The Week in Review #29: HearthStone & Gamification

Late last year a team mate of mine saw me killing some time playing Clash of Clans on my iPad. It was something I would occasionally do when I had a couple of minutes to kill or just needed a break. He suggested that I test out this new game called HearthStone. It was a competitive card trading game that you play against other opponents. It took a week and I was hooked. The game looks deceptively simple when you first start playing it. However to become a top ranked player takes a lot of work and understanding of the games fundamentals. This month I am playing to enter the highest ranks available. This is the top 2500 players out of the millions of people who play the game. I haven’t quite got there yet and thus the delay in this post.

As entrepreneurs there are several things that we can take away from how these gaming companies operate. First off it would be beneficial for most business owners to understand game mechanics. Several of these concepts can be used within your own companies for processes like recruiting and marketing. Over the last couple of years the word gamification has been greatly publicized to take advantage of these mechanics. The other factor that greatly stands out is how these gaming companies build communities. There are a plethora of websites that are dedicated to these players and Blizzard (game developer) invests heavily in promoting all of these destinations.

Professional players such as Kripparian averages 200,000 views of his youtube videos discussing the game hours after it has been released. The other major destination that I have discovered is Twitch. A business which was started to help professional players stream themselves playing the games. When you first hear about the concept, it doesn’t make too much sense. However once you see a single player being watched by tens of thousands of people at a single moment, it starts to make a lot of sense. The website was purchased by Amazon for a billion dollars late last  year.

Listed below are several links which provide insight into this industry and to get a better understanding of some of the dynamics that you can take leverage yourself.

Single Player Game This is a long read. However if you want to understand the psychology of the most hardcore game players this would be a great start. This essay provides a history of the development of games and how far they have come.

What is Gamification This post provides an in-depth summary of what is gamification. The post includes several very relevant examples of how these concepts have been implemented.

Why gamification is serious business This article by analyst at Accenture provides a broader overview of the implications of gamification. The paper includes analysis of how these mechanics are impacting Gen Y and the millennial generations.

You’d be surprised just how big ‘e-sports’ is getting People are usually shocked when they learn about the prize pools available in e-sport competitions. With millions of dollars on the line an entire industry is beginning to take shape with coaches, professional teams and major league tournaments.

Inside the life of a pro gamer Sitting in front of your computer and playing computer games sounds like a good job. However there is a much more than meets the eye if you want to go pro. This article provides an in depth look into the life of a pro gamer. There is additional context provider on just how large this space is becoming.

I may do a dedicated post on my learnings from Hearthstone soon. That would also work as a primer for anyone who wants to start playing the game.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #28: Everything is temporary

The next goal seems within grasp. Our focus sharpens and the trivialities of our day to day fade into the background. This is the moment we have been waiting for. The day arrives and everything goes just as planned. We experience a deep sense of accomplishment. All the hard work has paid off and life is great…..for a while. It doesn’t take long for us to develop a new set of goals as there is always a next step to take.

Life is something that happens between these goal posts. The scary thing is that it happens all too fast. Standing still actually becomes frightening. Our electronic devices provide us with the much needed refuge from the silence. The day dissipates into the night and repeats itself endlessly. In the hope for an imagined future we have sacrificed the present.

It is only when we begin to realize that everything is temporary, can we truly understand the value of today.

What Calvin and Hobbes taught me about mindfulness I have always been a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes. This article highlight’s two deeply profound strips. They provided me with a much needed reality check. I hope they make a similar difference to your day, today.

Warren Buffett’s “20 Slot” Rule Following up on the theme above, this article is all about focus. It is based on a rule that Warren Buffet has followed strictly. Spreading ourselves thin over multiple projects is a recipe for disaster. We have to look at all the opportunities that are presented to us very carefully. As Derek Siver’s says, if it isn’t a “Hell Yes!” then it should be a no.

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Sam Altman Sam Altman runs Y-Combinator. One of the world’s leading startup accelerators which has produced companies like Dropbox, Airbnb and Stripe. Before running the institute he was an entrepreneur himself and went through the program. Having sat on both sides of the table, he brings together a set of unique insights that are relevant to both entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Recruiting for Cultural Fit Finding strong talent is hard. Getting them to join your team is even harder. The best people want to work with people who share the same values as they do. Most companies use a laundry list of skills to fill open positions. This greatly limits your ability to attract people who will be a ‘fit’ for your company. They may have the skills you need but retaining and integrating them into your team will be a challenge. This article provides a set of questions that you can help circumvent this problem.

The 10x rule for great startup ideas New startups and sprouting at a frightening pace. Every where you turn someone is starting something new. It is ‘cool’ to be an entrepreneur these days. However, starting just another company is easy. Thinking of an business that will be 10x the current competition, that is challenging. This is not something that you can figure out along the way. This article provides a slew of relevant examples and insights on the subject.

Short Investing Philosophies This article is full of advice which is 10 words or less on investing. There are some fantastic quotes mentioned. My favorite one is:  “Less is more. Process over outcomes. Behavior is the key.”

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #27: Success is a Question of When, Not If

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. As entrepreneurs we are constantly challenging the status quo. Breaking down barriers and working outside of our comfort zones. To the average person our decisions and choices do not make sense most of the time. This is understandable, as we face rejection and failure almost everyday. However there is something inside us that keeps us wanting to push forward. It defies logic and rational reasoning. There are far easier paths that we could traverse, yet we choose to create our own.

We are searching for the perfect confluence of the idea, timing and team. There is a lot written about finding the right idea or assembling an all star team. The one thing that is far more elusive is getting the timing right. There isn’t a formula we can follow. We have to keep our eyes open and search hard for the hidden signs. The subtle changes that are precursors to the changing tides. This requires our ears to be on the ground and our eyes wide open. Like a lion hunting it’s prey, we have to make sure we charge at just the right time. A second too early or too late could be the difference between getting what we want or letting it slip away.

Success is a Question of When, Not If Tweetstorm by Marc Andreessen on the importance of timing and startups. This short burst of insight is filled with great takeaways for every entrepreneur. The main takeaway is to persevere and keep your eyes wide open for the changing tides.

The single biggest reason why startups succeed (Video) Bill Gross is the founder of IdeaLab. An incubator that has created hundreds of companies and huge successes. Using all the data from his past experience, he delivers a great 7 minute talk on why some startups succeed. Not to give anything away, however the topic of this week should give you a good idea!

Plausible Hugeness Great article on pivoting and refining your idea. The quote that resonated with me was “it’s better to suffer and struggle through disappointing traction along an interesting path than to have significant traction on a path that leads into a fog or nowhere in particular.”

7 Rejections The story of Airbnb is now known far and wide. Two entrepreneurs who had a crazy idea that people will want to rent out rooms in their houses. When they went looking for money in 2008 7 VC’s flat out rejected their pitch. However the founders having personally experienced their product knew there was more than met the eye. They could sense the tide changing and they persevered. Today Airbnb is worth over $25.5 billion and continuous to keep on growing.

Lessons Of Success And Failure: How Startups Change People Startups are inherently challenging. If they were easy everybody would be doing them. Through the process of succeeding and failing, it is inevitable these experiences shape our perspectives. This article has some interesting insights on the changes that occur and some realizations entrepreneurs have had along the way.

People love stories, not decks This was an interesting talk. The post contains a video and a slide deck. The article has a good summary of the key takeaways from the presentation. There are lots of great quotes and advice from top venture capitalists. The core takeaway is that the story behind your startup is what brings everything together. Without a story, you are just another company that is hoping to get lucky!

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #26: Keeping key employees from quitting

Attracting top talent is hard. Hiring them is an even greater challenge. Some companies manage to pull of this miraculous feat and are faced with the toughest challenge of them all. Retaining your best people. There are countless articles, books and workshops on how companies can retain their best people. When I come across a company who does an exceptional job on retaining their best employees they usually have four things figured out. They have successfully discovered their purpose, values, customers and story.

If any of these pieces is missing, one’s ability to retain these employees becomes exceptionally difficult. The first three factors have been discussed in detail by a variety of people. It is the last component that doesn’t get the recognition it needs. When a company isn’t able to articulate their story, it loses narrative that gives people a daily doze of inspiration. A company could have a world changing purpose, however without a story it will be like an empty container.

Telling your company story A great article talking about the importance of establishing your companies story. It has a lot of advice on how to structure your story correctly and the benefits that it will have. If you are starting a company or already running one this is a very important concept to grasp.

How Adobe keeps key employees from quitting This article is about the one change that Adobe did to dramatically boost employee retention. The core takeaway from this article is that times are changing and we have to adapt. Using antiquated methods of assessing performance is not going to help us hire or retain the best people.

The Servitude Bubble Umair Haque is a great writer. I enjoy reading his pieces as he talks a lot about purpose and meaning. Both topics which interest me tremendously. This article is his take against the current deluge of on-demand companies. He takes a contrarian approach to what is considered the business model of choice these days. This was an interesting read and definitely makes you think.

The One Learning Technique That Scared The Heck Out of Bruce Lee James Altucher is back with a great post on focus and perseverance. He uses stories to get his points across very effectively and is always an entertaining read.

How to choose and hire product people Hiring people for a product role within a tech company is very challenging. Assessing whether someone has all the skills needed to be successful at the job is daunting. This post is one of the most thorough write ups on how to make a better decision.

Using Growth Stacking To Improve Your Startups Product Marketing Finding the right marketing strategy to grow your company is tough. In this article Dan Martell outlines a simple framework to help find the right steps to take to find that strategy. Comprehensive read with many examples.

You’re not a failure, you’re just failing Being an entrepreneur is hard. Most of the times things do not go as planned. Getting through those rough times is critical if we want to succeed. This is a letter written from the perspective of a founder who fought hard to make it through the tough times. Whether you are succeeding, surviving or failing this is a great read.

The Week in Review #25: The Difference Between Culture & Values

Saying something and doing something are two very different things. Take Enron for example. The company had a 62 page manual on their code of ethics. They had aspiring values such as integrity, respect and excellence. Yet, everything they did within the company was completely the opposite. Defining values for your business is just part of the equation. The true test is how those values are manifested in the day to day operations of the company. Employees will make decisions based on the culture before identifying with the organizations core values. There in lies the over arching difference between the two.

A polar opposite to Enron is a company called Zappos. For the first 6 years of operation they did not have formal core values. It was actually the employees at the company that pushed to outline them based on their stellar culture. The company not only outlined their core values, they built a slew of reinforcing structures. This included training programs, paying people to quit and their own culture book.

Ultimately, the success of any company depends on the people. Having the right values and culture in place is usually a precursor to achieving great things.

The Difference Between Culture and Values This article inspired this week’s post. It is a very well written piece outlining the differences between culture and values. Brad Feld who is another great VC and blogger wrote a response on his own experience with this topic. It is also a great read.

How to Prepare For Any Accelerator Interview While this article is positioned to help entrepreneurs with their pitch at accelerators, it is generally good advice for pitching. The author breaks down the common mistakes made and what makes good pitches.

How Companies Can Avoid the Innovator’s Dilemma Disruption and business models is what is discussed in this article. It is a long read with several great case studies ranging from P&G, Facebook and Netflix. The primary take away is a set of rules that companies can adopt to avoid disruption.

The Art of Waiting I could relate deeply with this article. As entrepreneurs we are always in a rush to get to our destination. The only problem is that reaching it usually takes a lot longer than expected. With a mix of bad direction, delays and unforeseen disasters; everything takes longer. Learning how to wait it out is a key skill that every entrepreneur needs to have in their arsenal.

How Startups Should Get Their First 1000 Customers Customer acquisition is the life blood of every business. Knowing how to acquire your customer is key to your success. Dan Martell outlines the vital elements that your strategy needs to include.

Lessons from the front lines: building Fetchnotes This article is from the founder’s perspective after his company was acquired. This is a long yet very enjoyable and insightful read. Topics range from product development, managing cash, raising funding, marketing, people and most importantly being a founder. Take the time to sit back and read this post in it’s entirety.

The Inside Story on How SurveyMonkey Cracked the International Market SurveyMonkey has enjoyed phenomenal success expanding it’s product. However operating in new market’s isn’t as simple as just opening an office and hiring some people. This post outlines in great detail about their international strategy. What worked and what didn’t. Lots of great lessons to be learned.

Have a great week everyone!

The Week in Review #24: Forgetting Super Chickens at Work

As entrepreneurs, a large majority of us aspire to be superstars. It starts when we enter school and the teacher gives out stars to the best students. The cycle repeats itself endlessly as we move up the ladder. In our quest to reach the top, collateral damage is a necessary evil. We delude ourselves into thinking that this is the only way to reach the success we desire. However nothing could be further from the truth. These isolated examples of success cloak the larger picture. Research has shown, superstar status achieved at all cost is transient in nature. It is only when we focus on bringing out the best in others, is when we find the best in ourselves. This advice is contrarian to most that is given to ambitious entrepreneurs and individuals.

This week’s topic is around a brilliant Ted talk I watched this week by Margaret Heffernan. She shares her research behind what makes the best teams and companies. On the surface it would seem that having a team of all-stars is the best way to have a strong team. However the research suggests otherwise. She found that teams that had a high degree of empathy towards one another, far out performed those with a focus on individual stars. These teams had stronger communication and were far more likely to come up with innovative solutions.

As the world becomes smaller, the need for collaboration is key to our success. We need to change our focus of solely wanting to become superstars. By realizing everybody has value, we unlock the energy and momentum needed to achieve the extraordinary.

Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work (Video) This week’s top pick is a Ted video on how to create high performing teams. The speaker shares great insights with the use of vivid examples and stories. She shares the top three things that the best teams have in common and how we can build similar teams ourselves.

Good Work Isn’t Enough This article follows a similar theme to the highlighted video. Doing good work without having the right attitude is not sustainable. The best opportunities go to people who have great attitudes. This all comes down to how they work with others and their own disposition.

Why Successful People Focus on the Bottom End of the Funnel This article builds on the theme of doing good work. It is more tactical in nature and discusses specific strategies to achieve excellence. It all boils down to being proactive, starting with an end in mind and putting the first things first.

Isn’t LeBron Amazing? This article shows the flip side of the argument being discussed this week. Lebron James is one of the most valuable sports players in the world. His impact on joining a particular team is massive. To the degree that the success or failure is completely dependent on his shoulders. This extreme example shows that hiring a superstar on your team has a major impact. However, there are several trade offs when you become overly reliant on a single person.

Overpriced Seth Godin talks about the value of assets in this article. We can apply a similar analogy to talent as well. Scouts are used in sports to look for the best undiscovered talent. All these teams make bets on people and their potential. Once a player’s worth has been validated, the market value adjusts itself.

Talent Hunt: Lessons learned about finding the right people This article breaks down 6 strategies you can use in finding talent for your business. The tactics shared in this post differ from the usual advice of finding talent. Recruiting top talent for your business is critical to your success. We have to do everything we can to ensure we keep our pipeline full.

Recruiting – The 3rd Crucial Startup Skill Wrapping up this week is one of the most comprehensive reads of recruiting. David Skok’s blog is a goldmine for information on running a startup. This post provides a complete overview of a recruitment process that every company should build. This is a must read for any business owner.

Have a great week ahead!


The Week in Review #23: In the Future, Employees Won’t Exist

The future of work excites me. Technology is rapidly breaking down barriers and changing perspectives. Millions of people wake up every morning and decide what they will work on today. Platforms like Upwork and Uber have freed them from the traditional concept of being an employee. They decide when to work, how much they would like to work and most importantly whom they would like to work with. While this is reality for only a select few people today, this is what the future is going to look like. This will require a fundamental shift in how companies attract, recruit and retain the people who work for them. The balance of power will now solely be with the individual. Companies will have to pay far more attention towards defining who they are and what they stand for.

For the individual, honing on your craft is now more important that ever before. What you do, how you do it and what makes you remarkable matters. In a sea of people all of whom could do the same job faster or cheaper, why would someone pick you? As these changes slowly permeate throughout our world, there will be a lot of disruption. The average companies and people will rally hard to maintain the status quo. A place where they can hide behind the covers, just chugging along. However, revolutions do not work that way. Just like the industrial revolution changed our world forever, we are on the brink of a similar event.

In the Future, Employees Won’t Exist This article talks about the rise of the on demand economy. The article mentions many platform that are enabling people to choose how and when they work. In the next 5 years nearly 40% of the workforce is projected to be contractors. This will radically change how organizations work and structure themselves.

The Freelance Economy This article follows a similar theme to the one above. It is based on a company called WorkMarket which aggregates knowledge workers and helps companies manage them. The most interesting part of this article is actually found in the comments. There is a very lively debate around this change and what it truly means for everyone of us.

What’s one thing you’ve learned at Harvard Business School that blew your mind? I learned a lot from this article. It breaks down the first 10 classes you take as part of your HBS curriculum. There is a single lesson from each class which breaks down the class in greater detail. For anyone who is interested in the inner workings of an organization this is a great read.

43 lessons growing from $0 to $1+ million in revenue, twice This article is full of useful gems. The author shows with clear examples how he was able to break the $1+ million revenue mark with two products. Key pieces of advice include charging straight away and what price levels you need to break. If you are a SaaS based business this has to become a book marked resource.

Performance Data and the ‘Babe Ruth’ Effect in Venture Capital Many people do not exactly get the economics behind a venture capital fund. This article provides some great insights into key aspects like the power law and other important aspects of how a fund operates. Understanding the workings of venture capital is important for any entrepreneur.

On writing Writing well is a skill I am working on this year. The internet is awash with advice for up and coming writers. Paulo Cohelo is a true master of this art. This article on writing was a very enjoyable and insightful read. This quote stood out for me “Above all else, the writer has to be a good reader.” If you want to get serious about your writing skills, I would definitely recommend this article.

Customer Interviews: So you’ve decided to take your startup seriously Customer validation is a critical component of starting a new venture. If you want to build something customers want, you need to speak with them first. Running a customer interview well is a challenging exercise. This article provides a great break down of how to run one well and what to look out for.

Have a great week ahead!