Max Gladwell

Entreprenurship and Adventure Sports

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First Ride: Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon

April 26th, 2014 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

 

The Meaning of Entrepreneurship

April 24th, 2014 by Max Gladwell· 3 Comments

What the topic of entrepreneurship means for this particular conversation

Entrepreneurs are as varied as the types of businesses one can build. These can range from local restaurants to publicly traded technology conglomerates. They can be for-profit or nonprofit ventures. They can be corporations, LLCs, or sole proprietorships. Which is to say that entrepreneurship is a broad topic, and broad topics are tough to cover in any depth. So we’ll take this opportunity to narrow it down by describing the type of entrepreneurship we’ll explore.

As a working definition, we mean entrepreneurs starting businesses that warrant venture financing. This isn’t to say that an entrepreneur or business must take venture financing. But the types of businesses these entrepreneurs want to build and the opportunities they represent warrant it. By using venture capital as the threshold, it implies a number of things about both the businesses and the entrepreneurs.

About venture-backed businesses: Venture capitalists are looking for businesses that can quickly and efficiently scale to multi-billion-dollar IPOs. It’s as simple as that. Very few of them do, of course, but the potential must be there. This means that the business is doing something new — more than likely, something no one has done before. It means the business will be disrupting a large market or industry, which is why the economic opportunity is so great. It means that it can achieve scale in a very short period of time with relatively little capital. This is why software-based companies tend to dominate venture investment — because bits and bytes scale better than atoms.

Some great examples of these businesses include Uber, GoPro, and Amazon. Uber has completely disrupted the taxi and town car industry with a new model based on smartphones — a new model, we might add, that is being applied to every vertical imaginable and what’s becoming known as the “Uberization” of a category. Amazon started by revolutionizing online book sales and ended up changing the way we buy everything. And GoPro took on Sony, JVC, Canon, and the like by cracking the code on high-quality POV video capture. The latter is one of the premier companies at the nexus of entrepreneurship and adventure sports, having initially focused on surfing and eventually raising more than $200 million in funding on its way to an IPO.

About venture-backed entrepreneurs: At the risk of sounding cliché, these people want to change the world. Keep in mind, though, that this is more of a quantitative measure than a qualitative one. These people have a vision for the future and a unique ability to make it a reality. Indeed, they are a bit crazy. Crazy like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. What sets this type of entrepreneur apart from others is that their ideas are most often met with disbelief or rejection. This is because what they are proposing either doesn’t make any sense or is nearly impossible to pull off. Yet they are so passionate about the vision that the resistance to the idea just adds fuel to the fire.

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Bike Reviews 2014: Cannondale, Santa Cruz, & Specialized

April 11th, 2014 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

The 2014 bike review season is kicking off at Max Gladwell. We’ll be starting with three spectacular rides, one each in the categories of cyclocross, enduro, and electric.

Cannondale SuperX Hi-Mod Disc Black Inc.

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“With its BallisTec carbon construction and SAVE Stays, the SuperX is lighter than most road bikes, unmatched in stiffness-to-weight and smoother than a belgian beer. Nothing will accelerate faster, corner harder or be easier to shoulder than the SuperX.”

Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon

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“Two decades of evolution at Santa Cruz brought us here. An entirely new frame, new wheel size and new perspective on what a 6” travel bike can conquer. Bronson is not some rehashed 27.5″ tribute act to anything else in our range. With a 67° head angle and 150mm travel yet massive uphill capability, Bronson screamed onto the scene like a Group B rally car for the Syndicate’s Enduro World Series campaign.”

Specialized Turbo S

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“The Specialized Turbo combines speed and style through an innovative electric-assist motor, advanced electronics, and sleek design. Capable of a top speed of 45 Km/h, the Turbo delivers superhuman power to anyone who rides it.”

Look for the official reviews to debut on The Huffington Post.

The Year of the Instagram Strategy

November 14th, 2013 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

Or… How marketers should approach the Instagram channel in 2014

Instagram recently announced it has more than 150 million monthly active users worldwide. Not only is the total number impressive, but it means Instagram is growing at a rate of more than 100 million new users per year, as the social network added 50 million of them in the past six months.

Managing the Instagram channel is no longer optional. It has become a strategic imperative for any brand or small business, and the urgency grows daily along with its user base. More than anything, Instagram presents an unparalleled opportunity to build and share a brand — to show a different side by leveraging this highly visual medium. Plus, the rate of customer engagement is off the charts compared to other social channels. But there are challenges.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, it’s not as easy to manage Instagram using native tools. Plus, what exactly does it mean to “manage” Instagram? This is a big question that we’ll seek to answer through the entirety of this post.

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Instagram may be a new channel that is just now achieving massive scale, but many of the same marketing principles still apply. Consistent with the new media revolution, Instagram represents the ability to connect directly, authentically, and efficiently with a large number of consumers through a two-way medium. The medium has evolved, however, from text and ads through PCs to photos and videos through mobile devices.

Below, we’ve outlined the three key principles to successfully managing the Instagram channel and executing a successful Instagram strategy:

1. Create and Curate

Brands can populate their Instagram feed with content through two methods: creating original brand content and curating customer content.

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Original Instagram content strategies can vary widely. We find that authentic, in-the-moment content performs best…as opposed to generic advertising photography being repurposed for Instagram. There are cases like Fab, however, where images shot in a studio feel natural on the Instagram platform. This has a lot to do with the brand and brand category, as we find that authentic food photos do better than studio shots. The top Instagram brands in terms of original content include Patagonia, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, and The Gap. The feeds for these brands show originality while staying true to their identities and providing a more intimate and authentic look at what they represent.

Nevertheless, producing a steady stream of authentic, original content can be expensive and time consuming. Which is why brands should consider balancing original content with curated customer photos and videos i.e. “re-gramming” the best brand-related content from customers.

This is similar to a retweet on Twitter…but with better content. Re-gramming takes a customer photo or video and reposts it to the brand’s feed with the proper attribution. It provides brands with a limitless source of high-quality, brand-specific content while authentically engaging customers and encouraging them to produce more and better photos of their brand experiences. [Note: Regramming is not a native Instagram feature. One must generally use a third-party application that automates this feature on a smartphone, as the only way to post Instagram content is through the mobile Instagram app.]

2. Listen

First, brands need to see all of the related photos and videos customers are posting on Instagram. This includes monitoring all brand, sub-brand, and campaign hashtags — positive, negative, misspellings, etc. — as well as photos being tagged to specific locations, known as “location tags.” With brick-and-mortar brands, up to 40% of all brand-tagged Instagram photos are only being location tagged, and these tend to have a stronger brand signal than hashtags.

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Next, brands need to monitor Instagram comments for critical keywords. These could be related to a campaign or product launch to measure impact. On a daily basis, however, Instagram comments will surface a broad range of customer issues. Indeed, Instagram has become a critical customer service channel alongside Facebook and Twitter.

Unlike Twitter or Facebook, though, Instagram always includes a photo or video. So if there is a hair in someone’s food or a messy bathroom; if employees are behaving inappropriately or the customer experience doesn’t live up to the brand promise, an Instagram response means there is photo or video proof. As such, the negative impact on a brand can be magnified tremendously as this content gets shared to Facebook and Twitter.

3. Respond

There are two simple ways to respond to customers via Instagram: liking and commenting on their content.

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The Instagram “like” is an easy and efficient way to thank customers for sharing and engaging with a brand. More often than not the customer will receive a mobile push notification indicating that that the brand has liked their photo, thus engaging on a one-to-one basis. This also has the effect of growing a brand’s Instagram following because tapping on the brand’s “like” takes the customer to its profile page. The customer may not have been aware the brand was on Instagram before this.

Commenting can also be a way to thank customers. However, this mechanism is best utilized as a customer service channel to address dissatisfied customers and resolve the issues, either within Instagram or through an offline channel. One of the advantages of Instagram is that the conversation on each photo is discrete. Unlike Twitter they are not part of a brand’s open content stream. So it’s not absolutely necessary to take these conversations offline. Plus, a brand can comment on multiple photos with the same message without coming across as inauthentic.

By crafting strategies around these three basic principles, brands can maximize the success of Instagram as a scalable and multi-faceted marketing channel that puts customers at the center of the experience.

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SoLoMo: The New Way to Understand Location

January 12th, 2012 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

As the technology space evolves, so does the terminology

In 2009, we added the term “geolocation” to this blog as one of its primary topics. We marked this with a post stating that geolocation would be a major trend in 2010. This echoed much of what other blogs were writing at the time. Geolocation was the buzz term.

We followed up several months later with one one of our distributed blog posts entitled “10 Ways Geolocation is Changing the World.” It’s about this time, however, that the terminology shifted and we began to refer to this as location-based services or LBS for short.

We’ve published several posts on the topic, but this one from November of 2010 is particularly relevant and timely: Four Reasons to Invest in Location-Based Services. We were essentially making the case for checking-in. Today, Foursquare launched Explore for the Web at Foursquare.com/Explore. Earlier today we tweeted that it’s the first social search engine for the real world, as it uses your check-in history, social graph, and location to make intelligent recommendations of places you’d like to go. In that November post, some 14 months ago, we wrote,

“The promise of intelligent recommendations is the feature that gets me most excited. Based on the data I volunteer through checking-in everywhere I go, whether it’s a public or private checkin, location-based services can use their aggregate data to accurately recommend other places I’ll like. Mind you, this is no small task.

By checking-in everywhere I go at home and when I’m traveling, no matter how mundane or insignificant, these apps can learn a lot about what I like and don’t like. With enough data, they can learn more about my preferences than I probably even realize. Again, let’t think in terms of many years’ worth of data that may also include sentiment value one way or another. Then consider a data set that includes hundreds of millions of users all over the world.

This type of predictive intelligence for location is only possible if we provide the raw data i.e. a complete history of check-in behavior. That’s the trade-off. That’s the value exchange. And that’s ultimately how LBS improves my life.”

This is a game-changer for Foursquare and will likely provide a monetization engine not unlike Google Search. You can be sure that Facebook is working on something similar, given its push toward Yelp-like recommendations on Places, and there’s little doubt that Google will provide a similar service with a combination of Search, Plus, and Places.

Throughout 2011, we collectively referred to this as the Location-Based Services (LBS) space. It wasn’t ideal, and it lead to a lot of confusion about what did or did not constitute LBS. The term was both too broad and too narrow. With 2012, the terminology has evolved once again. Geolocation and Location-Based Services are now collectively referred to as SoLoMo – shorthand for the convergence of social, local, and mobile.