Marketing and Investing Large (Notes from April 22 - 28, 2019)

As a fintech-focused external analyst on pre-seed startups, I see and track as many as I can in the space. It's allowed me to follow along, at a distance, some of the very interesting companies that are growing in finance and financial services industries. The glut of capital available has produced some successes and many failures for those looking to disrupt the industry - especially one that's so large. And many are finding out that there are plenty of reasons why it tends to move particularly slowly and, at times, frustratingly inefficiently. You need a ton of users / customers (and the right ones) to make sure the business is sustainable at the level of efficiency you're requiring to offer up a 'better' (re: cheaper) product. But then you must still maintain those levels at a much larger scale. And that's where companies see you have to pay extra to acquire customers by marketing or offering other avenues in, thus decreasing that margin that was supposed to streamline the business and disrupt that portion of the industry. Cat-and-mouse or dog chasing its tail, often.What tacks on to that difficulty? Well, the big fish in the pond aren't just wallowing in comfort, waiting for disruption. Nope. Quite the opposite now. They're flush with cash or the economics to develop solutions in-house. Or, when they see they're scheduled to be beat, they come knocking on the door of the ones interested in an exit - purchase, M&A. Banks and the big institutions acquire the necessary innovation to diversify and improve their product offerings. Disruption - not so fast.Ultimately, I'm not asking for these innovative start-ups to stop. Quite certainly the opposite. Their improvements and new ideas catch the attention and hasten the pace at which the incumbents must move. And it all makes for an exciting follow!For my notes, I listened to an Ally Invest CFO discuss why he sees getting into mortgages is good for a rising banking company (one of our fintech follows). Then, a Senior VP of Marketing at Coca-Cola talked about how they align creative direction with their brand, despite not pounding red or drinks all over advertisements or songs. What have they learned to be so successful (for SO long)?Then, one of my favorites in a while was a segment with the authors of Nine Lies About Work. I've followed Marcus Buckingham's YouTube channel for a bit now where he spells out some misconceptions about the typical 'culture'-speak of workplaces. One of my favorites: Culture is a myth. Simply, workplaces typically have an aura and vision around them, but once you're there, this may dissipate or be something that depends on the person you're speaking with (how do THEY view the workplace). In smaller, start-up teams, they'll likely agree with each other - culture is the similarity of the workers. However, especially as the company grows - this will often change drastically, and by levels.Last but not least, we had a few fantastic women on episodes exploring The Muse and Tough Mudder. The Muse co-founder, Kathryn, discussed wanting to be a very different company from what she'd experienced before. And how to give people insight into various places. Then Rabia talked about the trajectory for the Tough Mudder races and what may be on deck to bring in more of the family.Hope you enjoy!

  • Tom Desmond, CFO Ally Invest (Wharton XM)
  • Went to school at Kellogg, talked about how they were trying to make it easier for investing
  • Ally getting into mortgages and seeing why - thought market remains attractive Mortgages as being on 10-yr timeline, quite different than other offerings
  • Geoff Cottrill, Senior VP Strategic Marketing at Coca-Cola (Marketing Matters)
  • Talking music and the tie-in between marketing and brands
  • Artists controlling a lot more of their own brand - becoming easier as agencies aren't as prevalent as in the past Can start and produce on their own, without agencies
  • Talked about a commercial with Pharell, who was incredulous at not having to mention the company - gave him creative freedom
  • Coca Cola ran a song and gave it away first (via their site)
  • Different types of connections, brands
  • Have to be authentic in brand, customers and consumers can sniff out if it's not intentional, on-brand or paid without authenticity
  • Ashley Goodall and Marcus Buckingham, Nine Lies About Work authors (Wharton XM)
  • Talked about how the company doesn't particularly matter, it's what you're doing there - even though people say that
  • If culture is so monolithic for a company, why would your experience be different than another person? It doesn’t.
  • We care about the companies we join, not the companies once we stay.
  • Lie #2: best plan wins - more details and variables for the nitty gritty, but the plan becomes irrelevant as you spend time on it
  • Rendered moot because the real world doesn't wait - plans scope the problem but not present the solution
  • Wanting to know what action to take - plans are rearview
  • Lie #4: Best people are well-rounded - theory of excellence is wrong (excellence can be defined in advance - which it can't)
  • In order to grow, defined definition of excellence and we can tell you how to get to Warren Buffett success (we don't say that)
  • Excellence isn't homogenous
  • Lie #5: People need feedback - based on 3 false beliefs
  • 1: I am the source of truth about you - have to tell you that you lack empathy or charm, or otherwise. Only thing a manager can do is be a reactor - "I am confused, bored, etc.." - a rater of myself.
  • 2: Learning is filling empty space. Insight and patterns recognized within - more revealing what is vs not there.
  • 3: Excellence can be defined in advance. Defined above. Used Rick Barry as example (granny-style vs 'normal')
  • Can be an audience to others, and help grow and excel, but in a different manner.
  • Lie #6: People can reliably rate other people. Mediated or seen through this lie through work.
  • Can see the ineffectiveness on rating systems (pattern / tool is an idiosyncratic rating - mirror, not window).
  • Not biased - it's a natural pattern of ratings based on who you are, not who you're rating (variation is ~60%+).
  • Lie #7: People have potential. (Performance and potential grid) Person has substance - potential and we buy into the 'bucket' or exponential growth for people There is no measurable data on these people. Can't do it. Immoral.
  • Lie #8: Work/Life Balance Matters - who has ever found this? Balance as a recipe for stagnation - how to replace this with an aspiration
  • Lie #9: Leadership is a Thing. (US has $15bn industry for this)
  • Defined in advance and in isolation from the person doing leading.
  • Only thing that is common amongst leaders is that they have followers - followers into the uncertainty of the future.
  • Create the sense of confidence that trumps the future - the way, though, is very different by leader.
  • Rabia Qari, Senior VP of Marketing & Sales Tough Mudder (Marketing Matters)
  • Settling on Tough Mudder 5k and the full, instead of the half - had brand ambassadors that understood the growth opportunity
  • Now have Little Mudder and Rough Mudder (dogs), family affair
  • Had tried a half marathon before the 5k but community and team decided it wasn't going to work - removed some of the spirit.
  • Kathryn Minshew (@kmin), CEO of The Muse (Wharton XM)
  • Talked about how the companies always looked the same
  • Steve O'Hear (@sohear), Techcrunch writer (20min VC FF021)
  • Joined TC in Nov 2009, but had taken a break in June 2011 to found Beepl
  • Landed funding and in Nov '12, was acquired by Brand Embassy
  • Enterprise over consumer from out of Europe - network effect is stronger in the US as English / general language Spotify, gaming companies as the exceptions, possibly
  • Liked the fundraising meetings - thought it was fun but scary Absolute conflict of interest where you want to tell the VC whatever to get the funding, but as soon as you're signed, you'll be partners
  • PR and coverage as a distraction - but he doesn't think that TC makes / breaks a start-up
  • If you make a bad product, you'll be found out by users/customers immediately
  • If you are making a good product, you'll be found out still - didn't matter for TC coverage or not (though probably brought in more eyes)
  • TC does more meet ups and conferences, less moderation of comments and conversation via Twitter or in community
  • As a writer/reporter, they don't have to pay attention or worry about stuff
  • Editorial freedom but can write what they feel or passionate about - unique to TC / type of journalism
  • As publications grow, they usually lose the freedom, but in this case - they're one of the best places to write
  • Best interview was Wozniak, as a fan of those that brought the pc to public
  • Inspiration from politics for journalism
  • Harry as saying that Eileen was the only one who had ever said "No!" and he was a bit annoyed, though enjoyed.
  • Josh Levin, CSO OpenInvest