Stories You Missed – January 2017

We all can’t read everything, and our Facebook feeds are now overrun with political arguing. So to make things easy for you, I’ve assembled some of the stories from last month about tech, marketing, sports and Seattle that you may find interesting.

  1. Three Sounders FC Departments Honored with 2016 MLS Club and Executive Awards: Congrats to the team members who don’t wear jerseys. Sounders FC tied for the lead among all clubs with its three awards: Corporate Partnerships Team of the Year, Marketing Team of the Year and Public Relations Team of the Year. I don’t know how these awards are judged, but if you enjoy your time at Sounders games, these groups probably play a big role.
  2. After Buyouts, Layoffs, 23 Staffers Exit ‘Seattle Times’: Well if you think that the national newscasts are a series of partisan wonks arguing talking points back and forth, then you won’t like this article. The newspapers still can’t figure out a business model, which means more cuts to local journalists. If you have an idea for how to save local news, you’re running out of time to share it.
  3. Dramatic video footage shows drone circling and then crashing into Seattle’s Space Needle: Well I guess this is why we can’t let everyone just fly their drones around all the time…
  4. The latest Amazon-occupied building sale shows how far Seattle real estate has come in last decade: If you think your house or apartment is expensive, imagine trying to buy an office building in Seattle these days. One of Amazon’s 290,000 square foot office buildings just sold for $269 million – or about $925 a square foot. That compares to $1.85 Million for your 2000 square foot house.
  5. Venture Investment in Seattle Area Companies Falls 27 Percent in 2016: It was a mixed bag of news about how much money investors poured into Seattle companies in 2016. On the downside, for the full year, investors poured just over $1.5 billion into 282 local deals, down 27 percent and 23 percent, respectively, from 2015. But on the upside, the fourth quarter of 2016 saw 77 local deals completed, totaling $561.3 million, compared to 81 deals totaling $190.6 million in the same period of 2015, and the final six months of 2016 saw a combined 157 deals, up 26 percent from the first half of the year, and $919.7 million invested, up 58 percent.

Oh and the Seahawks lost. But we don’t need to rehash that.

Have a good story to share? Email me and let me know.

Should We Provide Free College Tuition

I’m seeing this topic brought up more and more. College is too expensive and even the middle class can’t afford it anymore. And those who come out of school with a mountain of debt will never be able to own a house, much less have enough discretionary income from the low paying jobs they’ll earn with their degree.

So the easy answer is to make college cheaper – or even provide college for free. It works in countries like Sweden, so could it work here?

Well the 1st thing that would have to happen would be a gigantic increase in taxes. Someone still has to pay the professors, administrators, janitors, etc… who make the school run.

But suppose in the short-term, we had a hybrid model that solves a specific problem for one sector of U.S. Business.

Let’s provide education that is free – but on loan – to people who choose to enter a track specific for math, science, engineering or computer programming. Here’s how it would work.

  1. Test into a program for aptitude or potential ability in the subjects, not existing grades or knowledge. Any age.
  2. Choose a specialized track includes some General Education but really focuses on the technical subject matter.
  3. Like the military, mandate required service time to pay off the loan. One suggestion: within 8 years of graduation, require 2 years of part-time teaching at a community college, high school or workshop level. This will help with the burden that we have a lack of professionals who can teach these subject matters. It also gives graduates a full 6 years to get their career situated and mature as adults who can mentor others.
  4.  If the graduate has made enough money to pay off the loan, they can spend money rather than time in service. That money would be able to hire others who wanted to teach.
  5. The tech companies would be asked to underwrite some portion of the project. You’d want to make the numbers work so that overall, the cost of recruiting technical talent would decrease even after their financial commitment. They’d be investing smart money to grow the labor pool rather than paying premium salaries and recruiting commissions in a battle for scarce resources.

I don’t know how the numbers would net out, but I’m not in government. Maybe someone will read this and see if the math works.

Any other thoughts? Email me.

What We Are Going to Do in 5 Years With All Those Non-Driverless Cars?

I’m not really a car guy. I like when other people have really nice cars, and I could certainly afford to have a nice car, but for some reason I’m wired to be perfectly happy driving the same Acura for the last 16 years. But 16 years is a long time and the reality is that my car will die someday. So I have started looking around for my next automobile.

However, my research hit a snag almost the moment I started. You see, everything I read is that driverless cars are somewhere between 5 and 10 years away. Which begs the question? Why on earth would I buy a regular car today, if no one will want to buy it when the driverless versions start coming out?

And the bigger meta-question is, what the heck will happen to the millions and millions of regular automobiles out there? Here are some options.

  1. Some really smart people are going to figure out how to transform regular cars into driverless ones. Or, I suspect the GM, Ford, Acura, Toyota, etc… will all figure out a way to do it.
  2.  In 3 to 5 years, leasing becomes such an attractive option that there’s just no reason to buy a new car. You’ll have one last regular car for 3-5 years and in your next lease you’ll get a driverless one.
  3. There will be an amazing glut of really nice 5 year old cars on the market.  In 2022, the supply of 2019 BMW’s will so outpace the demand that people who don’t choose a driverless option will be able to get a car that’s nicer than anything they ever thought they could afford.

But the crux of the issue is this. What do I do? Do I just wait until my car dies? Or do I hope it lasts 5 more years and be the first kid on the block with a driverless car? Thoughts?

7 Fun Facts About the St Vincent and the Grenadines Soccer Team

The U.S. Men’s National Team starts its World Cup Qualifying run vs St Vincent and the Grenadines tonight. Who the heck is the the St Vincent and the Grenadines soccer team? Well, here are some fun facts.

1) The island is here.

2) The country has 109,373 people. That is approximately 321,905,480 less people than there are in the U.S. For perspective, the United States has 4,186,778 registered soccer players.
3) Assuming the team has a standard 23 players, .021% of the country’s population is on the National team, or 1 out of every 4,750 people.
4) The team is ranked #129 in the world. That’s actually better than Luxembourg (146), New Zealand (159) and India (172).
5) There is an actual St Vincent and the Grenadines Professional Soccer League. It features the Toni Store Jugglers, Prospect United, Avenues United, Fitz Hughes Predators, JG & Sons Stingers, Camdonia Chelsea, System 3, Zodiac Football Club, Nemwil Hope International, Digicel Jebelle, Besco Pastures and K&R Strikers.
6) Two members of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Soccer Team, Myron Samuel and Oalex Anderson, play for Sounders FC 2. Put that in this perspective – the man with the most games played and most goals scored for this country, plays on the minor league version of the Sounders. If Oneil Fisher was from SVG, he could be a starter.
7) In the qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup, they were eliminated in the 2nd round, going 1-2-3 vs Guatemala, Belize and Grenada.

I’ve Become One of “Those” People, and You Guys Can’t Drive

I like to think that at my advanced age, I have the ability to shift opinions. To change my mind. To “evolve,” as it were.

For years, I did not understand the concept of riding a bike to work. I found it non-sensical. Foolish and childish even.

But then about 3-4 weeks ago my doctor explained some things that were going to happen to me in the coming years if I did not lose a fairly significant amount of weight. And he wasn’t saying things like, “Wow you are going to feel great!”

So I left his office, went to the bike store, and bought myself a new way to commute to the office. I’m now one of “those people” who are in the way when you are driving to work.

What I’ve learned

Now I’m in no way an expert yet. I’ve maybe done the Wallingford to Downtown Cannonball Run about 8-10 times. But here are some initial impressions.

1) You people can’t drive. I never noticed it before, but there really is no consistency from one driver to another. You make crazy left turns out of nowhere, pull over in bike lanes (it doesn’t matter if your hazards are on, I still can’t jump over you), block interceptions at red lights, and nose your car out into the middle of the road. Bring on the driverless cars.
2) Texting and driving is seriously dangerous. There aren’t a lot of things a biker finds scarier than seeing someone in a car with their face buried in their cell phone. We have no idea where you are headed, if you see us, or what you are going to do.
3) We need more bike lanes. On my way in, I zip down Stone to 34th to Dexter to Bell to 2nd and it’s a breeze. On my way out of town, inexplicably you can’t head back UP 2nd very far. So I have to weave through buses, cars and/or pedestrians on 3rd and Blanchard to get back to a safe path.
4) Some bikers are really decent humans. Contrary to my previous belief about bikers being traffic-causing, egotistical, stubborn jerks, a lot of bikers are pretty nice. We usually end up in a nice little pack around stop lights. There’s safety in numbers and we’re all more visible when we’re traveling in a flock. Usually everyone is following traffic rules, being courteous to drivers, and being safe.
5) Some bikers are total jerks. Nothing is more frustrating to a rookie biker like me than seeing some yahoo zipping through traffic, slinging between lanes, ignoring street signs and signals, and generally creating chaos. For the record, I’m the guy following every rule, doing everything like you’d expect the guy on the bike to do. Bikers who flaunt the fact that they are on a bike scare me because they make you unpredictable.
6) The time is comparable. On an average day at rush hour, driving 6 miles downtown plus parking takes me about 25-30 minutes door to desk. On a bike, 30-35.

Ok, I’m a cheater
So here’s the thing. I’m not in good enough shape to get up Stone Way. And I don’t like the idea of being stuck at 8mph in traffic. So I bought an electric bike. I’m an absolute believer in these things.

The electric bike is great because you really only use it up hills, or if you need to maintain a consistent speed of 15-20 mph. You can shut it off if you’re by yourself and can go at your own pace. And maybe one day when I’m in better shape I’ll be able to keep it off altogether. But if you are considering becoming a bike commuter, look into the electric bike. It will help get you off the fence.

So there you go
So I’m a convert, at least when I can be. It’s still totally impractical for anyone who needs to wear a suit or pick up the kids after work. But there might be a good number of you who could pull it off.

And try that electric bike.

Saving Greece and Soccer at the Same Time

In case anyone wonders, this is a completely facetious comment. I don’t honestly believe this is a good idea… But in a make believe world, here’s how you could save Greece and International Soccer at the same time.

Qatar buys Greece.

Think about it. It’s win-win-win-win.

Win 1: Qatar gets the recognition it desires.
Qatar has a ton of money that it can’t spend. They want to change their image and have a larger presence in terms of global awareness. By buying Greece and renaming it “North Qatar,” they get all of the history that comes with it. Just like Gary Payton is somehow the leading scorer in Oklahoma City Thunder history, North Qatar would be where the Olympic games originated. Zeus and the rest of the Qatari gods lives on Mt. Olympus in North Qatar. And where would the world be without the contributions of famous Qataris such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle?

Win 2: Greece pays off its debt.
The banks want to get paid. The Greeks don’t want to pay anyone back. Qatar has dump trucks of cash sitting in gold plated garages. Let’s redistribute some of that cash and keep the country – and Europe – from collapsing.

Win 3: We don’t have to play soccer in 120 degree weather.
The 2022 World Cup can stay in Qatar – it’s just going to be played in North Qatar. (Except they’ll make Germany and the U.S. play their games in South Qatar out of spite.) Tourists will now want to attend the games. And Qatar can send all those poor abused migrant workers home.

Win 4: FIFA moves to North Qatar
Nothing significant in the world can happen without it benefitting Sepp Blatter in some way. This works for him. Qatar can revoke any extradition treaties it has with the U.S. and FIFA can build a 200,000 square fit office complex overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Could it happen? Of course not. Should it? Hmm….

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.

Advice for New Grads Seeking Those “Jobs” Things

Young people seem to like to ask me about how to get a job. Sometimes I think they don’t really want my advice and just want me to actually “give” them a job, but I get asked all the same.

So here are a few quick thoughts for you new grads. In no particular order.

1) No one wants to “give you a job.” People do want you to “work for them.” These are two completely different sentences and they mean totally different things. If you can’t figure out the difference, then you may want to ask someone.

2) Hiring Managers expect you to bring a skill to the role. It’s your first job. No one expects you to be an all-star. What they want is to see that you have some skill – or set of skills – that they can add to their team that makes the overall team better. Know what you are best at, and get even better. In an interview be able to clearly articulate that you are able to solve some sort of problem that the manager has, because your skill set enables you to do so.

3) If you want to work in a start-up for a career, there is a lot of value in working in a huge company first. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. But working in a large, successful company gets you the following: A nice large network of colleagues to call upon later in your career, experience doing things the right way, an understanding of how large companies work so you know how to sell to them later, a nice brand name on your resume that indicates you *could* work in a big company if you wanted, and finally, stable money that you can sock away in a savings account, so you can take a risk later. Side note: Nothing is more liberating than money in the bank. Nothing is more chilling than being forced to work for someone you don’t like because the rent is due.

4) Your first job is probably going to kind of suck. Here’s why. You’re the low pup on the totem pole. That means your boss is second lowest, and that it’s probably their first time managing people. They will have some managerial growing pains. They’ll also be worried about their own boss 90% of the time and trying to figure out how to get promoted. So you probably will end up flipping from being ignored to being micro-managed based on what your boss just got told by their boss. Accept that this is going to be part of the game, so look for a boss that you like, no matter what the company is like.

5) Interview EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to work there. Go practice. Nothing is more humbling than not getting an offer at a company you didn’t want to work for. But it will help you figure out how to nail the interview you really want.

6) Work for a product, customer base or marketplace you care about. It’s the natural truth. If you don’t like your customers, you can’t do your job. I once worked someplace where the customers were all rich, arrogant, conceited and hard to deal with. Do you know how little I felt like helping them? You can’t do good work unless you have an affinity for what you are doing. So at least identify early who it is that you want to be associated with.

In a nutshell – To “work” for someone, find a skill you are great at, optimize it, sell yourself everywhere, and try to find a manager you like in an industry you care about, no matter how large or small the company. Then save some money, build a nest egg, and never have to fear a lack of a job again.

The Importance of Your Talents vs Your Resume

I’ve been doing more thinking recently about the role a resume (or LinkedIn Profile) plays in your job search. What is the perfect blend of connections, qualifications, overall talent and past experience?

Coincidentally, today Forbes released its annual 30 under 30 lists. Highlighted in the Marketing list is Seattle’s own Andrew Dumont.  This inclusion did not surprise me in the least.  It’s a great honor and well deserved.

Andrew_Dumont_ForbesIt reminded me of the time I first met Andrew. I was a Principal at another social media agency at the time, and no less than 3 members of the team said, “You have to meet this guy. Super bright.” I was curious why his resume never made it to my desk despite everyone having such great things to say about him, so I inquired.

Our Office Manager was the gate keeper for incoming resumes. This person had certain skills and an ability to color inside the lines, but little ability to do any creative or lateral thinking, and sometimes even struggled if forced to make a decision on which crayon to choose. It turns out a hard and fast mandate had been implemented, “No college degree, no interview.” So despite Andrew’s entrepreneurial successes and social media prowess, our gate keeper would not allow us to talk to him.

But too many people told me I had to meet Andrew, so I chose a day when the gate keeper was on a holiday and invited the 20 year old in.  It became clear within 30 seconds that we couldn’t hire him – we’d just never be able to afford him.  I knew what we paid our junior team members and he was worth 2-3x that. I knew we’d never be able to make the numbers work, but I was really glad my colleagues had made the introduction.

Years later, I’m an old guy who pays attention to Andrew’s successes and tries to learn from him. It doesn’t matter if I have more experience – he’s the one wearing X-ray glasses that cut through the clutter and can see the future. But not only that, he makes time to support the Seattle start-up community. I’ve been able to interview him for a couple of panels, and he’s supported my class at the UW whenever I’ve asked.

So tying this back to the original topic: Talents vs Resume.  A good HR person is recruiting talent that can add value to the future of company. And the easiest scorecard or scouting report to read is a resume. But a resume is usually just a recap of the past. It is not necessarily a predictor of future events. The HR person wants to see what your talents are, and if those talents translate into something their team needs. So you had a job at big company X. That’s great. It shows you can get a job. But what talent did you bring to the team? How much did the team win? What else did you learn while you were there?

Some people have outstanding talents that have never been showcased in a professional environment for whatever reason – bad managers, shrinking industry, crisis management, etc… Some great strategists spend their early careers putting out fires instead of planning the company’s future. But you have a ton of non-resume opportunities to showcase the talents you can bring to a company. Writing, volunteering, starting side projects, mentoring, being mentored, etc…

In a nutshell… When I met Andrew he was clearly talented, and we had an Office Manager that discriminated against him for not having the right resume. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones. But then there were other companies that evaluated his potential, not his past. And now he’s in Forbes as a 30 under 30 winner.

Moral of the story: Managers – Look for the talent, not the resume. Job seekers – Showcase your talents and don’t let a resume hold you back. This equation adds up to the right HR people hiring the right young talent. And companies full of talent and potential are the ones you end up seeing on CNBC.