On Failure

I think it will be helpful in time to keep track of well written documentations of other founders.

Without relevance to anything in particular, I think this post has some great advice about the failure of Sonar. As I find others I’ll drop them in here, maybe even do a “best failure lessons roundup” post someday. Hopefully though it will be a “best lessons from our 200 Million acquisition and others like it” post ūüėČ

Sound of a rainy day

I love a rainy day. Perhaps the appreciation is normal to others. Maybe for me it stands out and so I feel like I have to say something about that.

I grew up in Palo Alto, CA. But I was born in Seattle. Seattle is known for being a very wet city. I don’t feel like looking up statistics right now, but something like 300+ days per year have a rain shower in Seattle. I was only 1 year old when my family moved from Seattle, but I think rainy days are one of the things that I remember feeling, hearing, smelling as a new born there. And it gives me comfort to this day for that reason.

In Palo Alto it was different. The seasons were very uniform, never too cold, never too hot, rain started in October, usually the day of Halloween, and carried on periodically until February or March. After the last rain in those early spring days it wouldn’t rain again until the first rain of the fall in October. Sometimes there would be a freak storm, but it was rare. California days were reliable.

That’s probably a thing of the past now, with the climate changes, things will just get weirder and weirder. Moving to Boston for College brought an ironically nice change of weather into my life. Most people complain about the humidity in the summer and extreme cold and wind in the winter. Not me. I loved the humidity, it was so funky, being warm and wet all at once. And then during¬†the spring and summer we’d get thunderstorms to pass¬†through and break things up with big dramatic booms¬†and lighting flashes, that will break up the monotony of any day!

A rainy afternoon¬†is special, just like a beautiful warm summer day, is special. On a nice warm sunny day, everyone is in a great mood, relaxed, smiling, catching rays. Rainy days might not have everyone smiling but we’re still all sharing an experience, the experience of ¬†water falling out of the sky on our heads. Some of us are prepared, some of us not. In crowds walking down the sidewalk our umbrellas bob up and down in a dance. As the ferocity of the rain comes and goes, we find sudden opportunities to creep out from the awnings and make a dash for the shop across the street, daring the skies to get us wet on our mission impossible.

It rains fairly regularly in Berlin. This year in early March, for nearly 3 weeks it was irregularly warm and sunny, people were in t-shirts and sun glasses, it was like summer had come, 4 months early. We were all joking that normal Berlin weather would have required at least 6 days of grey skies, 4 days of rain, and nearly constant unbearable temperatures. In reality Berlin isn’t that bad in the March, but it was an oddly warm spring. I worry climate change is really going to permanently take the special memories of the seasons, and swap in a world of randomness and dangerously unpredictable weather extremes.

With the regular rain in Berlin, for a short time I feel like all the people out at the clubs die out, all the¬†Kneipen empty, and we all stay home, have something comforting, and enjoy each others company. We “kipp” our windows and let in the fresh rain scented air, and listen to the sounds of the city outside our homes blanketed in water.


What $30.00 bought on Facebook

What does social do for your company? When I was in the US I’d say probably it can do a lot. But after moving to Germany I discovered things were different here. For a while at Arzttermine.de we let that rule dictate how much time to put into our engagement with people in social media. In a recent change of plans that old mentality is gone and we’re determined to be sure we didn’t pass up something great.

While posting an update to Facebook last week: “Wann hast du dich das letzte Mal auf einen Arzttermin gefreut und warum? Erz√§hl es uns!”. Which is like saying “What was the last time you looked forward to a doctor appointment? Why? Tell us!”, Facebook offered to boost the post for $8.00. With that investment our status update could reach nearly 5,000+ people the promotion claimed. And so another test and exploration began.

I am actually embarrassed we waited so long to do this. We have run ad campaigns, and re-posted our newsletters and “Magazin” posts on our Facebook page¬†(our website blog), but other than that ¬†really almost no tweeting or other network activity at all. If people wrote on our FB wall, we’d respond. Nothing else. Our Facebook account was the equivalent of a cork board in the back of coffee shop. Occasionally something was posted there, little signs of life indicating it wasn’t completely untouched, but not the hub of interaction or engagement that drives a steady stream of new users and keeps our brand on the minds of existing ones.

The reason we waited so long is one you can easily spot out with a little poking around in the startup scene of Germany. Germany and probably many other countries in Europe are an odd sibling of the social networking universe, usually late to adopt if ever at all. Where in the US you’d name five major social networks that have popped up in recent¬†years, in Europe its unlikely more than one has even obtained a critical mass.

Also there is a delay. While Facebook use declines in the US and many have moved onto Snapchat, Vine and Instagram, most people in Germany don’t really even know what Instagram is about. A mind set that¬†Twitter is for narcissists who want to post what they are doing as they are doing it all day so the whole world knows is at just about any diner table when the topic comes up. Many European companies simply don’t see the point of having a Facebook page. And if they wait long enough, it will have saved them some trouble too in a odd way as it’s likely it won’t matter anymore unless they are running a some kind of mobile campaign. But at what cost?

With a hunch that while it’s not nearly as big in Germany, our conviction to make this¬†new push is about the fact that social media may still be a great place to acquire organic traffic and build some brand awareness,¬†and we believe it deserves a good shot of¬†going all at it. The marketing activities in this push is probably no surprise to an active social media’ist; acquiring followers, retweeting, publishing more newsletters, diving deepend into follower, open rate, click thrus etc, finding insights, tests and demo targeting messages.

And so when Facebook asked if we’d like a “boost”, for $8.00 we said why not. Except then I made the demographic’s more specific, and decided to go after a larger audience in the 6 digit range, which according to Facebook would cost another $22.00 bringing the grand total to $30. We decided to give it a go, a small cost to see what pushing our status a little deeper into our follower network might achieve.

So what were the results? As of the time of this post, the $30 helped our post to reach¬†40,944 people, which is about 40.5k more then our posts usually “reach” (still need to fully understand the definition of that term in the terms), as for engagement, the status message and got 7 likes and 1 comment, although there isn’t a comment visible on the post. And on the website end in our Google Analytics, it appears we had about visitors from Facebook, none of which booked an appointment. So there you have it $4.28 cost per like, $6.00 cost per visitor (assuming the paid post generated that visit), and 0% conversion rate.

Not exactly a successful post, so we’ll have to look deeper into this, especially compared to Newsletters which have some conversion rate, 20-30% open rate, and 6-13% click through. But that’s for another post.

Cell Phone Addiction – a post in a series about “Low Tech Life”

I can’t remember the day or year even off the cuff, but I think I got my first pager when I was 12. That was cool, getting messages from any location, and creating ad-hoc ways to spell out words without the use of letters enabled us to send short messages to each other, to communicate a meeting place, or news about something that had happened, before even picking up the phone to return the page and see what was up. It really instilled a sense of independence in me and my friends. I was someone with a pager. You could get ahold of me anywhere, communicate.

Around the time I turned 16 I got my first cell phone. The marketing campaign to get the world onto cell phones was a big push by Sprint PCS, up to that time the only cell phones people had were luncky, the size of a blow dryer. You rarely saw anyone using them except rich guys in their Porsche or Zack Morris on Saved By The Bell. A cell phone was a luxury item, Sprint was changing that.

Since that first Sprint PCS up until now, I have had a mobile phone. They got smaller, they started to use the internet, eventually even being able to check email, and then with iPhones the whole idea of a phone changed. Smart Phones allowed people to leave their computer behind and do just about anything they could on their computers, on their phones. With stiff competition from phone companies, the access to mobile networks improved, no more dropped calls (at least less common) while driving down Olympic Boulevard, as my boss in LA used to say when calling Verizon to complain about his crappy cell service.

No one has pagers anymore. Maybe some Doctors, or something but, I couldn’t even tell you where to buy one. The service must be dirt cheap though. In the US nearly everyone has an iPhone or Android smart phone. When I moved to Europe I saw that still many people were not on smart phones, but even that was changing. But the one thing that I’ve seen all over the world while traveling was that everyone has phones and they use them all the time.

On a trip to Paris last week, while dining in a great tapas restaurant in the Oper√° district, a well dressed couple was eating together, enjoying champagne and small extravagant dishes, couples like this, who speak french to each other, and look like models are fascinating to me. Collectively I’ve spent a good chunk of time learning that while beautiful people tend to be the icon of perfection, not everyone looks like them, they didn’t choose to look that way, their lives have problems too, and we’re all capable of being beautiful people. Still, when you’re sitting one table over from them, it’s hard not to be aware of their presence, after all many parts of¬†popular culture is driven by making us feel inadequate, and selling us things with the belief we can be closer to them.

Anyways, I was studying the couple, looking at their shoes, hearing their elegant¬†french accents, thinking about their choice of champagne before white wine. It all was perfect, but one thing was off. One thing that without speaking to them, I already felt tipped their whole ensemble in the wrong not so beautiful direction. They had their phones out on the table, and both of them ‚Äďespecially the gentleman‚Äď were frequently checking their phones. At two separate occasions, the man took phone calls, and talked for 4, 5, maybe up to 10 minutes, while his date sat patiently ‚Äď not using her phone probably on purpose to make a point ‚Äď waiting for him to get off the line. And that’s when the truth of the matter came out, this couple did have their problems. But people have this kind of phone addiction all over the world. And to say this couple was an exception would be a gross mis-statement. The truth is, whether you’re on an airplane, at a cafe, riding the subway, or sitting in a waiting room, in just about any situation where strangers are together for a period of time, one thing stands out, they are all using their phones.

I think it’s not sustainable. I think there will be a cultural whiplash of sorts. At some point the popularity of using our phones, will be come unpopular. It’s the nature of things. It has to be. The thought of anything otherwise makes me sad. It’s not the world I want to live in.

Just a brain dump for now, definitely more to say.