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  1. Episode 2: Smart Bear Live! by @ASmartBear

    It’s “Loveline for startups,” if you like those kinds of phrases. Introduced a month ago as an event in Austin, this time we moved this live audio advice column to the web, taking phone calls from startups around the country.My co-hosts were Bob Walsh and Patrick Foley, hosts of the well-known Startup Success Podcast. It was awesome having podcasting experts on board, especially Patrick who was on-site with me at Cospace in Austin, interrupting a vacation with his family to drag over $1000 worth of audio equipment to make sure we got a high-quality recording.You can listen by subscribing to my podcast on iTunes, or it’s enclosed in this blog’s RSS feed, or you can just download the mp3.Why listen? Especially if you don’t normally listen to podcasts? Because then you’d miss out on:Whether it makes sense to give away a product to consumers as a sales path to a paid professional/enterprise product.Why even if someone gave you money for your platform, you still might not have a business model.How changing your tagline completely transforms how someone perceives your company, and therefore whether they might be interested in your product.What a hardware company needs to do in the next three months in order to raise a Series A.Three specific things a small company should do to make a newsletter effective (or possibly not waste time with one at all).Here are the companies who called in:Matt Spradley (@mattspradley) from VignatureSean Tierney (@scrollinondubs) from Scratch AudioSeth Samuels (@theConverati) from ConveratiCarrie Requist (@uGrokIt) from uGrokItVadim Kleyzit (@kleyzit) from StresStimulusSergey (@usabiliTEST) from usabiliTESTPlus, if you have feedback and advice for the companies on the call, or feedback for me about the show itself, please leave a note in the comments!TranscriptTranscription services provided by:Patrick: Welcome everyone to Smart Bear Live. We have Jason Cohen on the phone.Jason: Yeah. In fact, in person, right next to Patrick. Welcome to the second edition of Smart Bear Live. The first one we did live in front of 70 people. This time we’re doing a call-in show, which is kind of how I want it to be anyway, reach more people. Thanks for dialing in.The co-hosts today are Patrick Foley and Bob Walsh who run the start up success podcast and Bob blogs over at 47 Hats. A lot of you know him from there, what’s the name of your blog, Patrick?Patrick: Patrickfoley.com.Jason: See, that’s easy. Patrick’s got all of those crazy, ganglia, audio equipment here, which is awesome, I feel kind of pampered and spoiled, it’s pretty neat. He’s also going to be manning the chat client there on the dial-in and organizing who asks the questions, which I have not seen yet neither has Bob, for the most part. I think we should just dive in. You can visit at our various sites if you don’t know who anybody is and we should just get started. This is by the way, like love line for start ups if you haven’t seen us before.Patrick: Nice. All right. We’re going to start today with Matt Bradley an East Texas, boy, how ya doing today Matt?Matt: All right, how about y’all?Patrick: Cool.Jason: So, Matt, what’s the name of your company, just the name of the company?Matt: Vignature.Jason: Vignature. Yes, well if I had to guess what that was, Vignature, it sounds like a signature, so maybe it’s an identifying thing of some kind. Vig, vig, video, video signature?Matt: Exactly.Jason: You weren’t supposed to tell me, good we can stop. It’s video signature, what does that mean? Tell me what that means?Matt: OK. What we provide is basically an image based electronic signature so you have irrefutable proof of the signer.Jason: OK.Matt: When you sign a document you can either sign it with your mobile phone using your webcam or using your webcam it takes an image of you as a signer as you click to sign.Jason: That’s really nice, in fact it’s better than a signature sometimes if you have their face. That sounds great. So what’s your question today?Matt: We have a consumer product and a business focus product. They both use the photographic, use the camera technology to take a photo of the signer in real time. The consumer product is a subset as far as the infrastructure it utilizes of the business product, but we view it as a, and we also don’t plan on making much revenue …Jason: Let me interrupt you for a second, what’s the question first?Matt: OK. The question is should we even consider marketing and selling the consumer product when we primarily want to get revenue from the business product?Jason: Why would you? If you want to get revenue from the business side, why would you not just focus on getting revenue?Matt: Because the consumer product is a subset technically of our business product so it doesn’t require anymore effort on the technology side, but it obviously requires a different marketing approach than the business side.Jason: Wait a minute. Usually you spend marketing dollars so you can make money. On the business side, obviously you can do that. Let’s assume that technical challenges for the consumer side is zero, like you said it’s a subset. But building the company manning the technical side is usually not even the problem anyway even if you haven’t built this yet, right?Matt: Yeah.Jason: So, you’re going to spend marketing dollars to get to people who are not going to give you money. Tell me why that’s a good idea?Matt: Because we actually also view it as a marketing expense because the consumer traffic will drive interest in our business product.Jason: You have a consumer product today or you don’t?Matt: Yes, we do and people actually love it. You can download it on the iPhone or Android app and we’ve already seen interest in a specific business verticals for consumers who have used the app to sign documents and send them back to businesses.Jason: So how many of those people who are using the consumer version today, how many to date, have actually moved up and bought the product, because they moved then to the professional edition?Matt: Zero because we haven’t currently started selling the business product yet.Jason: So how do you know that you can make money on the business product?Matt: Because we’ve talked to businesses they’re willing to use it. We already have businesses using it we can’t, from our MVP strategy, we don’t even have a way to charge for the product yet.Jason: OK. My feeling is that if it’s that valuable, then someone should pay for this. This is a really obvious app to pay for. So how does it work. They’re going to pay $5.00 in the app store? They have to have an account with you? What’s your concept of how they’re going to give you money?Matt: On the consumer side it’s free and the application on the phone is always free but on the business side through our back-end as far as the features we’re adding the portal to support storing the documents and accessing the documents in the future, that’s what we’re charging for, it’s a monthly subscription fee.Jason: OK. So the consumer’s don’t need to keep track of their signed documents, so they don’t want to use it or what?Matt: They’re not right now, exactly. If they did, they would have to upgrade to the premium model.Jason: This doesn’t really sound like consumer and business to me, actually. It just sort of sounds like, there’s a lot of people who need to sign documents, probably everybody.Matt: Yes.Jason: Most people who would even think that they need to take a picture and get some kind of proof of it, that’s not a normal consumer. Normally you just sign it and there’s already apps, by the way, where you can just digitally sign it or drag your finger around the screen, that all exists. And actually a lot of those are free or it’s a one time app purchase. I’m not saying you can’t compete against them, I’ve seen that already, so what. So you have this more interesting back end way to make money, but the average person definitely does not need this, right? I mean most people do not think about this.Matt: That’s one of the reasons why I’m calling. Originally we basically developed the technology because of the fact that it’s an irrefutable signature and there’s potential and there’s a lot of interest in government sectors, financial sectors, insurance sector, but it turns out that the mobile application was so easy to use, it’s actually easier than the scripted signature methods on the capacitive touch screen, because all you do is tap and it takes your picture.Jason: Right.Matt: Because of that and because it was so easy, and the uptake was so easy, we just said ‘Why not?’, because once again it’s a subset and then when a business gets a document signed by one of these individuals, they’re curious and they go visit our website.Jason: Yeah, are their lawyers OK with that, when a document comes back with a face and no signature?Matt: We haven’t had a single signature questioned yet.Jason: And how many signatures have gone through?Matt: Several thousand.Jason: Oh, that’s greatPatrick: So you’re saying there’s a viral nature, too.Matt: Yeah, that’s kind of the whole idea, well from the consumer perspective we can see people assuring and then it drives interest on the business side and once again, the way we found out there was interest, one particular market that we’ve seen interest is reverse mortgages, because people are concerned with fraud and those signatures. We would have never found that out without the consumer product.Jason: Well here’s what it sounds like to me. I think using the words ‘consumer’ and ‘business’ may be artificially segmenting this stuff out. It certainly threw me for a loop because it seems to me like the average Joe just doesn’t care. So maybe it’s not a good idea to draw the line between consumer and business and say that that’s some kind of important thing, maybe instead the way to think about this is, there’s this free app you can use it by itself and it’s viral because obviously there’s always two people involved in a transaction, maybe more than two. That’s great, you have this thing that doesn’t cost you much to support. Even people who sign stuff all the time are not gonna be throwing gigabytes of stuff through your system everyday, so it’s gonna scale very easily with a lot of free users.Then you have this back end, as you said, you don’t have to say business, right, and why should you. What if it’s an angel investor who just wants to keep all this stuff online. Is he a business? Why even bother trying to say that he is or isn’t part of some segment. So just say there’s this great free app that just does it, and then if you want a system of record and it’s secure and you want to be able to look through it, then there’s other things, like some of these things might expire after a year, maybe it could give you an email telling you, ‘Here are the things that are expiring in the next quarter.’ That would be kind of usual to have. Not an MVP, right, but you can see how that more sophisticated back-end could start adding value over time to people who care about all those documents.I wouldn’t make that separation, instead I would just say ‘It’s this amazing free app for signing anything that happens to be faster and more secure than a signature, how cool is that? It’s free, so there’s no reason not to use it, and by the way if your getting these there’s this back end.’ And by the way, you should also be pushing this back end. If I use this app, I should have to put in my e-mail address, and then you can do things like e- mail me a PDF that’s like a receipt almost that this happened.Matt: We are currently doing that.Jason: Right, so now you have this big email list that’s oped in, obviously. Which means you can use it to say, ‘Hey, you have all these documents’, you know how many documents they signed so you can say, ‘Look, we know you have 13 PDFs kinda floating around you email, for only, I don’t know what it’s gonna cost, but at your size for only $20 a month, we’ll manage that for you and we can tell you when anniversaries of those signatures are coming up, that sort of thing.’ So, I can tell you, a really obvious use for this would be NDAs. The thing about NDAs is they all expire.Matt: Actually, we have a lot of NDAs that go through. We have the documents, not only do we encrypt the documents but we have the names of the documents that go through our system.Jason: Yeah, an NDA expires and usually it’s on a year style boundary, so best if you knew when that was, but what would be perfectly fine is if you told me, ‘Hey, an anniversary of a signature of this document is coming up.’ Because things that expire generally do so in units of years, and so that’s actually really nice to know when I can kind of shred this thing and it’s no longer there. That would be a service, and this is an excuse now, to e-mail everybody and tell them about this, ‘And by the way, if you paid money we would be doing this all the time.’ and so forth and so rather than saying, ‘consumer with fewer features in business’, I would say it completely differently and just say there’s a free component which is usable by itself and there’s a for money component that adds value, and not use those words.Matt: OK. Because you know that’s really how we differentiate it. We actually call it the recipient product on our end, but we are searching for a better language as far as how to describe our product. If you don’t mind me extending a little bit into the question, like I told you we’ve had a lot of interest in the enterprise market. But those are long drawn out processes. A lot of potential in particular with a large consumer product company. Should we continue to focus on this consumer side or the free component when we have these big enterprise deals we are trying to negotiate?Jason: Well, any of these deals are going to take forever to close.Matt: Yes, exactly.Jason: And then there is going to be some development. And that is going to drag out for some reason. And then they are going to want to pilot it. And all that stuff is fine, because probably just one of those could make the whole company I am guessing. So that’s fine. It also cannot be your primary strategy. It’s just going to take too long and it’s not in your control and so forth. And so I would pursue those and think of them as second priority.The first priority is you have to get control over your own business. I mean that’s already difficult because you can’t control what other people do. But to the extent that you can control the growth and usage of your product. Of course that’s what you have to do is get your arms around that. So one of the things I would challenge you with is, what is like the most important driver for this business. Is it the number of transactions? Is it the number of people who are using this app? Is it just the number of people who have it installed? Is it the number of e-mails that you have because of the app? I think you could make a pretty good case for any of those actually, like all those are rational. I would sit down and ask like, what of that is really going to drive to revenue.So in other words, having fewer people who use it more than once a month probably drives to revenue more than just having tons of people that barely use it. Because if you barely use it it’s cool, and there is some value and I agree with you with that, and that’s neat. But that’s not the best driver. But you may argue and say, ‘no, no, no, the more e-mails we have, we can just continue telling about cool stuff, we’ll learn more and we’ll come out with the new product and we can e-mail it. No, the e-mails are key’, you might argue, and that’s a fine argument, too. But I would have that debate internally, decide, and then let that drive what you do as far as this product is concerned. What you call it, how you promote it and so forth. And even which features you decide to put in the free side or not. Because obviously you want to select the features that will grow that one number that’s important to you.Matt: That makes a lot of sense. I actually feel pretty good about it. We’re pretty on track with the stuff you said, but then you definitely helped.Patrick: Good, well thanks for calling in Matt. I appreciate your time.Matt: Well, thank you guys.Patrick: And, certainly know that I am cheering for you. Take care.Matt: Alright.Patrick: Alright, next up. Actually, before I introduce you, there is a little format that Jason does. I’m going to warn people. Jason does not know anything about the companies. I offered to brief him on some of these companies, he said, ‘No, no, no, it’s more fun if I don’t know.’ So, Jason is going to ask for your company name and he’s going to try to figure out what you do from the company name. So play along with that if you don’t mind. So next up we have Sean Tierney from Scratch Audio. Sean, are you there?Sean: Yeah, what’s up guys?Patrick: Awesome, how are you doing, Sean?Patrick: Good.Jason: That is a cool name, Scratch Audio.Sean: Thanks. What do you think we do?Jason: Yeah. I don’t know. When I think of Scratchy Audio I think of LPs. They can have scratchy, on the other hand you kind of what them to. And it’s like some ineffable thing that’s missing now, I guess maybe it’s effable, it’s the scratchy part. So I think Scratch Audio is trying to make the sort of cold, digital sounding audio sound more warm and feel more like an LP?Sean: Interesting guess, not anywhere near it. I guess the etymology of the name is more, think of it like a post it note and basically the ability to take an audio segment and share it and collaborate on it and post it. Kinda like the way Google docs lets you do with documents, only an audio track.Jason: Cool. OK. And what’s your question today?Sean: I don’t actually have a specific question as much as, Patrick invited me on and he’s seen what we do, he’s played with the demo, and he just thought you know sharing what we do and maybe getting a sanity check on the approach that we’ve taken would be interesting.Jason: The approach to the business model or the product or what?Sean: Yeah, so, it’s …Jason: Which one?Sean: The business model. We’ve basically made the technology, we did the mistake that they tell you never to do which is to make a cool technology without thinking about the business problem you are solving. So we are kind of retrofitting the business model on top of it now that we have this killer technology.Jason: So what is the current theory of the business model?Sean: So it’s two front. We have the technology, we’re actually post- revenue now. We got our first revenue last week via a licensing deal on a company out of LA that already has an existing business and they saw our technology is being able to increase sign-ups, reduce overhead, all that.Jason: Is licensing what you expect your business model to be?Sean: I see that being part of it, yes. I see there being, basically like a platform play with the technology, but then also we have an idea around, basically becoming a customer of our own platform, and we’ve built this thing called Mix Fork which is like the first application built on the platform.Jason: Who said they were going to buy a Mix Fork?Sean: Well, Mix Fork is like a, it’s a service targeted towards bands, basically lets people…Jason: OK. So which bands said that they were going to buy Mix Fork?Sean: Which bands said they were going to buy it. I mean we’re working with one band right now, nobody said they are going to buy it. We’re about a month…Jason: So, in other words, you’re making the same mistake again, right?Sean: Sure.Jason: Right? You built a platform, oh yeah, I forgot, I should find out who wants the platform. Well, we’re not sure but maybe someone does so we’ll go poke around and then you decided, OK. I’m going to build an app on the platform. But, nobody wants the app either, yet, right? Or at least you’re not asking people if they do.Sean: No, we are.Jason: You are? But no one said they wanted to pay for it?Sean: No, no, no. We’re very early in the process of testing all this stuff, so I would say we haven’t confirmed or refuted whether people want this yet. The thinking is that bands, it’s very difficult to monetize music right now, just selling music and rising above the noise, is just hard. The thinking is that we can enable bands to expose the raw audio stems, let their fans personalize it and make their own mix, and they’re going to be much more inclined to buy that personalized mix.Jason: Why do you think that that’s true? What evidence do you have that bands want to do that and fans want to do that?Sean: I mean, it’s speculative. We talk to bands, they all seem to say, ‘Yes, it sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it.’ But obviously no one’s paid us yet. At the same time, we’re a month into it, so it’s too early to say.Jason: Why are you a month into it, though? Why build it at all until you have at least a dozen people who are going to pay for it? Why write any code when no one’s committed to buy it yet?Sean: There’s no code involved in Mix Fork. It’s literally using the exact same scratch audio technology and it’s just a way of packaging it and presenting it to people, so we haven’t invested a ton of time in that. I hope you don’t take that away from this.My question to you is, given the limited scope of what you know about what we do right now, and that we do have a customer who’s buying the platform, we have this theory about, very similar to the last guy with the signature technology, that this consumer side of it, having bands actually pushing it out there and getting their fans to use it could broaden the usage of it, and then that just gets a lot of eyeballs and opens up doors for the platform side. Does that seem like a viable strategy to you, or what would you do if you were in our boat?Jason: You can count on one finger, or one hand, maybe one finger even the companies who actually make a profit on API’s or platforms. It’s hard. Nobody wakes up in the morning going, ‘Man, I wish I had a platform. Man, I wish there was another API.’ It’s really hard to push it. People buy apps, not API’s, and you got no evidence that anybody wants to. It sounds good, of course if sounds good to me, too, but until people are opening up their wallets, it doesn’t count. Do you guys need to make money or is this a fun project?Sean: No, no, no. It’s clearly, this is a business. We do have a customer, we have Songs Ink in LA bought our technology to increase the sign-ups and engagement and whatnot with their users where we delivered it yesterday. We do have a customer for that. It’s clearly not going to be a huge market, and so in absence of having a very clearly defined market, the thinking is that we can use this technique of working with bands to just get out there, get usage of it and worse case, have a bunch of people using the system.Patrick: Jason, I remember on the last show, you were talking to a guy about the idea of building an asset that there are times that you can reasonably say, ‘Clearly I have an asset here, I haven’t yet figured out how to monetize it, but the asset itself seems worthwhile.’ How do you evaluate whether or not what you have built, so in this case, what Sean’s talking about, Sean, can you describe what the asset is that you have and that clearly has value even if you haven’t yet figured that out?Sean: The asset is, we essentially ported garage band to the web. We made a browser based multi-track recorder that has the desktop comparable experience. That’s the asset. It’s a Silverlight, it’s a whole stack. We negotiated our cost down to zero, we’re running it on the Azure platform. It’s Silverlight based. It works pretty well. Everyone that uses it likes it, it’s just it’s not clear yet how we’re going to be able to charge for it.Jason: So, let me put it a different way. Right now, nobody’s using Mix Fork because that formulation of this thing, that packaging, doesn’t exist yet. Fine. Let’s suppose 1,000 people are using it. Is that better? Are you making money? Is there some value to having 1,000 people use it instead of ten? What is the increased value of having 1,000 people using it instead of ten?Sean: Sure, at that point we’re either charging the bands to do it or another strategy. We had this whole charity strategy we outlined. Maybe we create it as a fund raising tool for charities, pair them up with the bands and take a cut of the revenue from that. There’s one hundred ways it could play out and we just don’t know at this point.Jason: Yes, it’s very hard to point to any companies making money doing something like that, and that’s the problem. Charities, number one, don’t have any money and bands don’t have any money. Very few bands make money. There’s a company I advise who does sell things to bands and it’s almost impossible to sell to them even though they have incredible competitive advantages.One guy is in a well-known band and has amazing connections. They talk to Justin Bieber’s agent, Lady GaGa’s agent, people like that. That’s how into that market they are. It’s absolutely competitive advantage and it’s still almost impossible to get anybody to move at all, much less pay money for stuff. In their case, they’re actually generating new revenue from the band so it’s easier to take a cut because they’re not charging the band. They’re generating new revenue and then, obviously, it’s easier to take a nice big piece because it’s, essentially, free money for the band. So, if you can find some way to do that, it sounds good.But, I guess, naively, it just seems like if the point is the fans can remix, well, they do that anyway. It’s easy to find remixes of songs. I get it that there’s the stems, I get all that. You say there’s a hundred ways to monetize it, but I don’t see easy paths to monetize it. There’s many ways and none of them are proven and it’s very hard to point to examples of companies that have proven any of those paths, especially with bands. There’s no prior art to point to and say, “See, a lot of people are making money doing this.” They’re not. You don’t have any evidence of your own in the business plan of people making money.What I would do is this: let’s say there are one hundred ways to make money. I don’t believe that, but let’s suppose there are. Pick one or two that are the best ones, the easiest ones, and try to see if you can do that. See if you can get bands to pay for this before it exists. I know that sounds really weird, but, actually …Sean: No, no. We’re on board with the whole lien. We’ve actually tested some subscription plans where we don’t even have the plans in place, but we’ve done multivariate and serve different plans and see who clicks through.Jason: That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean, someone wrote you a check even though it doesn’t exist yet.Sean: Is that ethical, do you think?Jason: Yes. Sure. Of course. Well, A, If they literally write you a check, don’t cash it. B, you can give them a refund if you want to. In fact, you could even decide later you’re going to do a beta program, you’re going to do it for free,then thank them for coming on board. You can refund that because it’s really a test to make sure they are actually engaged and not just telling you, ‘Yeah, I guess it’s cool’, which is what they’re doing. If I’m a band, why would I say no? I’m going to let my fans do stuff that’s cool. Why would I say no? Of course I’m going to say OK. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t prove anything. You haven’t learned anything about whether this is actually valuable to them or if they’re just saying ‘yes’ because, why wouldn’t they.As soon as you say, ‘Write me a check for fifty dollars, that’s it, just fifty bucks,’ that’s when you start finding out if they’re willing to pay even fifty dollars for it. That’s what I would say to do. Decide on a couple ideas for what the business model could be and then go actually get some money. I mean, little money, not a lot. Not a big licensing deal, just a little something so they’re putting their money where their mouth is.Sean: Sure.Jason: You say there’s one hundred ways and it’s easy. I’m telling you, there are not one hundred ways, it’s not easy and almost no one is able to do it. So, if you have no evidence of, at least, a particular way that some people are picking up on, then it’s really hard to believe.Sean: Cool. All right. Thanks for your advice.Jason: Good luck.Bob: Sean, are you still here? I just want to ask you one quick question. What if the band’s customers asked them for this service? Would they then listen?Sean: Yes, like asking your doctor for advice when you’re in pain.Bob: I think you need something, along the consumer side, that makes it really easy. When they pick a piece of music, they push a button and off goes an e-mail to that band saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans, but I can’t do X.’Sean: Yeah. That’s a really interesting idea.Bob: You need some demand somewhere. I can see the benefit, but you need some demand somewhere. Just wanted to throw that in.Sean: Yeah. That’s a really good suggestion.Jason: You know, Sean, let me also throw in something positive, since I just realized everything I did was taking a big dump on everything you said. Let me make this positive by throwing in another brainstorm. I really like what Bob said, in fact that’s what made me think of this. How can you make the band more money? If you could figure that out, you’re in. Because of course, every band wants to make more money. Every band wants to make more money. Kiss is really good at it all the way down to guys that are not very good at it, right?For example, one way a band makes money is that people subscribe to be in their fan club. That’s like annual or monthly money. That’s the best kind of money that you can possibly have. Plus it’s elite that you can do special things for them. Everything about a fan club is this really powerful mailing list and they’re paying for it and you know who you’re best fans are and you can do stuff for them. It’s the best thing.Patrick: They’re the ones who’d want to have a remake contest.Jason: Aha, see this is what I’m getting to. What if the deal is who wants to remix the stuff using the, as you say the stems, or whatever the right word is? It’s only available to people who are in the membership club and the results are only available to people who are in the membership club. Other people can buy the thing as a CD or you get it for free when you’re inside the membership club or whatever, I’m just brainstorming I don’t even know.What can you do to drive people to, for example, become a part of the fan club? That’s super-duper valuable. This is just an excuse to do something really awesome and that’s why they’re going to join then killer, right? That’s a great thing.Man 1: OK. Cool. All right. Keep working on it Sean, thanks. Bob, thanks for unmuting there, or I guess being unmuted. One little point I want to make there on something Jason was saying, there’s kind of the view of customer development with the idea of having a button, seeing if someone clicks on it without, and then when they click on it says, this isn’t implemented yet. That is one way. There is nothing wrong with that, but as Jason was saying, an arguably simpler form of customer development is just finding some customers, just find people who are willing to pay you money. You have to decide which ones appropriate for your situation.Jason: Just be clear, when I tell you, when I say things like, get people to give you money before you have a product that’s easy for me to say, right, because I’m not sitting there doing it? Except that’s exactly what I did at Word Press Engine. More than one of the companies at Capital Factory did that too and was getting, they had, one of them had over two dozen companies literally give them money before they had a product. It’s not in the abstract. You can do that when the product is really compelling and it really demonstrates that it’s compelling. OK. Let’s move on.Man 1: All right. The next person we’re going to go to here is the young guy named, Seth Samuels.Seth: Hey, How’s it going?Man 1: Good. How are you doing?Seth: Doing Great.Man 1: Why don’t you tell Jason what the name of your business is and see if Jason can figure out what it does just from the name.Seth: Sounds good. Thanks Jason for taking some time. The business is called Converati.Jason: Converati?Man 1: Converati.Jason: Converati?Seth: C-O-N-V-E-R-A-T-I.Jason: The Illuminati of, the conversational Illuminati. So that’s people who sit around in smoking jackets and suck on cigars. Here’s what we think about people who smoke cigars and actually my wife smokes cigars so you know, but I know she smokes cigars and she drinks whiskey and she has this really hard pallet, it’s really awesome. You go to a bar and she get’s like a Guinness and a whiskey and I get like a Margarita. Then again, she’s a chef and awesome.Anyway the thing about people who smoke cigars is they take a drag on it right, and the next thing is they turn their hand around and look at it. You got to look at the end, I don’t know why you got to take a drag and turn it around and look at that mother, right there. I don’t know what they’re looking for. Maybe if it’s still lit, I don’t know what’s going on but that’s part of the deal you’ve got to look at the thing.So anyway, the Converati sound like people who are expert conversationalists who sit around in smoking jackets and look at the butt of their cigars and swirl their brandy in the glass and have amazing conversations with French intellectuals. What is it really?Seth: Well, I didn’t have the French component normally added but otherwise I’d say that’s pretty spot on.Jason: You know why? Did you know the French, intellectuals were philosophers in France. They’re like rock stars, best selling novelists …Seth: Is that right?Jason: Oh, absolutely. There’s a woman there, what’s her name, Elizabeth, someone probably knows and will put it up on the chat, but I forgot who it is, she just came out with another book, she’s literally like one of the rock stars of the country and she’s literally a philosopher. So anyway go ahead, I’m sorry, I’m monopolizing all of your time. So, tell me again exactly what it is that you’re doing in a sentence or two, and then what your question is.Seth: Absolutely. Basically, it’s a great vehicle to connect people who have mutual interests, and that’s what we’re trying to do. My question is: I’m curious to hear what your perspective is on using mobile as an alternate approach to a broad problem that people have identified through customer discovery, what not. Specifically the broad problem is like I mentioned, trying to connect people who have shared interests but don’t yet know each other. They’re not friends on Facebook, but want to connect their conversation.Just to give you some context, we started out focusing on the web as the context that people could come together around, like a web page. We found that comment lists and forums, as well as e- mail threads, were not great for trying to have a back and forth discussion. To try and solve that, we built a browser extension, to have those user conversations take place right on the webpage. But there were some concerns about install friction and scalability. Obviously it’s tough to scale a business based on a browser extension alone.So we looked to mobile, since it’s more widely accepted that people will install stuff on a phone, but the premise felt different. The reason I’m calling in is that I”m curious about your perspective on how we can tell whether going after mobile is a complete pivot away from the initial problem, or an alternate approach, given that using a phone is is very different from using a computer, at least to look at web content and talk about it with people, and have a back and forth discussion about it.Jason: What I heard you say, maybe I got this wrong, is that you started on the web, and it didn’t really work, even though the web should be the most frictionless and obvious place to do this. Then you did a browser extension, but obviously it’s too hard to scale installs, and it gets complicated. It almost sounded like you moved to mobile because it was easier to get something installed, which is definitely not a good reason to switch a platform and go mobile. Besides, the web is the easiest thing, where there’s nothing installed an everyone has it, including on phones. I don’t see why going mobile automatically is better.I have two questions for you, one is about mobile. Why did you select other than the install thing? What is it about being mobile that’s actually important to your goal? The second thing is, you said your goal is to connect people with mutual interests. That’s what all of social media in the web is for. There are 1,000 sites that say, ‘Put in your twitter handle, I’ll tell you people you should follow and get to know,’ and ‘If you’re going to this conference, here’s how to get to know other people who have your interests,’ and, ‘You should read blogs,’ and all sorts of things, Facebook, and liking, and everything there is about connecting people with mutual interests.That can’t be the goal, that’s what the whole internet is doing. Surely you have some more specific thing you’re trying to do here, like actually make them meet, actually make them talk, force them to meet each other almost like a dating game but it’s not romantic, or something. You’ve got to help me out here and give me a goal that isn’t just the goal of everything.Seth: Sure. A specific example is, I went to a…Jason: Give me your goal that isn’t just connecting people with interests, because that’s not enough.Seth: The reason why we chose Converati as a name is that we felt that people who have shared interests, not just that they like something, but that they want to talk about it, whether it’s great food or a political issue, that conversation was the medium to do it. It just didn’t feel like there was an environment where you could have a group discussion with people, it was more like comments, one to many messages, Twitter, et cetera. You’re bringing up a good point, because connecting is very broad in and of itself.So the goal isn’t just to make connections for people, but to help people have an environment where they can actually have a discussion with folks they don’t necessarily know, are friends with, colleagues, or what have you.Jason: So it’s a forum.Seth: Sure.Jason: That’s what forums are. And there are already forums on every topic known to man. So what’s the difference between you and a forum?Seth: The setup of Converati is not just to have a public space. We call them campfires, or huddles. They’re to allow people to form specific discussion groups, or forums, as we’re calling them within that larger group. In a traditional forum, anyone can jump in, and you have a big problem with trolls. Otherwise forums would be great, but trolls are the primary problem, and they skew a lot of quality. We want people to have an environment where they are able to form smaller group discussion settings within the larger group, but still find people to include.Otherwise, e-mail would do that, but e-mail is only available to whoever it’s addressed to, and click ‘reply all’ upon responding to the group. Something where folks can have that quality discussion, yet allow it to be open to others to join in. In our case, we’re using a request-based system to do that. So if you’re not in a discussion, then you would request to do so. Instead, the premise is forming new small discussion huddles within a larger, crowded room, if you will.Jason: And is this discussion based on lots of topics, or just one topic?Seth: Given that we built the extension, we, in turn, didn’t focus on a specific topic. That’s one thought, just to be more focused. For example, politics is a great place where we could have focus, just because there’s a lot of back and forth debate. We weren’t necessarily sure how to focus in just on that, so right now it’s on any topic.Jason: So is this sort of like Quora, but for different topics, because Quora seems like a thing where there’s a discussion group, there’s a little mini-topic, and they control the quality. There aren’t a lot of trolls on Quora. It’s pretty nice. Or Stack Exchange isn’t really a discussion. That’s like another step away from what you’re talking about. So that doesn’t seem right. But maybe Quora is a little bit, although I guess it’s still not a discussion. It’s still a one to many in an order, but it’s still not really a discussion like you’re talking about. Is that right?Jason: I would agree. I would agree that Quora is interesting because it has that quality, but it’s still one-to-many.Seth: So first of all, don’t say this is connecting people with interests, because I think what you’re saying is really valuable. Not just allowing, but encouraging conversations at the scale and quality control in which you can actually have a discussion on something, where you get to find people, in the sense that it’s a larger forum, but then when you actually sit down and talk to people, it’s more like sitting down in a room and just talking to a number of people. It might be two, maybe ten, probably not much more than that, and to be able to form and re-form these groups like you might at a party.Maybe a good analogy would be, what’s the best cocktail party you’ve ever been to? You mill around the room, everyone in the room is awesome, and you form and re-form these groups that are small enough that you can actually have a real conversation. And the people in those conversations are intelligent enough and sensible enough and are not trolls so that you actually have something intelligent and something interesting happens there, and then you dissolve and re-form into other things.That analogy, and doing that on the web, and getting rid of the troll problem, etc., that sounds really valuable, but I wouldn’t describe that as connecting people with mutual interests, right? That’s so broad. Is that right? Is that more what you’re talking about?Seth: Yes, so essentially it’s digesting a large room to form that conversation group, I suppose.Jason: OK, so let’s get back to the mobile question. You said we made a mobile app. So why would you make a mobile app? This doesn’t sound like mobile app at all. When I want to communicate to people a lot, I want to be able type, probably on a keyboard. I don’t know why I’d do this on the go, per se. I don’t get it. Why mobile?Seth: We were, someone said, why don’t you look into mobile? I think you answered that partly, which is you don’t do it just to have an easier install, but that was one of the reasons, honestly …Jason: No, no, because everyone with a mobile app has a web browser, and you already have this on the web, and the web is the easiest no-install thing. And it works on mobile and desktop. You already have the obvious platform for this, right?Not that you couldn’t make an amazing rich mobile app to complement it, I get that, but that’s not where you are right now. You don’t have, like, an amazing thriving thing where everyone understands it and it’s super-popular and now you’re just going to enhance it with an amazing native mobile app. That’s not what’s happening, right? So I don’t know why you’re bothering.I would make it mobile-friendly. I would make it so if I go there on an iPhone, it’s very usable, of course, right? Because you don’t want to cut out mobile, but I don’t understand how this is a mobile play, per se. It sounds like that’s not your fundamental issue. Your issue is going to be to get a critical mass on some general topic like politics so you can form and re- form these groups and have enough people there where that’s a good thing, right? Is that not the problem?Seth: So would you have a focused website, just like Quora’s approach, where they have the questions and all that exists within Quora’s walled garden? The reason I’m asking that is because we felt like the things that people would want to talk about existed outside of converati.com. They existed on the web page they’re reading when they get up in the morning, anyway. So that’s why we said, oh, let’s just build an extension so they can have the discussion right there. But there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t work well with the extension.Jason: Well, if we got your new analogy of the amazing cocktail party, then no, it doesn’t make sense for it to be around a blog post. A blog post may kick it off, but it doesn’t make sense that I would go to a blog post, then what? Because there’s some real timeness here. Not super real time, not like Twitter …Seth: Quasi-real time.Jason: Quasi, like there’s some decay, like if people haven’t talked for three months, because it’s high value. I don’t want to end up, as a user of this, I don’t want to end up with a thousand conversations which all sort of… every once in a while someone posts something, even if it’s good, because that’s not, I think, the value that you’re bringing. Would you agree with that?Seth: Yeah, I would.Jason: So even more so then, it doesn’t make sense to be on some blog post someone might read two years later. Right, I think you need to control that experience a little more.Seth: Actually I think there is something interesting in that, however, where people find things at different points in time. If you start a conversation, you start it up with three people.Jason: That I like. Using a thing that I just read to strike a conversation sounds brilliant. Right? Piece of news, an insightful blog post, an inspired blog post, something you disagree with. Using that as a tickler as the sand in the oyster, right, that’s going to make the pearl. That makes a ton of sense. I’m not sure it makes sense to have the conversation there.Seth: Interesting. See that’s what I’m interested in. Like, OK, so then what happens when you read it? People do have the conversation there in the form of a comment list, but no one reads them because they are full of junk. So how do you cross the chasm, if you will, to go from reading to where the conversation is and will people get lost along the way?Bob: Seth, I think you’re missing two points. First off, normal people who are doing their average sort of thing, don’t talk to strangers. There’s no real incentive. When an event happens, be it Columbine, University of Virginia, Mumbai, earthquake when you didn’t expect one, whatever. That’s when they want to talk to strangers.So what if you had on the mobile side a way that you could put in things you’re interested in and if something, let’s say close to you geographically or close to you emotionally, happens, you could just push a button on this app and get connected to a trusted list of people who also want to talk. The point here is you gotta get rid of the trolls, but you gotta have some sort of emotional energy going on to get people kicked into talking to strangers.Seth: You bring up an interesting point. Jason, I wanted to share this as well. One of the other reasons for mobile is, Bob you’re exactly right. It’s events that often bring people together. So one of the assets that we saw in mobile is that it can utilize geo- location, but that’s very different than web location, which is some webpage. So I would agree that geo-location is interesting because if you’re at a conference, let’s say. You go, you’re excited to hear what’s going on, but you don’t know all the people around you.I was just at DreamCourse in San Francisco yesterday and that’s exactly what happened. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that would love to have that discussion. The most we do right now is we use a twitter hash tag, but again, these are one to many replies. They are very asynchronous. So that would be a strong point on the mobile side, but again a little different than what Jason was talking about, but I’m glad you brought that up, Bob, because that is the primary reason why, other than the easy install, that we’ve really looked to mobile as an interesting path to take.Jason: I get the whole geo thing, except if you don’t have a specific use case for it in mind, then you’re just saying something that a lot of people are saying today, right? If, yes you have geo, but you don’t know what you’re going to do with it, are you actually going to connect people in real-time? Are you going to say ,’This guy’s in the same coffee shop as you, you should go talk to him,’ because if so that actually sounds like it could be awesome. But if it’s sort of just like, ‘Hey there’s geo, maybe someday we could something.’ Why are you bothering? You have a very difficult path. You have a networking problem. If you get to critical mass, good for you, but getting there is super hard and we’ve seen tons of these stack overflow knock-off kinds of companies. Dozens and dozens try and fail because they couldn’t get critical mass, not because their software was bad or they didn’t have good ideas, but it’s really hard to get critical mass.So to me, if I’m thinking, ‘How do you focus your energy on something useful to you?’ That is your primary problem. That’s the thing to get over. Making the experience so amazing that it’s amazingly sticky is the thing you want to do. Secondly, make it viral after that. Once I’m stuck to it then it’s easy for me to drag in people that I feel should be part of the system. For example, stack overflow was sticky because of the rating thing. I guess Quora maybe is the same and also because it was an invite only thing to begin with. So it was a walled community. I was in there in that beta program, so I can tell you, super high quality, you wanted to be part of this, you wanted your rep to be high in this community because it was a group of people you respected and so forth. Like it had all these makings of exactly one of these rooms you’re talking about except maybe a little bigger. The kinds of things you’re talking about, high quality.Then of course they had to open up the gates and see how to manage that, you’ll have to do the same thing. Quora again the same thing. That’s already really difficult to pull off and get critical mass for. Maybe like gmail and these things, actually Stack Overflow was like this a well, where you have invites. As long as you have a small group of trusted people who are zealous about the platform, because it is good, and then you give them this limited number of invites and as those people come in so long as their reputation stays high the original person gets more invites, because they’re inviting the people you want.In other words you can easily build in the thing that allows you to grow and keep the quality high, for at least a little while and get to that critical mass where you’re rocking and rolling and then you can start experimenting with wider things. So that’s just a whole long way to say that I think that kind of stuff is your main problem that’s going to be why you are successful or not.Unless you can, again you have this amazing theory of geo that’s like all different, then more power to you. But if not, you’ve gotta attack the main thing.Seth: Just on that point, are you convinced, at least from your perspective, that that sticky component is easier to create in the web setting, the Quora like setting, as opposed to the mobile geo setting? Just from the little that we’ve spoken about each.Jason: Well you haven’t yet told me why being mobile or being geo would be better or more sticky? So that means I don’t see it. Maybe there is reason. The other thing is I think being sticky is key. You want people who show up and do a conversation and come back and do more conversations. It’s so compelling that they would rather come back here and have the conversation than wherever else they might have that conversation or maybe not have it, right?Patrick: I want to get Jason’s perspective on one thing Seth. Full disclosure I know Seth, he’s a friend of mine. Went through West Michigan’s Incubator Program, I think it’s related to what we’re trying to do here. What intrigued me about Converati from the beginning is I worked for a company that I love, Microsoft. And it is impossible for me to engage people online in meaningful conversations. I mean it’s comically impossible. Go to ZDNet and look at the quality of conversation. And if Seth can solve that problem. I have to think that’s valuable to companies like Microsoft.So with that in mind, the problem of bringing civilized discourse to people who aren’t going to come to a Microsoft property necessarily, but might be a company like Microsoft or another big company who has issues with communication on the web, how would you think about that problem and approaching a business model that way?Jason: I think there’s at least two ways to do the business model here. There’s the obvious one which is advertising which I hate, but Quora and Stack Exchange are big enough to pull it off. I still hate it though. I don’t think it’s in general a great way. However, I do believe in the whole sponsorship thing. What would make sense, let’s say it was about start-ups, then it would make sense for example, for BizSpark to be the sole sponsor of the whole site. So there’s not ads everywhere and you’re not bothering everybody, but it just says, ‘Hey this is an awesome thing the reason it’s totally free is because Microsoft wants these conversations to happen because they’re awesome and because BizSpark really does want to promote start-ups.’ Which they do by the way. They do try to sponsor things like that because they do want start-ups to succeed and they do want you to buy into their program because it’s a great way to get a bunch of Microsoft stuff essentially for free. So that makes a lot of sense to me at least to bootstrap up the company, get enough revenue to run it. I think that kind of big sponsorship makes sense.Of course if you let them pollute things with inside the content, that’s going to ruin the whole thing especially when you’re too small and a little bit of that will poison the well and you’re all finished. So I don’t like that.Now that’s all one side of things. Another way is you could take the old, remember when AOL was the big spammy thing? It was the cheap way to get online. Maybe you don’t remember. And then there was Compuserve. It was AOL V. Compuserve. The deal was AOL was super cheap it kind of sucks and everybody is like a 13 year old or crazy pedophile and that’s the deal on AOL.Then there was Compuserve. Compuserve was expensive. I forget now what it was, but I want to say it was …Patrick: 12.99?Jason: No more. It was like 30, 40, maybe more. It was a lot more. So AOL was givin’ you essentially all free hours. But Compuserve was super expensive but as a result you had really high quality people. You didn’t have all those spams and trolls and things. And companies wanted to be there and sell their wares. It’s pre- qualified as people spent money and even spend money online in a world before online. So here was a place where they were charging people for entrance and that was the thing that kept the quality high.I think you can actually do that. I think if you said to people, ‘Look the internet is full of crap. We’re going to charge $20 a month to be in the walled garden. I know that sounds kind of weird, but everyone in here is gonna be pretty good.’ And it’s an interesting way to select people. Some people you would want in there won’t pay. I mean it’s all true, it’s a weird choice, but I just want to bring it up as a business model where you end up with real revenue, perhaps slower growth, but every single person who comes is automatically sticky, they’re spending money to be there. As long as you don’t screw this up they’re going to want to be in this kind of place, and you’re not dependent on sponsors, although I suppose you could take them. Although, at that point maybe you don’t want to, because I paid money, now I don’t want to see an ad, right? So I just want to throw that out there as a way to simultaneously develop revenue and keep the quality high.That, by the way, is how a lot of very high-quality walled communities work today. For example, I mentioned earlier that my wife was a chef. Early in her career, she was a personal chef, meaning she comes to your house and cooks. There’s an association called the American Personal Chef Association. It costs a lot of money. It’s like $600 a year. That’s a lot of money to be part of some association. What do you get? You get a big binder of stuff that tells you how to be a personal chef. But here’s the thing, you get access to the forums. Forums is where you actually get to ask questions. ‘Oh, this happened,’ or, ‘I need a recipe for that,’ or ‘This person’s allergic to onions. What the hell do I do?’ These are all literal things. I didn’t make these up. They were super valuable, and high-quality because it was a paid walled garden.Patrick: It’s the Angie’s List.Jason: Yeah. Angie’s List. So there are examples modern. You don’t have to go back to the ’90s to find these examples, either. That’s an interesting path that sort of achieves all of your goals at the same time, maybe.Seth: Yeah. There’s definitely some concerns around, just how it can grow. Obviously, you mentioned focus very early, and so I think charging for it wouldn’t be a bad strategy, either, in terms of obtaining focus on a really specific group, because if you say, or if one says, ‘I don’t want to charge because then no one will sign up’, well, I think there is an element of it where you don’t want everyone in the world signing up right away. You want to kind of control who gets in and things like that, and so it could be an interesting route. I hadn’t really thought of it ever, quite frankly, because it is pretty scary, but interesting to bring up.Patrick: And the nightclub can still let people in for free if they want to.Bob: And if you incrementally charge by idea, for instance New Zealand and J Query, then you can see where the interest is, and build those communities out.Patrick: Yeah. Awesome. Well, thanks, Seth.Seth: Well, thank you so much guys. I appreciate it again, Jason, and I look forward to seeing how this progresses.Patrick: Sweet. I appreciate you calling in. Let’s go to another caller here. I want to go to someone who is very early on in the process. Let me see. Kari? Can you hear me?Kari: Yes I can.Patrick: I asked that question wrong. It was really, ‘Kari, will you say something so that I can hear you.’ And indeed, I could. So, Kari, can you tell Jason the name of your start-up, and see if Jason can guess what it is from that.Kari: OK. The name of our start-up is You Grock It.Jason: Oh. Cool. Why have I heard that before, though? I think I’ve heard of this.Kari: You have not. The word ‘Grock’ is certainly around, but, yes.Jason: It sounds familiar, which is good, especially if I have never heard of it before, and it sounds familiar. That’s awesome. You have pre-branding, for me, at least. ‘You Grock It’, that means you understand it. So I’m going to guess that it’s a site that teaches people stuff so that they can grock it.In other words, I need to rock something so I go there and I can grock it. On the other hand, it could be exactly the opposite. It could be a site where I go there so I can laugh at people who don’t grock it, or don’t know what ‘grock’ means, actually.Patrick: I have to chime in one thing. I actually, when I saw your email, I thought it was ‘You Groke It’. So capitals might be your friend as you brand these things. Even though I know what grock means, I thought it was about plants when I first saw it.Kari: That’s interesting. I’ve been trying the capitals so I thought it was right. But we’ll be working on that.Jason: So what is it?Kari: So in this case it’s a bit of a bastardization of ‘grock’. It is a consumer electronics product to help families find misplaced stuff.Jason: OK.Kari: So in this case, knowing something is knowing where it is, and being able to find it.Jason: So that’s not what the word ‘grock’ means. You know that?Kari: I do understand that.Jason: OK. Alright. So how does it work? So I lost my keys, but now what? How does it know where my keys are?Kari: So what it uses, is it uses RSID technology. Its tags are small, lightweight, cheap, and battery-less.Jason: Yeah. I know what they are.Kari: You can put one on everything.Jason: So that’s what I do? I have to stick crap all over my crap that I lose, and then, of course, it can find them as I walk around? It’s sort of like, when I press the ‘find’ button on my phone base and it starts beeping somewhere, except it doesn’t beep. I have to walk around with the receiver, right, and wait until it responds?Kari: You have to walk around with the receiver and find it, yeah. That’s why our target market is families.Jason: Yeah.Kari: Because when the kids start walking, the stuff starts walking, and the kids don’t know where it is.Jason: I had

    —Huffduffed by davidbhayes one month ago

  2. Smart Bear Live 5: Dan from SyncBloc.com with Mark Suster by @ASmartBear

    Welcome back to Smart Bear Live, the call-in show with Jason Cohen, sponsored by Software Promotions. In this episode, special guest Mark Suster joins Jason to talk with Dan Bowen from SyncBloc.com.Listen to this episode if you want to learn what a VC investor thinks about “Internet scale” and how you can usually simplify your idea by charging a fair price for your product.You can subscribe to Smart Bear Live on iTunes (please review the podcast as well!) … and if you’d like to appear on a future episode of Smart Bear Live, send an email to Patrick.Foley@microsoft.com to schedule a recording with Jason.Transcript Automated transcription services provided by: Dan Bowen:  My name is Dan Bowen, and I’m up in the wine country in Healdsburg, California north of San Francisco, and the company name is SyncBloc, S-Y-N-C-B-L-O-C. Jason:  SyncBloc. Well I know what Sync is, but Bloc. That feels like a set of entities working together for a common goal. I guess the goal, maybe Sync allows them to do that, to become a Bloc and synchronize their efforts. So I think it’s for people that are trying to do a political movement together, it allows them to get on the same page and be organized so that they’re more powerful than they were individually. Mark:  Oh come on, that’s way off base. SyncBloc is a place that takes incredibly large files that are all stuck on your offline non-cloud service and helps you sync it with the cloud. We all know the success of DropBox, but let’s be honest. It’s really used for small documents and images and stuff like that. When you really need to sync big stuff, you need SyncBloc. Dan:  Well, I obviously haven’t been memorialized in your memory yet, Mark. No, it’s best thought of as CRM for families, individuals, and the businesses and organizations they interact with most. Mark:  Oh crap, this is Dan. I should have put it together. I know exactly what you do. That’s unfair. And that’s what your name is. Look Dan, so I know exactly what your company does. I know exactly who you are. I should have put two and two together when I realized you were in the wine country. The brand hasn’t stuck in my brain so much as the whiskey has. I’m not sure that’s the right name for what you do, because what you do is more of a consumer proposition, and I think the word sync is very technical, and a very technocratic kind of IT sync up my crap kind of stuff. If I were you, I would look… not that you’re looking for this advice, but I’d look for a simplified brand. Dan:  Understood. I’ve certainly gotten that feedback. We’ve gone back and forth on it. Jason:  I’d add to that. When you describe it as CRM, you and I know what that is, we know what a CRM is. But I bet these people you’re selling to, almost none of them know what it is. Anyway, again it sounds corporate. Although that’s fine, because you had your little phrase that communicates it, but aren’t you anyway going to need a little phrase that communicates it to your actual end users to put on your website? I think you’ll need that phrase anyhow, so you might as well also have that phrase instead of saying CRM, even if that’s what it is. So, is it like a shared family contact list and calendar and stuff like that? What is it? Dan:  Our goal is really to get beyond search social and the inefficiencies that search social and mobile have introduced to us. Jason:  There’s no way families are sitting around saying, “If only somebody could reduce the inefficiencies that search social.” There’s no way this is the language that anyone uses. If I talk to a family and you show them one screen shot of this, what would they say it is for them? Finally the family is organized. Now I know what Billy’s calendar is when he changes it. What would they say it is? Dan:  I think you started to mention it. It’s rich contact management, event planning, notification services, and task management, but at the family level. And connecting individuals to those businesses and organizations they interact with most, with critical information. I think that we get lost in search and social. Jason:  Can you give me an example of something where it really sucks for a family, but if they had this it would be super easy? Like, the dentist keeps changing the appointment, and I never know if I’m taking Billy to school or you are. Poof, now they have this, and Dad just takes a look and says, “Oh, I’m taking him to school.” What’s the deal? Dan:  Take it even one step easier than that. Do you have the telephone number for your dentist in your phone? Does your wife have the same telephone number? Do you have the insurance that’s related to that. I think the problem that we have right now is we’ve got amazing tools in our pocket. We’ve got amazing calendar tools, we’ve got contact management tools. No one uses them, because they quite simply require too much effort for someone to engage them. Jason:  I use them. Dan:  Well, you and I also just mentioned that we’re on the bleeding edge of technology. Jason:  I bet there’s someone in the family who has all the information. I bet I know who that someone is most of the time. And then everyone else has these little pieces of information. That might be a better way to describe it. There’s usually someone who’s kind of the gatekeeper of all this, knows where the files are, knows where to find the stuff, but everyone needs it. Dan:  You bet. No, I agree. Jason:  Not that you asked, but you’re using a lot of very generic things that I think could apply to pretty much any kind of data organization company, whatsoever. I think you’ve got something pretty neat. Why not make it really human and just say, “I took my kid to the dentist, and then they prescribed this thing. So I went to the pharmacy and realized that I didn’t have this number that I needed, which is silly. How come I don’t have that number? Well, everyone in the family can’t have all the numbers all the time. Except yes they can. Now they can all have all the stuff.” That would be pretty neat. Mark:  So Dan, now that we’re done with five minutes of telling you everything you never asked, what the F do you want to know? Dan:  Actually, the reason I called really wasn’t to discuss what we’re doing. I’m in development right now. We’re building a product. This is actually my third company. Jason:  So what’s the question? Dan:  The question is really directed towards the definition of Internet scale. I was in a 10-year company. Jason:  I Just ask what the question is. Dan:  My question is related to all this talk that I hear in the Silicon Valley about Internet scale. With the exception of Facebook and Twitter, it seems like this magic 10 million user number is a rare benchmark that companies hit, and yet that’s only 10% of the mobile market. It’s a fraction of the overall Internet market. I continually hear this reference to Internet scale, and I’m trying to get an idea of what people like Mark and other Vcs, when it comes to mind, when you’re looking at products and you say Internet scale, what does that really mean to you? Mark:  I tend not to use that term, but I’m not opposed to that term. Let me direct you first of all to my blog. It’s called Both Sides of the Table. I think you know that. If you do a search in quotes on “deflationary economics,” it tells you my thesis on Internet investing. It’s quite simple, which is when you had systems where you had limitations on distribution or transportation of products, it enabled you to operate with a certain cost structure. That cost structure for traditional industry, for historic reason, remains high. When you can offer something that’s deflationary and significantly deflationary, meaning you massively drive down the cost structure, and you massively drive down the profitability, you really need to hit scale, really serious scale, to build a huge business. I think very large businesses are built on the back of the scale.You’ve mentioned a couple companies, but I would throw out Craigslist and eBay. I would throw out people like YouTube, or even the scale that you see of Yahoo! or an MSN or an AOL in terms of portal distribution. You see scale increasing at places like Pinterest, and you see scale increasing at places like Instagram. Once you get to a certain scale and it reaches a tipping point, if you have network effects, meaning there’s such a tight network that goes to a single place to do a single kind of transaction that popping up and doing it somewhere else becomes harder to do. Then you have a business that’s defensible. And when you’re operating on “Internet scale”, let’s call it 10 million users plus or 100s of millions of page views, then introducing new product offerings at very low prices, even at low margins produces enormous returns. I think that’s what VCs maybe are getting at. Dan:  Thank you, first of all. That’s helpful. It’s also at the same time a little confusing when you see the daily barrage of the next Me Too app for the last eight months that’s been produced in the same space. Trying to figure out how the Silicon Valley… again, my last venture was not built here. I bootstrapped it on my own. Trying to learn this environment.. Mark:  But Dan, I want to say, your language, you have to be careful about not coming across as a grumpy entrepreneur. Let me say this to you. 99%, maybe 99.8% of companies should never raise venture capital. Venture capital, it’s a very particular industry. Overwhelmingly, you can build very successful businesses that are not Internet scale, that become $20, $40, $80, $150 million dollars and don’t have the same kind of return structure that you see on the Internet. Venture capitalists are raising money from other investors, institutional investors who expect certain returns from us. And to get those returns, we need very big wins.At GRP, the partnership that I work at, we have produced 15 companies that have exited north of a billion dollars. You don’t exit at north of a billion dollars unless you’re operating at scale. So just because our industry is structured to try and find huge outsized returns doesn’t make, first of all, doesn’t make that right for most entrepreneurs, and it doesn’t make it bad. Now the second part of that, which is “Me Too” businesses. That’s just a function of too many VCs chasing similar ideas, and that’s always going to happen, and that’s fine. I think the smarter VCs are never trying to fund idea two, three, or four in a category, but define what they believe the next categories will be. Dan:  I hope I didn’t come across as too miserably grumpy. This has been a big education for me up here. Jason:  Here’s another thing to keep in mind that you can actually do one and then switch to the other, if it makes sense. In fact, that’s exactly what happened to me with WordPress Engine. The initial concept was this thing doesn’t have to be big to make money. In fact, we were cash flow positive, including everyone’s salaries and everything in seven months. That’s pretty fast. That also showed we had a nice profitable business and something that enough people wanted. It doesn’t matter how many people that is. It could be 100 or 1,000, but that’s enough to make a profitable business. OK.  As long as we built the business that way. Then we hired two people and got profitable again in another six months. But the market we’re in, which is WordPress hosting is huge, because 10% of the websites on the Internet are run by WordPress. So the potential market is enormous, even though we weren’t really attacking it as a big market sort of a company.But as we showed, we had this solid company and product people wanted and so forth, it simply was an option to say, “Do we want to try to grow much faster and maybe raise a little bit of money and use that money to grow faster, work on some strategic things that would secure us some long-term competitive advantages, instead of just having a profitable, growing company that’s good, but doesn’t have overwhelming advantages over the competition?” We decided, yeah, we’re going to do that. And then we did raise some money, and now we’re doing that, and our growth rate has gone up literally exponentially as we did that, which is really neat.But we didn’t have to do that. We could have decided not to do that, and then we’d have a company growing less fast, but profitable. And so what? That’s great. So, I guess it’s just a long way of saying, if you want to focus on who your perfect customer is and someone who will give you money because they have this pain so bad, that yeah, they’re going to part with dollars to see it fixed, you don’t need many customers to make money. Maybe just 50 or 100 customers and you’re making enough money that this is your deal. And then, you really can have your pick of what to do. You don’t necessarily have to know, at the outset, how you want to scale or grow the company if you don’t want to. You sound sort of skeptical of… I can see these big successes through the go big, go Internet scale. You’ve bootstrapped a company, so you can see all those things, and you’re skeptical of the VC side. I think that’s healthy, and you don’t have to choose right now, if you don’t want to. Dan:  Jason, we’re certainly leaning more towards what you said. I’ve been slowly establishing relationships in the VC world for that long-term potential. And Mark, that’s why I’ve reached out to you. I mentioned that once before. That’s really our longer term goal is to make sure that we have some relationships in line, if and when that opportunity presents itself to push. I’ve been trying to define some of these things for myself. That’s why I asked the question about how you guys defined Internet scale as it relates to the VCs. Jason:  But see, it may not matter. Mark just got through saying, it matters when either the margins are small or this and that where you need to multiply by a million for it to be interesting. But you don’t necessarily have to build a company in which that is the structure. So, in our case, we’re playing in a huge market. Even so, we didn’t play toward a thing in which we barely scrape by with money on each one, and so we had to play in a big market. In fact, it’s almost stronger not to. It’s almost stronger to say, “Look, If I can find 100 families to give me, I don’t know, $19 a month, $49 a month, whatever, for the stuff. If I can get 100 to do it, you know there’s a million families around the world that would want this. If I can just get 100, the market’s there. All of a sudden you’ve proved a lot of stuff.I say proved maybe in quotes, but actually I’d like to ask Mark sort of across the table that way. Does that make sense? If you see someone going, hey, I’ve sort of built it for, maybe you could call it profitability, but showing traction revenue, and now I’m ready to scale it big, and I don’t know if I should still charge. Does that evidence, even if it’s just 50 or 100 people but in a big market? Is that super interesting to you? Or do you want to see that growth curve start to bend, and you want to see that direction of the company, and just getting 50 people to pay isn’t interesting? Mark:  Let me start with a disclosure, which is I am a very happy user of WP Engine. I think the great thing you guys did is step into a market that was unfulfilled and needed more players like you. The reason I started working with you is I started by using WordPress’s own hosted product. But that had great limitations, because they restrict you from using JavaScript, and therefore you couldn’t do plug-ins. I then took over the hosting of that and started hosting at RackSpace. The problem is my site kept falling down. I had denial of service attacks. I had people who came and hacked into the site through a known exploit in RackSpace and changed my header to a Polish auto company. I wanted someone to manage all that. I just want to produce content. So, you’re offering as a customer, as a consumer really spoke to me, and I think that’s some evidence for the market opportunity that you have. Let me talk more broadly, which is, listen, everyone always says, “The VC said I needed traction, and how can I get traction without VC? The VC said I needed traction. Let me tell you what you need traction means. You need traction is code word for no. That’s all it means. It means no. It’s a very soft, polite way of saying no. What it also means is, I don’t actually want to tell you no, because then you might be pissed off with me and not come back if you get that aforementioned traction.What Vcs are investing? So VCs invest in different stages. You have seed stage, A round, B round, C round, D round. Those correspond with how much capital they want to invest at which price points. The later the round, the higher the letter in the alphabet, the more the expectation of real revenue, real customers, real usage, real traction. But what VCs are really looking for is a sense that the management team has extraordinary potential as individuals, that have some sort of domain knowledge or some sort of technical or market or product or customer knowledge that other people don’t have. And the VC has to imagine that the market that you’re service either has an existing market that’s being served inefficiently, or there’s going to be huge latent demand for what it is that you’re going to offer. Frankly, that’s all they’re really looking for. Even if they can’t articulate that in their own brain, that’s what they think.The overwhelming majority of VCs are lemmings. And you’ve already said it yourself, Dan. Why do people fund so many “Me Too” things. Because it’s far easier if I’ve seen four of these that each raise 5 or $10 million from the brand name VCs to say this is obviously a good idea. I think people call that social proof, and I think that’s a terrible investment thesis. What I’m looking for is the quirky idea that I think no one else is thinking of, that no one finds sexy, but I’ve got an entrepreneur who’s so passionate and knowledgeable about that area that they can persuade me that they’re going to make that an opportunity.I’ll just give you one example. I started looking at YouTube networks about two and a half years ago. Every VC I met in Silicon Valley was saying, “We don’t invest in content. We don’t invest in video. It’s a hits driven business.” But every entrepreneur I saw on the ground in LA here was massively trending up. I started to develop a thesis that the future of content distribution is going to be different. It maps to the ideas of deflationary economics, and content production I think is becoming more predictable. I think video distribution in the future is going to look more like the Gilt Groupe than it is going to look like NBC. Meaning I’ve got a direct relationship with my customers and I send them daily curated things that I know they’re going to enjoy and like or that they have self- selected. That is a lot more predictable of a business. The reason I mention all this is every VC I know is cynical, and I was seeing the numbers on the ground, and I’m licking my chops saying, “here’s an enormous opportunity that other people aren’t seeing and isn’t going to risk being “Me Too?” Jason:  So Mark, what should Dan do? He’s not sure which way to go. What should he pursue, and what should he do right now to progress the company and maybe intentionally delay the choice, or maybe he shouldn’t delay the choice. What should he do next? Mark:  I’ll say this for public consumption, because I’ve told this to Dan privately I think twice already. I think, first of all, you’ve got to get a product live and in the market. You’re going to learn a lot from that and get a lot of feedback. Number two, I think you really need in your brain a really tight definition of an economic problem that you’re solving and why that’s going to be valuable. Valuable either because people directly are going to pay you money or because third parties are going to pay you money to reach your user base. You’ve got to really have your head on straight about how you’re going to acquire customers more cost effectively than other people are going to do.I would study the history of whose done what you’ve done in the past and why they’ve failed, because you and I both know a number of people have tried to enter this category unsuccessfully. So that’s really the answer for me. You’ve got to find a way to get some developers working with you to ship your product, test it, learn some lessons. From those lessons, you can begin to develop a relationship with VCs to say, “here’s what I’ve learned, here’s what’s working, here’s why we’re excited.” Dan:  Thank you for that. Just so I can follow up with you there Mark, we have. We have actually started coding. We have a former very senior Microsoft Exchange engineer that’s writing code now. I’ve certainly taken your advice to heart, and we’re in process on that. So as we get closer, I will certainly be in touch. Everything you’ve said is exactly the track that we’re heading towards right now. Jason:  The thing I took out of what Mark just said that really rang in my ears was, a lot of people have tried this before and failed. That’s really, really interesting. The fact that a lot of people have tried it means maybe there’s something there. The fact that they failed doesn’t mean you’ll fail necessarily, but it does if you can’t articulate why this time it’s going to work. One thing that everyone likes to hear as an investor is maybe now is the time that the idea can come to fruition. Something changed. Now everyone has a phone. Now people understand these kinds of systems, etc.Now they’re ready for it. Or you’ve got some new insight that none of the other people had, and that’s the thing. You’ve got a handful of all people who, by their actions, are demonstrating that you’re right, that is the one thing that just unlocks this. Otherwise, it’s just really easy to lump you into that, everyone’s tried, everyone’s failed, and you haven’t really told me even plausibly why you’ll not fail. Saying, “This time I’ve got a senior Microsoft developer” ain’t it. I realize you didn’t’ say it was. It’s just starting, but that’s not it. These are all means to that end. So to me, I took all of what Mark said, and that’s the thing that rang at me. Because if you don’t solve that part, I think it’s just too easy to lump you in with the folks that tried and failed before. Dan:  Couldn’t agree more. Absolutely. Mark:  Great, awesome. Jason:  Good luck, Dan. Patrick:  Thanks for calling in, Dan. Really appreciate it, and hope to catch up with you soon.

    http://blog.asmartbear.com/sb-live-5.html

    —Huffduffed by davidbhayes one month ago

  3. Smart Bear Live 6: Jared from Padseeker.com by @ASmartBear

    Automated transcription services provided by: Jason:  Hi, Jared, tell me a little bit about your business. Jared:  Well, the name of the company is Padseeker.com. So we’re trying to build … I guess the best way to describe it is some sort of analogy, that Padseeker would like to be for rental properties and real estate what Shopify is to e-commerce. I think that is a pretty good one-sentence synopsis, but I can give you more information if you’d like. Jason:  So what’s the idea? I’m looking for an apartment and this is the best place for me to find one? And if I’m trying to rent out a place, this is also where I go? In other words, it’s a marketplace, or what? Jared:  Yeah, I think initially the real focus of Padseeker is going to be an on-demand solution to create a website for property management. Jason:  I don’t know what “on-demand solution” means. You mean website? Jared:  Yeah, it’s a website. I mean, if you own a few buildings, or maybe you own many buildings, maybe you have a website, but you’re not happy with it. Maybe you didn’t think it was worth it to spend $5,000 or more on a custom website, something along those lines. I mean, imagine, in an abstract sense, how you might download, say, WordPress, and you’re doing that for content management, or for a blog. And I know that there are some online solutions, I’m not exactly sure if your site is … Jason:  Well, look, every apartment I can find has a website already, and then there’s stuff like CraigsList, so I don’t understand why anybody needsthis.Jared:  There are quite a few property management companies that have sites, but they’re somewhat out-of-date in the sense that … I think that our biggest, our easiest group of people to target or market to are people who…Jason:  The question is, if they already have a website, how come it’s not just Craigslist? Because that’s where people are going To go for things like that, to find apartments. They’ll just Google it, and they’ll find apartmentratings.com, for example, which is really good at SEO, and is basically a way to find apartments, with ratings even, and it’s very popular. Why do we need this thing? Jared:  That’s a very fair and good question. I think, for an individual company that has their own property website that it may not have some of the features that they used to have. I guess I’m more targeting property management companies. Jason:  So why is it called Padseeker? Jared:  Because that … Jason:  That implies it’s for people finding apartments, but you’re saying…Jared:  That’s a very fair point. The idea was to have a single source of information, as far as people creating multiple sites, and then eventually have an API where people could build stuff on top of Padseeker in the sense that multiple companies would put their properties into Padseeker, get their own site out of it, as well as have an API where people could potentially grab that data. I mean, that wasn’t necessarily the … Jason:  Okay, wait, but who cares about grabbing the data? That’s already there, there’s already websites that have all the data. I don’t get this. So it’s property management software? With a customer-facing front end as well so it also manages your front-end website? Is that what it is? Jared:  All right, the first stage is primarily … you have a property management company, but you don’t necessarily have a website for yourself, or if you have a website, you’re not happy with it. You did it five years ago, it doesn’t have Google Maps, not mobile compliant. My goal is to say to them, “I can get you a much more affordable and up-to-date solution for your website.” And to get as many customers as possible in that respect. That’s primarily what the first stage of the business is going to be, and that’s what I’m going To focus on, and that’s what I’m trying to get live. So I certainly appreciate you trying to burst the bubble, but it’s … Jason:  So it’s not property management, it’s just the website for a property manager so that they have a presence that’s not outdated, and which presumably makes it easier for people to find it, and if they find it, to actually discover the apartments that they have, and where they are, and that kind of stuff.But from what I can tell, that’s not how people find apartments anyway. They go through apartment locators because, for the clients, those are free, and you get to tour around and look at them, which is what you really want to do, and they help winnow down the results, and you and I know that they don’t really give you the full gamut of what’s available, they only have certain things they get kickbacks for, we know.We know it’s like that, but nevertheless, it’s easy, it’s free, they will show you things that are more or less in the area and price range that you want. That’s how you find an apartment, so I don’t understand why the property management needs a modern website. So have you talked to some of these property managers. Jared:  I have. I’ve had about four conversations. One of them is … Jason:  Great. So why did they say they want a new website? Because I can’t believe they get a lot of traffic anyway of normal humans finding apartments that way instead of through one of these SEO websites or through a physical apartment locator. Jared:  I would agree. I think part of it, initially, would just be to have a presence on the web and the ability to say, “Hey, if you want to … Jason:  No, no. What did they say? Why did they say they’re going to throw away their website and use you? They said it’s because what? Jared:  All right. The first customer that I had the most receptive conversation with is, they don’t have a website. Jason:  No, not at all. Jared:  They deal with specific … Jason:  Okay. So it could be you, it could be a WordPress site, and you may be a faster, cheaper way to get to a website. Okay. So, that’s one. Jared:  Yeah, that’s part of it. Jason:  That’s a really easy one, but, then again, most people have websites, I’m sure. Jared:  There are a few people that don’t, or if they had a website done, maybe more than five years ago, it doesn’t have mobile compliance. It doesn’t have Google Maps. It’s a way to get a lot of the features that I think a modern apartment management company might want or feel like it’s to their advantage. Jason:  You had four people and they all said, “We’re in.” Jared:  One said, “We’re in,” and the other three were, “Well, I’m curious to see what you have, but don’t talk to me until you’re done.” So, essentially, “It sounds interesting, and potentially I might be … ” Jason:  Okay. Why is it interesting? What do they expect it to do? And don’t tell me maps. That is a means to some end. What is the end? Are they expecting apartment locators to discover them and then add them to their rounds? Are they trying to get to the end customer? Jared:  They are. I mean, essentially, one of the features I was going to add was the ability to easily create a Craigslist ad. It’s all a matter of funneling people from other sites to your particular site. I mean, hey, you post an ad for an apartment, you generate a nice looking ad in Craigslist, as opposed to just something in simple text. Jason:  It sounds like, though, that you’re just stabbing around at things you could do that they might want. You’re not using these firm words like, this guy told me that if we could automatically post a Craigslist ad every week, because those ads get stale and could roll off, so you have to keep at it. Also, you have to rotate the content and put them in different categories, otherwise this or that happens. Our software will do that. They say, “Oh my God, if you do that, that’s big time. Then I’m interested.”I just made that up. I don’t even know if that’s true. Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  If you don’t have that detailed and someone saying, “Oh, man, I need that.” Just adding a Google map to a website, I mean, you might as well just be a web developer and charge $100 an hour and have a WordPress template and knock us out and charge them $5,000. It cost you less than a week because you’ve got your template and you’re fast and smart, and you’re done.Unless you have something tangible, that they said I will pay X dollars if you do this thing, then you’re just a web designer, which is fine, but then just do that. Jared:  Okay. Based on the conversations that I’ve had, where someone spent $5,000 on a website say five years ago, and whether they have Google Maps or not, the whole idea of getting a better website or getting a better product, that’s not something they want to do. They had, maybe, a bad experience or it cost a lot of money, and the whole idea is to pay between $25 and $50 a month to get a higher quality website than what they have right now.There’s other ideas beyond just that. I realize it seems all kind of nebulous right now. Jason:  Here’s what it seems like. You’ve talked to four people. Let’s say they all do it. All you’ve proven is that you can make $200 a month in revenue off of some basic websites. Even if you can get 1,000 people doing that, that’s really not much of a company, because with all the expenses around 1,000 people and acquiring them, answering their questions, and “How come we can’t put this here?” and the hosting costs, that’s not even really much of a lifestyle business yet.So, you probably could build that company, because, of course, they want a website. Presumably your websites aren’t so bad. You can probably do that. That’s not … If you want to do that, I guess just do that. But, again, that doesn’t seem like even a good lifestyle business.That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you want to do. You want to do something else. My question is what’s something else? It sounds like you haven’t discovered yet what the something else is. Why not discover that first, because that’s the interesting part? Jared:  All right. One of the things that I’m really fascinated by … I guess you could say that that first part of that idea, as far as giving people websites, it is not necessarily the end destination. It’s also the ability to create an API of properties. Jason:  No way. No, it’s not. I think there’s no way any property manager has ever told you, “You know what I really want is an API.” Jared:  But here’s the problem that currently exists, as far as the … If you have an individually hosted solution, even if you have an API, how are people going to find you? On the other hand, if you get 1,000 people… Let’s say if, for argument’s sake, I get 50 people in Chicago to sign up because that’s where I’m located at, and I get between 10 and 20 properties. Well, if I get 50 people with 20 properties, I now have 1,000 properties.Let’s say you wanted to build a site on top of that API. I mean, one of the ideas that I was talking to somebody about … Jason:  Wait, stop. You’re not addressing the point, which is that the property managers … This is all a means to some end that you still haven’t told me. They want to double the leads coming to their website. They want to increase the conversion on their website. They’re trying to sell units through their website. They’re trying to attract apartment locators and give them all the tools to encourage them to show people their units so that more units get sold.You have to get to what is it that the property manager goes, “Oh, my God. I’m going to make more money because my vacancy is going to go down,” or because, whatever. I have not heard that yet. If the idea is, “We’re going to sell more units.” “Well, how is that possible?” “Because through Google, we’re going to have thousands of people coming to your website, where today it’s just 10 a day. Now it’s going to be 1,000 a day. You interested?”If it’s not that straightforward to their bottom line, then it’s all just a means to an end and blah, blah, blah, and techno-babble, and it’s not what they want. There’s no way anyone says, “Oh, I can’t wait to be part of a network with an API.” That isn’t what they want. They want units filled. They want cheaper hosting. They want – I mean, I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound like you’ve discovered what that thing is, or you’re not telling itto me.Jared:  I mean, if it winds up that I get 1,000 customers paying between $25 and $50 a month … Jason:  No, not winds up. You have to find people that say, “I will give you $300 a month if you can get the number of leads to my website to go up to 100 a day instead of 10 a day.” See what I mean? Jared:  Yeah. I don’t think that’s what I’m selling, or that’s not what I’m going after, and that’s not what I have. Jason:  Well, what is it that they want to have happen with their business? Jared:  The ability to market their properties better as opposed to the way…Jason:  To who? Jared:  To anybody that’s looking, whether it’s creating a Craigslist ad. It’s the ability to say, “Here’s my business card. These are where the properties are,” to hang a sign on the outside of their apartment building. Jason:  No. They already hang signs on the outside of the apartment building, and we all know that is not how you sell apartments, right? It’s almost no walk-ins. It’s all apartment stuff. Sometimes there’s walk-ins. But if there are walk-ins, they just walked in. It has nothing to do with what you’re talking about. So, let’s say it’s Craigslist ads. Jared:  Okay. Jason:  It’s too hard or they don’t know how, or it’s just tedious. Jared:  It’s tedious? Maybe there are certain aspects to it that’s annoying. They forget to do it. They can’t track whether they’re working. They want to try different messages and see which ones are working better, but that’s too much work or they’re not technical enough. I’m making this up, but supposing that’s a thing, that sounds good.I would like to hear a property manager say, “We know people find us through Craigslist ads. We don’t know how many. We don’t know how to improve those ads, and it’s too much of a pain in the ass to post them and post them often enough. The person who I assign it to at the office have other duties and they don’t really know either, and it just doesn’t work well.”You say, “Right. For $50 a month, I will completely manage your Craigslist ad stuff. You’re going to get a report every month of how much impact they had. How many people saw it, maybe, maybe you can’t tell that, but how many people click-through. Of those people, how many people did some interesting action, like they spent more than a minute on your site or they filled out a contact form,” or something that you decide that they agree is somewhat valuable.You make this little report, and then furthermore overtime with your expertise and your testing – again assisted upon your amazing, special tool - you’re even going to improve this amount of leads and conversion, and quality of leads over time, because that’s part of the service. You’re going to charge, and I’m making this up again, $199 a month for up to a dozen Craigslist ads, or Craigslist ads for up to three properties, or something like that.They’re going to get these reports and it’s month-to-month, so if they don’t feel like it’s getting value, they can cancel. So, there’s no reason not to try it, and by the way, if they go through the first and they don’t like it, it’s a money-back guarantee for the first month. I just made all of that up. Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  But that is at least a testable business hypothesis. There’s this pain. It sucks. Your tool completely solves the pain. Full visibility for them. Hands-free for them. Will they pay that much money for it? Trying to reduce some of the barriers to entry, like they can cancel and other things so they don’t feel locked in. They feel like it’s easy to try this and see if they like it. That is a formulation of something you could go out and try to sell. If five people say yes, you could actually try it.Here’s another thing. You seem gung ho in building websites and building technology, which is fine. But with this kind of stuff, again, they don’t care about the technology. Let’s just for now go with this Craigslist assumption, because at least it’s a business. The other stuff you’re talking about, to me – I still don’t understand the business model and the pain point. You obviously haven’t talked to people to identify it yet. So, let’s just use this as an example. Jared:  Right. I understand your skepticism. Jason:  Wait, let’s just use this as an example … Jared:  Okay. Jason:  … because it’s tangible and the other stuff is not tangible to me yet. So, then what I would do with this Craigslist idea, is I would go sell it to people with no code, no code at all. Then, I would wait until I had five or 10 people who literally gave me the money, the $199 a month or whatever it is. They literally said, “Okay, here’s my credit card,” or “my PayPal,” or however they do that, right?So, you have it. You know now that they want this for this amount of money for sure, because, look. If you could find even five people – but 10 is better – then for sure there’s 1,000 people out there like that too, right. If you did that, now you’ve got something like one or $2,000 a month of revenue, proving that this is interesting.Now, what you do is you fulfill this by hand. You write to Craigslist. You log into Craigslist with their account or however that works. You make the links with bitly or something that allows you to track stuff. You request access to their Google Analytics so that you can track the rest of it. You make the report to Google Analytics, “This many clicks. This, this, this.” You make a cool custom report, which you can very easily export and format into a nice one-pager for them, and so on.You try different ads in Craigslist. You try different ad text in, I don’t know, whatever other stuff that you feel is good to try, and you do it. The first month that you make the reports, you make the stuff, no code. You figure out what is interesting. What does work? Do they like that? Did it produce the traffic they wanted?Maybe, for example, maybe they won’t be impressed with … Maybe the number of people that actually make it to the contact form is never going to be that good. Jared:  Jason, I’m really sorry to interrupt. Listen, I totally respect you. I wouldn’t be calling if I wasn’t looking for your opinion. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, and it sounds like you’re talking about a different business idea at all. Those things [inaudible 17:38] Jason:  No, no, no. I’m not. No, I’m just using this as an example. If it’s not Craigslist, fine. Then, just cross-apply all this to the other idea. But, in other words, the thing that they want done, you can probably just do. You can probably do it with very little code or a little bit, or a couple of tools, just to prove out that this is what they want and you can deliver it. Then, they want it, and then of course, everything I just said, you can build an incredible tool.Maybe it’s self-serve for them. Maybe you use it, I don’t know. It sort of depends on how well that rolls out. All of a sudden, you have a scaleable business with a scaleable tool set that you know they like. You have some nice testimonials from them now, because you kick some ass. That’s a business.This other stuff about, if it’s just a website then it’s a website, and okay. If it’s something else, we’re going to drive more leads. Your SEO is going to improve. We’re going to manage your Craigslist. We’re going to do property management. Conversions of your website will improve. All of those things would be great businesses, and I understand you have a big vision and it’s going to be many things someday, and that’s fine. But it won’t be many things on day one. It’ll be something.So, I feel like you have to find something that they’re going to pay for, more than one person. Find a way to deliver that to them in the easiest, quickest possible way, and that’s how you can sort of validate that you have a business that people will give you money for. Jared:  Okay. You’ve thrown a lot out there and I sort of have to process that. I can certainly see the direction of the business potentially changing. At the same time, it’s taken me a long time to get there and I’m sort of pretty committed to this as far as this idea. I’ll be honest with you, I’m willing to fail if it turns or I have to pivot, or something along those lines, or something along those lines. If I only get 50 customers paying $20, or $40, or $50 a month for a website, and that’s not enough to sustain myself, or that’s not enough to give me [inaudible 19:42]. Jason:  Wait. Wait, hold on. Jared:  I’m willing to fail with this idea. Jason:  Wait. Let’s just do the math. You’re willing to fail. That’s very brave, except why bother when you could be failing faster in some other way? You said it took it a long time to get to this point, well let’s try to accelerate how fast you can learn and fail, and get two points that work. So, let’s go down this road. Let’s say how much money they’re going to give you per month for a website? What have you been quoting them? Jared:  Between $25 and $50 a month. Jason:  All right. Let’s call it $50 because I think you can probably, honestly charge them $250 a month because, for example, there’s a company here in Austin that charges real estate agents $150 dollars a month plus a $1,500 dollars set up fee for a very generic real estate agent site with like 3 pages, here’s me, here’s my face, here’s my properties. Call me.Like, in other words, almost nothing. Certainly less than what you’re describing and they get away with $150 bucks a month plus $1,500 setup so I think you can go a lot higher. But let’s go with your numbers.Let’s round up and say it’s $50, $50 bucks a month and let’s say this company does pretty well, how many property owners do you feel like in the span of a year could you have sign up on this system? Jared:  I’m hoping to get at least 25 customers by the end of this year. We’re hoping to go into beta in maybe, I’m targeting February so a very low estimate would be 25. Jason:  But then the year wears on and you’re acquiring more customers and so let’s say at the end of May next year, how many customers could youhave?Jared:  I hope more than 100. Jason:  200? Jared:  Potentially. Jason:  All right, let’s go with 200. That’s good.So 200 people each giving you $50 bucks a month, right? Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  So that’s $10,000 a month, right? Jared:  Sure. Jason:  In revenue. And then there’s some hosting costs. I’m not sure what it is but I bet these sites don’t get a lot of traffic. I’m sure you’ve built this in a way that’s intelligent for multi-tenant lists and whatnot so hosting costs are probably what? $500 a month? Jared:  Right now it’s less than $50. Jason:  No. Not right now. Once you have 200 customers. Jared:  If I get to 200 customers as far as capacity I’d have to look at what it would cost. It would probably be at least a couple of hundred dollars a month, if not more. Jason:  Probably more because remember you have to remember you have backups and stuff. it kind of piles up so let’s say $500 a month for that and there’s other stuff. Like, in order to acquire 200 customers, you might do some advertising or go to a show or bang the phone or do some Google ads. I don’t know but there’ll be some costs in acquiring customers, right? Jared:  Sure. Jason:  So that’s probably a couple of grand a month. So probably what you’re looking at, assuming the high end of what you’re talking about cost- wise, you’re probably making something like $5,000 to $8,000 grand a month for yourself assuming you have no other employees. You’re still doing all this yourself.Is that the case? Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  So is that okay? That sounds good? Jared:  Yes. Jason:  You want this to be a lifestyle business where it feeds you and hopefully it does more than that, right ? Jared:  Theoretically, yes. Again, I have grander ambitions for just getting 200 people to sign up for the service but yes. If it even made half of that, I would consider that a success as far as a feather in my hat and say I did something I’d never done before.Like I said, I’m willing to fail but even if I get that half of what you’re talking about, I would say I accomplished something and I’m learning something and it might lead to the next thing or it might just be exactly what it is. Jason:  Okay. So in other words, part of this is just you’re sort of exploring a new career and your own boundaries and what you enjoy doing and it would be great if it throws off some money, that’d be cool, which is great. I love that. It’s such a healthy attitude. I wish more people had that attitude with their startups.Great. That’s great.Now, if you’re going to do that then here’s what I think. You absolutely should charge a lot more. Because you’re not trying to get, you just said, like you’re not really aiming at getting like 1,000 or 2,000 people online. It’d be cool if you did but like that’s not even really the goal. You have a bunch of things that you’re trying to achieve and making the biggest, baddest company as fast as possible is not on the list actually, right? Jared:  Yes. That’s a pretty accurate description. Jason:  So here is what I think you should do. I think you should consider this. Not a modernized website because as soon as you say things like I’m building you a modernized website, then you get put in this category of okay, right now I pay GoDaddy $10 bucks a month for this old WordPress thing so I can maybe stretch it to $20, $30 bucks a month if it’s better. You put yourself in that position when you call it things like a modernized website.On the other hand, if you position it as this is the platform for the online presence, kind of like what you said, but specific stuff. Like, “We know that this will increase your SEO and you’ll get more traffic. We know that people will stick. We’re constantly trying out and developing new techniques, so month to month we’re not just serving traffic like some web host would do.”“We’re literally discovering better ways to attract traffic, engage people with your site, get them to Tweet about it, get them to user contact form, increase your SEO position, etc. We’re constantly figuring these things out, and we’re constantly tweaking these things on the site, so that we’re constantly improving your footprint. That’s part of what you’re paying for.”In other words, if you position it as this kind of a value to them, then you’re not in web hosting anymore, and then you could absolutely justify $150 a month. Maybe more, but let’s start with that. Also, I think a setup fee makes a lot of sense. There’s almost always a setup fee. I understand maybe the first few people, when you’re trying to get going, maybe you can’t get away with that. I’m not sure. But when you’re at customer #74, there are going to be setup costs, right? Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  Because their own content needs to get in there. There are photos, their maps, [I need] five properties, not three. I don’t know. There’s just stuff, and they’re not technical. They’re not going to set it up that well, and if you set it up for them, you’re going to do such a better job. You know that, and that’s going to make them more successful and happier. You know that and they know that, and it’s absolutely normal to charge a setup fee.So, again, using this model locally, of people with even less money than the property agent people, and they get away with $150 a month, plus $1,000 or $1,500 setup fee … For example, you could roll other things into that if you still feel uncomfortable charging that much, or if they need more to charge that much.So, for example, you could say, “Part of that $1,500 setup fee is I sit down with you on the phone for two hours or an hour, and I ask you questions about, well, what is important to you? What kind of things do you want to say about this property? What do you want to rank highly for? Is it luxury? Is it affordable? Is it convenient? What are the things about this property that we want to highlight?”In other words, you sit down and you do a counseling session, and then you can tune the site to them. That’s part of why there’s a $1,500 setup fee because it’s going to be really good. Jared:  Okay. Jason:  You know what I mean? This is all brainstorming. Jared:  I understand what you’re saying. Jason:  But here’s what happens now. Now, the math changes completely, because with $1,500 setup, let’s say $1,000 setup times 100 customers. That’s $100,000. You’re going to do that setup stuff anyway to get their website to work because they’re not technical. They can’t make all this stuff look good and all that. They don’t know what to write.So, that’s $100,000 right there, and that $150 a month, that extra $100 is just pure profit, right? Because your costs don’t go up charging $150 over $50. Same cost to you. Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  Let’s say you have 200 customers. That’s $20,000 of profit per month in your pocket. Let’s say it is only 25 or 50 customers like you said, and it doesn’t even get to 200. But still, to get 50 customers, you’re actually at the same place monetarily that we just said you were at 200 … Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  … because it’s bottom line money, that money. That setup fee means you can do things. Like, if this does start growing, you can afford to do whatever like hire someone else to help on-board people, or spend more money on marketing, or I don’t know. In your words, you could afford to fail at different things because you have the extra cash to do so and it’s okay.So, especially because you’re not trying to get 1,000 people on the site real fast, and so you want to make it real cheap so it’s a no-brainer. That’s not what you’re doing. So, I would go way upscale with it and make a lot of money on these guys. Jared:  Okay. All right, so let me tell you about the ambitions for the project that I have if I get more than 50 or 100 customers I’m charging $25 or $50 a month. I’ve talked to a couple other people that are at least somewhat interested, and it’s more conversation, not necessarily they’re going to pay for it. But here’s a perfect example. There’s somebody I know who is involved with an association dealing with people who are handicapped, and whenever you’re dealing with an apartment, you’re trying to get an apartment that’s ADA accessible. Jason:  Right. Jared:  They would like the ability to post properties that are ADA accessible. That’s one of the goals of Padseeker and the API in the sense that I want to offer people the advantage of, “Here’s not just your website.” I hate to say it. That’s sort of like the honey to draw the first initial customers. Jason:  That’s fine. Jared:  It’s the ability to say, “Your property will not just show up in your own website, it has the potential for other people that will build on top of the Padseeker API to show you ADA, American Disabilities Act, compliant properties on this other site. Or dog-friendly. Or, I mean there’s any number of options, but that is the reason why I want to keep it relatively low, and I certainly understand [inaudible 30:14] Jason:  Wait, wait, wait. Let me ask you about that. Jared:  Sure. Jason:  I totally understand what you just said, kick-ass. Now explain what you meant about, “That’s the reason why you’re trying to keep the price low.” I don’t get why one leads to the other. Jared:  Because I feel … I feel like if the price is too high for some people that have a website, or even don’t have a website, they’re not going to see the advantage of, “Why am I paying,” let’s say, for argument’s sake, $100 a month. You’re talking about the price point that you were discussing. If you’re paying $100 a month, that means $1,200 a year. That’s probably on par with one of the solutions that are available now.Essentially, if you own a property management association, or you own a few apartments, and you want a website, you have two options. Your first option is to pay $5,000 or more, significantly more, for a custom website, or you can pay somebody for an existing template. There are even plugins available for WordPress. But at that point, once you hit $100 a month, that’s roughly what some of the other companies that exist in the marketplace are doingnow.Jason:  Right. Jared:  And I could see even doing that at some point when I had enough properties. I mean, I’d be thrilled if I built a company that had 50 subscribers, maybe they were paying $50 a month, and then we tried to build another site on top of the API that … Jason:  I still didn’t hear, though, why … I mean, to me, if you’re providing even more value, then you should be even more expensive, right? Jared:  Because that value doesn’t exist, that … Jason:  I know. Jared:  … ADA-accessible site doesn’t exist anymore, that dog-friendly, and that’s… Jason:  I know. But isn’t the website you’re talking about building, even without the API, the basic website you’re talking about, isn’t that at least on par with the other things they have available to them? Jared:  Yes, yes. Jason:  Or better, hopefully? At least incrementally better? Jared:  Right now, I mean, I have a long ways to go, I mean, we’re going To add stuff, but yeah, I feel like based on what I’ve seen with what’s available now and what we’re offering, it’s … if it’s not there, and it won’t be there on beta, it will be, but within a short period of time. Jason:  Okay, so here’s what I think. I understand all that, so here’s what I think. Anything we talk about with all this doesn’t apply during beta, because those people are receiving product that’s not fully baked, they’re early, before you have a track record, there are all kinds of reasons why they’re special. Maybe they get it for free, maybe it’s really cheap, maybe it’s free until you launch and then they get 50% off for life, whatever, right? Just take care of them. So let’s set them aside for a minute, because whatever … you’re going To take care of them and it’s not going To apply to them, right? So let’s go … Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  So let’s go to customer 15 and higher. In other words, it’s not beta, it’s live, you’ve got enough testimonials and nice things that that’s not an issue anymore, they’re not betting on an unknown anymore, you have sufficient features, right? Because you’re past that period. We’re 20, or however many you think, 35, whatever you say the beta period is, whatever that number is. Let’s talk about … because, for them, you’re just going to do whatever is right, you know?So let’s talk about what happens after that. My feeling is, if you’re at least as good at just the website as their next best alternative, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be at least the price, if not more, than their next best alternative. I don’t know why you would need to undercut that price because I would assume that your site … again, ignoring the API for just a minute that your site is incrementally better. Maybe not a completely disruptive website, no, but it’s more modern, it’s better, it’s easier for them to change, it … I don’t know, your SEO is smarter, it’s incrementally better. So why shouldn’t you charge the same amount or evenmore?Jared:  Well, right now, it’s not. I mean … Jason:  I know, but we’re not talking about right now. Jared:  Okay. We’re talking about a year from now when I have all the features? I mean, I feel like I would have a hard time asking for more than the $50 until we, myself, or somebody else, builds, say, the ADA-accessible site. I mean, I live in Chicago, and I’m not far from Northwestern University, which is in Evanston. One of the ideas was to get – Evanston’s a relatively small town — try and get some of these other people to sign up and then have a site that was just specifically targeted to Northwestern University students, things of that sort. And I don’t … Jason:  Hold on. Wait, wait, wait. I get all that. When you do that, it is worth more, and I’m not arguing with any of that. But I’m still stuck on this thing with the website. You’re not comfortable charging more? So … Jared:  Until the value can be justified. If I were to say, “Listen, some of the other companies that have websites, it’s going To … ” I think it’s going To be easy for a few of them that either have a lousy website, or an out-of-date one, for them to say, “Yeah, I can justify paying $50 a month, $100 I’m not entirely sure. I think $50 is not unreasonable.” Jason:  Hold on. First of all you need to ask them. You need to propose, it’s $150 bucks and see what they say. And if they say why is it $150 bucks, you need to have some pretty good answers. Because the SEO is better. Because people don’t bounce off of it and I have the numbers to prove it, or whatever.But explain to me then why this real estate agents pay $150 bucks a month for a WordPress site literally in which they can buy a template for $80 bucks and shuffle around some images and have a site.Why do they pay $150 bucks a month? Jared:  Why do they pay $150 dollars now? Jason:  There’s thousands of them right now doing it.Why in the world are they doing it? Jared:  I’m a little thrown off. I guess I don’t have the answer to that question. Jason:  Yes. It’s an interesting question.Here’s another example. I know WordPress consultants where they do build up the site through, like you said, three grand, five grand, whatever. And then they put in like this retainer. Like you need 5 hours a month for my time, plus all the hosting costs included and it’s going to be $200 bucks a month or $150 bucks a month. And they’re almost always successful in doing that.And of course, they go put the site on something really cheap. It probably cost them $5 to $10 bucks a month per site, tops. And they made us think like they’re creating WordPress latest version and I don’t know, like whatever it is that they do, right? Jared:  Okay. Jason:  $150 bucks a month, there it is again. Like the hosting cost are $10 bucks a month but somehow they are able to charge $150 bucks a month, what you and I, technical people would consider trivial services. With the insane markup of like 10x, right?So my point of all of that is it’s a little bit rhetorical but not really, to ask, why are they paying that? My point is just to comeback what you said when you said, “I’m not comfortable charging $150 bucks a month because we don’t have enough.”And what I’m trying to get you to see is that I think you’re thinking of this as how good is this offer, how many features does it have, how does it stack up to stuff and how hard would it be for, what’s an alternative, how hard would it be for them to build this another way? And that’s what the value is. Therefore, that’s why I should charge.And what I’m trying to do is push you in exactly the other direction. They don’t care what your technology is. They don’t care how much it costs for you to host it. They don’t care how much each feature took to build, etc.There’s something’s that they want, which is where we kind of started the call with. I don’t know what those are. Increasing traffic, increasing their Google Search. Jared:  I understand. You’re asking for one thing. Why is someone to pay that money? What is the justification for me paying that money? And I can give you a simple one.One sentence answer. Anything that gets somebody into that apartment a month earlier than they would have is creating value. If you’re paying $50 to $100 a month or whatever a month, if you put someone in that apartment a month earlier than you would have for any number of months earlier and they’re paying $800 to $1,000 dollars, you’ve made your money back.And for $50 dollars a month, that’s $600 a year and if you get somebody in one month earlier, that’s creating value. But the easiest way to say I can charge more is, say for arguments sake, we’re talking 2 years down the road, if you had 2 or 3 or 10 different sites that where using Padseeker.I had a friend of mine who was talking about “I want to create a site that deals specifically with this issue, trying to reduce your commute”, if you could put your data into this application and maybe it’s 5 or maybe it’s 100 different sites built on top of the API means your property will go up to that site and find that person, make it more likely that the person that’s looking for that type of apartment they’re looking for actually finds it, that is where the value is in that software.And right now when you just have a site, I hate to say it, even though I think it’s valuable to have a website, $50 dollars a month does seem like a ridiculous amount of money. I have a hard time charging more than that because if you have 10 or 20 properties and you get somebody to go to your website, there’s not a huge guarantee that you’re going to get somebody’s rear end in that apartment faster. It will with the potential growth of having 50 to 100 clients with 1,000 properties and having at least 3 to 5 different websites that are built on top of your application that means other people are looking at your stuff.And I always think about the ADA accessible thing because that’s a very specific market and if you say I have 20 apartments but I have 2 that are ADA accessible and this website says you have 2 units available in your price range or the amount of bedrooms that you’re looking for, that is the truest value of what Padseeker provides or hopes to down the road.That’s assuming I get to that point. That assumes that I get 50 customers to sign up for this and actually you having a website, your property, your ADA specific property is being shown on this particular website. That’s where the value is, and at that point, once there’s something built on top of Padseeker, yeah, I think I could charge $150 to $200 a month because you’re not just offering the website, you’re offering the ability to market this individual property or certain types of properties to specific people that are looking for that. Jason:  That still the means to the end. The end is get an ass in the apartment faster because vacant apartments just cost you money. One way is you have a special ADA site, and that drives a bunch of traffic, and there are many other niches as you just described, and you want to open it up so that’s it easy to have a lot of these, but what I think it comes down to is driving a whole lot more very qualified traffic to a website that converts well. Is that true? Jared:  Yeah, I mean, yeah. Jason:  Okay, so here’s what I would say. I’m still not negating the vision. I get it, and I think it’s great, but I’m still trying to figure out, because you also say, “that’s down the road, that’s down the road,” and so I’m trying to figure out, how can we maximize the amount and the value now.I think it sounds like the pitch is, you need A) more traffic to the website, and not just crap traffic. You need more real traffic to the website, and B) you need that traffic to actually result in people getting apartments faster. Just getting people to look at the home page is not valuable. Getting them to actually get an apartment, to say yes and sign on an apartment, is really valuable.That’s two things; more traffic and more conversion that you can tell. It sounds like if you could just fill an apartment every couple of months that would pay for a website that’s $150 a month, if you could prove that,right?Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  Here’s an idea. What if your website, and I know they could do what I’m about to say now, but they would have to build stuff, and figure it, and you could build this pretty easily, what if you made on their website a way for someone to print out a special offer, and the special offer is probably stuff like, “if you move in by this date, the first month’s free,” or it’s half off. Stuff like that. I know for property, especially from commercial renting, stuff like giving away a month of free month is very easy for them to say yes to because they know that gets them a tenant for a certain period of time, and that’s a very easy give-away for them. No sweat, right? Jared:  Okay. Jason:  In commercial real estate it’s almost a given that you sort of ask for a couple of months off, and they always say yes because it works, and it works with their financing on their side and all that stuff. It’s very easy for them to do it. Here’s what you could do. What if your website, a visitor comes, and you’re like, “Hey, we have a special end-of-year thing, and if you move in by December 31st, you can print this out, bring it in and get your first month off,” or whatever the property manager agrees to.Of course that thing is tracked, right? Because that thing is a thing you generate even though they can print it as a PDF or whatever it is that prints the webpage. You’ll determine an easy way, right? Whatever it is, you can track it because it’s got some numbers there, and that’s going to get back to your analytics about where it came from and whatever, but the bottom line is every time someone redeems one of those it’s 100% proof that you did it through the website, right? Jared:  Okay. Jason:  Every time that happens they know they just made whatever their average lifetime value is from the customer, which I’m sure is 1000s and 1000s of dollars, right? Jared:  Yes. Jason:  If you did that on a website where you could actually track whether the website was working, because this is a great offer. Shoot, if I was looking for an apartment, and you told me a month free, I’m probably print that sucker out. That’s going to save me $800. That’s a lot of money to save. That’s a pretty good incentive for the person, right? Jared:  Mm-hmm. Jason:  You could probably track how many print outs there were, too. Just part of your own funnel. That would be kind of cool to see. Anyway, you only have to show a couple of hits. To me, you’d probably only have to show a couple hits a year to justify a pretty expensive website, and again, I think you could do that before there’s an API, before you have a way to generate a lot of traffic, and just say here’s a website we’re encouraging people to get into the apartment, and we will know if it works or not. Either their going to redeem these things, which means it’s working, or they don’t, and we’ll all know. Jared:  Okay. Jason:  Right? Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  Now you can justify a lot of money because they can do the math, and they’ll know. Now you can justify the $150, because how else will they print coupons. Then imagine all the stuff that suddenly starts appearing. We’re going to put Craigslist’s ads and try stuff, and we can actually track it all the way to whether they got the apartment, or like you said, we’re going to have the ADA site, and these other sites, and it’s going to just generate more traffic.Now imagine this. I wouldn’t do this today, because you don’t know enough about the behavior of these people, but let’s suppose you are good at this, and this does work, people redeem these suckers and property managers go ape. What if the way you got paid was every time someone gets an apartment, you get $500, or $1000, or something? So that’s it, if you don’t generate leads for them- No, wait, forget leads. I take it back. If you don’t generate asses in the apartment, you don’t even get paid. But if you do, you get a nice commission. I bet you could do that. Right now, that would be a pretty big leap of faith on your part because you don’t know if you can convert that. Jared:  Yeah. That also involves, as far as being available from potentially 9:00 to 5:00 … Maybe not; up until this point, the application I’ve been primarily trying to develop is as much self-service as possible, and not having to be intimately involved with talking to human beings from 9:00 to 5:00. Jason:  Wait, why would you … ? No, you’re not talking to humans from 9:00 to 5:00. This is a coupon they bring physically to the apartment and redeem there; you’re not involved. Jared:  How would you go about saying you rented this apartment, and they printed this ad, and this is the person that did it? How can you trust the apartment management company to pay you the finder’s fee? Jason:  You’re right, it might not work. But, here’s what I would bet: if it doesn’t work, if they’re pretending like it doesn’t work, then you’re going to shut off the website. And if it is working, they don’t want that to happen. So I agree with you, and so maybe that’s a bad idea. We’re brainstorming, right? You’re right, that might be a bad idea. Fair enough, right? That’s fine.But your bottom line is, they can now measure how much this is worth to them, and it doesn’t take a lot of hits in this idea to make it worth a lot of money per month. And you could do that first, today, with the website - how are you different from their alternative? Well, there’s this feature and this map – Okay, fair enough, you need to have a base line of modern, good stuff, no doubt. And you know how to do that; you’re already doing it, of course.Here could be the magic thing that nobody else has, this coupon thing which gets – just what you said – gets the ass in the chair sooner, gets the person in the apartment sooner, and they know it. And that is insane; if you could do that right, that’s the Holy Grail for them. It proves that you’re worth a ton of money; now you could charge $500 a month for the damn website. Jared:  This is the whole basis on which the advertising industry is built - you have no idea where your traffic’s coming from and should just pay us money, hopefully we’ll get people. I guess what I’m hearing you saying is, imagine someone gets to the site and they click a button, and they print out a flyer that says, “you get a month for free.” You could say, “Listen, this is somebody that would not have found you under normal circumstances, and therefore, we created value.” Jason:  Well, two things. 1, they may not have found you, or they probably would have just left this website and not printed anything out or bothered. That’s probably true. But here’s what we know for sure: if you put a time limit on that – which you should, because you’re trying to get them to act – what you said is, if you could get someone even a month earlier into that apartment, then they would have. Even the same person that was going to find you anyway, if you could get them in there a month earlier, you just told me, that’s worth money to you.So what I would say is, “it’s pretty likely that this person would not have, in fact, printed out something from your website and got over there, because there was no compelling reason to. We gave them a reason to.” So, number one, you’re right, this is probably a new customer you didn’t have before. But number two, they sure might not have moved this quickly, and you got them to move faster. That’s the worst case, is you got them into the apartment sooner. Probably, that was a new person.The more this happens, in other words, as you get better at driving traffic and at converting that traffic, which, again, is something you know will get better over time, whether that means better SEO, whether that means an API that just drags really highly qualified people in all the time, there’s lots of ways in which you can increase the amount of this clearly tangibly valuable thing, and you will.You have this vision with API and these other sites, awesome. That will be another part of your secret sauce for why this drives a ton of value that they can even measure, unlike every other form of advertising that they have. I mean, that’s incredibly valuable.But, even on day one, I’m still trying to drive to you, how is it on day one your website’s still worth $150 a month or even $500 a month? I’m exempting the beta people, as usual. On day one, once you’ve got your version 1.0 set and you’re onto customer 23, how is it even before the API this is worth a ton of money? And the API’s only going to make it more valuable, right? Jared:  Yeah. It’s a lot to think about. You know what, the reason I called you was I was hoping that you could help give me focus as far as priorities because I spoke to those four or five people on the current version of the product and the answer I got was, “I’m interested but only when you actually have something.” And the reason I even looked for this conversation was I was hoping you could sort of … the reason I called those people was because of listening to your show and [Stars] for the rest of us and other things that do you marketing before your apps is live. And because I got the reaction I got from the people I talked to, which is “I’m interested but don’t talk to me again until you have something,” I was trying to figure out what the highest priority is and this conversation is very relevant.I was debating whether I spend more time as far as trying to talk about the marketing aspect, or just go back to wood shedding and writing code and it sounds like you still think I need to put more time at least into talking to people that . . it sounds like you’re trying to get me to think beyond where I am right now, or at least add a feature that currently doesn’t exist and maybe initially that hard to do but it’s sort of … Jason:  What I’m trying to get you to do is to tap into something where their eyes get wide and they go, “Oh, my god. When is this going to be done?” And that’s not the reaction you’re getting yet. Jared:  No it isn’t. Jason:  If I had to guess, the reason is that what you’re pitching right now is an incrementally better website for a reasonable price, which is okay, but why would they get excited about that? And why wouldn’t they push you off to wait until it’s done because there’s no . . why would you? What are you going to talk about if that’s all there is? So, what is it where you go, “hey, what if I could prove whether or not I was filling apartments faster than you are now?” What if I was the only … what if I took all your marketing, which you can’t measure at all and made it measurable? That’s what you said, right? Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  What are some thing like that potentially where they go, “Oh, my god.” There’s that great quote from the guy I think it’s from the late 1800s actually. “I know half of my marketing spend is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” Everybody relates to that. And you know you can determine which half and more importantly, you can justify the site. First of all you can mock up what the screen would look like with the offer on their homepage or whatever it would, whether it be print button. You could just make a one screen shot mock up of what does that look and say, “hey, if I could prove whether I’m filling apartments because the software does all of this automatically, then would you be interested in giving me a trial run? Just a trial. You don’t have to switch it forever. Just trial. Listen, I’ll do it for free for three months, just would you try it?”In other words you got to get some kind of commitment of like, “Oh, yeah, if you build that thing, then I’ll try it.” That’s different from just come back when it’s done. I’ll take another look. That’s not a commitment. Jared:  Okay. So, can I ask you a quick question? Jason:  Yeah. Jared:  As far as relative to this idea, it sounds like I have to sell these people on the idea of giving away a month’s rent free. That’s part of the pitch. Does that sound like a accurate description? Jason:  Well, just in this particular brainstorm of this particular way to maybe fill an apartment faster and also because I’m pretty sure that works with their financials. But is might be some other idea but something that’s tangible that you can track, they can track, everyone agrees that it’s throwing thousands of dollars into their bottom line. Let’s put it that way. Because just what you said, because we know apartment was filled that wouldn’t be or it would have been filled some time in the future, which is bad. It’s absolutely making thousands of dollars when that event happens we all agree to it. This was just an idea about how to do that. You might have other ideas and so might they. Jared:  Okay. Well, I’d love to keep picking your brain, but I probably have to go at this point. Jason:  Here’s a weird idea. What if you paid for it? In other words, let’s say this. The website is 500 bucks a month and you say here’s the deal. It’s 500 bucks a month. That’s a ton. I know that. And it’s totally not worth it to you unless I can prove I’m filling apartments, right? Of course if I can prove it, it’s a no-brainer. Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  Okay. Here’s how you do it. You take all the risk off of them and you say here’s the deal. It’s 500 bucks a month. there’s a money back guarantee going back three months. In other words, you cancel at any time and get your last month back. So if this isn’t working, then don’t worry about it. You make the coupon and you pay the first month’s rent. How bizarre is that? Jared:  That takes revenue that I don’t have yet. Jason:  You do if it’s $500 a month. Jared:  Okay. Yeah, that’s not crazy. Jason:  Well, it may be a bad idea because maybe the apartment is $2,000, and if you’re successful then you’re out of money because you’re putting too much money. So that may be a bad idea, in fact. But this is what I mean, just try to break into just different ideas. How can you remove the risk from them? The more you can remove risk from them and demonstrate exactly what changes their bottom line the most, whatever does that, that’s what’s going to be compelling to them.So, what I just said is probably bad because the more successful you are, it costs you more money, so in retrospect, probably a bad idea. But you see what I mean? That’s the kind of brainstorming you want is, how can you just generate a lot of value out of this that they agree to?Here’s one last thing you said, “I’m wondering whether I should go back and write code and do what they said,” which is to make it and then come back to them. That’s what they said, right? “Should I do that, or is that my priority?”I think the easiest way to see that just writing more code is definitely not the priority is this, that you know, I know for a fact, you can go away in February, or whenever you said. You will come back with a website that has all the features you need. It looks nice, it’s compelling, and it’s a good choice given the alternatives. I know 100% you could do that. Don’tyou?Jared:  Yeah. That sounds like a very realistic proposition. Jason:  Yeah, there’s no risk there because you know how to write code. Jared:  Yeah. Jason:  And the websites are, at this stage, before all this cool vision stuff, but at this stage, the code is also pretty easy. There’s a lot of work to do, but there are no scary, unknowable things to figure out, right? You’re going to do it. 100% chance you’re going to do it.So, 100% chance that in February or March, you will have a certain website that’s a better alternative. You could probably get some people to give you $20 to $50 a month for it. I’m sure of that. I’m sure if you call a bunch of people and their alternative is $100, yours is just as good and it’s $30, I’m sure some peo

    —Huffduffed by davidbhayes one month ago

  4. Smart Bear Live 7: More from AZ Disruptors by @ASmartBear

    Automated transcription services provided by: Dan:  Hey, Jason. Jason:  Hey. What’s the name of the company? Dan:  The name of the company is Member Desk. Jason:  Member Desk? You know, my daughter, she’s only 2 and Member is how she says remember so it makes me think about just how you remember, but that’s not most people. But Member Desk sounds like you run some kind of organization and the front desk is sort of the metaphor for a lot of stuff. There’s a sign in sheet for volunteer stuff. There’s scheduling. There’s I don’t know, memberships. There’s just stuff and most organizations are bad at it and don’t have somebody devoted to it. So Member Desk is a virtual and yet it can also be physical, literally sitting in the front of the co- working space inexpensive way to do that for pretty much any organization. Dan:  That’s pretty decently close, actually. Jason:  Right. So what is it really? Dan:  Member Desk is a hosted membership site software. Let’s people sell premium digital content online without dealing with any of the technicalstuff.Jason:  What is premium digital content mean? Dan:  Videos, music. Jason:  Why is that premium? Dan:  Because you’re not giving it away for free. You want people to payfor it.Jason:  Premium means for money. Dan:  For money. Yes. Jason:  So selling music. Dan:  Music, videos. Jason:  Because you said premium digital media, so I didn’t get selling music out of that. Dan:  Yes. That’s one of the possibilities. Jason:  Selling music. Selling videos. Selling stuff that can be delivered electronically but you want to make money. Aren’t there a bunch of companies who deliver stuff electronically and let you make money on of it? Dan:  There’s a difference. Basically Member Desk creates a membership site for you where people will pay you, say, on a monthly basis. $10 a month, $50 a month, whatever, and then they get the user name and password to access their membership site; Then they get access to all the content that you allow them access to based on how long they’ve been a member. Jason:  OK. So this is a Paywall-type thing. This is like what Andrew Warner does with Mixergy. Where, if you sign up to be a member and pay monthly, then you get access to the whole archives and all this other stuff. You’re in once you pay. Dan:  Yes. Exactly. Jason:  OK. And so this is a way for just everybody to implement that. Dan:  Yes. Jason:  That sounds good. Dan:  It could work for anybody, but what we’re doing right now is we’re focusing on the music industry; because we’re actually running the premium fan site for the 70′ band Chicago right now, and they’re super happy with it so we decided to focus on musicians. Because musicians have a ton of content that can be sold digitally. And that kind of leads into my question because music and all content really is a pretty tough industry. So my question is how do you get to the people that you need to talk to in these industries? How do you get to the decision makers when they have so many people guarding the door? Jason:  They do. They do, and when you get into music or Hollywood it’s the worst. Like at least in IBM you try to get into IBM but you know what titles to go for and find them in LinkedIn and they have admins, but you can get around those admins and all that. Hollywood and music, you can’t call Madonna. That’s not ever going to happen. Those kinds of industries are very much who do you know and that kind of stuff, unfortunately. So actually I have been advising a company in Austin, who is also in the music industry; and they actually started with an idea not dissimilar from what you described, but they are not doing it now. They now do extra- merchandise so fan selling other fans merchandise that they made but this time with IP rights and everybody makes money, which is pretty cool. But they had the exact same problem. That they had to sell the band on it. One thing I learned from there, is that the manager is the first step. If the band members want to do it, that’s fine but A, They are harder to find anyway. And B,The manager often is the one controlling how the money works.So, if the manager’s on board, you’re probably going to start and if not, you’re don’t regardless of the band. So the manager, that’s one thing. And the good thing about managers is that they manage multiple bands, and all the managers know each other too. So the good news is, if you can get your wedge in there, one manager levers you into bunch of bands, which is already nice and that therefore more with your effort; and it’s easier once you’re intrenched that you could be this person doing this. But if it were easy to break in with a product for the music industry, which is sort of like, “I got a game. How do I get people to know about it?” They’re like, It’s a game. It’s hard. It’s expensive.There isn’t an easy, cheap way to make everybody know about a game because everybody is making a game. So it’s not going to be a patent answer. But I wonder if one answer could be that there are these other technology companies like this one I’m talking about. It’s called Bitvibe. They do have some traction. I wonder if another technology company in which you don’t compete, so that then doing one thing means they wouldn’t do the other and yet you’re both going after the same people. I wonder if it would be useful to team up with one of them. Not to merge companies or anything like that, but simply to say “We’re all trying to get in here. We don’t compete. Maybe we should try to share some of this as we go because we’re all trying to do this.” It could work although people are usually pretty tight about that. The way Bitvibe broke in is that the co-founder is the drummer for several really big bands that you’ve heard of from the 80′s and right now he’s in Gregg Rollie Band. Gregg Rollie is the other guy in Carlos Santana. So pretty top, not A+ list but enough. But the answer is the co-founder’s been in the industry for 30 years and he’s somebody and so they can get meetings. So, like in most things, is who you know and networking and finding out the next person in line, the next person inline.Patrick:  You know, I think most start ups are not like that. In other words, if you look at the most start ups on Earth, their success is not depending on who they know. But in music and film, I’m not sure I know people who just break into music and don’t know anybody and have no ends. That’s a tough one. Hamid, do you have any insight in this? Hamid:  It’s kind of interesting. So Member Desk is actually an AC disruptors company, that incubator that we have going here. So Leon and I have met numerous times, about marketing strategy and the music one is that developed after Chicago became a customer. But until they had become a customer I think the thought was that the site might be used more for people who have very popular blogs or they have content that they write about about sports or medicine or whatever topic that they become an experts on. Then over time they start building a library of that content that they then sell as a monthly subscription of some kind. Or maybe they have forums that they have premium access for the members. So that was sort of the direction that we thought about going in and it’s just hard to figure out the marketing strategy around that. Dan:  Exactly. One of the things is that it’s software that can be used by pretty much anybody so how do you narrow it down? How do you focus? Jason:  Yes. I think you do have to focus. You probably don’t have enough time and money and energy to go after multiple markets at the same time so having Chicago, that’s fantastic. And again, if you’re successful with them, if they show success, which they have big enough of a fan base, you should be able to. Dan:  They’re very happy so far. Jason:  They may be happy but if you show some sort of objective success like look, Chicago had, I’m just making this up, 200,000 people in their email list, they had 77,000 people in their fan club, which by the way was people literally mailing out their things and getting stuff. And they’ve successfully moved most of those people to this, and now making monthly money and more money than ever before because of this, and now they’re all digital and now so easy to do that, and you have that complete story, I don’t know why their manager wouldn’t push you on to the other bands they manage. It’s more money for everybody.It’s like why would this not happen? So I think you use this, again, as a wedge and go from there if you really focus on getting this out of the park. Not just they’re happy but the next person has to be bowled over, whatever that means. Alternately, if you wanted to go after this other stuff, I think you can certainly can. I think that makes sense, that market, and it’s even pretty obvious how to find those people. They sort of, like there’s some standard places that everybody like that reads. Like a lot of people that read Copy Blogger are the kind of people that might do that, and Copy Blogger does guest posts and does other things that you could assume insinuate yourself in. There’s even conferences around conferences that you could go to where those kind of folks are. These people like the guy behind I will teach you to be rich, I forgot his name. Dan:  Ramit. Jason:  Ramit. He’s a conduit to it and first of all he’s a perfect customer for this. Although, we don’t need to go in deep in that. He might not be just because of his particular style but what he is is definitely the kind of guy that if he got behind this and explained this as a strategy, he might be able to put 1,000 in your lap. Dan:  Interesting. Jason:  So going after those kinds, the influencers of those people like Ramit. So in other words, it’s pretty clear how you would go after that thing that’s a growing market. There’s a lot of people who are experts or have a book that want to make money in other ways just like this. Bob Welsh is another one who is sort of plugged in that kind of world, and is helping other people through that kind of thing right now. I think there’s definitely places. The fact that Andrew Warner id doing this at the moment. He’s obviously got an implementation already. but he would have probably use this had it been available. Dan:  I don’t know if you’ve heard. Lous C.K. just came out with the same exact model Jason:  I did. The same thing, right. It was just $5 period but how much better would it be if it was $5 a month. You’d be under the gun to produce more content, I guess. But I don’t know. As fans, of Louis C.K. maybe you do it, because you’re fans. Dan:  If you’re a big fan you would. Jason:  What about Adam Corolla? I could totally see some kind of special with Adam Corolla. Or another example would be This Week in Start-ups. Where they have the producers thing. It’s the same thing. It’s an exclusive club, blah, blah, blah. Any podcast or maybe blogger, but podcast, for sure, like them, that’s over a certain number of listeners, and that’s not a million people, but it’s 1,000? Dan:  Yeah. Jason:  And you know how to find them because just go look at iTunes and go through the top lists and just go. So I think it’s pretty clear how you’d reach out and do that, but that’s a whole different thing than trying to make Chicago work. Dan:  Yeah, exactly. Jason:  I do think you have to decide, for now. That doesn’t mean you can’t decide “Nah, screw it. Let’s go after the other one”. Dan:  Yeah. Jason:  Right. You can do that any time you please and that’s OK, but I think you have to decide now. But of course, braking in at the very beginning is hardest in any industry, for any start-up, of course it’s a huge challenge, of course there’s no easy answers, but I’ll give you one other possible answer because you’re talking about breaking in. When you say break in it usually means at the top. Dan:  Yeah. Jason:  How do I get in front of Lady Gaga’s manager? Yeah, I don’t know. Right? So there is the other direction, and it’s harder but it’s sort of if you can do it then you’re in the driver’s seat and you can just do it which is to go the other direction. Go after the Lady Gaga fans somehowdirectly.Dan:  Interesting. Jason:  Make the unofficial Lady Gaga Fan Club which they pay for and when they come knocking on your door saying “There’s thousands of people. We’re getting emails all the time. They’re paying money. Who the hell are you?” you say “You’re right. I don’t want to own this. I want you to own this. I was just trying to get your attention. Now, let’s talk about you can actually promote this and make it from 1,000 people to 100,000 people and we can all make a bunch of money”. Dan:  Interesting. Jason:  See what I mean? Now, I don’t know that that’s easier because it’s a bunch of consumers, how do you reach them, I don’t know. They don’t read Hacker News, so I don’t know. That’s not necessarily a great idea, but it’s a brainstorm of you can go the other way to get their attention potentially. Dan:  Great, I like that. It’s something to look into. It might not be easier, but something to look into. Jason:  You know, it may be easy for a particular band or something. There’s some reason why you have an in with the fan groups of one of them, like there’s a local chapter guy and he thinks it’s the best thing ever. You’re like “Well then get your local chapter on” and he does and so in other words it still might be just a wedge to get in, but that guy’s easier to find. The chapter organizer of Lady Gaga Fan Club in Arizona, that person you can locate and you can talk to that person. So, you know, there’s not as powerful, but at least you can talk to them. Dan:  That’s true. Patrick:  Hey Jason, Patrick, sorry. Going in the other direction I thought you were going to say go after smaller bands that have more immediately to gain, so there’s bands who play for 1,000 people a night who might really need the money that this generated. What do you think about going after smaller bands instead of huge acts? Jason:  For sure. It’s always easier to get at the smaller people. There’s probably some clips where the amount of money they could generate is actually not that interesting. Dan:  Yeah. Jason:  And they probably don’t have a very good, well, some of them might have a good connection with their fans and be able to move them to do it. But another thing I learned is that a lot of these big bands, they have a ton of fans but they really don’t know how to message them. Dan:  Yeah, that’s true. Jason:  You may have a million Twitter followers, they probably don’t. They may have a mailing list, it’s probably not even around the number of fans they actually have. If they’re really organized they have a fan club, and Chicago probably does because they’re so big and organized, but the smaller ones surely don’t. So maybe if you found the smaller bands who are also really good at communicating with their community. That might be a good sweet spot, because then they may be able to get 1,000 people to pay them $5 a month, and that’s pretty good. Dan:  Yeah, for a band that’s great. Jason:  It’s possible. I mean, it’s easy to talk to very little bands and just say I feel like the amount of revenue for you is very little. The amount of training and selling is very high. So I don’t see that, again, as a stepping stone, OK, maybe, but even so if you have little piddly bands that go around and don’t make a lot of money, I still don’t see how that leads you to the managers of the big bands and convincing them that they will make a lot of money. I don’t think one leads to the other, so I’m not sure that you’re making that much progress. Patrick:  OK. Jason:  That direction, but maybe medium. I’m not sure. This is still outside my, you know, I don’t know that much about the market of this, so I don’t really know how those behaviors go. Patrick:  That’s cool. Dan:  Great. Thanks for all those ideas. Jason:  By the way, one last one is if you find a power manager that runs 40 people and they actually give you the time of day and think it’s pretty cool take them into the fold so that they personally want to do this. Give them a small percentage of the company, but they have to bring in, not for nothing, they have to contingent upon them bringing 10 bands, or a certain amount of revenue, I don’t know, something that you would then say “Oh man, is that worth it”. Dan:  OK. Jason:  Because then they’re personally motivated to do this for you, not even just for money. Now it’s pride and then telling everybody how they’re an investor in this hot tech start-up and all this garbage. That’s what you’re also giving them so that they want to go do this for you. Dan:  That’s great. Jason:  If that helps you mint the company it’s totally worth, I don’t know, 5% of the company. Dan:  Yeah sure. Jason:  If that lands you 10 big acts and gets the ball rolling and gives you legitimacy and blah, blah, blah and he can pick up the phone, my God, that’s clearly worth it. Dan:  That’s great. Patrick:  Awesome. Dan:  Thanks, yeah. Patrick:  Thanks Dan.(strum) Interviewee:  Jason, how are you doing? My question is, what’s your opinion on co-founders? So, the company I’m in now is not a software company and I’m really interested in that space. I have degrees in computer science and networking but I haven’t kept up on the latest technologies. What’s your opinion on finding a co-founder? Like somebody who is more of a technical person, versus just learning the new technologies myself and implementing something. Jason:  Well, I think the decision of having a co-founder or not is very personal. I don’t think there is answers, or industries, or things. I feel like some people probably are just too much of a control freak to really have a co-founder. Interviewee:  Right. Jason:  Then there are other people who are only comfortable with a co- founder. And of course there’s the usual pros and cons right? Like with more people who are not taking salary, you can literally do twice as much. And that’s really important for an early stage start-up to be able to move as fast as possible etc., etc. But you also have to agree on things and this and that. Also when you go through the down and ups with someone else, that’s just so much better than having to rough it on your own. It is rough to do it by yourself. But then again, especially looking ahead to what does it mean when you start taking salary, and how do you divide up the company and what if it goes sour, which it often, often does. In three years what happens? And if you sell the company can you sell it for enough that everyone still. So again, there are clearly pros and cons. I guess I don’t understand the context in which you are asking. You’re saying you haven’t kept up with the technology, so should you go find someone who has? That doesn’t seem like a good reason to do anything. Interviewee:  Should I find somebody that is up on the latest technology, so then I don’t have to waste a year. Jason:  Why? Who cares? Why do you have to make a company on the latest technology? Interviewee:  Well, I’m talking web development. I haven’t really developed any web applications. It’s a web app that I want to do. Jason:  So you’ve never done a web app and you want to make a web app company. Interviewee:  Yeah. Jason:  Then I would get someone else who’s done it. Or, decide that this is going to take a long time. Which is okay. Is it Okay if this takes a long time? Or is this a race? Interviewee:  No, there’s no race. Jason:  Oh, well then you can decide. Because you could get someone and then you go faster or you could say, “No, I want to learn this. There’s no time pressure so I’ll simply take a long time to build it and who cares.” Interviewee:  Yeah, that makes sense. Hamid:  The other thing to consider is, is it going to be a technology company? Or are you building a web app to service a non-tech field. And that’s sort of an interesting thing because if you’re building a web application that could sort of not be on the latest technologies and have the greatest whiz-bang UI interfaces, and the greatest user experience; but you are servicing this market that is way under-served. The one thing that you might be able to do is outsource the development costs of it. I don’t know what your investment potential is. Interviewee:  Right. Hamid:  But if you’re trying to build a technology company without having a technology co-founder, I think that would be a huge problem. Jason:  I agree. Interviewee:  Thanks.(strum) Gelie:  Hi. Jason:  Hi. Gelie:  All right, so the name of my company is networkingphoenix.com. Jason:  Yeah, and folks who have common interests and want to find each other in the interest groups that they can go to can find each other on this centralized location. Gelie:  Very good. I’ll give you an A. So, basically what it is, is it’s a website, and we compile and promote all the different business networking events in town on the calendar. Jason:  Right. Gelie:  So the core of the site is the calendar, and the reason people come to the site is because of the calendar. Then we have different things built around it. So, when you land on the site and try to click on anything it will let you view the event once, but then it says “Hey, if you want to see more events now you’ve got to create a profile”. So, they go to create a profile, and it’s free. It’s like LinkedIn, right? Jason:  Right? Gelie:  So you create a free profile, you promote your business, whatever you want to promote, and now you’re in my database. So, we’re three years old. We’ve got about almost 20,000 members. Jason:  Wow. Gelie:  We are actually one of the most popular local websites here in Arizona. Jason:  Yeah. Gelie:  And four times a year we do these big networking events where we get about 1,500 to 2,000 people attending. Jason:  Wow. Where do you do that? Gelie:  Resorts here in Phoenix. Jason:  Oh wow. That’s cool. Gelie:  Glad you think it’s cool. Jason:  How much do you charge them to attend one of these events? Gelie:  Well, it’s free. Jason:  No! Gelie:  But no, it’s free for them to attend. Well, it’s not free for the sponsors and the people that exhibit at these events. Jason:  Well yeah, but man, even if it was $5. Gelie:  Right. Everybody says that. But that’s why nobody has events as big as ours because everybody gets greedy and wants to charge, right? Jason:  Fair enough. Gelie:  So this is where we’re different. Jason:  But you make some money on the event? Hamid:  I like how she at least answers that question. Gelie:  Oh, I’m sorry. Hamid:  She’s like bam! Jason:  No, no. That’s good. Hamid:  Exactly. She knows her business. It’s very good. Jason:  I mean, you could still have premium members who decide they want to, just like LinkedIn, right? You pay, you get a little more. Gelie:  Wait, wait, wait, wait. Right. So I was going to say the core of business… Jason:  But you make money on these events, right? Because of the sponsors, but you make money on these events, right? Gelie:  Correct. The core of the business though, the revenue model, so it’s free to join, but then there’s the optional paid membership. Jason:  Right. Gelie:  Right? So it’s $10 a month. You sign up, then the monthly and then we have an annual, but you can attend other organization’s events for free. So I negotiate the free tickets and I just become this middle person. Jason:  Right. Gelie:  So you sign up for free, and you get your passport and now you can attend different chamber mixers and all this other good stuff, different educational seminars. So in a nutshell- Jason:  How many people do that? Gelie:  Right now we have just over 1,000 and we’ve had the product out for about a year and a half. Jason:  That’s a long time. Gelie:  It is a long time, and so we’ve been watching the trend, right? So, when do they sign up? Why do they sign up? Why do they drop off? So, there’s definitely things we know we need to improve on but we haven’t been, I haven’t had the data, right? So I didn’t know. Now that I do know we’re kind of getting into that phase of “Okay, now we have to take this product and fill in all the different gaps”, right? So why are all these people falling off? Well the good thing is a lot of them actually tell us why they’re leaving. So we know we can improve. But, that’s not really, so my question to you is, So where I am in the business is we want to expand, right? So we want to take this to different cities and keeping that local feel. So we’ve got networkingphoenix, networkingsandiego, networkingwhatever, fill in the city. So we’re kind of trying to put systemizing everything; but what I’m struggling with is going into year three because everybody’s been doing their own thing, right? I’m actually very fortunate because I’ve had the same employees pretty much since day one.On one hand that’s good; on the other hand that’s bad, because I don’t really know what they do on a daily basis. So, we’re trying to systemize it so I know I have 10 minutes here, so actually, I’m not going to ask you that question, because I’m more interested in my other question, which is how do I build a board of advisers? Okay, so this is kind of a few part question I’m going to ask you and then you can give me your overall thought process. So I’m looking to build a board of advisers because I kind of need a sounding board or I feel like i could use a sounding board and then really why would somebody want to be on my board, right? Because I’ve met with a few VCs and Angels and I’m not really looking for money as of right now, but I always just kind of like to bounce ideas off of them and they’re like “Well, you know, if you’re talking to me, that means, and I’m a VC, that means I’m going to want to invest and blah, blah, blah” but then they say “But not everybody would want to invest”. So, Okay. How do I find these people? Jason:  Well what do you want them to do? Gelie:  I need a sounding board, right? Because I need to be able- Jason:  Well then just find, you’re a network of, you know 20,000 people. I’m serious. So what you need is to find people like, they’re business-savvy, they’re interested in this for whatever reason, they also want you to succeed, they like you personally, and that’s it. Then they’ll be a good sounding board. Gelie:  Okay. Right. But, I mean, not like how do I approach them, but, yes, how do I approach them, only because I’ve never been in the situation and I- Jason:  You’re a networker. Gelie:  Listen, I know, but I get it. I can approach a lot of people, but I’m not going to approach a lot of people. Hamid:  I take cash if you’re… Jason:  Yeah. Jason:  I don’t see what the dillema is. You literally say… Woman:  Why? Why would they want to be in my board? Okay, there’s this “why would they want to be in my board?” So maybe, you can give me some insight. Is it because they just want to put their name on something cool, or what? Hamid:  The problem that you’re describing is one that a lot of founders have. Jason, maybe you can sort of elaborate on this. But I think it’s difficult to ask people, even if those people would be more than willing to do it for free or to spend their time making other people successful, because somebody helped them along the way. But it is difficult to ask, and that’s one of the things that, as an entrepreneur, you have to sort of get over the hurdle that you have to get over. But how do you get over sort of, how do I approach this person? Gelie:  Right. Jason:  To ask, and what are they going to think of me, you know? Gelie:  Right. Yeah. Because there’s a million people that I’m sure will want to do it… Jason:  Hold on. Hold on. Gelie:  But I don’t want them on the board. Jason:  Right. Jason:  You don’t seem like you have a problem approaching people and talking to people… Gelie:  I’m shy. Jason:  Or saying whatever you think. Okay. So that’s not the problem. Gelie:  You’re right. Jason:  You’re afraid that that they don’t… Why would they volunteer their time? What’s in it for them? Is that what you’re worried about? Gelie:  Yes. Yes. Yes. Jason:  Well, Okay. Number one. Who cares? As long as they want to do it, it’s Okay. Gelie:  Okay. Jason:  Number two. People do it because it is fun for people who are doers and are intelligent and like thinking about problems to hang out with other people who are like that and to see those things happen. That is just fun. That’s life. Gelie:  Right. Jason:  It is fun and life. Imagine how many emails I get asking to pick my brain about this with that, right? And everyone, of course, the automatic answer is no because of the time, just time. But every once in a while, I say yes. And why do I say yes? Because that person just seems like they’d be interesting and they’re doing something cool, and they seem like they’re serious, which you obvious are because you got a growing concern and all that. You just want to. I’ll put it this way. All these organizations and stuff, where people are obviously at a net loss in time and money for pretty much any organization in town that you send people to, why are they doing that? Because they want to hang with people who are interested in that thing and talk about it. That’s why they’re doing it. Hamid:  One of the things that I’ve done a few years back, a couple of, me and buddy, who happens to also have a software company, we were talking. We thought exactly the same thing. It would be great if we could have a sort of advisory board, and we ended up inviting five other people, that happened to be from all over the country, that also have software companies, to a joint meeting in Las Vegas that we were going to spend a day talking about our businesses. That meeting turned into, now, we’ve been doing it for five years. Every five, six months, we travel to a city of one of the companies. It might be Dallas, or Toronto in Canada, or Florida or Boston, where each of the companies are and we’d become each other’s sort of sounding boards and advisory boards for a day; and we’d take turns going around the table. So one way would potentially be a mutually beneficial thing, rather than just, simply, incoming advice, right? Rather than a board of advisers that’s just for you, what about a board of peers that you give them just as much advice as they give you? That sort of worked out really well for us. So that’s another thing to consider, another way to go. Jason:  Yeah. I agree 100%. I know quite a few people who do that. Usually, it’s local just because it’s easier, right? You just find other local entrepreneurs that you can just meet with once a month. Jason:  Well, that’s… Gelie:  But, yeah… Hamid:  It’s hard, often times, local. But even if it’s international, not international. But even if it’s national, our trips cost about $1000 per trip. And we do it every three, four, five months. So let’s say three times a year, I spend $1000 on a trip. So that’s $3000 a year on an amazing sort of meeting that I couldn’t have locally because those companies don’t exist locally. I can’t find seven other software companies about my size. Gelie:  Right. Right. And that actually was my point, is that yeah, you’re right, there are a lot of people, but I don’t want to talk to them. Hamid:  Right. Woman:  Because it’s unsolicited advice and more than anything Jason:  Look. I think what you should do is decide who are the people that would be perfect for the board… Gelie:  Right. Which was… Jason:  And then just go ask them to be on it, and then when they say yes, you can ask them, why then? And that would be a… Hamid:  Why are you wanting to do this? Jason:  This is really easy. I don’t know… Gelie:  But seriously… It’s good for me get some feedback and insight on it just because, like I said, I don’t know, this is like a new arena and I typically don’t like to talk to people about my business and details. I mean, I have certain people I talk to about it, not bringing outsiders in. So, the few times I did venture into that world, it was kinda of ugly because maybe I met with some wrong VC’s or whatever. Jason:  I don’t know. You’re just, I don’t know, justifying something? Just do it already. You said you want a board adviser, so go get one, and if you’re not comfortable with it, then don’t do it. I mean, just do it, and then you can ask them why. By they way, I know we’ve got to go, but you got to charge more than $10 per person, because right now you’re making $10 grand a month off of that and that’s not enough, especially if you want to spread out to other cities because there’s no… I mean, to what end? So you can hire one more person. I mean… Hamid:  It’ll turn back on in just.. Jason:  That doesn’t make any sense to me. Gelie:  We tried. That’s actually really interesting feedback, and we tried doing that and it did not work as well as $10. We actually make more money charging out $10 because more people sign up and stay longer than… Jason:  Okay. Well, that’s fine. But then, in some other way you need to be making more money, or else, I don’t know why your’e even going to a location. Gelie:  That’s not the only revenue stream. That’s the core of it, but the thing is I have 20,000 people to sell to, and I haven’t even had a marketing program for it. It just runs itself. Jason:  Well, maybe you should do that before you expand to other cities. Gelie:  Absolutely. Jason:  In other words, you haven’t figured out this model, yet, that’s really cutting off money. Gelie:  Right. Oh, right. So we’re not expanding tomorrow, but in order to expand, so this is exactly why I’m looking to place people around me, so I can actually bounce things off other people because I haven’t had that this whole time, so. Hamid:  Your first step is to systemize everything. And then… Gelie:  Exactly. Right. Which is what I was starting with because we need to just get this system down. Jason:  More money. Gelie:  Yeah. No, absolutely. I mean, like I said, there hasn’t even been a marketing program for this passport program. Jason:  All right. Gelie:  All right. I’m taking up to much time. Hamid:  No, you’re… Gelie:  Thank you. Jason:  Thank you. Patrick:  Thanks.

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  5. Sharron Rush and Whitney Quesenbery – Accessibility Easy Checks » UIE Brain Sparks

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    If you’ve just been put in charge of making a site or app works for everyone, the most daunting step might just be the first one. Sure, there are standards, but sometimes they raise more questions than they answer.

    What you need is an easy way to get started. And Easy Checks may be just what you need.

    Sharron Rush heads the Easy Checks project at the Web Accessibility Initiative. These simple steps help you get an idea of whether a site meets some of the basics for good accessibility, without any special technology or tools. She joins Whitney Quesenbery for this episode of A Podcast for Everyone to answer some of these questions.

    What are the Easy Checks, and why are they needed?

    Can anyone use the Easy Checks? Is there special equipment needed?

    What’s the best way for a project team to get started with accessibility?

    How do usability and accessibility fit together when you are evaluating a web site?

    Sharron Rush has been an advocate, a learner, and a teacher of accessible technology for 15 years. She is Executive Director of Knowbility and an Invited Expert to the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative where she co-chairs the Education and Outreach Working Group, which wrote the Easy Checks.

    Resources mentioned in this podcast:Easy Checks – A First Review of Web AccessibilityKnowbility’s Access UWeb Accessibility Initiative

    Recorded: February, 2014

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    Full Transcript.

    Whitney Quesenbery: Hi everyone. Welcome to this episode of “A Podcast for Everyone.”

    Whether you are in charge of the user experience, the development or the strategy for a website, our goal is to help you make your site accessible, without sacrificing design or innovation. I’m Whitney Quesenbery. I’m the co-author with Sarah Horton of a new book from Rosenfeld Media, “A Web for Everyone.”

    Today, I’m talking to the extraordinary Sharron Rush. Sharron is the Director of Knowbility, home to projects like the Accessibility Internet Rally, AccessWorks, they do projects to help companies make their sites accessible, and they run the annual AccessU conference. We’ll talk about that at the end.

    She’s also a part of the education and outreach group at the web accessibility initiative at the WC3. She joins us today to talk about Easy Checks, and how they can help you get your site on the road to part of being a web for everyone. Welcome, Sharron.

    Sharron Rush: Thanks Whitney. It’s great to be here.

    Whitney: Great to have you. Before we dive in, I want to just mention the URL, so we make sure we get it in the tape, that URL for Easy Checks is www.w3.org/WAI/eval/preliminary, and the full title of this page is “Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility.” You know, Sharron, that sounds almost practical, and this is from a standards organization.

    Sharron: [laughs] Are you surprised? You sound like you’re very surprised at that. That was our goal, in fact. We wanted something that was practical, and that really truly was easy.

    Whitney: Yes. It sounds like we all know what we need to do, what we don’t know is know where to start. It’s great to see some material out there that will help. Tell me about who created the Easy Checks and how you worked on it.

    Sharron: You mentioned a minute ago that I was part of the W3C’s Education and Outreach Working Group for the Web Accessibility Initiative. That’s a group of volunteers and invited experts who take all of those fabulous very technical documents that are developed around HTML5, CSS, and all the accessibility standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, all of those things.

    What we try to do is digest them, and do outreach that will help lay people use them, understand what they are, and be able to really use them in a practical way. One of the things that we kept hearing was that…I just feel overwhelmed when I come to the W3C. I’m interested in accessibility, but I really can’t even begin to know how to apply those Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). What we decided was, why don’t we make a really easy way for people who aren’t technical, who don’t necessarily have automated testing tools or any of that, but just to get an idea of what does accessibility mean and how do I know if I’m even in the Ballpark.

    Whitney: Cool. So, you see why I was a little surprised about something called the easy connectable standards, but it’s really great to hear that kind of project. I have a really big question with just how did you decide what you should include. I assume that Easy Check are things that are really important, but how did you decide what to include?

    Sharron: That is a good question. That part wasn’t an easy thing to do because there are some things that create great barriers for accessibility but that aren’t really easy to check. We start by developing a framework that says, here are the requirements in order to be an Easy Check. It has to be all these things, but paramount was, it has to be easy to make a decision, it has to be easy to make a call on whether or not it passes or fails.

    We weren’t always successful, and I think you’ll find, if you look at the Easy Checks, that we say, “Here’s what you can do. You can take this step and you can do this, but, even if you get a green light on this, you’ll probably want to go further. If you get a red light on this, at least you know that you have a problem. It’s not all black and white either, through the Easy Checks.

    Whitney: Two things. They have to be things that we could do, like someone like me who’s not very technical could just look at the site and be able to pretty easily tell…maybe not if it met the guidelines, but it certainly could tell if it fails.

    Sharron: That is correct.

    Whitney: Also, these are things that are important to get started with accessibility, so if it fails these, then maybe some of the deeper things don’t matter them much because you haven’t even gotten the door open.

    Sharron: That is exactly correct, too.

    Whitney: So, let’s pick one of them apart, and talk about how it works and why it’s important. The first one on the list is ‘Page Title.’ It seems pretty basic, doesn’t it?

    Sharron: One of the reasons that we put that as the first one is because it’s relatively easy to check, and it’s the first thing that you often encounter when you come to a website. We thought, “We’ll start with the page title. Does it have a page title, does it not”? And also relatively easy to understand the importance of, because people who are listening to the Web need that for orientation, to understand where they are, “Am I on the right page? Am I where I thought I was going to be”? If the page title is announced and it’s clear, and gives that information, then they have success.

    Whitney: Are you talking about the title that’s up in the title bar or the title that might be a big display title on the page.

    Sharron: The title that is shown in the window title bar.

    Whitney: If you’re listening to the Web with a screen reader that gets read to you as you enter a page?

    Sharron: It does, yes. That’s the first thing that you hear.

    Whitney: So, you know that if you clicked on a link, you’ve got to the place you wanted it to be.

    Sharron: That is correct.

    Whitney: The second one is ‘Headings.’ Again, that doesn’t sound like a really technical thing.

    Sharron: No. Checking for headings, but now what you have to do there is to make sure that you’re not just looking at the page to see if there’s big, bold text. In this case, you have to actually do a little bit more investigation and see, has it been marked up as a heading? So, before people get really scared about, “My Gosh! I have to know code,” we do also introduce in the Easy Checks some easy tools that you can just put in your browser and use to help you find those things.

    Whitney: Cool. So, I don’t have to have a web editor or a technical development environment.

    Sharron: Right. And you don’t have to open a source code and start digging through the source code. You can download some of these tools and, that’s one of the first things we take you through, how do you chose the tools that will work, that will be easy to use, and the results of which you can understand also very easily.

    Whitney: This sounds like you’re really addressing something that I hear a lot when I talk to project teams, which is that they say, “We want to do it but the whole thing seems daunting,” and they don’t know where to start. You’ve told us that someone who isn’t that technical could use Easy Checks. Here’s my real question, if you fixed the things that were in Easy Checks…let’s say you found out that you didn’t have good headings or good page titles and you actually fixed them, how much of a difference does that make?

    Sharron: It makes a huge difference because those are the ways that people even orient to the information on the page, to begin with. You used the phrase earlier about opening the door. You definitely are, then, opening the door so that people know where they are, know how to get among the different sections, where they’ve landed, and they just have a really useful way to interact with the information that they’ve come upon.

    Whitney: I noticed that the page actually breaks this into a couple of parts. There’s this page title, and then there are some things that are really about the text. I don’t think we often think about the content of the page when we think about accessibility, and a lot of people jump right into worrying about, “Is it JavaScript, and does it do things in complicated ways that are easy”? This sounds like it’s stuff that would apply to even a very basic website.

    Sharron: Yes, Absolutely. That was our goal, to make sure that anyone…and also regardless of the tools, if you are using WordPress, Drupal or some content management system, these Easy Checks still apply and you can use them really sequentially or you can jump around and see what…”Well, I just added some multimedia. I just want to check that out.”

    Whitney: If you’ve just added something new…

    Sharron: If you’ve just added something new to your site and you just want to check on that particular part of it…

    Whitney: You said something really interesting which is, this isn’t a sequence, so it’s not a process, it’s a series of checks that you can use. Tell me how you would decide when to check something.

    Sharron: Certainly, you’re welcome to…and people have used this sequentially, just gone one ride after the other and done all the checks. In some cases you may have just added a new feature, and you’re not sure if you can reach that or activate that with a keyboard. So, you might use a keyboard access check, all by itself.

    If you’ve added a new sidebar and you say, “I wonder if that text contrast meets the requirement for people who have color blindness or low vision,” and you just want to check that one thing. Then, you can really segment this out and check whatever it is that’s of concern or maybe that you have responsibility for, if it’s media or some other aspect.

    Whitney: That’s nice because I think often…I know there are sites where one person does everything, but a lot of times I would think that the people in charge of multimedia might be different that the people in charge of, say, writing forms. So, this lets you get the right check to the right person.

    Sharron: Exactly. That was what we were hoping for. Now, for people who are going to be at CSUN, the Assistive Technology Conference, we’re going to be trying to corral some people to really do some usability tests on this Easy Checks itself. If people are at CSUN, and they want to find us and do that, Shawn and I…Shawn Henry is my coach here at the Education and Outreach working group. We have a couple of different sessions.

    Just come find us, because we’d love to get feedback from people about the way that they use it, how they found it to be useful, or how it could be more useful.

    Whitney: Since you mentioned CSUN, that’s the CSUN Conference. That’s CSUN in San Diego, from the 18th to the 21st of March. You actually gave me a great lead into what I was going to ask you next. For those of us who work in UX, working with real users is an important part of developing any project.

    First of all, I’m really glad to hear that you’re actually testing the Easy Checks, but I want to actually ask you about where you think usability testing fits into accessibility.

    Sharron: Oh, Whitney. I think usability testing is so important, because there’s a difference between conformance to a technical standard and usefulness to a person with a disability. I think Education and Outreach, our working group, most definitely has the human perspective. We want to give people resources that certainly, by all means, meet the standards and conform to the standards, because that’s really important in terms of technology interoperability.

    But, ultimately, the most important thing is whether someone with a disability can get the information, interact with it, and perform the same functions and do it in an efficient way. I’m so much a fan of your work, because of the fact that you understand that intersection as well as anyone, and it’s an important thing for people to remember.

    Conformance, by itself, is almost secondary.

    Whitney: Yeah. When I started in usability, we used to do heuristic or expert evaluations, and the way I was taught to do them is, first, you did the expert evaluation, you fixed all the problems that you could see easily, and then, when you had something you really thought was working, you took it to users, and you tried it out with them to make sure that it really worked.

    You would really find different things. We would find technical problems, but the usability testing would find problems like, “Yeah, it works, but it doesn’t work the way people want it to work,” or, “It doesn’t really do the things they need.” I think it’s great to hear that getting into accessibility as well.

    Sharron: Yeah, and, often, that it doesn’t work the way that they expect it to work. User expectation is something that, I think, in the accessibility field, you have screen reader users who they’re managing some pretty complex interactions with the screen readers in the way they use the keyboards for certain things.

    Then, if the designer decides to introduce a keyboard command that contradicts that, maybe, technically, it doesn’t interfere with accessibility conformance, but, when it comes to use, it’s going to be a different story. Fortunately for us on Education and Outreach, we have group participants in the working group who have disabilities of various kinds, so we get that feedback immediately.

    We hope that we’ve integrated that into…one of the things you’ll find on the Easy Checks is we have different sections that expand and collapse in order to talk a little bit about the tools that you might use here, or give you some more tips of some more definitions. We had to really fiddle around with that expand-and-collapse function because of the way it interacts with its various assistive technologies and what were the expectations of people with disabilities who would come on the expand-and-collapse function.

    Whitney: I also noticed that one of the links on the page links to another page that talks about involving users in evaluating Web accessibility. I think that’s really helpful to have some guidance there as well.

    Sharron: Yeah. We also want to not just include that in our own group of people but encourage other people to understand that it’s really not that difficult to include users with disabilities in your testing processes.

    Whitney: It sounds like we’ve got a great thing here. We’ve got a strong standard that’s an international standard with some choices about where to start, some tools to help you get started, that’s been informed by actually users with disabilities as well as experts, and also guidance to help people who are evaluating their own website, include people with disabilities in that testing.

    Just to say it again, you can find the Easy Checks two ways: if you go to the home page of the Web Accessibility Initiative, you can look for Easy Checks under “Evaluating Accessibility,” or let’s repeat the URL, it’s: www.w3.org/wai/eval/preliminary.

    Before we run out of time and wrap up, Sharron, I would love you to tell us about AccessU, your conference is coming up May 13 to 15 in Austin, Texas. Full disclosure: Sarah Horton and I, are both really excited that we’ll both be presenting at this year’s event.

    Sharron: Oh yeah. We’re very excited that you’re coming. The whole usability track at AccessU this year is going to be one of the strongest that it’s ever been, thanks to the work that you, Sarah, and others who are doing so. Yeah, we’re very excited about AccessU this year.

    It’s the 12th annual AccessU. We get the run of the St. Edward’s University campus. It’s a beautiful campus in South Austin, looking right over downtown, and they’re in between classes, so we have the full run of the campus for those three days. We really tried to provide very practical…just like the Easy Checks. Something that’s practical, that you can take home and use right away.

    We have tracks in usability, we have technical tracks, policy and managing tracks, and really hope to see as many people as possible come to Austin in May. We haven’t turned on the big heater yet.

    Whitney: Who are some of the other stars that’ll be there?

    Sharron: Derek Featherstone, from Simply Accessible, is going to be there. Glenda Sims — she’s the stalwart, always a great contributor to AccessU. Estelle [?] is going to be there. We have quite a bit of expertise of HTML 5, CSS, all the new techniques that people are using, as well as some very basic and very introductory classes as well.

    Whitney: So, to work for someone just getting started and for someone who’s trying to do innovative design.

    Sharron: Absolutely.

    Whitney: Excellent. I really look forward to seeing you there. Sharron, thank you so much. This has been Sharron Rush, from Knowibility, talking to us about Easy Checks and getting started with accessibility.

    Sharron: Thanks for having me, Whitney. It was my pleasure.

    Whitney: And thanks to all of you for listening in, and, of course, a special thanks to our sponsors, UIE, Rosenfeld Media, and the Paciello Group, for making this series happen. Be sure to follow us at A Web for Everyone on Twitter. That’s @AWebforEveryone. We’ll be posting information about future podcasts there.

    Of course, if you go to our book site at Rosenfeld Media, we have lots of resources available for you as well.

     

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  6. Warren Bird Discusses Latest Multisite Church Trends | unSeminary

    Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadPodcast (video): Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe to the unSeminary Podcast: [iTunes] [RSS] [Stitcher] [TuneIn] // [VIDEO iTunes] [VIDEO RSS]Warren Bird is the head of research at Leadership Network. This week he published the Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard … the largest study of the multisite movement ever done. This report is full of fascinating insights into this explosive part of the body of Christ. It’s a free download … you should pick it up! Today I’m honored to have Warren on the show giving you some insights into and beyond the numbers.Warren Bird // [Website] [twitter] [email]Interview Highlights //00:30 // Warren is the Director of Research and Intellectual Capital at the Leadership Network01:04 // The Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard is the largest ever survey of multisite churches01:45 // Rich and others contributed to generating the questions asked in the report02:30 // Warren’s biggest surprise was that 87% of multisite churches saw an increase in lay involvement when they launched.03:10 // Rich has experienced that the launching of a campus is the best way to mobilize people into service03:30 // 85% of multisite churches are growing at a rate of 14% per year04:40 // Multisite is no longer a movement of only mega churches06:23 // The average church has been multisite for 4 years08:09 // Size of core group / launch team depends on church size and scale09:25 // Vast majority of Campus Pastors are hired internally12:55 // Rich’s question was answered: 57% of multisite plan to launch again in the next 12 months.13:25 // Email your potential survey questions to research@leadnet.orgInterview Transcript //Rich – Alright, good morning! Happy Thursday everybody. Hope you are having a great week. You have reached the unSeminary Podcast. My name’s Rich Birch, the host around here. Today we have a real treat. We’ve got Warren Bird on the line. Warren is the Director of Research and Intellectual Property. I believe that’s your title, isn’t it Warren?Warren – Ya, Intellectual Capital, whatever sounds good, I’ll take.Rich – Nice. At Leadership Network. And this week you might have heard around the web, there was a report that’s super important. I think every church leader should take a look at this. The Leadership Network Generis Multisite Score Card. And so Warren why don’t we start by you telling us, what is the Score Card?Warren – Well, we did the largest ever survey of multisite churches. The vast majority were in the United States, then Canada after that, then Europe after that and so forth. And we pulled it all together, then we have the naming sponsorship of Generis, which is why their name gets in the title. And also they did a section later in the report on funding because the money question, probably better the stewardship question, the generosity question is a big part of how do we make multisite work. So they landed in on that part and it’s a great report. It’s got over 25, at least I thought there were 25 big discoveries of ‘Wow!’ We came up with most of the questions by asking people, actually Rich you were among the different ones. We said ‘Hey, what are people wanting to know out there?’ Of course we asked a bunch of multisite leaders themselves and then we built that into the survey.Rich – Absolutely. Now, like you said, there’s 25 of these kind of surprises, what are one or two of them that, to you as the author, were particularly surprising? That kind of jump to the top for you. Because this isn’t the first time that you have done a report like this. This is the second or third time that you’ve done a report on multisite. What were the things that kind of jumped out this time for you?Warren – Well, actually one of the few questions we asked a second time, because it was my biggest surprise that we did in the last round in 2010, was about lay involvement. It was a simple question, ‘Since you became multisite, did your lay involvement level increase, remain the same, or decrease?’ And to our absolutely surprise, again the upper 80th percentile, so like 9/10 churches said it’s increased.Rich – Wow!Warren – Which really goes against any stereotype that people have ‘it’s just a talking head and a bunch of spectators.’ No! Not at all. A mobilization vehicle as well.Rich – Hmmm. You know, over the years, that’s one of those things that I have said just in my own church, and to other churches, ‘The best way, the most predicable way that I know of, to mobilize lots of people into service, is to launch a new campus.’ I’ve seen that time and time again in our own context.Rich – Anything else that jumped out in those top one or two from a surprising point of view?Warren – Well, another big surprise was how many are growing. 85% of the churches surveyed said they were growing. And not just growing at a small rate. It averages at about 14% per year since they went multisite. Now that doesn’t not mean that becoming multisite makes you start growing. What it does mean, at least the way that we understood it was that these are churches that are going somewhere, they’ve got momentum and multisite became a vehicle to extend that momentum. ‘OK, so the city zoning board says we can’t build bigger. Fine, we will take the church elsewhere.’ Or ‘So there’s a group over here that may not come over to where we are. May not work with our style of building…we’ll take church to them.’ And so it’s disciple making, great commission kind of stuff and it’s just another path to do so.Rich – Right. Now one of the things that I noticed, that it seems like the size of church that is going multisite is shrinking. And it seems like every time we talk about it in one of these reports, it comes out smaller and smaller. It’s hovering at that kind of 1000 or 1100 or some where in that range. Why do you suspect that is?Warren – Ok, first just to affirm, yes originally multisite was the domain of mega churches, 2000 and higher and it keeps inching down. The average from ‘when did you go multisite?’ is 1200 according to that survey, but we think that’s high still because we have a disproportionate, because Leadership Network tends to work with larger churches and they tend to therefore do our survey’s more than others. So we’ve kind of got a lopsided effect of bigger churches. Now you really asked the question, ‘Why?’ And I think there’s several reasons. First, because it’s been done out there. People are saying ‘if they can do it, and they can do it, then maybe this is something that our church can do.’Rich – Right.Warren – The common knowledge of how to do it. I was part of two books, ‘Multi-site Revolution’ and ‘Multi-site Church Road Trip’, there have been conferences, everything else is out there so that the training is available. The technology get’s simpler and simpler for how do you do multisite. That’s not just video teaching. You may choose to do that. It’s how do we communicate across campuses? How do we share information? How do we make the website so that ‘Hey, pick your campus’ and all that? There are many different pieces of the technology that are becoming easier.Rich – Nice. That relates to another part of the report where I’ve often wondered, we talk about, I think the oldest church in your survey was 26 years was it, 23 years?Warren – Twenty three years. We have had several that have been multisite for 23 years but another big surprise was that the average, the median for ‘how long have you been multisite?’ was 4 years. Which says, wow, this is a new, ongoing, recent development.Rich – I was amazed at that part of the survey where it talked about churches that have been around for a long time. But it seems like the movement has really exploded over the last 10 years, and then if anything it seems to be picking up momentum. It’s a real upswing in people anticipating or thinking about going multisite. Why do you think that is?Warren – It’s much like years ago when you went to a second worship service. It’s like ‘Oh, we’ve got the facilities. We’ve got the staff. If God is going to entrust some more souls into our care, why don’t we do a second service?’ So ultimately the why is a great commission, disciple making response. Why multisite? Because it’s just one more tool that can easily be used, and that seems in many cases to have good fruit.Rich – Nice. Now one of the conversations that I seem to find myself in all the time with churches that are thinking about going multisite, is the whole core group size that they are launching out into a new location. Talk us through what you learned about from an industry perspective, what churches are doing on that side.Warren – Well we asked a few questions on that. First we ask, ‘Tell us the make up of your launch team.’ No surprise. It was 2/3 adults and 1/3 kids. So whatever numbers I am about to give you, just think of them in that ratio. Then people say, ‘Ok, so tell me the average launch team size.” And I don’t want to do that. In the report…which is a free download, and I am not just saying this to get people to read the report, although I think you will benefit a lot more than you will from hearing me… if I give you a number, then you will generalize that for you. Now what we did was we took different church sizes and we said “Ok, what was the launch team size for you?’ So you can imagine a church of 10, 000 is probably going to do a different launch team size than a church of 500 that goes multisite. And also it’s model specific. If you are launching and you are going to have a full service across town where we do everything and it’s a stand alone and you are never going to need to come to the sending campus, well you are going to launch on a different scale than if you are seeding a new area as you are planting a church and building from the ground up.Rich – Very good. One of the parts, obviously a big part of this is leadership development. Campus pastors are critical in this whole thing, and one of the things that surprised me was the high number of campus pastors that were found internally, partially, just to be honest because we have typically looked outside because we have had a hard time raising those people up internally. Now what have you sensed as patterns? I know you can’t speak to churches specifically but what are some patterns you have seen in leadership development, and raising up leaders, either through this study, or just your interacting with multisite churches?Warren – Ok first a number, 87% of churches have a campus pastor and the actual number is higher, campus pastor who devotes 3/4 or more of their time to a specific campus. Those 13% who didn’t we asked ‘Well, why not?’ and they said ‘Oh we do, we are just between campus pastors.” Or “We do, we just split the campus pastor between our two smaller sites.’ Also, another question we asked, ‘Who do you hire? Who was the first person hired for your new campus?’ And campus pastor rated the highest. Now ‘Where do you get those campus pastors?’ we asked, and the vast majority as you pointed out are internal. Now internal means two different things. On the one hand it may mean a true homegrown person. We one this person to Christ. They began to lead small groups. They began to coach small groups. There was a pathway where this is a natural progression where you say ‘Great, I think you’ve got the gifts and the calling. Take this next step and lead the campus.’ But campus pastors are also hired in a sense that maybe you were brought on from the outside, but you spend 6 months, a year, two years, really getting the DNA of the church, so that when you go out to launch the campus, you embody who the church is and all about them. So in a certain sense you have hired that person from the outside, but in another sense, they are homegrown and you have really built them into your church first.Rich – Right, ok. Well Warren I have really appreciated your time today. Just one last question before you go. You are a busy guy, got other people to talk to. What’s one thing, a question, that you’ve come to the end of this report, you have it all printed and it looks nice, the graphic designer hands it back to you and then you are like ‘Gosh, we should have asked that question!’ What’s one of those questions that you wished you would have asked this time around?Warren – Well first, I had never done a survey this long. We gathered up so many questions from people like you, Rich. You helped us on the survey questions and a lot of multisite people we asked ‘Hey, what do you want to know about other multisites?’ It was very difficult to pare down so we said, let’s just make a longer survey. That’s why we have like 25+ discoveries because we asked so many questions. But even so, yes, there are other questions that I am accumulating. And while I have my interests, I am more interested in people writing to me at research@leadnet.org,and tell me what you would like to know and I will put that in my folder of potential questions because that’s how I build all our surveys. We really want to serve churches. What are their felt needs? What are the questions they are asking? How can we put some tools back into their hands?Rich – One of the questions that I had submitted to you, and it was fun to see it come actually in the final report, it was the question around what percentage of churches are looking at launching a new campus, and I was surprised when that number came out at 57% of churches in the next 12 months. Because in the last report, we didn’t’ have that kind of, we knew what we had, but we didn’t’ know if people intended to launch new campuses and I was, it was encouraging to see that! If people have got a question like that I would encourage you to email that in. Research@leadnet.org and you never know. It might end up in one of the world famous, Warren Bird reports in the future.Warren – The report is a free download and we are just eager to put it in your hands and Rich will give you the link for that.Rich – Ya, the link will be in the notes. It’s at leadnet.org. I am sure you will have a big splash page to find it, but we will also link to it today. Warren, thanks so much for your time.Warren – God bless you in your ministry, Rich. You are on the front lines. Keep at it.Rich – Thank you.

    http://www.unseminary.com/warrenbird/

    —Huffduffed by theprd one month ago

  7. New Disruptors 67: Danielle Hulton on how she built a dramatically successful indie bookstore - Boing Boing

    Danielle Hulton of Ada’s Technical Books not only opened a bookstore in Seattle in 2010, but recently dramatically expanded the size of the shop by moving to a new space. What led her to leap where others feared to tread, and how do you keep a bookstore current when ebooks seem to sucking readers away? Expertise, instant availability, and many lines of business are all part of the process.

    The New Disruptors: RSS | iTunes | Download this episode | Listen on Stitcher

    This episode is sponsored by:

    Media Temple: Web hosting for artists, designers, and Web developers since 1998. World-class support available 24x7 through phone and chat—and even Twitter. Sign up with coupon code "tnd" to get 25% off your first month of hosting.

    Mailchimp helps more than five million people and businesses around the world send email newsletters. They sent 70 billion messages on their behalf in 2013! They also have hats for cats and small dogs.

    What do the Nikola Tesla Museum, the film that won this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and a baby have in common? They’ve all been crowdfunded on Indiegogo! Choose Flexible Funding to keep all the funds you raise even if you don’t meet your goal. Listeners visit tnd.indiegogo.com to receive a 25% discount on fees.

    Things we mention in this episode:

    The Kobo line of readers tie into a DRM-free store, but also read standard EPUB and Adobe Digital locked files used in library loans and by some independent ebooks store.

    I spoke with Kevin Kelly about his career and new Cool Tools book a few weeks ago. You can listen to our interview and read a full transcript.

    Ada’s resells Sparkfun and Adafruit kits and parts, which can be used to create interesting electronics. Ada’s used to be adjacent to Seattle maker lab Metrix Createspace.

    Starbucks launched an unbranded concept store in 2009 on 15th Avenue, near Ada’s current location. Designed expensively using elements borrowed from nearby stores, it was soon outed as a Starbucks property, and put a mermaid on it in 2011.

    My confused recollection of Powell’s corrected by this history. Michael Powell started a bookstore in Chicago in 1970 as a graduate student. His father, Walter, came out to run the store in summer 1971 so Michael could take a vacation. Walter then returned home to Portland, where he opened his own bookstore, which he asked Michael, in 1979, to come back and run. The Chicago store was sold, and still exists (in multiple branches).

    We wound up booking Ada’s (at its normal price, no favors!) for our book event for The Magazine. We’ll be there April 2nd and in San Francisco April 3rd. We have a Portland event April 30th. See our book events page for directions, times, and details.

    The New Disruptors is a podcast about people who make art, things, or connections finding new ways to reach an audience and build a community. Glenn Fleishman is the host, and he talks with new guests every week. Find older episodes at the podcast’s home.

    Support The New Disruptors directly as a patron at Patreon starting at $1 per month, with on-air thanks, premiums, and more at higher levels of support. We do this show with your help.

    Glenn Fleishman, @glennf, is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, a fortnightly electronic periodical for curious people with a technical bent. Glenn hosts The New Disruptors, a podcast about connecting creators and makers to their audiences, and writes as “G.F.” at the Economist’s Babbage blog. He is a regular panel member on the geeky media podcast The Incomparable. In October 2012, Glenn won Jeopardy! twice.

    More at Boing Boing

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    Continue the discussion at bbs.boingboing.net

    http://boingboing.net/2014/03/20/new-disruptors-67-agile-was-i.html

    —Huffduffed by grantbarrett one month ago

  8. New Disruptors 67: Danielle Hulton on how she built a dramatically successful indie bookstore - Boing Boing

    Danielle Hulton of Ada’s Technical Books not only opened a bookstore in Seattle in 2010, but recently dramatically expanded the size of the shop by moving to a new space. What led her to leap where others feared to tread, and how do you keep a bookstore current when ebooks seem to sucking readers away? Expertise, instant availability, and many lines of business are all part of the process.

    The New Disruptors: RSS | iTunes | Download this episode | Listen on Stitcher

    This episode is sponsored by:

    Media Temple: Web hosting for artists, designers, and Web developers since 1998. World-class support available 24x7 through phone and chat—and even Twitter. Sign up with coupon code "tnd" to get 25% off your first month of hosting.

    Mailchimp helps more than five million people and businesses around the world send email newsletters. They sent 70 billion messages on their behalf in 2013! They also have hats for cats and small dogs.

    What do the Nikola Tesla Museum, the film that won this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and a baby have in common? They’ve all been crowdfunded on Indiegogo! Choose Flexible Funding to keep all the funds you raise even if you don’t meet your goal. Listeners visit tnd.indiegogo.com to receive a 25% discount on fees.

    Things we mention in this episode:

    The Kobo line of readers tie into a DRM-free store, but also read standard EPUB and Adobe Digital locked files used in library loans and by some independent ebooks store.

    I spoke with Kevin Kelly about his career and new Cool Tools book a few weeks ago. You can listen to our interview and read a full transcript.

    Ada’s resells Sparkfun and Adafruit kits and parts, which can be used to create interesting electronics. Ada’s used to be adjacent to Seattle maker lab Metrix Createspace.

    Starbucks launched an unbranded concept store in 2009 on 15th Avenue, near Ada’s current location. Designed expensively using elements borrowed from nearby stores, it was soon outed as a Starbucks property, and put a mermaid on it in 2011.

    My confused recollection of Powell’s corrected by this history. Michael Powell started a bookstore in Chicago in 1970 as a graduate student. His father, Walter, came out to run the store in summer 1971 so Michael could take a vacation. Walter then returned home to Portland, where he opened his own bookstore, which he asked Michael, in 1979, to come back and run. The Chicago store was sold, and still exists (in multiple branches).

    We wound up booking Ada’s (at its normal price, no favors!) for our book event for The Magazine. We’ll be there April 2nd and in San Francisco April 3rd. We have a Portland event April 30th. See our book events page for directions, times, and details.

    The New Disruptors is a podcast about people who make art, things, or connections finding new ways to reach an audience and build a community. Glenn Fleishman is the host, and he talks with new guests every week. Find older episodes at the podcast’s home.

    Support The New Disruptors directly as a patron at Patreon starting at $1 per month, with on-air thanks, premiums, and more at higher levels of support. We do this show with your help.

    Glenn Fleishman, @glennf, is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, a fortnightly electronic periodical for curious people with a technical bent. Glenn hosts The New Disruptors, a podcast about connecting creators and makers to their audiences, and writes as “G.F.” at the Economist’s Babbage blog. He is a regular panel member on the geeky media podcast The Incomparable. In October 2012, Glenn won Jeopardy! twice.

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    —Huffduffed by albill one month ago

  9. Chick Corea Music Workshop – 04: Conversation with John Mayer

    Transcript

    Chick Corea: Hello, hello, hello. This is Chick. Welcome to another very special installment from — Oh, let’s call it “Podcastlandia.” Yeah, this is a conversation that I had just a few days ago with the great guitarist, singer-songwriter, John Mayer. And you’re about to hear a chat that we had in Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Yeah, John and I met a couple of months ago in December. We were both guests at Stevie Wonder’s “House Full of Toys” concert where Stevie did the complete set from Songs in the Key of Life. It was an amazing night, and my first time to meet John. We started talking about maybe jamming together and sure enough, setting it all together, we ended up at Electric Lady Studios in New York, which is a place with a lot of memory for me, great memory, from 1975, where I made a solo album called The Leprechaun with Gayle, with my wife Gayle. And, you know, I hadn’t stepped into Electric Lady Studios since that day. It was very exciting. John and I had a blast the days that we were there, really going out on several different limbs; improvising and coming up with this and that. Actually, none of it is really evaluated right now, but it sure was a blast. Anyway, John was nice enough to sit down and have a chat and get it recorded and here it is! Myself, John Mayer, Electric Lady Studios. Boom.

    CC: John, hey, thanks for sitting in. I didn’t mean to interrupt the session.

    John Mayer: There’s nothing to interrupt, it’s all free flowing.

    CC: It is, it is! So this is John, John Mayer. This is Chick.

    JM: Hello.

    CC: We’re at Electric Lady. And, how much should we reveal about what we’re doing?

    JM: Everything but playing for them. I actually thought about putting some stuff up on Twitter the other night. And I thought it’s such a reveal when you hear this stuff. A lot of the power, I think, is going to be in the reveal, because it’s not what people are expecting. And if you put a 15 second video clip — of your favorite part — up, you kind of take away the unveiling of it. Because it is sort of a shocking thing to hear it.

    CC: Well the general subject, that I was going in on, which totally fits what we\\\’re doing, is the concept of improvisation. Which everyone wants to — musicians, and young musicians — they want to know what’s that all about, and how do you do that. This thing that we’ve been doing is like a perfect example of starting from practically nowhere. Well, not completely nowhere. We are ourselves, we’re wanting to jam, that’s a “somewhere.” But practically a nowhere, like a song or a tempo or a lick, or a this or a that. And then just coming in the room together and starting to play. Which is some of my favorite way to make music.

    JM: It’s definitely treacherous. It’s not for the faint of heart. If you\\\’re looking for a sense of comfort, at all times, it’s not going to happen. It’s very uncomfortable. I don’t know if this for everybody, but for me personally, I wear the last thing we played, until we play another thing. I wear it. It’s this little micro-scoreboard. “Hows this going?” I think that’s just my nature when I get into the studio. It’s funny you mentioning “from nowhere.” We do start from nowhere, but I think the real kind of instrument that I’m playing, on this particular session, is sort of like being the in-band producer. In the sense that, like, everybody can play so well, but there\\\’s really — of the whole unit of what everybody can play, there’s only about .4% of it at any given time that can create something that I feel like personally is beyond a jam. It’s something quote-unquote “lasting.” Not that any of our stuff that we played is not lasting, in one way or another. But, it’s that way when I write music with lyrics, and pop music and stuff. It’s like here’s all these words, here\\\’s all these chords, only a very, very, very, refined, slight percentage of what it is you could play can create something vital. So for me, those moments where you create something vital, they send me through the roof. It’s like gambling with your ego; it’s like gambling with your emotions. ‘Cause when you nail it — we nailed it yesterday. And when, four hours later, it’s like “Where are we now?” You know what I’m saying?

    CC: Yeah. You know what is interesting to me about that? What you\\\’re saying, that I think about? Is that there’s this 4% you’re talking about. I understand what you meant by that, but the thing that’s interesting to me, is that in order to recognize when that happens, somehow I feel that there has to be a pre-knowledge of it. Otherwise you can’t recognize the moment that it occurs. Otherwise how would you know? Because it’s all going by like a movie reel. And then how are you going to isolate that 4%?

    JM: That’s right. That’s like having an eye for if you’re —

    CC: So you already know.

    JM: Well it comes from —

    CC: In a sense.

    JM: You know, because you’ve heard so many things that you can tell what’s special and what’s not. A good analogy is like a photo editor, who pours over hundreds of contact sheets and has a grease pencil, and very quickly can just go, “That’s the shot, here\\\’s the ones that are starred.” Where you and I, as sort of amateur photographers, would have to pour over it all day, and go, “This is good, and this is good, and this is good.” And we’d basically go through a grease pencil, because everything was good, because our eyes aren’t attuned to it. So for me, that pre-knowledge is really kind of the unspoken question that I was thinking about this morning, which is, “Is this anything?” You know? Like David Letterman has this bit where he’s like “Is this anything?” And somebody comes out and does something completely bizarre and esoteric and, of course, it’s a rhetorical question. Is this anything or is this something?

    CC: It’s a good question.

    JM: But it’s really the question. Constantly I have a filter in my mind. So I’m half the player, half the listener. Going, “Is this anything?” And if it is anything, then you have the scent on the trail.

    CC: Because I’m always looking for a receipt point, see. When you say, “Is this anything?” The first one to know about that, or to answer the question, is yourself, of course. You’re looking at life going by, you’re doing what you\\\’re doing, and you do that or not that. Something strikes you or doesn’t strike you. I can think immediately about two other places that I think, if I may assume, that you’re probably evaluating, I know I do, which is number one, the other musicians in the band that you’re playing with. Whoa — they\\\’re a receipt point of it too, you know what I mean? But then finally, since music is, to me, is a little incomplete without an audience, there’s that too. So when you’re evaluating, that’s it. Is it, for you, for the band, for the audience?

    JM: For me, it’s always been for the blueprint. So the blueprint — and the blueprint can change as you go — but for me, the blueprint, it’s also always been a thing for me. How do you create something that falls somewhere perfectly in between 4, 5 different styles, that sounds new, but sounds comfortable and new at the same time? So for me, I kind of hole up in my mind and one part of my peripheral vision of what the blueprint is. And you have to keep checking back with the blueprint. I think so much about the session I’m about to go into, so that when I get in there I’m not swept away. So I can sort of still keep a little bit of longitude in terms of what’s going on. And also you have to throw it out the window so you have something come through, because if you come in with the blueprint too much, then you don’t allow anything to happen, you know. So it’s really like knowing when to strike and when to just pull back and relax. And I’m getting better at that as I get older. When I was younger I was incredibly, sort of nervous. And if somebody played one sound I didn\\\’t like, I’d sort of get in, and go “Hey, not that, try that.” And then, every time you make a recommendation or a correction like that, somebody, if most people want to comply, they’ll comply and then change their instinct a little bit.

    CC: Change their what?

    JM: Their instinct, to try to suit you. Or kind of go, “Okay, he doesn’t want that.”

    CC: So now you don’t have that instinct to work with.

    JM: So yeah, now that person shuttered a little bit of their freedom. ‘Cause they want to please. For me, it’s a very subtle sort of delineation between, “Do I step in right now and say ‘Hey, lets do that.’ Or do we just let things happen?” The older I get, the more I can trust the flow. But it is really — I don’t know why I continue to put myself in these stupidly uncomfortable situations. Because I don’t sleep right, I don’t eat right, I don’t even dream right when I sleep.

    CC: You got a blueprint that you want to realize.

    JM: I don’t need to be happy, I just need to come out of this with a record, you know what I mean? I’ll be happy later.

    CC: You got a blueprint that you want to realize, and then it’s hard to judge other musicians of how, you might say, “thick their skin is,” in terms of receiving an opinion. I know what you mean by that, because you want all that openness and creativity from guys. You don’t want to quell it. But the whole thing needs some kind of a direction. Some kind of thing to go to. I personally think you’re doing a good job on that order.

    JM: Thanks, man. I’m always sort of the captain in the sense that, you know, I want to come out with product that feels like me, that has my sensibilities, you know. But also don’t want to — and I see this in co-writing too — you get a sense pretty quickly sometimes whether or not something’s worth it or not. If something is worth the chase. You’ve got to decide when we are going to hunt for four hours on something and when we’re not. ‘Cause if you hunt down every idea, then you get lost. And your bearings, when you improvise, are very sensitive. I always found that jams, for me, like I was saying before, you just wear every note you play. You sort of make this thing out in the air, and it floats around you. If you have a great experience, then you walk around on a high. If you have an unclean experience jamming — it goes on too long, you know. I never liked jamming when I was growing up. I liked getting in and getting out. Even if it was instrumental and improvised. It’s hard to explain, it’s like you get this emotional residue from not getting in and getting out on an idea. You know what I mean?

    CC: Yeah, totally.

    JM: It just wears on you funnily. Your chest starts to itch a little bit.

    CC: You found a good point the other day saying, “Well okay, we’ve explored about 9 thousand ideas, now let’s go for that.” I thought that was the correct thing.

    JM: It was, and it — the great thing about you is, like, even though we knew what the form was at that point, it was still wide open.

    CC: Pretty much.

    JM: It was still completely wide open. We did this song yesterday that was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, feeling experiences. That’s what I’m saying it’s like for me, it’s very — it’s a physical thing for me. If you get into something, and everybody moves in as a unit and moves through as a unit and comes out as a unit and the statement is concise, it’s like a clean feeling. It’s like a clean-burning feeling in your body. You feel happy, you feel joyous, you feel economical, you feel proud. And sometimes you need to. You have to go into the forest. And it can be really thankless; you can get really down on your playing, and you can go, “Oh, none of this is making any sense.” But you have to stay calm. And know you can pull yourself out if you find the right idea. Move that right idea over onto another reel of tape, there you go. And then have your clean experiences off of that. But it’s very easy to go into the flat spin and think, “None of this is working, I’m wasting all these people’s time. It’s all a waste.”

    CC: I think we’re getting some place. You know, I’ve always had a sky high goal that I keep for myself, talking about, “Well, who am I trying to do this for? Me, my band or the audience?”

    JM: That’s cool. What’s the answer?

    CC: There’s one other element too. There’s one other element. There’s me, the band there’s the audience. But you know what there is? There’s the support team, there’s these guys. There’s management, there’s the promoters, there’s the guys who organize all this for us. And that\\\’s the complete package.

    JM: That’s right.

    CC: So for me, the real high, walking away, is you play a show and everybody is on that cloud. Like all those points. Yourself, the band, the audience, the organizers and the audience is glowing. Everybody is glowing. So then that’s like, I can go home, I can go back to the hotel and sleep on a night like that.

    JM: It’s funny you say the show. Because the show — assuming — exists after the record. It’s sort of the final stage of getting everybody to believe that what you’re doing is the right thing. So for me, there are moments in my career where I have to sort of alienate people’s way of thinking. Just to be able to get to the next level. But what I found is that even if you alienate someone’s comfort zone for a minute, to get where you need to get to, if the music is great and it moves them, they\\\’re right back with you. So there are moments that I have to separate from the pack. That\\\’s why there is so much pressure on me. So it all dovetails into what I was saying about going into the session as the captain of this idea, because my ego wants me to return with pelts. I want to return with pelts from the trip. Not come back from a frosty winter with a couple teeth and a paw or something. I owe it to the idea itself to really make sure that when I come out of this experience, I’m holding something real that I can then play for the crew. The manager. When it’s right, doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. If it’s effective, it moves people. You know, we did this 15-minute-long improvisational jam the first night that we got into the studio. I was so excited about it, I started playing it for people off of the iPhone, like in a wine glass. And they weren’t giving me lip service. They were absolutely moved by it. Because there was some — that’s the thing about Steve and Pino. There’s all … they can’t … It’s really interesting. A lot of people use the word “commercial,” but that’s not really the right word. They can’t leave this sort of — and it’s a good thing — they can’t leave this … we all like accessable things. Accessible doesn’t mean easy. There’s just, you might call it groove music. You might call it — everyone sort of has a different word for it. But like, you listen back to these records and they\\\’re incredibly effective in the sense that people can drop right into it and start going “Wow.”

    CC: Absolutely.

    JM: But you tell people, “I want to go make a jazz record with Chick Corea and Wallace Roney. They go, “I don\\\’t —” The only way to prove the concept in art is to make the art.

    CC: Put it out and see what happens. And have it be communicated.

    JM: You don’t see painters start having conversations with people, going, ‘I’m thinking about doing this painting, let me describe it to you. And tell me if you want to buy it.”

    CC: It’s incomplete until it goes to some listeners, and then you see if that is how far you want to reach. I mean, you’ve reached very far in terms of people enjoying being able to enjoy your art, which is something I admire very much.

    JM: Thank you.

    CC: Because I come from a completely different background, of where for the first 20 years of my life, I didn’t care about that, at all. I had blinders on. I was telling you about that last night. And Stevie Wonder was the first guy that I saw communicated with larger audiences, with a very, very high quality of communication that inspired me to do that myself. But by then I didn’t know how to do it. I better learn how to sing.

    JM: You don\\\’t need to learn how to do another thing. You’re just fine.

    CC: [Laughs] Sing or play the guitar or whatever. But I’m always inspired by that, you know. But you do have to come in, like you were saying, with someone who has to lay the direction now. I don’t think it’s always a group thing. That initial thing. It can become a group thing. But individual ideas don’t come from a group. They come from individuals. Even when you’re jamming, someone has an idea, which other people take and formulate. It’s a give and take process.

    JM: Also, as the session goes on, you learn more about what the session is. So, we get certain tracks we listen back to and I go, “Oh man, that’s what this record is.” It helps focus you to that. You sort of calibrate to what yesterday was. You can’t do that if you’re scared. You have to look at every minute you still have as a possible minute you can spend making something great. If you consider this a lost cause in any way in your mind, you’ll sort of choke, lose your inspiration, and want to put your instrument down, and want to say, “I think we’re good.” So for me, I think it’s a spirit that everybody who really drives their own career has. It’s a fighting spirit that doesn’t give up till they start packing up the instruments. You know what I mean? You only need 8 minutes to do something life-changing. It could be the next 8 minutes, it could be an hour and 8 minutes from now. It could be tomorrow night. But you have to hold steady in between those moments. and trust everyone’s playing, trust your playing, trust the vibe, trust the moment. I’m not worried that we\\\’re not making music right now.

    CC: You have to keep going. I think all that’s great, man. I want to take this down to a nerd level for a second.

    JM: Okay, I’ll come as deep as I can into this.

    CC: Just for a second. Tell me what is your concept of this word that get’s used a lot in art and in music. And we use the word and people are always — you know when I do workshops, the musicians are always asking about this concept. So I want to get your opinion right now. What’s “improvisation” and what’s not “improvisation.” Or is that too nerd?

    JM: Well I can answer the first one. I think that improvisation for me is self-production. Self-musical-production. You are your own music producer. You\\\’re not an artist. You’re half artist, half music producer. So you’re constantly producing the track just on your instrument. And you’re producing with a lot of other producers who are producing their track. And what ever that is, you know, whoever you are in that sense, it\\\’s like, it’s really about listening. It’s really about listening. And what improvisation isn’t, is group practice. Meaning like, for instance, where I am now in my playing, is I try to really not use a song to practice. Like to get something right. Like, there’s this one thing that I did yesterday, I did it for a minute and a half to get it right. And that just wasn’t the time to do that. That moment should have been over in 6-8 seconds. And what I did was, I got selfish — or misguided, if not selfish — into using everyone’s playing that track or that take, as an opportunity for me to get that guitar part right, or explore that guitar part. And I listened back to it [hums guitar part], where I’m doing that synth thing, and it’s me going, “Oh, this is neat!” But leaving the song completely, going, “This is neat, let me work this out till I get it.” And I listen back to it and I cringe, because it’s me developing an idea. So what improvisation isn’t, is developing an idea on someone else’s time. You know what I mean? You can develop an idea with somebody as a unit. But using that, so you go [hums music], “That was cool. Oh, but I messed that up. Let me try that again and get it right.”

    CC: Everyone else is playing and you’re practicing.

    JM: You’re practicing for a second. I did that yesterday, and I heard it back and I went, “Oh, I hate this.”

    CC: I started practicing with you. [Both laugh] I started going [hums music].

    JM: [Laughs.] I’m yelling, in my head, at the speakers: “Stop! I hope this is the last time I do that.” [Hums music.] If you didn’t get it right, like, go home and practice it. Don’t practice it on the record with Chick Corea. But for me, improvisation is, and you can not go wrong with this word, you can’t say “Well I don\\\’t do that,” is lyrical. Everything should be based on being lyrical. If it’s not lyrical, it doesn\\\’t catch my ear, it doesn’t catch other people’s ears. It doesn’t have to sound like song lyrics. Some people use the word “motif.” But it doesn’t even have to have a motif.

    CC: Has to flow.

    JM: Has to flow, like certain words that just sound good. Certain lyrics just sound good. Where you wouldn’t put certain phonetic sounds in a lyric because they don\\\’t flow off the lips right. Imagine if you were an instrumentalist, what that might sound like if you were a singer. All of your consonants and vowels would be these really disjointed, hard to get to, unsatisfying things to sing. And then you listen to Frank Sinatra go, “Look at yourself if you had a sense of humor.” Then you go, “Ooh, look at yourself if you had a sen—” There’s a natural flow to that, and you have to think about that on the instrument too. It doesn’t have to be repetitive or motif-based, but a certain natural lyric that has nothing to do about the shape of the scale as it exists geometrically on your instrument. That’s what people say when they mean “breaking out of scales.”

    CC: There’s no glitches. It’s all in present time. It’s all now. It’s all without thinking. It all just flows along, I get it.

    JM: I still have those moments, you know. There are now moments — well, I’m 36; I’ve been playing for 21, 22 years, you know. 23 years, 23 years. I’m just now getting to where I can just breathe through a track and really contribute, and never have the guitar puncture the top of the sort of skin of everyone\\\’s playing. I still do it and I learn from it. One of those moments where the guitar kind of like photo-bombs the track, you know?

    CC: Go ahead and puncture it. Puncture away [laughs].

    JM: Yeah, I try. I really like being the glue here. Yeah photo-bombing the track. All of a sudden you’re like, it’s like breaking in as a 6 year kid in a home movie, out in front of the family. And I still do it and I go, “Ooh right.”

    CC: Thats cool with me, man. Hey, thank you, man. I think it’s an incredibly individual… I’ve never heard a viewpoint like that before.

    JM: Thanks, man.

    CC: I think it’s interesting, interesting to people and to me, to see one thing that we, everyone of us, really thinks differently about what we’re doing and I think if that thing is acknowledged, you got your blueprint. I got a blueprint. We got different ways to do it and that’s a good starting point anyway. It’s just a starting point. It’s a truth, and it’s a starting point. We have our own ways of operating. You know when it’s like that for you.

    JM: I know also when there’s a certain rope I can\\\’t jump. And I don\\\’t get down on myself about it anymore. If there\\\’s a certain rope I can\\\’t jump, it’s not meant for me to be on that track. That came from like, people sending me songs to play on. Huge artists would send me songs to play on, and I don\\\’t play on them, ‘cause I don\\\’t hear where I can play on it, you know? Guitars are a very tricky instrument for jazz. It’s a really tricky instrument. You know, like my first kind-of jazz session was with Herbie Hancock. And Steve was on that session. And I think I even said it on his documentary they were shooting. I started freaking out when Herbie said, “Come on and play on a session with me.” ‘Cause I was like “I don\\\’t know how to do these licks.” Then I realized, he probably knows I don\\\’t know these licks, because he’s never heard me do those licks. So, what he wants me to do is my thing.

    CC: Exactly.

    JM: You gotta do your thing. Then it becomes really interesting. I tried to manage the feeling of being out classed or outmoded by the other people around me. That goes for anyone listening. You develop your thing. You know? I was just watching some John McLaughlin stuff this morning. He’s playing a 12 string. He’s almost playing, like, Led Zeppelin kind of stuff. He’s a jazz guy, and then you realize there\\\’s a whole world of people learning jazz guitar as popularized by four to six people. You know what I mean?

    CC: That’s an interesting view. Who are they?

    JM: Well they’re Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Grant Green.

    CC: Right, right, right, I see what you mean.

    JM: You know —

    CC: You gotta put John in there.

    JM: Oh yeah, John McLaughlin.

    CC: Benson.

    JM: George Benson. These sort of — Tal Farlow. You know, Tal Farlow is sort of, you know, you can make a jazzbox sound like a lot of different things. The same thing happens with blues guitar. Most people pick up a Stratocaster, they play Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton. Something like that. And those are just four to six people on that instrument. And so what I’m trying to do, is see the guitar as a guitar. As a thing that will do whatever you want it to do. So what do you want it to do? Sort of like, always order off the menu when you pick up your instrument.

    CC: Right, that’s nice.

    JM: Like what you’re saying. Like that pasta —

    CC: Aglio e olio.

    JM: Ask the chef every time you pick up your instrument, ask the chef to make something different that’s not on the menu. Every instrument, every instrument has a geometrical rut in it. For the guitar it’s the pentatonic scale. Pentatonic scale is the most satisfying, easy-to-learn, lifetime-to-master sort of scales. And it’s easy to learn because it’s pretty much a box. It’s almost symmetrical top to bottom. Anybody can do it. Anybody can pick it up.

    CC: You mean fingerwise?

    JM: Yeah.

    CC: Oh I see.

    JM: So the way guitar players see it, it’s just this moving box. Literally, it’s just a moving box. The reason there’s so many guitar players, is because the shapes can stay the same up and down the neck. I mean, the piano becomes recontextualized, every key. So for guitar players, there’s this geometry that we get sold on where we actually play shapes first. So it’s a muscle adventure. It’s an adventure in geometry.

    CC: It can be the same thing on the piano.

    JM: Really?

    CC: It can be. The same thing on the piano.

    JM: Imagine it like a chef ready to make you whatever you want. But what are you hungry for? I don\\\’t know; show me a menu. What are you hungry for?

    CC: You developed enough certainty of technique on the instrument. You can pretty much do whatever you want, looks like to me.

    JM: Well thank you. There’s certain — I dont even know how to classify what the thing that I can’t do is. There’s a certain complexity in harmonic movement that is like a river rushing. And the rapids are too much for me. Just in that sense. But I also think that everyone’s got strengths and weaknesses. I loved Albert King growing up. Albert King played four licks and I loved him.

    CC: I grew up in that stream of harmony and bebop and moving through changes and all that kind of stuff. I’m trying to learn to make melodies over a vamp. That’s my favorite thing to do, actually. Especially since discovering Latin music and flamenco music. That was my inroad into vamps.

    JM: Isn’t that just like a musician to want to be every other musician at the same time. You’re a color of paint, that you can have different shades of. But if you\\\’re red you can\\\’t be green. You just have to hang out with someone who’s green.

    CC: I think so!

    JM: You know what I mean?

    CC: Yea. I think we’re trading some nice things in this get-together.

    JM: It’s really great. Who knows what\\\’s next. But, I’ll tell you, improvisation, I’ll also leave you with this thing, is about wiping your brain clean every time.

    CC: Thank you. I want everyone to remember what he just said.

    JM: Really? You agree?

    CC: Yeah, that’s one that, for me, that you can write in stone. What was it again?

    JM: You have to be able to wipe your brain clean after an improvisation. Put all the ideas back in the “unused” category.

    CC: Yea, you have to be right here, right now. No past.

    JM: Wipe it clean. You know, maybe we’ll plug in and I still run into this rut right here and go, “We kind of had something like this.” Well, no we don’t.

    CC: Well, now you’re in the past.

    JM: That’s right. Go for it again. I can tell you this, the allegory is so much like blackjack. New shoot, same cards, new shoot. We got chips on the table. We got three more days to play. I could be a millionaire at these blackjack chips. As long as I go easy and take my time and pay attention. Whenever the cards go back in and they reshuffle them, I haven’t seen a single card again. Play with that kind of hope. Hit me.

    CC: Lets go play, man.

    JM: Hit me, Chick!

    CC: I’m ready. Thank you man.

    JM: Thank you! This is a handshake, this is an audio handshake.

    Bill Rooney: Alright, I hope you enjoyed the podcast. If you want to check out some photos from Chick’s recent recording session with John Mayer and friends, visit our podcast show page at ChickCoreaMusicWorkshops.com. You’ll also be able to find out about a very special online music workshop at the end of this month, March 2014. Again, that’s ChickCoreaMusicWorkshops.com. Alright, until next time.

    Transcript

    Chick Corea: Hello, hello, hello. This is Chick. Welcome to another very special installment from — Oh, let’s call it “Podcastlandia.” Yeah, this is a conversation that I had just a few days ago with the great guitarist, singer-songwriter, John Mayer. And you’re about to hear a chat that we had in Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Yeah, John and I met a couple of months ago in December. We were both guests at Stevie Wonder’s “House Full of Toys” concert where Stevie did the complete set from Songs in the Key of Life. It was an amazing night, and my first time to meet John. We started talking about maybe jamming together and sure enough, setting it all together, we ended up at Electric Lady Studios in New York, which is a place with a lot of memory for me, great memory, from 1975, where I made a solo album called The Leprechaun with Gayle, with my wife Gayle. And, you know, I hadn’t stepped into Electric Lady Studios since that day. It was very exciting. John and I had a blast the days that we were there, really going out on several different limbs; improvising and coming up with this and that. Actually, none of it is really evaluated right now, but it sure was a blast. Anyway, John was nice enough to sit down and have a chat and get it recorded and here it is! Myself, John Mayer, Electric Lady Studios. Boom.

    CC: John, hey, thanks for sitting in. I didn’t mean to interrupt the session.

    John Mayer: There’s nothing to interrupt, it’s all free flowing.

    CC: It is, it is! So this is John, John Mayer. This is Chick.

    JM: Hello.

    CC: We’re at Electric Lady. And, how much should we reveal about what we’re doing?

    JM: Everything but playing for them. I actually thought about putting some stuff up on Twitter the other night. And I thought it’s such a reveal when you hear this stuff. A lot of the power, I think, is going to be in the reveal, because it’s not what people are expecting. And if you put a 15 second video clip — of your favorite part — up, you kind of take away the unveiling of it. Because it is sort of a shocking thing to hear it.

    CC: Well the general subject, that I was going in on, which totally fits what we\\\’re doing, is the concept of improvisation. Which everyone wants to — musicians, and young musicians — they want to know what’s that all about, and how do you do that. This thing that we’ve been doing is like a perfect example of starting from practically nowhere. Well, not completely nowhere. We are ourselves, we’re wanting to jam, that’s a “somewhere.” But practically a nowhere, like a song or a tempo or a lick, or a this or a that. And then just coming in the room together and starting to play. Which is some of my favorite way to make music.

    JM: It’s definitely treacherous. It’s not for the faint of heart. If you\\\’re looking for a sense of comfort, at all times, it’s not going to happen. It’s very uncomfortable. I don’t know if this for everybody, but for me personally, I wear the last thing we played, until we play another thing. I wear it. It’s this little micro-scoreboard. “Hows this going?” I think that’s just my nature when I get into the studio. It’s funny you mentioning “from nowhere.” We do start from nowhere, but I think the real kind of instrument that I’m playing, on this particular session, is sort of like being the in-band producer. In the sense that, like, everybody can play so well, but there\\\’s really — of the whole unit of what everybody can play, there’s only about .4% of it at any given time that can create something that I feel like personally is beyond a jam. It’s something quote-unquote “lasting.” Not that any of our stuff that we played is not lasting, in one way or another. But, it’s that way when I write music with lyrics, and pop music and stuff. It’s like here’s all these words, here\\\’s all these chords, only a very, very, very, refined, slight percentage of what it is you could play can create something vital. So for me, those moments where you create something vital, they send me through the roof. It’s like gambling with your ego; it’s like gambling with your emotions. ‘Cause when you nail it — we nailed it yesterday. And when, four hours later, it’s like “Where are we now?” You know what I’m saying?

    CC: Yeah. You know what is interesting to me about that? What you\\\’re saying, that I think about? Is that there’s this 4% you’re talking about. I understand what you meant by that, but the thing that’s interesting to me, is that in order to recognize when that happens, somehow I feel that there has to be a pre-knowledge of it. Otherwise you can’t recognize the moment that it occurs. Otherwise how would you know? Because it’s all going by like a movie reel. And then how are you going to isolate that 4%?

    JM: That’s right. That’s like having an eye for if you’re —

    CC: So you already know.

    JM: Well it comes from —

    CC: In a sense.

    JM: You know, because you’ve heard so many things that you can tell what’s special and what’s not. A good analogy is like a photo editor, who pours over hundreds of contact sheets and has a grease pencil, and very quickly can just go, “That’s the shot, here\\\’s the ones that are starred.” Where you and I, as sort of amateur photographers, would have to pour over it all day, and go, “This is good, and this is good, and this is good.” And we’d basically go through a grease pencil, because everything was good, because our eyes aren’t attuned to it. So for me, that pre-knowledge is really kind of the unspoken question that I was thinking about this morning, which is, “Is this anything?” You know? Like David Letterman has this bit where he’s like “Is this anything?” And somebody comes out and does something completely bizarre and esoteric and, of course, it’s a rhetorical question. Is this anything or is this something?

    CC: It’s a good question.

    JM: But it’s really the question. Constantly I have a filter in my mind. So I’m half the player, half the listener. Going, “Is this anything?” And if it is anything, then you have the scent on the trail.

    CC: Because I’m always looking for a receipt point, see. When you say, “Is this anything?” The first one to know about that, or to answer the question, is yourself, of course. You’re looking at life going by, you’re doing what you\\\’re doing, and you do that or not that. Something strikes you or doesn’t strike you. I can think immediately about two other places that I think, if I may assume, that you’re probably evaluating, I know I do, which is number one, the other musicians in the band that you’re playing with. Whoa — they\\\’re a receipt point of it too, you know what I mean? But then finally, since music is, to me, is a little incomplete without an audience, there’s that too. So when you’re evaluating, that’s it. Is it, for you, for the band, for the audience?

    JM: For me, it’s always been for the blueprint. So the blueprint — and the blueprint can change as you go — but for me, the blueprint, it’s also always been a thing for me. How do you create something that falls somewhere perfectly in between 4, 5 different styles, that sounds new, but sounds comfortable and new at the same time? So for me, I kind of hole up in my mind and one part of my peripheral vision of what the blueprint is. And you have to keep checking back with the blueprint. I think so much about the session I’m about to go into, so that when I get in there I’m not swept away. So I can sort of still keep a little bit of longitude in terms of what’s going on. And also you have to throw it out the window so you have something come through, because if you come in with the blueprint too much, then you don’t allow anything to happen, you know. So it’s really like knowing when to strike and when to just pull back and relax. And I’m getting better at that as I get older. When I was younger I was incredibly, sort of nervous. And if somebody played one sound I didn\\\’t like, I’d sort of get in, and go “Hey, not that, try that.” And then, every time you make a recommendation or a correction like that, somebody, if most people want to comply, they’ll comply and then change their instinct a little bit.

    CC: Change their what?

    JM: Their instinct, to try to suit you. Or kind of go, “Okay, he doesn’t want that.”

    CC: So now you don’t have that instinct to work with.

    JM: So yeah, now that person shuttered a little bit of their freedom. ‘Cause they want to please. For me, it’s a very subtle sort of delineation between, “Do I step in right now and say ‘Hey, lets do that.’ Or do we just let things happen?” The older I get, the more I can trust the flow. But it is really — I don’t know why I continue to put myself in these stupidly uncomfortable situations. Because I don’t sleep right, I don’t eat right, I don’t even dream right when I sleep.

    CC: You got a blueprint that you want to realize.

    JM: I don’t need to be happy, I just need to come out of this with a record, you know what I mean? I’ll be happy later.

    CC: You got a blueprint that you want to realize, and then it’s hard to judge other musicians of how, you might say, “thick their skin is,” in terms of receiving an opinion. I know what you mean by that, because you want all that openness and creativity from guys. You don’t want to quell it. But the whole thing needs some kind of a direction. Some kind of thing to go to. I personally think you’re doing a good job on that order.

    JM: Thanks, man. I’m always sort of the captain in the sense that, you know, I want to come out with product that feels like me, that has my sensibilities, you know. But also don’t want to — and I see this in co-writing too — you get a sense pretty quickly sometimes whether or not something’s worth it or not. If something is worth the chase. You’ve got to decide when we are going to hunt for four hours on something and when we’re not. ‘Cause if you hunt down every idea, then you get lost. And your bearings, when you improvise, are very sensitive. I always found that jams, for me, like I was saying before, you just wear every note you play. You sort of make this thing out in the air, and it floats around you. If you have a great experience, then you walk around on a high. If you have an unclean experience jamming — it goes on too long, you know. I never liked jamming when I was growing up. I liked getting in and getting out. Even if it was instrumental and improvised. It’s hard to explain, it’s like you get this emotional residue from not getting in and getting out on an idea. You know what I mean?

    CC: Yeah, totally.

    JM: It just wears on you funnily. Your chest starts to itch a little bit.

    CC: You found a good point the other day saying, “Well okay, we’ve explored about 9 thousand ideas, now let’s go for that.” I thought that was the correct thing.

    JM: It was, and it — the great thing about you is, like, even though we knew what the form was at that point, it was still wide open.

    CC: Pretty much.

    JM: It was still completely wide open. We did this song yesterday that was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, feeling experiences. That’s what I’m saying it’s like for me, it’s very — it’s a physical thing for me. If you get into something, and everybody moves in as a unit and moves through as a unit and comes out as a unit and the statement is concise, it’s like a clean feeling. It’s like a clean-burning feeling in your body. You feel happy, you feel joyous, you feel economical, you feel proud. And sometimes you need to. You have to go into the forest. And it can be really thankless; you can get really down on your playing, and you can go, “Oh, none of this is making any sense.” But you have to stay calm. And know you can pull yourself out if you find the right idea. Move that right idea over onto another reel of tape, there you go. And then have your clean experiences off of that. But it’s very easy to go into the flat spin and think, “None of this is working, I’m wasting all these people’s time. It’s all a waste.”

    CC: I think we’re getting some place. You know, I’ve always had a sky high goal that I keep for myself, talking about, “Well, who am I trying to do this for? Me, my band or the audience?”

    JM: That’s cool. What’s the answer?

    CC: There’s one other element too. There’s one other element. There’s me, the band there’s the audience. But you know what there is? There’s the support team, there’s these guys. There’s management, there’s the promoters, there’s the guys who organize all this for us. And that\\\’s the complete package.

    JM: That’s right.

    CC: So for me, the real high, walking away, is you play a show and everybody is on that cloud. Like all those points. Yourself, the band, the audience, the organizers and the audience is glowing. Everybody is glowing. So then that’s like, I can go home, I can go back to the hotel and sleep on a night like that.

    JM: It’s funny you say the show. Because the show — assuming — exists after the record. It’s sort of the final stage of getting everybody to believe that what you’re doing is the right thing. So for me, there are moments in my career where I have to sort of alienate people’s way of thinking. Just to be able to get to the next level. But what I found is that even if you alienate someone’s comfort zone for a minute, to get where you need to get to, if the music is great and it moves them, they\\\’re right back with you. So there are moments that I have to separate from the pack. That\\\’s why there is so much pressure on me. So it all dovetails into what I was saying about going into the session as the captain of this idea, because my ego wants me to return with pelts. I want to return with pelts from the trip. Not come back from a frosty winter with a couple teeth and a paw or something. I owe it to the idea itself to really make sure that when I come out of this experience, I’m holding something real that I can then play for the crew. The manager. When it’s right, doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. If it’s effective, it moves people. You know, we did this 15-minute-long improvisational jam the first night that we got into the studio. I was so excited about it, I started playing it for people off of the iPhone, like in a wine glass. And they weren’t giving me lip service. They were absolutely moved by it. Because there was some — that’s the thing about Steve and Pino. There’s all … they can’t … It’s really interesting. A lot of people use the word “commercial,” but that’s not really the right word. They can’t leave this sort of — and it’s a good thing — they can’t leave this … we all like accessable things. Accessible doesn’t mean easy. There’s just, you might call it groove music. You might call it — everyone sort of has a different word for it. But like, you listen back to these records and they\\\’re incredibly effective in the sense that people can drop right into it and start going “Wow.”

    CC: Absolutely.

    JM: But you tell people, “I want to go make a jazz record with Chick Corea and Wallace Roney. They go, “I don\\\’t —” The only way to prove the concept in art is to make the art.

    CC: Put it out and see what happens. And have it be communicated.

    JM: You don’t see painters start having conversations with people, going, ‘I’m thinking about doing this painting, let me describe it to you. And tell me if you want to buy it.”

    CC: It’s incomplete until it goes to some listeners, and then you see if that is how far you want to reach. I mean, you’ve reached very far in terms of people enjoying being able to enjoy your art, which is something I admire very much.

    JM: Thank you.

    CC: Because I come from a completely different background, of where for the first 20 years of my life, I didn’t care about that, at all. I had blinders on. I was telling you about that last night. And Stevie Wonder was the first guy that I saw communicated with larger audiences, with a very, very high quality of communication that inspired me to do that myself. But by then I didn’t know how to do it. I better learn how to sing.

    JM: You don\\\’t need to learn how to do another thing. You’re just fine.

    CC: [Laughs] Sing or play the guitar or whatever. But I’m always inspired by that, you know. But you do have to come in, like you were saying, with someone who has to lay the direction now. I don’t think it’s always a group thing. That initial thing. It can become a group thing. But individual ideas don’t come from a group. They come from individuals. Even when you’re jamming, someone has an idea, which other people take and formulate. It’s a give and take process.

    JM: Also, as the session goes on, you learn more about what the session is. So, we get certain tracks we listen back to and I go, “Oh man, that’s what this record is.” It helps focus you to that. You sort of calibrate to what yesterday was. You can’t do that if you’re scared. You have to look at every minute you still have as a possible minute you can spend making something great. If you consider this a lost cause in any way in your mind, you’ll sort of choke, lose your inspiration, and want to put your instrument down, and want to say, “I think we’re good.” So for me, I think it’s a spirit that everybody who really drives their own career has. It’s a fighting spirit that doesn’t give up till they start packing up the instruments. You know what I mean? You only need 8 minutes to do something life-changing. It could be the next 8 minutes, it could be an hour and 8 minutes from now. It could be tomorrow night. But you have to hold steady in between those moments. and trust everyone’s playing, trust your playing, trust the vibe, trust the moment. I’m not worried that we\\\’re not making music right now.

    CC: You have to keep going. I think all that’s great, man. I want to take this down to a nerd level for a second.

    JM: Okay, I’ll come as deep as I can into this.

    CC: Just for a second. Tell me what is your concept of this word that get’s used a lot in art and in music. And we use the word and people are always — you know when I do workshops, the musicians are always asking about this concept. So I want to get your opinion right now. What’s “improvisation” and what’s not “improvisation.” Or is that too nerd?

    JM: Well I can answer the first one. I think that improvisation for me is self-production. Self-musical-production. You are your own music producer. You\\\’re not an artist. You’re half artist, half music producer. So you’re constantly producing the track just on your instrument. And you’re producing with a lot of other producers who are producing their track. And what ever that is, you know, whoever you are in that sense, it\\\’s like, it’s really about listening. It’s really about listening. And what improvisation isn’t, is group practice. Meaning like, for instance, where I am now in my playing, is I try to really not use a song to practice. Like to get something right. Like, there’s this one thing that I did yesterday, I did it for a minute and a half to get it right. And that just wasn’t the time to do that. That moment should have been over in 6-8 seconds. And what I did was, I got selfish — or misguided, if not selfish — into using everyone’s playing that track or that take, as an opportunity for me to get that guitar part right, or explore that guitar part. And I listened back to it [hums guitar part], where I’m doing that synth thing, and it’s me going, “Oh, this is neat!” But leaving the song completely, going, “This is neat, let me work this out till I get it.” And I listen back to it and I cringe, because it’s me developing an idea. So what improvisation isn’t, is developing an idea on someone else’s time. You know what I mean? You can develop an idea with somebody as a unit. But using that, so you go [hums music], “That was cool. Oh, but I messed that up. Let me try that again and get it right.”

    CC: Everyone else is playing and you’re practicing.

    JM: You’re practicing for a second. I did that yesterday, and I heard it back and I went, “Oh, I hate this.”

    CC: I started practicing with you. [Both laugh] I started going [hums music].

    JM: [Laughs.] I’m yelling, in my head, at the speakers: “Stop! I hope this is the last time I do that.” [Hums music.] If you didn’t get it right, like, go home and practice it. Don’t practice it on the record with Chick Corea. But for me, improvisation is, and you can not go wrong with this word, you can’t say “Well I don\\\’t do that,” is lyrical. Everything should be based on being lyrical. If it’s not lyrical, it doesn\\\’t catch my ear, it doesn’t catch other people’s ears. It doesn’t have to sound like song lyrics. Some people use the word “motif.” But it doesn’t even have to have a motif.

    CC: Has to flow.

    JM: Has to flow, like certain words that just sound good. Certain lyrics just sound good. Where you wouldn’t put certain phonetic sounds in a lyric because they don\\\’t flow off the lips right. Imagine if you were an instrumentalist, what that might sound like if you were a singer. All of your consonants and vowels would be these really disjointed, hard to get to, unsatisfying things to sing. And then you listen to Frank Sinatra go, “Look at yourself if you had a sense of humor.” Then you go, “Ooh, look at yourself if you had a sen—” There’s a natural flow to that, and you have to think about that on the instrument too. It doesn’t have to be repetitive or motif-based, but a certain natural lyric that has nothing to do about the shape of the scale as it exists geometrically on your instrument. That’s what people say when they mean “breaking out of scales.”

    CC: There’s no glitches. It’s all in present time. It’s all now. It’s all without thinking. It all just flows along, I get it.

    JM: I still have those moments, you know. There are now moments — well, I’m 36; I’ve been playing for 21, 22 years, you know. 23 years, 23 years. I’m just now getting to where I can just breathe through a track and really contribute, and never have the guitar puncture the top of the sort of skin of everyone\\\’s playing. I still do it and I learn from it. One of those moments where the guitar kind of like photo-bombs the track, you know?

    CC: Go ahead and puncture it. Puncture away [laughs].

    JM: Yeah, I try. I really like being the glue here. Yeah photo-bombing the track. All of a sudden you’re like, it’s like breaking in as a 6 year kid in a home movie, out in front of the family. And I still do it and I go, “Ooh right.”

    CC: Thats cool with me, man. Hey, thank you, man. I think it’s an incredibly individual… I’ve never heard a viewpoint like that before.

    JM: Thanks, man.

    CC: I think it’s interesting, interesting to people and to me, to see one thing that we, everyone of us, really thinks differently about what we’re doing and I think if that thing is acknowledged, you got your blueprint. I got a blueprint. We got different ways to do it and that’s a good starting point anyway. It’s just a starting point. It’s a truth, and it’s a starting point. We have our own ways of operating. You know when it’s like that for you.

    JM: I know also when there’s a certain rope I can\\\’t jump. And I don\\\’t get down on myself about it anymore. If there\\\’s a certain rope I can\\\’t jump, it’s not meant for me to be on that track. That came from like, people sending me songs to play on. Huge artists would send me songs to play on, and I don\\\’t play on them, ‘cause I don\\\’t hear where I can play on it, you know? Guitars are a very tricky instrument for jazz. It’s a really tricky instrument. You know, like my first kind-of jazz session was with Herbie Hancock. And Steve was on that session. And I think I even said it on his documentary they were shooting. I started freaking out when Herbie said, “Come on and play on a session with me.” ‘Cause I was like “I don\\\’t know how to do these licks.” Then I realized, he probably knows I don\\\’t know these licks, because he’s never heard me do those licks. So, what he wants me to do is my thing.

    CC: Exactly.

    JM: You gotta do your thing. Then it becomes really interesting. I tried to manage the feeling of being out classed or outmoded by the other people around me. That goes for anyone listening. You develop your thing. You know? I was just watching some John McLaughlin stuff this morning. He’s playing a 12 string. He’s almost playing, like, Led Zeppelin kind of stuff. He’s a jazz guy, and then you realize there\\\’s a whole world of people learning jazz guitar as popularized by four to six people. You know what I mean?

    CC: That’s an interesting view. Who are they?

    JM: Well they’re Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Grant Green.

    CC: Right, right, right, I see what you mean.

    JM: You know —

    CC: You gotta put John in there.

    JM: Oh yeah, John McLaughlin.

    CC: Benson.

    JM: George Benson. These sort of — Tal Farlow. You know, Tal Farlow is sort of, you know, you can make a jazzbox sound like a lot of different things. The same thing happens with blues guitar. Most people pick up a Stratocaster, they play Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton. Something like that. And those are just four to six people on that instrument. And so what I’m trying to do, is see the guitar as a guitar. As a thing that will do whatever you want it to do. So what do you want it to do? Sort of like, always order off the menu when you pick up your instrument.

    CC: Right, that’s nice.

    JM: Like what you’re saying. Like that pasta —

    CC: Aglio e olio.

    JM: Ask the chef every time you pick up your instrument, ask the chef to make something different that’s not on the menu. Every instrument, every instrument has a geometrical rut in it. For the guitar it’s the pentatonic scale. Pentatonic scale is the most satisfying, easy-to-learn, lifetime-to-master sort of scales. And it’s easy to learn because it’s pretty much a box. It’s almost symmetrical top to bottom. Anybody can do it. Anybody can pick it up.

    CC: You mean fingerwise?

    JM: Yeah.

    CC: Oh I see.

    JM: So the way guitar players see it, it’s just this moving box. Literally, it’s just a moving box. The reason there’s so many guitar players, is because the shapes can stay the same up and down the neck. I mean, the piano becomes recontextualized, every key. So for guitar players, there’s this geometry that we get sold on where we actually play shapes first. So it’s a muscle adventure. It’s an adventure in geometry.

    CC: It can be the same thing on the piano.

    JM: Really?

    CC: It can be. The same thing on the piano.

    JM: Imagine it like a chef ready to make you whatever you want. But what are you hungry for? I don\\\’t know; show me a menu. What are you hungry for?

    CC: You developed enough certainty of technique on the instrument. You can pretty much do whatever you want, looks like to me.

    JM: Well thank you. There’s certain — I dont even know how to classify what the thing that I can’t do is. There’s a certain complexity in harmonic movement that is like a river rushing. And the rapids are too much for me. Just in that sense. But I also think that everyone’s got strengths and weaknesses. I loved Albert King growing up. Albert King played four licks and I loved him.

    CC: I grew up in that stream of harmony and bebop and moving through changes and all that kind of stuff. I’m trying to learn to make melodies over a vamp. That’s my favorite thing to do, actually. Especially since discovering Latin music and flamenco music. That was my inroad into vamps.

    JM: Isn’t that just like a musician to want to be every other musician at the same time. You’re a color of paint, that you can have different shades of. But if you\\\’re red you can\\\’t be green. You just have to hang out with someone who’s green.

    CC: I think so!

    JM: You know what I mean?

    CC: Yea. I think we’re trading some nice things in this get-together.

    JM: It’s really great. Who knows what\\\’s next. But, I’ll tell you, improvisation, I’ll also leave you with this thing, is about wiping your brain clean every time.

    CC: Thank you. I want everyone to remember what he just said.

    JM: Really? You agree?

    CC: Yeah, that’s one that, for me, that you can write in stone. What was it again?

    JM: You have to be able to wipe your brain clean after an improvisation. Put all the ideas back in the “unused” category.

    CC: Yea, you have to be right here, right now. No past.

    JM: Wipe it clean. You know, maybe we’ll plug in and I still run into this rut right here and go, “We kind of had something like this.” Well, no we don’t.

    CC: Well, now you’re in the past.

    JM: That’s right. Go for it again. I can tell you this, the allegory is so much like blackjack. New shoot, same cards, new shoot. We got chips on the table. We got three more days to play. I could be a millionaire at these blackjack chips. As long as I go easy and take my time and pay attention. Whenever the cards go back in and they reshuffle them, I haven’t seen a single card again. Play with that kind of hope. Hit me.

    CC: Lets go play, man.

    JM: Hit me, Chick!

    CC: I’m ready. Thank you man.

    JM: Thank you! This is a handshake, this is an audio handshake.

    Bill Rooney: Alright, I hope you enjoyed the podcast. If you want to check out some photos from Chick’s recent recording session with John Mayer and friends, visit our podcast show page at ChickCoreaMusicWorkshops.com. You’ll also be able to find out about a very special online music workshop at the end of this month, March 2014. Again, that’s ChickCoreaMusicWorkshops.com. Alright, until next time.

    http://chickcoreamusicworkshops.com/04-john-mayer/

    —Huffduffed by andrewmarvin one month ago

  10. Photo Identification: The ‘Best And Worst Way’ To ID People : NPR

    How reliably can we find the fakes? A new study says the more forgeries people come across, the better they are at spotting them. But there are multiple traps that can cloud screeners’ judgment.

    http://www.npr.org/2014/03/16/290677528/photo-identification-the-best-and-worst-way-to-id-people

    —Huffduffed by abrin one month ago

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