28 Sep 2016

Daily, 1 Minute Videos: Bobby’s Minute

Bobby's Minute

I’ve been interested in video for the last several months, thinking about a video project about business. That project is still in the works, but in order for me to get more comfortable at speaking English on video, I’ve started a small video series.

The temporary name of the series is Bobby’s Minute and it has one big self-imposed limitation: the videos need to be about 1 minute long. I don’t speak more than a minute, but the video might be a bit longer. When I speak I tend to ramble, so I think this limitation forces me to be more concise. My target is to add one video every day.

I speak about things I think are interesting or I answer questions I received on Facebook from friends.

Before letting you watch the videos below, remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel (go here for that) so that you receive the daily minute of interesting things :)

Keep in mind I don’t shoot videos daily, I just publish them daily. So, if you think I wear the same t-shirt every day, that’s not true :D I just shot more videos on the same day. This is not a daily vlog, where I tell you what I’ve done the day before. That’s a difficult one to pull if you want to shoot videos in advance :))

Here are the 6 videos published until now:

1. This one is about limiting yourself to be able to improve (like an elevator pitch limitation)

2. An answer to the question “What’s your process of learning new things?”

3. A lighter video about gelato as answer to “What makes you happy?”

4. I remember how important follow-ups are in your business life, so I thought I would mention this important habit

5. A mentor of mine told me how to think about being burned out thus helping yourself in getting rid of it

6. An answer to the question “What would you teach your mentee, if you had one right now?”

That’s it! Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel if you like them.

16 Sep 2016

Multiplier Skills and Specific Skills

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“I will never be able to sell something. I am the artist, I create things, I don’t sell them to the buyers at a fair. Sales people should sell, not me!”. This is what my fiance was telling me the other day, when she came back from a fair where she sold some of the art she creates. I told her something on the lines of “you should be one of the best sales persons for your own art”, thinking that every buyer wants to engage with the artists they like.

Tell someone to start learning how to sell and you’ll get frowns and “Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a sales person!” type of responses. Especially if they are a creative person or, God forbid, a coder! This doesn’t change the truth: selling is a skill you should understand and practice.

Selling is, also, a multiplier skill. The multiplier skills take all the specific skills that you have and they make the total bigger and better. I define “specific skill” as a skill that you need to do your job. Drawing is specific for an illustration artist, programming for a coder, accounting for an accountant, you get it.

I got the idea of multiplier skills from Derek Sivers’ Ideas are just a multiplier of execution article (go read it!).

Here is a pyramid of values for specific skills (by “bankability”) and multiplier skills:

AWFUL Multiplier Skills = -1
WEAK Multiplier Skills = 1
SO-SO Multiplier Skills = 5
GOOD Multiplier Skills = 10
GREAT Multiplier Skills = 15
BRILLIANT Multiplier Skills = 20
——– ———
AWFUL Specific Skills = $1
WEAK Specific Skills = $5
SO-SO Specific Skills = $10
GOOD Specific Skills = $50
GREAT Specific Skills = $100
BRILLIANT Spec. Skills = $200

Multiply the two and you get a number showing how successful you are or you can be.

If you are a great coder ($100) with weak multiplier skills (1), you will often see worse programmers being paid a lot better – like a so-so programmer ($10) with great multiplier skills (15).

The same if you are a weak designer with brilliant multiplier skills, you might see yourself getting a lot more for your efforts than your more talented counterparts.

This means that above a specific amount of specific skill (being GOOD), it might be better for you to use 1-2 hours per week to develop multiplier skills instead of trying to become great or brilliant. Of course, there are specific situations when you need a brilliant someone. If you are in that specific situation, the article is not for you. Or maybe it is, you arrogant POS! :)

What are some multiplier skills?

The first multiplier skill I became aware of was writing. I am not thinking of becoming a published author. I am thinking of being able to express your ideas clearly in written form. Writing avoids unnecessary time loss and subsequent misunderstandings. Think about it: writing a two phrases email that explains what you need beats the hell out of 5 paragraphs ones.

Selling, the multiplier skill I talked about at the beginning of the article, is another one.  You sell something from the moment you are born. By crying, you sell your need for food. You sell a movie to get a date later in life. You have to sell yourself to be hired. You have to sell a product you create if you are a founder of a company (everybody sells, not only the CEO). If you are a creative person, an artist, you still need to sell what you’re creating. You need to convince your partner, kids, friends, audience, public, readers to listen to your ideas and act on them.

Public speaking is not easy to do. It is also another multiplier skill. Most of the adult people I know would need to be better at addressing groups of people. It’s not only for the entrepreneurs, CEOs or business people. As long as your job means talking to 2 or more people at the same time, it would be a lot easier if you have some public speaking skills and you don’t melt once more than 2 pairs of eyes are focused on you.

These are three multiplier skills I can think of right now. I am sure you can mention some more in the comments below.

2 Sep 2016

Books I Read in the Last 3 Months

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This was initially a small list, part of this article. It got longer, so I created a new article, specifically for it.

Following are some of the books I’ve read in the last 3-4 months or so.

Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan
– a “noir like” SciFi detective book

What I Talk About When I talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
– great book on writing and creative process and, obviously, running.

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
– a great, funny, book on the underlinings of relationships. There’s another book, The Rosie Effect, a sequel, that I hated and stopped reading at 30%

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
– the play continuing the 7 HP books. Interesting, but not as good as the books. I wanted to go and see the play, but it’s fully booked until June 2017, at least – I stopped looking for tickets afterwards. On viagogo, the good seats go for about $3000 for both acts. I am not that much of a fan!

FlashPoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe – George Friedman
– written in 2012, reading it may feel creepy, because it sees the migrant crisis, the structural issues of EU 2 years before being obvious and it makes you think what else might come true?

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 – Lionel Shriver
– a post-apocalyptic book on what would happen if the US economy goes to shit. The book is quite static, but the ideas behind it are interesting.

The Simple Path to Wealth – JL Collins
– a financial blogger’s book. His blog is one of the blogs I would recommend to anybody trying to reach financial independence. His Stock series is something I recommend to anybody trying to get the basics of stocks, obviously.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman
– a book everybody recommends when talking about Fantasy must read. It’s interesting, but I didn’t like it that much, though it makes you take an fascinating trip through the US.

Uncharted – The Fourth Labyrinth
– yeap, I really like the Uncharted gaming series, so I also read the book. It’s similar to the games, so go and read it if you liked them.

Anything You Want – Derek Sivers
– I love his blog, so it was obviously I would buy his book. Great book on entrepreneurship and business building. He’s built his business without VC funding, so have that in mind when reading it.

The Truth – Neil Strauss
– I didn’t like it. The guy that wrote The Game is back with a book about his discovery of a real relationship. But I think that this was just a reason to try everything possible about sex (from swinging to open relationships). It’s fascinating this way, but I just feel like all he wants is to brag. It might be different for you. The Game was a lot more interesting, talking more about social patterns and behaviours.

Disrupted: My Misdventure in Startup Bubble – Dan Lyons
– the guy that used to be Fake Steve Jobs and is now a writer for the Silicon Valley TV Series tells the story of his life in a startup. HubSpot, specifically. He exaggerates the bad things and he ignores the good ones, I think. It’s interesting to see how people outside the startup ecosystem see this world, though.

Total Recall: My Unbelievable Life Story – Arnold Schwarzenegger
– a surprisingly good book on business, motivation and life. Great, great, great read. Couldn’t recommend it enough.

In Europe’s Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond – Robert Kaplan
– a good book on Romania and the neighbouring countries, from late 70s to today, written by an outsider. It gives you a good understanding of the geopolitics of the last 30-40 years in this part of the world.

The link above are Amazon affiliate links, so you are supporting my reading habit with it. Just so you know. Also, since I read mostly Kindle books, these are the versions I link to. You can find hardcover/paper books there, as well.

31 Aug 2016

Experimenting

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I’ve always read a lot since I was about 5 and I learned how to read. The thing is, building MavenHut took a lot of time and I’ve stopped reading as much as I used to. So I decided recently to read more.

Reading books gives me a lot of ideas. And the worst thing I can do is not do anything with them. So I need to start experimenting those ideas somehow. I don’t know how, yet, so this is an issue. But now I understand my need. I suppose the solution will appear at the right time.

By the way, I am not talking about business books. While they do give me great ideas, some of the best ideas come from fiction. Especially SciFi.

In case you’re wondering, I am writing an article now on the books I’ve read recently. So you might want to come back in several days.

11 Aug 2016

English as an efficiency tool

english-as-an-efficiency-tool

I’m writing a longer article right now for the blog and I kept asking myself why I write in English and not in Romanian, my native language. It would be a lot easier to express ideas, after all, right?

Well, it might be easier, but I think that English forces me to be more efficient when I communicate. If you don’t think it’s efficient, think what it would be like in Romanian :)

The truth is that I don’t have such an extensive vocabulary in English. It forces me to express ideas in simpler words. I need to use less words, as well. It is a pain in the ass (watch that language, mister!), but I feel it’s easier for me to communicate ideas this way.

Of course, there is also the arrogance of believing that a global audience has nothing better to do than reading what I write. But that’s not me, no, no! I am just doing this as an exercise in efficiency.

9 Aug 2016

Missing curiosity

bobby-voicu-radiolynx

I’ve been a curious kid. As most children are, I’m sure. The thing is I managed to continue being curious throughout adulthood. And I don’t mean being curious about my job or my personal hobbies and interests. I was always genuinely curious about what other people considered interesting, how they overcame difficulties, how they built their success. I remember reading somewhere that everyone is interesting because they managed to survive this long. I’m not THAT curious to talk to everybody, but still, I think we all have something interesting to say, for the right person.

I think this is what made me start a radio show about IT entrepreneurship 10 years ago for what was the first online radio in Romania, RadioLynx. They took a chance on me and I need to thank them for it. You can find an incomplete list of the shows here, all of them in Romanian (there were 2 or 3 in English, but I didn’t find them online).

The radio shows, 6 years of them, about 20-30 per year, opened my eyes to a lot of things. From someone talking to us about internet related laws in Romania to a TV news anchor discovering the fun of writing on his own blog, from lifestyle business to VC-supported startups, from multi-million international companies to local ones, I’ve had a lot of guests on the show. And I learned so much from them and from our audience.

Back to the present, though :)

Right now I am on a much needed longer vacation, so I had a little bit of time to think about things while Cristi and Elvis work hard. Yeah, driving around Europe, as I am doing now, gives you a lot of time for reflection.

I understood that in the last 4-5 years I focused a lot on being curious about what I was doing, mainly building games and growing MavenHut. This meant that I wasn’t that curious about other people’s projects and ideas unless they were directly related to what I was doing. I feel that I am missing a lot because the best ideas I’ve ever had were interdisciplinary, coming from areas I wouldn’t expect. After all, one of the good ideas implemented at MavenHut, the Solitaire tournaments, came from me and Cristi’s playing poker online in Multi Table Tournaments.

I just found out that I miss talking to people that do different things than I do. If you didn’t listen to Tom Ferriss’s podcast, give it a try. He talks to guests from actors like Jamie Foxx to entrepreneurs like Matt Mullenweg or special forces people and the interviews are really insightful. These interviews are, probably, one of the reasons I realized I was missing being curious and asking questions about things I had no ideas, where I felt I could learn a lot.

There’s no conclusion to this article.

Just that, if you get an email from me to meet and you think we have nothing to talk about, you might be right. On the other hand, I have some stories to tell, as well…

18 May 2016

Games to play

Just a list of games I want to play when I’ll have the time, so I don’t forget about them:

Life is Strange
Her Story (played)
Adr1ft
Heavy Rain Remastered
No Man’s Sky (i don’t think I’ll play it, after all)
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter: review
Stardew Valley (playing it, not getting it yet)
Dwarf Fortress
Coloratura
Planescape: Torment
Offworld Trading Company: review
Stellaris: review

Search for them if you want links :)

2 Jan 2016

On Quantity vs. Quality

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

From Art and Fear, via Stratchery -> Why BuzzFeed is the Most Important News Organization in the World

9 Sep 2015

Don’t Waste My Time!

Know Your Stuff

Due to MavenHut’s success, there are people that think I know stuff and they want to meet me to talk about their business. And, time permitting, since I travel a lot these days, I actually love to meet the entrepreneurs.

And why shouldn’t I? I love talking to smart people (who doesn’t?), I am interested in how they see what they do and it helps me broaden my horizons. And, of course, it sometimes helps me see solutions for my problems just because I am forced into looking at the issues from a different angle.

One thing I have a difficult time explaining, though, without sounding rude, is that before meeting with someone, that person needs to do something about their idea/project. I will never meet with someone just because they have an idea and want to pick my brain on it. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have time for MavenHut anymore from all the meetings with people “with ideas of an online project” (that usually will change the world). Investors might take these type of meetings sometimes, since they need to be in contact with entrepreneurs for the deal flow, but I am not an investor.

In order to trim the number of meetings and understand who exactly can use my help, I use 2 elements.

First one: I ask in an email for 2 paragraphs about the idea and the stage it’s in. If the person I am writing to is unable to express their idea in 2 paragraphs, I don’t really think they actually understand what they’re doing just yet. Their focus should be on understanding what they do before meeting me (if YOU don’t know what you want to do, how the hell should I know or be able to help you?)

The other thing I want to see is an MVP. If you don’t have any type of Minimum Viable Product (a site, an app, a distribution channel, some users/customers), any advice I would give would be so general that it would make no sense for a meeting.

If these two conditions come together then I am more than happy to meet people (of course, based on my schedule, as well). After all, a lot of people helped and still help us in building MavenHut. But I never went to them with “you know, I have an idea for a Solitaire game”. I went with something on the lines of “I am looking for an investment for my company that does a Solitaire multiplayer game. We already have 1000 users that spend about 35 minutes per day in the game, on Facebook, I don’t know, though, how to put these things in an investment pitch. I know you’ve gone through this process already, do you have one hour to meet and explain these to me?”

The line above explains what I’m doing, what I need and shows why I contacted this specific person.

So, how’s your MVP doing? :)

P.S.: I also don’t drink coffee, just so you know :D

Photo credit: Know Your Stuff

2 Jan 2015

Book Review: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

Amazon is one of the most interesting companies I’ve read about. Not especially Jeff Bezos, but Amazon. Obviously, you can’t really separate the two, but I’ve been always interested in how Amazon, a company that started on the internet by selling books, then became a retailer, then became again a technology company, single handedly starting the “cloud” revolution.

the-everything-store-jeff-bezos

The latest book I’ve read about the company (I just finished it about 20 minutes ago) is The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. I’ve heard about it some time ago, but only recently had the time to read it. More, I’ve become even more interested when I’ve heard about the review that MacKenzie Bezos (the wife of Jeff) wrote on Amazon (you can read it here), awarding one star to the book for the fact that it underlines the sensationalist aspects of Amazon’s evolution, while also having big factual errors.

The thing is, though, I found the book really interesting. Obviously, I do not know about the factual errors (especially strictly related to the founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos) and I don’t care about it, anyway, but it’s a good read if you want to follow and understand the evolution of Amazon starting almost 20 years ago. From what I know about the company and what I’ve read in the last 10 years about it, I think that those aspects are pretty accurate.

Amazon is, in my opinion, one of the companies that wasn’t afraid to test things, to go outside their default area of expertise, and try (and succeed) in reinventing itself. I mean, 10 years ago, the biggest issue they faced was the chaos in the deposits, now it’s the fact the their phone, the Fire phone, was a flop. How do you go from getting packages to customers in overnight delivery to starting the startup/cloud revolution?

You need to read the book to find out more, but I will add some quotes I found interesting.

“It is far better to cannibalise yourself than have someone else do it,”. I totally agree with this.

I didn’t know that Kodak actually had the digital cameras technology available since the ’70s and didn’t want to use it so that they do not lose on the profits from normal cameras. The quote above also was related to this: The reference was to the century-old photography giant whose engineers had invented digital cameras in the 1970s but whose profit margins were so healthy that its executives couldn’t bear to risk it all on an unproven venture in a less profitable frontier.

Another interesting quote about focus: “If you are running both businesses you will never go after the digital opportunity with tenacity,” he said. It regards the move of the person responsible with the books at Amazon (one of the most influential positions in the company) to Kindle only books. The reason Bezos didn’t want to let that guy handle both businesses was the aforementioned quote.

People always feel the need to understand the context a CEO/manager takes decisions. But what do you do if the context is not that easy to understand? This is what Bezos told the designers of Kindle when he told them to include space for the cellular/wifi module in the first device so that anybody could download the books instantly, free of charge. The designers fought back saying that this wasn’t possible, that it would cost too much. The answer? “I’ll figure this out and it is not going to be a business model you understand. You are the designers, I want you to design this and I’ll think about the business model.”

One of the companies I enjoyed reading about and visiting while in Las Vegas was Zappos. The thing is I always thought of the company being a fast mover, achieving success and growing fast. Well. apparently it wasn’t like this and this is the reason they sold to Amazon. Here is what Mike Moritz, investor and board member at Zappos, had to say about it: “We just didn’t move quickly enough,” Moritz says. “You could sense it was going to be much harder to achieve, and we were squandering the opportunity. The hiring was too slow, the engineering department was not good enough, and the software was inferior to Amazon’s. It was very frustrating, and the Las Vegas location, plus an unwillingness to pay competitively, made it even harder to recruit talented people. We were starting to compete with the very best in the business and they had a lot of arrows in their quiver to make life painful. The last thing we wanted to do was to sell. It was mortifying.”. It’s interesting for me because we always thought MavenHut is moving really fast. Well, we might need to move a lot faster, or else Amazon might buy us :)

And, finally, I didn’t know, but Bezos may not get ferried to work in a black sedan, but Amazon still spends $1.6 million per year on personal security for him and his family, according to the company’s financial reports. It’s not that simple being a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.

I’ve highlighted a lot more content, but I think you need to read the book to make sense of it :)

Finally, go buy it (or borrow it from a friend). By the way, all these links are affiliate links, just so you know.

Oh and, finally, if you are interested, you can see the interview Bezos gave to the Business Insider recently (or read the main ideas):