khuyi
Frustrated with poor results, he decided to go off script. He started spending one-on-one meetings talking to his reports about their lives, instead of their tasks, and productivity shot through the roof. “When you sit across a table from someone, ask them ‘What’s going on in your life?’ That will always remove more hurdles than asking them ‘What’s blocking you at work?’” he said.

How Medium Is Building a New Kind of Company with No Managers (via khuyi)

I’m surprised this is being presented as revolutionary. At the first 1:1 I have with everyone who works for me, I start off by saying that 1:1s are not for status updates, they are for coaching and therapy. We usually leave the office and go to the park or get coffee; I want to hear how they are doing and feeling, what their goals are (so I can help make it happen), etc.

gbattle

Network Effects: The 5 C’s to Growing A Successful Platform

gbattle:

Building a successful platform business is like tending a greenhouse of rare plants. First, there is a seed of an idea, but without any nurturing, that seed will do nothing but lie dormant. Funding acts like sunlight to provide energy to live another day. Your audience is like water, and user acquisition can be either organic like rain or paid for like irrigation.

Network effects are the soil containing the nutrients that either foster or mitigate viral growth.

There are 5 C’s that dictate the quality of a platform’s soil: Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Curation and Community.

Connection:

Most people’s understanding of network effects begins and ends with connections, representing the theoretical number of interaction pairs among the community.

As each participant, or node, is added to the connection graph, the theoretical number of connections doubles. The emphasis here is on theoretical, as connections alone do not translate to actual interactions. For example, MySpace still has 300 million user profiles, with a gazillion potential connections, yet it sits like a giant empty rusting amusement park. Womp womp. :-(

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Communication:

This is how we the turn potential energy of connections into kinetic energy by encouraging real interactions among the platform participants. Great platforms, like Facebook or Kickstarter, provide a spectrum of engagement opportunities, not just aggregated presence. There’s nothing worse than a party with a DJ and nobody dancing. Move your users.

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Collaboration:

Let’s add some context to our communication by allowing platform participants to work with and for each other through collaboration. Producers of value can team up to create hybrid products with embedded attribution across contributors (think reblogging on Tumblr or retweets on Twitter). Consumers of value can leverage collective behavioral consumption patterns to improve discovery of value producers (e.g., recommendations like related content on YouTube or “Customers who bought this item also bought” on Amazon).

The more we make historical interactions a virtuous cycle of feedback within the product, the better we’ve captured derivative value amidst the platform’s data exhaust.

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Curation:

If collaborative production and consumption provides a macro layer of communication, curation is the micro layer, representing individual tastes via personalization. Self-expression through the rearranging of other’s work offers a powerful form of meta-creativity. Allowing that meta-creativity to be shared creates a rich taste-making user segment in the value chain, ostensibly filling all the value gaps left open by the anchor producers.

A pinboard on Pinterest is a curated take on a particular topic, in the same way that a playlist on Spotify allows for the individual expression of content you didn’t create.

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Community:

Though often used as a catch all for all things “social,” community, as it relates to network effects, encompasses two symbiotic characteristics. The more a platform allows for permissionless involvement across the other C’s, the more the participants feel as if they have an ownership stake in the platform. These two intertwined factors of community are the vital roots of externalized innovation and co-production (yes, I snuck in a 6th C, but really, 5 is plenty).

Great examples are Stack OverflowWikipedia and reddit, which all have highly engaged participants who create and dictate the implicit rules and social mores that govern their communities.

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Grab Your Shovel:

Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Curation and Community are a reflection of your ability to attract, activate and empower your platform participants. I could extend the metaphor of platform growth to include exogenous factors like disease (vicious cycles), floods (usage exceeds capacity) and frost (regulatory environment changes), but that’s another post entirely.

Remember to keep your network effects soil well aerated and to use enough compost. Need help gaining a green thumb? Feel free to contact me @gbattle.

Happy farming.

[originally posted here]

[images by the awesome Jia Zheng]

A nice post that also describes the success of Twitch (and why Amazon bought them for $970M).

Ignore the Watch. It’s about the network.

The hype surrounding Apple’s announcement yesterday centered around the Apple Watch, but I think the real story here is one of networks.

HealthKit, HomeKit, WatchKit, Apple Pay, App Store - this represents the real war Apple is waging.

The Watch provides another category of devices that can act as end points in this network ecosystem. But devices are commodities - you can build a better mousetrap but no one is loyal to a mousetrap. Apple learned this the hard way, losing customers to Samsung who liked the big sized screens.

What makes people stay is an ecosystem where everything works together. Can the health data on my watch get sent via NFC to my doctor’s medical records system when I go in for a check up, via HealthKit + WatchKit? Can the music I’m listening to be seamlessly transferred to my Sonos when I walk into my apartment using the same Handoff technology they built into Watch, iOS 8, and OS X Yosemite, via HomeKit?

The Apple Pay deal is insane. I can’t believe the banks agreed to pay a vig. What happened here? Are they that desperate to get merchants to install NFC readers? What did Apple show them to make them think the quantity of purchases would outstrip the loss in margin? Maybe they’re just stupid. Either way, again it comes back to network effects. Apple now has a contactless payment system that works with all the credit card networks. Which means one of their most valuable assets - hundreds of millions of credit cards on file - will now proliferate, as the average American owns 3-4 credit cards but only has needed one to buy off iTunes. If you are going to build the world’s next point of sale device, or in-store shopping assistant, are you going to start with Google Wallet? Of course not. 

I think Apple will make a bunch of money selling Watches, but even if only 10% of iPhone owners buy one, that’s still a huge success for them. Remember Metcalfe’s law - the value of the network grows proportional to the square of nodes in the network. 

Tomorrow is my first day at Poppin as Sr. Director of Product Management, following 2.5 years at General Assembly. 
On leaving General Assembly
I was the 25th employee at General Assembly, joining when the founders reached out to me upon hearing that I was moving on from Postling (which we sold to LocalVox, and I’m using to publish this very post). I had an amazing time at an amazing company, playing four different roles, mostly in creating and building up the education product teams (curriculum development and instruction) and digital product teams (engineering, design, product management, QA). Two rounds of funding and 350 employees later, the company is moving into a more mature, later stage growth phase and it’s time for me to move on. My strengths lay in early stage startup creation - creating new teams, creating new products, creating new systems. What GA needs now are enterprise-experienced executives who are skilled at scaling - scaling processes, scaling communications, scaling organizations. I’ll still be involved in GA through teaching Product Management two nights a week and finishing up my work developing the Product Management Immersive curriculum.
On joining Poppin
Poppin sells office supplies and office furniture, with colorful and fresh design. But what Poppin really sells is the opportunity for you to have pride and delight in your office’s design and set up. They just raised $17M in a Series C, and I’ve been asked to create and lead their digital product team.
I joined Poppin for 3 reasons:
Great team - I’ve been blown away by every person I have met so far, both in their aptitude and their attitude. The people there have done it before, with proven success, and they’re so damn nice to boot. The founder sold his last company (Demdex) to Adobe, and other execs come from successful e-commerce companies like Quidsi (Diapers.com / Soap.com).  
Huge opportunity - To some, office supplies might not sound sexy, but as Paul Graham notes, often unsexy ideas are the best startup opportunities. Poppin’s website makes it seem like a typical direct-to-consumer e-commerce company, but actually it’s much more than that. First, it’s important to note that they design the products in-house (like Warby Parker or Bonobos). Second, they sell wholesale to retailers like Staples and Crate & Barrel, via Poppin designed + branded shelving (which is great free marketing at 1,400 locations). Third, they provide supplies and furniture to thousands of companies like LinkedIn, Pandora, Birchbox which looks a lot like a B2B subscription business, as these companies are regularly re-ordering supplies on a pretty consistent and predictable schedule.  
More e-commerce experience - To date, all of Poppin’s tech and digital product has been outsourced to agencies and dev shops, but with the new round, it’s time to build up that competency in-house. I’ll be building out a team and architecting the move to a new e-commerce platform. I love e-commerce and want to make it the core of my career. My experience (at Amazon, Etsy, GA) has predominantly been on the merchandising, recommendations, and marketplace side of e-commerce. At Poppin, I will be doing that but will also be architecting the back-end - inventory management, CRM, customer service, etc - giving me the end-to-end experience I want.
Again, a big thank you to General Assembly for an amazing 2.5 years and excited to start at Poppin tomorrow!

Tomorrow is my first day at Poppin as Sr. Director of Product Management, following 2.5 years at General Assembly. 

On leaving General Assembly

I was the 25th employee at General Assembly, joining when the founders reached out to me upon hearing that I was moving on from Postling (which we sold to LocalVox, and I’m using to publish this very post). I had an amazing time at an amazing company, playing four different roles, mostly in creating and building up the education product teams (curriculum development and instruction) and digital product teams (engineering, design, product management, QA). Two rounds of funding and 350 employees later, the company is moving into a more mature, later stage growth phase and it’s time for me to move on. My strengths lay in early stage startup creation - creating new teams, creating new products, creating new systems. What GA needs now are enterprise-experienced executives who are skilled at scaling - scaling processes, scaling communications, scaling organizations. I’ll still be involved in GA through teaching Product Management two nights a week and finishing up my work developing the Product Management Immersive curriculum.

On joining Poppin

Poppin sells office supplies and office furniture, with colorful and fresh design. But what Poppin really sells is the opportunity for you to have pride and delight in your office’s design and set up. They just raised $17M in a Series C, and I’ve been asked to create and lead their digital product team.

I joined Poppin for 3 reasons:

  1. Great team - I’ve been blown away by every person I have met so far, both in their aptitude and their attitude. The people there have done it before, with proven success, and they’re so damn nice to boot. The founder sold his last company (Demdex) to Adobe, and other execs come from successful e-commerce companies like Quidsi (Diapers.com / Soap.com).
     
  2. Huge opportunity - To some, office supplies might not sound sexy, but as Paul Graham notes, often unsexy ideas are the best startup opportunities. Poppin’s website makes it seem like a typical direct-to-consumer e-commerce company, but actually it’s much more than that. First, it’s important to note that they design the products in-house (like Warby Parker or Bonobos). Second, they sell wholesale to retailers like Staples and Crate & Barrel, via Poppin designed + branded shelving (which is great free marketing at 1,400 locations). Third, they provide supplies and furniture to thousands of companies like LinkedIn, Pandora, Birchbox which looks a lot like a B2B subscription business, as these companies are regularly re-ordering supplies on a pretty consistent and predictable schedule.
     
  3. More e-commerce experience - To date, all of Poppin’s tech and digital product has been outsourced to agencies and dev shops, but with the new round, it’s time to build up that competency in-house. I’ll be building out a team and architecting the move to a new e-commerce platform. I love e-commerce and want to make it the core of my career. My experience (at Amazon, Etsy, GA) has predominantly been on the merchandising, recommendations, and marketplace side of e-commerce. At Poppin, I will be doing that but will also be architecting the back-end - inventory management, CRM, customer service, etc - giving me the end-to-end experience I want.

Again, a big thank you to General Assembly for an amazing 2.5 years and excited to start at Poppin tomorrow!