Category: Updates

Speed-dating Recap and State of the BDQ

I hope everyone had a great time at Startup Weekend these past few days. This post would have included a recap of that great event as well were it not for law school exams, *grumble* but that is neither here nor there. This past week was choked full of great startup events, not least of which was the  first ever Designer-Tech Startup Speed Dating Extravaganza, organized by Venturef0rth, Philly Tech Meetup, and the of course, the BDQ.

If you weren’t able to make it, here’s the recap. The Need: startups need designers on their team, designers need work where they’re valued and can grow professionally. The Product: An event that brings together 25 great Philly-based tech businesses in need of designers and 25 extremely talented designers for 2 hours of intense (but fruitful) speed-dating. The Result: The feedback from the attendees has so far has been very positive. From what we’ve been able to gather, the benefit to the businesses and the designers that attended was significant. We’ve certainly learned from our missteps (sorry to those who took a spill when we turned the lights off), so if you can believe it, the next one will be even better. Special thanks to @JesseMKramer and @elliotmenschik of @venturef0rth for the venue and fridge full of craft beer. Seriously, awesome.

 The event was a big step forward for the BDQ in terms of what community impact. The second collaboration between us, PTM, and Venturef0rth, but the first one that we put a lot of effort into. That being said, in addition to doing a quick recap, I wanted to use it as an opportunity for reflection. Since officially starting in the Fall, the BDQ has a FB Group, Twitter feed, and WP blog (you are reading this on WP right?). The following so far is small (about 40 FB and 30 on Twitter), but dedicated. Dom, Ann, Georgia, and I started the BDQ because we got together and realized that our respective communities (Biz and Design) could each benefit from co-mingling, information sharing, and collaboration. Dreaming big, saw a need for a catalyst for multi-disciplinary team formation and wanted to give it a shot.  What I’ve observed, after being involved with the BDQ for 8 or so months now, is that there are a couple challenges associated with our goal.

1. The 90-9-1 Rule: The BDQ  is dependant upon network effects. That is to say that the more people who are involved and the more diverse the community is, the more valuable the product becomes. Do to lack of consistent posting from us the founders, capture, etc., the community is still too small to really generate momentum. In order to get the information sharing component up to a point where it can grow organically, we need more members.

2. The Capture Issue: Our message resonates with those that already see the value in what we are trying to achieve and many of these individuals are proactive, collaborative, entrepreneurs who probably would be doing what they’re doing regardless of whether the BDQ existed. From an impact standpoint, that means we’re falling short on our mission of generating value to the larger business and design communities. Those that would benefit most from our message aren’t interested / aren’t listening / are  more difficult to get involved as they don’t yet see the value in what we’re providing (and yes, I know that Capture Theory refers to regulation and politics, but I think that the forces are the same). I believe the solution is something akin to implementing a new organizational policy. In order to get real buy-in, there needs to be reinforcement mechanisms. To effectively implement the change, you need visible, organization-wide endorsement. Without reinforcement mechanisms (allignment), you’re not going to get buy-in from anybody who doesn’t already see the value in the new claim. Did you get the memo on the TPS reports?  In fact, you might even fail to get those who see the value in the change, but don’t want to disadvantage themselves by spending time with something that won’t translate tangible value. For the BDQ to grow we need to get support from other sources to reinforce the idea that participation is valuable and worthwhile. Maybe this is talking to teachers at Temple MBA and the U of Arts. Maybe  this is doing a better job of demonstrating the success stories.

3. Facilitating Action is Hard: As any event organizer will tell you, facilitating co-mingling and incentivizing participants to translate the message of the event into action is a real challenge. We’ve punted on this issue at the BDQ in large part because its still a pet project for us. Comparatively, focusing on growing the online community is a much more manageable problem.

Despite the challenges that we face growing the BDQ, the speed dating event on Wednesday reminds me of why we do it. Maybe we don’t have 10,000 followers on Twitter yet, but even our small impact has been a positive one. If you know me personally, you probably know that I love art that doesn’t need popularity to be special. One street artist who does their work in abandoned spaces relayed their motivation for obscurity: it’s better to have an impact one person that have no impact on billions. The BDQ functions for its founders the same way. Of course I’m interested in growing the BDQ because the larger it is, the better it can achieve its goal. But, if we can inform just one person, help them learn something that they wouldn’t otherwise ever know, then our efforts have been worthwhile.


Urban Apps & Maps Project

Okay here’s the skinny, the past month or so I’ve been hearing about this grant 700K awarded to Temple MIS Professor, Youngjin Yoo, “to support a tech startup studio and an urban wireless network.”

For some more background, this piece was written for TechnicallyPhilly in September.

Part of the grant is going toward a project that involves training high school students in design thinking with the goal of having these trained teams enter a the annual design competition in Feburary 2012. For obvious reasons this peaked my interest and I wanted to present it to the BDQ to get your thoughts.

Here’s a short project description that was put together by one of my classmates.

Temple was awarded a grant to create the Urban Apps & Maps platform, a hub for urban digital entrepreneurship. One of the project’s long-term goals is to reach out to local high school students and train them to use Design Inquiry as they explore opportunities to build new apps and eventually start their business. A short-term goal is to have a cohort of high school students trained to participate in the Temple DESIGNweek challenge in mid-February. In order to accomplish this goal, Temple’s Center for Design + Innovation (CD+I) has asked us to partner with them by acting as the primary trainers in this program. CD+I is also working with The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international organization focused on teaching entrepreneurship skills to low-income students, to achieve this goal. 
The tentative structure of the program will be as follows. We will recruit interested and committed Fox graduate students – and hopefuly some partners from the MID program at University of the Arts – to become the Design Inquiry trainers. CD+I will provide us with the curriculum and train our graduate students in the methodology. NFTE will recruit and transport the high school students to and from the training. The workshops will be held in Alter Hall, scheduled at our convenience, and CD+I & NFTE will cover the expenses of the training.

What do you peeps think? If we’re ready to get in on this, I’ve already given the heads up to those involved, but getting some feedback would be informative.



There has been a lot of buzz about the recent pounding that Netflix has taken not only from the market, but also from analysts. After a day of listening about Enterprise Risk Management, I figured it would be good to comb through the posts and sift out the insightful from the ignorant. AVC and Dan Frommer are both experts at evaluating high tech businesses. Their analysis is distinct from others in that it focuses more on their opinion of the Netflix team and financial projections and less on the effects of the decision on there customers.

A couple things are going on here.

First, while my first reaction was to hand down some epic finger wagging from my tower of managerial judgment , the reality is that Netflix knew what they were in store for. I’m not being a Netflix fanboy, but it is inconceivable that a management team could expect not to get pushback from a change like this. They no doubt listen to A. Dubs for advice, so that they need only “follow the money” to identify their primary stakeholder. The most reasonable explanation that I have heard is that Netflix was forced into the decision following negotiations with those controlling their access to content and had to act accordingly. This doesn’t excuse the communication debacle. Any ambulance chaser worth their salt knows that the malpractice suit doesn’t come from the leg that got sewn on backwards, it came from the subsequent failure in communication between the parties.

Second (and more importantly), the question really comes down to how much weight should we put into Netflix’s track record and how much should we put into the market’s reaction? Lots of behavior going on here with looking into trends, the market possibly overreacting, and very little mention of financial analysis. The 15% hit in the stock has probably less to do with their downward adjusted subscriber numbers which were released on Thursday and more to do with a drop in investor confidence following the announcement of Qwickster today. Has the management team lost the magic that made their stock climb p 600% between 02/10 and 06/11? My argument is no, given that their DVD subscribers will only be off by 5% and it is important from a strategic standpoint for Netflix to position themselves in the streaming business. Some more good numbers to consider via AVC are that the stock is trading at essentially half the EBITA it was two months ago.

Can Netflix replicate the success that they have seen in the past 14 years? It is clearly a hard mark to hit again, but it doesn’t appear that the drop in the stock price is well substantiated at this point.

Update: 9/20/11 12:44PM – Alas the NFLX is down today again. They are now at 12 mo. low. I could go on about the Greece’s default, but I still think NFLX is undervalued.