The Everything Store: Notes & takeaways

Aug 25

Summary & Thoughts

“The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the age of Amazon” is a mix between a biography of Jeff Bezos and a history of Amazon.com, much like “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. I’ve wanted to read this for a long time, and had high expectations. I’m very happy to say that the book delivered everything I wanted plus more!

“There is so much stuff that has yet to be invented.
There’s so much new that’s going to happen.
People don’t have any idea yet how impactful the Internet is going to be and that this is still Day 1 in such a big way.”
– Bezos

The start
Bezos started his career at a Wall Street investment fund:
While the rest of Wall Street saw D.E. Shaw as a highly secretive hedge fund, the firm viewed itself somewhat differently. In the owner David Shaw’s estimation, the company wasn’t really a hedge fund but a versatile technology laboratory full of innovators and talented engineers who could apply computer science to a variety of different problems. Investing was only the first domain where it would apply its skills. So in 1994, when the opportunity of the Internet began to reveal itself to the few people watching closely, Shaw felt that his company was uniquely positioned to exploit it. And the person he anointed to spearhead the effort was Jeff Bezos.
It was through this time the idea of “The everything store” first were born. Bezos later left D.E. Shaw to start his own company, which eventually became Amazon.

Amazon was started on a shoestring budget. Bezos backed the company himself with 10,000$ in cash. He later added 84,000$ in interest-free loans and received a 100,000$ investment from his parents.

Books where not a coincidence
Amazon’s first product catalogue consisted only of books, which were no coincidence. They were easy to send, had the same format for packaging, no expiry date etc. There were also a gigantic number of books available, which meant Amazon could compete with traditional bookstores by simply offering pretty much every book available in the world, since they were not limited by a small, physical store. This also meant that Amazon’s first customers were hardcore, loyal fans, often purchasing books they simply could not find elsewhere. This also lead to a positive word of mouth, as they would tell their friends were to find those hidden gems.

Later, when researching new product categories to stock, Amazon hired a “SWAT team” to research categories of products that had high number of SKU’s (unique products), were underrepresented in physical stores, and could easily be sent through the mail. This was a key part of Amazon’s early strategy: maximising the internet’s ability to provide a superior selection of products as compared to those available at traditional retail stores.

Fun fact
One early challenge was that the book distributors required retailers to order ten books at a time. Amazon didn’t yet have that kind of sales volume, and Bezos later enjoyed telling the story of how he got around it. “We found a loophole. Their systems were programmed in such a way that you didn’t have to receive ten books, you only had to order ten books. So we found an obscure book about lichens that they had in their system but was out of stock. We began ordering the one book we wanted and nine copies of the lichen book. They would ship out the book we needed and a note that said “sorry, but we’re out of the lichen book.”

The review function
Amazon early developed a review feature, coded by one of the early developers over a single weekend. Bezos believed that if Amazon.com had more user-generated book reviews than any other site, it would give the company a huge advantage. A lot of the book publishers where unhappy about the feature, due to negative reviews from non-professional critics. However, it went on to serve as an organic marketing channel, where customers used Amazon as a reference guide for purchasing books, looking at the hundred of thousands of user-generated reviews.

How they outcompeted established stores like Barnes & Noble
Bezos had predicted that the chain retailer would have trouble seriously competing online, and, in the end, he was right. The Barnes & Noble owners were reluctant to lose money on a relatively small part of their business and didn’t want to put their most resourceful employees behind an effort that would siphon sales away from the more profitable stores. On top of that, their company’s distribution operation was well entrenched and geared toward servicing physical stores by sending out large shipments of books to a set number of locations. The shift from mailing small orders to individual customers was long, painful, and full of customer-service errors. For Amazon, that was just daily business.
A lot of the big players in the markets Amazon challenged made the same type of errors. Semi-motivated attempts to build a digital presence, but unwillingness to commit due to a historically stable and more profitable physical market.

Amazon warehouses/distribution centers
After hiring Jeff Wilke, a Walmart logistic executive to rebuild Amazon’s distribution centers, Bezos told him he wanted a distribution system that was ten times larger than it currently was, and not just in the United States but in Amazon’s new markets in the UK and Germany. When asked what products they would be shipping, Bezos replied “I don’t know. Just design something that will handle anything,” Wilke recalls. “I’m going, you’re kidding me, right?” And Bezos said “No, that is the mission.” I had to have a solution to handle everything but an aircraft carrier.”
At Walmart, distribution centers shipped containers of products predictably, once a day, to all stores in the surrounding area. At Amazon, there were innumerable packages going to countless destinations. And there was no predictability, as Amazon sales were growing 300% a year and constantly adding new product categories.

“A customer might order one book, a DVD, some tools – perhaps gift-wrapped, perhaps not – and that exact combination might never again be repeated. There were an infinite number of permutations. We were essentially assembling and fullfilling customer orders. The factory physics were a lot closer to manufacturing and assembly than they were to retail.”

To get things under control, Wilke started a series of daily conference calls with his general managers. He told them that on each call, he wanted to know the facts on the ground: how many orders had shipped, how many had not, whether there was a backlog, and if so, why.

Amazon Marketplace
In november 2000, Amazon announced a new initiative called Marketplace. The effort started with used books. Other sellers of books were invited to advertise their wares directly within a box on Amazon’s own book pages. Customers got to choose whether to purchase the item from Amazon itself or from a third-party seller. If they chose the latter, either because the seller had a lower price or because the product was out of stock at Amazon, the company would lose the sale but collect a small commission. “Jeff was super clear from the beginning. If somebody else can sell it cheaper than us, we should let them and figure out how they are able to do it.”

Insane growth
During an early investor presentation, Bezos would tell the investors he projected $74 million in sales by 2000 if things went moderately well, and $114 million if things went much better than expected. This was high goals, but the actual net sales in 2000 tells the story about the explosive growth: $1.64 BILLION.

High demands for the workforce
An early employee worked part-time, which amounted to 35 hours a week. If he wanted to be accepted as a full-time employee, it was expected to almost double that time to around 60 hours a week.
During interviews, if the potential employees made the mistake of talking about wanting a harmonious balance between work and home life, Bezos rejected them.
At Amazon, everyone on the team was supposed to work harder than everyone else. The assumption was that no one would take even a weekend day off. “Nobody said you couldn’t, but nobody thought you would. There was deadlines and death marches,” says an early employee.
As Amazon’s growth accelerated, Bezos drove employees even harder, calling meetings over the weekends, starting an executive book club that gathered on saturday mornings, and often repeating his quote about working smart, hard, and long.
As a result, Amazon had a high churn rate of employees, and a lot of executives left the company when they wanted to have children, as it was not a family-friendly environment.

“Even though we were probably faster than ninety-nine percent of companies of the world, we were still too slow.”

“If you’re not good, Jeff will chew you up and spit you out. And if you’re good, he will jump on your back and ride you into the ground.” – Amazon employee

Some of the quotes from Jeff, remembered by the employees:

“If that’s our plan, I don’t like our plan”
“I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?”
“Are you lazy or just incompetent?”
“If I hear that idea again, I’m gonna have to kill myself”
“Why are you ruining my life?”

But most Amazon employees also acknowledged that Bezos was primarily consumed with improving the company’s performance and customer service, and that personnel issues are secondary. “He had this unbelievable ability to be incredibly intelligent about things he had nothing to do with and he was totally ruthless about communicating it. Jeff doesn’t tolerate stupidity.”

“This has to scale to infinity with no planned downtime. Infinity!” – Bezos

“…It was considered a Jeff project, which meant that the product manager met with Bezos every few weeks and received a constant stream of e-mail from the CEO, usually containing extraordinarily detailed recommendations and frequently arriving late at night.”

“The meetings can be intense and intimidating. “This is what, for employees, is so absolutely scary and impressive about the executive team. They force you to look at the numbers and answer every single question about why specific things happened. Because Amazon has so much volume, it’s a way to make very quick decisions and not get into subjective debates. The data doesn’t lie.”

On investments.
In the company’s first letter to its shareholders, Bezos wrote: “We will make bold rather than timid investments decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages. Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.”
Amazon went on to invest in companies like IMDB.com, Exchange.com, Pets.com, Gear.com and a lot of similar companies.
Ultimately, Amazon ended up losing hundreds of millions of dollars on these investments. “Amazon had to be focused on its own business. Our biggest mistake was thinking we had the bandwith to work with all these companies,” says one Amazon executive from those days.

On innovation

“The thing about Bezos is that he is not tethered by conventional thinking. What is amazing to me is that is bound only by the laws of physics. He can’t change those. Everything else he views as open to discussion.”

Jeff have a grand vision for Amazon – that it be not just an everything store, but ultimately an everything company.

“If you look at why Amazon is so different than almost any other company that started early on the internet, it’s because Jeff approached it from the very beginning with that long-term vision. It was a multidecade project. The notion that he can accomplish a huge amount with a larger time frame, if he is steady about it, is fundamentally his philosophy.”

A major Amazon shareholder once asked Bezos at the profitability prospects for Amazon Web Services. Bezos predicted they would be good over the long term but said he didn’t want to repeat “Steve Jobs’s mistake” of pricing the iPhone in a way that was so fantastically profitable that the smartphone market became a magnet for competition.

When brainstorming around the Kindle reader: Bezos felt Amazon needed to control the entire customer experience, combining sleek hardware with an easy-to-use digital bookstore. “We are going to hire our way to having the talent,” he told his executives in a meeting. “I absolutely know it’s very hard. We’ll learn how to do it.”

When speaking to a design team: “I’ll figure this out and it is not going to be a business model you understand. You are the designers, I want you to design this and I’ll think about the business model.”

In 2002 he started a new personal ritual: He took time after the holidays to think and read. Returning the company after a few weeks, Bezos presented his next big idea to his team. One of this ideas was to split all divisions into smaller team, that set its own “fitness function”. For example, a team in charge of sending advertising e-mails to customers might choose the rate at which these messages were opened multiplied by the average order size those e-mails generated. A group writing software code for the fulfillment centers might home in on decreasing the cost of shipping each type of product and reducing the time that elapsed between a customer’s making a purchase and the item leaving the FC in a truck. Bezos then wanted to personally approve each equation and track the results over time. It would be his way of guiding a team’s evolution.

“Step by step, ferociously.” The phrase accurately captures Amazon’s guiding philosophy. Steady progress toward seemingly impossible goals will win the day. Setbacks are temporary. Naysayers are best ignored.

On brutality
For the big book publishers, Amazon’s dawning monopoly in e-books was terryfying. As suppliers had learned over the past decade, no matter the category, Amazon wielded its market power neither lightly nor gracefully, employing every bit of leverage to improve its own margins and pass along savings to its customers. If the company didn’t get what it wanted, the reaction could be severe.

One competitor said: “They have an absolute willingness to torch the landscape around them to emerge the winner.”

“We don’t have a single big advantage, so we have to weave a rope of many small advantages.” – Bezos

Fun facts.
Bezos was one of the original investors in Google, his company’s future rival, and four years after starting Amazon, he minted an entirely separate fortune that today might be worth well over a billion dollars (based of a supposedly 250 000$ investment).

How Lego uses its community to fuel innovation

Aug 20

I’ve been following the development of the Lego Group ever since reading the excellent book “Brick by Brick” almost 6 years ago. In my opinion, Lego is one of the most exciting companies in the world: A unique product, so ridiculously versatile that you can create everything between a castle and a fully functional and programmable robot from its bricks. Lego knows how to use this versatility, launching on average a new set every day. They develop their own unique product series as well as licensed ones, ranging from Star Wars to Angry Birds.

However, to create this amount of new products, they have made one brilliant move: leveraging the creativity from their enormous community. The way they have done it is brilliant:

  • They created a new product line, Lego Ideas
  • Made a dedicated website: https://ideas.lego.com
  • Anyone can upload images and text of their own Lego creation
  • By logging into the website, users can vote for sets they want to see produced
  • Every set receiving 10 000 votes from the community will be seriously considered by a Lego committee for production

If an idea is set into production, the rewards for the creator are quite substantial:

  • 1% of total net sales of the product
  • 10 complimentary copies of the set
  • Credit and a feature in set materials as the LEGO Ideas set creator
  • Even if your product is not set into production after getting the 10 000 votes, you still get a 500$ gift card

For Lego, this ensures a constant flow of fresh product ideas, already battle-tested through the 10 000 vote goal, assuring market demand.

For the customers, they get a great community website with fresh ideas for their next building project, additional new products to choose from, and even the possibility to reap a big cash-prize. Win-win.

The “Old Fishing Store”, a beautifully designed Lego Ideas set that made it into the production line.

As of this writing, The Lego Ideas website have generated around 26 000 product ideas, where about 30 sets have been put into production, which shows that this is something the company takes seriously. Let that sink in for a moment: twenty six thousand product ideas, every single one created and peer-reviewed by your most loyal customers. The company gets this wrapped up on a silver plate: They already know there is a market demand. They just need to make the prediction of how big that market demand is, as well as if it’s actually feasible to put it into production. If they decide not to proceed, they have lost only a 500$ gift card.

Application

Lego is perfectly positioned for this kind of community-powered model. However, all companies may use some of these principles for their own innovation process. As long as you are doing some kind of innovation, be it physical products or services, the concept of involving your most hardcore customers in the design process can create big benefits for your company.

Let’s say you’re in the marketing consulting business. Don’t worry about creating a dedicated website with voting functionality. It may be as simple as a newsletter to your customer base, asking what their biggest problem is and then using that data to create a new service that aims to solve the problem. To ensure that you receive feedback, give something back, like a coupon, gift card, or a chance to win a small prize. It does not have to be expensive.

Done right, the customers get the service/products they want, and you get the customers. Win-win.

How to get certified in Google Analytics

Jul 23

Looking to spice up your LinkedIn profile? Then, a Google Analytics certification may be a smart choice. It is free, relatively easy to do and relevant to a wide range of professions. Being certified takes a total of about 5 hours (4 hours of course videos and 1 hour exam). You obviously need basic to moderate knowledge about the functionality of Google Analytics. Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Go to this link
  2. Click on “Google Analytics”
  3. Click “Google Analytics Individual Qualification” and follow the guidance

Then you can look through the course videos and finally take the exam. It results in a certificate that you can use on LinkedIn:

  1. Log into your profile on LinkedIn, and click “add profile section” beneath your profile photo
  2. Accomplishments -> Certifications
  3. Fill in the information from the certification you received

Thats it! With a few simple steps you now have a slightly more interesting CV.

Zero to One: Notes & takeaways

Jul 22

Summary & thoughts

Several interesting ideas and perspectives, though few groundbreaking. The book is more a collection of notes and ideas than a book with a clear structure and flow. Not longer than it needs to be, and worth reading.

Build a monopoly

Thiel advocates the importance of building for a monopoly, not going head-first into a big market with lots of competitors. Only by building a monopoly business will the company be able to reap strong profitability and create lasting businesses. To achieve this, he advices to start by taking an dominant position in a niche market before scaling to adjacent markets:

“Amazon shows how it can be done. Jeff Bezos’s founding vision was to dominate all of online retail, but he very deliberately started with books. There were millions of books to catalog, but they all had roughly the same shape, they were easy to ship, and some of the most rarely sold books – those least profitable for any retail store to keep in stock – also drew the most enthusiastic customers. Amazon became the dominant solution for anyone located far from a bookstore or seeking something unusual”.

Same goes with Tesla, that did not start of by trying to dominate the entire market for electric cars, but identified a gap in the segment for luxury electric sports cars.

Burned by bubbles

Writes about how different bubbles have affected the mind set of future entrepreneurs, for example from the dot com crash and green-tech. “Would-be entrepreneurs are told that nothing can be known in advance: We’re supposed to listen to what customers say they want, make nothing more than a “minimum viable product”, ant iterate our way to success.”

The entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley learned four big lessons from the dot com crash:

  • Make incremental advances
  • Stay lean and flexible
  • Improve on the competition
  • Focus on product, not sales

However, the opposite principles are probably more correct:

  • Its better to risk boldness than triviality
  • A bad plan is better than no plan
  • Competitive markets destroy profits
  • Sales matters just as much as products

Seven questions & the cleantech bubble

The 1990s had one big idea: the internet is going to be big. But too many internet companies had exactly that same idea and no others. An entrepreneur can’t benefit from macroscale insight unless his own plans begin at the micro-scale. Cleantech companies faced the same problem: no matter how much the world needs energy, only a firm that offers a superior solution for a specific energy problem can make money. No sector will ever be so important that merely participating in it will be enough to build a great company. Most cleantech companies crashed because they neglected one or more of the seven questions that every business must answer:

  • The engineering question: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
  • The timing question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
  • The monopoly question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
  • The people question: Do you have the right team?
  • The distribution question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
  • The durability question: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
  • The secret question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others dont see?

He then argues that most cleantech companies did not have a answer for most of these questions. However, one company that did get 7 of 7 was Tesla:

Technology: Tesla’s technology is so good that other car companies rely on it: Daimler uses Tesla’s battery packs; Mercedes-Benz uses a Tesla powertrain; Toyota uses a Tesla motor. General Motors has even created a task force to track Teslas next moves. But Tesla’s greatest technological achievements isn’t any single part or component, but rather its ability to integrate many components into one superior product. The Tesla Model S sedan, elegantly designed from end to end, is more than the sum of its parts: Consumer Reports rated it higher than any other car ever reviewed, and both Motor Trend and Automobile magazines named it their 2013 Car of the Year.

Timing: In 2009, it was easy to think that the government would continue to support cleantech: “green jobs” were a political priority, federal funds were already earmarked, and Congress even seemed likely to pass cap-and-trade legislation. But where others saw generous subsidies that could flow indefinetely, Tesla CEO Elon Musk rightly saw a one-time-only opportunity. In January 2010 – about a year and a half before Solyndra imploded under the Obama administration and politicized the subsidy question – Tesla secured a $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy. A half-billion-dollar subsidy was unthinkable in the mid-2000s. It’s unthinkable today. There was only one moment where that was possible and Tesla played it perfectly.

Monopoly: Tesla started with a tiny submarket that it could dominate: the market for high-end electric sports cars. Since the first Roadster rolled off the production line in 2008, Tesla’s sold only about 3000 of them, but at $109,000 a piece that’s not trivial. Starting small allowed Tesla to undertake the necessary R&D to build the slightly less expensive Model S, and now Tesla owns the luxury electric sedan market, too. They sold more than 20,000 sedans in 2013 and now Tesla is in prime position to expand to broader markets in the future.

Team: Tesla’s CEO is the consummate engineer and salesman, so it’s not surprising that he’s assembled a team that’s very good at both. Elon describes his staff this way: “If you’re at Tesla, you’re choosing to be the equivalent of Special Forces. There’s the regular army, and that’s fine, but if you are working at Tesla, you’re choosing to step up your game.”

Distribution: Most companies underestimate distribution, but Tesla took it so seriously that it decided to own the entire distribution chain. Other car companies are beholden to independent dealerships: Ford and Hyundai make cars, but they rely on other people to sell them. Tesla sells and services its vehicles in its own stores. The up-front costs of Tesla’s approach are much higher than traditional dealership distribution, but it affords control over the customer experience, strengthens Tesla’s brand, and saves the company money in the long run.

Durability: Tesla has a head start and it’s moving faster than anyone else – and that combination means its lead is set to widen in the years ahead. A coveted brand is the clearest sign of Tesla’s breakthrough: a car is one of the biggest purchasing decisions that people ever make, and consumers’ trust in that category is hard to win. And unlike every other car company, at Tesla the founder is still in charge, so it’s not going to ease off anytime soon.

Secrets: Tesla knew that fashion drove interest in cleantech. Rich people especially wanted to appear “green”, even if it meant driving a boxy Prius or clunky Honda Insight. Those cars only made drivers look cool by association with the famous eco-conscious movie stars who owned them as well. So Tesla decided to build that made drivers look cool, period – Leonardo DiCaprio even ditched his Prius for an expensive (and expensive-looking) Tesla Roadster. While generic cleantech companies struggled to differentiate themselves, Tesla built a unique brand around the secret that cleantech was even more of a social phenomenon than an environmental imperative.

Alibaba’s World: Notes & takeaways

Sep 19

Facebook, Google, Apple, Ebay, Twitter, Amazon, LinkedIn, Netflix, Microsoft, Snapchat, Slack, Yahoo, Adobe… American companies dominates the list of the worlds biggest tech-companies. While Silicon Valley pukes out one behemoth after another, the rest of the world struggles to keep up. However, there are some rare exceptions. Alibaba is one of them. 


Why I read it & expectations

Before I read this book, my knowledge of the company was limited. I thought it was some sort of chinese Ebay, and a place to find eastern manufactorers where half of the providers probably was scammers. I did notice the occasional news headlines like “Alibaba eclipses Black Friday sales records” and so on, and I thought it would be interesting to read about a non-US company for once. In addition, you cannot ignore a company with numbers like:

  • As of this writing, Alibabas market value is 430 billion $
  • Their “singles day” campaign sold products for 25 billion dollars. In one day…

Main takeaways

The author
The book is written from the perspective of Porter Erisman, the head of international marketing in Alibaba and one of the first non-chinese employees. Its very refreshing to get the story told from an inside perspective. It details the journey of Jack Ma, Alibabas founder, from a humble english teacher with big ambitions.

The start
One of his first endeavours into the tech-world was to create a company that offered website services for chinese companies. At the time, internet accessability in China was limited, and the website had to be created in the US. To show its customers that they actually created the webpages, they had to send printed images of the websites from US to China by mail!

Local impact
Taobao, a “chinese ebay” company owned by Alibaba, has made a really big impact. In several chinese villages, the marketplace of Taobao has become so important for the communities that it accounts for a large percentage of its total commerce.

The book illustrates just how important Alibaba and Taobao has been in leapfrogging China from a offline to online country. For example, earlier this summer they announced a project to bring high-tech infrastructure and next-day deliveries to 150 000 new villages in the vast, rural China.

The importance of localisation
When battling with the US giant Ebay, Alibaba used its knowledge about chinese culture to outmanouvre its western competitor. While Ebay had a minimalistic and clean user interface, Alibabas websites was the manifistation of a designers nightmare: flashing icons, glowy text, endless gifs… While most westernes would dismiss this as ugly and chaotic, the thought behind this was to resemble a traditional busy chinese marketplace, filled with color and noise. It worked. To the chinese this was a sign of a place teeming with life and great deals waiting to be discovered, while Ebay’s minimalism was considered boring and lacking “soul”.

Alibaba also knew that one of the biggest obstacles to chinese e-commerce was trust. As a country completely new to internet and a strong tradition with face-to-face trade, building trust between users was of outmost importance. They solved this by implementing a free chat tool, allowing users to get to know each other before settling a deal.  

The massive scale
Every month, about half of chinas population (600+ million users) use Taobao or Tmall (another Alibaba company) services.

Alipay, a payment service developed by Alibaba, is now the worlds biggest payment system with 520 million users.  

A total of 86 000 employees. 

Did I mention the market value of Alibaba is 430 billion dollars? 

Conclusion

Alibabas World ended up changing my perspective on several things, including my view on China. I have always considered them to simply copy/paste western successes, but the amount of innovation they are doing is quite astonishing.

The book made me realise that I really need to expand my knowledge about the country. The sheer size of its websites (did you know 4 of the 10 biggest websites are chinese?) and companies starts to dominate the world, and I believe its worth shifting some of the focus from Silicon Valley and over to the east. 

Hvordan bli sertifisert i Google Analytics

May 29

På utkikk etter å sprite opp LinkedIn-profilen din? Da kan en sertifisering i Google Analytics være et smart valg. Det er gratis, relativt lett å gjennomføre og er relevant for en lang rekke yrker. Det å bli sertifisert tar totalt ca 5 timer (3.5 timer med kursvideoer samt 1 time eksamen). Her er en dritrask guide:

  1. Klikk deg inn på denne lenken
  2. Logg inn via Googlekontoen din
  3. Scroll ned til “get certified in other areas” og velg Google Analytics Individual Qualification

Deretter kan du se gjennom kursvideoene og til slutt ta eksamen. Det resulterer i et sertifikat, som du kan bruke på LinkedIn slik:

  1. Logg inn på profilen din og trykk på “add profile section” under profilbildet ditt
  2. Accomplishments -> Certifications
  3. Fyll inn med infoen du fikk fra sertifiseringsbeviset

Thats it! Med noen enkle grep har du nå en litt mer interessant CV. Ikke at sertifiseringen i seg selv trenger å si all verden, men for arbeidsgivere vil det bli tydelig at du er en som gidder å tilegne deg kunnskap utenfor skolen. Jeg ville i alle fall ansett det som et pluss i boken!

Review: Smarter, faster, better!

May 28

Smartere, raskere og bedre! Sjelden har en bok lovet å fikse så mye av livet ditt på en gang. Men klarer den det? 

Svaret er kort og enkelt nei. Ironisk nok har forfatteren (Charles Duhigg, red.anm) gått i de samme fellene som han advarer leseren mot: Det å fokusere på feil ting og bruke for mye tid på unødvendige oppgaver. For her har han virkelig gjort det vanskelig for seg selv. Boken er delt inn i 8 deler:

  • Motivation
  • Teams
  • Focus
  • Goal setting
  • Managing others
  • Decision making
  • Innovation
  • Absorbing data

Hver av punktene kunne fylt en bok eller tre på egenhånd, og det er her problemet ligger. Ikke bare er emnene gigantisk store, hver av dem har 3-4 underkapitler og historier, med en 5-6-7 forskjellige karakterer og navn som trekkes frem. Det blir dermed svært tungt å lese seg gjennom hvert emne, og det som ser ut som en lettlest pocketbok tar evigheter å komme seg gjennom.

Charles har utvilsomt brukt enormt mye tid på å skaffe materiell og lage intervjuer med relevante personer, for å gi boken mer kredibilitet. Det er sikkert 40-50 forskere som trekkes inn ila boken, og alt jeg klarer å tenke er “du kunne gjort det veldig mye lettere for deg selv, stakkars mann”.

Det sagt så er det flere interessante caser i boken, og av praktiske lærdommer så sitter jeg igjen med følgende:

Teams: 
“…some team leaders at Google make checkmarks next to people’s names each time they speak, and wont end a meeting until those checks are roughly equivalent.”

Focus: 
Bokens kanskje beste del, hvor Air France-ulykken beskrives i detalj, og hvordan den kunne skje. Her forklares hvordan inngrodde “mentale modeller” kan overskygge det man faktisk ser og opplever her og nå, og hvordan hjernen kan slå seg helt vrang i stressende situasjoner.

Goal setting: 
Stort fokus på SMART-goals, men at man i tillegg til dem bør sette seg et såkalt “stretch goal”. Et hårete mål som hever blikket forbi de forefallende oppgavene, og sørger for at man jobber mot en større gulrot der ute i horisonten.

Managing others.
Interessant fortelling om hvordan “Toyota-metoden” revolusjonerte en amerikansk bilfabrikk. “Our basic philosophy was that no one wanted to go to work wanting to suck. If you put people in a position to success, they will.”


 

Why, Apple, why?

May 29

Nå er det altså offisielt: Apple har kjøpt Beats Music og Beats Electronics for et sted rundt 3 milliarder dollar. Dr Dre’s selskap skal overføre hodetelefonproduksjonen sin og streamingtjenesten sin over til Apple. Som en hardcore Apple-investor med hele 1 aksje, svir dette litt. Beats by Dre er ALT som folk har kritisert Apple for å være: Et kraftig overpriset produkt skjult bak godt design.

Der Apple faktisk har produkter som er bedre enn konkurrentene, er Beats bare dyrere og dårligere. Denne er faktisk på sin plass:

 

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Hvorfor kunne de ikke kjøpt Spotify i stedet? En knallbra tjeneste med millioner av betalende brukere, med det Apple trenger: en skikkelig streamingtjeneste som er fiks ferdig. Klar til å integreres i Apple TV og fremtidige ting som f.eks klokker.

Jaja. Prisen på Apple-aksjen har utrolig nok steget nesten 15% siden jeg kjøpte den, og det var når de begynte å snakke om oppkjøp av Beats. Blir ikke helt smart på dette…

 


 

Myter og sannheter om markedsføring på blogg

Apr 30

Flere og flere bedrifter begynner å få øynene opp for markedsføring på blogg, og begynner å benytte dette som en del av mediemiksen sin. Flere positivt vinklede artikler har også kommet i det siste, i f.eks Dagens Næringsliv og Kampanje. Likevel henger det fortsatt noen dårlige rykter igjen, fra bloggens spede barndom. Noe av det som er skrevet er sant, noe er rett og slett feil, mens andre ting bare er dårlig vinklet. Etter 3 år med håndtering av kampanjer på norske blogger, føler jeg at jeg har nok innsikt til å belyse noen av mytene om norske bloggere.

 

Sponsede innlegg er skjult markedsføring. 

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Det er et krav om at bloggere merker alle innlegg de har blitt betalt for å skrive. Det er viktig at dette kommer klart fram på innlegget, og en del slurver med dette. Når det er sagt, så har bloggmarkedsføring fått et styggere rykte enn fortjent. Som regel er bloggerne flinke til å merke innleggene sine, og enda viktigere: flinke til å reklamere for produkter og merker man faktisk liker og bruker selv. Forbrukerombudet har titt og ofte vært ute i media og kritisert bloggere for å ikke følge retningslinjene deres:

“- Jeg er overbevist om at de kjenner regelverket, sier forbrukerombud Gry Nergård.”

“- Jeg merker alle innlegg jeg har som inneholder reklame. Riktignok har dette stått nederst i innleggene, da jeg ikke har fått med meg at merkingen skal legges øverst, sier blogger Kristina Andersen til E24.”

Under “Hvilke formuleringer gir tydelig nok informasjon om at dette er reklame?” på Forbrukerombudets sider, står det ingenting om at merkingen skal stå øverst. Når man kun sender ut dette via media, popper det opp en lang rekke negative overskrifter, uten at bloggerne har vært klare over de nye reglene.

 

Bloggere er ukritiske til hva de reklamerer for. 

De mest populære og seriøse bloggerne, som også står for mesteparten av annonsekronene, er langt fra ukritiske. De får nok forespørsler til å kunne velge kun aktører de ønsker å samarbeide med, og som de synes passer med bloggens profil. For å kunne holde på leserne dine må du holde en solid profil over lang tid, og den bryter du veldig fort om du bytter tillit mot raske penger. Vi får ofte “nei takk” fra bloggere på forespørsler vi sender ut, selv om annonsøren i utgangspunktet burde passet bloggeren. Det kan være alt fra at de har dårlig erfaring med produktet, til at de føler det blir for mye reklame på bloggen. Det er få som er så nøye på hva de kler seg i og sminker seg med som de største motebloggerne.

 

Kan man leve av å blogge? 

Ja, man kan faktisk det. Men det er ikke mange som kan det, og det krever mye arbeid og dedikasjon for å komme dit. En veldig viktig ting som både media og bloggere ofte ikke tenker på er hvilken sum man mener “man kan leve på”. Det finnes mange studenter som “klarer seg” på studielånet sitt på 8000 i måneden. Det finnes nok en liten slump bloggere som kan leve på bloggen sin, men svært få tjener mer enn en gjennomsnittlig norsk årslønn. I tillegg kan unge toppbloggere bli overentusiastisk under sine første måneder med gode annonseinntekter, og glemme at man skal betale mva og skatt av inntektene. Dermed tror de at de tjener mye mer enn det de egentlig gjør.

 

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Bloggere kan tjene hundretusener i måneden.

Svært, svært få bloggere kan tjene over hundre tusen på en måned. Og når man sier at man kan tjene så mye, har det sannsynligvis skjedd i en særdeles god måned. Enda færre tjener stabilt over hundre tusen i måneden.

 

Hvordan tjener bloggere penger? 

Om en blogger blir sett opp til som et stilikon av tusenvis av moteinteresserte lesere, har man en reklameverdi. Dersom man viser fram f.eks en ny og vakker kjole, kan du ta gift på at det er minst en håndfull av leserne som vil ønske seg og til slutt kjøpe den. Her er det rettferdig at bloggeren tjener noe av pengene, ettersom man på mange måter “gjør salget” for bedriften. På samme måte som at modeller, kjendiser, aviser, magasiner og TV-kanaler tjener penger på reklame.

 

Bloggere kan få alt de ønsker seg gratis.

Nei. De kan få en del sponset om de lager et godt tilbud og en god plan til annonsøren, men de kan ikke peke på hva som helst og få det. Det kan fort framstå som desperat/hovmodig om bloggeren selv kontakter butikkene, og da er de raskt på med bremsen. Når man ser bloggere motta dyre produkter/reiser så ligger det som oftest en lang og gjennomtenkt plan bak dette, hvor både annonsør og blogger føler de tjener på det.

 

Hvor mye tjener en populær blogger?

Klarer du å holde deg stabilt over 10 000 daglige lesere i en lengre periode, kan du klare å tjene et sted mellom 10 og 40 000 i mnd. Selvfølgelig kan man tjene mer dersom man tar på seg svært mange oppdrag og har et enda høyere lesertall.

 

Bloggere er bare uutdannede, dårlige journalister.

Populære bloggere kan ha flere lesere enn store aviser, som på sin side har en stab på flere titalls journalister og et massivt apparat rundt seg. Hver dag inspirerer og underholder de leserne sine på en personlig måte som magasiner aldri kan klare. Da gjør de i alle fall noe riktig.

 

Bloggere bidrar ikke til verdiskapning, og er ikke en ordentlig jobb.

Det er helt sant, hvem trenger underholdning og inspirasjon i hverdagen?

 

Bottom line. 

Blogg som markedsføringsmedium er fortsatt i startgropen, og kommer til å sprinte framover de neste årene. Det har en enorm kraft i seg, som annonsører begynner å se. Media, eksperter og paneler er raske til å kritisere og svartmale, mens få skriver positivt om den nye bransjen. Det er lite info og verktøy tilgjengelig for unge bloggere som plutselig blir stilt overfor krav som fakturering, regnskap, firmaregler og lover i øst og vest. Likevel er det mange som klarer det, og takler ansvaret de blir gitt. Disse bloggerne får ikke nok ros for at de faktisk klarer å stable på beina en konkurrent til ledende magasiner. På egenhånd.

Netflix, I choose you!

Mar 27

Wohoo, da har jeg kjøpt min første aksje! I alle fall deler av den. 200$, ganske nøyaktig 1200 kr, er plassert i Netflix. Med mine 40 000 aksjer i Blogit AS ser aksjeboken min ca slik ut:

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Men fra spøk til alvor: Dette blir gøy. Jeg kan særdeles lite om aksjehandel, og trenger å lære mer om det. Den dagen Blogit børsnoteres, må jeg være klar. Og hva er bedre enn å hoppe ut i det?

Hvorfor akkurat Netflix?

Jo, kjære leser. Det er en aksje jeg har gått og siklet på i noen måneder. Her er tankegangen min:

 

Positivt for kjøp av Netflix.

  • Jeg elsker tjenesten selv og bruker den daglig.
  • Jeg tror TV-mediet kommer til å forandre seg helt enormt de neste årene. Det at du kan se TV når du vil, når som helst vil gruse tradisjonelle TV-kanaler. De fleste av dem lisensierer jo bare TV-serier fra utlandet, og produserer ikke mye selv. Det blir det samme som Spotify mot radio. Sjakk matt.
  • Når TV-kanalene gradvis taper terreng, vokser konkurrentene. Konkurrenter som kan omstille seg og forstår kundene sine. Konkurrenter som Netflix.
  • Netflix har en veldig forståelig forretningsmodell, i motsetning til mange andre. De støtter seg ikke på forstyrrende reklame, eller vanskelige modeller. Betal x pr mnd og få tilgang til alt.
  • De har vist en enorm evne til å omstille seg. De startet som en postordre bedrift, som på det meste sendte ut ca 1 million DVD-er pr post hver eneste dag. Det at de har klart å omstille seg fra det til å lede an den digitale revolusjonen er utrolig i mine øyne.
  • De har begynt å produsere eget innhold, som holder høy kvalitet. House of Cards, Lillyhammer, Orange Is The New Black og Arrested Development for å nevne noen.

Negativt for kjøp av Netflix. 

  • Jeg aner ikke hva som ligger i den nåværende prisen. Hva er tatt stilling til? Hva er forventet? Aner ikke.
  • Apple ryktes å starte opp med en konkurrerende løsning. Apple produserer Apple TV, iPad og Macbook, tingene jeg benytter til å se Netflix pr i dag.
  • HBO har kastet seg inn i kampen, og kommer med flere av de beste seriene i verden.
  • Film-lisenser er visstnok vanskelige greier. Netflix hadde f.eks Ringenes Herre for kun 1 måned. TIl sammenligning så beholder Spotify de aller fleste tillegg i katalogen sin for lange perioder om gangen.

Så da er det bare å vente i spenning. Jeg tenker på dette som en langtidsinvestering, og har et perspektiv på et år eller mer.

Noen som har innvendinger eller “you go girl” i forhold til dette?