Startups lessons from Netflix

Adrian Cockcroft, who spent a long time building up Netflix’s cloud infrastructure and spearheaded the development of many new cloud-related technologies and techniques at the company, recently gave a talk focused on developers in Tel Aviv October 29th 2014. He later posted it online. Of the entire presentation, there is one slide that stood out — it is chockfull of great practical advise for every founder, every startup and infact every company. In my experience, I have seen many companies ignore these realities and suffered as such. In comparison, Netflix has gone from a DVD company to the shining example of a cloud company by being flexible, fast and fanatically cloud-centric.

Oneofmany is one of a kind

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Whenever I ask anyone who I should meet in New York, they all point me to Wesley Verhoeve who is a Brooklyn-based creative who takes great photos, writes equally wonderful essays and during the day runs handmade men’s accessories and home goods company GNTLMN. Despite being recommended by one and all, I am yet to meet him — mostly because whenever I am in New York, he is traveling to some fun place, meeting people as creative as him. He is on a 12-city tour of creative cities across the US and spends time with the local creative community, and capturing interesting creatives in portrait and writing. They include everyone from visual artists to craftspeople, food and beverage makers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and more.

This project of his is called Oneofmany and it is wonderful. His photo essays are pretty amazing and deliver on the original premise of his effort — “inspire independent creatives/small business owners, and those aspiring to be.” I have been following his efforts on the website, on Instagram and on other places on the Internet. It has been a great project to follow as it has exposed me to people I would have never really met in real life. He surfaces stories of people who don’t fit the normal mold of creative. Think of Oneofmany as a cultural/creative bouillabaisse. Take a look

“It’s hard work, especially on days where I interview/shoot ten people, but I definitely feel lucky to be doing it and getting to share all these people’s stories,” he wrote to me in an email from Seattle earlier this morning. “I’m still looking for pubs to get in touch with to either write a piece for/give yet-to-be-published portraits to, or who wants to write about the project.” Any takers?

PS: I for one would be keen on learning about how he is running his business remotely while on the go from all these places. I can’t even imagine the kind of rigor and discipline one needs to do both these things.

Photo by Helena Price via Helena Price.com

What is a connected speaker

Sonos founder and chief executive John MacFarlane on competition from the likes of Denon, Yamaha and B&O:

When I asked MacFarlane what he thought about the barrage of connected speakers coming out from all the old school audio brands, he pointed out that the success of these connected speakers is not in how they look or sound, but at the end in how they connect to the network and to the services that define the product’s design.

from my piece, The utopian invisibility of design and connectivity

Compulsion

Today Jason Hiner asked me about the startup experience for a book he is writing. One of his questions was why did you do it— for love or for money. It was never about money. Startups — or the true ones are all about love — sometimes money comes along but otherwise it is all about love and everything you are willing to give up for it. I still wake up at 4 am thinking — can we do this better, smarter and make our readers happier. Readers are one of the main reasons why we eschewed some of the short term tricks while instead focusing on the long term.

Generically speaking, many of the great companies were started because the founders loved what they do and wanted to pursue their dreams badly. Evan Williams didn’t start blogger thinking about big dollars. I was one of those crazy ones! It is primarily the first thing I look for when trying to partner up with someone in my new gig at True Ventures.

I am at the True Ventures Founder Camp today and tomorrow and enjoying meeting with all of my fellow “crazy ones” on this journey to create something from nothing, reshape the world as we deem fit. Some will succeed, some will have to roll the dice again. Most of them will know – this is what they were born to do.

I hope Jason is kind to me in his book. But more importantly he will remind people that Startups are not a lifestyle. They are an obsession – fueled by one thing: the knowledge that you don’t have a choice but to do it!

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Week #3 wrapup

We are in the homestretch of the 30day blogging challenge. Here is a wrap-up for week #3. Hope you get a chance to check out some of these posts from my partners in blogging, Hiten, Michael and Toni.

The Notification Network

Paul Adams, vice president of Intercom (and previously with Facebook and Google) has written an extensive (and somewhat technical post) about the new improved “notification” capabilities and their impact on how apps are used and ultimately perceived. “The idea of an app as an independent destination is becoming less important, and the idea of an app as a publishing tool, with related notifications that contain content and actions, is becoming more important,” he writes. I am in agreement with Paul, as I wrote about precisely the same thing in my column for FastCompany. The new notification network, I wrote is part of a change in behavior inspired by smarter smartphones pointing out that “New fortunes are made whenever someone develops a tech advancement that makes our digital lives easier.”

Swing & Scratch

A few weeks back, when I decided to do the 30 day blogging challenge alongside my friends Hiten, Michael and Toni, I was trying to get back into blogging. I was hoping to rediscover a rhythm of writing daily, writing often and writing irreverently — three things that drew me to blogging. Not writing, not reporting, but blogging — or what I call writing about things I care about, things that allow me to scratch my itch.

I spent most of my working life writing around 1200 words pretty much everyday — except in 2014, when after growing really tired of constantly, I tried to step away from the computer. Instead, I picked up the pen and paper and trying to quietly make sense of it all. And all along, I knew the words had gone awol, the sentences were unfinished and the mind could never really compose what it wanted to say. I was scratching words on paper, not really writing.

Things started to change in July when I went to Italy and forced myself off the Internet — and trying to capture every moment I enjoyed and every experience I had by just writing about it. I wrote a lot. I used up all the notebooks I could find. I begged a friend to bring me some more notebooks from Florence. I wrote and wrote. It was like taking batting practice. I was going over those notebooks earlier today and I saw a lot of unfinished sentences, paragraphs that didn’t go anywhere. A raw script of my summer!

The blogging challenge, however has brought a rigor and discipline that was missing for most of the year. Almost three weeks into the challenge, I feel like a slugger in the middle of slump who is finally starting to recover his swing — connecting, but still missing the power. The desire to blog is back, writing longer pieces will come next and perhaps finally I will get the enthusiasm to write a book I eventually want to write!

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