Husband, father, entrepreneur.
"What did you see Adam?", I ask myself trying to reflect on my mistakes from my last venture, "What did you see?"
"I see dead people", I smile to the mirror with a zero willpower to find the right answer. "So fuck it, let’s go Bowling".
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The life of the entrepreneur is somewhat like the lifecycle of the butterfly. We’re all start just as a miserable caterpillars, trying to reach the cocoon stage, and form out to a butterfly, waving our wings at the face of our bank manger.
Each time I fail in a venture, I go back to my cocoon to find the strength I need for my next attempt. Well, what can I say, I guess I’m a “Launch Junky” and it looks like it’s time for me to crawl out of my cocoon and release the “cannibal” that lies within me…
To the point, if you’re building a product, a B2C product and you’re not seeing growth after 3 months, you’re doing something wrong and for the time being, you need to kill it and go back to the drawing board.
I know that many entrepreneurs will say: “Who the F@#% are you to tell me to kill my business.” And I say to them:
What you have is not a business, it’s a hobby.
Don’t raise funds, don’t build a massive product, don’t hire people and don’t rent an office space. Do only one thing: Find out if you can go viral.
If there’s only one thing that I suggest you mark as “think worthy” from this post is this: Don’t even build a product. You need to first figure out if you own this tiny little thing that you know, that will go viral.
I’ll share an example:
You are the owner of the domain: hytz009xx.com
It’s a white, single webpage, with an image of the iPhone 5S and buy button. You are selling this iPhone for $90, you own 5000 pieces on your inventory and Michael Arrington just posted on TechCrunch an article saying: “I don’t know how this guys selling the iPhone 5S for $90 but this is the real deal”.
How long do you think it will take till your inventory will run out?
No branding, no advertising, no PR, no nothing, just a solid offer.
The only thing that you should think of is this:
What will make my product go viral. There are are only two ways that will make it go viral.
1. It’s in the offer - (iPhone 5S for $90)
2. It’s in the UX - (Mailbox queue, CandyCrush share mechanism, SongPOP product behavior)
Now think, does your startup stands to these criterions?
If your product is a B2C product and your answer is no, kill it, it’s anal.
I love T-Shirts.
In fact 98% of my wardrobe are T-Shirts.
It occurred to me lately, that there are many people out there who just like me, being frustrated when a cool design is being offered in any other color than black, dark blue or dark gray.
Now I love T-Shirts so much that as a fun marketing test I’ve launched a small, highly targeted survey as a campaign to learn what are the top 3 colors for a T-Shirt fans. This survey was blast out to a 10,000 T-Shirts fanatics.
Out of 10,000 prospects, 4,881 inboxed (the rest reached the spam folder)
Out of 4,881 inboxes, 907 opens.
Out of 907 opens, 118 answered.
Here are their answers to the question: “What are your favorite T-Shirt Color?”
Black - 57%
White - 14%
Blue - 13%
Red - 10%
Dark Gray - 3%
Yellow - 2%
Green - 1%
Male - 60%
So here’s a thought -
Threadless, Glennz Tees, Tshirt-Hell TeeFury, or any other super T-Shirt store, should offer an all black collection of ALL designs. These stores can launch this as a one time short period campaign or an all year offer.
I’m quite sure that the majority of T-Shirt lovers will buy between 5-20 new shirts when a cool “only in orange color” design will be offered for a short period of time in black.
Many talk about the fact that Facebook experience a sort of decline with their average usage numbers. It seems that FB is trying to change this course, using all sorts of tricks. But ONE of the answers to this issue may result in a yet another tiny little button…
I believe that a “Read Later” button may change the current numbers, for the better.
I don’t always have the time to read posts on my newsfeed, and if I had this “Read Later” button, I would come back to read posts that I marked as worth the read.
Come back = Average time spent spiking.
This post is going to be short and to the point.
At the last NY TechCrunch disrupt, it was Chamath Palihapitya who talked about how raw with innovation the Silicon Valley turning to be. He talked about SnapChat with such a disdain that for a moment there, I believed him. But then I thought about it and I believe that SnapChat is on a verge of turning its tiny app, to this nasty, outgoing heaven.
They have this database of the “world’s flashers”, now all they need to do is to launch a dating platform and boom, the place is crowded with the most outgoing people who will pay for this service with pleasure.
The vast majority of mankind is based on a few basic defining natural characteristics
We are all: Lazy, horny, cheap, full of ego, voyeurs, gossips, lonely, and can’t stop searching for something to help us fill that void, that pit within our souls.
If you want your startups to succeed, use these defining characteristics.
You help people find sex (Facebook or even Songpop and some Youtube)
You help people feed their ego (Facebook or even Twitter or Instagram and some Youtube)
You help people save money (Facebook or even Fiverr and Zappos or DX and some Youtube)
You help people stay lazy (Facebook or even Fiverr or GetTaxi and some Youtube)
You allow people to feed their voyeurism (Facebook and YouTube)
You help people to brag or talk bullshit (Facebook, Tumblr, Wordpress and some Youtube)
You help people to gossip (Well duh… and some Youtube)
You help people not to be lonely (Facebook, Friendfinder, Jdate and some Youtube)
You help people search for something (Google and… well… Facebook)
Basically, if you’d look at it, in almost EVERY successful startup out there, the main reason for their success lies in one or more of these defining characteristics of mankind.
Think about it…
The startup paradox starts with a small statistic note:
Most of the big exits and successful companies you hear of were launched by 35+ entrepreneurs. That’s a fact.
1. When you come to the age of 35+ and you’ve been engaging the online sphere for over 15 years, you come with a lot of knowhow. “You’ve been around” as they say, and you hold a lot of abilities. But, in the eyes of the VCs and the common angels, you’re not sexy anymore. You’re old.
2. As a grownup entrepreneur, you probably got married, have children and you live in a certain financial status. It is starting to get harder and harder to launch a startup. You’ve been accustomed to this lifestyle of yours and if you haven’t saved something for a rainy day, you depend on your paycheck. Kids costs a lot…
For you to start a new venture, means that the project must be funded, and that you’ll receive the same salary as you’re bringing home at present. We’re talking about $8k-$10k on an average.
3. Now comes the young entrepreneurs. They’re at the age of 20-30, have no kids, no wife, can live on pizza for months, live in a tiny 1 bedroom house and work 24/7. They also can manage their financial expenses to a $1k a month. Yep, they are free and young. But, and here comes the BIG “but”, they have no mileage or proven track record, no knowhow and no scars on their backs. And despite that, due to the fact that their burn-rate is cheap, many angels, VCs and investors fall for this charming concept of “skin & slim” startups to prove a concept. Well, I don’t believe in S&S as I call it. I believe that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. The majority of todays web/app users has been accustomed to top notch UX/UI products. This means that in order for you to win their hearts, you need to spend a lot of time and effort. You need to assemble an A-team. Top notch experts, each in his field. You need money. A lot of money. An A-team kind of money. There goes the pizza lifestyle…
4. The paradox… Well, the paradox is that you have the skill, the knowhow and the ability. You have a killer concept, but, you need a decent paycheck from the get-go to make something happen. So in order for you to bring the money in, you need to mock-up something to raise funding. To mock-up, you need time. Your time is invested in your day job. To leave your day job you must have a secured funding. Yada yada yada, no soup for you, come back in ten years.
5. Forming a startup is a privilege. You need to be at the right time and the right place in terms of your life status. If you need a salary to support your family, you’re competing with kids who havenothing to care about accept their startup. You have a wife who wants you to be at home at a normaltime, kids who need you, house to provide and body to maintain. If you’re looking to launch a startup, be mean at the seed round and make sure your investors understand that you can sail the baby to safeland. Or in other words, don’t you dare to startup, if not backed by the right amount. Your skills and track record are worth a decent salary. One that will keep you fully committed to your venture and still will allow you to keep your current family lifestyle.
6. If you’re having troubles in securing funds. Drop the damn thing and wait till the time is right. You deserve a certain respect and if you’ve yet to met the right investor to acknowledge that, wait.
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The industry’s investors are looking for the wiz sharp and young kiddos. You wait. Give them time and they will be back on their knees looking for the veterans to lead. No kid can measure up to a skilled, veteran entrepreneur. Full stop.
“That’s it! ! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes, on this motherfucking plane!”, shouts Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) in one of the dumbest movies ever to be produced; “Snakes On Plane”.
Well, in a more subtle way I will rephrase his wording to this:
Where’s the finesse? Where have the gentlemen of this world gone to? It seems to me that just as the Kodak camera film has passed on from the world and we are all now use to digital cameras, so has the majority of online entrepreneurs and angels. They all lost their finesse, subtle and gentleman manners for their conduct of business.
I am sorry, but I don’t want to be any place near unsubtle people. I am a very powerful man, some may say too powerful, a bulldozer as some colleague described me, but still, I am a gentleman and my business integrity is intact. I am the kind of person who will leave an extra 5% on the table just to keep everyone happy. I am the kind of person who will never steal, rob, or stick a knife in one’s back so I would take home an extra dollar.
The hell with it, money comes and goes. The only thing a man has in his life is his name. That’s it. After all the monies, the assets, possessions etc. all a man has is his name. I will not sell my name for any amount of money, just as I will never sell my soul. I am what I am. If you wish to deal with me, you need to also deal with the fact that I am a straight forward guy. I am honest and you will never be able to get me tag along when you try to screw someone over.
So why am I writing this?
Well, it occurs to me lately that many online angels forgot what being an angel is all about. There are no more gentlemen, just plain simple people who found out about this cool world called the Interwebz and think that if they hold a slick iPhone, a Mac and an iPad, they too turn to this “new edge” kind of slick persons and businessmen. Sorry folks, this is far from the truth. You are all playing it wrong.
Being nice is not a weakness. Being nice is powerful. The nicer you are, the powerful you are. The gentlemen you are, the powerful you are. The generous you are, the powerful you are. Being tight fisted, asshole, with no manners means you are a weak man. A small man.
Here’s an example: An entrepreneur that I like and think highly of, met this “angel”. He pitch this angel his concept and the angel liked it. For weeks this angel asked him to attend meetings so that they’ll “polish” the concept. When they finally reached the point of moving forward. The angel “spread his wings” and…disappear. Just like that. With no word, the guy “vanished” from the face of the earth. A gentleman would have called to explain why he decided to back down on the deal. A man with a scent of finesse would have invite this cool young entrepreneur and tell him the truth to his face. But this angel, is a weak soft man with no manners. He just disappeared.
I am sick and tired of people treating other people as if they’re not to be considere. I am tired of people treating people with disdain based on the fact that side A needs Side’s B money.
Money is just money. There are tons of monies out there. There are less and less gentlemen. Find a gentleman to deal with. You’ll know one when you’ll see one.
And remember, be careful of snakes…
Here’s a thought for you folks to open the week with…
In the past month I’ve been searching all over for a new concept. Something that I could sink my teeth in to. A whole new cool idea that will be solid enough for a startup. I’m not looking for just yet another “cool something”. It has to be something that will WOW me enough so I would be ready to jump in on it with full power.
So I’ve start searching for this cool idea when finally, a few days ago, my queue on Mailbox arrived. Full of curiosity I launched the app and then it hit me… God damn! It was under our noses…
Mailbox is Clear for the inbox.
Touché to the Mailbox team. They followed the most important milestone in searching for a new idea:
Don’t think of inventing the wheel, paint the wheel, twist it a bit and market it the right way.
Attention gold diggers. The gold rush is back!
I don’t know how many of you folks read about the New Jersey bill that was signed yesterday, but If you’ve missed it, here are few lines that will get you rolling:
New Jersey governor Chris Christie yesterday signed a bill that will make online gambling legal in the state. The New Jersey state Senate and Assembly both approved a new version of the bill, which Christie submitted with changes after vetoing an earlier version, and Christie has now signed it into law.
The bill only allows Atlantic City casino companies to take online bets, although the Wall Street Journal believes that those casinos will partner with overseas companies that provide services for online gambling, potentially opening up a bigger market. Furthermore, the bill will allow betters from other states to gamble online, so long as regulators determine that the activity isn’t prohibited by any federal or state laws.
Online gambling is back. If you can close a deal with an offline casino within the boundaries of Jersey, you now can market online gambling to US citizens. Dude, this will spike the points on the market, let alone jump the media costs on all the GAMING industry. Zynga just announced that they will start accepting REAL money on their Zynga poker tables. The carnival is back… If you hold US casino data, you maybe sitting on a pile of cash. This of course true only if your data is YOUR data and only if you can close media deals.
Yep, the whole industry is about to shift to a CPM model instead of CPA due to the fact that now, in order for you to be an online affiliate for an online US casino, you need to invest…get this: $500k just to receive a license. But still, if you’re willing to play by the rules, media deals are fantastic! You can make a killing on a monthly basis.
The good times are back? Maybe so…
Few days ago I had a meeting with an this super smart entrepreneur. We had a truly interesting conversation about raising funds etc. At some point in the conversation he said that he’s looking to secure funds from a certain Israeli VC. I looked at him for a second and then asked: “But why not raise it from the the big guys?”
“The big guys?” he smiled.
“Yep, the valley… You need Andreessen on this one”.
“Who’s Andreessen?” he asked and I gazed at him with no words.
“You’re kidding me right?”
“No. Who is he?”
“Andreessen Horowitz… Man…It’s probably the sharpest VC on the planet. You’re holding a billion dollar concept here. With these guys you can build a billion dollar business. Go set up a meeting with them.”
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My letter to Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz starts with: Wake up folks. You are missing a big part of the action by not opening a branch in Israel. I know, I know, who am I to tell you folks to wake up right? Wrong. Wake the f@%$ up.
Just yesterday I had a meeting with this entrepreneur who holds an amazing concept, and an all set and ready to go product. All he needs now is money to help him with his massive product launch. If he’ll launch it the right way, it will gain traction in weeks and probably be one of the biggest tech companies out there. Where are you guys? Oh yeah, you’re in this “Sleepycon valley”…
So why am I writing this letter to you folks? Because you guys got more guts than any VC I know of. If something worthy knocks at your door, you’re the ones who will close the deal on the spot and not drag the guys for 6 months.
You need to open a branch in Israel, because this is where a nice chunk of the action is. It is also where the cold blooded sharks entrepreneurs are. You know, Israelis… No sense of fashion, no sense of proper manners, but when it comes to fighting the market and winning the war, hell, I’m betting my bucks on the Israeli entrepreneurs. Plain and simple.
Wake up and open a branch here in Israel.
Well, I’ve launched my campaign against Mike Krieger.
As of today, whenever you’ll Google “Mike Krieger”, you’ll see my ad. I guess that this also will be terminated once Mike will write Google and ask them to end this. I know that it’s a small thing, but sometimes even a small mosquito can drive an elephant nuts…
Now this is just a kick-starter. In the next upcoming weeks, I will start launching videos such as the videos we had running at the last election campaign I was managing. Only instead of shooting videos about the government, these videos will present the “Method” behind the Internet Industry…
Mike Krieger killed my startup. I believe that the dev community
should hear my story. If you also think that the dev community deserves to read my story, please share this.
How Mike Krieger Killed My Startup
There are so many talented people out there. So many cool, “out of the box”, designers, coders and marketers are willing to jump in on a project. Unfortunately, so many of them end up being used and underpaid. Few days ago I was supposed to lecture at the PixelPerfect designers conference. I had so many things that I wanted to tell these guys, but due to some frustrating flu, I had to cancel my show. Bottom line, here are my “Basic Notes” for the talented coder/designer /marketer.
1. Start by doubling your per-hour fee. Don’t argue. Double it. You deserve a lot more.
2. If he tells you: “I just need to secure the round, let’s just start with the initial look and feel”, you tell him: “I love to design a product flow, but first, pay me”.
3. If he says: “Can you draft a logo?” You say: “Sure, pay me”.
4. If he’s not willing to leave his day-job, but ask you to part-time work on the project you say: “I love the fact that we share the same points at the company. But please, either give me more points, or just pay me.”
5. If you’re not sitting at the same office for the same hours, working on the same project you say: “Pay me”.
6. If he ask you to “run a sanity check” of the concept by hacking a quick pre-alpha version, you say: “Pay me”.
7. If you ask a certain fee and he’s not willing to pay it and starts to negotiate, he’s not a gentleman. Move on.
8. If this not your idea, if there’s no money in the company, if there are 2-3 more co-founders and all eyes are looking at you to code, market or design, move on.
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There are so many talented coders/designers/marketers out there. If you guys are reading this blog post, please treat yourself with the proper respect. Your time = money. Ask for it.
Instagram’s co-founder, Mike Krieger, killed my startup. That’s it, plain and simple.
This is not a strong opening to lure you in reading my blog post. This post is about how Mike Krieger literally killed my startup.
For those of you who have never visited my blog, never heard about me or never met me, I’d write this: My name is Itay Adam and I’ve been practicing the web since early 93’. I’ve been a web entrepreneur for 20 years and an online marketer for the past 15 years. I’m 38 years old, husband to Dana and father to Mika and Maya. Worked for major top Internet companies, you all know and heard of, and in the past two years now, consulting startups on how to grow and spike. Now that I’ve cleared that, let me start my story.
A few months ago, I’ve noticed that the tagging system on Instagram is somewhat over packed. Users exploiting Instagram’s “30 tags per photo” regulation to the max, just so that people will notice them. Getting noticed on Instagram equals to being existed, and being existed means more likes, followers and “fame”.
The problem with this “over tagging” thing is that when you actually search a certain tag, you’re getting tons of bullshit photos, ones that you’re not really looking for. The proper way in my opinion is to allow only -1- tag per photo in order to keep the photo search on Instagram more productive.
One night it hit me. If people want “fame” on Instagram, let’s give it to them and make sure that they’ll add only -1- tag per photo. This is how the Firegr.am app came to life.
The concept behind Firegr.am was a simple yet smart process. The app used Instagrams’ API to pull all your photos, offer you to review them and allow you to chose one photo, tag it with only -1- word and blast it out (firegram it). The blast spiked the photo to the top of the search results of 150 popular tags by switching them every 5 second. When Instagram users searched for “shoes” they got exposed to your photo for 5 seconds, in these 5 seconds they either liked it or not, and your tag switched again, for example to: “love”. This is how your photo got another 5 sec of exposure at the top of the search results. 150 tags brought in an average of 140-180 likes and 5-10 new followers per photo. You wanted followers and likes? You wanted “fame”? Cool, there you have it. Now in return, make sure you tag your photo with a reliable final -1- tag.
I must admit that as a UI/UX expert and as an online marketer who has been studying users behavior for more than 12 years, the alpha version tested outstanding. Users actually follow the system requirements and added only -1- word as their photo related tag. I was truly happy with the results and so we moved on to the next step of actually designing the UI/UX. I’ve also moved on and went on a quick seed round. In one week I’ve secure the initial funds and hired two more employees. By that time, we’ve tested the app over and over till one day…shutdown. Instagram closed our API. I wrote Instagram and after two days we received a reply telling us that we’ve exceeded the API’s rules of commenting. A short correspondence between parties and Instagram withdraw their API limitation. I felt a huge relief. We returned to work and after a week or so, again, the same thing all over. “API under limitation”. I wrote the guys again, asking them why is this happening for the second time. The reply came this time at the same day. Instagram asked us for a full spec of our app, a full description of its offer and screen shots of the design.
A few days of work and we sent the guys a long email with all the requested materials. A few days passed and again, the limitation revoked, Instagram folks green light us and gave us a “good to go”. And so we did. We moved back to work, hired a PR firm, built the launch, closed the design/flow process, and the app was just a few days from being ready. Then it happened again. “API - red light limitation” and the wheels stopped, again. I wrote the guys at Instagram, only this time, just before I click the send button, it hit me. I was corresponding all this time with Mike Krieger. All this time I was writing this “Mike” dude thinking I am writing some Mike from the support team and here I am, corresponding with the man himself. I opened my inbox and searched for my previous emails to him. Yep, it was him all along. He was the only one who wrote me and the only one who was corresponding with me. No other Mike. Just Mr. Krieger himself. So I went on and wrote him again, asking for clarifications, why did Instagram gave us a red light and limited our API over and over again. He replied nicely and said that it was a mistake and that in 24 hours they will withdraw our limitation once again. I asked: “Is this going to be the last time?” He replied: “Yes”. Here you can find the entire correspondence.
Three weeks later, we were good to go. The PR was ready, the app cleared on Apple and we were waiting for the launch day on TechCrunch. A day before the launch, we opened the app to the public just to feel the “breeze”. A warm and gentle breeze of 500 downloads welcomed us. We were killing time waiting for the launch hour on TC and when it finally arrived, we were hyped. The app flew through the roof. The review were fantastic and the hits grew by the minute, for about…30 minutes when Instagram decided to close our API.
“Oh no, it’s the Nothing”, said the rockbiter.
That’s exactly how I felt at that moment. “The Nothing” hit us so hard, that all we were left to do was to read the pilling comments on TC, laughing at us that the API was closed so fast. “How can it be?” one of my co-founders looked at me leaving me staring at the screen with no words.
We wrote Mike. no reply received.
We wrote him again after an hour. No reply received.
We wrote him everyday for 3 weeks and no, no reply received.
We’ve commented on his Instagram photos just a second after
he replied to one of his followers. No reply back.
Facebook? Nope. Email after email after email, begging, asking for his reply, and no, no reply till this moment.
Finally, we gave up.
I called my investors and explained the whole story, returned what left of our seed money and that was that. Firegr.am was gone.
Mike Krieger killed my startup. Mike Krieger, like a few other web entrepreneurs, forgot where he came from, and how he too, in his past, craved the moment of success. When you forget where you come from, you’re nothing but a momentary lapse of reason.
The saddest thing is that Mike could have written us at the get go, saying: “Look guys, we will never approve this app. Drop it”. But no, instead of that he gave us the “green light”, wasted our time, money, and hope for success, and as if that’s not enough, he didn’t even treat us with the minimum dignity of writing us back to explain Instagrams’ decision of killing our startup.
This is my first blog post about the subject. In the next few weeks, we will launch a very interesting campaign about it, one that I can not disclose at this moment. If you readers, entrepreneurs, friends, know of any US law firm that you can recommend me with, I would truly appreciate it. I believe that the days of “dismissing the app developers” like they’re nothing to take under consideration, are over…
One more thing, if you think that other entrepreneurs such as you should read this story, please share.