Tossing 15 Things a Day

My friend Liz told me that she has a pact with herself. She throws away 15 things a day. It could be 15 pieces of paper, 15 paper clips or 5 shirts and 10 paper towels. It doesn’t matter. 15 things go into the trash (or charity bin).

She said it’s not that hard to do, and less painful than a whole day of spring cleaning.

By the end of the week, she’s tossed 105 things.
By the end of the month, 450.
By the end of the year, 5400.

Maybe I can’t do 15, maybe I can only start with 10. But I am going to start to do that today.

My Dumb Idea to Help with Homelessness

If you were to line up all the causes I wish I could support more, Homelessness comes to the front.  It’s not that I think it is more or less worthy than others, but it feels like something we should be able to make more progress against.

Every time I go into my neighborhood QFC, I pass between 1 and 3 homeless people asking for money.  One man stands at the front of the store with a “Homeless Vet” sign, one woman sits across the street by the parking lot and occasionally there is a representative from “Real Change.” Clearly, we can do better than this as a society.

Now, there are a couple of problems that we all face.  If we write big checks to a charity that helps with homelessness, we don’t know where the money goes and if it is being used to help people get out of their situation or just make their situation more tolerable.  If you give money directly to a person, you don’t know if they’ll spend it down the street at 7-11 on a bottle of Boone’s.

So here’s my dumb idea that will likely offend a bunch of people.

I would like to try to focus some efforts on the homeless who are closest to climb their way out.  The  people who have cleaned themselves up, paid their debts to society or taken other steps to get back to a position where they can succeed.  There are plenty of people who just need that little burst of cash to get the first and last months rent, a nice set of clothes, a moped or bus pas, or whatever is keeping them just 1-2 degrees from that point.

So how do we do this? I’d like to propose a kind of combination of Anonymous LinkedIn and Kickstarter managed by some reputable organization.  In this system, i could look at the anonymous profiles of  everyone who is applying for personal donations and what they will be need the money for.  They set personal goals and achievements that they need to hit.  With each success, they get closer to collecting their donation from me and the others who are rooting / supporting them.  The reputable organization then makes the purchase of the apartment, clothes, car, whatever on behalf of the client.

So in a nutshell – the homeless person “earns” the money they need by achieving some set of goals and objectives, people like us get to choose the unnamed profiles we want to support based on our preference, and there is a group in between making sure everyone stays anonymous in the process.

I can already hear the 100 reasons this is unfair to a whole set of people and not a solution to a massive problem.  But I’m not trying to boil the entire ocean here.  I’m just trying to help a few people out.  Anyway, that’s my latest dumb idea.

The Importance of a URL That Makes Sense

I’ll preface this with two notes:
1) I don’t like picking on marketing or advertising teams in this blog.
2) I have no data to tell me that these guys aren’t geniuses whose campaign is killing it.

But, I want to use this ad at Century Link Field to show why a good url is important.

I have seen the ad about 30 times now, have made comments out loud, took a picture, started to write a blog post, and STILL can’t remember the url.

 

You can do 100 better things with this url.
1) Buy VisitTanzania.co and redirect it to your crazy url

2) Buy an offshoot, such as ComeVisitTanzania.com.

3) Build a page such as Facebook.com/VisitTanzania

4-100) etc…

For all I know, trips to Tanzania from Seattle have increased 120x and they are going to send me an email telling me why I’m wrong.  Even if they have, I’d encourage marketers to grab a url that makes sense before investing 6-7 figures in a stadium deal.

 

President Obama Hits Reddit

I’ve blasted the Obama 2012 team in the past for their relentless email spamming. So, I have to give credit to a little piece of brilliance that should go down in the campaign Hall of Fame.

While the Republicans are rallying their base in a conference center in Tampa, President Obama was holding court in the virtual world, hosting an AMA on Reddit. As of 3:00pm PDT the post had 17,378 points (62% like it), with 43,822 up votes 26,444 down votes. There were more than 12,000 comments.

It’s hard not to come away impressed that while the Republicans are involved in the “old way” of engaging people, Obama is leveraging the “new way” of reaching out to his base (and stealing eyeballs from them). The Republicans are kind of left without a way to fight back. If they put Romney on Reddit during the DNC, they’ll look like copy cats. If they don’t have Romney do a AMA, they look scared, like they don’t trust what he would say. That’s check and mate Democrats.

Meanwhile in Tampa, Google is reporting that they have received the most searches ever for the term “Reddit” from a single geographic area. (No, not really.)

If I Was The NFL Pro Bowl Director

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here.   If only there was a tool that helped people write coherent blog posts

Well no one asked me, but here’s what I would do if I had to make something out of the NFL Pro Bowl.  Keep in mind the following items:

  • The game is atrocious
  • The NFL needs it as a way to spiff their advertisers
  • Players dig the Pro Bowl because they get bonuses for making the team
  • The game now happens on that dead Sunday between the Championship games and Super Bowl.

So here’s my dumb idea.

High Level: Make the Pro Bowl a week long television extravaganza featuring all the TV shows on the network hosting the game.  Send the producers of all that network’s shows (that make sense) over to Hawaii to film programs that feature Pro Bowl players.  Heck, you can even create shows.

Let’s say that CBS was televising the Super Bowl.  Without doing too much thinking you could have some sort of episode of:

  • Amazing Race, where a bunch of sets of teammates are competing or players get teamed with a regular person.
  • A Survivor spin off
  • A live “taping” of one or two of their sitcoms
  • Plus Pro Bowl specific hows such as a Jeopardy like game show with Linemen vs Quarterbacks. a “teammate” version of the Newlywed game,  skills competitions, etc…

All of these shows could involve Joe Fan, and reach a cross over audience.  But here’s the kicker: You get to charge new advertising dollars for NFL related shows.  Super Bowl sponsors would have more ways to extend their Super Bowl buy into earlier in the week, and companies who can’t afford Super Bowl ads would have a way to invest marketing money into the game.

And really, I don’t really care what they do with the game.  You could still play it, but instead of 3 straight hours of dreadful football, you’d have mini-bites of content from some of the shows that just aired, and some that are going to air that week.

This is a kernel of an idea, not a well thought out plan.  Would love to get your thoughts.

Congrats to a Few Biz Plan Competitors

Since I graduated from the UW’s MBA Program back in 2006, I’ve been proud that I continue to have the opportunity to be a judge in the annual Business Plan Competition.  It’s truly inspiring to me to see what comes out of the minds of young entrepreneurs, especially those whose excitement has not yet been polluted.

This year is especially exciting though.  For the 1st time, I knew a little about three of the companies that made it through to the round of 32 before they received their Golden ticket.  (No, I was not allowed to judge these companies.)

So, before they prepare for their Investment Round battle in a few weeks, I want to congratulate the three teams that I’ve been able to get to know a little bit.

  1. http://faithsmedicalservices.com/maljavkos/1958 Flash Volunteer offers a set of mobile and social tools to create, discover, track and easily share volunteer service events via a variety of integrated channels.
  2. Part time nanny dorset GroBox aims to make it super easy to grow your own fruits and vegetables in a small amount of space.
  3. follow site Splitpen is a creative online outlet for ordinary people of all abilities to come together and co-write stories with multiple plot lines, sub-plots and endings.

Good luck to all three teams (and the other 29 of course), and we’ll see you in a few weeks.

Teen Feed

Catherine has been volunteering for a little while with a group called Teen Feed.

Now, for a little while there, I didn’t spend too much time thinking about what Catherine was up to. But I have had the great opportunity to volunteer with her a few times in the last few weeks, and want to relay a thought or two.

It’s hard to find something much more disturbing than a room full of 18-25 year olds with no home, no food and a pretty hopeless outlook. If someone is 40, you can put some level of blame on them for being in the spot they are in. But it’s kind of hard to fault an 18 year old.

For about $100-$150, a Teen Feed organizer puts together a menu and buys all the groceries for about 50-60 people. Anywhere between 4 and 8 volunteers take over a kitchen of a neighborhood church, and prepare the meal. The kids arrive at 7pm, and dinner ends promptly at 8pm.

The kids who show up for the free food have no place to go, and in some cases no other food to eat. Some just spend the entire hour taking advantage of the heat and chairs they are allowed to rest in. But they are all polite, thankful, and just happy someone cares.

I’m going to write more about this over the next few weeks. But I really want to commend the volunteers of Teen Feed, and urge you guys to consider Teen Feed when you are considering where to donate some of your time or money. In my mind, 18-25 year olds are still save-able. We should be working on ways to do that.

Recapping NWEN’s First Look Forum 2011

I always enjoy attending business plan events such as NWEN’s First Look Forum, the UW Biz Plan Competition, Startup Riot, etc… I tend not to call them competitions, and lean towards words like “showcases.” Sure the teams may be competing for a prize, but what they are really doing is showing the public the amount of work they’ve done on taking an idea from imagination to execution.

The real inspiring part of days like this is to see people striving to reach or exceed what is generally concluded as their “potential.” For every 100 people sitting in Westlake Park complaining that the world is unfair and out to get them, there was 1 person in the NWEN First Look Forum pitching an idea that they believed would create jobs and money. If I had my way, that would be the 1% / 99% ratio we should be trying to change.

This was the first year I was involved with a team (Relaborate) that made it through the process, even succeeding down to the final 5 companies. And now I’l use the term “competitor” because from the team’s viewpoint, making it from 37 to 20 to 12 to 5 really is a gauntlet, and you do feel a measure of success each time your name is called to advance.

But when you look at the other 11 companies, you can’t call it a competition, because I don’t know how any consumer would ever be making a choice between any of our products.

But no matter what, here are 12 people – from an original list of 37 – who are attempting to build and create jobs, not protest that no one is creating jobs for them.  Maybe not all of these will turn a “profit” some day, but if you are looking for ways to stimulate an economy, I think these are the kinds of events and people you should be investing in.  They may not all show a return, but at least there’s a chance.