Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup

Posted on Oct 11, 2011 | 73 comments


What could you learn from looking at your competitors or other tech startups in a different way?

Are you cynical about their chances in the market just because they seem to be hot in the press and that bugs you? Or you think their startup is a passing fad and yours is the real deal?

I hear views like this all the time. Even if you’re right – there’s something you may be missing.

Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures wrote a great post the other day that reminded me I’ve been meaning to write about this topic.

“My desire for this “Opposing Views Reader” is related to my concern about information cascades.  In general, we seem to be building too many positive re-enforcement systems on the web.  How about “agree” and “disagree” buttons? If all you can do is “like” or “favorite” items, it becomes very hard to express that you care about something but have a different opinion.”

I feel the exact same way.

I’m a news junkie and love to watch the Sunday morning talk shows like Meet the Press, This Week with Christiane Amanpour or Shields & Brooks on The News Hour on Fridays. But I tape the shows. I can’t watch them live because I have to skip through the guest interviews. I’m tired of hearing one side of the story – it’s pre-packaged BS. I like the round table discussions they have later in the show because you get to hear opposing views.

And that has had me thinking about the tech sector and how dismissive both startup teams & VCs can be about both their competition and the “hot” companies in any sector.

I was at a dinner about a year ago with a few VCs and startup founders. The topic of FourSquare came up. None of the VCs were investors in FourSquare. People were being so dismissive when I checked into our restaurant, “oh, yeah, let’s see if you’re the mayor now. Oooh.”

My response

“I dunno, guys. Maybe this mayor thing will last and maybe it won’t. Maybe check-ins will be automatic in the future some day or maybe people won’t care about check-ins.

But I do know that FourSquare has captured the zeitgeist of what young, mobile & social people want. That plus great press & it’s working on some level.

I’m sure the management team & board over there know that they need to focus on what comes beyond mayors, badges & check-ins. I’m interested to see where they take it next.

But what could we learn from them today?

If you think it’s all a marketing gimmick [I don't] then let’s discuss how we could be better at marketing in the way that they have. If you think that game mechanics are the innovation, then let’s talk about whether it would apply to our company. If you think it’s location-based services / find out where your friends are at while you’re out – let’s talk about whether we need to incorporate that into our product.

To ignore FourSquare would be dumb. I use technology precisely to try and develop an intuitive feel about what will work and what won’t”

The management team got it. The VCs snickered a bit. I was unconvincing, I guess. They knew their position on FourSquare. They weren’t looking for an opposing view.

I had a similar experience with turntable.fm.

I’m not a “music guy” so I tend to grok music stuff less than others. But I saw turntable.fm before it was a larger phenomenon. My wife was traveling so I was on the computer late at night. I logged into a room to listen to music & see what the product was all about.

Boy did I get sucked in. I wanted a turn at DJ’ing so I waited until I could find the right room to DJ in. I watched the music that others were playing to see what the vibe was. I played with the buttons “awesome” to support a DJ and saw my head bobbing up and down when I liked his music. Mostly I chatted with other people in the room that I knew. And many I didn’t know.

I trash talked their music selection. I swore to myself I’d pick cool songs. I didn’t want to be that music dork with no style.

I finally got on stage. Then I had to wait four more songs until I got my turn. I played Lenny Kravitz. The LEGEND! Everybody loves Lenny Kravitz, right? I didn’t play more obscure stuff like “Mr. Cab Driver” [ok, if you don't know this song do yourself a favor, click on the link and listen to it.]  I played “Are You Gonna Go My Way” – an absolute KILLER of a song. [go on, listen to it as you read the rest of this post]

So I played Lenny and …. I got boo’ed. Really? Eff you guys! OK, I’ll come up with something more conventional that EVERYBODY with taste loves. I played Rage Against the Maching “Killing in the Name Of.” [go on ...] Has a better male angst song EVER been written? Ah, man! Booed for that, too? How old are you guys? Do your parents know you’re up past midnight pretending to be tech people on Turntable.fm?

I got sucked in two nights in a row past 2am. My wife never knew [until now, gulp]. What a great way for a guy like me stuck in the 90′s on music to get curated music while I do other stuff. I think that’s pretty cool in the way Pandora helps me explore new music.

I got so excited to tell other people what I liked about turntable.fm. I called a bunch of portfolio companies and asked them to check it out. I said the same thing to each:

“I don’t know if it’s a real business or not. I’m not a ‘music guy.” But I know there is something addicting to what they’ve built. Check it out. Let’s see if there is anything we can learn about our behavior – good lessons or bad ones – that will inform our product design in the future.”

I loved the IM’ing with the crowd and the sense of community. I loved the competition to get on stage and then how when you’re on stage you have to wait patiently to play your tracks. I loved the anticipation of how the crowd would react to my choices. I didn’t love that nobody in the room had taste. But I lobbied hard using IM to get people to “like” my song so I could see those addictive bobbing heads. It worked!

And when I started telling other VCs to check it out I have to admit they were pretty dismissive. By now it had been in the press a bunch and there was a sort of “here we go again” attitude.

“It will never work. The labels will kill them. It’s just a fad propped up by the Silicon Valley elite marketing machine.”

Wow. Who pee’d in your Cheerios this morning?

I don’t care if turntable.fm succeeds [I hope it does]. That’s not the point. What could we learn from their success? The goal isn’t to copycat them. I don’t want to see any more freakin’ “we’re the turntable.fm of …X.” No, you’re not. I want people to look at what components of it work (product, art work, invite system, marketing … whatever you think it is that drove people to flock there in the first place).

And even more pertinent to you specifically at your startup …

The number of companies I talk to (or even portfolio companies) who are dismissive of their competitors is enormous. Have respect for your competitors. Understand what they do well and why. Don’t just mentally write off their features or marketing as “dumb” – ask internally what you could learn from it.

I talked to one company who had build really differentiated IP and had great customer traction. Yet they somehow never got as much press as one of their less-funded competitors who had less good of a product and significantly fewer customers.

I said:

“Guys, let’s stop whining about it and do something about it. Let’s understand why they’re getting better press. Let’s think about whether that is hurting us or not. Let’s understand what about our approach isn’t resonating with journalists. Are we off message? Is our product not as pretty? Do we have the wrong PR firm? Are we not at enough tech events?

… And only after we answer these questions should we decide if we WANT to be better than them in this way or not. But let’s at least understand it.”

So the next time you’re tempted to write off the latest hot company: Instagram, Pintrest, Tumblr, Spotify, AirBnB, or whatever – in stead of being envious or dismissive be “dissecting.” Find out what you think in their product is working and what you don’t think matters. Understand why they’re getting user adoption and what you could learn from that.

Is it just that they have the right VCs and therefore they’re deemed as hot? If so, what are you going to do about that? Do they have a tighter integration with Facebook and therefore are getting lower-cost customer adoption – fix that. Did they crawl through Craigslist spamming people to acquire customers more rapidly? What guerilla tactics do you want to use? What’s fair game? What’s not?

Never be dismissive. Sometimes hyped companies and competitors are just that – hyped. But often there are some kernels of magic that are happening in that place that’s helping propel them in to a place that you wish you were.

What could you learn from them?

  • http://www.twitter.com/ebellity Emmanuel Bellity

    Awesome post ! Lesson learned. (No Lenny Kravitz in public)

  • http://www.aaronklein.com/ Aaron Klein

    Totally agree. There’s a fine balance between learning from your competition and being obsessed with your competition.

    I’m convinced my team has a great product vision and we know where we want to take our user community. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something new. And we do, often.

  • http://sproutsocial.com Justyn Howard

    Man, I’ve missed reading your blog.

    I spent some time thinking about this topic yesterday. Not in the same context, but generally what it means to be an “it” startup. As more startups enter the mix, we seem to be getting into “here we go again” cycles – Photosharing, Geo-fenced offers, loyalty, etc. One or two companies emerge as the THE hot startups from the current hot categories. Lasting? No one knows yet.

    Ultimately I ended up thinking about how being the hot startup must end up feeling a lot like losing your childhood, and wondered what the long term impacts are. Raising capital is easy, hiring is easy, valuations get big, customers are signing up. Are you really building the right foundation for when the 15 minutes are over, or are you bypassing all the learning experiences required to build a great company.

    Sorry, way off topic. Thanks for writing! What the article reminded me of the most is that we need to pay attention for what emotion these hot companies are stirring in users that make them hits, and what we can learn from that to apply to our own businesses.

  • http://twitter.com/_willthompson Will Thompson

    Killer post, Mark!  It really resonates with me.  It’s easy to become cynical working in what sometimes can be a tech echo-chamber.  I must admit I wrote off Turntable.fm in it’s infancy due to my own struggles having been in a music startup that had to deal with licensing constraints.  Sometimes it’s a fine line between objectivity and cynicism!

  • http://blog.inkaudio.com/ David O.

    I’m in the 4square is lame camp, i find mayorship and the badges boring and corny. But considering the bigger picture their business have tremendous upside. There are plenty of stores that want to offer people a rewards / loyalty card, but many people don’t want to spending time signing up for all those programs.  It amazes me that 4square has not been super focused on tackling this problem head on. If they are I don’t see the results.

    turntable.fm, I’m still on the fence about it, has the look and feel of a novelty item. Which I don’t think is a bad thing if utilized appropriately. Will it be a new way to discover music ? I doubt it, after  all the innovation people still discover music the same way, they did for the past 20 years. Radio and MTV,
    it’s just that Pandora and similar services are replacing traditional radio and Youtube has replaced the original MTV.

  • http://www.twosides.co Jono Lee

    Mark, I could not agree more with you on this post. Admittedly, I used to often write off hot new startups as “dumb”, but I’ve since matured and now know never to trivialize someone else’s work. It may not be something *I* use, but personal experience is usually a horrible indicator of whether or not the market would like it. One of the rules of Innovator’s Dilemma is that everything disruptive at one point just seemed like a toy, right?

    In terms of seeing opposing sides, that’s exactly what we’re trying to solve with my startup TwoSides (http://www.twosides.co). It’s a social debate platform that helps you see every side of an issue and compare viewpoints with others. Ultimately, we hope to create a world that is more open-minded and tolerant. Check it out if you have some time. We also just launched a way for you to compare your viewpoints with the candidates of Election 2012 (http://www.twosides.co/election2012)

  • Anonymous

    “oh, yeah, let’s see if you’re the mayor now. Oooh.”
    Sounds like they’re making fun of a toy…what was it that Clay Christensen said about toys?

  • Anonymous

    Great post.  The most important take away I think early stage companies should have is never be dismissive of the competition.  Never assume that you always have the best ideas or execution.  Also never assume that you know your competitions strategy just by viewing their product.  This can lead to becoming complacent.  As a great entrepreneur one said “only the paranoid survive” 

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny I was just reading an article about Shaker, who won the recent TechCrunch Disrupt conference and fell into that trap! I really don’t understand why they won or why they have been able to raise so much money – http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/09/shaker-15-million/

    But now I will instead consider what I can learn from them as I prepare to launch my own startup. Any thoughts? I’m struggling :)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    LOL. I learned that the hard way. Still .. American Woman? Classic!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Justyn. I tell all of my portfolio companies – don’t worry about being “hot.” Just build meaningful products and grow at the fastest normal pace you can manage. But hot comes and goes. Except for a few lottery winners.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I don’t know whether it will succeed or not. I don’t like working with rights owners. But I do know that they have built something appealing. And I think people can learn from that.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ebellity Emmanuel Bellity

    Ha ! I’ve played RATM Renegades of Funk once on turntable and it went fine :)

    But Lenny… I don’t know, maybe it deserves a thorough answer on Quora like this one about U2: http://www.quora.com/Why-is-U2-so-popular

  • http://joeyevoli.com Joe Yevoli

    It’s always fascinated me that things which are popular today are in mostly, if not entirely, just copies of things from our past.  Facebook = AOL Profiles, Twitter = Aim Away Message, etc.

    Whenever I see a hot new startup the first thing I try to look at is what pre-existing framework are they using?  This quote popped into my head while reading your post (I feel like I may get Boo’d the same way you did for Lenny) - “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system.” – Machiavelli 

    Any new startup, or business, more often than not comes from a set of core principles/guidelines which existed before the company’s creation.  It’s up to entrepreneurs to recognize this, learn from previous successes, and build upon these principles.

    And also, Lenny Kravitz? … really?

  • http://boomylabs.com Shyam Subramanyan

    Great post. I have been through this and it’s easy to be dismissive of “successful” companies.  It takes maturity to clinically dissect success and apply the learning to your own situation in a meaningful way.  Thanks for the reinforcement.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielSBowen Dan Bowen

    My favorite post yet Mark…it hits very close to home.  In parallel to what you’re stating about competition, we should also be very mindful of those within our four walls.  I was fired by the CEO of the company I ended up doing my first startup against after suggesting a twist on his business.  Once on my own, my venture cost my former employer over 50% of his market share and tens of millions of dollars.  The sad part, I wanted to work there and all I asked for was a raise I never expected to get.  Once on my own I made sure to keep a very open mind with my staff and an equally sharp awareness of what my competition was doing.

    My personal opinion is that there is vastly more opportunity today to create a better spin on existing concepts and technology than there is in creating the next never-before-seen widget.  God knows how much opportunity has been lost by simply dismissing that which we don’t necessarily understand?

    As for tunable, the only thing that kept me from trying them in the past was the Facebook requirement as I’m sick of everything going through them…but I’m now paying attention as to why.  Thanks for slapping the stupid out of me…

  • http://hdemott.wordpress.com Harry DeMott

    Enjoyed this post a lot.

    I played with 4Square a lot at the beginning – became mayor of a bunch of places – but gave it up. Just didn’t seem to be anything in it for me – but all of a sudden you started seeing deals on stuff and AMEX gets involved and the team keeps iterating – and all of a sudden it is relevant to you again. As you say – there’s something going on there – and if you are inquisitive, you’ll figure it out.

    Same with turntable.fm. I’m one of the lucky ones who has made $ in music investing and I must admit – I just don’t get it. I just don’t care to DJ (heck you’d have to listen to an endless string of Zeppelin songs followed up by Chopin Preludes – talk about beeing booed off the stage) and I really don’t care what other people are playing – I’d rather choose my own vectors and head down those paths. But that’s me.

    Fred obviously sees it in a completely different way. And he must get something about the licensing that I don’t – and I think I have a pretty damn good grasp on it – but heck – the service is on fire – and it is up to anyone in the space to try and figure out exactly what it is. It is just a cool kids club? Or can it go mainstream? Can it morph into a paid service – sort of a nightclub model – where the average person pays to get in and the VIP’s get comped? Pay to DJ? I’m not sure – but it is worth exploring.

    I have a long commute – so I read 4 papers a day – yes physical papers. If you ever want opposing views – read the op ed pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal back to back. Throw in The Financial Times and an occasional Economist and you have the world view covered.

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever picked up at college was to read as much source material as possible – look at a problem from all sides – and then synthesize your own view. You just don’t get that from news readers these days.

  • http://byJess.net Jess Bachman

    Maybe writing off your competitors is a bit of self-preservation of your own ideas and dreams.  It can be hard to have those honest conversations with yourself.

    “Pivoting” seems to be one of those honest conversations that is trendy, maybe we just need a trendier term for competitor analysis.

  • http://twitter.com/BloggingArrow BloggingArrow

    I found it interesting that you and Bryce posted something related to FourSquare within two hours of each other.

    http://bryce.vc/post/11341550205/occupywallstreet-on-foursquare

    It actually reminds me of the impact of twitter on the arab spring. Maybe we’ll see more impacts like this, or at least more insights like this, from FourSquare.

  • Michael Gnanakone

    Turntable is awesome!

    I agree that part of the addiction is the sense of community/proving yourself to your peers… while staying somewhat anonymous at the same time.. pseudonymity!

  • http://www.musingdenovo.com Daniel Hatkoff

    Mark, great post. There is always plenty to learn from competition, or anyone who has something worth learning. I think part of what drives the dismissiveness you describe is related to team-building and leadership. There is something powerful in creating a perceived superior culture, as well as having a common foe to execute against.

    In some ways it’s not dissimilar from the responsibility of a CEO to constantly put forth confidence and utter calmness about the trajectory of the business, no matter how crazily her stomach is churning. Something are crucial for introspection but aren’t necessarily meant to be shared in a leadership context.

  • Anonymous

    to paraphrase: good product people copy, great product people steal

  • A Close

    I think you’ve outlined more than just a business tactic, but a more open way of living; be curious and ask questions.  Ask why.  It’ll be far easier settling a dispute, coming to an agreeable negotiation, or dealing with a unfavourable decision if you search for and address the reasons laying underneath.  

  • http://twitter.com/trotzke Mike Trotzke

    I remember those first days of turntable. I think I chatted with both you guys at 2am.

    Great post Mark. 

    Smart competitors learning from each other is what creates a viable market. Way too often I’ve seen companies (particularly B2B) get the “Gee Wiz, that’s neato! SOMEDAY we’ll want that” response when selling. I’d much rather loose out to a competitor quick vs. deal with an expensive and unpredictable educational sales cycle for 5 years until the market “matures” (ie gets competitors). 

    It makes sense though– If you’re a buyer, how do you know what’s a fair price or complete feature set  is with no competitors to compare to? Why would I pull the trigger now?

    If a competitor pops up for one of our portfolio companies, you’ll seldom see me upset (or dismissive)… more encouraged and motivated.

    Well… unless the competitor is better.

  • Haitham AlHumsi

    This might be easier to do with companies not in direct competition or not directly in your same category…. as far as direct benchmarking … I’m not too sure, Mark. Many of us are building what we’re building because we feel the previous products have failed to satisfy the market in some way. I don’t know that I want to start with a fresh vision only to take on other people’s attempts. 

    Let’s talk break out…. facebook broke out because of photo tagging … that definitely did not come from a direct competitor like myspace or friendster. But I’m not quite sure (and I honestly don’t know the answer) that photo tagging was invented by facebook… maybe the developer had experienced it in some other context and then impregnated it into facebook.

    My point is: you are right about cross pollination of ideas (not for the sake of mashup, but if it theoretically solves a business deficit like overcoming an adoption problem or fixing an abandonment issue)… but I’m not quite sure this kind of stuff comes from in-category comparisons. 

    That being said, let’s take this one step further:

    What would your best in class choice be for a company that best represents:

    Reach
    Stickiness
    Viral Lift
    LifeTimeValue
    Loyalty
    User Experience
    Polish:Location Integration
    Conversion OptimizationMinimum clicks to publish (ease of use)

    The three that would solve our problems are around LTV, UX, and Virality … 

    I have to think about this a bit more honestly…. you got me thinking …

  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan Rajiv

    Agree!! Easy to get on the ‘let’s trash talk something that’s working’ instead of figuring out what we can learn from it. 

    We may not agree with their approach (eg: Foursquare – check in everywhere, Airbnb – not much quality control/identity checking) but we may agree with their principles (A browsing experience that could be location based, cheap places to stay when traveling)..

  • http://usemighty.com Aaron Crayford

    Suster,

    Chappelle already did a video on this…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKXwj7ZrHIc

  • http://www.desmo.org Stefan Portay

     This is a great post filled with valuable advice. I have been amazed by what foursquare has done, even though I never really use it, nor predicted it would really take off. However, it works and it’s important to really focus on these ‘hot’ new start-ups (whether you use them or not) and really identify the key components that make them work.

    When Desmo (the start-up I work for) started, it was very important for us to look not only  at what competitors are doing, but what other companies are doing that is working. We operate in the philanthropy/social good field with the ambitions to bringing a new refreshing twist on the model, and most of our features have been inspired by companies and start-ups that are not competitors. Sometimes (happens a lot actually) inspiration comes not by just disecting your competitors, but looking beyond your field of work, and applying (with moderations) what has been successful in other non-competitive companies.

    Great post!

  • http://www.voluntarysectorhelp.co.uk/blog Admin Team

    Great post Mark,  looking through my starred posts in google reader about 40% were written by you, keep up the good work its much appreciated

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    I’ve started looking really hard for people who disagree with me.

    I blog a lot about games. I’m the free-to-play guy talking to console developers about how it is the future. I am convinced.

    But I find that I learn, and think, and listen a lot more when I am talking to the sceptics, not the converts. They force me to challenge my own views, to become more sophisticated in my thinking, to give better advice and have better perspective.

    Once you’ve formed your view, and really believe it, go look for the dissenters. One conversation with them will teach you a lot more than a hundred conversations with people who agree with you.

  • http://www.aufkeinenkreativeschaos.com Lutz Villalba-Adorno

    Amen! Put once in a while your frigging researcher (or safari) & philosopher heads on and act. 

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Harry, the reason you don’t care about turntable probably comes from the “Seen that, dont that” pov.  Personally, due to my days in music, I don’t care about competing in choosing discs.

    The promising thing in this niche would be moving forward where you can have bands competing live from different locales… they could get feed back and so on. 

    Then, maybe a better mix of rhythm can come into play (now the riffs are too long and too much reverb).

  • Dave W Baldwin

    tsk, tsk… you need to have the Guess Who on the back plate.

  • Dave W Baldwin

    Good post.  Whatever you’re doing, you need to remember being flexible/fluid/organic… tastes of the moment will change on the moment.  Dissing your competition just doesn’t work because people will think of you as “Bitching Whomever”.

  • Adel

    Justyn, great Point!
    I have a startup, doubling sales every 6 weeks but I GO SELL to customers myself, answer the phone and deal with feedback, my customers know me by name, my local bank branch…etc. I have an experience sales team but I handle sales leads myself. Your point is right on, I am learning a ton about my competition from the feedback I got from my customer. While I am talking to potential customer, I get feed back from them ” I do not like them because….. or I dealt with them and left because…..”. So I am building my service and correcting all mistake that my competition went through without the wasted time. You are not way off topic, it is the topic, do not dismiss your competition, learn and build and the rest will follow. Using my phone, sorry about any typos..

  • http://twitter.com/firstconversion First Conversion

    Hm, as an SEO I find this happens the other way. Most of the SEOs I work with are American; only “A OK”, “its all going great” “win win win” attitudes are allowed. 

    Calm, reasoned dissenting voices are given pretty much the same  short shrift as trolling. In fact, most times I get the feeling that not being overboard amazed at every little things is seen as trolling by the community.

    The one way system is bad from both sides, but it may well be a US cultural artifact as much as anything to do with VCs specifically. 

  • Per von Zelowitz

    “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”

  • http://twitter.com/hamutalm Hamutal Meridor

    Thanks for a great post, Mark!

    It reminds me of the Talmud saying” “I’ve learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and most of all from my disciples”.
    and in a startup context I’d say you learn much from your investors, more from your competition, and most of all from your team – would you agree?

    Also, on top of “hot” companies, I always try to learn from any product I try, regardless of it’s success. Almost any product I use teaches me something – product design, marketing strategy, specific features or biz model – whether it’s do’s or don’ts – there’s always opportunity to learn.
    It’s about being hungry – hungry for knowledge, for learning, for getting it right.
    Stay hungry! :)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    re: 4sq “boring & corny” … but they seem to resonate with at least a large user segment – at least for now. Maybe: young, urban, hip? Don’t know. I don’t spend much time thinking about being mayor. I like the idea of a “leaderboard” and check it from time to time. But mostly I like the idea of being able to get recommendations from friends on places to eat / stay. And I think it will evolve in this direction.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I like the idea. A few years ago I looked at http://www.opposingviews.com/ but it never seemed to really take off and in a way it seems to have pivoted. If I were you I’d reach out to them and try to learn from their experiences.

    Good luck!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Andy Grove. And he even wrote a book about it http://www.amazon.com/Only-Paranoid-Survive-Exploit-Challenge/dp/0385483821

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    OK, with Shaker I’m still stuck in that trap. I’ll have to play with it to know for sure.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    re: Machiavelli – love the quote. It’s my theme often, which is, “it’s nearly impossible to change user behavior in anything” so if a startup is proposing to do that I’m dubious.

    re: innovations of today being copies of those from the past. Totally. they all are. It’s just a new spin / new timing. I wrote about it here: http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/12/05/what-the-past-can-tell-us-about-the-future-of-social-networking/

    re: Lenny – dude. Did you listen to the 2 songs of his I linked to? Classic. How can you not like those.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    re: “My personal opinion is that there is vastly more opportunity today to create a better spin on existing concepts and technology than there is in creating the next never-before-seen widget. ” – totally agree.

    re: ” the only thing that kept me from trying them in the past was the Facebook requirement as I’m sick of everything going through them.” – also agree. I almost never do this. I made an exception for turntable. I work with an eCommerce company that ran A/B tests of FB connect and found that 50% of their female customers abandoned registration at the FB connect page.

  • http://johnbpetersen.tumblr.com John Petersen

    “Have respect for your competitors.” It’s such an important point. Don’t write them off because you think you know better than them or think they are “just a toy.” Rookie mistake. Learn everything you can about them — what’s working for them, what’s not, where they are likely to go next.

    Competitors (and really all companies in similar situations) offer great learning opportunities to take your company to the next level. Don’t be ignorant. Always be learning. Great stuff Mark.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I read the op-eds at NYTimes daily. I often also read the WaPo ones. I read people like Friedman, Brooks, Krugman and Maureen Dowd as well as Charles Krauthammer and Peggy Noonan. I miss William Safire and David Broader. I love seeing the opposing views. It’s where I learn.

    re: Zeppelin – set up a room. I’ll hang there all day!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Poignant and true words, Jess.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks for linking. I hadn’t seen that. Cool visual.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I went in as myself (I think we had to cuz of the Facebook integration???) and I liked that because I got to talk with others.

    that said, when I followed some DJs and would get emails every time they got on stage to DJ I kept thinking, “man, I’m glad I’m not an investor in your company – it’s 10am! Go back to work!” 

    Ha. So I guess people ought to have pseudonyms for this reason.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    common foe = good.
    not studying the competition and fearing them = bad.