Last week as I was unloading my car I noted an envelope pinned to the outside door. It said, ‘For you… From a stranger.’ I was flummoxed and looked up and down the street for the stranger but nothing.
Once inside I opened it and read the short letter that was bursting with different colored pencils. It read, ‘Hi there! We have never met before. I just wanted to tell you that you are beautiful, talented and can do anything, never give up! Life is beautiful, you are beautiful and very much loved. You are not alone. You are a shining star and deserve a beautiful life filled with love, joy, happiness and everything that makes you happy.’
Nestled within the crease of the note was a King of Diamonds playing card that said, ‘Keep me in your wallet and remember that you are loved!!’
I have to say the timing of this strangers love blast was quite poignant. I had been feeling overwhelmed yet was beginning to get back to normal and this unexpected gift just made my week.
I did something similar when I lived in San Francisco. I was riding The BART to El Cerrito and this stunning looking older lady entering the train. She was dressed so regal and I felt it right to compose her a note complimenting her on her style and beauty which I handed to her as I left for my stop. It’s time to surprise a stranger once more with a love note.
Whilst on several days of solitude in the wild west of Ireland I read like a woman unhinged. One of the many books that I read was Boo Hoo. The sub title is ‘A Dot Com Story’. Ernst Malmsten narrates the rushed rise of his business to it’s eventual demise. If you can get past his arrogant tone then you will take a lot of lessons from this tale. The bubble within which he describes is a crazy mix of greed, partying and delusions of reality. I would be lying if I said that I was not rooting for them even though I knew they would fail and that they did - spectacularly. However I could not help but shudder at the waste they created along the way.
Whilst on my break Jason Roe got in touch and told me about his new start-up ParkYa. Jason is a person that I have so much respect for, not only is he a geniueIy good human being he is also incredibly smart. I had planned to take time out as I had just finished my role with Yelp. But credit to Jason he convinced me otherwise yet at the same time he was very flexible to my asks which simply were some days off for me to read and write.
Now I have the pleasure of creating the communications strategy for Jason’s baby other wise known as ParkYa. It is a great challenge as now I get to decide how to best serve this start-up. From messaging to working with creatives on the look. It also is a wonderful experience to work so closely with the founder and truly understand the amount of hardwork and self belief that goes into making an idea happen. It’s an unrelenting path of meetings and preaching.
I recently met with an old colleague from Yelp, Bryan Bryne, another inspiring person. We had catch up drink in Dublin as he was on a short trip from NYC. He also is working on a startup Retrosift. Only this week I had dinner with a talented designer Killian McMahon that is also involved in an exciting startup Tito. The thing that ties these men in my mind versus the Boo Hoo folks is their humility.
Does humility mean success? In a lot of ways I think it does because it means you are relating to people on a deeper level and even if you fail you earn respect from your peers to try again. Another key quality they have is positivity in buckets. You truly need that quality as the amount of times you have to pick yourself up and try again. I had my fair share of knocks when trying to build the Yelp brand in Dublin and you just have to keep at it by experimenting with new strategies. Always aim to be sincere in your dealings with people. If you get burned by someone just make a note and move on, usually those type of people become easier to recognise as time goes on. Trust your gut. Seek out a mentor to guide you even if that mentor are various writers as it is for me.
I floated around a lot today but it was the ‘Pitching Stage’ that really got me excited. There is something altogether infectious about passionate people who believe in their project blindly!
I will highlight a few that grabbed my attention.
Michael Coleman led the pitch. He shared that businesses lose 45 seconds to 1 minute of one on one time with customers because they are made to wait to order and sometimes they lose customers as a result. The current solution has been a free standing order kiosk but that’s expensive, 15k to be exact.
Their solution is to put the kiosk in ‘your pocket’. They are the most cost effective type of app out there due to a deal with Paypal. Currently they have university students acting like viral marketers to get the word out to local businesses. He also shared that people are willing to spend more when ordering through mobile.
Ross Linnett explained that it’s an online system that instantly fixes the web for people with reading difficulties. He shared how he was twenty two when he was diagnosed with dyslexia and found that the software was limited.
Their solution means that you can do everything online, no software needed as it’s in the cloud. They make money B2B and public users can pay £2 per month and be able to access any website with any type of device. The BBC will be using it starting next month which is a great opportunity for them.
The wannabe inner carpenter in me got very giddy at this presentation. James McBennett explained that they believe that they are the future of flatpack and a lot of people agree. They share large sets of digital design data that can make any physical object using 3D printers and other digital machines.
It’s a really exciting new option for designers, fabricators and consumers a like. Best of all they are not restricted by geography and can embrace local!
Alex Hawkinson really blew me away with how intelligent people can get! They are merging the physical world with digital, essentially the entire world is programmable simply because there is bandwidth everywhere.
A remote control for your life!
*** They also won the Electric Ireland Spark of Genius Award. Basically best startup at the conference - well done! ***
Jason Devenney and his brother founded this company. Both hailing from a farm in Donegal they stayed with their roots to develop a web based farm management software. Jason admitted that the farming market is conservative and tech to farmers usually means a big tractor! That is why they are focussed on the accountancy market and have already successfully partnered with a lot of accountants in the UK that represent farmers.
Firstly only a Swede could carry off a beige jumpsuit with kicking’ shoes and heavy set spectacles. Carl Waldekranz sure knows how to make an entrance and the slick opening pitch film really grabbed the judges.
Tictail is the tumblr of e-commerce according to Wired magazine. So far they have grown their user base by 36%. They are building social from the beginning. They are hot and you just need to look at the folks getting behind them and their team.
I will finish with some quotes that made me laugh during the day.
Yossi Vardi, Godfather of 40 startups
Mr Vardi was a joke a minute. All Jewish in theme, here is a flavour: ‘Irish Mom says to son eat your dinner or I will kill you. Jewish Mom says eat your dinner or I will kill myself.’
He also stated, ‘I’m the Forrest Gump of the internet.’
Megan Quinn, Investment Partner at KPCB
When discussing businesses that have exhausted their original remit she gave a great example:
‘Evernote for women.’
Wesley Chan, Google Ventures
In keeping with the same discussion as Megan Quinn, Wesley offered up a pitch he heard:
‘Piniterest for dogs.’
So that’s it folks, hope you learned something new & keep trying!
I spent most of the day at the ‘Digital Summit’ stage so that is what this blog post will be about.
I will aim to keep it as concise as possible. The goal I hope to achieve is for you to investigate further should someone or some company stroke your fancy.
@cilliankieran who is an engineer by trade owns @gofolio & @cksk. For me the main takeaway was how his training and brain influences how he problem solves and gets creative for a client.
Having an engineer involved in each stage of the creative process is very interesting to me. Stay with people that think like you and how will you progress.
‘The world we create the magic dust is limited only by the things we are able to imagine.’
Alan Coleman owner of @alancwolfgang gave a great overview of Remarketing with Google Analytics. A simple example he gave was if folks are pausing outside your shop on Grafton Street but walk on, you could still market to them. With the new updates this time if they pause outside your competitor’s window you can do the same. Powerful stuff.
‘The rate of innovation is accelerating.’
@on_jay whose name looks like ‘my parents fell on a keyboard’ is the Director of Strategy & Innovation @saatchilondon.
Very vibrant presentation. His big thing is that you need purpose. I’ve always believed if your company can’t explain their purpose in one sentence then good luck! Anyhow Andrzej believes knowing your purpose opens up creative clarity which is kinda common sense. His case study of ‘Speak to Tweet’ in Egypt was a great example of participation & also ripe for creative ideas.
‘Go forth & be awesome!’
@joshuamarch CEO of @conversocial basically discussed that if you ignore your customer you lose them. Not rocket science eh? Most good ideas aren’t. He found that businesses weren’t providing that online customer relationship and there are still some that aren’t - shockingly, so he cofounded this nifty idea.
Hannah Gilbert @hanconversocial was on the ball & tweeted me this great link on their site with excellent resources. Biz owners check it out!
@niallharbison has a deadly house. I stumbled on it on Airbnb in a non creepy way but I digress. He also founded @simplyzesty and you can tell why it’s a success because he presents directly and with no waffle.
Inkeeping with his style of presentation I will keep this direct: mobile, mobile, mobile… Basically that is where it’s at so get on that train folks.
‘Microsoft is screwed. Mobile will shaft them.’
@dharmesh is a new Daddy - awww! Cue lots of cute photos of his child. He also is the CTO of @hubspot which is about inbound marketing. He is all about useful content, clean designs & fast websites.
Nice little tip is grader.com which is free and will give you feedback on your SEO when you enter your site. He believes in Google+ simply because of the word before the + and start thinking more of Facebook for search too.
‘Great SEO is about making humans happy not search engines.’
@jondmyers Commercial Director for EMEA Marin Software gave some very thoughtful mobile stats. For example a best practice for getting mobile ready is simply put ‘/iphone’ as not many people are advertising on mobile and you can optimize that space. Time of day & device targeting is another tip.
‘Massive mobile search adoption in Australia.”
@bippermom I have to say was pretty inspirational as my gushing tweets reinforce, apologies if the gush drowned you a little. I just find women in business inspiring especially the premise behind this project.
Basically she has developed apps that help with personal safety like bSafe. Great success story and now she is in Silicon Valley ready to roll it out!
‘If you have a passion or a dream then you can do it!’
The last woman on the stage for the day was Aubrey Sabala (@aubs) whose CV is rather intimidating in a ‘inspiring lady’ kinda way!
Aubrey spoke about @sailthru ‘a company that provides automated 1:1 email and onsite recommendations using a unique behavioral targeting platform.’ It was a very inciteful look at how to approach the same tools such as e-mail in a smarter way.
‘E-mail is still effective but they are deleting e-mails without reading… yet purchasing just as much 5 years ago.’
The key word for Scott Belsky (@scottbelsky) CEO of @behance was meritocracy.
As someone with a fascination with communities I found this approach to the creative business very clever.
‘Fashion designers discovering new designers further meritocracy.’
The most striking thing to me about at Mark Kornfilt (@markkornfilt) founder of new.livestream.com, presentation was that the average length of time people spend in front of a live stream is 25 minutes which nowadays is phenomenal.
‘It’s a great way to get people’s attention.’
So that’s it folks, hope you gained something from the post. I also hope that I will not slip on wet leaves or gag on chili in my pasta tomorrow.
Fair play to Hubert Grealish, Global Head of Brand Communications at Diageo @hubertgrealish for directly reaching out to me about my query with regards to the Brew Dog debacle. Says a lot about his personal character, cheers again Hubert!
Searing sun and eternal search for shade described my day time in Ibiza. Ibiza, an island that blew me away with it’s beauty. I had no idea how enchanting the town would be.
Riding on a scooter on the search for a secluded beach was the highlight for me. A jeep followed us as we went off the road on to a gravel strip which then turned into beige dirt sporting mini ravines whilst wrapping around hissing brush. We stopped when we saw that, debating to go onwards. The jeep rolled down it’s window:
‘Hola,’ I noted a heavy London accent.
‘Are you looking for the beach?’
They emphasised the beach in a way that we understood to be special. We were just wandering, not looking for any beach in particular but now we learned that many people were looking for this beach.
‘Yeah I guess, although that road looks very steep and dangerous.’
‘Are you from Oliva’s party?’
The riddles were getting intoxicating to me.
‘OK we are going to reverse out, it’s too dangerous to go any further.’
But we decided to go further, faced with cross roads we let our guts lead until the dirt dead ended into an enclosed private residence.
Pausing and looking we noted the makings of another trail behind rich vegetation. Downwards into the greenness and onwards until it opened into a private beach.
The meaning of the tale in a professional context. As glib as it sounds we all face challenges, easy options, fear but it’s chance, timing and trusting your gut that will always give rewards. The deeper down the trail we got the more out of sight the sea went till we could no longer see it because we were right against it - sound familiar?
I want to end this post with a few words that an old boss e-mailed me during the week. A wonderful man, kind and wise:
‘Another book that I have found very foundational is Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. The most important value that I received from this book is that when things are out of control (my perspective) I remember that my boundaries actually protect me. How? I can see clearly how those circumstances impact my life. Most of the time, after quieting my heart, praying, and reviewing boundaries I find that those circumstances provide and opportunity or two that I did not see before. AND I don’t have to break my boundaries to move forward.’
You crept away with me to a beautiful beach. The sand was so white and the night was starting to turn inky blue in the evening sky.
You looked at me and we laughed and then I went to kiss you and you paused and said no. You started rubbing my back and hugging me and then grabbed my hand and led me back to a room with dancers.
I asked you to join my friends for dinner, you said you would. As we all were seated your yellow cab beeped his horn outside. We all left the table to see what was going on.
You stood there looking like beautiful marble. You had an antique suitcase in your hand.
“Where are you going?”
“I can’t say but I must go.”
You hugged me and disappeared into the cab, my friends gushed,
“Oh my GAWD! That was like the most romantic scene EVER!”
I looked perplexed at their glistening tear stained faces and asked myself why I was only friends with gay musical stars.
Then I looked back at you as you drove away feeling so confused and wanting more.
One hundred freckles swept me up and kept me up
Now my chest is crashing under their hailstones
Restlessness gives way to sunshine
It rained everyday that I was in San Francisco on my holiday. I really didn’t care. I have a high tolerance for rain and grey. Also I’m not exactly a tourist there. I felt quite happy letting the puddles of water seep up my trousers. I like the blur that days like that create. I like how people fade under nature’s curtain call.
It’s hard for me to laud anymore praise or reverence for this place but everytime I’m there things seem very possible. Maybe it’s the heady recipe of positivity, insincerity, weed, startups, sunshine, self-righteousness, kindness, thinly veiled liberalism that borders on obnoxious self importance that makes for fun adventures – who knows.
From drag queen brunch on a Sunday to Mr Floppy’s Flophouse on a Tuesday it was a rapid succession of images and happenings that still hang suspended somewhere. Crawling through the dwarf sex rooms and wandering in the basement amongst blow up sex dolls were Madonna had a party was rather surreal, as was sitting in Liberace’s white Cadillac limo with the most beguiling 6ft something androgynous woman? The tour finished with me standing in the most amazing period piece bar that looks like a derelict building from the outside, they want to keep it hidden.
There was so much more that happened over the years but this blog post would not allow the images it requires… In time… What’s the rush… In other news this song from Sweden has captivated me unlike the dwarf sex rooms.
I always seem to go to Berlin in the winter time. I also always seem to under dress for the weather and always get that awful feeling of wanting to cry from the cold. But that’s why I spend most of my time inside when there. Inside is the Berlin I know. Inside it’s on fire.
The dog shit on the streets and the graffiti of all different ability levels that drapes the buildings always stirs up a revulsion in me. I confessed this to my Berliner friend.
“I come from a stereotypical German city. Everything is clean. Everything is manicured. There is perfect order. Since I have lived in Berlin for 5 years when I return to visit, the sight of that perfection repulses me.”
“Because this is real life. This is how it is.”
“I’ve been thinking about that since I got here, bear with me on this as I’m about to go bargain basement philosophical on your ass.”
“I think the chaos of human existence and the filth and need to be heard that comes with it is something most cities try to organise into groups or organisations. But its the explosion of pure creative that at the same time murmurs confidently inside these buildings that draws me back again and again. Being around someone that has absolute comfort in who they are can be unsettling.”
“Because of the possibility. No constraints take away any excuses.”
“There never were constraints to begin with.”
“I know, Berlin somehow has shown me that.”
If you find yourself in Berlin, do check out Five Elephant. Wonderful coffee and an atmosphere that makes the world exciting. Speaking with people from Brooklyn to Denmark to France to New Orleans to Dublin really invigorates the soul.
Also the party scene there is epic. I can only have love for a city that has a bar with walls draped in pink shag carpet. Cafés with empty take-away boxes stuck to the walls and art work on the lids. The imagination runs wild here as all the resident startups and writers can attest. It still is a city that challenges me, someday I hope to be as comfortable in it’s skin as it is.
I joked with a friend a few days ago that,
“I’m going to the desert to meditate.”
“You’re mental Lowney… MENTAL.”
“Perhaps but it will be nice to feel nothing and small.”
“Well I can drug you and put you in an elephant enclosure.”
“I just wet my knickers laughing at your wit.”
“I just wet my knickers laughing at your stupidity.”
I started meditation a few weeks ago, I really had no expectations so I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it. Well… enjoy is probably too strong a word. It was and continues to be hard work. It still surprises me the amount of thoughts that pop into your head within the twenty minute meditation time.
I have definitely noticed that my attention span has improved. I’m more focused and before I repeatedly check my five inboxes I ask myself,
“Are you defined by the amount of mail you have?”
It can get that way - can’t it? Wow I’m so important I have fifty new emails since this morning. It can become a vindication of sorts and when those emails don’t come, who are you?
This week did not go to plan at all, before I would of said that it was a disaster. Since mediation* I say it is what it is. I’m not copping out but I’m not beating myself up over things that did not work out the way I planned. I meditated in my friends SF apartment/art gallery and then later that week in the desert & it reminded me that:
· I really have no control over things.
· I need to exist in harmony with all the noise but not get lost in it.
· All I can do is control my reactions.
Conversely having that calmness (not all the time) has made me more productive. Feeling emptiness feels very clear.
Note: I had no idea that this would have the tone of a self help blog entry, trust me you don’t need to come to me for life guidance. The Dr Phils of the world can rest easy, I ain’t coming to feed from your money fields.
* I of course did not spell meditation correctly, apologies but it could of been worse I could of said,
Perhaps that will be next weeks blog post… Emptiness via medication.
Anthropology is one of the most useful subjects to read when trying to form, motivate and move a crowd of people. You learn about the importance of ritual and routine. Tribes now tend to be online, nothing new with that statement. Yet, as I spend most of my days creating and reinforcing that ritual and routine you easily get lost in the creation of it.
Creating a community takes a lot of time and patience. As you don’t see an instant product at the end of the day you can easily get lost in the creation which is not good. But as Lance Ulanoff sees it, one of the “5 Tech Trends to Watch in 2012” is Social/Digital Exhaustion. I accept that his angle was the over saturation of the user but as a social/digital practitioner I also feel it acutely. All doom? Not at all. I would not be brash enough to predict a trend but I will always let common sense and the lessons of Anthropology dictate me.
I took a carpentry course to remind me how to feel progress. To remind me how to feel achievement. The goal is to feel that type of craftsmanship with community creation and engagement. I made a table and it felt fantastic! It’s no surprise that there is a rise in popularity of people taking courses like workshop in San Francisco that got featured in Monocle. I believe that to avoid that “exhaustion” we need to bring the tactile back. Whatever your business that needs to happen. A happy birthday post on my Facebook wall will never be a substitute for a birthday card with a handwritten note because yes it’s tactile but most importantly it took time, something we need to understand the value of more.