One Human, One Block, One Year: An Idea for Solving Homelessness

So file this under pie in the sky, hopeless ideas that have no chance of coming true.

Unless, that is, one person tries to get it going.

NPR published an interesting article the other day about Homelessness in Seattle. One stat stood out: “According to the latest count, in January, more than 3,700 people live on the streets of King County. The number of people sleeping outside shot up by 20 percent in just the past year.”

3,700.

Via NPR

That number sounds enormous when you are thinking about how a government agency could fix the problem. And the government has proven it can’t do it. Here’s another stat from the article, one that should make you pretty mad. “All told, under a 10-year plan put together a decade ago by a public-private partnership called the Committee to End Homelessness, roughly $1 billion has gone to the cause.”

$1 Billion spent in 10 years. 3,700 homeless. At $100 million spent per year, we could just pay every homeless person an annual salary of $27,000 and just close down whatever services are trying to solve the problem.

But 3,700 is also a really small number.

King County has 2.044 Million people. For every 1 homeless person in Seattle, there are 550 non-homeless. This is the math I use to think there’s an opportunity at fixing this problem.

One Human, One Block, One Year
The idea is simple philosophically. Homelessness stops being a macro issue that we need “leaders” and “organizations” to try to solve. Homeless people need to stop being nameless, anonymous shadows that we can easily ignore on the side of the on ramp.

Let’s make homelessness a neighborhood cause. And not just a neighborhood cause, but a block cause.

I’m going to guess that almost every city block contains the following things:
– A house with an unused shed, mother-in-law attachment, garage or other structure that could be fitted with a simple bathroom. (And if not, a group of 20 people who’d split the rent on an apartment for someone.)
– At least one if not more people who hire part-time help.
– Someone who is or knows a psychologist, therapist or life coach.
– A teacher.
– A retired person willing to occasionally give someone a ride.
– Someone who’d spring for a bus pass.
– Neighbors with extra clothing they can give to a specific human.
– People who will donate money to make sure someone they know is well fed.

When you think of the idea that 550 people working together could help a single person get off the street, it seems almost mathematically insane that we have homeless people in the first place.

Now yes, I know that there are gigantic holes in this idea. Addiction, dementia, stubbornness, safety. These are all issues that would have to be dealt with. Then you’d have to get through the government red tape of permits, zoning, etc…

But doesn’t it seem doable? Doesn’t it seem like if everyone who lived on your block assembled for two hours one Sunday afternoon, you could come up with everything you need to get someone a home, a part-time job, a wardrobe, counseling, a bus pass, some education and tutoring, addiction treatment if necessary, and most of all – friends in a neighborhood. Friends who want to see their guest succeed and move on to successfully re-start their own life in 12 months.

That’s my utopian idea. One human, being helped by one block of neighbors, for one year.

Join Me at the American Ad Federation Seattle This Thursday

Well this should be fun. You’ve seen it before. We get 4 people who know everything there is to know about a topic and I ask them a lot of questions for 90 minutes. And try to throw in a joke or two along the way.

Here’s the scoop for this Thursday from the AAF website:


FORTUNE Magazine recently published a survey of the world’s most respected brands. The Seattle area boasts 6 in the top 30.

As marketing and advertising professionals that call the Seattle area home, we are global stewards for the brands by nature of our profession. Join AAF Seattle as we continue the discussion around diversity and multiculturalism from the perspective of driving brand engagement, both from the agency and brand perspective.

We’ll touch on such topics and questions as:

How prepared are we to support billions of consumers that share the Great Circle of the Pacific Rim?
What are the key insights we can share on how to optimize the brand experience and messaging?
What role does multiculturalism play in our ability to connect with consumers?
What works (and may not work so well) when it comes to strategy to addressing diversity in your teams and your advertising message?

Who are the experts? A really strong group.
Ben Rudolph – Director, Sales Evangelism, Worldwide Retail Channel Marketing, Microsoft
Natalie Rouse – CEO, Southern Cross International
Ken Cho – Co-Founder and CEO, People Pattern
Shelly Kurtz – Executive Director, NBC Universal, International Media Distribution

Hope to see you Thursday. Email me if you have a question or topic you want me to sneak in.

How Tidal Goes Against All Current Product Development Theories

I’m not an expert in the music industry. I have no idea what the future olds for Pandora, Spotify, iTunes and now Tidal, Jay-Z’s new streaming service that describes itself as, “Introducing the first music streaming service that combines the best High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and expertly Curated Editorial.”

However, I have spent some time in the last 4 years teaching some classes on marketing new products. I lean heavily on the insight of Steve Blank, because, well he seems like a really smart guy. And Mr. Blank espouses a product development process that leans heavily on the following:
1) Finding a problem that customers have.
2) Developing hypotheses on how the customer wants that problem solved.
3) Testing that solution with as many customers as possible.

You’ll notice that all 3 principles of the process include the term, “customer.”

Tidal seems to use a completely different theory. Summarizing bullets from the Washington Post, Tidal’s offering is based on the following:
1) Consumers will develop a sense of ethics, i.e. a willingness to see musicians actually make some respectable royalties from music streaming, which they currently do not.
2) People will want exclusive content and hear directly from artists.
3) Those who subscribe to the premium service will receive higher sound quality.

Let’s compare the Tidal plan to the Steve Blank plan.
1) Is my problem that I think musicians are underpaid? Do I really care what musicians make on each song I listen to? Probably about as much as I worry that the 1st Associate Director on House of Cards can afford her rent. Or that the Copywriter on AT&T’s Barles Charkley commercial is being paid fairly by his agency.
2) And honestly, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.2 billion bands in the world. if Taylor Swift or Jay-Z stick their music someplace I can’t get it, will I even notice? What problem is being solved by taking music away from my channels of choice?
3) I’d love to see the research that says, “When Andy is at work listening to music on his headphones, what he really wants is higher fidelity music for $250 a year.” Even if this is true for some people, how many? How good can music sound? And won’t I need a pair of $800 headphones to even notice?

This isn’t a bash on Tidal. It’s simply an observation. They are taking avery non-technology product management approach, and that puzzles me because I live in my own little Seattle technology bubble. Obviously with the star power they’ve assembled, the deck is stacked in their favor, so they can skip some of “Lean Startup” type principles. They’ll have great marketing, get lots of exposure and be able to test the product in real time.

More choices for music is better than less, so I hope they do well. It will be interesting to see how their product development plan works out.

Quirky Has Become My Favorite Product Site

I was talking about Quirky.com to a few people this week and was shocked – shocked I say – to hear they hadn’t heard about it.

How to describe Quirky… Imagine every crazy idea you ever had for a product was suddenly being built and you could order it for a pretty good price. Doesn’t that sound like a good deal?

You should visit Quirky. You should buy stuff from Quirky. You should sign up for their newsletters and vote on what products they are going to build next. And then you should take your latest, greatest idea and submit it to them.

Quirky

An Open Letter to MLS and the MLSPU

Dear MLS Players and Owners:

With all due respect, you guys are idiots if you allow this season to start with a strike.

I understand both sides of the issue. Your league is experiencing the most growth it’s ever seen. The players feel they should benefit from all their sacrifice, and the owners feel like this is no time to upset the economic model that finally seems to be working.

You are both right. And you are both wrong.

First, I’m going to explain why the players are out of line for risking the health of their league.

Yes, it sucks that some of the guys in you league are making $40,000 a year and have no ability to switch teams. You want free agency and that seem like a fair request. But here’s the thing – you DO have free agency. There are something like 60-80 professional soccer leagues across the globe. You can go to Norway, low level English leagues, Belgium, India, Turkey, etc… Sure it’s hard to bring your wife and kids to Sweden, but that’s not the guys we’re talking about.

The argument is, “Well most of the guys we’re talking about CAN’T get jobs playing abroad so they should have free agency here.” Well, there’s the problem. If there is no demand for your services abroad, then you aren’t really in a good position to demand things here. Not only that, but you need to think long term. Let’s say minimum salaries get bumped up to $80k and there’s MLS free agency. Well the league suddenly became much more attractive for people who play in Norway, low level English leagues, Belgium, India, Turkey, etc… They HAVE demand from multiple leagues. And now your strike has created a financial plan that gives them reason to explore the U.S. as an option. I fear that some of you will be out of jobs.

On the flip side, I want to explain why I think the owners are out of line for risking the health of their league.

Good god people. If 10 years ago someone said you would be at the level of growth, TV revenue and prestige that you are at now, you never would have believed it. Don’t pat yourself on the backs too much, because you got lucky on a lot of levels. No one expected Seattle to become the financial catalyst that’s driving the league’s revenue engine. And then Portland came in and you had a regional rivalry that other rivalries could try to live up to.

Then you got even luckier. At the same time that every broadcast company decided that they needed they own Sports Network, all the Conferences in the NCAA decided they could keep their rights to themselves and start their own channels. Demand for content far exceeded supply and suddenly we had Barclay’s Premier League games on real channels just about every day. We also had TV deals for the MLS. These sports networks needed content and you were there to oblige.

So yea, you can give in a little to the players here. You don’t have to give in all the way, but you can certainly look at how the NBA has slots for player salaries and work that into some sort of restricted free-agency program. Look at how the NFL uses tricks like Franchise Tags to keep some players from driving up the free agent market. Let teams restrict a certain amount of their young guys. Give teams first chance to pluck unprotected players off teams that poach yours. Be creative. Come up with something.

Because here’s the thing. I’m sorry, but you don’t have the juice to survive a strike. MLB, NFL, NBA – they all suffer but survive work stoppages thanks to the 40-100 years they’ve been embedded in our national fabric. Hockey sat out a whole season and is still feeling the effects.

You have 17 home games – mostly weekend games – that my season ticket group has had to schedule our spring, summer and fall around. Do you realize what a pain in the arse it will be if you make us try to readjust our calendars because you couldn’t come to a consensus on how much profit you want to keep for yourselves vs sharing with the players? We’ll make maybe 2/3 of the games. And it will make us think about how many tickets to buy the following year.

So both of you get your act together and come to a compromise. You have some momentum now. You have a chance to say, “No we’re not like other leagues. We can solve problems because the fans are our most important asset.” Realize that you are a growing league, but recognize where you are in both in the U.S. fabric and the International Soccer landscape. This is the time to hit the accelerator, not slam on self-imposed brakes.

Does Pronto Have Their Pricing Wrong

Since I work downtown a lot, and I am always rooting for startups, I’ve been keeping an eye on the bike-renting service “Pronto.” I think it’s a cool idea, and with enough manipulation, you can kind of shove this square peg into the circle hole of The Collaborative Economy. So that intrigues me as well.

Via DowntownSeattle.com

So this week I wanted to use the service to get about 9-10 blocks across downtown. And here is where I found out that I think they may have a simple to fix problem – pricing.

Pronto will let you rent a bike for 24 hours for $8. It seems like a paltry amount to spend. But I don’t need a bike for 24 hours. I need a bike Car2Go style – for 5 minutes to get to my meeting across downtown, and then an hour later I need it for 5 minutes to get back.

For $8, I can hop in an Uber. For $8 I can buy a sandwich and eat it as I enjoy a 15 minute walk. Sure 8$ is only $.33 an hour. But I only need the bike for 4% of the time in which I can have it. I’d rather pay 5-10x that $.33 per hour rate, and get closer to 70-100% efficiency.

That’s my use case. Maybe I’m unique. But I really want this company to succeed, so I’m curious why the pay by the hour model isn’t a viable alternative. Regardless, there seems to be more and more Pronto stands popping up all over town, so they must be doing something right.

Get Your B2B Questions Answered Tuesday Night

There will be no Super Bowl Commercials featuring dogs and horses promoting a B2B brand this year. Liam Neeson won’t be doing voiceovers Sunday about Enterprise software.

B2B Marketing is the quiet opportunity. Its success is not measured on fluffy numbers like “Followers,” “Retweets” or “Net Promoter Score.” B2B is about leads and sales. Not $.99 sales. $99,000 sales. B2B is sexy in its own unsexy way.

This Tuesday, some great people from the B2B Marketing world will get together at Moz World Headquarters and each share 15 minutes of wisdom. At the end, I’m going to get to ask these experts a few questions panel style. I’m looking forward to it, and if you are into B2B Marketing, I hope to see you there.

www.B2BNowAndNext.com

What is a Winning Football Team Worth to Seattle

There’s a guy at my gym who fancies himself as somewhat of a philosopher. His podium is the sauna, where he knows he has a captive audience of helpless people who have no other place to get a good sweat.

I call him “Sauna Sam” and he adds as much to the world’s philosophical endeavors as I do to nuclear engineering. The beauty of Sauna Sam is that the more conviction he has about a topic, the less he actually knows about it.

How does this relate to football? Bear with me a moment.

For some reason, I have no actual downloaded media on my phone. I live in an all-stream kind of world I suppose. And of course, there’s no internet in the sauna. So how annoying is Sauna Sam? I will actually put on my headset, open up video games on my phone, and listen to the minute long introductory music from the game’s home screen 10 times rather than listen to Sam.

So yesterday I’m fumbling around, desperately trying to find a game with a loud soundtrack, and before I can get there, I have to hear Sam’s latest rant, directed at no one in particular other than that poor sap that made the mistake of making eye contact and now was looking for a back door to sneak out of.

Sam is ranting about how the mainstream media has brainwashed all the pacifists and progressive minds in Seattle to support a sport that is all about barbarianism. He mocks Seattle for spending their money to placate millionaires and billionaires running a fascist business in which people purposely and willfully attempt to hurt each other.

Being the open minded soul that I am, I tried to embrace this line of thought. Concussions are certainly a bad thing. Domestic Violence is definitely bad. Shootings, drug use, steroids, these are all negative things that NFL players can become known for.

So then I looked at the other side. There are very few times in my life when I have felt such irrational exuberance as I did Sunday afternoon in Century Link. At several moments in that game, I shared emotions with 65,000 other people. Surprise at an early Russel Wilson interception, relief that the Packers only had 2 field goals, depression on the interception with 5:00 left, hope when the Seahawks got the ball back, excitement when they scored, celebration when they got the onside kick, pure disbelief when they took the lead, a nervous sigh when they gave up the field goal, a tempered optimism when they won the overtime coin flip, and unbridled jubilation when they got the touchdown.

That my friends, is a roller coaster of human emotions. And I didn’t go through them by myself. I had 65,000 neighbors with me. Throughout those last 5:00, all of strangers hugged, high-fived, stared open mouth in disbelief, danced and smiled like we just learned how.

So obviously, I am one of the brain washed. One of the NFL’s minions who receive joy from watching grown men fight on a field of battle. Right, Sam?

Well I think that idea is garbage. Football is dangerous, not all of the players are upstanding citizens and there are definite health risks you take by being hit by large, structurally sound men in return for a million dollar paycheck.

But barbaric? The Roman Colosseum was barbaric. Dog fighting is barbaric. Football is dangerous. Football takes bravery. But no one is supposed to die playing football.

All of the players on that field were doing things that you and I could never imagine doing. The discipline and training it takes is more than we can comprehend. The 65,000 people sitting in Century Link, and the hundreds of thousands watching at home, wanted their team to be braver, stronger, faster and smarter than the other guys risking their health to win a game. And not just this week, but over the last 18 weeks.

But these are our guys. And we’re proud that they wear a Seattle jersey. And so we will do whatever small part we can to contribute. That means being loud when the team needs a pick me up. It means being louder when we can affect the other team. It means losing all sanity and rational thought and truly believing we are part of the team, the collective 12th man.

And that’s what the team means to the city. We all have our different political views, jobs, education, etc… But Seattleites – and the region around us – all have a singular bond if we choose to embrace it. We are the 12th Man. Together. It makes us stronger as a city, and closer as a population.

It’s too bad Sauna Sam wants to focus on the negative. He is really missing out on how cool it is to be part of this community.

The Best Company You Don’t Know You Need

I don’t shill for companies very often. And I am getting no benefit for this.

But I love RePC. (Google Map)

Now maybe you are one of those super careful people who never do anything dumb like accidentally back over your laptop bag after scraping the snow off your car, or accidentally have your laptop bag fall out of the back of an SUV. Maybe you never have a need to get your laptop screen replaced.

But maybe you do. And if you do, you want to take it to RePC. If they have the screen in stock (which they often do), the whole thing is less than $100. If they have to buy it from somewhere else, maybe $150. If you can find the right screen yourself somewhere, then they’ll do the install for like $40.

Of course, they do all kinds of other things for people have different kinds of laptop issues. So next time you have some computer calamity, give these guys a shot. They are just down by Safeco Field. Super nice, really helpful and really fair.