When I was running Meebo I had a long list of products I wished Google would release. Not surprisingly, like most founders, they largely revolved around things that I thought would help us grow our user base, or make our product more valuable to our existing users in some way. When Google acquired Meebo, the first thing I started doing was asking “why haven’t we done (insert feature here) yet?” Turned out the reception to my ideas was quite warm, so with that, I set out on pushing our newly formed Google team to get these features built.

We’ve been at Google for a year and a half now, and have developed (along with a number of other teams at Google) some pretty amazing features. They’re all about growing your audience, driving Android app distribution, or providing a better overall user experience. Below I’ve captured some of the best recent releases.

1. Get your voice into your Google Search results

When people search for your company on Google, they’re obviously looking for the most recent info about you. One source, of course, is what you’ve posted on your Google+ page. So, if you keep your page active by posting regularly, those posts will begin to appear in the right hand side of your search results. Who knew? Learn more here.

2. Drive Android app installs from website visitors

You can now easily get your web users to download your Android app – even if they don’t have their phone on them! If a user signs in with Google+ Sign-In on your web site, and if they have an Android device (phone or tablet), we’ll automatically ask them if they’d like to install your app. If they say yes, your app will be waiting for them the next time they pick up their device.

How does this work? Most Android phone users are logged into their Android phones at the OS level. So when they use Google to sign into your web site, we quickly check if they have an Android device and then ask if they’d like your app. I know, you’re thinking “but how many users will actually download my app?” On average, 40%. High quality apps like Fitbit see a 60% accept rate. I’d be willing to bet those click rates are a lot higher than any other source of app installs you may be looking at. You can learn more, here.

3. Sign in once, Signed in everywhere

Let’s say someone logs into your Android app with Google. Later they load up your web site on their desktop. They’ll already be logged into your site without clicking anything! Or let’s say they log into your service on their desktop at work, and later navigate to your site on their home machine. Same deal – automatically logged in. How does it work? Once a user uses Google+ Sign-In to connect to your service, they grant consent across devices. When they switch devices we automatically authenticate them, so they can be taken directly to the same state they were in originally.

Think about the possibilities here! Maybe a user put items in a shopping cart on your iOS app, but then abandoned (we all know that happens, a lot). Their cart will be full and ready to purchase next time they load you up on their desktop machine. Or maybe you’ve tailored your site to a user’s specific preferences. Now that user’s more relevant experience will automatically appear across devices.

For example, on Fancy results showed that users who sign in with Google are more profitable for Fancy, with an order value 14% higher than average. They attributed this, in part, to that the friction of consent and authentication was removed with cross-device sign-in. Check out more info here.

4. Drive user notifications across Google properties

We recently released something we call an interactive post. It’s a way for your users to share to their friends with a very clear call to action. That is, there’s a big action button like “watch” or “listen” or “join” that’s right on the post – designed to send traffic back to your app. These have been really effective – they get about 3x the click rate of a normal post.

A big side benefit is that these posts can trigger notifications in the Google Bar, across most Google properties. Google Maps? Check. Google Search? Check. YouTube? Yup, that one too. And of course, in Google+.

How do you unlock the magic? If a user shares an Interactive Post from your site and places individual friend names in the “To” field, those friends will get notified. Of course, it’s a lot of work for users to think up individual’s names. So, were I an entrepreneur using this feature, I’d use Google+ Sign-In to access their friend list. When a user went to send an interactive post, I’d present the user with a people chooser, ordered by affinity (you can get this from a Google+ API). Then, you can programmatically pass in up to 10 names to the “To” field. You’ll now have users sending targeted posts, across all Google properties, via the Google notifications channel.

5. Run a UGC site? Give authors credit for their content in Google

Let’s say an author on your site posts a video, blog, or photo. You can now ensure they’re getting credit in Google for the content they’re publishing on your site, automatically. When a user signs into your site with Google+ Sign-In, we’ll look for rel=”author” links on the content your users are posting. We’ll trust it because we know the user actually uses your service. Google will then look for ways to surface their info when their content appears in Google. For example, users doing a search may see the original author’s name, picture and/or a link to their Google+ profile when the content appears in Search, News and other Google products.  More info here.

6. Link a user’s Google experience with your app

Let’s say you run a site where people book hotel rooms and you want to be able to put a calendar entry on a user’s Google calendar after they’ve made a booking. Or perhaps you run a video site and you’d like to see which YouTube videos are recommended for a particular user. This, and *many* more actions are available across Google’s various products. When someone logs into your app with Google+ Sign-In, you’re able to ask them for these permissions, and more, in the consent flow.  http://developers.google.com has a wealth of options available.

7. Drive purchasing

Turns out once a person signs in with Google+, purchasing is as easy as tapping on the Wallet button. This is because you’re able to ask for the wallet permission on intial sign-in. Newegg shared that mobile web users who pay with Google Wallet convert 100% more than those paying with other methods. The conversion increase was even higher for users who signed in with Google+. That’s a lot of purchasing that could be headed your way. Check out this link for more info.

8. Increase registration velocity

This one shocked me. We’ve now had a number of developers report that just adding a Google+ Sign-In button next to the existing sign-in options you’re already running, like native, Facebook, Twitter, etc, drove a lift in daily registrations. We dug on why, and it comes down to that native registration is a pain (new username to remember, new password to remember) and users trust Google. Snapette, for example, saw a 16% lift in registration velocity once they deployed Google+ Sign-In. This nets out to that giving users a trusted option lifts the rate at which they connect! Like I said, I didn’t see this one coming.

When we set about dreaming up these features, they were created from an entrepreneur’s perspective on what other entrepreneurs would want to either grow their audience, drive Android downloads, or just to create a better overall user experience. I hope some of these might be helpful to you, too. There are of course tons more features, but I tried to list some of my favorites. For a more comprehensive guide, head to http://developers.google.com/+. And finally, I and the team are thinking up new ideas all the time, so definitely leave suggestions for other features we should build below.

I found myself, once again, in a debate with my friends on whether the Silicon Valley real estate market is currently in a bubble. Could the prices keep going up? And that’s when it dawned on me. They will. No doubt. Why? Because from here on out, all new companies are going to be tech companies. Full stop.

Oh, but you say, what if I went and created a car company? You mean Tesla? That’s a tech company. Or what if I were to start a grilled cheese restaurant chain? Yep – that one’s a tech company too. Or how about a chocolate factory? Todd and Cam are literally writing their own software to operate and measure their chocolate factory because they’re so displeased with the off-the-shelf options at their disposal!

In today’s world, if you’re starting a NewCo and it’s not, at a foundational level, a tech company, then it’s unlikely to succeed. Yes, you can operate a small business any way you’d like, but I’m talking about companies of scale. You’ll be out-maneuvered by a competitor who figures out how to leverage technology to make their operations more efficient. Or you’ll be outgunned by a competitor who’s able to craft a better product for market – more adept at using data and customer metrics to iterate and refine their offerings. The reasons are numerous, but if you are not a tech company, you are at a severe disadvantage.

If you believe this, there are a whole mess of implications – many more than I’ve thought through. A few:

1. To my opening story, Silicon Valley real estate will continue to explode. The network effects within the SF Bay Area around technology make this the easiest place to start a new tech company. Just look at where Tesla, The Melt and Dandelion were founded. That’s not to say that other areas don’t have great technology communities. But the SF Bay Area will continue to have the disproportionate share. The new car companies and chocolate factories will be founded here, and that will bring with it the good and bad of a rapidly expanding local economy.

2. Our education system needs to adapt, now. I look at my alma mater, Yale, and I worry. They don’t attract the best and brightest *technology* minds – those folks go to schools with better CS programs where they will find more like-minded professors and peers. For a school to remain an absolutely top institution, it needs to turn out individuals who are completely comfortable in a technology company, even if their first stop along the way is an investment bank or consulting firm (which are, largely, run on technology in their own right). This is not just about higher education. This is also about molding students from early on – about teaching them to imagine and then make. Two of the most vital skills in a technology driven company.

3. There will be an ever stronger polarization between the haves and have nots in the economy at large. Technology companies are, almost by definition, labor efficient. Those able to work and be productive in technology companies (engineers, product managers, designers, etc) will thrive. Those who are not will find themselves in increasingly commoditized (and therefore lower wage) positions.

4. Non-technology oriented industries will continue to be disrupted by those approaching the same problem with a healthy dose of technology. Just as books, music, and even taxis have now been disrupted, so too will be mining operations, construction, labor, and the like. It’s just a matter of time before a tech-oriented entrepreneur (or two, or three) put their minds to figuring out how to solve the inefficiencies in these spaces.

If every new company of scale is indeed a tech company, what are other societal implications? Comments welcome.

When you’re a small startup – let’s say below 12 people – you’re one product team. One of the co-founders is almost always the lead product person. They make the calls, the chain of command is clear, and all is relatively easy. When your company scales past 40ish people, things change. You’re likely to start hiring product managers – that is, people whose job is to run certain areas of your product. As the founder, you’re no longer directly in control. There’s someone else sitting between you and the designers and engineers making the magic. This, it turns out, can be a very confusing transition for both the founder and the team.

When Meebo made this transition, I did what most founders do, I held onto minute control. This expressed itself in the dreaded “drive by.” Yep – I repent my sins – I was that guy. The “you’re doing it your way until the founder does a drive by and tells you to scratch it all and do it a different way” guy. I can only take solace in that many an entrepreneur I chat with reports suffering the same affliction.

Many of you reading this are shaking your head, knowing full well how disempowering this behavior is. To make it explicit, let’s say you were working on a project and would, randomly, get told to do it a different way. What would you do? You’d probably abdicate control. You’d probably stop thinking creatively. Stop being proactive. Rather, you’d wait to be programmed by the next drive-by. This, folks, is not good for the health of your product.

The irony, though, is that it’s incredibly important for the founder to stay deeply involved in product. We all hear the stories – the moment the founder leaves is the moment the startup goes into decline. The best products are often created with a singular vision. That person of course takes input, but they’re the editor. And thus, you don’t wind up with a lowest common denominator solution.

Back to Meebo. I started to hear that my drive-bys were causing problems. I heard it from my co-founders, Elaine and Sandy, who saw the effects first hand. I heard it from my spies deeper in the organization (always have spies!). Eventually, my reaction was to pull back. I could see how my behavior was disempowering, so I chose to give people full ownership. They would own the product. I’d provide advice and guidance, but would rarely absolutely force a particular solution. I’d give them a way to think about the problem, not a solution. But in retrospect, that was a step too far. The singular vision and all the benefits from it began to slowly erode.

But then it clicked. I came upon a way of managing product where the founder maintains product direction, even at quite a detailed level, without disempowering.  It turns out it’s all about cadence of feedback and expectations. Here’s how to do it:

Once you have a PM or two, you likely have multiple areas of the product you pay attention to. For each area of the product, set up a weekly meeting with you, the PM, the lead engineer and the lead designer. Don’t make these too frequent – twice a week at most early on in a product lifecycle. Probably no less than every 2 weeks for a more mature product. In these meetings, you have free reign to give very detailed feedback. “This is a great start, but I don’t think the user’s will understand this flow,” or “the overall feel is great, but this button needs to be bigger – guide the user to the action we want them to take.” You can get quite detailed. But then when the meeting’s over, it’s over. No drive-bys, no random comments. Wait for the next one. The only exception, of course, is if the team proactively comes to you asking for guidance. I’d suggest settings up twice weekly “office hours” as an open forum for these types of questions.

Managing this way, your team feels real ownership. Between meetings, it’s their job to move the product forward. They come up with new ideas; new solutions. A fleshed out flow. They own it. But of course, like in any organization, they get feedback. This feedback comes at defined times – and at those defined times they know they’ll be getting feedback. But because it’s expected, and they own pushing the product forward, they don’t feel disempowered.

There are a number of edge cases to watch for. Eg, if you find yourself dramatically altering the team’s approach at each of your review meetings, something’s wrong. The team will begin to feel disempowered – they’ll feel like they’re not able to make progress between meetings. You need to diagnose these edge cases as they arise. In this particular case, it’s likely that you’re not giving the team enough directional guidance at your checkin meetings, thus they’re going in a direction you’re not comfortable with.

That’s it – a simple way of managing product that keeps your team happy and healthy, while keeping tight rails on product. I know this, to a founder, can sound scary. Waiting a week to give feedback – to move the product forward – feels like an eternity. But the rewards are significant and your product will be better for it. If you’re not already on this system, give it a shot, even with just one of your product teams. The results will surprise and delight you and team alike.

I was at an event the other day in San Francisco and ran into a friend. He’s running a business many of you have heard of. We got to talking, and early on he said “I’m never doing an advertising business again!” My gut reaction: “no kidding”. Then I heard it again from another friend just this weekend. So I thought I might dive into why entrepreneurs running more mature advertising businesses often have this reaction.

Building an advertising-based business from scratch is hard. Even more so if it’s based on brand advertisers. Yet entrepreneurs are often lured into building one. Why? Because we build products we’re passionate about, and only later realize that the best way to monetize them is to sell access to the user bases we’ve amassed. Not sure if that’s you? Well – if you plan to amass a ton of users and sell their presence in some way, welcome to the ball game. Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter all fall into this bucket, as did Meebo and thousands of others.

Why so hard?

1. Audience size

Advertisers need scale. Big, big scale. Imagine you’re Pepsi. You have a team of people whose job is to find places to buy ads where they believe they’ll influence you to buy Pepsi next time you’re at the supermarket. It’s more efficient for that team of people to buy from just a few places with tons of users, rather than from lots of places with few users. Before you’re at 1M daily users, you’re just not interesting. By the time you’re at 5M daily users, they start testing you. Only once you hit 10M dailies are you  big enough to truly become part of a media plan. 10M daily users is a lot of users.

2. Driving sales for your advertisers

So now you’re big enough. But do your ads work? Pepsi’s running that ad with you because they want to sell more bottles of soda. Turns out it’s really hard to prove you’re actually driving sales at the local supermarket. This is one of the reasons Google’s particular type of advertising business is so effective – clicks can be directly correlated with sales. In most kinds of advertising, not so much. Sure there is click rate, engagement rate, etc. But even an insanely high click rate of 2% (yes, 2% is ridiuculously high – most ads are more in the 0.02-0.2% zone), it’s hard to prove you’ve actually moved the sales needle.

3. Building your sales team

Sales people know people who buy ads. There’s a reason you hear about the ridiculously high salaries the sales folks command. It’s not just that they bring in the money – it’s that they’re the ones capable of doing it! They’ve spent their careers figuring out how ad buyers make decisions. They’ve organized more jean parties (don’t ask) and mani-pedis than you care to think about – building those relationships. The good news is, the good sales people know who to call. Side benefit, the people they call will actually take their call. The bad news? You need to hire some of these sales folks before they start generating revenue, and like we already covered, they’re expensive! If you end up building a full sales team, you’ll almost certainly raise a significant round of financing just to scale that team out ahead of the revenue (and cash!) it’s able to generate. Managing the sales team you hire is a whole other can of worms I won’t get into in this post, but suffice it to say, it’s nothing like managing your engineering and product teams.

4. Cash is king (ie, not revenue)

Until you run a business that gets to the revenue generating portion of its existence, it’s hard to appreciate how much cash flow matters. Cash flow from advertising can be pretty rough. First, like I said, you tend to need to hire those expensive sales folks before they bring in any money. Often it takes six months or more for the first real money to start coming in. Then, there’s the little issue of the payment terms on your advertising contracts. Often, brand advertisers in particular don’t pay for 60 days! And yes, even when they get the bill and it comes due, they don’t often send the cash promptly. You can expect to wait at least another couple of weeks for your cash. Meebo was collecting cash an average of ~85 days after running an ad, which our investors told us was average to good for brand advertising!  Lesson learned: a good collections person is well worth the investment. So to sum up – you have to pay salaries and expenses *now*, but lucky you, the revenue you just earned won’t become cash in the bank until 3+ months later!

5. Selling is hard

I didn’t appreciate how hard a sales person’s job was until I started going on sales calls with Meebo’s sales team. First, try setting up 5 meetings in one day with 5 different people. Then, in each of the meetings you will repeat exactly what you said in the previous meeting, and do it with as much energy in meeting 5 as you did in meeting 1. To make your day even better, in every meeting, the person you’re pitching (likely a fresh out of school 23 year old) will “this is all nice, but we’re only interested in doing something with you that no one has done before”. Imagine that – meeting five. You just gave it your all to pitch your product. And for the fifth time, the 23 year old media planner sitting across the table says “we only want something unique to us”. You just want to blurt out “do you know how many times today I’ve been told that?? If I did something unique for every one of you, I’d be out of business (and my engineers would quit!)”.

6. Starting from scratch, every…single…quarter

You learn a lot once you start down the revenue path of a startup. One of the first lessons is that no matter how big you get, next quarter you have to be bigger. No one cares if you’re generating $50M or $100M per year. What matters is how quickly you’re growing quarter over quarter and year over year. This is where advertising models are often particularly hard – you’re constantly rebuilding your book of business. You see, advertisers tend to buy on a quarterly calendar. This quarter an ad agency may be buying for a new car being released by BMW and next quarter for a fall campaign by Pepsi. They issue an RFP for $250k. You win an IO for $200k for a certain number of impressions. And once you’ve run those impressions and earned the money – poof – it’s gone! There’s no guarantee of more money next quarter. The car already launched or the campaign ended. They don’t think your platform’s a fit for the follow on campaign. It’s back to hunting for dollars. This is probably what I remember most vividly. No matter how big our current quarter, next quarter had to be bigger. Yet we were constantly rebuilding from scratch. I was pretty jealous of the folks running subscription-based businesses at this point.

So is there a silver lining? Well, yes. If you achieve massive scale (read: Facebook or Twitter style scale), you will encounter many of these difficulties, but the solutions come easier, too. Growth tends to solve all ills. There’s also the possibility that you’ll create a business that’s a super good fit for a particular form of advertiser (i.e., endemic advertisers). An example would be a travel site. If you have lots of people coming to your site to learn about Tahiti, airlines, travel agencies, and the like are a great target. Or perhaps you’ll come across a business similar to Google’s, where there’s an incredibly clear return on investment from dollars spent to dollars earned.

If you do find yourself in an advertising business, find a mentor. Someone who’s been there before. Built an advertising product. Built a sales team. Managed the inherent cash flow. Figured out how to drive repeat sales. Go find this person now. You’ll want a guide for the road ahead. Like everything else in startups, it’s hard. But it’s fortunately been done successfully before.

I love food. Anyone who knows me can vouch for this fact. In my 20s, I pretty much ate anything I wanted. The result was that at 5’7″, my weight crept up from 168 pounds when I entered business school at 25 yrs old to 185 when I was nearing 30. To make matters worse, my family has a history of high everything – blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, you name it. I always told myself that when I hit 30 I’d have to clean up my act or I’d die as young as both my grandfathers (both died in their early 60s of heart attacks before I was born). And so when I hit 30, I did it. Now, 4 years later, I’m steady at 155.

Lots of people noticed the weight loss – for awhile, whenever I saw someone I’d not seen in awhile they’d  say “you’ve lost a lot of weight!” It actually still happens to this day! And I of course frequently get asked how I did it. So for the record, here it goes:

A. Exercise had exactly nothing to do with it. In fact, I didn’t exercise at all when I dropped the weight.

B. It was all about how, or really, what I ate. So here were the rules I followed:

1. Eat no chemicals. This turned out to be easy to accomplish. If you read the ingredients label on food you’re about to consume and it has ingredients you don’t understand, just don’t eat it. This includes no artificial sweeteners. No high fructose corn syrup. Nothing that we’ve artificially manufactured. Rather, just eat natural stuff. Want an easy way to get yourself to do this? Imagine a clump of the chemical you’re reading on the ingredient list in the palm of your hand. Now imagine shoving it in your mouth. Pretty gross, right? Try it – grab a hand full of artificial sweetener and throw it in your mouth – you’ll regret it.

2. Cut out dairy. It turns out adult males really don’t need dairy. So being a cereal addict, this forced a switch to soy milk. No problem – it tastes great. (Don’t forget – buy organic – remember – no chemicals!). This also means no cheese. No ice cream. Etc.

3. Cut out red meat. I switched to largely vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu (lots of tofu in all different varieties), fish (but not too much), chicken (again, not too much), grains, fruits, etc. I think this had one of the biggest impacts, both in dropping weight and in how I felt.

4. Drink no calories. Water is your friend. It’s completely free – both in cost (tap water’s usually pretty good, especially, for the record, in NYC) – and in calorie count. That soda, bottled ice tea, orange juice, etc, that you’re thinking about drinking? It often has as many calories as a muffin or sandwich! Holy crap, right? This isn’t to say you can’t have your morning coffee, even with some sugar and cream (preferably soy milk). But that’s it – once a day in the morning, and not too much of either the sugar or cream!

5. Avoid sugar. Too much sugar just turns into fat. So you should avoid it. You know that sugar rush feeling where you just consumed a bunch of sugar and have a bunch of energy, only to be followed by a sugar crash where you’re feeling really groggy and tired an hour or so later? You should never feel that way. You ate too much sugar. So this means avoiding the obvious like candy and cake, and also the less obvious like bread (particularly white bread), pasta (particularly highly refined pasta), etc. You can of course have some of all of this. But moderation is super critical here, and none of these should be the dominant thing on your plate. A whole plate of pasta is almost guaranteed to be way more sugar than you need – and will produce that sugar spike followed by a sugar crash that I explained above.

6. Stop eating when you’re feeling full. Listen to your stomach. If you eat like I’m saying to eat above, you’ll likely get hungry between meals. That’s fine – have a snack if you’re hungry! Just make sure that the snack follows the rules above – not too sugary, not dairy, not meat, etc. Nuts are great as a snack. Teriyaki tofu. Edamame. Shredded wheat with soy milk. A hard boiled egg. All great options!

And so that was basically it. I didn’t, incidentally, religiously follow these rules. Rather, I’d say I held to them about 90% of the time. And I just started dropping weight like a rock – roughly 1-2 pounds per week. The only real cost was that at some point my clothes just looked ridiculous, so I had to go buy new ones.

Now for that one last little bit of motivation. I used to get migraine headaches, a lot. We’re talking at least once / month. I probably got a marginal headache once per week. After changing the way I ate per above and dropping the weight, they basically vanished. I’ve now had 1 migraine in 4 years (that only lasted a few hours). I almost never get a normal headache – maybe once every 3 months. I also used to have quite bad asthma. I still have asthma when I’m sick (which happens less) or when it’s allergy season. Other than that – asthma be gone!

Oh, and once I lost all that weight, I had more physical energy. I had to spend it somehow, so I started exercising. Not to keep the weight off, mind you. I actually find that exercising makes it harder to keep  weight off because I want to eat more! But then, exercise has all sorts of benefits that make the added effort worthwhile. And I just naturally wanted to do it once I weighed less.

So that’s it. Follow these rules, which really aren’t that hard, and you’ll almost certainly lose weight. My father tried this diet after he and I made a bet. He started with just the no drinking calories rule. He started dropping weight and feeling better, and so naturally added in some of the other rules (he went to no desserts, second. He lost 40 pounds in a flash. He’s now at his high school weight!

Give it a shot – in 2 weeks, I bet you a pretty penny if you’ve been looking to shed some pounds, you’ll be surprised at the results. Just make sure to stay on the diet if you plateau – you’ll naturally hit a plateau 1-2 weeks in. But by then, you’ll be feeling so much better you won’t be able to go back to your old way of eating, anyhow.

There’s lots of training that comes with being a pilot. How to take off. How to land. How to fly from point A to point B. Lots of obvious stuff. But there’s a whole other set that’s less obvious – the “what to do if things go belly up” (potentially, literally) bit. It turns out, a fair amount of flight training is spent on this stuff – emergency procedures. 

When you do emergency training you do all sorts of fun things. Pull the throttle back to 0% throttle, wait for the wings to lose lift, fall from the sky and recover. Or better yet, near an airfield, pull the power and glide into a landing (or…often…add power to help get yourself to the runway because you screwed it up). 

The obvious problem with all this training: you have no idea how you’ll react when there’s a real emergency.

I was once departing out of an airport in the Washington DC area. Climbing out, at about 4,000 feet, my engine went rough – and I only had one engine. After feeling a serious jolt of adrenaline race down my spine, I pushed forward on the control stick (probably a bit too hard, if I’m being honest with myself). A few seconds later, the engine smoothed out.

In the words of the booming voice in the movie “this is *not* a test.” And when things got real, it turned out, I did the right thing. Good to know. 

We all have some kind of self image – how good we are under pressure. How nice we are to others. How good a teammate we are. The list goes on. But the experience above reminded me that we just don’t know how we, and others, will react until things “get real.” 

So is there any way you can ensure you’ll react the way you think you will when things do indeed get real? I think three things can help:

1. You can never train enough. Said another way – never stop learning. And when you learn, you need to integrate the learning into your go forward model. In one ear out the other won’t help much when you’re making decisions more on instinct than anything else.

2. Put yourself out there. It’s trite, but it’s important. Get yourself into uncomfortable situations. Push yourself. If you do this recreationally, you’ll have lots more opportunities to get to know yourself than when things really count.

3. Evaluate your performance. After that stressful period. That fire drill at work. That difficult team situation, ask yourself if you performed as you thought you would, or whether you fell short of what you’d expect of yourself. If you fell short, then think about why and try to fix the behavior next time around.

Knowing yourself – not the idealized you, but the real you – is critically important both for happiness and success. If you keep learning, push yourself into uncomfortable situations, and take time to evaluate, you’ll likely get to know the real you just a little bit better.

You can’t help but watch in amazement at the hyper growth of many recent consumer internet companies. And now, just as quickly, the speed at which some are plateauing, or even declining, is just as striking.

The theory folks are kicking around in tech circles is these companies are reaching market saturation faster than ever due to viral channels (read: facebook). Their growth then slows (or even reverses).  Net: they’re moving through the typical lifecycle of a business at an accelerated rate

Image

(Thanks to http://joshbersin.com/2008/07/31/make-learning-part-of-your-business-strategy/ for the graphic!)

The x-axis is now super compressed. Time is flying by. These folks end up in the decline and the subsequent fork in the road – rebirth or death – extraordinarily fast.

This poses an interesting new challenge: navigating the Innovator’s Dilemma at an accelerated rate.

For a company to achieve rebirth, it often has to invent a new line of business. This process is hard – the definitive book on the topic is Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma.

For the company to achieve rebirth, it often has to wrap its collective noggin around a new, small team, breaking the established rules, that may be doing things that cannibalize the existing business. An internal startup. This is so difficult to accept that the company often has to come near death to get sufficient internal support to really make a run at the new new thing. See Apple, IBM, etc.

So now back to our new world of accelerated timelines. Imagine running a business that goes from nothing to billions in a few short years. Your (still messy) systems are built around hyper growth – your culture, staffing, data dashboards you look at daily. Your employees’ expectations. And then, suddenly, you’re plateauing. You’re likely to not recognize it until a couple of months after it takes hold. And before you know it, you’re potentially in decline. It all happened so fast that your company is still tooled for hyper growth. Rebirth v death depends on how well you navigate the Innovator’s Dilemma.

We’re all watching this show in real time. It’s possible that these companies have an advantage in navigating the Innovator’s Dilemma – they’re already tooled for growth! On the other hand, their growth resources are fixated on a business that has saturated its market and now likely needs to be managed in a different way. How well these companies capture the energy around their now mature business into new forms of innovation – and how flexible the people, from senior leadership to individual contributors, are able to be, will likely determine the outcome.

A year ago I tried running for the first time in, oh, ten years or so. I was already in reasonable shape because I’d been biking a ton – at least cardiovascularly. So I went out and bought some running shoes and did my first run – I figured 5 miles sounded like a good starting distance (I was coming from biking, after all). Pain ensued – for 5 days!

I screwed a lot of things up. I started running again this week, a year later. This morning I went for a 4 mile run. My third this week. Zero pain.

So what’d I do right this time that I screwed up last time? And by extension, what’s the best way to safely get into running (whether you’re already in shape, or not)? Here we go, from the very first decision on up:

1. Choose the right shoes. This is *huge* – and harder than you’d think. When I decided to start running a year ago, I thought I was going about this the “right” way. I went to a running specialty store. They had a computer hooked up to a pad I stood on that looked at how I stood. They told me I needed a “stability” shoe. Turns out the problem was you still needed someone to interpret what that computer/pad setup spit out – and they got it all wrong.

In a nutshell, you either “underpronate”, “overpronate” or are neutral. Underpronating basically means that you walk on the outsides of your feet (this is what I do). People with high arches will tend to underpronate. People who underpronate, it turns out, get less natural shock absorption. Read: you’re particularly likely to get knee / leg pain, etc.  Apparently only 3% of runners really do this. Overpronating means that your feet fall inward. People with flat arches are particularly susceptible to this. 20-30% of runners overpronate. Neutral means what it sounds like.

If you underpronate, you need a neutral shoe *without* a lot of support. You do want decent cushioning though, since you provide yourself less cushioning. The reason you don’t want a ton of support is that when people talk about “stability” or “motion control” shoes – this means support to keep your feet from falling inward (what an overpronator does). The kind of shoe you, the underpronator, want is generally called a “cushioning” shoe. The reason, incidentally, that I had so much pain last year is that I got a “stability” shoe, which was pushing my feet outward – when they were already naturally falling outward. My IT bands were killing me after running, for example. Turns out that overpronating, which basically bows out your legs, puts extra stress on your IT bands!

If you overpronate, depending on how severely, you either want “stability” or “motion control” shoes. These have built up inner soles, which are designed to keep your foot from falling inward.

Neutral folks seem to be steered by the web toward the “stability” type of shoe.

Here’s a good link for figuring out your foot type from Runners World: http://bit.ly/udlbj5. The Zappos running shoe fit guide is also really good: http://bit.ly/vYnP6E.

2. You have the right shoes, now get the right clothes. You don’t want cotton anything. No cotton shirts, no cotton socks, no cotton underwear. They’ll just absorb all your sweat, get really wet, and either overheat you or make you cold. Cotton socks are more likely to cause blisters, as a result. Rather, you want that fancy (generally lycra) looking running stuff. Those materials produce less friction and get rid of your sweat. They’ll naturally keep you at more the right temperature, too.

3. Use the “right” stride when you run. Without getting into the whole barefoot running thing, after reading a bunch of literature it is quite clear that you do NOT want to run by striking down with your heel, with your foot far out in front of you. Rather, you want to strike mid-foot. The best way to think of this is “keep your feet under you”. When running, if you stand up straight, don’t look down, and lean forward to gain speed, you’ll see that your feet naturally strike at about mid-foot directly under you. You get a lot more natural shock absorption this way.

4. Start off with the right distance and pace. I initially did way too much distance. My heart and lungs were in great shape from biking, as were the biking-related muscles in my legs. But the running related stuff – how much stress my shins were used to, the muscles related to running, my feet, etc, were in pretty bad shape. If you’re just getting started from the couch, a plan I’ve found to help get you to the point where you’re running 3 miles (or a 5k) is here from Cool Running: http://bit.ly/tqoTG4. If your situation is more like mine, where you were already in pretty good shape, but not for running, I found that starting with a 2.5 mile run on flat surface, at about a 10 minute per mile pace (6 miles / hour) was about right. I then took a day off. Then day 3 I did 3 miles at 6.4 miles / hour. Then another day off. Then day 5 was 4 miles at 6.5 miles / hour.

5. Stretch! You should technically do so after a 3-5 minute warm-up walk, and definitely should do so after your run. Some of the worst pain I’ve had from biking has come from a lack of stretching. My gut is that it’s doubly important, particularly post run, when running. Without going into a ton of detail, here’s a great link from Cool Running that goes over stretches that I’ve found work really well: http://bit.ly/tUaCne. I’d only add this one, http://bit.ly/v0TxDC, an IT band stretch.

I’m pretty sure those are the basics to get you running without a ton of pain. I’ll update the post if I discover other key points.

so i’ve read (constantly) about how lighter wheels on your bicycle make all the difference in the world – particularly for climbing. i intellectually believed it, but never really saw it with my own eyes, so didn’t really have an appreciation for it…until now.

my normal wheels are custom – they’re HED C2 Belgium rims with CX-Ray spokes and Chris King R45 hubs. i run them with Continental GP4000s tires. they come in at about 1020 front and 1160 rear – without a cassette.  on the other hand, i recently traveled to Hawaii and took my old “heavy” wheeels. i decided to give them a spin when i got back today, on roads i’m accustomed to, and oh my did things feel sluggish. they’re Mavic CXP 22 rims with Specialized hubs and an unknown, non-bladed spoke. there’s a Specialized Armadillo on the front and a Continental Gatorskin on the rear. the front weighs in at 1390 grams and the rear 1730 grams. so the total weight difference between the two wheels is a rather massive 940 grams, or almost exactly 2 pounds!

so what differences did i feel? first – the good. even though the wider rim on the C2s is supposed to provide a smoother ride – largely by letting you ride at lower pressure – the heavier wheels provide the smoother ride. this even though i ride the HEDs at just under 100 PSI and the CXPs at 110. i’d actually almost call the CXPs boat-like in comparison. kinda Cadillac to BMW, if you will. why? my guess is that the heavier wheels just absorb more of the impact. i think that’s where “the good” ends.

that whole thing you read on forums when people say “when i push it just wants to go”. well, i never got that – until today. push as i might, the damn bike just kind of wanted to stay put. i never knew how good i had it! i also noticed my cruise speed was lower – i’m guessing because of marginally worse aerodynamics – lack of bladed spokes and a narrower rim causing more upset in the transition of the air from tire to rim. climbing, things were even more noticeable. i went up Old La Honda today – it was just much harder. i had to use a taller gear much more than normal. there were sections of the climb where i just couldn’t believe how hard it was to push the rig up the hill! the most interesting thing was that i got demotivated – largely because i’m probably used to riding a much snappier ride.

i looked back at my strava data and found a couple of marginally comparable OLH climbs – similar average wattage. this climb – my 10th OLH climb recorded on Strava – was my slowest. i did it in 25:13. i averaged 240 watts. another ride where i averaged 237 watts took 23:56. on another OLH climb i averaged 247 watts and did the climb in 24:09. the only equipment difference was the wheels and wind is rarely a factor on OLH. the biggest externality would probably be how hard i pushed on the relatively flat sections. i’d say it’s fair to say that the wheels cost at least 1 minute heading up OLH.

net: i had no appreciation for how much lighter wheels really do make a difference. of course, 2 pounds is a lot! if you get lighter wheels, it’ll be damn hard for you to go back.

Culture’s a big deal at Meebo – we constantly think about and actively manage it. A lot of the credit for setting our early culture the right way goes to Elaine, one of my two Co-Founders, who recognized that if we got it wrong early on, recovery would be incredibly difficult. As Meebo continues to grow (it’s 100+ people now) it’s a constant challenge to make certain that the company culture stays on the right path.

A little while ago we began to realize that as teams formed within the company there was an increased opportunity for tribalism. As Martin Green (Meebo’s COO) pointed out, now people worked more with people in their own group than they did with people in other groups. There was the potential for “I work for team XYZ at Meebo” instead of “I’m on team Meebo.” Once tribalism begins to form, it’s not long before each group internally begins to complain about how another group isn’t helping them. Let that dynamic go too far, and as Peter Fenton recently pointed out to me, antibodies can form between groups, which are incredibly challenging to clear.

I’d argue that lack of empathy is the number one source of tribalism. Sure, there are things that every company does to try to keep teams working well together. Company BBQs, birthday celebrations, promoting cross-team lunches, etc. But if each individual within the company doesn’t empathize with the life of another – the internal pressures, external pressures, performance measurement, family obligations, lifestyle demands of work – tribalism will form, even with those company picnics.

The engineer needs to think about how the sales person is measured and how little sleep and how many planes they’ve probably been on in the last seven days. The sales person needs to think about the difficulty the engineer has when context switching from one project to another. Of course, people don’t know what they don’t know. But if they began from a place of empathy and assumed there must be some pressure (or assumption) in that other person’s life driving their reaction, they would easily arrive at a mutual understanding.

A few months ago, when we began to detect the slightest bit of tribalism forming at Meebo, I began talking about how important it was that everyone at the company empathize with the unique pressures others in the company face. That did the trick, and we nipped it in the bud.

I began this post writing about empathy, but it became a post on how tribalism forms from lack of empathy. There are so many more situations, from M&A negotiations to sales to interpersonal relationships where more empathy from both parties – working to truly understand the pressures and assumptions of the other – would make a world of difference. I’ll keep trying – I hope you do too.

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