The Changing Musical Tastes of My 12-Year Old Daughter

My oldest turns 12 today. Happy Birthday to my amazing daughter, who is growing up right before my eyes. Wow, what a blur - that was fast.

One of the things I have done for her nearly every year for her birthday is to create a birthday CD containing her favorite songs of the year (or perhaps, of the moment). 

I just finished making her 12th Birthday CD last night, and then I started looking at the past playlists, all the way back to when she was 3. She’s always been a big fan of pop music in that she listens to a lot of it for her dance competitions, but it’s amazing how times and her tastes have changed.

And if any of you would like a copy of her 3rd Birthday CD playlist, let me know!

Here’s to a look back at the past 10 years of music! Happy 12th!

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12th Birthday

  1. Take Me Home - Cash Cash
  2. Best Day of My Life - American Authors
  3. Still Into You - Paramore
  4. Love Don’t Die - The Fray
  5. Happy - Pharrell Williams
  6. All of Me - John Legend
  7. Glory and Gore - Lorde
  8. Pompeii - Bastille
  9. Bridges - Broods
  10. Animals - Martin Garrix
  11. Marry Me - Jason Derulo
  12. I Believe - Christina Perri
  13. Made to Love - John Legend
  14. Team - Lorde
  15. You Make Me - Avicii
  16. My Kind of Love - Emeli Sande
  17. Thinking About You - Calvin Harris (feat. Ayah Marar)
  18. Promises - Nero
  19. Optimist - Zoe Keating

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11th Birthday

  1. Troublemaker - Olly Murs
  2. Heart Attack - Demi Lovato
  3. Thrift Shop - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  4. Suit & Tie - Justin Timberlake (feat. Jay Z)
  5. Girl on Fire - Alicia Keys
  6. When I Was Your Man - Bruno Mars
  7. Stars - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
  8. Try - P!nk
  9. Daylight - Maroon 5
  10. I Knew You Were Trouble
  11. Skyfall - Adele
  12. Titanium - David Guetta (feat. Sia)
  13. Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men
  14. Sweet Nothing - Calvin Harris (feat. Florence Welch)
  15. C’mon - Ke$ha
  16. Feel This Moment - Pitbull (feat. Christina Aguilera)
  17. Next to Me - Emeli Sande
  18. Too Close - Alex Clare
  19. Ho Hey - Lumineers
  20. Stay - Rihanna (feat. Mikky Ekko)

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10th Birthday

  1. Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
  2. Fly/I Believe I Can Fly - Glee Cast
  3. Rocketeer - Far East Movement
  4. Someone Like You - Adele
  5. Morning After Dark - Cardio Workout Crew
  6. It Will Rain - Bruno Mars
  7. What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction
  8. Good Life - OneRepublic
  9. Smooth Criminal - Glee Cast
  10. Part of Me - Katy Perry
  11. Here’s to Us - Glee Cast
  12. Turn Up The Music - Chris Brown
  13. Stereo Hearts - Gym Class Heroes (feat. Adam Levine)
  14. Good Feeling - Flo Rida
  15. Give It Up - Victorious Cast
  16. So Good - B.o.B.
  17. Give Me Everything -  Pitbull
  18. Without You - David Guetta (feat. Usher)
  19. Set Fire to the Rain - Adele
  20. Wild Ones - Flo Rida (feat. Sia)
  21. Moves Like Jagger/Jumpin’ Jack Flash - Glee Cast

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9th Birthday

  1. Do You Remember - Jay Sean
  2. Freak the Freak Out - Victorious Cast
  3. Crocodile Rock - Nelly Furtado & Elton John
  4. 21st Century Girl - Willow
  5. When I Get You Alone - Glee Cast
  6. Misery - Maroon 5
  7. Sweet Serendipity - Lee DeWyze
  8. Animal - Neon Trees
  9. On the Floor - Jennifer Lopez
  10. Yeah 3X - Chris Brown
  11. Rock With U - Janet
  12. Higher - Taio Cruz
  13. Grenade - Bruno Mars
  14. Forget You - Glee Cast
  15. Out of Goodbyes - Maroon 5 (feat. Lady Antebellum)
  16. I Do - Colbie Caillat
  17. Whip My Hair - Willow
  18. More - Usher
  19. Secrets - OneRepublic
  20. Firework - Katy Perry
  21. Price Tag - Jessie J (feat. B.o.B.)

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8th Birthday

  1. Starstruck - Christopher Wilde
  2. Falling Down - Selena Gomez
  3. Party in the U.S.A. - Miley Cyrus
  4. Walking in the Snow - Jordin Sparks
  5. Right Here (Departed) - Brandy
  6. Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) - The Chipettes
  7. Something About the Sunshine - Anna Margaret & Christopher Wilde
  8. For You Entertainment - Adam Lambert
  9. Thriller (2003 Edit) - Michael Jackson
  10. Party Up - Stubby
  11. In My Head - Jason Derulo
  12. I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
  13. Forever & Always - Taylor Swift
  14. Naturally - Selena Gomez
  15. All The Way Up - Emily Osment
  16. Hero - Christopher Wilde & Stubby
  17. Here We Go Again - Demi Lovato
  18. Fifteen - Taylor Swift
  19. Cowboy Casanova - Carrie Underwood
  20. Strut - Adam Lambert
  21. Fireflies - Owl City

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7th Birthday

  1. La La Land - Demi Lovato
  2. Tell Me Something I Don’t Know - Selena Gomez
  3. Once Upon a Dream - Emily Osment
  4. Fly on the Wall - Miley Cyrus
  5. Cheetah Love - The Cheetah Girls
  6. My Shoes - Jordan Pruitt
  7. New Classic - Drew Seely
  8. On The Line - Demi Lovato
  9. Tell Me Why - Taylor Swift
  10. No Air - Jordin Sparks
  11. Goodbyes - Savannah Outen
  12. Leaving’ - Jesse McCartney
  13. How We Roll - The Chimpunks
  14. Say It Again - Marie Digby
  15. Love Song - Sara Bareilles
  16. Like Whoa - Aly & A.J.
  17. Bang a Drum - Selena Gomez
  18. One Year, Six Months - Yellowcard
  19. One Love - Jordan Pruitt
  20. Burnin’ Up - Jonas Brothers
  21. Stay My Baby - Miranda Cosgrove

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image6th Birthday

  1. The Megamix Remix - High School Musical
  2. Fabulous - Sharpay & Ryan
  3. Humuhumunukunukuapua’a - Sharpay & Ryan
  4. Gotta Go My Own Way - Gabriella
  5. Bet On It - Troy
  6. All for One - High School Musical
  7. One in a Million - Hannah Montana
  8. Witch Doctor - The Chipmunks
  9. Cruella de Vil - Selena Gomez
  10. Right Where You Want Me - Jesse McCartney
  11. S.O.S. - Jonas Brothers
  12. Let’s Dance - Vanessa Hudgens
  13. You Can’t Stop the Beat - Hairspray Movie
  14. Vertical - T-Squad
  15. Headstrong - Ashley Tisdale
  16. Bad Day - The Chipmunks
  17. Ever Ever After - Carrie Underwood
  18. Just Like You - Hannah Montana
  19. Let Go - Vanessa Hudgens
  20. Drama Queen - Lindsay Lohan
  21. Kiss the Girl - Ashley Tisdale
  22. Two Worlds - Corbin Bleu

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5th Birthday

  1. A Whole New World - LMNT
  2. Kiss the Girl - Ashley Tisdale
  3. Pop Princess - The Click FIve
  4. What I’ve Been Looking For - Sharpay & Ryan
  5. Cinderella - The Cheetah Girls
  6. The Best of Both Worlds - Hannah Montana
  7. Where There Was You and Me - Gabriella\
  8. Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts
  9. If We Were a Movie - Hannah Montana
  10. Part of Your World - Jessica Simpson
  11. Bop to the Top - Sharpay & Ryan
  12. I Learned From You - Miley Cyrus & Billy Ray Cyrus
  13. Status Quo - High School Musical
  14. Rush - Barbie Hit Mix
  15. Push It To The Limit - Corbin Bleu
  16. Pumpin’ Up The Party - Hannah Montana
  17. I Won’t Stay - The Cheetah Girls
  18. Go Figure - Everlife
  19. Jump to the Rhythm - Jordan Pruitt
  20. It’s the Way You Make Me Feel - Steps

4th Birthday (we skipped for some reason)

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3rd Birthday

  1. Under the Sea - Samuel Wright
  2. Kiss the Girl - Samuel Wright
  3. Part of Your World - Jodi Benson
  4. I Won’t Say (I’m in Love) - The Cheetah Girls
  5. Ready or Not - Hi-5
  6. ABC - Rhythm ‘N Kids
  7. Accidentally in Love - Counting Crows
  8. Belle - Paige O’Hara
  9. Pig On Her Head - Laurie Berkner
  10. A Whole New World - Jessica Simpson
  11. Five Senses - Hi-5
  12. Amazing - Josh Kelley
  13. I Just Can’t Wait to Be King - Lion King
  14. Whistle While You Work - Snow White
  15. Ten Minutes Ago - Stuart Damon
  16. Space Friends - Hi-5
  17. Two Princes - Spin Doctors
  18. Shiny Happy People/Furry Happy Monsters - R.E.M.
  19. North South East & West - Hi-5
  20. Slide (Pride) - Goo Goo Dolls
  21. Circle of Life - Disney Channel Circle of Stars

My 2014 Useless Technology Holiday Wish List

It’s too late for 2013, so I’m starting my wish list for things to be developed in technology for next Christmas, a year early. We’ve had many interesting innovations sprout up in recent years, but these are the ones that I think can really hit the mainstream.

So here’s my 2014 Technology Holiday Wish List:

Resizable iPads - I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had a 5.43” tablet to take with me… the Mini is too small, and the iPad Air is too big. So, how about a resizable iPad? Apple can do a cross licensing deal with Mr. Whoopee from the Tennessee Tuxedo cartoon (inventor of the 3D BB for those of you who have no idea who he is), for a line of resizable iPads! Big screen, small screen, we all scream for resizable screens!

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Surgically implantable earbuds - C’mon, let’s just skip the wires and ear molds - they never fit, and they never feel good. It’s time for surgical earbuds that you get permanently implanted in your neck besides your ears so you can listen to high quality music and stay connected with your phone at all times! Pair these up with Motorola’s tattoo microphones, and you’re good to go! Instead of Beats by Dr. Dre, they’ll be Beats by Dr. Kowalski.

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On-demand Microsoft Outlook alerts - I’m sure it’s happened to you too - right in the middle of your presentation, Microsoft Outlook decides to pop up an annoying email or calendar alert bubble for your whole audience to see. So instead of fumbling around to close the bubble that says “Reminder: pick up dog food” or "3:30p - Happy Hour with the guys", how about an on-demand feature to pop up something a little more interesting? Imagine during your preso, with a flick of your remote USB  pointer, you can have "10:00a - pack for Omaha flight for meeting with W.B." or "2:30p - meet Bono at S.H.C.C." pop up right on demand while you pretend not to notice!

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Crap as a Service - Pack rats around the world keep stuff that they think they may need someday, so they refuse to get rid of it. So, why not a cloud for your garage or attic? Got a useless thing you think you may need, and thinking of tucking it away in some lost corner of your garage? How about a service where some schlep shows up to take it away for you, and brings it back when you need it? Now, that’s CRaaS!

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100% off Snapchat coupons - Disappearing photos are cool, but imagine merchants who know when you’re passing by that can pop up a free ad, only to have it disappear after you’re at the register! 

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Twitter version of Men In Black memory eraser - Justine Sacco could have totally used this. 

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Fake credit card numbers issued by banks - Fake credit card numbers are secretly placed into data bases, so that when fraudsters try and use them, they automatically get 30 years in jail! Hey DirecTV used to offer free t-shirts to satellite pirates, so why not credit cards?

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Vapoorize spray - I know, it was just a movie, but what an awesome idea! If you own a dog, you would totally buy this.

 

Wifi Shot Spotter - Got sluggish Internet when you absolutely need it the most? How about an iPhone/Android app that can tell you who is hogging up all the bandwidth at Starbucks? Then you can accidentally spill your macchiato on his notebook!

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Reverse Yelp - Restauranteurs, Airlines and Businesses rate their patrons. If you’re a pain in the ass customer that whines about every little thing, we want to know about it. That allows the rest of us to choose who we sit next to. I can just point the app at someone, and their whine rating pops right up! Now that’s worth getting a Premier membership!

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Happy New Year to you, and may the technology road map bring you many useless gadgets that you just have to buy!

How A Lost Dog Found a Home From Google Maps

I love it when technology plays a role in everyday life.

Here’s a heartwarming story: a stray dog, homeless for 10 years, is spotted on Google Maps Street View (see picture) and subsequently found, rescued, and brought into a safe and happy home!

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This is a great video that chronicles the story of how Sonya, the Google Maps Dog was rescued:

Click here if you cannot see the video above

The organization that helped make it possible for Sonya is Hope for Paws. Well done!

Random tangent: I’ve long been a big fan of Google Maps Street View. If you are a geography nut, check this out: GeoGuessr is a geography game that randomly places you somewhere in the world, and you have to guess where you are based on what you see on Google Maps. Try not to get addicted!

Innovate, Then Dominate: Power To The Disruptors!

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Who says you can’t innovate in mature markets?

I love watching aggressive and innovative young companies forcing mature markets to shift. While big time behemoths suck the life out of their markets with stodgy or very calculated innovation, young upstarts find ways to blow open the markets by offering up creative and sometimes radical solutions to problems that their customers beckon for. Sometimes it’s not obvious when they start making noise, until it’s super obvious, when they’ve successfully altered the behavior of users and/or the supply chain permanently. And if they play their cards right, these upstarts can blow massive holes into markets and take the reigns of market leadership on their domain focus if they are successful.

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HINDSIGHT IS 20/20

Of course, history is filled with examples of companies who have successfully done this, and it’s really easy to identify them in hindsight: Apple, Netflix, Salesforce and Amazon are big time examples where this has occurred, and you wonder what the incumbents were thinking when they failed to thwart the momentum created by these renegade companies. Of course, today these guys are household names, and are, in fact, targets of their own by new age renegades. What was key to these winners is that they successfully and permanently changed the way that users and their suppliers behaved in the market.

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SO WHO ARE TODAY’S DISRUPTORS?

But which companies are in the midst of an industry disruption today, playing out their world domination strategy right in front of our eyes? Is there a new crop of players poised to create massive value for themselves if they can succeed in blowing open their target market, and perhaps permanently change the way we do things?

Well, it’s easy to point to Tesla, the poster child of disruption these days, and some may argue that the value has already been built into their stock (though the stock price keeps propelling forward - 2X since I last wrote about them 45 days ago!).

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They singlehandedly have taken the electric car market by storm, amidst the naysaying of their 100-year old incumbents (however, recently our friends at GM have decided to create a task force to study Tesla - how stodgy does THAT sound?), and in the process, may even impact tangential markets such as the car dealer industry or even the long-haul transportation space. I am a happy (and lucky) shareholder of their stock and plan to hang onto some of it as they continue to recharge the stodgy old car market.

But who else is in the midst of disrupting the world that they have targeted, and can they succeed in altering the behavior of their target audience?

Here are three interesting examples of companies making waves in very mature industries that aren’t necessarily household names just yet, although they have become quite valuable:

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GREEN MOUNTAIN COFFEE ROASTERS

Green Mountain, makers of the all-of-a-sudden everywhere single-cup coffee machine brand Keurig, has created a massive opportunity for themselves in the mega-billion dollar coffee market by specializing on a niche and capturing the hearts of java drinkers everywhere, one cup at a time.

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By controlling both the razors (Keurig machines) and razor blades (K-Cup single-serving coffee pods), Green Mountain captures the value both sides of the ecosystem, and has the potential to permanently change the way we make and consume coffee.

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And this is no small niche: rather than fight them head on, industry titan Starbucks has struck a commercial relationship with Green Mountain. Their recent commercial deal enables them to market Starbucks coffee in K-Cup pods, and their Keurig machines are now sold in Starbucks stores worldwide. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz recently glowed about its expanding relationship with Green Mountain (Starbucks announced it had already surpassed 1 billion K-Cup pod sales). Even with a recent spike in stock price, I think the market will wake up and smell this coffee maker and drive them to new heights as the single serving coffee (and tea!) industry becomes the every day way that we will all drink coffee, versus the painful grind-store-measure-brew-clean way that consume our mornings today. Curious as to how many different K-Cup varieties are there? Click here.

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GO PRO

Who woulda thunk that the age old camera industry would open up an opportunity to a new entrant that has literally taken this stodgy industry to new levels of adrenaline-filled excitement? We’ve seen disaster in the camera space from companies like Kodak, Cisco (Flip) and Sony, all of whom have struggled to keep pace with the lighting-fast innovation design cycles of the smart phone industry. And while everyone else in this industry seems content with coming out with more pixels, smaller frames, better lenses to keep us on the feature treadmill, little old Go Pro carved out a lifestyle brand for speed, snow, surf and sports adventurists with its seen-everywhere Go Pro HD camcorders.

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With a clever mount and killer product positioning, Go Pro has created a whole new category of wearable cameras, where they have become the dominant player in. Go Pro sold $500M worth of cameras in 2012, and is on pace to surpass $1B in 2013. In the U.S. alone, Go Pro represented 33% of all pocket camcorders shipped. Pretty sweet for a 10-year old private company based out of Half Moon Bay, CA. It’s now seeing competition from the likes of Sony, and perhaps will someday collide with the curious world of Glassholes, but I’m betting that the customers of this lifestyle will stick with their leader and continue to go Go Pro.

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SODASTREAM

The jury may still be out on this one, but SodaStream, makers of the make-your-own fizzy beverage market has behemoths wondering if their shelf space is at risk with this edgy company working its way into households around the world.

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A bit like Green Mountain, SodaStream controls both ends of their ecosystem: a fizzy beverage machine as well as CO2 cartridges and syrup flavoring to allows consumers to customize their drinks. While consumers are just starting to see the marketing blitz from these guys on the machines, the real jewel of their strategy has been in the licensing deals with drink providers such as Kraft Foods (Country Time Lemonade, Crystal Light Iced Tea, Kool-Aid), Campbell Foods (V-8 Splash, V-8 Fusion), with Ocean Spray and eBoost coming soon. I wonder if more mainstream beverages are coming in the near future. In any event, if SodaStream is right in that there is a thirst for an environmentally-friendly do-it-yourself solution for fizzy drinks, these guys could have a bubbly future in front of them. Note: SodaStream seems to have even caught the attention of Green Mountain!

Click here if you cannot see SodaStream video above

SO CAN THEY, WILL THEY?

Much like the companies that have already become winners in their respective markets, these companies could create outstanding value for themselves and their shareholders if they can succeed in permanently changing the way of their industry, and then dominate the space that they focus on.

As a result, I am taking an interest in these stocks for my personal portfolio. Of course, Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) has already seen an interesting spike in their stock price (can it possibly go higher?), but you can take a look at Green Mountain (NASDAQ: GMCR) and SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA) to see if they interest you. Go Pro is still a privately-held company with rumors of an IPO in the not-too-distant-future, but if you are interested in tracking their growth trajectory today, check out the company that provides their core video processor, Ambarella (NASDAQ: AMBA).

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All of these stocks have already seen pretty good upticks in 2013, so you might be wondering if the train has already left the station, but as we have seen with companies in the past, new market winners usually have a LOT of upside in them. If they can become lasting players, they could see stratospheric growth that will make today’s prices look like a bargain. I sure wish I acquired a bunch of stock in these guys 10 years ago!

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  • Apple (7/30/03: $10.54, split adjusted; 7/30/13: $453.32)
  • Netflix (7/31/03: $13.10, split adjusted; 7/30/13: $243.76)
  • Salesforce (7/31/04: $3.25 split adjusted; 7/30/13: $43.99)
  • Amazon (7/31/03: $41.64; 7/30/13: $302.41)

So is it too late? Watch this space:

  • Tesla (7/30/13: $131.74)
  • Green Mountain (7/30/13: $75.96)
  • SodaStream (7/30/13: $58.32)
  • Ambarella (7/30/13: $16.14) (Proxy for GoPro*)

* assumes that Ambarella continues to be the sole video processor to GoPro

Are there any other companies out there that are carving out big old slices of massive markets for themselves?  And who are the industry disruptors of tomorrow? Who knows if these will be tomorrow’s disruptors, but here are some that might be headline makers in the public market in the not too distant future! And of course, I could be totally wrong!

Disclaimer: I wouldn’t consider myself an expert stock picker by any stretch of the imagination - in fact, I’m more of a hack, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I simply like companies for how they position themselves in the market, and usually trust my gut if I think they can pull it off. As such, I do own shares of TSLA, GMCR, and AMBA.

What happens when you blow it all at once… happy Fourth of July!

click here if you cannot see video above

Tags: fireworks

A Surprise Visit by the Big Cheese

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Have you ever had a customer/client meeting, where the customer’s big cheese unexpectedly drops in on your meeting? You were prepared to have a standard update meeting with a group of people at the customer, when all of a sudden, the CEO or senior executive at the company parachutes in to sit in on the meeting. It happens frequently, and it can be the biggest blessing when it does, especially if you play it right.

First, think about why this has happened. Why would the senior executive take the time to jump into your meeting, unannounced? I’m sure she has a super busy schedule, so her attendance could have some meaning that you need to figure out. It’s usually for one of a couple of reasons:

  • your primary contact has asked that she attend to grease the skids down the road when seeking formal buy-in or approval
  • the senior exec has some sort of prior disposition (positive or negative) on your company or solution, and wants to learn more
  • the exec is one of those “management by walking around” types, and just decides to randomly drop into your meeting

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The 3rd bullet is pretty unlikely - i don’t think there are very many senior execs that have that kind of time, and if it is for this reason, you’ll be able to figure that out relatively quickly. More often than not, it’s one of the first two.

The most important thing you can do when this occurs is break from your standard script, and cater specifically to that executive. She’ll not likely stay for your entire meeting, and possibly will only be there for a few minutes, so you only have that small amount of time to make some sort of lasting impression on her before she darts off to her next meeting, or when the discussion starts to get too detailed for her to stay engaged. And more often than not, when in the room, she is likely going to command all of the attention in the room, so make sure someone on your side is very carefully observing her reactions to the conversation, and of course, listen carefully to what she says (those words will likely tell you if it’s 1 or 2 above). In fact, think about how a successful implementation will affect your main contact there - in many cases, this could be a career advancing opportunity for him (I’ve often found that project managers successfully advocating a substantial change in an approach have escalated quickly up the org chart).

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Back when I was in sales, one of the biggest sales partnerships I ever closed came as a result of a meeting with one of our huge customer candidates. It was a meeting where my rep brought us in to give a quick update demo for the engineering team that we had been working with for the better part of a year to engage with, when all of a sudden, the CEO of this $2B company drops in. He didn’t say much except introduce himself; the only thing he wanted to do in that 5 minutes was to see the demo that we were showing. We had already started the presentation when he walked in, but I knew who he was, and I decided to start over so that he could get quickly caught up  as to what we were showing. As he watched the demo, you could see eyes darting back and forth between their team, and then, he left the meeting, and that was it. We finished up our conversation with the team, and we were done. That meeting led to a partnership that had them becoming one of our company’s largest customers for several years. I don’t think we ever physically saw that CEO again in any of our subsequent meetings, but I made sure that my CEO (who was in the meeting) made enough of a connection with him so that he could establish a separate dialogue that paid huge dividends down the road when we were negotiating our contract.

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Again, this rarely occurs for no reason, so if the head honcho of your customer ever pays a surprise visit to your meeting, make sure to try and get the senior ranking person on your side establish a relationship with her, even if it is after the meeting. The key here is to establish a good enough connection so that if necessary down the road, she can be easily contacted by your senior exec without having it come off as you going above or around your main advocate, which can cause resentment and backlash. In fact, a successful engagement is likely to be as beneficial to your main advocate as it is to you and your company, especially when it has the attention of his upper management.

Tags: sales

Are You Long on Elon? I Think I’ve Seen This Movie Before…

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So now that Tesla has had its meteoric rise in stock price, is it time to jump ship, or are we watching only the beginning of the movie on one of the great companies in history? Time will only tell, but history shows that if they continue to break down the barriers that have thus far kept electric cars from becoming mainstream, Tesla could well be on its way to becoming one of the great companies of our lifetime.

Anytime an industry gets disrupted, in most cases you can always look back and point to a single company that gets credit for causing the disruption. That’s why they say that the breakout winner of any market typically captures 80% of that market’s value, while the rest get to compete for the remaining 20%.

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Think of Apple and the digital music industry - the iPod ignited an entirely new category of personal electronics, and at its peak, Apple commanded a whopping 92% market share in the MP3 player space. And that doesn’t even begin to highlight how much value Apple created for itself with the sales of downloadable music (25 billion downloads!). Apple singlehandedly took critics head-on by breaking down the barriers that had prevented the industry from going through the shift previously, even though the technology had already largely been available. 

Now, Apple tackled the industry pretty much on its own, as it created its own ecosystem of hardware, content and commerce platform, and obviously reaped the rewards from being successful at this, but sometimes companies can achieve massive success by enabling, but not owning the entire ecosystem.

Personally, I experienced this situation in the 90’s when I joined a small start-up called C-Cube Microsystems. I was fortunate to be the first salesperson hired at this company, back when we had a whopping $0 in revenue.

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C-Cube set out to transition three mega industries (consumer electronics, computers and communications: the three “C” industries behind the company name) to convert their media from analog format into digital. Because digital files in their raw state were too massive in size to transmit efficiently, doing so required the use of digital algorithms that would compress the media into a much smaller and usable format, while at the same time preserving the quality to satisfy consumers.

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In the early days, we faced significant competition from industry titans from each of the “C” industries: Intel, Philips, General Instrument, Scientific Atlanta and many more, who presented the market with proprietary algorithms to compress pictures and video so that they could be used in electronics products. It was an industry food fight to say the least, as each titan had so much to gain and so much to lose, depending on whose solution gained the most market traction. With nothing to lose, C-Cube pressed forward with a different approach. We set out to build component products that would embrace an open industry standard that we helped create, called MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group), which enabled anyone to build products to support it. Fortunately for us, MPEG gained industry-wide adoption across all three “C” categories, and for many years, we were the dominant supplier of MPEG chips for these markets. The company had a very successful run as a leading video semiconductor provider, and was eventually acquired by LSI Logic in 2001. Interestingly, most of the titans eventually gave up their proprietary efforts and joined the MPEG party, and even became our customers.  While the story isn’t nearly on the level of Apple, today, nearly every video created is based on the MPEG algorithm. If you’re interested, here’s a really nice summary of the C-Cube story - brings back great memories for me!

While it’s easy to point to examples of this in hindsight: it’s even more fascinating to witness this while it is unfolding in real-time. This has been an eventful month for Tesla, whose Model S sedans have captured the hearts of car enthusiasts, the media, and even Wall Street. Even though electric cars have already been introduced by some of Detroit’s biggest players, as well as other start-ups, it appears that Tesla is en route to becoming the catalyst that will finally make electric cars a viable alternative for the everyday consumer.

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This Slate article, "The Genius of Tesla" (FYI, this is a great read) and its rollout strategy is not only a fascinating chronicle of how Tesla is executing this, but it’s also eerily similar to Apple’s massive victory in music and C-Cube’s efforts in video compression. They are breaking down the barriers that have kept the industry from growing, anticipating what lies ahead by building a supportive ecosystem of partners, and pushing the envelope on technology to continue satisfying their early adopter customer base.

Now there are plenty of speed bumps on the way to victory, but the reward will be even more massive if they manage to pull it off.  If successful, you can also see why Tesla could be just at the beginning of their rise to prominence (which is why as a shareholder, I have been long on Tesla for more than 2 years).

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Click here for Tesla 2-year stock chart

I think Tesla could be a company for the ages, and that its comparison to Apple is warranted. Again, time will tell, but I’m not betting against Elon. In fact, check out this 2006 blog post by Elon Musk on his “secret” master plan for Tesla - he’s pretty much on target, 7 years later - let’s see what he has in store for us in the rest of this movie!

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Look at that “S” Car go!

Penney Wise, or Sound Foolish?

You probably heard recently that longtime retailer JC Penney bailed on their image makeover strategy by canning its newly-appointed CEO and Apple retail guru Ron Johnson. One of his main efforts was to eliminate the concept of “discounts”, and instead focus on everyday low prices. I guess we can call it a failed one-year experiment.

Now, just a month later, JC Penney decides to issue a public apology in an effort to drive their customers back into their stores. Perhaps sensing an opportunity to put all of the blame on Johnson, here is their fluffy apology video - you decide if it’s effective:

Click here if you cannot see video above

Now, I haven’t been inside a JC Penney store in decades, so perhaps this video isn’t targeted at me, but I’m not sure who would resonate with this “apology”.

Obviously, customers that left prior to the Johnson CEO hire are already gone. Any shoppers they gained because of the makeover attempt are definitely not coming back, since JC Penney is apparently “apologizing for this” and going back to their old ways. The only base they’re attempting to lure back is the loyal fan base from the old days - aren’t they the ones who enjoyed getting good products at discount prices? Because of that, I’m not sure this piece that presumes its old customers will simply flock back is going to resonate, but that remains to be seen.

I think the PR folks from JC Penney should take a lesson from our old friend Howard Humphries, CEO of Schooner Tuna from the classic 80’s movie Mr. Mom.

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I couldn’t find the clip online, but here’s what Humphries had to offer his loyal tuna customers who experienced harsh times:

"All of us here at Schooner Tuna sympathize with all of you hit so hard by these trying economic times. In order to help you, we are reducing the price of Schooner Tuna by 50 cents a can. When this crisis is over, we will go back to our regular prices. Until then, remember, we’re all in this together. Schooner Tuna. The tuna with a heart."


Okay, that was cheesy. But my sense is that JC Penney can reengage with their traditional base by offering some serious incentive to get back into their stores. If image was the thing that got them into trouble in the first place, then let money talk and get ‘em back in to show them how genuinely serious you are about bringing back the good times. Offer up some great discounts to get them back in and see what you are all about, not some goopy video that doesn’t really sound like an apology.

By the way, you want to make an apology? Then make it sound like one.

Click here if you cannot see the video above.

No-No-No-No-YES!

Did you know that 80% of non-routine sales occurs after 5 follow-ups? This insightful read from Dynamic Business shows that far too often, sales people give up on customer opportunities way too early - in fact, 44% of sales people give up on opportunities after a single “no”.

Click here if you cannot see video above

The best way to get customers to a “yes” sooner is by getting them to do their homework before you even start your conversation with them. It’s the difference between selling and buying.

Which is why I’ve always loved this graphic.

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You read about my thoughts on buying versus selling here.

The 10 Stupidest Tech Products That I Know You Want to Buy!

I love tech gadgets probably more than most, but these below are a sign that we’ve literally fallen off the deep end. So while the Mayan prediction that the world has come to an end didn’t quite come true, here’s some evidence that we might actually be getting there. So presenting… the 10 Stupidest Tech Products That I Know You Want to Buy:

#1: The Umbrella Texter! 

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ROTFLMAO! It’s raining and I don’t care! I can still text!

2. The suitcase with a built in scooter so you can “OJ in style” through the airport!

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I would love to see one of these guys sporting through O’Hare - only one seat left at the airport bar - no problem! Wheeeeee!

3. iPhone hard to read in the sun? Not anymore!! 

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Bonus feature! You won’t see the strange looks from people, cuz you’ll be immersed in a Downton Abbey world of your own! By the way, does this hat make me look funny?

4. Stay focused with this multi-screen rearview mirror! 

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Better yet! Turn your rearview mirror into a multi-screen sports bar! Never miss a game - get ready for March Madness on Interstate 280!

5. It’s finally available! The Mars Rover back massager for those tough to get to spots!

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Watch it stick the landing! By the way, I have no idea where the remote control is in this picture…

6. No shoes? No tan? No problem! Get rid of that pesky golfer’s tan with this awesome tanning bed for feet only!

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And if you get too much “sun”, you can just pull up the white socks and hide ‘em!

7. Don’t text and drive! Instead, type a full 10-page memo and drive!

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Warning: Do not attempt to make any turns while typing

8. Heated USB kitty gloves for those cold days. 

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Do you have a funny feeling that someone is staring at you?

9. Family vacation? Scoot right through security by teaching your kids proper airport etiquette with a mini TSA station!

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Nude body scanner characters sold separately.

10. And of course last but not least….. iPad pants! 

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Not only functional, but you can be one of those cool sagging pants dudes!

So rush out and buy these now! Before the world ends!

Tags: gadgets

Jambox: Attack of the Clones!

I wrote in a post two years ago (“Jawbone Jambox: Speaker of the House”) after I bought a Jawbone Jambox, a hot Bluetooth speaker that I thought it would be the product to ignite a new consumer electronics product category: the Personal Speaker

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Based on what I saw at CES 2013 this week, I would say that it has come true, and if imitation is the greatest form of flattery, the Jambox should be feeling really flattered, as there were aisles and aisles of gadget companies from the U.S., China, Korea (Yes, every one of these guys were blasting Gangnam Style videos for their demos!), Europe and more, sporting their own version of a Jambox.

So here comes the Attack of the Jambox Clones! 

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So now that we expect to see these Jambox clones filling up our Amazon product pages soon, what the next gadget success story that will be duped? I’d say that the good people from Mophie have created something worth copying in their awesome JuicePack portable battery product. I mean literally.

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Tags: CES2013 Jambox

Wow, here’s someone with impeccable editing skills… a very cool montage of 300 movies from 2012. 

(wish I had seen at least 5 of them!)

click here if you cannot see the video above

Car Chase Scenes Never Go Out of Style

You gotta love a good car chase scene! This is one of the funner videos you’ll ever see: mesmerizing animation, great story & just a smidge over 3 minutes - awesome ending! More indication that great storytelling by filmmakers continuing to make its way into online videos - check it out!

Click here if you cannot see the video above

But is it the best car chase scene ever? No way…. this classic from "To Live & Die in L.A. is still the gold standard after 27 years - still haven’t seen anything rivaling this riveting 6 minutes ever! But if you watch the clip below: don’t think the fun ends at the train scene… it’s gets way better!

Click here if you cannot see the video above

(note: some minor amount of NSFW language in both clips)

Holy Guacamole, this is cool!

Sometimes you run across a video that is just mesmerizing… like this one! This is the latest stop-motion masterpiece from film maker PES, who also made the equally mind bending Western Spaghetti.

And here’s his YouTube page to see more.

click here if you cannot see video above

Behind Every Picture is a Story of a Thousand Words

Take a look at this picture. Apparently it is viewable on one of the many subway trains in New York City, and painted by well known artist Sophie Blackall (parents may recognize her work on Ivy & Bean book covers). It’s called Missed Connections.

Click here or on the image to enlarge (which will open in a new window)

New York subway riders probably spend at most a minute looking at it, and many perhaps never think of it as anything more than a drawing of people riding the subway and go about their day never thinking anything more about it.

Now watch this short video about the artist, and glean some insight as to the story behind the picture. It’s only a few minutes long.

Click here if you cannot see video above

The picture all of a sudden becomes a lot more interesting when you’re able to hear the story about the journey that led to the final piece. To read more about the artist and story of the picture, click here.

The Old Cardboard Box

This got me thinking about a personal experience last year at my 9-year old’s school. If you have an elementary school aged child, you probably have experienced a similar thing. Near the end of the year, your teacher sends home all of the artwork created by your child in a giant bag or box. You spend a few minutes oohing & ahhing at each piece as you flip through them, perhaps registering in your mind nothing more than “great job, kid”… especially if you have dozens and dozens of these art projects to sift through (and please tell me that I’m human by agreeing that while you’re plowing your way through them, you’re thinking to yourself, “Holy crap, what are we going to do with all this stuff at home???”).

Just as with the subway picture above, I didn’t spend more than a moment on each piece, as I was only looking at the final result, and not paying attention to the journey that led to the creation of any particular piece.

The Journey Versus the Destination

Last year I was volunteering in my daughter’s art class, where I was there to simply help the art teacher in any way possible: help kids cut different types of fabric, thread yarn through a needle, or just clean up after they’re done, so that the next class can be ready to go with a clean room.

On this particular day, the art teacher had the kids working on a project where she asked the kids to make foam animals. Kids were given scrap pieces of packing foam, and they were to cut out shapes and hot glue them together to make an animal. They could create any type of animal, real or made up, the only rule was that your creation had to include 4 legs and a body. That’s it.

She started the project by making a sample animal so that the kids could see how it was done, but other than that, there were no rules. As the kids started working away at their animals, the teacher told me that this particular art project was specifically designed to help develop the children’s executorial skills. With only one simple rule to adhere to, the kids had free reign to make decisions throughout their project that apparently were similar to those of a business executive: working with a limited set of supplies and materials, making a creature too tall would cause it to be too wobbly to stand up, while making an animal such as an elephant or bear required that a child recreate in foam what they have seen a million times in pictures or at the zoo. At the conclusion of the project, the kids displayed their final creations on a table where the art teacher made comments about each one. I was fascinated that there were no two creations that were alike: some had created elephants or bears, and some had created made-up animals that were super tall with wiry legs, while others made boxy robots that looked like they came from a sci-fi movie.

I am sure that when parents sifted through that art pile at the end of the year, that the foam animal got perhaps a minute of attention. And it might have found the round file when it made its way home. But the cool thing about it was that there was a real purpose for the project, and the art teacher planned that project with that in mind.  And that’s the wonderful thing about art: the beauty in art is as much about the journey as it is about the final piece.

So the next time you are looking at an art project that your kid brings home, try to build a complete picture in your mind by getting a sense of why the art project was assigned, and what was your child thinking about when they made it. It would be great if we could see a slick video like the one above about Sophie Blackall to help us understand it, but a simple narrative from your child about the journey of the project will tell you everything you need to know about the piece, which might cause you to think differently about the other stuff in that cardboard box.

Note: I was inspired to write this piece because I am so grateful that my kids’ school district employs accredited art teachers (as well as science, music, phys ed and library) to instruct our children (through the amazing funding support of our local families and community via our District Foundation). It’s sometime easy to cast aside the importance of art when you compare it to other important subjects such as math or English, but you might not truly appreciate what you have until you no longer have it. So support art and music in your schools!