Move to the Valley

January 3rd, 2018

This was written in December 2007 for the Sunday Tribune. Some parts have aged well and some … I was either still in Silicon Valley or was just back. I was very critical of Enterprise Ireland and not much has changed in 10 years. All their work is based on fomulas created from 10 year old business books that were written by people who wrote books to deflect from being shit at business. Those who came along didn’t want to make much noise as they were tied to the EI noose to keep their business alive. I think one of the companies that came on the tour is still alive which after 10 years from embryonic stage, is good going. The Sunday Tribune of course is not. But I own the domain name and still get loads of press releases.

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“Move”, the one word summary from billionaire Marc Andreessen on how to build a successful global technology company. This week I was embedded in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley with 26 Irish people from 14 Irish tech startups. Palo Alto is a city strewn with addicts wherever you go but instead of heroin or crack, the natives are hooked to networking and building better relationships with people. Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware and now social network creation site Ning was one of many executives to take time out of their busy lives to meet up with Irish companies, just as unknown back home as they are in the Valley. Andreessen was quite happy to give a private hour-long Q&A with these visitors from Ireland. On elaboration Andreesen said that inter-networking with people is one of the most important things for any business and the greatest place in the world to do business is in Silicon Valley. Should we just pack our bags and look for networking chances in them thar hills, the same hills our ancestors mined for gold?

Andreessen wasn’t the exception to the rule either, earlier in the week a Facebook VP gave a personal tour of Facebook and brought in their top brass to meet these Irish companies who for now had nothing to offer them. After the tour our group were personally walked to our next meeting a few blocks away by one of their Vice-Presidents and he personally thanked us for choosing to visit Facebook, something echoed by Microsoft the next day too and other companies all through the week. Ever been thanked when walking out of a store in Ireland with empty hands and full wallets?

Silicon Valley Caltrain

Mark Zawacki leads the Milestone management consultancy group and took time out to do a free consulting session with the visiting Irish companies, he suggested that the philosophy of Silicon Valley is that relationships are the currency of business and pointed out that the vast majority of the billions invested in tech every year are local investments whereby investors are giving money to people they have good working relationships with already. Even Irish CEOs attending the Enterprise Ireland Leadership for Growth initiative that took place in Stanford broke their curfew and met with the other Irish to exchange thoughts and contact details. Everyone gets hooked.

Ger Hartnett from Limerick based Coclarity summarised the experience of many on the tour “We heard the same key message consistently; contacts and relationships are crucial and it was contacts and relationships that helped us meet Marc Andresson and Ross Mayfield who were extremely generous with their time. ”

Not everyone though can afford to up sticks and move to the centre of the tech industry universe even if it offers so much. You don’t have to move though to take advantage of the Valley. Ross Mayfield from Socialtext gave sage advicento the Irish startups on how he manages a multi-million dollar company using free tools for online conference calls and long-distance phone calls. While his main office is in the Silicon Valley and he meets more venture capitalists and industry bigwigs on his smoke break than Irish businesses would meet in a lifetime, most of his team only meet up together in one place a few times a year. Mayfield seems to have found an ideal balance between keeping the addiction to maintaining Valley connections alive and not pricing yourself out of a market which expects products to become cheaper every year.

With cheap and direct flights to San Francisco and already existing Irish Networks in place in the Valley perhaps we should move our monthly networking events to Palo Alto and skip Dublin altogether or encourage Valley events to move 11 hours away to Ireland. A finger in each pie is an advantage this time.

Ones to Watch – the 2018 biased edition

January 1st, 2018

Previously on Ones to Watch: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 2008, 2007.

This is the 12th iteration of Ones to Watch. I’ve been thinking for a while about these type of lists and how subjective they are and exclusive but exclusive with emphasis on exclusion. So many lists you see around the place are “mates rates” type lists. I find people for the Ones to Watch from people I know or notice in my day-to-day journeys online and off. 2017 was busier than ever, moreso after starting a sabbatical type thing so I’ve not interacted and watched people do interesting things compared to before. 2016’s list was the same too. I’m referencing the Pattern Recognition post I wrote as it glanced at the idea of confirmation bias too. My lists like most are in a bubble and are totally biased. That needs to change.

Here’s a fun thing to do with you and your “woke” friends:
Each of you write down the names of 5 Irish women who are inspiring for a podcast. Now compare notes. Louise Mcsharry will be on it because she deserves to be. Maeve Higgins maybe? One of those influencer people who have bought followers and the media are too thick to realise? Katie Taylor? Claire Byrne? Clare Daly? Alison Spittle? Louise O’Neill? 2.4M women you can choose from and the overlap is going to be staggering. A great start but quite predictable list is media personality or known of because of winning an award. Name someone from the Traveller community. Great you have John Connors too, now name another one that didn’t star in Glenroe. How about an Irish black male that isn’t a sports person? A person with a disability that isn’t doing Special Olympics. Someone that hasn’t done a TED(x) talk? It’s okay, we’re all in bubbles. We seem to reference the people just like us and then one or two people each from a minority community who it seems are there to talk about being a minority from their community. Like has been said so often, how often do you hear a working class Dublin accent on the radio outside of reporters interviewing locals about a shooting or the death of a homeless person? Arts programmes to a small degree.

And I’m just as guilty with events I do. Measurement 2016 was an all-female lineup. The rule we enacted was even the tech people that would be on stage had to be female. A male-free stage. It worked, in so far as we pulled off the event, though it made a loss but that’s because I’m great at ideas crap at business. It showed it can be done though and I was hoping like many of the other ideas we did, that it would be copied by others. The lineup of Measurement was all people from inside my bubble and I have done nothing to break it or expand it. Nice and safe people that I mostly knew, some I knew for years. Now you are generally risk-averse for these things when you are starting off so you go with people you know won’t go lala and alienate or get you sued. Which is why you always hear the same voices on radio. They’re trusted and SO very predictable so you can plan around that. Media production is all about cookie cutters. The new Jamie Oliver yeah?

It’s like that thing for nearly a decade where you ask the Irish tech heads to name a woman to speak at a conference and it was Martha Rotter or Clare Dillon both at Microsoft at the time or Jane ní Dhulchaointigh from Sugru. And then shuffling of feet. Well done lads. For them and me it was a case of look further afield.

Louise Mcsharry’s podcast Fresh had two guests that I never heard of at all. This is great, more please! 50% totally new on any media production is great. (at time of writing 4 were listed) Stevie G is doing remarkable work in Cork on a thriving hiphop scene and dance scene with so much young talent. Never heard of these folks either. Good. Following people totally not aligned to my interest on Twitter has seen me encounter all new ideas via their Likes and RTs. This is good.

So my Ones to Watch is going to be the “unknown unknowns” this time. I think I need to make 2018 the year that I change the lens on my vision and look for other sources and spaces. Time to stop going a little outside my circle and go way outside. A friend of a few friends I’ve heard mentioned is not enough. So what I’m doing is, I’m leaving people that are reading this to comment and recommend people they are finding interesting and are ones to watch. Maybe nobody comments! Anyone that recommends themselves gets deleted of course. Be humble. So off you go, who are the Ones to Watch in 2018? Tell us.

Pattern Recognition – How being able to spot patterns gives you an advantage

December 28th, 2017

Pattern Recognition
A post in the need of an editor…

I come back again and again to the idea of pattern recognition in business and life. I time traffic lights – I count as the lights change from one coloured state to another and back and forth as cars go through junctions and people cross. I watch the traffic lights at the next junction down. I know when to get ready to go so as it hits green, I’m moving. However experience also allows me to know that someone will be breaking the red light nearly 50% of the time, pattern recognition comes from experience. I do the same counting when I’m the pedestrian, though I give no leeway to cars that try and break lights.

In medicine respiratory rate is a key part of the Early Warning Systems they have for patient monitoring. Studies have shown that a change in respiratory rate can signal (sometimes hours in advance) that a patient is in decline. Watch for that change in pattern and save lives.

The idea of writing something on pattern recognition came again from a recent article I read about “The Roofman”. Jacob Shelton studied a few McDonald’s and realised that the core proposition of each restaurant and the corporation is that they are all cookie cutter restaurants that if it could break into one he could break into all of them. So he did, 40 before he got caught. But then studied his prison and the patterns and escaped from that.

Terry Kniess did extreme pattern recognition of The Price is Right and won it all. He taped 3 months of shows and started seeing prices repeat. (keep reading though)

And David Phillips bought pudding and soup, got the Salvation Army to remove coupons from them and they got to keep the food (he got a tax rebate cos charity donation) and he ended up getting a million travel miles. All after seeing a pattern and seeing it play through if he added himself into the pattern.

Systems

Patterns, algorithms, systems.
Giving a box of chocolates to cabin crew on a flight, even a Ryanair one will get you special treatment. But Ryanair will fire a staffer if they give you a free coffee or sandwich if they give you free stuff. Yet, they do. The system says they can’t do that but the system never considered the public giving them a box of chocolates either. What happens if you add in an unexpected kindness into the equation of a scrooge airline? Change the pattern or at least make it wobble? Unexpected kindness is like caffeine with painkillers, it brings a state-change faster. A toblerone can get you very far in an organisation you are accessing, if genuinely given. Recognise the pattern and mess with it and see what happens.

I would think computer security experts are like that in a way. “This is what happens when A sends this to B” “What if we send C attached to A?” “But people don’t do that”. You can break into a computer system with a large amount of pure luck if someone didn’t lock it down in the most basic way or you can break into a highly sophisticated system because you have years of experience and you’d studied this system and have an amazing knack of thinking on your feet. You’ve got the receipts, you’ve the data.

UX (user interface) people are good at pattern recognition too. They study people and systems and they know if the system does D most people will go ahead and do E. But if instead they make the system do C and then D, then people might instead do F. UX to a degree utilises psychology and data. And psychology is of course about pattern recognition.

Data will make you better at Pattern Recognition.
Experience is data that has been analysed.

“You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads – at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out. “ Charlie Munger on reading.

Buffet and Munger. Two human data processing and analysing machines. I’ll write about them some other time but these billionaires are the Gods of the slow money movement. Reading, analysing, holding, pouncing. Pattern recognition.

Shake the hands of a carpenter or a chef, they’re going to be rough. (BTW, did you picture a man in this scenario? Tut, pattern recognition and unconscious bias). Carpentry is not kind on the hands nor is cheffing. I’m sure you could sit down some carpenters and chefs together and they can exchange war wound stories. Your meal or table might not be as good if it was made by soft hands. Not sure can you ask to feel the hands of your chef the next time you’re out for a meal though…

Complex Systems

Pattern recognition “naturals” are not professionals
You can be a natural at sales because you *get* people and know or have a feeling how to play with them to buy something from you. You can become a great salesperson from lots of experience, hard work and lots of study. Being a natural is an advantage but being enthusiastic is too. The naturals at anything never become the superstars without lots of practice too. Raw talent won’t win the great prizes unless nobody else is in any way skilled. Natural is in the same family as amateur.

Muscle memory is acquired data. The more you do it, the better you get. That data gets more refined over time too. If you watch a lot of comedy – you can predict the next line. Only Fools and Horses, Mrs Brown, Big Bang Theory. “Fucking obvious” comedy it is but only obvious because you’ve seen lots of it and know the pattern. In fairness, three shows of these and you can predict all of the lines but that’s probably because they are influenced by the same old comedic shite that went before them. Carry On, Last of the Summer Wine, Fraiser.

But can you be a writer for the Big Bang Theory from just smothering on that repetition? Well you’re only seeing the end product so you’re only witnessing a single digit percentage of the export. The structure, pace, themes are going to be hard to replicate. (I however think a BBC headline of “A.I. writes perfect copy of Mrs Brown’s Boys” is but months away. I hope Brendan O’Carroll buys that tech and he can live forever as Mrs Brown.)

Amateurs are professionals before getting experience
Maybe you can get a gig writing gags for someone that sells to the Mrs Brown audience? Doing the same thing again and again and looking for a different result is madness apparently. But is that not practice too? The over-used story of Giotto’s perfect circle but he wouldn’t have been able to do that without 100s or 1000s of hours of practice. BTW, not referencing Gladwell’s 10,000 hours idea because like everything else he ripped it off and twisted it.

Media is about systems and knowing that A + B + C = makes a good story. You can work on being the A part of this system. Watching media patterns, the likes dislikes, the things that get the headlines, when there are lulls that your story can get a chance to be covered, knowing when to stay away from pitching. Anyway, a post by me on PR tips based on pattern recognition.

Good Data makes you .. good
I’m a big fan of the show Billions. The dodgy traders in the show like pro gamblers (cos same) have tipsters all over the place letting them know about movements of stock, about financial mischief, giving them shredded documents and piecing things back together. There’s a bit where they use satellite imagery to figure out how much stock a chipmaker is actually shifting. Many of these actions are real. Traders now buy satellite imagery data and can predict how much Walmart is making based on cars in their car parks or how much excess oil there is based on shadows made by oil tanks. Same with crops. Hard to hide your secondary or tertiary data these days.

This is how they were able to predict a sales decline in Chipotle too but they used Foursquare check-in data.
There are so many free resources for mining data on things.

  • Google Alerts to find online mentions of competitors
  • Facebook Ad Data is unreal for market research
  • Google Keyword tool for what people are googling
  • Daft.ie house prices for areas
  • DoneDeal for the what the market will pay for something
  • The CSO
  • Scraper tools
  • Membership directories
  • Paper records – just use TinyScanner or OCR phone photos.
  • Even instruction manuals
  • And books.

I find autobiographies of business people are utter egotistical poo that are designed to just be a PR thing for their business or them rewriting history. Biographies of dead business and historical people are better. Hard Things about Hard Things (the first half) is an exception and a fav though. The best way to read a book when you want to get something good out of it.

How can you get better at Pattern Recognition?
Open your mind’s eye. Do LSD. No, not really. For me it’s just about noticing things. Ever tried a day of silence? No speaking, no devices, no reading or writing. Try that in an art gallery for 2-3 hours. Pay conscious attention to what are background objects or background noises.

There’s a nice book – On Looking where the author brings various people with expertise around her neighbourhood and they show her new things each time. Being better at looking and noticing to me aids with pattern recognition. Learning from others and how they see things gives you a swiss army knife of lenses at your disposal. If you only get views from your narrow field you won’t be very good at pattern recognition. You maybe will be good at Unconscious Bias though.

There’s this link with some advice.

Stop and treat everything like a painting in a museum and it’s raining outside so you have to stay in. Count traffic light changes. When the lights a few 100 yards ahead go to green, how long before your ones will? 20 seconds, 30 seconds. Look above the ground floor of shops, a whole new world. Put your phone in your hand. Notice the shape. Notice the edges. Notice the weight of it. Notice the temperature. How big is it in relation to your hand?

Complex Systems Pattern Recognition

So you’re good at Pattern Recognition, so what?
You’re like a water diviner. The water is below us, dig down. Wow, how did you know? Nothing to do with knowing the waterway patterns… You should start spotting opportunities when you find the patterns. Knowing the patterns might mean using them to get something for you. Like how to get stuff into the media by knowing their patterns. Everyone has their own grooves, know what their groove is and journey in it to get a return. Sometimes it’s knowing what the pattern or process is and using it.

Sometimes it’s knowing how to break it. “This is how it’s always been done.” Nice and safe and predictable. We like our groove. An ass groove isn’t it? How do we use this “always done this way” groove. How did they get to “this is how it’s always been done”? If something changes, can they get out of the groove? Google: history of newspapers. That’s an equation really.

“This is how it has always been done” is a bit like the Bystander Effect too. If the rest of the group behaves like this then you will too. Even if smoke is coming into the room.

Can you remove, replace or add something to the equation to change it? Plan it out, what would happen, what new factors get added when you make a change to the equation? Line them up, press play, see what happens, rewind, move things around, press play again. How do you address what would happen?

I gave a talk (I also I thought I did a blog post but can’t find it) called “Your next business is on Boards.ie and DoneDeal.ie”. Twitter thread of it. If you study the history of newspapers and Craiglist you’ll see how Craigslist killed off listings in newspapers. Then 100s of startups pared off pieces of Craigslist and some became billion dollar operations. AirBnB, Ebay, Grindr, Hassle and so many more in a way were just sections on Craiglist before founders spotted patterns of interest and came up with ways of making these more efficient for people. Spot patterns on Boards or DoneDeal.ie, see what are the sections most popular, see what people are complaining about online about them, make something cheaper or less friction. Unbundle this into an app.

Uber or Hailo/myTaxi
I remember advising a taxi company years ago to get everyone that took a taxi to put them into their phone as Taxi and when they show it to the driver, they get a discount. That “wasn’t the done thing” so they wouldn’t do it. Why should they offer discounts? At that stage it was obvious that everything was going to be mobile but the apps weren’t there yet. There is still ample opportunity to take back from Uber and myTaxi.

Every step is different pattern recognition
Finding your opportunity and starting it is one set of patterns. As you grow the idea there will be other patterns and systems to deal with and you may have to learn a whole new dataset for that or bring in people that have the experience to do that. If you want to destroy your company then bring in a team of MBAs to run the place. So this was just the starter course.

Value – Fuck You, Pay Me

January 14th, 2017

Been meaning to write this for a while but writing anything on a blog takes effort these days when the Twitter/Snapchat/FB timesink takes you away. Just like the remote control turned us into nonstop channel clickers where we never settle on a station, social media is doing the same for longform content. Which is why we’re seeing Tweet 1 of 15 instead of a blog post.

Value

I think we all need to work harder at communicating our value to others and to ourselves. Sadly in Ireland, anything that’s low price is seen as not having value and anything that’s a high price has lots of value. Many times it’s the other way around. I keep on going back to the idea that people won’t buy a newspaper for €2 but will spend €4 on a coffee and buy a few of them in a day. If you are good at what you do, then there has to be a value exchange between you and the person you are doing work for. “A ‘thank you’ costs nothing”, how true. Thanks doesn’t pay for your heating. Thanks isn’t payment but payment is thanks.

Saying no to doing things for people is hard for many of us, isn’t it? We feel that saying no is not nice or is classed as rude. Of late I’m archiving emails and not replying to people that solicit free advice and never want to pay. It’s better than me replying with an invoice for €150, right? It’s taken me years but now when someone asks me to give a talk I ask “what’s your budget?”. For 2017, I’m all about equality. Everyone gets treated the same and gets this as a GIF:

So here is my take on why doing something, even small for free is not good for me or you.

Want to meet me for a coffee?

Let me explain how that works. I disrupt my day to have coffee with you where you want to pitch me something or get free advice from me. 30 minutes means 60 minutes. Me getting from where I am takes 30 mins and going back to where I am is 30 minutes. So that coffee is now 2 hours of my time gone. I’ve knocked two hours out of my flow during the day so that’s maybe an hour to get back into that flow. So basically three hours of my day has been taken up.
Want to meet me for a coffee? €700 cashmoney plz.

Want me to speak at your event?

I am really good at what I do. So when I come and give a talk I will give a talk that normally knocks it out of the park for the people attending. There are few people better than me at enlightening people about digital marketing. Entertaining, educational and inspiring. That’s value. For you and those at it. I’ll make you look good for hiring me in. Asking me to do it for free is disrespectful and just plain miserly. I’m a known entity, this is not arrogance. You’re not doing me a favour here by giving me a platform in fairness. “But you’ll get work from it” is perfectly correct. That’s what happens when you’re good but I created lots of value, return that with money.

Some advice after seeing me talk?

You paid to attend an event that I spoke at? Great. Did the ticket include a short one to one with me? Am I still on the clock? Maybe I am but I am not your employee, please respect that. You can of course email me but see below.

Emailing me a quick question?

Do you think I’m sitting at my computer or refreshing my email on my phone waiting for your email? You sent me a reminder email about the email you sent wanting me to go off and get you a solution for something. So you’d like me to pause paid client work for you or you want me to use up what little non-work time I have to do this for you? Do you even Google Bro?

You’re very expensive

Damned right. I worked a long time for people not to regard me as being low value. Took me 30 minutes to figure out what to do? How long will it take you? How many hours did it take me to get good at what I do? Yeah. My ten years of experience knows where to hit the right spot with the hammer. This has been attributed to Henry Ford in some places and to others before him in other spaces but it’s correct whoever did say it “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.” — Henry Ford
Or another way, over the next 6 months, that 30 minutes of help I gave you has saved you how much in time or has gained you how much in revenue? Yeah.

There are exceptions

People I’ve done work for before, people I will work for again. People would take a bullet for me, people who are recommending me to others, people who I know will do a favour for me.

When to do something for free

There are times though where you give advice or give talks without payment. Value still needs to be exchanged though.

For a favour:

Shep Gordon, the super-manager to the stars worked a “coupon” system. You did him a favour, he could ask one of you. It worked really well.

New Material

For talks. Like a comedian, when you’re trying out new material you’ll try out the material many times in many locations. Here the value is you got a free platform for untested stuff.

You’re a New Entity

If you’ve not got much experience in public speaking or are not a known entity then go ahead and give a free talk. It’ll get your name on a billing, you’ll be associated with others speaking, if you’re good, those in the room will spread news of your expertise.

You want to level up

Maybe you want to be on the billing as rockstars in an industry, if that’s the case you might work for free and you’d be the one contacting the organisers.

The Database

Some speakers and some sponsors of mine ask for the contact details of those at the event. Nope. I do send out mailers and put contact details and links to special offers in the mailers though. If you’re giving a talk, ask for your contact details to be sent out in a mailer including a link to your website or to your mailing list. You have a mailing list, right? Or I’ve offered a free document to accompany my talks (and mention it in the talk) and that has all my details in it.

References

Get them to write a reference that you can use or they actively go out and mail a few friends recommending your work. A link from their website to yours is good too.

Don’t run your own free talk

50-70% of people won’t turn up if you give tickets away to your event. Charge a minimum price. €5 or €15. No shows are huge the closer to zero the ticket prices are. If someone spent €15 there’s a much greater chance they’ll turn up. Or charge higher but the ticket price can be used as a discount for consultancy or training.

Don’t you organise conferences and not pay people?

Yes, I did. The Measurement Conference is on hold as I need to work on a pricing model where all the speakers get paid. To pay all your speakers at a conference can become quite costly if it’s low revenue or the tickets are cheap. Say you pay each speaker €500 (which is a low price for what they bring) and you have ten speakers, that’s €5k just for speakers. I try and make the Measurement Conferences good value for those attending and try and also keep the crowd small. Tickets were €30, €50, €100 for a full day. Now if you are one of the rake of digital conferences you see in Ireland that charge €300 or €400 and pack 100s of people in to the event, you can well afford paying 20 speakers €500 a pop. I was asked to speak for free at an event in Cork City Hall where they were charging €300 per person and expected 500+ at it. Half the speakers were sponsors too. Please.

Do you chicken out when asking for money

Consider that it’s your money they’re keeping. Find it awkward to ask for money? Hire someone to be your bagman. There are plenty of virtual assistant type services that can email or phone people back and take a booking for your services. They’re happy to email with your rates and asking do they want to make a booking. They’re getting paid to do it.

The Fuck You, Pay Me line is from a Mike Monteiro talk where he quotes from Goodfellas. You need to watch it, it’s the best talk any business person can watch.

2017 Ones to Watch

January 1st, 2017

Well now. I was giving out that 2015 had me catching up with myself. 2016 had me busier than ever. Sure 2017 will be grand, it being an odd numbered year. Also, I gave up bad language in 2016 and none of you fuckers noticed. Langers. It was very interesting, more in another post. Driving and encountering bad drivers was a motherfucker.

2016 was very enlightening for me. A very hopeful year watching young people being self-aware, using well considered and insightful language and wanting change and knowing how to implement that change. Change isn’t rapid but it is the flow of water, even granite loses to it in the end. Now I love the idea of chaos and anarchy but I’m very positive that a new equilibrium will occur in the end.

2016 list did pretty well. Happy with that. 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 2008, 2007.

Ones to watch 2017

So without further ado after all that ado.

Jillian van Turnhout.
Jillian finished up as Senator in 2016 but didn’t stop pushing for the rights she campaigned before and during her Senate time. The rights of children, of those adopted, of those with addictions. 2017 should be interesting as she spent some of her 2016 reloading. Whatever she’ll do, it’ll benefit a wide group of people.

Seán Lynch.
Boy is woke. Seán is Co-President of @OutInUL and Social Media Manager of @LimerickVoice. He’s Q.E.D. for what young people are like nowadays. The snowflake generation that the Irish Times have made up to hate, seem to be the ones that are about equality, fairness and rights for all. Not bad for someone not yet 21. Kids today, sickening isn’t it? Anyway, he’ll be graduating soon, so hire him. I’m sure if he ever sees this he’ll die from the mortification. Side reward.

Frances Byrne.
Chairwoman NWCI. New gig with Early Childhood Ireland. 2017 should be a fun time for us all with a very smart empathic woman pushing for the rights of children and women. Bright futures for all if women and children are finally given rights they were meant to be given a century ago. Dublin supporter though but even your heroes can have some flaws. Makes them easier to identify with.

Pat Phelan.
Is he never off this list? Pat’s done extremely well. And worked so very very hard for it. He says he doesn’t know what he’ll be up to next so maybe he’ll take a bloody break. Yeah right. Watch that guy. If you were able to invest money into the future of people, Pat is one stock you would get a return from. As are most on this list.

Stephanie Francis.
She makes things with code that play well with other things with code and with people. She also works on running a conference. A brief jump to New York and she’s back here now. He works pushes things forward, keep watching what she does.

Conor Behan.
Not just cos tweets like this:

Conor is like the 2FM stuntman, covering for everyone when cover is needed. He’s doing a stellar job on the 8-10pm slot while Louise is off being a mammy. Lots of great music coming out of that show. But more than that Conor is strongly bringing a proper queer perspective to things. #marref really was a very white middle class heteronormative event so it’s nice to see people show that’s just one small section of the rainbow.

Mark Breen.
Cuckoo Events. Multiple winners of Sockies and Web Awards, sharing their expertise with students and anyone that wants to learn. A modern company that is about making the industry and community better. Momentum is building so let’s see what 2017 brings.

Alexia Golez.
what is she building. Finished up in Trustev. Now working on her own project in Limerick. I’ll leave it at that for now cos she knows where I live and is probably working on stealth drones.

Caitlín Nic Aoidh.
Worldwide viral hit. Part of the TG4 team of youngbloods. A media team that brings back fun and creation back into a very stodgy TV media. Also, a very nice person who can control the weather.

Me.
Yeah, I gave MulleyComms 5 years and I said I’d so something else. It’s been 8+ years so for MulleyComms – time to die.
Time To Die

I’ll probably offload the Web Awards, Sockies and eCommerce Awards to someone, preferably as one go. I won’t make the mistake though like I did with the Blog Awards where someone else came along pretending they were a rebooted version of something I killed myself to make great.

So what do I move on to? It’s around us and time and what is does to us. The house always wins.

Also, bad language, FUCK YEAH.

Thoughts on Mentoring – Getting and Giving

August 28th, 2016

I’ve been doing mentoring for a few years now, both with organisations like Local Enterprise Offices as well as private events now and then, when I have time. I think going to a mentor/advisor and being a mentor/advisor is a good idea.

Sadly a lot of charlatans have ruined the idea of business coaching so you now have someone with no qualifications that’s just a liar pretending they have a clue about business. The percentage of con artists in “business coaching” is as high as “social media gurus” that work in digital. The advice these people give is plain dangerous. Just another version of the celeb “nutritionists” that can fix autism with some grape seeds.

Getting good advice can help a hell of a lot. We take advice and pay a good price for personal trainers, we take advice from running coaches, from dieticians, counsellors, we should do the same for aspects of our business too.

I do find value with business coaches but they need to be real business coaches. I did a course at the end of 2015 and start of 2016 funded by Management Works. It was run by Actioncoach Ireland. I got training and advice from someone that was properly trained in understanding businesses and knowing what works for a business. They also had years of working with businesses so had a rich tapestry of experience in this.

Most business fundamentals will greatly help a business when done right but most businesses are too busy being businesses to reexamine the fundamentals and get them right. Coaches can quickly see how your business works and communicate simply what you need to do. These people are worth every penny.

Advice for choosing a mentor, advisor, coach

Some thoughts on choosing a mentor/advisor/coach.

  • Pick a person that will push back against you and tell you (politely or not) that your idea is crap but will go on to say how to change it to make it better. The worst person you can have is a yes person.
  • Choose someone that has experience. Ask for proof. When I see startup advisors who are only on their first company and it’s barely 18 months old giving advice to startups, I want to smother them with their branded hoody. I’m not sure someone in business less than 2 years has any qualification to give you any advice and I wonder why they have time in their new company to be able to give advice.
  • Keep the sessions short. At the end of the session, have a to-do list. In between sessions, implement the to-do list. The standard length that orgs giving per session is 3 hours but after 90 minutes both parties become mentally exhausted.
  • Implement the God damned advice. I’ve found myself giving the same advice to people at mentoring sessions over the years. Same business, new writing pad, same stuff written down and never done.
  • A mentor cannot and should not be able to answer or suggest a fix to every problem you have, and you should have loads. Pick specialists. Get mentoring for just sales, mentoring for finance.
  • Know what you want to cover. I really get annoyed when I ask someone what they are looking for advice on and they go “I dunno”. The clock is ticking, I’m being paid anyway but me being paid to figure out what you need isn’t efficient.

Why you should mentor

I guess this is advice to people that aren’t already mentoring cos the fakesters would be the first to say they’re coaches and are already offering their services. Both giving training and mentoring has made me better at my own business. In a way there is a business advantage to doing mentoring and it’s not the fairly low standard rates you get from State bodies for it. It’s this: the more businesses you encounter, the better you are at understanding business more and understanding markets more. In the Digital Strategy courses I do, we spend time on defining customers – mentoring is a live version of this with companies coming to you and telling you how they work. You ask questions to figure them out even more. I find giving training sessions has me learning new things nearly every time because those on the course ask questions I’ve not encountered before and mentoring is the same.

Will I mentor you?

No. Like I won’t meet you for a coffee to chat about your business. My chunks of time are broken into half day sessions. Less than that and it’s not worth it.

PR Tips in 2016 – Press releases, templates, samples

August 18th, 2016

1) It’s the 231st day of the year so I’m going to share some PR tips that have worked for me. Each one in a tweet.

2) Be aware of how media works in 2016. Journalists doing more stories for less money, less thanks and being stuck at desks

3) Inbox journalism is what it is for the majority of the media these days. Press releases via email, seen in email clients

4) Journalists do not have time for you to uhm and ah on the phone or via email and fail to get to the point quickly

5) Unless you have a preexisting GOOD relationship with a journalist you are not a priority item in their 10k strong email inbox

6) So what you need is to get your press release email opened and make it easy for the journalist to copy and paste it into a draft

7) A good press release therefore has a really good subject but more importantly, has an offer of content that interests journalists

8) Money, jobs, growth, data, a viable exclusive are all good offerings

9) Subject line: You live and die by the subject line though. 9 – 14 words is optimal to get attention

10) Subject line: If it’s a pitch I start with Pitch: if an intro then Intro: and then I treat the rest like a front page headline

11) Subject line: An example: “Pitch: Irish Company TechCorp announces record growth, doubling of workforce”

12) Body: I generally start with main points of the press release in bullet points:
Workforce Doubles
Rapid Growth in 12 months

13) Body: Anchor/Establish the PR: April 12th, Irish Company TechCorp has today announced growth results and 15 new jobs

14) Body: Then go into more detail but treat every word like an exhalation of air you’ll never get back. Short valuable paragraphs

15) Body: Quotes from employees not “the company” are important. Humans need to be in each media story, it creates affinity

16) Body: e.g. ‘Speaking on the jobs TechCorp CEO Damien Mulley said “We’re delighted to expand our amazing team” ‘

17) Body: I prefer a factual paragraph, paragraph with a quote, factual paragraph, then another paragraph with a quote. YMMV etc.

18) Body: Being prideful in the quotes is good, being arrogant is not. Don’t be a tosser at least in the press release.

19) Body: Overall in the quotes and the paragraphs be succinct. I write my PR like they’re self contained articles. Tell a story

20) Footer: Include contact details, email and phone. Include other facts/data or links to data. Always make it easy for a journalist

21) Spellcheck. Then spellcheck again. You are blind to any errors in the piece now so get a third party to look at it.

22) We didn’t cover press lists yet. Do you have one? A good, clean one? Mine is great but has taken years to collate and clean.

23) news@ newsdesk@ finance@ business@ are the generics. If sending to specialists only send if correct topic.

24) Photos: While most mailboxes can take large attachments now, you may be best off linking to dropbox/web copies of photos

25) Photos: High quality, well lit photos have a much higher of getting used. Ones with fun/action especially cos most are so dull

26) Whitelist your mailshots. By that I mean don’t use your work or GMail email as the mailservers will see you mass mailing.

27) There are various services out there for sending whitelisted emails. They’re cheap but guarantee delivery. Mailchimp etc.

28) Everything.

29) Timing is. Don’t send press releases on a Friday evening, Saturday or after 4pm on weekdays really. Know sectional deadlines.

30) A great press release can still not get coverage due to all kinds of reasons, an utterly crap press release will NEVER get used

31) I think that’s it for now.

Ones to Watch 2016

January 1st, 2016

2015 ones to watch.

2015 was a stupid year for me. I felt my company regressed and a lot of time I was out of breath with everything I do. Now normally I find the even numbered years to not be as fun as the odd numbered ones. Though 2015 is a very even, odd number. All the events I run had their biggest numbers ever and I committed to more events in 2016. Reminder: Do something with 1916.ie and 2016.ie. I did start attending a course to help me to cop the fuck on when it comes to running my business and started going an evening course in UCC so I have been doing constructive and new things. I barely wrote on this blog in 2015 but when I did I loved doing it. Pen set to paper soothes the bubbling brain.

2014 .
2013 . 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 2008, 2007.

Anyway, been doing these Ones to Watch for a long long time and here is my badly put together one for 2016:

Kathryn Reilly.
Election year, whipsmart new generation in Sinn Féin, learning the ropes in the Seanad to become a lawmaker when Sinn Féin are in power. A friend first alerted me to this future member of the Sinn Féin dream team. One to watch. BTW, not a member of Sinn Féin, don’t own a wool cardigan, don’t know the words to Men Behind the Wire.

Jillian van Turnhout
Mannnn, for someone that doesn’t believe in democracy* and wanted and still wants the Seanad to be shut down, Jillian and a few other people in the Seanad and Dáil are showing differences can be made. Clare Daly is another. I was first alerted to Jillian by a friend in the Oireachtas who admired the fact that she hired her parliamentary assistant based on merit and via an open application process. Most sadly are quasi nepotistic – I hire your kid, you hire my kid/wife/buddy.

Loretta Ní Ghabháin
I know Loretta for a few years now via TG4 and other events. She’s looking after a lot of social for TG4 and other organisations from what I can tell and when you want stuff done, talk to her. I’d love to see a digital conference but mostly/majority as Gaeilge. Enough people in digital in Ireland can do this now, btw.

Pat Phelan
Duh. Oh am I meant to elaborate? Pat proved he can build, talk the talk, do the walk and have an exit. Pat will restart his blog in the next while. Pat isn’t a resting type and a corporate type so I suspect that we’ll see at least the announcement of PatsNewGig in 2016.

Natasha Lynch
Essential French for years has been getting students top grades in the Leaving Cert. The students and wanna-be students give them a cult-like following. McWilliams Sail bags, Essential French attendance and whateve hairstyle is in. EF has won multiple awards. Natasha now is expanding Essential French with the first of probably a few apps. Digital allows you to scale well outside of Cork. The app is out a few months so let’s see what happens in 2016.

Ryan Mangan
First alerted to Ryan via Spunout (there’s always a Spunout link in these). Check out his Instagram and his new food blog. There’s lots of potential in positive and rewarding eating and people changing their eating habits. Good timing, good alignment. Cookbook eventually?

David Coallier
Barricade is an interesting company but the sharing of what they’re doing is massively beneficial to everyone. Also an investor in Trustev. Cork company. Course.

Darren Gale.
Cos 1. he’ll get pissed off with this but 2. he’s always promoting others so it’s his turn.

Sara Burke
Her name in the HSE must set alarm bells going. Probably has her own code in there. With elections in 2016 and Sara having called bullshit on fakery, all the election promises will be gutted and salted and whoever is in Government will be doing a WWSBS? What Will Sara Burke Say? given the budget of the HSE and how it informs public debate. Yeah I can sell you those badges.

Chris and Peter, Peter and Chris.
Ciara had a go last year and is now besties with famous people while still keeping Chris around. The Epic News content they do and the fun stuff for Paddy Power would suggest they’re getting better at producing fun content. Plus Channel 4 of course. And lots of people will want their content.

Louise McSharry
Jesus Christ, 2015 like but still. That wedding planning and cancer stuff can move the fuck away now thanks. Louise has a great show on 2FM, plays new stuff you don’t hear on the rest of the shows and will say in polite terms she won’t play music from woman beating arseholes. Anyway, I suspect Louise was just warming up in 2015. Woo.

* BTW I was sad to see Alan Shatter go. That man got shit done and held grudges so well but then a scruffy lad from Wexford did him over. A bit like Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Michael Collins.

InvestNI and Web Summit – £310,366 given to Web Summit and sister events

November 18th, 2015

FOI results from @InvestNI £310,366 (€442,603) given to Web Summit and sister events by InvestNI since 2012. The oddest one for me is for F.ounders given it’s pretty much an invite only event for very rich men.
Web Summit is an all island money acquisition machine.

Previous FOIs on Web Summit

IDA and Web Summit.

Enterprise Ireland and Web Summit.

2010 and 2011 payments to Web Summit.

On working for myself

November 12th, 2015

The Sunday Business Post interviewed me ages back about working for myself. The piece went out on Sunday where I as Damien Mulley and as Damien Mulvey answered the questions.

The more verbose version via an email interview is here:

Why have you chosen to do project work instead of having a traditional job?

I don’t play well with others in the longterm. I’ve worked in very structured company environments and I just didn’t fully fit. Many are very comfortable with working under structures like this but not me. I found that every now and then I zigged when the company zagged.

What kind of project work do you do?

Several organisations hire me to train their members or member companies and lot of it is on digital marketing which changes a lot so these are regular gigs but not guaranteed. Companies also approach me to evaluate and fix their digital marketing for them. Sometimes there is no need for me to come in as the people in there are better than me but those that pay the bills don’t see it. These gigs keep me going over the year and in between I run events like the Social Media Awards, SME Awards and Web Awards.

vHow do you find clients?

It’s all inbound. I’ve never sought work from a company. Despite my crankiness and bad language on Twitter, I still get calls and emails to come in and do some work for companies. Word of mouth and doing a good job gets me future work.

Do you intend to stay doing project work, or would you like to have a traditional job?

When you have months where you are in minus figures you sometimes think about that regular job with regular pay but the vast majority of the time, no. I’ve been blooded with the taste of freedom, no going back to the world of fake plastic trees and Chandler Bing fake laughs. In addition the project work pays the bills and also bankrolls me doing other fun things that a regular employer wouldn’t sign off on. I had comic books made instead of business cards, I did events that never made a dime but tested things out and informed me as well as the audience. With project work I get to be honest with companies and lose business as a result sometimes. I’d never be afforded that luxury in a traditional job.

Do you think you do more or less work than someone in a traditional job?

I’m on well below minimum wage. I envy those that work for themselves and take weekends off. 80 hours a week isn’t unusual but I’m happy to do that. This is a time management issue and if I had the time I’d work on it. The clients always get their work on time and on budget though.

What are the biggest risks with project work?

Cash flow is my biggest risk. I’ve had to chase some companies for over 6 months for even small amounts. I had one media company find fault with an invoice 3 months after issue saying I undercharged them by 1 cent so we had to start the process again. I never wanted to become the sour one waving a contract before doing anything but that’d what happens now and I get paid faster. Progress, ironically is a risk as these days you can become irrelevant if you don’t adapt. Illness and getting a bad reputation are other risks.

How do you manage your taxes?

I have a patient and forgiving accountant called Derek Madden. The Magician I call him. I’m terrible with finances so his company does the most of the heavy lifting. It’s the main advice I give to new businesses: Get a good accountant to do as much as you can afford and the time saved will be worth more than what you give the accountant.

Do you think that the tax system is fair?

Has anyone ever answered yes? There are some issues with the way I pay myself and what I get taxed. Some good examples of how if I paid an employee a certain salary, they’d get a better rate than me. I’m okay with how the system works though but again The Magician helps me navigate it. There are good supports especially from Local Enterprise Offices, people who have leeway and know your business personally. There’s currently funding for getting your web offering up to speed, every business should be looking at this. The world can be our client based not our suburb.