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Design Philadelphia

This is a huge event. It is supposedly the largest of its type in the world. If you don’t go you’ll be kicking yourself. Many places have free drinks, if that will motivate you. Otherwise go and meet designers, and artists, participate in events and  open your mind to some crazy awesome stuff.

It kicked off last night and lasts for 10 days so you still have plenty of time. You may come across books with listings of the events, but the website has it all and will be more up to date as well.

Say “Hi!” if you see us around. We are always interested in a good conversation.



I know a lot of have used, seen or employed design tools. These include things like writing words on post-its and grouping them to see what relationships and overarching themes emerge. This is called an affinity map and often happens after a brainstorm, but can be employed with any large set of information that seems overwhelming. This and many more can be found online at ServiceDesignTools.Org. So if you’re not ready to front the money for some Ideo Methods Cards or the This Is Service Design Thinking book, this should help you get by.

Stirring the Pot of Philly’s Startup Community

So the BDQ is still trying to hone in on a specific, relevant, energizing mission…and that’s tough! Any time you work in a group that you want to achieve something with, or a startup, there’s a risk of growing fast and losing focus. I thought I’d post a little about what’s going on in Philly’s startup community as an example.

There’s a group called Philly Startup Leaders that was founded in 2007 by a few young entrepreneurs that were bothered by a fortune article that called Philly a technological backwater (you can read about it on PSL’s home page.) Today it’s a very large and active group, with almost 1000 people on its mailing list. But that’s the problem, and PSL is struggling to figure out what to do with so many people, and the inevitable fragmentation, as Alex Hillman of IndyHall wrote. View full article »

Ignite Philly 8

Another post that I’ve been sitting on for few days is a rundown of theIgnite Philly 8 event last Thursday. First off, for those that haven’t had a chance to see one yet, it was an energizing and great event. Admittedly, last Thursday was my first time attending an Ignite so my experience might not be representative of all the Ignite shows, but from what I’ve seen online, the quality looks to be consistently high.

Ignite works great not only as a show case for several great startups including StartupCorpsand Wash Cycle Laundry, but also a chance for the community gather and jabber excitedly about the ideas we’ve been kicking around in our heads.

Interestingly, one of my favorite decks from the evening was presented by a talented young lady with little interest in profits, running lean, or term sheets. Operation Nice is about spontaneous acts of kindness and on a more visceral level, about making you feel good. Melissa did a great job of presenting and I couldn’t help but think that there was something special about the mission she set out to achieve. In truth, what Melissa captured in her presentation is what made the event as a whole such a blast. The intensity of the 5 minute pitch, the tight-packed / beer-laden crowd, and the shared enthusiasm seemed to refreshingly avoid all the parts of a pitch that you usually don’t care about. Instead, the atmosphere was all about genuine emotion.

Of course, the next step for Ignite and the multitude of similar startup get togethers is inciting action. This is something that is on the forefront of the team at the BDQ. Now that we’re starting to see the community solidify, how we move forward really is going to determine whether the project succeeds or flounders.

It is probably worth reiterating that the goal of the BDQ is still focused on being more than just a glorified meet and greet. What got the founders on board and I think was has brought others in is that especially within graduate school, we’re frustrated with our inability to easily engage other young professionals outside our program. Creating the channels of communication, then using the value of a diverse community to make better startups / improve our world is something that I believe is worth getting excited about.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a firm believer in lean methodology so I don’t mean to imply that we’re at a an all or nothing precipice. What I do want though is to keep the good momentum we’ve got going right now and use it to now move beyond a simple article share. Next meeting is this afternoon, can’t wait.

Is Marketing Lame?

Hey BDQ’ers,

I’m catching up on some lost time so you’re correct if you notice that I’m referencing some articles which are a few days old. BFeld had an interesting blog post last week that he grabbed from Chris Moody of Gnip. The article was about marketing and more specifically, “thought leadership.” If you’re wondering what the heck he’s talking about, Chris defines thought leadership as “this is why we are doing what we are doing and why it is important” which is comparable to the “hey, look at me” type which I assume encompasses traditional marketing. Yunno, the kind we learn in MBA class. Marketing rightfully gets a lot of attention at B-school because no matter what you end up doing in the world, it will always involve communicating value to other parties. That being said, traditional marketing tactics sometimes get a bad rap for startup mentors because they feel like the startup team is diverting energy to efforts the might be better spent adding value to their product.

In his post, Chris via Brad argues that there is actually value in marketing for modern startups, but that the value is in demonstrating thought leadership. No one is going to argue that the internet has fundamentally changed the way we communicate and in turn they way companies market. The way I see it, there are two takeaways.

1. Market doesn’t have to be an either or deal. The ease at which companies can communicate with millions of customers is such that there is little excuse for not taking some time to communicate to your potential customers that your stuff is the best.

2. Conveying thought leadership is just as beneficial as a tool to crystallize strategy for the company as it is a means of getting your message out to others. This is pretty much the reason why I started blogging because it is not a coincidence that pretty much every influential member of today’s startup community is taking time to write down there thoughts. Sure the cynics might pass it off as marketing, but it feels more like strategy to me.

Open Data Event This Friday

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who made it to the first happy hour, I had a blast. I mentioned another event this Friday to a couple people and they suggested I post it on the blog. It’s hosted by another group I’m involved in, The Hacktory, a small organization dedicated to empowering people to use technology for their creative purposes. This Friday from 7-8:30 pm we are hosting a few people who traveled to Germany in August for the Chaos Communication Camp who will be talking about internet freedom, the European hacker scene, and some of the talks they gave which covered Open Data Philly. The Hacktory’s located at 1524 Brandywine, just north of Spring Garden. Technically Philly also covered the event, so we’re expecting a good turnout. You might want to check out our classes too while you’re at it!

Happy Hour Success!

Our happy hour tonight was a success. Somewhat of a soft debut, we managed to get 20 or so Grad Design and Business students from UArts and Temple together tonight at Milkboy for some great conversations. Everyone seemed really excited and had a great time. I think a lot of good impressions and connections were made tonight. I’m looking forward to continuing the development of The B.D.Q. to support these connections and maintain this momentum!

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.

Ignite Philly!

Ignite Philly Logo

Ignite Philly is here again! What is it?

Ignite Philly is part of a worldwide network that entertains and educates people in short 5 minute bursts. Ignite Philly is the local group, and is our way to highlight great ideas coming to life here in Philadelphia.

I’m sure it will not only be a great place to learn, but also meet some people and find out about all the awesome stuff happening in the city. Tickets are only $5!

The Creativity Paradox

I just came across this preview of a research paper about people’s acceptance of creativity. They just showed some excerpts but an interesting point is made, and that is that the value in creativity is the freshness of its products. This, of course, means that it cannot be familiar and people, research shows(I’ll find references if I must), do not like the unfamiliar. They resist it. Thus the paradox discussed in the paper, people want creativity and then resist it. This is why innovating is so difficult and why there are so many haters out there.

Read the full paper here.