This came in the mail today. It's from the major faculty of my liberal arts college, an event for my professor of Bronze Age Archaeology, Jim Wright. He was a great teacher, as I recall!
Also, it's a reminder of the solidity of liberal arts education. This classically-based education was meant to turn out a person who was "virtuous and ethical, knowledgeable in many fields and highly articulate." It doesn't matter what you do with it, you're equipped as a well-rounded individual.
Today's email and its particular Bronze Age lens on power and place is so far from where I am right this minute, and yet I am back in class in an instant, to when civilizations around the Aegean first established a far-ranging trade network and all together moved out of the Stone Age.
Then I'm back again, to today, back to looking at the future of stories for millennial audiences as a business, tech, and entertainment issue. That's a focus of mine right now and based here in California's own power centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Hope all my Bryn Mawr archaeology peers have a fun symposium!
This was 2014. I've been a platform devotee for a long time! I count meeting platform guru Sangeet Paul F2F (he's normally in Singapore) and his platform workshop as a highlight of the year.
Here are my notes from the Platform Thinking workshop with Sangeet Paul of platformed.info at 500 Startups in San Francisco. Sangeet talked for 4 hours without stopping so…these are just the highlights.
After the age of pipes (where value is created upstream and consumed downstream), in the age of connectivity, the platform is king.
A platform is a business model that connects 2 people to exchange a particular unit of value with each other.
A platform needs to set the conditions for that exchange to take place between producers of content and consumers of content. (They might be the same person, or switch roles, as we know a producer will also consume and a consumer will become a producer.)
PLATFORM DESIGN/SEEDING THE PLATFORM
There are 3 sources of value:
standalone value, like tools for producers
network value, like access for producers to reach consumers
off-platform value that enables the core interaction, like guarantees, user incentives, social proof
To kickstart growth, the user workflow needs to create value for him from day 1.
Then leverage existing users to bring in new users. Scale network activity with feedback loops.
Pull the core unit of value by pulling the producers.
We need to be watching for the killer use case that will ignite our platform.
Define rules to govern the interaction. How do you manage curation of value to ensure quality?
Create conditions for trust. The value has to scale, like cumulative value of collectors, a mass of people following your account, etc.
What kind of data do we need to match the two sides? Acquire that required data, import information so it can deliver value. Enable minimum data collection to be able to serve value and populate the user’s experience with relevant content.
Users hate giving info, but we need to ask for it right at the start and little by little, and often. Gather enough data on day 1 to bring the user back a second time.
Personalization is the outcome of curation. This is how to avoid reverse network effects (people leave when it gets too big and not targeted enough to them.)
Build initial value for one side of the interaction, and that value has to last long enough so we can pitch it to the other side. (This is the single user utility I’ve been talking about!)
Find the initial bait, the initial source of value.
Build a cycle, then repeat it. Focus concentrations around an event, a time and a space, for instance. People came onto Twitter to discuss SXSW but then stayed on the service for other reasons.
Consumer first: value without producers need to start with supply. Fake it til you make it. Fake initial activity.
Producer first: value without consumers and non-network value are tools for single user utility.
Provide a creation space to create and display content that attracts more creators and draws in consumers. Flickr, Instagram and Scoopit did this.
Create a customer service tool. This helps producer manage existing consumers. Kickstarter and Skillshare did this.
Pitch the traction to the other side. LinkedIn and Quora and Facebook focused on space (this tools give you access to people in Silicon Valley and college campuses), Twitter focused on time (this tool makes you more efficient at an event).
PRIMING THE NETWORK
If users sign up and don’t return, how long before you’ve lost a user?
What are the minimum number of actions to get value?
How do you ensure new users take these actions?
Implement producer activation.
Dropbox gives you a list of what to do, invite friends, exposes users to actions that provide value. User needs to experience network feedback within how many days of usage?
Enable the minimum network formation to see value. Add minimum network formation: “Who to follow” feature for new users. Second Screen should supply users with content and people to follow upon joining us. “People you may know”. Facebook has found that users need 10 connections within 7 days to continue using the service. Second Screen needs to contact users to get them to add more connections in that first week of signing up.
Only activated users bring network effects. We need to track activations. We need to figure out which side we want to activate first.
SCALING NETWORK GROWTH
How can people spread word about our product without talking about it? That’s virality.
Sender — sends something from platform — the value unit has to be organically spreadable
4 INGREDIENTS for VIRALITY
Sender motivation (that has to be aligned with core use case like Kickstarter user’s motivation is “gather support for my cause” and Kickstarter matches it with “tell the world about your cause”)
Optimize the value unit to spread.
Add call to action. “Get your own”, “Download the app”.
Production feedback loop: Curation prompt, creation act.
Show producers feedback that encourages them the platform works, and show consumers that the relevance is increasing.
Consumption feedback loop: consumption feed, consumption act.
Value units pass through a filter (that’s curation). Then that consumption data is used to improve filter over time. This ensures people come back. Prioritize and institute a way to improve the filter. Examples of gathering relevance feedback: “I don’t want to see this” button. “I don’t like this” button.
Tell people “how many people viewed your profile” so they know their presence is working out.
Off-platform email invites people back with relevant content. Amazon does this with peer consumption feedback. Second Screen needs reactivation feedback.
Producers use the platform to get exposure. The feedback loop shows how the platform works for them, demonstrates the value of the platform for both producers and consumers.
Minimize friction between production and consumption.
Curation to ensure platform delivers value. Editorial curation is how a platform ensures value in its early days. Algorithmic comes next, then social.
The 4 points of curation:
How do you decide when you need curation? If negative content impacts the brand, you need to curate right at the beginning.
The earlier stage you are curating, the harder it is to get users on your platform. The less activity, the higher the quality. Focus on spreadable value units like, a click to tweet link in a block of text: that’s curation at consumption.
Rather than features, think about what is being exchanged. Focus on tools that enable it.
Creating cumulative value and ensure users don’t abandon the platform over time is how you create a competitive advantage. You want increasing value. You have to keep leveling up. How? Gamification.
collection - The more I collect or build, the more useful it becomes. At LinkedIn, the more I enhance my profile, the more opportunities I will have.
reputation - Consider ratings for producers. Like reputation on Fiverr or Quora, where quality is front and center. Stackoverflow uses badges, where reputation leads to influence. Reputation may govern influence on network access. Other examples: Spotify playlists, Wikipedia where influence leads to more creation power on the platform.
data - the more you use the platform, the more relevant it becomes. Pinterest does this.
If you achieve network effects you can still fail when a competitor arrives if you didn’t enable cumulative value.
REVERSE NETWORK EFFECTS
Value unit failure (low quality content or weirdo producers), filter failure (think Farmville or Candy Crush Saga).
NEW USER ABANDONMENT
Insular culture discourages new users.
Curation and traction work against each other. You have to get this balance right, then open it up down the line.
Ask for bite sized actions with feedback in exchange for data. “Which movies should I watch?”
Construct as an incentive, a gradual progression on a larger goal like filing your profile at LinkedIn. It’s gamification that gets the user invested. Also try to pull from other sources of data like Facebook.
Minimal Viable Platform enables exactly one interaction. Start narrow. Then you can layer more interactions on top. Order goes like this: concentration->curation->collection. LinkedIn focused on professionals, then recruiters, then thought leaders, now readers.
FUTURE SCALING PLANS
To scale, look at everything your employees are doing on the platform. Ask how can I get users to do that?
Ways to scale a platform: change who can be a creator or consumer; change your value unit; add new role for a new interaction
pay for access
pay for attention
pay for lesser ads
pay for tools
pay for quality
pay for curated supply
I'm excited to serve as a Pitch Coach later this month for the Startup Grind Global Program 2018 Pitch Bootcamp hosted/mc'd by TD Lowe and her team at 42Phi Ventures. The event at Fox Forum in Redwood City is sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank.
TD Lowe is the founder and CEO of EnovationNation and 42Phi Partners are a diverse set of individuals devoted to fixing Venture's opportunity pipeline, inclusivity, and mentorship deficit.
The day precedes the launch of Startup Grind's Global Conference, where TD is the team member in charge of StartupGrind startup program which filters the best performing startups coming to the conference for the investor community.
A year ago I told Cindy this story.
When I was an editor at Internet World magazine in dotcom NYC, I recall I was assigned a porn business story for the day's email newsletter. I was one of the very few women at this trade publication for Internet technology and e-business, and a newer hire. Clearly this wasn't a plum assignment.
It was hard to get any business and industry analysts to even discuss this foundational part of the internet. In the end I had to beg former Internet World staffers-turned-analysts to go on record so I could file the story.
I told Cindy that I often think about that when I see her posts about the struggles of raising funds to solve such a critical, obvious social problem with her service that was already generating $500k/year.
This was seven years ago, in Istanbul: talking to a group from the International Women of Istanbul about using social media for entrepreneurial ventures based on intellectual property -- aka creative entrepreneurship!
We started with a round of introductions and got an overview of the various enterprises run or being developed by IPWIN members. We heard distinct stories, and overlapping concerns. “How can I sell my service when the local market doesn’t value it yet?” “How much of myself should I expose?” “I had to take time off to raise my family, and we moved a lot but I want to get a career started in Istanbul.” “How do I present my company, my product, my idea, my brand?” “I run multiple businesses, should I merge them in one site or have separate Facebook pages?” “Which language should I blog in, how do I decide if French or Spanish is best?” “I’m trying to figure out what new business is going to last.”
Here are some of the issues we discussed during the meeting.
Why is social media important today?
Social media used professionally is an unrivaled way to become visible to a global audience at very low cost, by building a virtual network and sharing your expertise. People now want to do business with people, not faceless corporations. Even big companies are now trying to appear “more human”. Solo entrepreneurs everywhere can thrive in this new online environment.
What does the ‘social’ part of social media mean?
It means user-generated web content -- as opposed to static web pages -- that allows us to interact with each other through various web technologies. Think of “liking” a Facebook page, or tweeting a blog post, or even commenting on a blog. We can get feedback on our work, we can respond to customers in a public forum and demonstrate the quality of our service, we can meet and learn from others who are interested in the same things, and we can share our best discoveries on the web with our own networks.
What is creative entrepreneurship?
A successful business provides a product or service that solves a problem or fills a need. Creative entrepreneurs design offerings based on their personal inclinations, skills and talents. Often these develop out of a need to live and work in non-traditional situations. Social media is a wonderful vehicle to build professional projects on the web regardless of your location, time or language constraints. Creative entrepreneurship is a perfect solution to the problem faced by people who move around a lot or live in cultures not their own. It’s how to “bloom where you’re planted,” as Tara’s Turquoise Poppy catchphrase suggests.
What is a global niche?
Coined by Anastasia for global citizens to feel at home, a global niche is where you uniquely belong in the world, both personally and professionally. Your sweetspot. A place occupied completely and perfectly by you -- so naturally there are no competitors, there are only neighbors. It’s where you can operate to your potential, and embrace all the worlds you love to belong to. Finding your global niche is part of being a successful creative entrepreneur.
How do I define my profile on the net?
Building your global niche -- in this case, a professional web platform -- involves uncovering your place in the world and defining that place on the web. Inevitably one of the first steps in establishing your digital profile is communicating who you are in a way that others can relate to and may include using text, images, audio or video. For those who are in the process of self-discovery, social media is an extremely useful tool to explore and have conversations with like-minded global citizens.
Does being accessible on the web require extensive personal exposure?
Social media facilitates your interaction with others. People want to know who you are before connecting with you whether personally or professionally, help them find ways to relate to you. You’re not required to share private information that might compromise your security. By using a clear photo of yourself in your profile and including a link to your hub site people can learn exactly what you want them to know. (Don’t know what a hub site is? Find out in Tara and Anastasia’s free email tutorials.)
How can I find potential clients, customers and collaborators using social media?
Your ideal customer or client (or employer, if you’re a job seeker!) finds you by entering specific keywords into a search engine like Google. By entering these keywords yourself you’ll learn where you rank amidst the competition and you’ll also see where conversations relevant to your niche are taking place around the web. Social media enables you to monitor these conversations (with tools like Twitter and Google alerts) and participate in them with your own ideas, expertise and professional solutions.
How do I fit social media into my work day?
Social media is useful to creative entrepreneurs because it allows you to work in a way that suits your lifestyle. Setting your own schedule for publishing content as well as interacting on sites like Facebook and Twitter means you can work at your own pace. Keep your posts short and “mindcast” rather than “lifecast”. Share important thoughts, what you are reading, what moves you -- not mundane things like what you had for breakfast. Give your network value through the things you share. Use automation and syndication services to reach relevant audiences at key times around the world -- without actually working around the clock!
What is my ROI for the time I spend using social media?
Using social media to build your network and reputation is an investment in yourself. The time you dedicate will pay off when you want to sell your product or service - whether it’s a book, a necklace or a coaching program. Use social media to educate yourself and stay on the cutting edge of your field. In today’s market, trust and attention are valuable commodities that you can only develop by being well-informed, authentic and providing useful, accessible content.
Excited to be a pitch judge for this all-star event at UC Berkeley next week!!
The Collider Cup is Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology's all-star showcase of the best student teams from Fall 2017.
Teams pitch to panels of professors, investors and industry experts as they vie to win the grand prize, the Collider Cup!
Thanks to Gigi Wang for the invite.