable initiative in a world burdened by an unbearable amount of crappy “publications” driven by page impressions and ad budgets, and it seems they’ve been doing a great job keeping to their promise, so far.
I may be biased as Milo is one of my best friends, but over the past few days I’ve been reading The Kernel and I’m impressed with the quality and wit of most articles, all written with a twist of humour or sarcasm, in typical fashion of the Editor-in-Chief himself. I wish Milo and the team good luck in 2012, and I’m looking forward to seeing The Kernel become as influential and respected in technology journalism as The Economist is in the business world.
Two years ago, I was embarking on what has so far been the ride of my life: moving to London. It all started more or less because of Seedcamp, which has since then grown into a fantastic network of mentors, investors and entrepreneurs. Probably the best in Europe.
One of the components that makes Seedcamp unique is the Mini Seedcamp Events that happen around the world over the course of the year. I like attending these events whenever possible, so on October 20th I’m going to Mini Seedcamp Prague. There will be some fantastic mentors and investors there, and you can still apply to pitch your startup, here.
For me, the decision to move to London happened after I met Alex Van Someren at a Mini Seedcamp Event in Paris. So don’t miss out, wear good shoes and you might just end up in Europe’s technology capital as well. If not, at least the post-event parties are always good.
This article was initially posted as a guest post on SMARTA.com on March 16, 2011.
I have been on a mission. A “WebMission” to be precise. It was put together by UKTI, Technology Strategy Board, Polecat and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and led by the brilliant Oli Barrett.
Each year, the team selects up to 20 British companies and takes them to the Valley for a week of intense meetings – and fun. How’s this for a highlight: a night of “networking” at Michael Birch’s house. (For those of you who don’t know Birch, he’s the man who sold Bebo.com to AOL for $850 million in cash. Not as uncommon in the Valley as you’d imagine.)
I was lucky to be selected this year, and in between visits to Twitter and Microsoft, pitches to angels and VCs, pub crawls and ludicrous house parties, I am discovering what really makes the Valley tick: the people.
People in the Bay Area are smart, laid back, fun, hard-working. And, most importantly, they’re willing to give a hand to fellow entrepreneurs, even if you come from 5,000 miles away. More importantly, there’s a lot of them: anywhere you go, you’ll likely find someone who’s founded or sold a start-up. Millionaires aren’t cool here – billionaires are – but very few of them do it for the money.
As a matter of fact, one of the VCs I met here in the Valley told me something interesting: “Most startups in London, New York and the rest of the world want to make money. Most startups in the Valley want to change the world. That’s what makes the difference.”
My experience this week tends to confirm this. To give you an example: Marc Benioff started the Salesforce Foundation before Salesforce.com had made a dime. Its values were, as the Foundation’s vice president of “all things fun, meaningful and rewarding” Julie Trell explained to us on Thursday morning, “imprinted in the company’s DNA”. Today, 70% of their employees volunteer every year and thousands of companies have been involved with the foundation in the past 11 years.
On one of the evenings, I had dinner with a couple of Stanford MBAs working on a social enterprise fighting malaria through a technology that makes it cheaper to create malaria nets.
I also spoke to a VC whose fund only invests in start-ups trying to optimise energy creation for third world countries.
The list goes on.
On Thursday afternoon, I was in a car with the same Julie Trell and my good friend Milo Yiannopoulos, when I spotted Marc Benioff walking down Market Street. We stopped the car and Julie called over to him. “Hey Julie! I’m running to a meeting but it’s good to see you,” he said, and off he went.
He’s not the only one in a hurry: as soon as I get back to the UK, I’ll be heading over to the Romanian consulate (I am Romanian) to apply for an L1 visa. San Francisco is the Hollywood of tech, and if you want to be a star, this is the place to go about it.
The other day, I discovered an interview with Steve Jobs from exactly 26 years ago. Yes, 26 years ago. He was 29, and Apple had just launched the $3,000 Mac. The interview itself is superb and I strongly recommend you read the whole thing, but what really struck me is how well he prepared his stories, even back then. Here are a few of examples:
About the computer:
Computers are actually pretty simple. We’re sitting here on a bench in this cafe [for this part of the Interview]. Let’s assume that you understood only the most rudimentary of directions and you asked how to find the rest room. I would have to describe it to you in very specific and precise instructions. I might say, “Scoot sideways two meters off the bench. Stand erect. Lift left foot. Bend left knee until it is horizontal. Extend left foot and shift weight 300 centimeters forward .” and on and on. If you could interpret all those instructions 100 times faster than any other person in this cafe, you would appear to be a magician: You could run over and grab a milk shake and bring it back and set it on the table and snap your fingers, and I’d think you made the milk shake appear, because it was so fast relative to my perception. That’s exactly what a computer does. It takes these very, very simple-minded instructions–“Go fetch a number, add it to this number, put the result there, perceive if it’s greater than this other number”–but executes them at a rate of, let’s say, 1,000,000 per second. At 1,000,000 per second, the results appear to be magic.
About the mouse:
If I want to tell you there is a spot on your shirt, I’m not going to do it linguistically: “There’s a spot on your shirt 14 centimeters down from the collar and three centimeters to the left of your button.” If you have a spot–“There!” [He points]–I’ll point to it. Pointing is a metaphor we all know. We’ve done a lot of studies and tests on that, and it’s much faster to do all kinds of functions, such as cutting and pasting, with a mouse, so it’s not only easier to use but more efficient.
There’s an old Hindu saying that comes into my mind occasionally: “For the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you.” As I’m going to be 30 in February, the thought has crossed my mind.
Selling is all about telling a story that’s relevant to the person you’re telling it to, but at the same time creates an emotional impact or connection. If you look closely at the paragraphs above, you’ll notice that the stories involve the interviewer directly. It may not make the person buy whatever you’re selling directly, but it might make people pay more attention to whatever your saying.
For me, influencers are those who make a difference in other people’s life. One by one.
One of the things I really love about London is that I meet tons of people that are really changing the world. People like Eliza Robeiro, who started Lives not Knives when she was 13 (she’s 17 now, I feel old), Lucian Tarnowski, who took over his father’s charity, Take Heart India, when he was 18 or 19, or the guy that I see daily on my way to the office, standing on a busy sidewalk in Covent Garden saying “Anybody lost or needs information?”, helping tourists get around London.