Grade A Entrepreneurs

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Democratizing entrepreneurship education: Sramana Mitra’s 1M by 1M program

June 6th, 2011 · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

SramanaMitraSramana Mitra, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant founded the 1M by 1M(One Million by One Million) program, “a framework for Capitalism 2.0,” she says, and which she “envisions as a distributed, democratic capitalism.” Here is what this means: Not everybody can, or even needs to, come to Silicon Valley to create a company. There are creative entrepreneurs everywhere in the world, and they can succeed from virtually any place depending on the nature and the scope of what they undertake or on their own definition of success. Yet, where can they get accessible economic development tools? In other words, how can entrepreneurship education be democratized? Sramana’s 1M by 1M (One Million by One Million) brings a solution.

Startup America and Startup Anywhere: Check out the 1M by 1M program: While different countries and regions have started thousands of initiatives to rekindle the economy through innovation and entrepreneurship, one of the most critical needs is ensuring that entrepreneurs do not waste time and energy reinventing the wheel, or money they may not have in MBA programs or expensive consultants. The 1M by 1M program provides all the basics to start on the right footing at virtually no cost: “We offer a case-study-based online educational program, video lectures, and methodology, online strategy consulting at public and private online roundtables, as well as introductions to customers, channel partners and investors (pre-seed, seed, angel, VC, bank, alternative financing). The public roundtable is a free program accessible from anywhere in the world. The rest of the services are for paying members only.” The $1000 annual fee grants paying members unlimited usage of the service (just don’t abuse the system!). For a full explanation of why Sramana created  this program, also consult this video.

What I like about this program:

Its “weapon of massive reconstruction” optimism:  As Sramana puts it: “It is the entrepreneurs, and the entrepreneurs alone, who wield the most potent weapons of mass reconstruction. To build markets; to build nations; to build worlds.” One million by one million makes one trillion of whatever currency, and even if it is as hard to represent as one terawatt, it expresses the human power to change the world for the better — and create jobs.

Its pragmatic “virtual incubator” approach: Sramana has spent years talking with entrepreneurs, capturing their stories. Some of her stories she shares in her books*, but hundreds more are available as case studies from which entrepreneurs can learn. Innovative ideas evolve with time, but business model innovations come at a much slower pace – and the principles for capital efficiency, effective bootstrapping, customer validation, and positioning are not going to change overnight. The 1M by 1M program is a virtual and scalable incubator that can help scores of entrepreneurs get their act together at a low cost and in no time, wherever they are located in the world.  As a virtual incubator, 1M by 1M supplements physical incubators and has partnerships with a few of them already, as well as with corporate sponsors. For example, in March, 1M by 1M announced that it was working with Microsoft on their India Startup Challenge — with Microsoft BizSpark offering $100,000 in total grant to four startups with winning ideas in the Cloud & Mobile categories.

Its inclusiveness: Physical incubators, even the largest, can only host a limited number of companies, which means that the vast majority of entrepreneurs are on their own for all sorts of reasons. 1M by 1M doesn’t have to select or exclude entrepreneurs to function, and thus can accept companies regardless of their prospective TAM or the speed at which the business will grow. Small niche businesses are the economy operating system of the world, and yes, any small business owner can benefit from being trained. As a matter of fact, the program heavily focuses on bootstrapping and leadership (something useful to entrepreneurs with larger ambitions, anyway). 1M by 1M is a fully international social network of entrepreneurs (they only have to be able to speak/understand English). Changing the world for the better is a collective effort, where each entrepreneur defines his/her vision of effectiveness, while benefiting from sharing lessons learned.

Conclusion: Read Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start and a few other good books, including the ones that Sramana wrote, and join 1M by 1M. It’s a great way to start off, even if you have the type of business or you are in a place that allows you to apply for a physical incubator (in such case, you will benefit from this incubator even more!).

* Books by Sramana Mitra:

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Five tips for entrepreneurs in two minutes: Conversation with Jacques Birol

May 29th, 2011 · Entrepreneurs

Palais BI was in Paris last month for the launch of the French version of Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment (“Enchantement“) at one of the great business schools over there, ESCP Europe. The following day, I met with fantastic entrepreneurs at Le Camping, a six-month accelerator program located inside the Palais Brongniart. I had a conversation on the steps on the beautiful buiding with the former CEO of Publicis-Etoile and co-founder of Keljob, Jacques Birol. Jacques also teaches at HEC, and has written an excellent book in French 52 Conseils éternels pour entreprendre published by Diateino (as is “Enchantement”). The conversation addresses five topics in two minutes:

  • Where should you start your company?
  • How do you build a team?
  • What does it take to become an entrepreneur?
  • What is a shadow CEO?
  • Is there any age to start a company?

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42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role, by Pam Fox Rollin: a constructivist approach to leadership

May 1st, 2011 · Book Review

By Marylene Delbourg-Delphis @mddelphis

42 rulesWhen I hear people speak of themselves as “leaders,” frankly, I cringe, and I tend only to notice the signs of their inflated egos. Most authentic leaders are usually somewhat understated, well aware that leadership is not a status that enables someone to apply “proven” recipes, but instead a continuous self-rebuilding process in an effort to handle new situations. That’s the purpose of Pam Fox Rollin‘s book: 42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role: The Manual They Didn’t Hand You When You Made VP, Director, or Manager.

On her website, Fox Rollin says that she “coaches leaders to succeed at the next level.” The truth is that succeeding at one level does not mean that you are ready for the next one. So restart your game plan and look at these 42 rules distributed into seven main stages – numbers that bear some analogies with Texas 42, in which the purpose of the game is to be the first team to reach seven marks.

  • Set Yourself up for Success: No matter how “experienced” you are, each start must be a fresh start; otherwise, you face the risk of simply applying old habits in new situations. Take charge of your start.
  • Map the Terrain: That’s the time to investigate what matters, identifying all the stakeholders and what is important to them to know where and how you will create value and eventually drive change.
  • Show up Wisely: What you would “typically do” might be irrelevant, so beware of your knowledgeable ego and reassess yourself. Realize that leadership is never a solo game, but the art of empowering a team to empower yourself while showing them how to optimally work with you.
  • Start your Wins: If your dream is fast glory, forget it. Build buy-in through small wins that enable you to know how people operate around you and get familiar with your style. Create mutual understanding instead of coercing people into following you blindly (they won’t, anyway).
  • Create your Management System: It’s time to show how indispensable you are in the game and how efficient you are at driving performance. Yet, continue to encourage dissent and foster diversity. You won’t be a leader alone: leaders grow more leaders.
  • Stay Smart: Resist the temptation to feel established after two months. Staying smart means staying current and capable, finding colleagues inside that will stretch you, and developing an industry presence. Powerful positions are only relative.
  • Set yourself and your Team up to Thrive: However satisfied you may be with where you are, it may only be the first step. The 42nd rule tells you to “extend a hand to the next round of leaders by sharing what you have learned.”

The imagery around leadership is fraught with clichés (self-heroisation, impatience, arrogance, outspokenness, etc.) that set a lot of people up for failure. The quality of this book is to show that leadership has nothing to do with posturing, that it’s a talent that can be nurtured. By coaching yourself into becoming an effective leader capable of energizing your team, you not only establish your authority, but also coach others on how to follow into your footsteps.

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From abracadabra to SEO power words

April 19th, 2011 · Entrepreneurs

Power WordsBy Marylene Delbourg-Delphis

Abracadabra, “create as I say” in Aramaic, has been the power word of magicians for centuries. Today, when we tweet or blog, we all look for the power words that will grab the readers’ attention. What are they? This was the theme of a speech I gave to the class of Angelika Blendstrup in Stanford this week.

What power words are not:

  • Buzzwords: When you use buzzwords, you look like a blowfish puffing up to intimidate an enemy. Do you believe entrepreneurs when they tell you that their technology is a bleeding-edge, disruptive game-changer? They are actually saying only one thing: we are novices, just as the students who created this slang were when they believed they could fool teachers by stuffing their papers with all the expected words.
  • Jargon, shoptalk or industry specific lingo: These words simply show that you are knowledgeable. So people in that domain take them for granted. And if you use them in front of people outside the domain, these words are obscure and disconcerting.
  • Big words: They are all the words that make me feel stupid in order for you to look smart. Maybe they are power words for you. For me, they are just words I am unprepared to understand.

Power words are not special words. Say “water” to somebody who is thirsty, and you are an enchanter uttering a power word. What is true in life is true for blogs and tweets. Power words are words that come across as strong and significant in a context.

Staging words for impact

Grabbing people’s attention requires that you follow at least two of the basic rules for Web readability: scannability and sociability.

1) Scannability

As emphasized by Jakob Nielsen since the mid 1990s in his Alertboxes, people rarely read Web pages word for word; instead, they glance at them, and pick out individual words and sentences. As a result, staging words for attention means:

  • Starting with the conclusion: Even though people scan texts, they still read the first lines so they can find out what they’re getting into. This is what Nielsen call the inverted pyramid, and is what most journalists actually have been doing for ever. Then, words start to jump out.
  • Highlighting keywords, through hyperlinks, typeface variations (like italic, bold, underlined) or color: Select the words that you believe are important, and have what linguists call a keyness. Keyness is not the characteristic of a word, but the contextual weight of a word. So a word can have a high keyness in a text, and none in another. For example “French cooking” has a high keyness if you write about Julia Child, but has none in this present post.
  • Creating meaningful titles and subtitles, and bulleted lists: They build up the framework for your keywords to act.

… and be as concise as you can! Do not drown your keywords in a sea of weak words (tons of adjectives, synonyms for one word, or hazy adverbs). Power words stick to the mind of people when they get your point quickly – and they might remember your post if they write a post on a similar topic and link to yours.

2) Sociability

The Web is social in nature. Blogging is a social art, and obeys the rules of socializing. Words become power words when they foster adhesion and create adhesiveness — when they create a community around them. This is how some words have sometimes reached special status. Think of “unmarketing,” a time-stamped word by Scott Stratten, or of “enchantment,” rejuvenated by Guy Kawasaki.  Google these, and you will see what I mean!

You increase chances of adhesiveness through:

  • Objective writing: Even though most blogs express a personal point of view, you want people to relate to what you say. As a result, soft-pedal on excessive statements. If you say that what you talk about is the “greatest, the fastest ever,” what are you going so say when you find out about something which is greater than the greatest or faster than the fastest? You build credibility over several posts, not one. Be descriptive as much as you can so that people can build a representation of the reality depicted by your power words.
  • Memorizable phrases: Writing a post is still writing. Words gain a persuasive effect through figures of speech that emphasize their meaning. The entire arsenal of what the ancient Greek called rhetoric is at your disposal. It’s The Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business, to use the title of a book by Alex Frankel. “PayPal” is easy to remember because of the alliteration. I recently retweeted Internet freedom declining as use grows, because of the power of the phrase “Internet freedom” through a simple antithesis. That day, I loved the rhetorical question by Om Malik: “What happens when hipsters go to Bombay?

In the end, power words are words that make your reader participate in your story. They have an impact on people. They empower them – make them act (tweet or retweet, for example).

… And can make them buy!

That’s the case of blogs with a commercial purpose, a complex genre, where you do not simply address an audience, but also search engines. The whole point is to choose keywords that resonate massively, correspond to what people search on the Web at a given time. In this case, it is almost indispensable to leverage resources such as Google Adwords, Wordtracker, or Keyword discovery, or others. It’s also a good idea to seek the guidance of professional SEO copywriters or attend their training. There are a few books on the topic, such as The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells by Robert Bly, and also look for the one that SEO pioneer and goddess Heather Lloyd-Martin plans to release next year!

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Scoop.it: topic-centric and a new collaborative dimension to curation

April 3rd, 2011 · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

Curation has been a hot topic for at least a year, and I agree with Tom Foremski, that it’s not just a trend, or as he puts it in a recent post, “a flash in the pan.” We all need to make sense of the mass of information that comes to us, and present it in a format that is easy to consume and communicate. So, we all tend to create our own “magazine” adopting a variety of criteria – and as any curator, we make decisions on what we want to collect, highlight, and share.  In the end, digital curators are not fundamentally different from traditional curators.

The market offers multiple platforms: Flipboard, Paper.li, Yoono Socialzine, Keepstream, Qrait, Pearltrees, Bagtheweb, Curated.by, Storify or Zite, to name a few. Recently, I started to play with Scoop.it as a beta user, and liked its strong topic centric social media approach.

A topic centric social media approach: When I stepped into Scoop.it, I didn’t think of whom I was going to follow, but of topics that might be I interested in.
EnchantingGuyI came across a topic about Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment. So I became a follower.

I do not know the curator, and only time will tell me if she is somebody I will continue to follow, based on what I will like about her curator’s skills and her consistency over time.

Selecting content sources as a curator: You create your topic, add a description of what it is about, and create a number of key words related to the topic. Based on these key words, Scoop.it offers suggestions from default sources such as Google, Twitter, and others (which may solve the blank page syndrome), or from sources that you have listed as relevant environments for Scoop.it to crawl. You discard or select information as you see fit, and you can also create posts on the fly.

Remove, discard...

However, you do not need to be within Scoop.it to add to your topic. If you have dropped the Scoop button to your browser toolbar, you can also add content immediately – or you can also suggest new content to a topic created by somebody you follow.

For example, coming across an article about Enchantment in FastCompany, I sent this suggestion to Helene for her Enchantment Topic:

Suggest

In addition to sharing capabilities (of a specific item on the page or of the whole page) and comment features, the notion of social suggestion sets Scoop.it apart from other platforms, and adds a socially collaborative dimension to curation. Curation enables people to connect based on centers of interests. The majority of your Facebook friends may not care about your love for video games. So why bother them when you can animate a topic-driven community?

Editorial control: This is a really appealing aspect of Scoop.it — and ultimately what empowers people who perform their curators’ role. When you select a piece for publication, you can customize the title or summarize the article the way you wish, or do so even after it is published.

Edit existing post

You can move the various items around the page and highlight a specific article (see the green ribbon on the image above), tag the content, or modify the size of images or wrap the text around these images. Curators are not only savvy information selectors, they can also express who they are in the way they stage what they offer. In addition, as a curator, you can delete what you want when you want it – by default, pages are stored in reverse-chronological order just as in a blog. Well, good curation may be the art of conservation, after all…

The product is already quite compelling and, speaking with repeat entrepreneur/co-founder/CEO Guillaume Decugis*, I understand that multiple additional features are in the works: integration with social aggregators, along with the ability to add the Scoop.it button wherever you are, a widget enabling display of a curated page on a blog or website, search/filtering/cataloging capabilities, and an open API.  “We have a lot of features in mind,” Guillaume. “The whole point, though, is to keep the product simple to use.”

* The other co-founder is Marc Rougier, also a repeat entrepreneur.

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Let’s not just break the glass ceiling. Only the sky is the limit…

March 22nd, 2011 · Entrepreneurs

cerf-volantAmita Paul and I held a SXSW conversation on March 13, 2011 at 5:00PM. Late on a Sunday afternoon, with already so many parties going on, we only expected a tiny committee; instead we found a full house. Nice surprise, but our greatest joy was that the whole room enthusiastically participated in creating what we called a Women Manifesto. As we all know, it’s very hard for any group to come up with actionable items in just one-hour. Yet, forward-looking women can! So, if you are interested, join this group on our Facebook Page. Here is a copy of the inaugural text of this Women Manifesto:

Breaking the glass ceiling is an ambiguous metaphor, as glass debris may fall on your head. So don’t stay inside, get out the building, and look at the sky: that’s what “fearless” women entrepreneurs do!

Keep on relentlessly: Starting a company is risky. It would be reckless for women, just like for men, to be unafraid. Yet, do not let fear stop you. Pursue your goal and be relentless, i.e. stubborn with a purpose.

Define success for you: Thinking “too small” or thinking “big” aren’t what matters. Size your initiative based on what you feel comfortable with, execute on your vision, i.e. build, deliver, and grow.

Ask for help: We are used to doing things by ourselves and handling work overload just to show that we are able to do it. But this is not the only way, or the best. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Be beautiful: Beauty comes in multiple forms, ranging from outside prettiness to sheer internal charisma. Off-putting or boring faces are do not have to be a business paradigm for women (neither is it for men). Doing business is the art of communicating. So smile!

Make it a personal duty to help other women: First generations of women entrepreneurs may be interesting because of what they sometimes endured, but they are inspiring only if they make it easier for other women to succeed. Change comes one person at a time.

Yes, there are a lot of women support groups, but there can’t be too many as long as the percentage of businesses started by women remains so low. Feel free to post this on your blog in part or in full.

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Sceneroller, the social music discovery site that connects bands, people, venues and gigs!

March 14th, 2011 · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

Sceneroller is a social music discovery site of a different breed, and a phenomenal complement to the innumerable sites and blogs dedicated to bands and artists, as well as music delivery networks such as Pandora or Soundcloud, or Deezer in Europe. It expresses something that has rarely been captured: the social nature of the music scene. Sceneroller starts the collaborative writing and graphing of the history of local music scenes that connect bands, people, venues and gigs!

The project began with the Che Underground blog that depicts the San Diego underground rock’n’roll scene of the 1980s, where Sceneroller‘s co-founder, Matthew Rothenberg, explored his own musical youth. Of the multiple bands that existed back then, only a few were visible online in historical records, and most had disappeared completely, while memories of tunes, thrill, and dramas still linger in the minds of the regulars involved in that scene – and influence newer generations. Albeit ephemeral in nature, music builds lasting bonds – so much so that three years later, the Che Underground site welcomes 16,000 visitors/month and has resurrected most of the San Diego scene. While working at it, Matthew, Jason Brownell and Jonathan Goldin (the other co-founders of Sceneroller) experienced the limitations of the linear blog format, narrated by one voice, and, where people can contribute, but are still dependent on an author. What came out of the blog was a desire from users to explore the scene in any direction they wanted. As a result, the founders of Sceneroller decided to better reflect the tribal world of music by also mapping the interconnections between bands, musicians, venues, and gigs (which they, in turn added to Che Underground) and let users participate in this encyclopedia at whatever level they could. As I looked randomly, I came across this map, showing the complex interconnections of a San Diego band that was active between 1984 and 1987, The Morlocks.

Morlocks

Bands are represented as blue planets that contain members (red stars) who can be musicians, people from the crew, and even fans. They perform in venues (green rectangles), which are themselves containers for gigs (yellow triangles). This approach addresses the limitations of standard family trees and enables readers to see how bands are related through shared musicians and gigs, and their audience within venues. By enabling users to navigate non-linearly, Sceneroller reveals connections that we may not even think of – and that the participants of those bands themselves may have been unaware of.

Sceneroller shows the long tail of the countless bands that never got signed to anything, got signed to independent labels or even to major labels, but never really made it — a sweet spot that basically corresponds to the music scene as we all know and enjoy it even if we attend the shows of famous bands now and then. The unknown or not-so-famous bands can last for years, even decades, either because their musicians have a day-job or made surviving from hand-to-mouth their lifestyle. But more importantly, they create the breeding ground from which a small minority ends up blossoming, where they honed their skills, or got their inspiration. Kurt Cobain, for instance, was a roadie (and remained a big fan) of The Melvins who started in 1983 and still exist 28 years later… And Sceneroller will also be a catalyst for musicians to meet again, much like with the Che Underground prototype: “We had a reunion concert in May 2009 in San Diego,” says Matthew emotionally. “We hadn’t gotten together in 26 years.”

Manual Scan

As I am exploring this extraordinary product, I can’t help thinking that Matthew, by recapturing the ceremonial aspect of the music scene and its surprising intricacies, is doing on a different register something that is somewhat reminiscent of what his father, the extraordinary American poet Jerome Rothenberg did with his ethnopoetics. Small or short-lived, larger or long-lasting (such as Manual Scan whose two main players started to play together in 1976), these unsung bands have framed the largest part of our music oral culture, whose structure and idioms result from the interactions of musicians, people, and places over time.

Sceneroller is in the making (still in Beta), and the company is fixing bugs or interface details. Graphing the music scene is a huge enterprise, so do not expect to find everything you are looking for. Don’t be pissed but, instead, contribute! You will undoubtedly already find gems that will make you smile: Roger McNamee, for example, or the indirect relationship between Siouxie and the Banshees and The Flowers of Romance via Budgie who played for The Slits with Palmolive … So help others discover such gems! For example, “the map of The Morlocks,” Matthew insists, “is based entirely on input from registered users. ANYONE can help curate music history as long as they’re registered. For us, the participatory nature of Sceneroller echoes the do-it-yourself ethos of local music scenes themselves. This is a digital version of the sort of conversation we all had in our respective music scenes when they first happened!”

Today, Sceneroller starts with rock’n’roll, simply because the founders are rock’n’roll musicians, and reaches back 1949 as the earliest date, but as Matthew puts it “There is no reason why this should be limited. I want jazz musicians to start to tell their story because I want to be open.” And then, Matthew added Philippe Kahn right under my eyes!

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The enchantment of prefacing the French translation of Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment (US translation)

March 8th, 2011 · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

EchantmentGuy Kawasaki’s Enchantment is out today in the US and will be published in French by Diateino at the end of this month. To read the French version of this preface, please go to the Diateino blog. Thanks to my daughter, Sophie Delphis, for translation it into English!

Entrepreneurs, re-enchant the world!

There are people who see the workings of what Max Weber called the “disenchantment of the world,” a sort of inevitable sinking in their daily lives caused by an array of factors – good and bad reasons, from nostalgia for a Golden Age that may never have existed to disillusionment or dissatisfaction with a job. Meanwhile, there are those who believe in the possible re-enchantment of the world, creators and visionaries who want to make a difference – entrepreneurs. They want to enchant, and to share their visions of a better (or rather, bettered) world. As a result, they are able to withstand cynicism, skepticism, stasis, blasé attitudes, and resignation. This is the subject of Guy Kawasaki‘s Enchantment.

The term “enchantment” evokes dreams and myths, and the apparition of miraculous fairies and omnipotent sorcerers. It represents the carefree joy of childhood, when everything still seems possible. We use this word almost inadvertently when we refer to the small marvels of our day-to-day lives: love at first sight, a baby’s smile and its first, tentative steps, or discovering something that previously seemed unimaginable. Almost inadvertently, we realize that the world around us, while giving us grounds for lament, is also rife with ways to fill us with wonderment in which we can abandon ourselves, as well as ways to make others do the same. For example, Skype, a practical tool in a business context, becomes a magical means of bridging divides when used to talk to a far-off loved one.

In order to enchant others, let yourself be enchanted

As adults, we are often reticent to let ourselves be enchanted, mostly because we are afraid to seem overly naïve or gullible. Instead, we fashion aloof personae, believing ourselves to be more intelligent when we protect ourselves with skepticism and condescension. But the more we live within the largely arbitrary confines of this dogma, the more we are limiting ourselves to the status quo, as we become unable to sense the vibrations of innovation stirring both in others and in ourselves. So begins the vicious circle of boredom in which so many blasé self-proclaimed “realists” are trapped: as they shut themselves off from the creative pulse that surrounds them, they are increasingly unable to imagine ways to transform the world that so dissatisfies them, or charm the people from whom they feel alienated. Numb to the sensation of wonderment, they are left with no means to amaze others. Tedium begets tedium, and only boring people are bored.

According to the recently deceased Yiddish poet Avrom Sutzkever (1913–2010), “Childhood alone does not age[1].” You should not allow the capacity to believe a good story that you had as child disappear if you want to be able to enchant others. Whether or not we are willing to admit to being taken aback, fascinated, or amazed by someone or something, allowing ourselves to be, means regaining energy and enthusiasm. We are able to look forward creatively and connect to the people that surround so that they can share in our breakthroughs or happiness. Enchantment is contagious. It is an indispensable starting point, although it is only a starting point: all the artistic interest in the world alone cannot and will not make a Van Gogh of anybody. Nor is it enough to be enchanted to become a great enchanter. Like in any art, the road to excellence follows a simple formula: 10% talent, 90% work. This book’s aim is to help readers in their approach and understanding of the 90%.

Construct your MAGIC

The strength behind any enchanter is MAGIC, or, in other words, his:

  • Mastery: If you have ever seen Steve Jobs on stage, you will agree that he is incredible. This is not necessarily because he has the charisma of an actor, but because he is prepared beyond anything you can imagine.
  • Authority: An enchanter knows what he is talking about; he is competent and strong. He possesses in his rhetoric what the Greeks called ethos (ἦθος): the quality that allows a speaker to capture the attention of his audience and to instill confidence by means of his credibility, his knowledge, and his moral competence.
  • Generosity: An enchanter is able to convey a likeable image because his goal is above to give to his audience, and not to find self-validation or to force people to love and admire him. Instead, he transfers his own power to his public.
  • Imagination: An enchanter sees and understands the environment of the people listening to him in order to overcome their reticence or skepticism, and to open their eyes to greater possibilities.
  • Commitment: Enchantment entails a human relationship, either face to face, or by means of technology. Every enchanter dreams of making a lasting connection, or one whose echo is still present in the people he has reached, either because they still use the product he has showed them years ago, or because they still remember it fondly.

Hone your art

Every chapter of Enchantment is a guide that insists you work on your weak points while strengthening your strong ones. How do you smile? How is your handshake? And so on: these are small details about which you probably no longer think, as deeply entrenched in the definition of yourself as they are. Often, they are so much “in your nature” that they are no longer really in your current nature at all, but merely ghost remnants of what you were a decade ago. Remember that every new pair of eyes you encounter will look upon “you” subjectively as you are in the moment, and not with knowledge of who you once were. Perhaps you have become patronizing without fully realizing it; your smile is no longer a genuine gesture but a vague stiffening around your lips, or your handshake has become a limp motion without any real eye contact or warmth… It is as much work to create enchantment in oneself as it is to create it in others!

Reality Check was a sequel to The Art of the Start. Enchantment is simultaneously a third installment in the series and a sort of prequel. Honestly, if you have no desire to charm anyone, how are you ever going to successfully start a company? From where will you draw enthusiasm for the day-to-day realities of your corporation if you do not see that you must win over and connect with your employees, co-workers, and clients? If you do not let yourself be won over by them in order to renew your own energy and drive? With this in mind, this book is undeniably an important learning tool, rather than a diaphanous essay.

This book presents a set of techniques, which are not necessarily enchanting in and of themselves – the point is not to lull you with rose-tinted storybook fantasies. It is to dissect for you the mechanisms behind the process of enchantment. For instance, Kawasaki’s anecdote about his guests’ reaction to garbage cans at his home is not particularly enchanting (although certainly amusing), but it does bring home a key idea: anticipate people’s reactions in order to influence their behavior! After all, musk can be a revolting smell for many, but it is also the base of some of the most beautiful and attractive perfumes. In this case, the metamorphosis is in the way its parts play within the whole, the MAGIC of the perfumer who brings them all together.

Learn from the MAGIC of others…

… And, of course, start with Guy Kawasaki. He knows what he’s talking about. He is not a university professor orating conceptually on the art of influence or a psychologist dissecting the behavior of human test subjects, although he does draw from such research. He is a practitioner in the art of enchantment – I was struck by this the first time I met him, in 1986. I had just arrived in Silicon Valley, and I had never heard his name. I learned that he was a Macintosh evangelist in the United States, although I wasn’t quite sure what this was supposed to mean. (I was particularly puzzled by the religious connotations of “evangelism,” which was not a word used in this context in France at the time.)

And then, one day, I understood: watching him speak to a group of developers, noticing the way he mixed a genuine desire to win over people with a certain attentive nonchalance. He made telling his story an art form, with such mastery that there was never rigidity in his demeanor, his tone, or his style. He was not trying to impress for the sake of impressing. The focus, although on him, seemed to be guided toward all those who were listening. People came to him easily because they wanted to follow this enchanter. That day I understood how he had won over so many brilliant programmers and maintained their interest in Macintosh even after Steve Jobs’ universally traumatic departure in 1985.

When, the following year, I asked if he wanted to be president of the company I was creating. He answered me “Really?” with a smile – a genuine smile that caused little crows’ feet to appear at the corner of his eyes. Then, quickly, he agreed. But it was not until a few days later that I was really enchanted, when, upon reading a New York Times article, I discovered he was far more famous than I had ever imagined. Real enchanters don’t need to impose their power and renown; they own them and keep them through the elegance of their humility.

If you think I am too partial because I have known Kawasaki for more than twenty years, go hear him talk. You see dozens of individuals who have never met him take a seat in the room, and you see them leave different from how they were when they came in. They are smiling; they are happy. They begin to speak to the people around them. All of a sudden, they find something to share with the world. They have been enchanted, and they are ready to become enchanters in their own right.


[1] “Bloyz di kindheyt vert nit elter”. Thanks to Dory Manor for giving me the source of this quote: Lider fun togbukh (“Poems from a Diary”), Tel-Aviv, 1977.

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Dan Robles: Social capitalism, the alternate economy in the social media era

March 2nd, 2011 · Talents, Innovators

By Marylene Delbourg-Delphis

Dan RoblesThe Future of Money and Technology Summit that took place earlier this week was well attended. Lots of participants and speakers. Lots of sessions happening in parallel, about such topics as financial innovations, crowdfunding and lending, and virtual goods and currency or the monetization of intangible capital. A good balance also between established players such as Intuit or Paypal and startups such as Dynamics or Clearbon. One recurring theme was, quite expectedly, the double-edged value of a heavily regulated system that protects consumers while fostering a lack of transparency that keeps them at bay or lets them down. What’s true in the financial sphere is true for almost any domain. Layers of intermediation have made our lives complicated, and constitute a costly overhead, as well as a waste of resources (that are underutilized). So what prevents us from doing things differently?  In many cases, nothing, according to Dan Robles, the Director of The Ingenesist Project, who also spoke at the conference and took a wider approach by presenting social media as the basis for an alternate economy, “a social capitalism,” which is a meaningful “last mile of social media.”

Social Media is slated to take over when the government’s and industry players’ traditional mechanisms fail or break down. Social media has started to fill their roles; for example, when a program is cut, communities get together to make up for that program. If we stop fearing, idolizing, or simply expecting too much from institutions, there is a lot we can do by organizing and playing what Robles calls the “value game,” which he defines as a “new class of business methods that converts financial currency into social currency and vice versa.”

Any social entrepreneur can start to build a value game when s/he “finds an asset that people are willing to share, and identify three or more communities whose interaction with the asset creates social value.”  The example provided during the conference, SocialFlights, was appealing: why waste unreasonable travel time and money to go from point A to point B simply because the airlines hub system is only optimized to serve corporate bottom lines, not travelers? SocialFlights (a company for which Robles is the Chief Innovation Officer) helps like-minded travelers find each other, to build “travel tribes,” as its chairman Allen Howell puts it. The example definitely resonated with me. In 1993, a group of us wanted to go from Monterey, CA to Death Valley. Using commercial airlines meant a convoluted trip and hotel expenses, while chartering a plane meant 1/10th of the time, a one-day fabulous roundtrip, and half the cost!

Robles‘ “closed-loop innovation economy” is an efficient demand-driven supply/consumption system that is part of the human-network driven mesh economy trend I discussed in an earlier post reviewing of Lisa Gansky‘s book. So, entrepreneurs, jump into the “new value movement:” Dan Robles provides you with all its key concepts, mechanisms and relevant examples. And as he says, “it’s all open-source.”

For more information, also watch multiple interesting videos posted on YouTube.

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Reminder: Entrepreneurs, use OwnYourVenture, an equity simulator to overcome your dilution fears or questions in no time!

February 21st, 2011 · Book Review

DilutionJust saw this morning a RT by David Szetela of Esther Dyson‘s tweet: “Entrepreneurs, before you do the VC or angel deal, take a look: http://bit.ly/9YyFrq.”

Great, great reminder for many entrepreneurs! Don’t wonder, calculate! Do get emotional, calculate! For most entrepreneurs, it’s hard to get funded, and then, when they receive a term-sheet, at the same time they are thrilled, they worry (for good or bad reasons) about dilution, often terrified at the idea that they might have been ripped off. So prepare for that too, anticipate and use OwnYourVenture.com to know what to expect.

This simple tool was created a while back by Bo Fishback, who is the vice president of entrepreneurship for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the president of Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation.

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