Monday, December 29, 2008

How to handle corporate crises that stem from user generated content (UGC)

I wanted to share a paper that I co-wrote with fellow students while we were MBA students at Kellogg. The paper covers how a company should respond to crises that are a result of user generated content. With the speed at which information is now disseminated on the internet, companies need to be prepared for situations where employees and customers can create a firestorm with a simple blog post or video upload (example: Comcast guy sleeping).

It's kind of a long paper, so if you want to jump to the meat, the heart of our conclusions start on pg. 14.

Click on the below link to read in a bigger window.
Corporate Crisis Management of User Generated Content

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday's got you down?

Cross-posted on CoNotes blog here:

Having connected thousands of job seekers with startup companies, we have seen some interesting trends since we have launched. The two that stand out have to do with the day of the week and time of day that individuals tend to seek jobs.

1. I am not sure what happens during the weekends that make people realize they are unhappy with their current job, but Mondays are the most popular day for looking for a new job. 20% of our visitors search for a new job on Monday. Tuesday's and Wednesday's are the 2nd most popular days to search for a new job, with 18% of our visitors coming on each of those days.

Job Applicant Trends by Day of Week

2. Noon-time PST is the most popular time to look for a job. Just over 7% of job searches on CoNotes come between 12pm and 1pm PST. The amount of job searches starts to climbs quickly from 9am PST (12pm EST), and slowly tapers off in the afternoon. I'm guessing a lot of people's day goes like this:
  • show up to work
  • read some emails
  • update Facebook status to "bored at work"
  • trudge to a useless status update meeting and munch on donuts
  • try to stay awake until lunch switching between Facebook and Excel (whenever anyone walks by)
  • lunch time!
  • realize hates jobs...there has to be something better than this...

Job Applicant Trends by Time of Day
As you would expect, Monday job searches at noon is the most popular time for people to look for jobs.

So if you hate your job, do these trends describe you?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kiva Loan Repaid!

I just got an email today that the small Kiva loan I made was repaid. Those of you who follow my blog will remember that I made that loan about a year and a half ago (post here). I just find it kind of funny that I get an email about full loan repayment to an Nigerian entrepreneur in the midst of an economic crises in the US where people making 100x Jeoffery's income can't even pay off their credit cards.

Below is the text I received from Kiva about the microloan made to Jeoffery:
This is an update on your loan to Jeoffery Ogbvo in Nigeria.

Jeoffery sells provisions like drinks,tomatoes
paste,milk,detergent,etc.He used his last kiva loan to purchase more
provisions to sell.With the profits he made from his sale.He used it in
the payment of his childern school fees.He has fully repaid his kiva
loan.He says thank you to all kiva lenders and Lapo microfinance.

Additional notes from Kiva:

1. This update was posted from Nigeria by Kiva's Field Partner, Lift
Above Poverty Organization (LAPO). If you appreciate this update, please
consider supporting another entrepreneur listed by this Field Partner.
You can view other fundraising loans of Lift Above Poverty Organization
(LAPO) here:
It just makes you reconsider how we view financial stability in this world. There are a lot of things we need to reconsider and we should take what president-elect Obama said in his election night speech to heart.
"This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you."
Casting a ballot for "change" means very little -- especially in California where the same voters that overwhelmingly selected Obama also voted to ban gay marriage; what hypocrisy! We should all consider ways to make the world better. I will continue to support entrepreneurs through Kiva, mentorship, and ways I best know how; and I hope you will support your communities in the ways you best know how as well.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lehman bankruptcy = $150+MM loss for San Mateo school districts

Wow. Over dinner, my friend, Mike, mentioned that Lehman's bankruptcy caused school districts in San Mateo county to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. I was shocked to hear this because despite hearing about all of the disasters on Wall Street, I expected any effects out in the Bay Area to be secondary effects.

How did this happen? By California state law, school district funds are held by the county, and San Mateo County had a large percentage of its assets held in Lehman bonds. In a cruel twist of fate, Menlo Park City School District, which had a AAA bond rating (highest possible rating), had just issued $30M in bonds to finance the renovation of its schools. So this school district, which had done its job in running an extremely fiscally responsible operation and, furthermore, had used its strong credit history to finance better schools for its students, was directly impacted by fallout on Wall Street.

Now you can argue that the county should never have had its assets held in such risky assets, but it is a sad story nonetheless. How do you explain to a 10-year old that in addition to their home being taken away by foreclosure, that their favorite teacher is being fired and that their playground isn't going get new monkey bars anytime soon?

News article here:

So I was thinking about how we got to this situation, and I keep coming to the conclusion that it was a horrible chain of selfish decisions -- none, in and of themselves, 100% at fault, but all contributing to the fallout. It's like a horrible example of Macolm Gladwell's Tipping Point gone right. The start was Clinton's policy of encouraging home-ownership for everyone and Greenspan's outrageously low interest rates. Then it was financial firms taking advantage of this cheap credit (basically free money) and the over-securitizing of financial assets. This inventivized mortgage companies to push mortgages (often illegally) onto unqualified home buyers. That was the tipping point. This basically sent the financial industry into overdrive as it had an overload of mortgages that it could trade and make money off of. This created a recursive cycle that resulted in the creation of trillions (with a T as in TONS) of dollars of fake value. Now those trillions of fake money are being unwound out of our global economy.

The problem that I have is that all these players knew EXACTLY what they were doing. It was not a situation where the blind were leading the blind. The major actors in this play were extremely intelligent and capable individuals. But the reward of payoff for all of them was enough to take the risk. Clinton and Bush had political gains in mind. Greenspan had a reputation as a financial mastermind to hold up (do you think it was a coincidence he left his office at the time he did?). The bankers all had huge bonuses at stake.

Now I don't have any problem with capitalism and free-market economics, but they are not a solution to everything. I don't think supporters of these systems ever consider the down-side cost. They only consider the upside reward. Yes, people who work hard and are talented should be rewarded for their good work. But, people who are by-standers should not bear the outsized responsibility for the cost. THAT is the problem with a free-market system; it never will be run truly like a free-market system. It's an option-call for the people with the biggest upside.

We are seeing exactly what happens when we try to impose too much of a free-market system on an economy. For that reason, I cannot support a McCain presidency. On top of the extreme incapability of Palin, McCain has always been a strong supporter of free-market economics. While he claims he is now all about reform, reform, reform, and maverickism (whatever that means), I cannot trust him to implement any reasonable reform.

Let's hope that Obama can be a voice of reason for the next 4 years.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I just can't vote for McCain-Palin

As a business owner, I should love the Republican Party. But I just can't bring myself to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

Top 10 reasons in no particular order:
1. The Bush administration is the worst thing to happen since New Coke. It has taken everything good about the Republican Party (small government, states' rights, fiscal conservatism) and thrown it out the door. McCain's statements make me believe we would be in for 4 more years of the same.
2. Sarah Palin.
3. Sarah Palin.
4. Sarah Palin.
5. Palin's response to why Alaska being close to Russia makes her a capable foreign affairs. "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." That's like me saying I'm ready to go into M&A discussions with Oracle because I drive by their offices every day.
6. Sarah Palin.
7. Sarah Palin.
8. Sarah Palin.
9. Sarah Palin.
10. I want people in office that got their passport before 2007.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Facebook Ads...not so great.

Some of you have emailed me about the CoNotes Facebook Ads that you have seen. I'm impressed that you have even seen them given the atrocious click-through rate that I have been getting. I am going to assume the only reason my friends have actually seen the ads is because I have emailed them about 50 times about CoNotes. So they are pretty aware of my logo and can recognize it at a quick glance.

I have been running ads for a few weeks now, and below charts the CTR data for the past 2 weeks. I ran the exact same ad with different university targets to see if I could detect any differences in market segments according to which university a person went to. The results were pretty inconclusive as you can see.

Read this document on Scribd: Facebook Ad Report

I had a theory that there was an underserved recruiting market at schools not typically targeted by startups. Therefore, I was expecting to see higher click-through rates at the liberal arts and top non-Ivy schools. While the average CTR of liberal arts schools was the highest, I can't really make any statements as of yet. I think I will really have to wait for spring to come around to really make any conclusions -- when college students tend to make their employment decisions. Running the ad in the summer time probably hit the alumni at those schools, which is also another interesting group to study.

Nevertheless, despite any trends that are there or aren't there, the CTRs are horrible. The highest CTR I received from ANY segment was 0.2%. Social networks are known to average about 0.1%, so my results confirmed those results. It's well documented that the users of social networks are not in the right mentality when looking at ads. They are there to find out what is going on within their "social graph" and to find some entertainment through social apps. This is much different from the transactional mentality a user has when he/she searches for "digital camera" on Google.

On the positive side, the leads that Facebook does send me (note: this is in the single digits per day) are quality leads. So the targeting functionality is pretty effective. And I'm happy that I can target ads to very specific self-defined interests of users and their school affiliation.

But here is my advice to Facebook. If you are going to build out an advertising platform, you really need to target it to the usage pattern of your users. So what do I mean by that? Well let's think about the main reasons people use Facebook:
  1. To find out about people in their network (in their network = friends or just people "in their network")
  2. To share their experiences with people in their network
  3. To spend time on social activities (not necesarily in their network)
Given these 3 main usage patterns, Facebook's advertising platform should enable different kinds of ads.

For usage pattern 1, self-expression advertising is the most logical fit. People self-affiliate themselves with brands and products. You have Apple fan-boys, Audi tuners, and Jimmy Choo shoe lovers (I'm not totally sure why I know about Jimmy Choo). Why not let companies advertise through these people? It could be a mutually beneficial relationship where brands pick specific people they want to advertise their brand through, and those people are compensated because of the special role they play in their social network (e.g. "mavens" or "salespeople" as Malcolm Gladwell would describe them). Compensation could be money, but even better is probably special privileges to products from the company. Brand companies are very concerned about diluting their brand value, so they want to make sure the right people are promoting their brand (e.g. Kobe lost a lot of endorsement deals after his rape allegations). So to enable such a advertising platform, Facebook would need to build a mechanism for advertisers to find which users to advertise through.

Usage pattern 2 lends itself to more of a transactional advertising model. People often post pictures of food from a restaurant they ate at or write a post about the hotel they stayed at. These are all opportunities to enable transactional commerce. WOM advertising is strong, so why not enable advertisers to take advantage of the best WOM advertising -- through your friends. Imagine that your friend took a picture of an awesome slice of prime rib from Lawry's. If I hadn't eaten at Lawry's, I would either want to save it to a list of "places I want to try" or maybe even make a reservation.

Usage pattern 3 is pretty hard to create a specific advertising platform for. But it doesn't really matter, as this type of usage is actually enabled by 3rd party Facebook apps. Facebook app developers currently can put their own ads on their apps, but it would be helpful as a developer if Facebook enabled ads through their own API. Basically Facebook would create an inventory of ads that developers could tap into and place on their own apps. Depending on the nature of the app, developers could select the best types of advertisements.

The difficult thing about some of my suggestions are that they would be changes in behavior for advertisers. Advertisers like buying advertising products with defined standards and specs. However Facebook has an opportunity to really shape social network advertising if they build out the right advertising platform.

So that's it. Do I really have any evidence to say this would be much better than the current Facebook Ads or their even worse Beacon product? Not really. But I'm pretty sure it is a step forward.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Which has a better business model: YouTube or Hulu?

There has been some conversation picking up in the past year about the online video advertising business model. Ad rates are rising, and clear distinctions in ad rates between user-generated videos and professional-content videos have emerged. Hulu is now able to command 2-3x higher ad rates as YouTube. For this reason, some people are saying that Hulu is a much better business than YouTube.

Yet I think people aren't really looking at the correct metric when comparing YouTube and Hulu's business potential. People are comparing views, ad rates, and engagement. I argue that the most compelling metric should be Revenue $ per GB. GBs are the driving variable cost units in the online video business (bandwidth, storage, and processing). Therefore looking at the return per GB makes a lot of sense.

Read this document on Scribd: Which is a better business: YouTube or Hulu?

Breaking down the #s, it is clear that YouTube has a much better business model. Despite the 3x higher ad rate for professional content, YouTube is able to generate 3x as much revenue per GB because the average YouTube video is 1/10th the length of Hulu videos, and YouTube videos are encoded in a lower-quality bitrate.

These #s may change if YouTube removes its video upload size restriction or increases its encoding bitrate. It is unlikely the upload size restriction will be removed by much, but it is likely that the encoding bitrate will increase as consumers gain access to HD cameras.

Nevertheless, unless professional content ad rates end up 9x greater than user generated ad rates, YouTube will continue to have the better business model.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I’m Brian Jordan Bronson, of the Darien Connecticut Bronsons

Stuff like this is always better when it's true. It's also a great follow up to my previous post.


From: Brian Jordon Bronson
Date: Sat, Aug 16, 2008 at 8:05 AM
Subject: Hello, Stanford!

Dear Future Classmates,

I can’t believe we’re all going to Stanford!

Please don’t be alarmed by the mass email, I do it a lot (LOLz!). This is just to introduce myself, since being Round 3 I missed most of you at the welcoming receptions. I’m Brian Jordan Bronson, of the Darien Connecticut Bronsons.

As all of you probably found it very difficult as well, choosing between Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Wharton, Tuck and Kellogg gave me a lot to think about. Luckily we all made the right choice! The past chunk of years, I worked in private equity, specifically LBO (leveraged buyouts). It all became kind of boring, and I started managing my family’s various funds and investments in my free time... when that all became second nature I decided there must be something else out there and chose to get an MBA. I really want to be challenged.

Stanford advised me to sign up for the facebook group, but I’ll let you all know now that I am new to this facebook thing so please don’t judge my lack of friends... I promise I have many friends from school and from my summer homes. What does poking do? Anyway, please do friend me as I don’t want to miss out on any cocktail or dinner parties.

And, I will admit that I recently broke up with my longtime girlfriend.
Yes, I am single, ladies.

Also, does anybody here do community service? Since I’ll be new to the Bay Area, I wanted to find out where I should best go to do my part in helping those not nearly as fortunate as I am. Specifically, I am interested in volunteering at a soup kitchen, or reading to sick children at a hospital, or maybe cleaning up trash in the dirtiest neighborhood. Stuff like that.

If anyone else summers in East Hampton, please let me know... I’ll be here until Labor Day, call me so we can meet up for a Mojito. There are five or six spare rooms in my house for guests, too, if anyone wants to make the trip out here.

See you all in a few weeks!


BJ (“The Beejster”)

PS—I didn’t get into Schwab, but all that means is we’ll be partying at my off campus apartment 24-7... I’m calling it “The Fortress of Soulitude.”


Brian Jordan Bronson, II
Darien, CT

Universities with hidden talent

Cross post from CoNotes blog:

In the recruiting world, there is so much subjective opinion that it is very difficult to decide if Candidate A is better than Candidate B. That is why brand name universities and companies carry so much weight on resumes.

What ends up happening, though, is that every startup looks to hire some undergrad engineers from Stanford. They all send an email out over various Stanford listservs, hoping for a hit. Sometimes you’ll get a hit, but a lot of times you are just another fish in the sea of startups recruiting at Stanford. And while students at Stanford are great, there are tiers of students. Some startups are inherently going to grab the top tier students, and some the 2nd tier…but the question is whether it’s worth going for the lower tier students or whether you should really start spending time searching for hidden talent at other schools?

So I wanted to see if there was some way to prove there was talent at lesser known schools. The tough part is finding a common, easily-available metric for “talent” at different universities. I couldn’t come up with anything good, so I settled on what data I could find easily—SAT scores at different universities. Before any of you jump on me for using SAT scores as a proxy for qualified candidates for a startup, I ask that you help find me a better metric that can serve as a proxy for such a purpose.

Given that caveat, I really just want to show that there are some non-brand name universities with just as much talent as brand name universities. I also wanted to narrow down the scope a little since a large number of entry positions at startups are engineering related. So I used US News’ list of top undergraduate engineering schools. The names most people would expect are on there (Stanford, MIT, Berkeley), as well as some other schools less well known for their engineering programs (Michigan, Cornell).
  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California—Berkeley
  4. California Institute of Technology
  5. Georgia Institute of Technology
  6. University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
  7. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
  8. Cornell University
  9. Carnegie Mellon University
  10. Purdue University—West Lafayette
More surprising were the schools on a second list for universities without doctorate programs.
  1. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  2. Harvey Mudd College
  3. Cooper Union
  4. Cal Poly—San Luis Obispo
  5. United States Military Academy
I personally know of these 5 schools because of friends that attended each school, but I doubt a lot of people know that these schools have some great undergraduate engineering programs.

After gathering SAT data on these schools, I then ranked them by percentage of the student body with SAT scores above 1500.
  1. California Institute of Technology
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. Harvey Mudd College
  5. Cornell University
  6. Carnegie Mellon University
  7. Cooper Union
  8. University of California—Berkeley
  9. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
  10. University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
  11. Georgia Institute of Technology
  12. United States Military Academy
  13. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  14. Purdue University—West Lafayette
  15. Cal Poly—San Luis Obispo
(Scribd doc with more data at end of the post or link to doc here.)

What stood out to me were 3 specific schools: Harvey Mudd, Cornell and Cooper Union. Harvey Mudd at 32% of their school with SAT scores above 1500 is pretty much neck-and-neck with Stanford. And all 3 have higher percentages than Berkeley and Illinois, two schools with much better known engineering schools.

Now if you want to then look at universities in terms of absolute #s of students with SAT scores above 1500, you get this ranking:
  1. University of California—Berkeley
  2. University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
  3. Cornell University
  4. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
  5. Stanford University
  6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  7. Carnegie Mellon University
  8. Georgia Institute of Technology
  9. Purdue University—West Lafayette
  10. California Institute of Technology
  11. Cal Poly—San Luis Obispo
  12. United States Military Academy
  13. Harvey Mudd College
  14. Cooper Union
  15. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
This ranking only reinforces Cornell’s standing as a great place for startups to recruit. With just as many undergrads scoring 1500 or above as Illinois, and more than Stanford or MIT, it seems logical to at least make a small effort to reach out to Cornell engineering students.

At the same time, these are the #s that really hurt schools like Harvey Mudd and Cooper Union because companies feel like there aren’t enough qualified applicants in absolute terms at the schools—despite the high percentage of very smart students. But both these schools are in very convenient metropolitan areas (Harvey Mudd is in LA and Cooper Union is in NYC), so the incremental cost is not that high.

While I want to emphasize again that SAT scores are not a great proxy for talented people, it does indicate that there are some schools with hidden talent pools that startups really should be targeting. And moreover, they might want to spend more time at these other schools than some of their current target schools.

Read this document on Scribd: Universities with hidden engineering talent

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympics and gaming...

I have to say that the Olympics are the biggest distraction to come around since Facebook. I mean, how can you NOT follow the drama? Michael Phelps, the Redeem Team, Usain Bolt, let alone the whole side story of human rights, pollution, and underage gymnasts in China?

What is amazing about the Olympics is that they epitomize competition. It isn't necessarily the best gauge of who is best, but it is the best competition in the world. In this competition, you have the world's best athletes all together in one place, showcasing their abilities for the world to watch.

I cannot think of any other venue that attracts the world's best talent and have the entire world watching at the same time. The World Cup might be the next closest thing, but soccer is just one sport.

There is something rare about athletic competition that brings people together. No math competition (despite the dreams of Math Counts competitors and their math teachers) would bring such a huge drawing. I think the factor that comes into play is how easily comprehensible every sport is. You could distill every competition into an easily understandable form -- fastest time, most # of points, best form. And even more important, every observer can easily be a judge of the competition. Every observer can make their own call about if a punch was landed, a landing was stuck, or the finish line crossed. Right or wrong, everyone can become involved with sports. Once you take away the simplicity of sports or the competitive nature of sports, people stop paying attention.

These same factors are the driving force behind the success of American Idol, Project Runway, and my current favorite -- America's Best Dance Crew.

Where am I going with this post? I'm not really sure...I think I'm blabbering and on some tangent now.

But the Olympic stage reminds me of the trend in casual gaming. For casual games to explode, they really need to distill the game down to an easily understandable form. More importantly, they also need to have a competitive factor that motivates people to stay involved. Easy for me to say...hard for you to do. That's why I'll just stick to what I know and watch Usain Bolt demolish other sprinters.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Find your dance!

So I came across this video from Surya's blog and for some reason just couldn't stop smiling.

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

It is an awesome video and I thought about why I liked it so much. What comes through is the human desire to connect with one another at a very simple level. I mean here is a guy doing a simple jig in the corners of the world, and people of all cultures, languages, and countries join in. And not only are they joining in, they are LOVING IT!

I think we all want to be Matt. We want to cut through the bull-crap of politics, stereotypes, and whatever. We want to be able to connect with people everywhere...we just have to figure out our own worldly "dance." For some, it might be their laugh, and others their smile. I'm not really sure what mine is, but this video has made me think about it. I'll let you know if I have figured it out, but you might know better than me what my own dance is.

Oh yeah...and the best clip of the bunch has to be the Papa Nui Guinea tribesmen. That is just awesome.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

California Lovin'

Some of you have contacted me about the latest coverage of CoNotes on Mashable ( It really is great to hear that CoNotes is getting some attention and I truly appreciate all the support.

Since my last post, a lot has happened. I have since moved out to the Bay Area and am loving the perfect weather! Every day has been 75 and sunny. It's too bad I've spent a large amount of that time inside a coffee shop doing work. But on those days I can get outside, it is awesome. Much better weather than that Chicago cicada summer of 2007. It's also great that I have a number of family and friends out here. Thanks to Ed and Eugene, whom I crashed with for the first 3 weeks I was out here.

I really wanted, though, to write about the wave of emotions that I have been going through. Things like emails from users who appreciate what I am doing are very encouraging. But then I hear about competitors and problems, and I start to question myself. These messages come in every 15 minutes, and I'm in a constant up-down motion.

By now, I've kind of numbed myself to any news. I know I can't get myself too high on anything good or too low on anything bad. I am focusing on getting the work done and taking care of all the tasks that require attention.

Sorry I can't write more, but I'm now starting to think about all the stuff I need to take care of today. So back to work for me. Before I leave, though, I wanted to comment on the passing of Dr. Randy Pausch.

Like most of you, I discovered Dr. Pausch on YouTube. His "Last Lecture" was moving and inspirational. And I find it ironic that it took such a tragic disease to bring him into the spotlight. The message that I took to heart from his speech was this:

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

I hope I am playing my hand as well as possible.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

My Blog and Decisions

So some of you have asked me why I still continue to post on this blog while I now have a blog on CoNotes. Well I plan on continuing this blog with the original intent of tracking my personal story of starting a company. While I have been inconsistent with my posts, I hope to improve upon that. The CoNotes blog will be the company's voice to the public - even though it still is from me. So that blog will relate to decisions about CoNotes and having conversations around CoNotes.

CoNotes is and will be a big part of my life, but I think it will be healthy for me to (at least in the virtual world) put some distance between my personal life and my "business" life. So this blog is merely my statement of what I am going through as the founder of a startup.

So that is a great segway into this post about...


So last night Kellogg had its last school-wide formal for the year and it was Casino Night. For the most part, it was a typical charity event and attendees were able to use their chips to bid on several prizes at the end of the night. I don't really get too excited to gamble because I usually lose money, and given that this event was "fake" money, I was even less excited. Nevertheless, I played some blackjack and I began to bet recklessly. I started playing all my chips -- spread out over 2 or 3 seats. I began lucky and my original 50 chips soon became 500. But then I continued to play in this out-of-control manner and as anyone could predict, I was out of chips in no time. Losing these chips didn't really bother me, but my reaction to my losses did. Even though I knew the chips were just "play chips," I hated the thought that I just squandered them. I wanted to play more just to win them back. I used my girlfriend's chips and lost those. Worse yet, I cheated by holding back some chips that the dealer should have collected. I justified this as being ok because I knew many dealers (which were fellow students) were giving out chips to friends.

As I think about what I did, I am pretty disgusted with myself. And then I think about what it says about me and what I will do in the future. Will I be willing to act irrationally and unethically just for small, meaningless gains? What does this mean about how I will lead my company?

A lot of people have told me that me decision to start a company is a big gamble. I never thought so for several reasons.
  1. I am learning a great deal about the internet space and how to operate in it. The decisions I make for CoNotes are my responsibility. I believe I am and will learn much more than if I were in a larger company, where my decisions would need to be ratified by higher-ups.
  2. I believe I can get a decent paying job anytime I want. I don't think I can get ANY job, but I can get a job that pays well.
  3. Most importantly ...You can't price the difference between doing something you marginally like versus something you love. The cost of being stuck in a marginal job is huge for me. Therefore, while I am losing out on guaranteed salary, I believe it is a smaller cost than being stuck in an unfulfilling job.

But in light of my actions last night, I worry that I am just completely irrational. Maybe I don't really know what I am risking and that really scares me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Basketball and Business

It is the heart of the NBA playoffs and the Lakers just won Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. It is hard not to be smiling when the Lakers are doing well. I just was thinking, though, if there is any similarities between basketball teams and business, and I started coming up with some superficial analogies. Most sports-business analogies compare sports positions to corporate positions (e.g. the quarterback is like the CEO), so I am not going to do that. I am just going to compare random analogies to tech companies. And in nerdy fashion, I am going to make the comparisons in SAT analogies format.

Kobe Bryant:NBA fans:: Apple:PC owners
Apple made a huge splash when they first came on the scene and pretty much had meteoric growth for their first decade of existence. Kobe came onto the scene in much the same fashion, earning a spot on the NBA All-Star team in his second season, while only a 6th man on the Lakers. Then both fell out of fashion. Apple started putting out dismal products like the Newton and had PCs that were only useful to graphic designers. But diehard Apple fans continued using their products (and I still know people who continue to use their brick-sized Newton). Likewise Kobe kind of fell out of favor when he was accused of rape. While the accusation seemed dubious, the fact is that he committed adultery and most people weren't too happy about that. The Lakers also stopped being a title contender and Kobe went through this period where he did some strange things like tattooing "Black Mamba" onto his arm.

Fast-forward to 2008 and both Apple and Kobe are high flyers in their respective communities. Everyone wants an iPhone and Kobe just won the season MVP award. when I started this post I had a lot of analogies in mind, but I now have 10 emails in my inbox that I need to take care of. I'll leave you with one of the analogies that I really liked and let you fill in the description yourself:

Grant Hill:Dukies :: Linux:techies

Also make sure to check out CoNotes (! Find an exciting startup job! The traffic growth over the past two weeks has been tremendous.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

...and we are live (again)!

Post cross-posted on:

Hey! This is Andrew, founder of CoNotes. I’m really excited to announce the relaunch of CoNotes. CoNotes is the one place to go to for job opportunities in the most exciting entrepreneurial companies. If fast-growth companies such as Facebook or ZipCar excite you, then this is the place for you. My goal is to help you find your passion and live your dream!

As a business school student at Kellogg, I made a concerted effort to find a position within several startup companies. But I spent hours upon hours looking for, researching, and aggregating information about fast-growth companies. I knew there were tons of others people going through the same frustrating process and that I could come up with a better way to find these companies. That thought was the birth of CoNotes.

So take a look and click around. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if there is an exciting company that you think needs to be added, let me know!