With this being the season of giving and saying thanks, I wanted to share some thoughts on the right way to do it. Unfortunately, it is common in business to rush through your to-do list and quite often that means not thinking hard enough about what gift to give, especially when it comes to giving chotskies at tradeshows. In business, there is much mediocrity.
This is Part Two of Two in a series about our love for food, cultural practices, nutrition, the way we treat animals, what the Torah (Bible) says about eating animals, and where I think the puck is going (Part Two is the one bit about entrepreneurship, or future forecasting what I believe will be a very lucrative opportunity for the right entrepreneurs). This is more about what I've learned about these topics over the past four years in adopting a mostly vegan diet than my typical Lucky7 posts about entrepreneurship (with the notable exception I just mentioned above). I will not be offended if you stop reading now, and you now understand the context if you continue to read this series. I want you to know what you are getting into before you proceed; I believe this series will be a Matrix-type learning for you ("take the red pill, Neo") and once you know the truth you cannot "unlearn" it. You have been warned. :) Having said all of that, this is a topic that I'm very passionate about. My drive to write this series comes from the many questions I get from people about my diet, so I'm writing this to openly share what I've learned and this will also be more efficient - and comprehensive - for me than telling bits and pieces of this learning each time in conversation. My drive also comes from losing my father to a heart attack because of his diet. He was too young to pass away, and I miss him very much. I wrote a tribute to him here - he was an amazing entrepreneur and man.
Before I begin, I would like to thank my good friend, Ryan Cush (one of our best for many years at Bazaarvoice and an executive of Food on the Table, recently acquired by The Scripps Network), for discussing and reviewing this series with me. He is a wise and good man, and I always enjoy collaborating with him.
You create the future. Others dream about it, some write about it, many read about it. But the rare few actually create it. You are one of those rare people, and you are to be cherished by humanity for being so brave to define the future for all the rest.
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." - George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
You create the jobs. There is no company that anyone goes to work for that didn't have a brave creator at the beginning of it all. Your company can grow beyond you, but no one at your company today would be there if it were not for you giving birth.
You define the soul of the company. It was your unreasonableness, your "craziness", your dream, and, perhaps most importantly, your values that were seeded in its birth. Others can lead and tap into that soul, but if it weren't for you there would have been no soul in the first place.
To: The Bazaarvoice team, both past and present
Dear Friends (for I consider each of you to be just that),
My most sincere thanks to each of you for some of the most memorable, fascinating, and uplifting days of my life over the course of the last decade.
As my time on the Bazaarvoice Board of Directors draws to a close today, I look back on what we achieved together since this company was created over nine years ago with a combination of pride and humility. Pride because together, we built something from the ground up that revolutionized how transparently commerce would be conducted. And we did it incredibly well, expanding all over the world and winning the trust of thousands of clients and many partners. Humility because I will never take for granted the great privilege it has been to lead, to serve, to learn from all of you, and to be part of our outstanding culture.
In life and in one’s career, there are periods that shine for one reason or another and for me, the most transformational period has been my Bazaarvoice years. And that’s because of all of you. What we created together is one of a kind. The effort and skill it took amazes me. The devotion and care you brought to your work, the spirit of inspiration I saw thriving around me, and the eagerness to take a big risk on a new idea will inspire me for the rest of my life. I mean that with all of my heart.
One has to look forward as well as back though, and as deeply as I have loved my time serving with you, I have confidence that Bazaarvoice has many great days that lie ahead. The same spirit of ingenuity that drove us at the beginning still churns today. The excellence of our team is unquestionable. The soul of Bazaarvoice is very much intact and the heart beats strong.
I plan to continue watching, applauding, and taking great pride in your successes as one of our largest shareholders and a most loyal fan. But most of all, I will remain grateful to all of you, every day of my life. The love of a founder never dies.
Every year I look forward to the Shop.org Annual Summit. It brings together the smartest experts and entrepreneurs working in the digital retail space for discussions about the state of the industry and solutions to some of our biggest challenges. It’s an expansive showcase of innovation and insights.
There are a number of companies exhibiting this year that I’m excited to speak with, but I wanted to highlight three in particular that all of my retail friends should check out: Edgecase, Shelfbucks, and Together Mobile.
In the interest of disclosure, I’m an investor and/or advisor (Hurt Family Investmentsportfolio) in all three of these companies (and also a former three-term member of the Shop.org Board of Directors). But there is a reason I’ve been impressed by these companies and believe in them and their value - and think retailers and brands should as well. They are all transforming multi-channel shopping in important ways. They are focused not only on conversion (still a primary pain-point in digital shopping) but also revolutionizing the customer experience.
This is Part One of Two in a series about our love for food, cultural practices, nutrition, the way we treat animals, what the Torah (Bible) says about eating animals, and where I think the puck is going (that last part is the one bit about entrepreneurship, or future forecasting what I believe will be a very lucrative opportunity for the right entrepreneurs). This is more about what I've learned about these topics over the past four years in adopting a mostly vegan diet than my typical Lucky7 posts about entrepreneurship (with the notable exception I just mentioned above). I will not be offended if you stop reading now, and you now understand the context if you continue to read this post. I want you to know what you are getting into before you proceed; I believe this post will be a Matrix-type learning for you ("take the red pill, Neo") and once you know the truth you cannot "unlearn" it. You have been warned. :) Having said all of that, this is a topic that I'm very passionate about. My drive to write this post comes from the many questions I get from people about my diet, so I'm writing this post to openly share what I've learned and this will also be more efficient - and comprehensive - for me than telling bits and pieces of this learning each time in conversation. My drive also comes from losing my father to a heart attack because of his diet. He was too young to pass away, and I miss him very much. I wrote a tribute to him here - he was an amazing entrepreneur and man.
When I was an undergrad student at the University of Texas at Austin I very much wanted to become an entrepreneur. During those years (1990-1994), however, there was almost no support for entrepreneurship at the University. I didn't feel "developed" enough to pursue my dream, so I decided to go into consulting instead and became an entrepreneur a few years later, while I was earning my MBA.
In September 2013, I began my tenure as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Texas at Austin. I was proud to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, who taught at UT Austin his entire career. Instead of imposing what I thought the community would be need during my time as EIR, I took a lesson from building Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics. I created a team of four very influential and entrepreneurial student leaders and asked, “What does the student entrepreneur community need?”. The four were Taylor Barnett, Verick Cornett, Dan Driscoll, and Jonathan Van. We became the “Office of the EIR”. Nick Spiller joined our team later and right after graduation he joined UT to continue the charge as an entrepreneurial catalyst across the school.
This is part one of a three-part series on entrepreneurship. The parts:
- 'Is it too late for me to start my own business?', and other sheepish questions
- Who this new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs are and the new Golden Age of tech (Lucky7 post)
- How I define the soul of entrepreneurs: you change the world (Lucky7 post)
It's March of 2013 and I'm at Wharton serving as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence when I get a question that baffles me. I'm speaking at the Penn Founders' Club, where all University of Pennsylvania students are welcome as long as they are fervently working on a real business while they are in school. I've just wrapped up my opening comments and it is time for Q&A. The baffling question: "Have all of the really big ideas already been thought of?". I couldn't believe it when I could see the student was being serious and not just pulling my leg, and I was fired up. I passionately describe how the world always needs entrepreneurs to drive it forward, and there are always ideas - everywhere - if you just look hard to find them. I talk about how I just read the book Abundance, wrote the longest book review of my life on it at Lucky7, and there are thousands of great ideas in the book for entrepreneurs to solve the world's biggest problems. A few months later, Waze gets bought for $966 million by Google. A few months after that, Snapchat gets a rumored $3 billion offer from Facebook, which I wrote about in this Lucky7 post on valuations. And then almost a year after receiving that question at Penn, WhatsApp gets a firm acquisition offer of $19 billion from Facebook, one month after Google buys Nest for $3.2 billion.
Last year, I recommended Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think as my book pick of the year and wrote an abundantly long review of it. There are thousands of good business ideas in that book for entrepreneurs that are destined to change the world (I also wrote about Elon Musk being my current pick as entrepreneur-of-the-decade as he defines the ethos of this mindset better than anyone I can think of in today's age).
This year, I'm recommending you read The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies as a compliment to Abundance. To choose a word from the title, this is a brilliant book. It is written by two MIT professors that I am fortunate enough to call friends, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
I had a very special experience in the last few weeks of my time as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at McCombs. I reconnected with Rick Byars, who was my MIS333K professor (my undergraduate major at the University of Texas at Austin was MIS), in time for his legendary end-of-semester speech. He invited me to attend and speak for five minutes at the end of it.
To put this in context, when I was in Rick's class back in 1994 it had a huge impact on me. First of all, it was the most practical class I took at U.T. and, as a result, the one I remember the best. It simulates what it is like to be a technology consultant by giving you and your small team a large project to develop, test, and "deploy" by the end of the semester. It is the most time consuming class I took at U.T., by far, but at the end of it you have an incredible feeling of accomplishment. And then, at the end of the semester, Rick surprises you with the article below and his talk about it. You had no idea it was coming, and the shock value is what makes it a very special experience. You can't help but thinking, "Is this for real?! Was this really Rick?".