Category Archives: Non-school Wisdom

Learning from Ashton Kutcher – Escaping inflation with users

Bank crises, Public Debt crises, currencies under pressure – certainly something is not going in the right direction at the moment. While I am not really clear yet who is making the money on all that, I am pretty sure we will have inflation, a lot of inflation. Thinking about this and its consequences for the web world, I came to love Twitter. Why? Read on.

What bankers suggest to do about inflation, is to invest in “real” things, a house, company shares, and gold. In fact, they suggest to invest in the opposite of liquidity, in things that inflation can’t eat away. But, you know what? None of them says to invest in users. Yes, users. Users are inflation-resistant. And while investing in users was something for businesses only in the past (where it was called customers), thanks to Twitter, Facebook and Co., today everybody can do it and add followers.

One of the first to realize this value is Ashton Kutcher. He’s got now over 8,000,000 followers on his twitter account.

What will be the inflation of those 8 million users? Will they be worth less if inflation rises to 5, 10, 20% ? No. They will be worth the same, they will not be affected by inflation. Let’s do an example to understand this a bit better.

Today, Ashton Kutcher “tweeted” about the new episode of Two And a Half Man, the famous TV series starring him now. He tweeted the following:

With this tweet alone, he reached out to his +8m followers and a good deal of them will probably enjoy the show.

Do you know how much it would cost to use for example Google Adwords to reach out to such a large audience? Let alone other traditional forms of advertising. As well, you’d need to pay Google with real money, money that inflation will eat up quickly. Ashton Kutcher will be able to continue to send tweets to his followers, even if Google’s Cost per Click rises due to inflation. That is a rock-solid investment where you wouldn’t even need to spend money on.

Disclosure: All this, of course, as long as these are real users, not fake ones, as TechCrunch correctly observed. Fake followers/users to your user base are what inflation is to currencies – it depreciates its value a lot.


Wikipedia says Resilience is a process, not a trait – Are you kidding me?

Resilience is in my opinion one of the most precious abilities an entrepreneur can have. Resilience can be everything. Missing resiliency can destroy your business in a second, and the chances are pretty high that you as an entrepreneur need to prove to the world every day and multiple times that you have that ability. That you have the guts to bounce. We all know that. Except for Wikipedia. When I looked up the term recently, I thought Wikipedia was kidding me when I read:

Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.

Apparently, for Wikipedia resilience is a process, not a trait. That is laughable. Sure the fact that you survive something, that you overcome business challenges, difficult situations, setbacks and failures, is a process. Sometimes, this process is very hard for the individual and it can take a long time, too. However, the fact that you are able to “bounce back” is due to your trait or ability to be resilient. A little outside of this context, famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined the following quote:

What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

F. Nietzsche

I like Friedrich Nietzsche more than Wikipedia. When you start a new business, especially when you try to be innovative to the point that your services or products are even disruptive, that means game-changing or market-changing, you and your few peers will have the whole world against you. You will need to be able to bounce back like you didn’t believe you would need to in your life. Nietzsche’s quote here reflects exactly the mindset that entrepreneurs and startup artists need to have to get up every morning again to pursue their dream of changing the world with their product, service or idea. And of course, this is a trait and not a process, remember that, Wikipedia!

Have you found your Mr. Timber?

For your business, customers are everything. If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business. When you start having more than just a few customers, you will sooner or later inevitably get that customer, who you wish would’ve never found you. Who should have never called. That person who always complains and never says thank you. You wish he or she would just stop being your customer. Stop being that customer who doesn’t help you to grow your business further.

When this customer found me, I had a though time getting used to him. And now that I am, I call him “Mr. Timber”. If you see your business as a growing tree, it is the person who wants to chop it into pieces, not knowing how strong that tree could still grow. It is Mr. Timber’s life-task to make wood and he will not care about you.

While many need to deal with this special customer, very few have a special name for him or her. Most people will, after they went through the refusal phase, just accept their it-would-be-better-if-he-never-found-us customer as a fact of business life. You can do so. But abstracting things in the human head can be cool. So, my it-would-be-better-if-he-never-found-us customer is now “Mr. Timber”. It helps me a lot separating the two things and getting my head clear for important stuff. There is the business and there is Mr. Timber. You can even write Mr. Timber a postcard for Christmas, how cool is that.

Why it is wrong to judge a salesman by numbers

I cannot count how many times I have received applications for a position in Sales where the candidate  was a top shot – on paper. I read everything from “achieved 40% revenue growth quarter over quarter” over “generated sales in excess of $10m” to “increased business by 140% year over year”. A smart guy I met at the airport once told me over one third of all résumés are fake – I did not believe him but I do now.

The problem is not that résumés are fake, the problem is the numbers and the fact that we tend to compare them. While a financial analyst should compare revenue figures to find out how a company is doing compared to another, you as an entrepreneur should not when hiring sales personnel. Here is why.

The level of sales someone creates with one product is no sufficient indicator for his or her sales brilliance. In fact, selling a disruptive innovation for $10k can be more challenging and require more sales brilliance than achieving $10m sales of a standard product from a famous brand. There are real sales gurus in the world who can sell you an umbrella in the desert. But they are at least as rare as rain in the Sahara – don’t believe you find them.

When I see such résumés the first thing I do is crossing out the numbers and the references – often, nothing substantial remains. You can look at the person and try to see if you find what is required to sell YOUR product or service. Look for passion, intelligence, perseverence and resilience and you will make a smarter selection. If you then look again at those figures you crossed out, you will be surprised. Numbers can be hollow, untrue and illusionary.

Henry Kissinger, smart man

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Henry Kissinger, now 88 years old, assigns Turkey a greater role in the future in the Middle East. Without doubt, he is right. This country will play a greater role not only in the Middle East, but in the whole world.

Turkey’s GDP is estimated to grow at over 8% this year which is impressive. If you only count countries with a GDP per Capita of more than US $10k, Turkey ranks 6th in the world and is the only country of a significant large population ( close to 80m people ). That is one hell of a big and largely untapped market. With a median age of less than 29 years, this nation is young, growing and it seems full of energy, hope and dreams. The CIA World Factbook has more stats about Turkey.

With a Public Debt of just 42.8% , likely shrinking in the future if they maintain the GDP growth, it is a fascinating country with a great story to tell and a few problems like inflation they could get under control in the future. That is a situation that the European Union can only dream of with its disappointing growth rates, exploding Public Debt, never-ending crises, weak political system and shrinking population. Europe should be ashamed of that.

Henry Kissinger, you are a smart man.