It’s a Beautiful Day

My wife’s cousin Alexis gave me Michael Bublé’s first CD about a decade ago. Mixed in with traditional standards it had songs like Moondance and Crazy Little Thing Called Love done big band style. I loved it!

But his original songs are even better. Haven’t Met You Yet and Hollywood were two of the highlights from Z100’s 2010 Jingle Ball.

His recent song, It’s a Beautiful Day, sounds like an upbeat love song that you might play at a wedding, but it’s not. He’s singing to a girl who dumped him, telling her that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

He’s glad that she’s the one who got away.

It’s a breakup anthem.

Continue reading “It’s a Beautiful Day”

Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Two weeks ago, my wife made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She suggested I watch The Godfather.

For most of you that wouldn’t be worthy of a blog post. But I’m 43 years old and I had never seen The Godfather. And it’s not just that movie. Most of the biggest movies ever have eluded me.

When I worked with Jeffrey Zeldman, he would quote some famous line like “We’ll always have Paris” and I would reply “That’s from a movie, right?” It drove him nuts. We are talking about movies like Casablanca, Raging Bull, Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs and The Maltese Falcon.

Of course I know plenty of lines from those movies. I’ve just never gotten around to watching them.

Continue reading “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

Momentum

When a big freight train is standing still, even a small block of wood in front of it’s wheel will keep it from moving forward. Once it gets some speed though, that same train can be very hard to stop.

I’ve always struggled with this. It is way easier to make incremental changes — even large changes — to an old project than to do work on something that has barely started.

I pointed this effect out on a call with a friend of mine recently. He had joined someone else’s dev team long after the product’s foundation was built and all of the rules were laid down. There are pros and cons to his situation. On the plus side, it is way easier to iterate 10% on an established codebase. But the psychological downside is that he often feels like he’s been hired to write the missing chapters of a famous dead author’s final book. He doesn’t really own it.

It was refreshing to compare his situation to my own since my next startup’s train hasn’t even pulled out of the station yet. I’m not worried. Soon I will have momentum.

If you build something for everyone, it works for no one.

It’s crazy. I’ve told people this for years:

If you build something for everyone, it works for no one.

Fully aware of my own good advice, I still dreamed up something that was too broad. Crowd Fusion was an unproductized platform that could do anything the web could do, while Ceros is a laser-focused SaaS design platform.

I remember completely losing some of my favorite VCs in a meeting once. I was showing how we’d gone from 5 to 35 people and tripled our revenue from the year before. They asked who was doing sales. I was proud that so far it had been just me using my reputation in publishing technology to land famous media customers. They saw that I was planning to spend the money we would raise on developers and a support team, not on salespeople. They were done listening to me. They were looking for a Salesforce pipeline filled with deals, not a lunatic who tracked potential customers in Excel or task management software.

One big difference between Crowd Fusion and Ceros is that we could never build a proper product sales team for Crowd Fusion. Crowd Fusion could have had a solutions sales team, like an agency, but I resisted building one because I didn’t want us to be an agency.

Continue reading “If you build something for everyone, it works for no one.”

Because you can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop.

I had lunch with a friend a few weeks ago. He’s running his third startup. The first I’ve never heard of, the second one had potential but didn’t make it and his third is on the cusp of sustainability. He told me that this one has to work, because the hours are a strain on his marriage.

I thought about that for a few minutes.

Four years ago this week I pitched Crowd Fusion on stage at TechCrunch 50. One of my judges was Reid Hoffman and he didn’t believe Crowd Fusion could be the “last CMS you’ll ever need” and that I’d be working on Crowd Fusion for the next ten or twenty years.

“Echoing what Dick Costolo said earlier, I think getting people to adopt a complex productivity tool will have a slow curve. In technology you are never the last anything. There are always new content types. Now I think what you’re doing is exactly the right thing: plugin architecture, open source. Trying to create a constant rejuvenation and evolution is exactly the right strategy. But in tech, there seem to be entire revolutions every two to three years.”

In technology you are never the last anything.

Continue reading “Because you can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop.”

Life’s a game made for everyone and love is the prize.

As I walked up to Simon on Monday before our lunch meeting it was clear that I was mumbling to myself. He asked what I was saying and I explained that I’ve had an old ’70s song stuck in my head since last Wednesday.

The song that I couldn’t stop listening to? Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down The Line. It was in Lake Bell’s amazing movie In A World… I bought it that night and have now listened to it on loop 98 times according to iTunes.

He said he had a song stuck in his head too. I said, “Don’t tell me, it’s Wake Me Up by Avicii?” He double checked his phone. That was the one. Pretty freaky.

Continue reading “Life’s a game made for everyone and love is the prize.”

September is Bustin’ Out All Over

My favorite songs from Carousel are If I Loved You, which we used to sing a lot when I was a kid, and Soliloquy, where Billy Bigelow realizes that his child might be a girl and freaks out because he doesn’t know how to be a father to a girl.

June is Bustin’ Out All Over is a good song, but not as great as those two.

Plus it’s September. And it’s getting colder now. And what was I talking about?

Carousels. Right.

Brands can use Ceros to make embeddable carousels now. And there’s more Internet Explorer support, like 100% support for IE 10. And designers can replace images in the canvas without needing to re-upload and re-position them. And there’s more analytics control including the ability to embed other services like Google Analytics or Omniture.

It’s the fastest moving product team I’ve ever worked with.

Check out release 5.9.

Your marketing department will thank you.

Life is Good

More often than not, I wear a Life is Good t-shirt. I got one a long time ago and realized that when you wear it you aren’t allowed to complain.

If someone asks you how you’re doing and you start complaining, they can point to your shirt and say, “Really? But your shirt says Life is Good.”

These days I have a dozen Life is Good shirts, plus a couple of hats and some water bottles. My wife got me the hats when I had my scalp operated on. (I’m fine, thanks.)

I was getting dinner in Cape Cod a few weeks ago and didn’t realize that I was wearing both a Life is Good t-shirt and a Life is Good hat. I must have looked like a nutty walking billboard for the company. The restaurant owner asked me if I’d been to the Life is Good Festival and raved about how Dave Matthews and Ray LaMontagne have played there and how it’s a big fundraiser for charity. He was really passionate about the brand.

Their next festival is at Prowse Farm in Canton, MA this weekend. Somehow they figured out how to get Hall & Oates, Jack Johnson and Yo Gabba Gabba to share a concert stage. Seriously. Nice work.

My favorite one of their t-shirts has combined US and UK flags. Niki bought it when I combined US and UK companies last year. I’m having a lunch meeting with our CEO today, so I’ll be wearing that one. It’s one of the ways I like to show my continued faith in our merger.

And no, I’m not going to end this post by saying it.

I’m already wearing it.

ZZ Top Philosophy

I love puns. It’s one of the skills listed on my LinkedIn profile.

What could be more fun than blending together all the Spider-Man characters and U2 songs you can think of?

For a few years, I’ve had two ZZ Top songs about philosophy stuck in my brain. “I Woke Up With Would” and “She’s Got Legs, Therefore She Is.”

I knew there had to be more. Finally, here they are:

  • I Woke Up With Would
  • Heaven, Hell Or Heidegger
  • Existentialator
  • Cheap Sui Generis
  • She Loves My Aristotle
  • Tube Snake de Beauvoir
  • Got Me Under Plato
  • I said Lord take me downtown, I’m just lookin’ for Sun Tzu.
  • Viva Locke Vegas
  • Pearl Nietzsche
  • Sartre Dressed Man
  • My Head’s In Metaphysics
  • How, how, how, how?
  • She’s Got Legs, Therefore She Is
  • Gimme All Your Logic

I’m sure I probably missed a few, like I couldn’t think of anything for La Grange and Doubleback. The good news is that it’s all out of my head and into yours now.

Adventures of a Startup CEO

I love when brands have bold taglines, ones that can be used against them.

I gave a talk at Showtime a while back and had to praise them for their tagline “Brace Yourself,” which was way better than earlier taglines like “No Limits” and “Hollywood Hits No One Else Has.” I told them that having a tagline that can be used against you keeps your team honest.

You’re walking down a dark alley. Brace yourself.
We got the results of your MRI. Brace yourself.
Dad, do you remember that guy you told me not to date? Well…brace yourself.
This is your captain speaking: our landing gear isn’t working and we’re out of fuel. Brace yourself.

My tagline for ComicMix was “We’ve got issues!” and my tagline for Crowd Fusion was “It serves you right.” If you have a 9-hour outage and TMZ and The Daily are offline, you’d better believe that all the headlines will be a joke about “It really does serve you right for choosing Crowd Fusion!” A bold tagline makes you work a little harder to avoid that ridicule.

My site’s original tagline was “A brief history of time from the Big Bang to the Bangles.” I loved the Stephen Hawking book when I was getting my physics degree and I felt like discussing the history of mankind up through the ’80s would give me plenty to blog about.

Then my site’s tagline became “Now with 20% more sincerity!” Of course, if you have to preface what you say with something like “honestly,” then you’re either about to lie or you’ve been lying all along.

My newest tagline is “Adventures of a Startup CEO.”

Some of you have pointed out that I stopped being a startup CEO last June when we acquired Ceros, which already had a great CEO. So either I’m going to write a whole lot of posts about what I learned in my five years as CEO of Crowd Fusion or I’m going to be a startup CEO again soon.

We’ll see.