Sunday, April 22, 2018

Seattle Group Discusses Application and Impact of Blockchain for Small Business

Our great host and leader, Andrew Sengul, led Richard Webb, Reba Haas, Eric Veal, Bruce Follansbee, Dr. Tom Louwers, Thomas Mercer (new job as Assistant Director to UW MBA programs!), and marketer/professor/smart guy Mike Pritchard in a very interesting conversation about blockchain. 

Andrew spoke to the changes that blockchain will bring and how it may impact our businesses and lives.  Andrew is a genius, I’m pretty sure.  I haven’t verified it but in every conversation I continue to be reminded of how much more he knows about most subjects than I do.  Andrew is opinionated, smart and self-assured.

Andrew gave us a printed handout to follow covering a blockchain history, a comparison of blockchain technologies, what it means for our businesses and what it means for us.  As is normal at the events, he was regularly interrupted with questions and inquiries from the guests and participants.  He handled the inputs well and we left the evening with a new level of understanding about this particular technology and it’s impact on us.

Mr. Sengul spoke to us of the history of blockchain and noted that there were predecessors to BitCoin like DigiCash and HashCash and predecessor alt-coins like Ethereum and the like.  Proof of work is one of the core attributes of these systems and other schemes include proof of duration and proof of stake.  These are high level attributes that set the style and applications of the technology.  There are many applications of blockchain other than cryptocurrencies and those domains are still being explored heavily and in new ways. 

Andrew helped us understand what the idea of a crypto currency ‘wallet’ is and how the exchanges are typically holders of wallets on end users’ behalf.  But end users can have their own wallets.  The consequence of which is more computing resources required to run the basic peer-to-peer distributed transaction ledgers.  A single wallet today takes up about 170 GB of space which is not ridiculous for a modern home computer system but at the same time is not a load that the average user would want to run.

The technologies were compared by Sengul and discussion and input ensued.  He  shared information about consensus mechanisms, integrity strategies, obstacles (such as transaction cost, transaction time, regulation, attacks and resource requirements).  We talked through a few of the popular technologies like BitCoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Monero and Hyperledger.  Linux, IBM and T-Mobile are big backers of Hyperledger, for example.   

We discussed the $4B price tag for someone to try to take down Bitcoin now.  It doesn’t sound all that high given all the billionaires and power kings in the world today. 

The meaning of crypto currency and the blockchain technology is interesting.  For example, benefits include getting around central agencies including governments and banks, getting investment capital via initial coin offerings (ICOs) and the secure storage of open data and its associated verification in a peer network. 

There are a variety of challenges with blockchain technologies now and the associated regulation that has come and will increasingly come.   As evidenced by Mark Zuckerberg’s recent visit to the US Congress, the world is not yet ready to see or understand the implications of big data at a very low level of detail.  Stupid questions get asked and it’s hard for people to comprehend the power and enormity of data.  Blockchain adds an interesting element of control and visibility to proprietary models of data capture, storage and transmission. 

Cryptocurrencies are an aspect of the blockchain but not an essential property.  Many of the blockchains rely upon an underlying cryptocurrency to give “gas” to the process like in the case of Ether.  New metaphors and businesses are being built and it’s exciting.  And disruptive.  And new. 
We are starting to see private blockchains, new encryption methods, new related technologies and business models.  People wonder if these things are ponzi schemes and some may very well be.  For example, Ripple is perceived by some as a government and traditional way to give a consumer “blockchain” tomany but in reality it does not use the same technology and benefits as have been created by Bitcoin and its ilk.  Regulation and rip-offs will come. 

Join us Tuesday, April 24, 2018 for conversation with host Berry Zimmerman about that which keeps us human.  We are up against an onslaught of incredibly compelling technologies and need to continue to carve out the niche of humans and individuals in a rapidly changing environment as we have always done.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The AppsJack Way

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My first real business project was in 1996 when I built a marketing website for my dad's business, Anacortes Brass Works.  ABW sells large runs of belt buckles to businesses, primarily, and the website was a real boon.  It was a fun project.

Through the nineties, friends and I built a lot of websites to learn the new medium. 

From 2000 to present, I work by day in the Fortune 10 as a business advisor.  My skills are technology and transformation.  I work with some of the largest brands in the world to figure out how to use more data and education to transform and mature their businesses efficiently.

On the side, I love helping local entrepreneurs advance their causes.  There is Chris, Pete, Lee, Ted and many other friends who I've been lucky to help  move the needle on their ideas and their careers.

I'm not a coach, exactly, but I think I am motivational; at least I've been told so.  I have master's degrees in Information Systems (business + the internet) and Business Administration.  I am a certified Project Management Professional.  I have been doing business consulting professionally since 2005 when Siemens Corporation made me an internal consultant.  And realistically I have been helping businesses grow and advance since high school when I first started to understand my parents' businesses and their associated challenges.

Last year, on the side, we helped a local businessman named Ted Clark reinvent his data service business.  Ted was  providing a variety of services to people but with no real direction or theme and found it hard to build up a pipeline of clients.  He wanted to figure out how to better market himself.  With a partner, Steve, who was good at marketing technology, we worked with Ted to devise ways for Ted to target clients.  We selected users of the popular Shopify online store and refined the market even further from there.  With that project, we helped Ted identify his target audience, hone is products and services and provide a unique service that scaled.  Ted's sales increased greatly and he's been able to grow his business much more easily from that point forward.

AppsJack's latest project is working with a Woodinville-based friend, Lee, to scale his new business called Shape My Grip.  SMG has a patented grip for bicycles that will hopefully eventually move into other sports and healthcare applications.  A partner, Sebastian, and I are coming in as business consultants to sell more of his products faster, using Amazon and Fulfillment by Amazon.

AppsJack is best at providing product management services to its customers.  We help them understand their market and defined products and product releases aimed at capturing A) money and B) knowledge about what people want.  We drive hard to advance product development and innovation. 

We partner with business owners to accelerate their sales and advance their careers, all in the name of fun, partnership and profitability.

Many people are not very confident marketing themselves or their products.  It can be nerve-racking and stressful.  We partner very closely to support our clients, make them feel good, make them feel confident and help them make the right decisions to mature their products and move their businesses ahead.

AppsJack works with a very high sense of urgency and the latest technologies to define and advance the agendas of our clients while skillfully mitigating key risks.

The requirements for pulling off this kind of services business at scale are:

  • A great team.  We have a network that includes some of the most amazing talent around in all fields of business development from hard to soft skills in all industries.
  • The best from technology.  None of this would be possible without technology.  We stay abreast of the latest technologies and implement where and when we can with out clients.
  • Clients who inspire us.  Our clients come from a variety of walks but are generally seasoned business people who are ready to go out on their own or advance a product or service they have already started.  We work with them to help set the vision, understand the impediments and give a huge boost toward their goals.
  • Flexible compensation arrangements.  We are willing to work for profit-sharing, for example.  So that clients don't have to stomach huge up-front costs as we get going accelerating their business or project, we help align on incentives for everyone to win.
  • Unusual focus on community.  AppsJack organizes regular meetings and spends a lot of time out in public, including volunteer work with great causes.  

Contact us today if you'd like to hear more about our project and what we're building here in Seattle and the Eastside.

~ Eric

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Latest in e-Commerce Tools, Tech and Techniques from Pros in Seattle

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We showed up at an e-Commerce Meetup in Seattle last night and learned a lot.  The group is called Seattle Profit Pirates Mastermind Group - Ecommerce & Amazon Entrepreneurs and was meeting at a coffee shop on Capitol Hill.  We got a lot of tool and tech recommendations and met some thought leaders in the field.  Here are some details for all you e-Commerce and digital marketing people out there.

Terapeak shows you what to sell online.  MerchantWords helps you find more buyers.  Google Adwords is a classic and key tool.  Many people use Facebook to create ads and funnels.  Text / SMS is another technique for capturing emails.  Shopify was considered to be the best e-Commerce tool.  James who runs Wooly Clothing and was telling us about Amazon's practice of  Brand and Category Gating.  Benjamin, who runs the group, was asking about Liquidation services.  He said he's tried FoxBox.  I mentioned Alternativeto.net as a method of finding technologies in a category to support a business process or function. 

We didn't talk about but I was reminded of Mautic, HubSpot and my buddy with Conversion Wizards.  Benjamin says it's important to consider Cost Per Email as a metric.  He also mentioned that MailChimp has an advanced, for pay, feature that provides additional metadata for email addresses to extend marketing.

James was asking about managing multiple channels and Benjamin swore by Skubana, a multi-channel inventory management system, which is $1,000/mo.  He says it's well worth it if you have the volume. 

Flexport, a freight forwarding method, and Keepa, an Amazon price tracker, were also mentioned as useful tools. 

Thanks to all attendees.  Great event and lots to learn.  A whole new domain and area to explore.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lindsey Coen-Fernandez of Advantage Performance Group Shares Some Wisdom

We just caught up with Lindsey Coen-Fernandez of Advantage Performance Group.  Lindsey is an inspiring entrepreneur and leader in the area of organization development.  I went to one of Lindsey's workshops just before Christmas and had a great time.  Here's our follow up items based on the call with her:

Lindsey has an upcoming workshop she'll be putting on around the May time frame and stay tuned for that.  She believes the will likely be "The Neuroscience Behind Decision Making".  I had never heard of an "analytic network coach" and that's her specialty.  Sounds good.  I can see how helping people with decision making is a very key skill for facilitators.  I typically list options with pros and cons and a recommendation or argument, for example.  David Slight's BDN model and our causality conversation topics for this year sound similar as well.

Lindsey's target market is $100M to $500M businesses: not yet enterprises but rather well established.  She is seeking more business in the NW and has traveled extensively, globally for years.  She also produces webinars.

I plan to connect her with my friends John and Toni from the US Forest Service who run the National Facilitator Cadre when I worked with them back in 2012.  Also, I will connect her with the new Environmental subgroup that formed out of Indivisible Eastside.  Check out IE!  

Lindsey recommended a meetup to me (I shared my involvement in the Corruption subgroup for IE) called "Let's Talk About Race" from DNDA.  I commented to her how Race and Security topics coincide a great deal.  I have a list of local Security experts that I maintain it would be fun to get them together and involved.
Lindsey also recommend Andy Storch who has a podcast called Entrepreneur Hot Seat and a company called "The Hustle", which produces a daily newsletter about the latest tech and business info for millennials and are making good money with their business model.
Thanks to Lindsey to all of her great wisdom.  Check her out! 


Sunday, January 7, 2018

The yin and yang of content and its consumption

I had an interesting thing happen to me the other day that has given me some new ideas and inspiration.  I was at work and was talking to a coworker who had heard about my food blog (French dip sandwiches) and he said that it was his plan to go and eat some of the best ones.  I thought it was funny that he would do this, good for him, and I guess I was a little proud that he'd do that at all.  It will be fun to hear about his experiences and whether or not he agrees with the reviews.

But this idea of his made me realize that I was missing something.  "Recommendations" are an interesting thing.  I know the founder of this project Take Action Network and he's working with political action organizations to help them promote the political actions that people can do and make it easy for people to find, sign up for and do actions that are meaningful to them.  I run a meetup group and I want people I meet to be able to find our activities and events and sign up for them.  And I want people to be able to do this thing that Reed plans to do which is signing up for and eating a bunch of sandwiches (and then providing feedback).  In all, this leaves us with the following activities that people need to be able to do in a couple of roles.

  • Role: content creator
    • Actions
      • Make content
        • Event
          • A meetup
          • A podcast recording
        • Recommendation - like French dip sandhiches
          • People could sign up for it / say they want to do it
          • They could do it
      • Be a content consumer
  • Role: content consumer
    • Actions
      • Look for / at content
      • Sign up for things
      • Give feedback
      • Create content (become a content creator)
Yin yang, yo!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What AppsJack Could Be

AppsJack is exploring ways to take the AppsJack Podcast and Share IRL events to the next level.  Simply, both offerings have topics, hosts and guests.  Blog posts get written and tweets get created and released.  People get invited and RSVP to participate in the events.  People take photos, have a good time and learn, they share contact info.

There's a problem in the market now between compliance (companies requiring applicants to have great resumes, educations and experiences) and capability (what a candidate can actually do).   Our employers are screwed up right now with this issue and are mismanaged, too.  There are many talented candidates out there who are finding it hard to win jobs.  And there are many talented consultants who aren't connecting with potential paid clients for a variety of reasons.

Hosts, organizers, writers and guests of the AppsJack Podcast and Share IRLs are good for:

  • Learning from others
  • Showing skills
  • Practicing skills
  • Demonstrating excellence and expertise
  • Growing an audience
  • Make your resume and story more compelling and relevant
  • Promoting ideas and individuals
AppsJack is committed to helping members of the community grow, learn and develop.  AppsJack creates free events and opportunities for ambitious individuals to get out there and change the world.  Join us today.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cool Event: Culture Counts - Event Recap

I attended an excellent, uplifting event with my friend Hsuan-Hua Chang on Tuesday called "Culture Counts".  It was led by a very fascinating woman, XXX.  The leader was from South Africa originally and has lived in 15 countries.  She has gathered many principles and practices that she now shares with organizations to help them create environments and experiences that help people be their best and perform optimally.  It was an inspirational topic and very professionally led.

When I showed up at the place in Ballard after work, I was amazed by the impressiveness of the facility: it was someone's house that they had rented, but by no means your typical, run of the mill house at all.  The inside of the structure was large and sprawling and open and lovely.  It was in an industrial neighborhood but once you were inside you felt like you were in a womb.  The large, open structure was expertly decorated and arranged with beautiful artwork and laid out in a very interesting and intentional way.  Our hosts were kind and provided us with hot cocoa and warm greetings on entry; it was the week before Christmas indeed and a large Christmas tree greeted us as well. 

About 20 of us arrived and the session began as we sat around a large table called the culture table.  We were led and asked to write down three things on post-it notes with colored Sharpies: 1) the first word that came to our minds when we entered the space 2) the reason we were there 3) three things that spoke most to us when we walked around the room and took in the experiences.  We were asked to share our findings with peers and soon learned that each of our reactions, perceptions and beliefs were quite unique and different from those around us.  For example, Marc shared that he liked the exposed brass pipes which I had looked right past and still didn't mind.  Another person shared that they loved a jellyfish painting that did nothing for me.  I stated that I liked the kitchen, the velvet couches and the open space.  A third person, Russell, explained that he felt dwarfed when we walked into the space but my feeling was the exact opposite: it made me feel great since I am quite tall.  We learned that we were all quite different and experiencing things in very different ways; we were diverse.

The leader explained some of what was happening: she said that the soul of a building is not the artifacts or thing itself but rather what we, the people, bring into it: our senses, observations, selves and stories. 

It was a great event and we had a lot of good nuggets: culture could be the corresponding personality of a place or group.  We read stats about just how important happy workers are and the many negative consequences of unhappy workers.  We learned that culture always has a purpose or goal.  A culture is the soul of an organization or group.  A few questions came up for me: Is culture the sum total of the intangible benefits and beliefs of an org?  Is culture the compensation, benefits and value that people receive from a group that come for free, organically and naturally?  The goal of creating and influencing a good culture is to have people become the best versions of themselves and sustainably do the best work of their lives.  Some degree of bottoms-up, organic, authentic culture is required and we talked about the idea of leading from the edge.  The idea of an organization's edge is important and is a major place from which change can and does happen.  Yes, organizations do indeed have centers and tops and power structures but also, each person, on the edge may be armed with the same tools and power and ability to influence people and shine a light on opportunities and possibilities.  Taking steps can be risky and sometimes we just need to plunge in.  We can take calculated, planned, intentional  steps that have fallback plans, too.  Or we can just say screw it, go for it and see what happens.

We broke out into small groups to discuss ratings we created of the cultures in our organizations.  In my small group, there was one area where we all agreed was weak in each of our areas: managers.  And we talked about the role of managers and the org for creating a space that feels safe and inspiring. 

We watched a video about a non-profit in Seattle that helped the homeless and then met the star of the video, the founder of the non-profit and got to hear more about her story. 

In all, it was a wonderful, well-planned and executed event.  Thanks to Hsuan-Hua and all the others I met.  I look forward to getting to know the speaker more as well.