It's the people, stupid

Jason Kilar was the first SVP I presented in front of when I joined Amazon back in 2005. I worked with him on Webstore by Amazon's 2006 operating plan, and I loved the perspective he had on the business I owned. I learned to not just gather, analyze, and present data; I learned to ask myself am I doing the right thing, the right way, and follow that immediately up with how are we going to win? That was very refreshing for him to step away from the raw numbers and ensure I understood the big picture and the strategy behind Webstore. My personal and professional growth is a function of a number of experiences in my career, and my interactions with Jason definitely shaped who I am today.

People are the difference in whether innovative concepts succeed or fail. YouTube wasn't the first online video service (Google beat them to it by a long shot), but YouTube had great people - people that founded PayPal and turned it into a success. That was the difference. You might argue that YouTube had a better user experience than anyone else out there, and I would agree. And I think that better experience was a function of the people at YouTube who "got it."

Jason moved on from Amazon, and he now heads up Hulu, which looks to be a promising video content site and I would expect to do very well with Jason running the show. I've signed up for the beta, will see if I am invited.

Oh yeah... good luck Jason! I'm rooting for you.


We "deserve" free Wifi?

I really think it's cool that Google is funding free Wifi access in the Bay area. I assume there's a business value behind it - the more people are spending time on the web, the more hits Google's Search Engine and AdSense products get. A nice, innovative approach to driving business. Kudos to Google.

I enjoyed the quick read on their blog this morning until I got to this line:

we continue to hope that EarthLink and The City will find a way to enable all San Franciscans to enjoy the free WiFi network they deserve

Maybe I'm being petty, but I really hate the entitlement mentality for luxury items (after all you need a device capable of Wifi before using it). Wifi is not an entitlement, although I would suggest there are legititate reasons municipalites would provide such a service to their communities for free.

When I ran my consulting businses out of Michigan City, Indiana, I was part of the Michigan City Technology Task Force that decided that free wifi in Michigan City made sense. But that wasn't out of entitlement for the residents, it was purely a community economic development decision - the benefits for the community outweighed the costs of providing the service. And my friends in the Seattle area would be shocked to learn that we proposed such a solution without proposing to raise taxes!

Google's innovative approach to driving web traffic is good. Let's not oversell what it is, though. You can, and will, damage a brand that way.


Why I love Dinner Impossible

This is one of my favorite TV shows to come along in a long time. At first I didn't really understand why I enjoyed it so much, then it hit me. It matches my personality. I love the idea that Robert Irvine will accept a tremendous challenge without knowing all the details. That's the point - set a deadline, set some success criteria, then figure out what it takes to meet the challenge. I love it. He has no idea who is helping him, what tools he has available, what space he has available, etc. He accepts the challenge, then assesses what he has, adapts, and ultimately wins.

Again, I love it!. The business world needs more Robert Irvines.

Some will argue this is a fault, some a strength. I think it's a strength. One of the biggest blockers of execution is people who need every t crossed and i dotted before making a decision or moving forward. Very few people can start with a deadline and a goal and work their way backwards into a solution to meet the challenge. This is arguably the difference between entrepreneurs and corporate mentality (if you can't tell, the lack of entrepreneurship in corporations, well, gets to me).

Change happens. Expect it. Adapt to it. Do whatever it takes. To expect the obvious is to set yourself up for failure.

I remember running my own consulting firm, and having a lot of people ask "how do you know where your next client will come from?" I always answered the same: I don't. And that's the point. Not knowing had zero to do with the success of my business. Maintaining a prospect pipeline, executing relationships and negotiations, and delivering value was what made my business successful. Yes, clients backed out of deals. Yes there were times I was unbillable. But more often than that I was turning down clients, turning down work from existing clients, etc.

Make it happen. The decision comes before the data.



Solve mobile banking in a different way

I'm seeing a lot of investigation into mobile banking. That's interesting - using a ubiquitous technology to attempt to solve problems to an ancient institution. Sounds like a natural evolution of banking. But if you think about this, I'm not convinced mobile banking solves problems. What would be the use cases where I need to bank by phone? Do I really need to check a balance or transfer money instantaneously? Seems like in all use cases I can wait until I am in front of a computer, ATM, or teller and conduct my business in a less rushed manner. Not to mention I really don't want another reason for Seattle drivers to be on their phones while on I-90.

I'm also convinced its time for an innovative bank to step up and change the banking game. Why do we have separate checking and savings accounts? Why is online banking still so primitive? Why isn't Quicken better integrated with online banking solutions? Why is ING Direct able to give me terrific rates and Washington Mutual can't compete? Why in late 2007 we still don't have online bill presentment integrated with banking while leaving control to the consumer (credit card companies are the only ones that have mastered this).

There is so much inefficiency in banking (and payments while I am at it, since I think of the two as two sides of the same coin).

A note to the banking industry: don't chase technology. Build better products.