Every Minute of Your Time is an Investment

October 28, 2012 at 12:00 am

You can always make more money but you can never make more time. 

Each minute you have needs to be used, to be valued, to be invested.

If you are writing an email with advice, could that email be turned into a blog post?

I’m not saying don’t ever watch TV or hang out with friends, because those also have value.  Let me explain.

Like eating a balanced meal, our energy and emotions also need to be balanced.  But, everything in moderation.

Instead of watching 3 hours of TV, cut it back to a half hour.  Keep it focused on having value – i.e. you’re watching that show in order to relax or to laugh or exercise your brain.  If you’re watching a show because it creates drama (Jerry Springer style) do you really need it?  Garbage in garbage out.  Know why you’re doing it and make it be an investment in yourself.

What are the critical areas in which we need nurturing?

  • Sleep.  Don’t be that useless hero who tries to go days without sleep.  Sleep gives us energy.  Take what your body needs, don’t cheat.
  • Food.  Stay away from the junk. Take the time to eat slowly and not in a rush.  Your body will thank you.
  • Friends.  Invite the friends and association into your life that will nourish your soul.
  • Family.  Every family, including the Cleaver’s, have hard times.  But (in most cases) your family will be that ultimate grounding.  Devote time to nourishing these roots (there is a reason they’re called roots!).
  • Mental Stimulation.  Contact and conversation with friends, coworkers, etc. or a trip to the museum.
  • Relaxation.  Spa, climbing, yoga, hot shower, that half hour of your favorite show, journaling, Sunday brunch … pick a vice, just keep it in check.
  • Exercise.  Healthy body, healthy mind.  Even 1 walk per day will help get your energy flowing.  Don’t be sedentary.  Make the time.

These all feed into our emotional and physical health.  But for the rest of your seconds, minutes, hours – all of it should count.  Create, learn, grow.  Don’t waste.

Taking a road trip, could you also be listening to an educational program, talking to a business partner, enjoying a much needed chat with a friend? … whatever it is, figure out your checks and balances, and make every second of your time a personal investment.

6 Tricks to Sell Out Your First Skillshare Class

October 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Tricks for building a successful Skillshare class and how to sell out your first Skillshare class.

1. Promoting

If Skillshare already exists in your city….  great!  You can leverage their lists for distribution.

If Skillshare is new to your city or doesn’t really exist yet, ask:

What other business networks exist locally?

What other networking platforms exist where you can post your content?

For example:

  • EventBrite
  • Meetup groups
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Biznik

Be careful of terms of service, but what I did is I pointed the other services to my Skillshare class link.  It’s all extra promotion (and SEO) for Skillshare and they encourage you to promote via social networks.  Leverage what you can, as long as it drives people to Skillshare, it’s a win/win for everyone.

Also, for the first class, keeping the costs low ($15-$25) and the class size low (5-7) will guarantee higher success.  Saying your first class “sold out” with people on the waiting list helps create demand.

The first class is hardest.

2. Build Interest

Tip: “seed” a few people in the class.  Nobody likes to be the first person to book the class.  People who are passing by and think the class looks interesting are more inclined to come if they see that others are also interested.  This validates your class concept and gives social proof, which is a must for the first class particularly.

Create a few promotion codes and give them out to friends and influencers.  Having 2-3 influencers in the community you’re targeting on the list will guarantee that your class will fill up.

Be sure to post the class a few times before it begins, for example:

  • 2-3 weeks prior make the first announcement
  • 1 week before the class, post on a day where your target audience will be most active (have your seeders planted by this stage)
  • 2 days prior make a post about how excited you are about the class to continue to build excitement
  • the day of (for those last-minute attendees)

3. Create Networking Opportunties

Potential students are likely looking at the profiles of those who signed up.  Having people who have interesting profiles helps because the potential students are going not just to learn but also to network and to create a network around a similar subject.  Encourage the students to meet other like minded people in class.

4. Focus on Great Copy:

In your class description:

  • what is it you’re teaching and why?
  • what will the student walk away with?
  • how is it applicable to them?

Don’t use tech terms that nobody will understand.  But don’t be a used car salesman either and play buzzword scrabble.

> You’ll learn: 

In this section, instead of saying

“how to use social media to grow your audience” (very generic and non-unique weak promise)


“how to increase your Twitter following to 1,000 quality followers in the next 30 days”  (realistic target, high quality, great ROI on class)

> You’ll walk away with:

Make sure these are practical skills.  The student should see themselves having actionable items immediately from this course.

  1. a twitter account (if you don’t have one already)
  2. the knowledge and tools to go from 0-1,000 twitter followers in 30 days

> About the Teacher:

Next, they want to know why you are qualified?  Have you done this?  Why you?

Self-promotion is SO hard but it’s necessary.  Students want to know and believe that they will walk away with the tools and knowledge to do what you did – this creates a WOW factor and will help also drive attendance.

5. Select a Great Location

Having a great location, one that resonates with your audience, is also key.  If you’re talking about tech issues to a tech crowd and you plan to meet at planned parenthood, it’s probably going to affect the turnout.

Remember, you are still selling your skills and a new class.  If you hold it at a reputable location, your credibility increases.

6. Connect with Students

This is less about filling seats, now, and more about quality.  You want to build value.  Send the students an email, a survey, take an interest and interact prior to class.  Tailor your content to the needs and interests of the eager learners.  They want to learn and they are taking time to come see you.  Give them so much value that you feel like you’re getting ripped off.  They will walk away feeling like they got their money’s worth and then some.

The result?

Powerful endorsements and “street cred” on Skillshare.  Your next class, while still following similar principles, will be easier to sell and you can increase the size of your class, and price.

At least that’s what I did.

Where Will the Next Best Tech Talent be Sourced?

July 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Not the United States.

Not the UK.

Guess again – it’s Eastern Europe. This may not surprise you if you’ve worked in startups who’ve outsourced tech talent and will tell you that the best talent comes from Eastern Europe. Even Victoria Ransom of Wildfire Interactive started this Silicon Valley VC-backed company with two Engineers from Estonia. Coincidentally, Estonia is ranked no. 1.  


Here’s a piece of Victoria’s story from her Mixergy interview

What we did though is we found some very small teams. Our first team of developers were in Estonia. It was a team of two guys. So we were dealing right with the developers themselves. And we were able to get very high caliber developers at a price that you could never have got in the US. Having said that, it was still more expensive than we probably would’ve got if we’d gone with an outsourcing firm. So we did pay for high talent.

I’d say that’s a key learning. Don’t skim on your development costs because you can end, it can end up costing you a lot more if you have an ineffective or inefficient developer.

But the other challenge is we found these two guys, I believe it was — giving away some secrets here — but it was on a website called workingwithrails, which I’m sure others have looked at. It’s a great rubyonrails site where you can find different developers and see how they’re ranked by their community, their peers.
But nevertheless we found these two guys in Estonia who we never met, and we’re not developers ourselves, so how could we know that the code they were producing was good? So what we actually did is — we were in Boston at the time — we found a local developer, someone we could get to know in person so that we could get very comfortable with him. And we had him not code for us, but just take a look at the code that these two guys in Estonia were producing for us in order to just…

You know, we could judge the end product, but what about what was under the product. The last thing we wanted to do was just create a product that was just a mess underneath. So this guy worked with us for about six weeks just looking over the code. These guys were producing it and the honest truth is, after a little while, he said you know what, these guys are brilliant; they’re even better than me, don’t worry about it.

And we worked with those guys now I guess it’s been two and a half years, but it’s been fantastic. They’re a core part of our team and then we were able to find other developers overseas to work with. But you know, that’s how we did it. Neither of us, that’s how we did it in a cost effective way without having any needs for a developer background ourselves.

Where will you look for your next tech talent?

FreeConferenceCall.com launches StartMeeting

July 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I’ve been using FreeConferenceCall.com and FreeConferencing.com to connect remotely with clients.  I have been happy with my service from FreeConferencing and had switched from Webex after testing it.  But, I was wondering how FreeConferencing was planning to monetize with all calls and conferences being free and zero advertising… but today I found out how – with a sister company called StartMeeting.  A premium service for audio and web conferencing.  I haven’t checked it out yet but I am confident that, based on their track record with me, it will deliver.  I’ll let them tell you about it below.  If anyone has experience with StartMeeting, can you share your experience?

Premium Services from FreeConferenceCall.com

It Took a Conference Calling Company to Get Screen Sharing Right:
StartMeeting Offers Conference Calls or Conference Calls with Screen Sharing

StartMeeting.com Logo FreeConferenceCall.com has launched a sister company, StartMeeting, to allow you to Share Better at a fraction of the cost! StartMeeting is a new audio and web conferencing service that incorporates state-of-the-art features including screen sharing; easy-to-use meeting recording; and a customizable online Meeting Wall.StartMeeting is offering customers the audio and web service for significantly less than similar services. Prices for screen sharing start at $19.95 per month for a 50 participant capacity. This is compared to $39 for 15 participants at GoToMeeting and $49 for 25 participants at WebEx.For more information, visit www.StartMeeting.com


  • Cloud-Based Recording: User-friendly simultaneous recording of screen sharing and audio meetings, and files can be shared via Facebook and other platforms (Windows and Mac).
  • Synchronized Audio Conferencing: Reservationless calls include toll, toll-free, and an integrated high-definition VoIP platform — all with a dedicated access number.
  • Dedicated Meeting Credentials: Unlike some other audio/web services, hosts are given exclusive credentials to set up their meetings that never change.
  • Screen Sharing: Unlimited screen sharing of content. Subscriptions are offered with 50, 200, 500, and 1,000 participant capacities.
  • Meeting Wall: Customize it with colors, logos, profile pictures, and upload files or links that support the online meeting (without emailing the documents to participants).
  • Audio Web Controls: Mute, lock, identify or disconnect a caller; enter lecture mode (one-way communication); and hold Q&A Sessions with participants.
  • Enhanced Audio Features: Customize hold music and a greeting for participants entering the conference.

Stephen Covey Began with the End in Mind

July 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm

While teaching my very first Skillshare class, I was in the middle of crediting one of my heroes, Stephen Covey, when someone in the class raised their hand and said “Did you know he just died?”

The day before class, Stephen Covey had passed away at age 79 due to complications from a bike accident in Utah a few months prior.

We all stopped mid-class and did a symbolic pause and toasted a great human being, now passed.

On my Kindle app on my iPhone I’ve been re-reading Habit 2 from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which I pull up generally on a New York subway to pass the time, as well as learn and continue to be inspired by Covey’s teachings.

The greatest impact, though there have been many, from Stephen Covey, for me, was “Begin with the End in Mind”.

Covey said to imagine yourself at your own funeral (we did this in class, just after the news, and it was powerful).  There you are, at your funeral, lying in your casket.  There are people around you.  Like a fly on the wall you can buzz around the room and hear what each person is saying.

Covey asked “what are they saying about you?”

The question then becomes… “what do you want them to say?”

Thus begins your journey.  Always know where you’re going before you get there.  What’s your roadmap – based on your values, your principles, your knowledge of your strengths, and based on your own imagined script.  Who do you want to be?  Really think about it.  Any one of us could be in that casket tomorrow and it’s never too late to think about how to make a change today that can impact your own life and the lives of others.

Begin with the End in Mind.

Thank you, Stephen Covey, for touching my life and the lives of so many others.  No doubt that as people are talking at your funeral, they are giving thanks.  Your legend will live on for many years to come.  RIP.

Why Do We Follow Systems Even When it Doesn’t Make Sense?

June 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Why do we always follow systems even when it doesn’t make sense?

We don’t even realize we are trained, like dogs – to respond, to act. To exist.

I just went through airport security.

I spent the night at the airport.

But after having gone through security earlier in the day I was asked to go through again. I wanted coffee. But I’d have to wait until after security because that’s liquid and we all know since 9-11 no more liquids gels aerosols etc. And my coffee won’t go into a ziplock bag without spilling.

The system says -
I can’t track her individually (yet, until we are ‘voluntarily’ chipped), so it’s the same policy as though I just arrived here and in case I’m a terrorist. Fair enough.

I went through the scan and the woman shouted ‘WOMAN RANDOM’ and asked me to step aside. I thought maybe she thought I looked at her funny until the guy said “Might as well buy a lotto ticket today, the computer picked you.”


It reminded me of the movie Idiocracy where the individual has dumbed down, losing the ability to think for hisself / herself, and letting the machine take over.

Why is it that we trust the machine over intellect?  Why do we not question the processes put in place?

Should I really have been pegged for a terrorist when I slept here all night?  I was waiting all morning just to get combustible coffee that I could sneak through and blow up the plane.  Dangit!  Random computer scan and I’m busted.

Flying through Wisconsin I bought butter and cheese, of course, because it’s Wisconsin. Did you know that my cheese was confiscated because it might have been very dangerous cheese?!  That, or it was all part of the system.

Once a system is put in place and we blindly follow, then place rules on top with a punishment attached – i.e. don’t cross the road (even if no traffic for miles!) until the little red guy turns to white on the traffic light or you’ll get fined – we are purposely giving up our ability to think rationally.   Running Man Mr Roboto

I am not arguing systems aren’t good. They can be eerily effective.  I just think it’s good to be aware that as we use more and more technology (as I write this from my smartphone-turned-dumbphone as “user friendly” means don’t make me have to think too hard) we should be using our brains more, not less.

Guts Not Grades

May 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Having a startup is about conviction.

The most appropriate synonym that comes to mind when I think of entrepreneurs and startups is resiliency.  I compete with Ivy League grads, who disturbingly, many people look at in awe.  Book knowledge and street knowledge are very different things.  But, beyond knowledge are instincts and guts.  Two things that can’t be taught.  I believe there is such a thing as “Startup DNA”.

A startup is like a newborn baby.  It needs nurturing.

People tend to get hung up on titles and labels.  They mean very little, especially in the beginning when building a product.  The product matters, your early customers matter.  Not quitting matters.

It’s difficult to see the view from the top of the mountain when you’re climbing uphill and the top is hidden in the clouds.  But, entrepreneurs know deep down inside that if they keep at it, keep climbing, eventually they’ll see the clouds clear (and return, and clear, and return, etc etc until they reach the top).

People have said entrepreneurs are special in the sense that they are illogical, unreasonable, or downright insane!  It’s true that an entrepreneur is unique.  Most people aren’t interested in extreme sacrifice.  They would prefer to be comfortably led like sheep.  The job of the entrepreneur is to convince the sheep that he/she isn’t crazy, but there’s a process that takes place to get to that point that involves many sacrifices, overcoming doubts and challenges, and infinite bouts of courage.

As with a sick baby or trudging uphill exhausted, what it’s not about is running when things get tough.

Some people are cut out for startups; many are not.  There is an excitement, even a cool factor, that people get caught up in.  But when the hard work kicks in, 50% drop out.  When there are tough days or funding is running low, the strong are separated from the weak, and the last standing are the ones with conviction.

The true test comes when things are difficult.

Giving yourself a pseudo title to get attention or to get into certain events or companies doesn’t actually change your DNA into a startup person.  Skipping a night out with friends or a family function, even with all the pressure and guilt, to hit a deadline, is true dedication.

This is exactly what I mean by sacrifice:

“The workload of a start-up is ridiculous.  It’s really not healthy.  For eight years of my life, there were very few waking moments that Tripod did not completely consume.  I rarely returned the phone calls of good friends.  I routinely missed important family gatherings.  I couldn’t keep a steady girlfriend.  To put it plainly, I didn’t have enough time to maintain the sort of normal relationships typically associated with the human race.”

- Bo Peabody, Greycroft Partners, in his book Lucky or Smart

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  If you ever wonder if the daily grueling grind, the ups and downs, the mental anguish, the ramen noodles, the amazing days followed by crushing defeats, is all worth it – take a look at Bo’s story.  Are most people willing to stick around for EIGHT years, with few friend or family interactions?  It wears on you.  You question things – a lot.  Sounds borderline insane but it takes guts.

There has to be a balance, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge believer in “sharpening your saw” as Stephen Covey says.  Too much for too long causes productivity to diminish relative to time output.  But what I am saying is that you have to have chops.

A final great quote from Chris Dixon, CEO of Hunch, and active angel investor:

“It’s a cliche, but early-stage startups are really all about the people.  Had you taken any company I’ve been involved with and drawn a straight line extrapolating forward, I don’t think you would’ve seen why it was an interesting company… what ends up happening is that the environment changes, you discover flaws in your original concept, and good entrepreneurs adapt and change.  The only way you would’ve seen it is if you’d understood the passion and the guts of the people involved”.

- Chris Dixon, quoted on Founder Collective

Passion and guts.

I’ve had business partners, developers, salespeople, interns, clients, deals, and so on, come and go.  Recognizing that this ebbs and flows, that startups are in a constant state of flux, is the key to overcoming the bad days and learning resiliency.  Behind every cloud is a silver lining, after every crushing defeat is a rewarding accomplishment.

Everyone Has a Story

May 1, 2012 at 3:55 am

Everyone Has a Story … It’s your story, you write it.  

These words echo often in my thoughts.

Similar words were said by Internet Entrepreneur Chris Michel when talking to a Harvard Business School class about entrepreneurship.

As the story was told to me, there was a student, from Brazil, who said he planned to copy a business idea from the US and bring it to Brazil.  Chris’s response was “well, you can make a lot of money doing that, but at the end of the day when it’s no longer about money and you have enough, you will have to have a story to tell.  Everyone has a story”.  This is paraphrased but the lesson was strong.

There are three famous brothers, Germans who created Rocket Internet, an incubator company built to clone popular startup ideas, including Groupon, EBay, Facebook, VeriSign.  The Samwer brothers have been called unethical parasites.

A startup exists to make money, yes, but that’s not the basis upon which it was created.

Startups are temporary companies that solve a larger problem  - Steven Blank

Startups are created by innovative problem solvers who see something they don’t like, wish to change, or could improve and they come up with a solution.  Entrepreneurs work nearly 24 / 7 (even in their sleep!) and take great risks and sacrifices to solve these problems effectively.  They are artists, scientists, creators, persistent optimists, and childishly naive.  They are dreamers and world changers.

Copying someone’s idea has nothing to do with innovation.  It’s a cheap way to get rich.

Look at your life from the end to present.  What do you want people to say about you, alive or dead?  Is your life filled with happiness or emptiness?  Write a book about your life that you would want to read.  About YOUR life, not someone else’s.  It’s not that hard to be creative.  It’s harder I would think to live with yourself for blatantly stealing from someone else and calling it your very own.

Giving credit where credit is due and true innovation is what inspires more innovation, more entrepreneurship, and progression.

What chapter are you on in your book and how does it end?

Scrubbing Toilets in Malaga

May 1, 2012 at 2:26 am

I once said I would do whatever it took to go overseas and earn income, even if I had to scrub toilets with a toothbrush in Malaga, Spain.

Thankfully for the Internet, I can go to Malaga to brush my teeth and not the toilet.

It’s not that easy to uproot, to find a job, to pay for travel expenses, home expenses and loans, to learn a new language, adjust to cultural differences, or to scrub toilets.

I used to spend hours (at work, sorry Inger Reilly, it was only “hours” because the Internet was dialup!) researching ways to live and work abroad – visas, stories, tips, how-to’s.  Not much existed when the Internet first started.  Even still, we continue transforming in the digital era.  The Internet and technology evolve rapidly but humans are much slower to make shifts.

After having a first taste of life in Spain, I was hooked and needed to find a way to get back to exploring new cultures, languages, and places.

Finding a serious boyfriend, moving to Seattle, and getting a job at Adobe, “life” eventually hit me.  I got caught in the rat race and looked at what was around me, not within me.

There are a few ways to travel as a profession, and by that I don’t mean busking on the street and eating out of trash cans (though I’ve seen former corporate slaves do this).  You can be a writer or journalist, a photographer, become a roadie with a band, be sent overseas by your job, contractor.  For me, I tried many of these things (except for the band).  My options are contract work, self employment, and earning revenues either residually from business or from the sale of my company.

I’ve tried or am trying them all.  I have taught English in Spain, sold artesian crafts with gypsies on dirt streets, built websites in Hungary and Nicaragua, helped translate and sell tours in Oaxaca, promoted and sold tickets for a disco in Costa Rica, helped a musician friend panhandle in Argentina, and I once sold an octopus to a restaurant in Mexico …. so for the record, I just might scrub the toilet.  I have some great stories, though thankfully, there are better ways. Read on!


No llores porque se ha acabado. Sonríe porque sucedió.

February 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

- anonymous