Category: Business

So. Apple is buying Beats…

I’m confused. Apple is the biggest, smartest, most strategic tech company ever, right?  Apple is, arguably, the most valuable brand on the planet. Why then, I ask, are they  buying a brand (for 3.2 BILLION)? And let’s be honest…that’s what Beats is. A brand…not a tech company, not a proprietary  tech solution of any kind…it’s a brand.

I thought about this for a minute…maybe two…and the more I did the more confused I was. Beats’ headphones, if you ask anyone other than the NBA and/or the teenager on his school bus, are not great. This is confirmed by yours truly. I tried them – all of them. I was intrigued by the brand, the style, the look, the feel…but the performance stunk. Sorry – that’s the truth. Try those cool looking Beats head phones vs. any Bose pair and you’ll see (or should I say hear?) just how inferior those suckers are. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine branded the crap out of Beats, got amazing spokespeople, get FREE advertising from high profile athletes and musicians…they’ve crushed the branding aspect and win the marketing game – They’ve done so well in that area that people don’t seem to care that the product is  just not that awesome. That alone should be a red flag for the best hardware/product company  on the planet, right? Apparently not.

Anyway…Beats also owns a streaming music service! Is that it Apple? Is that what you want? You want to get into the Music game? Oh wait…You have that covered too. There is a little thing call Itunes that, last time I checked, was the biggest music retailer online – in the world. If anyone thinks because Beats Music is a streaming service and that brings something new to the table – they are wrong. Itunes could click a button and stream tomorrow…They’ve actually been working on this for a long time. It was just a matter of time before they released that new product and crushed Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody and the rest of em’. And, just saying, Beats Music has about 12 subscribers and is pretty insignificant when you think about the others in the space. It’s just a shell, a skeleton – it’s not a business or a real product yet.

So Apple – Why? What problem does this massive acquisition solve? How does this add value to your shareholders? What does this do for your users? I’m still stumped…

Maybe Apple and Tim Cook got bored. They were like “we are sitting on 150 BILLION dollars cash…maybe we should spend some of that. So…let’s get crazy!” Perhaps they thought it was time to make some noise? Get out there and have people talk about them (see- me!)? That’s fair – I mean you got to keep things interesting right? Not everything makes sense and Apple sure has earned the right to do what they want.

While I may be confused – What is crystal. freaking. clear. is…Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre and Ian Rogers WIN. Bunch of rich geniuses over there. Well done fellas…. One day – I’d love to hear about how those conversations went w/ Tim Cook and Eddy Cue because how you guys convinced the biggest, most valuable, brand and tech product company ever to shell out 3.2B for a brand is nothing short of incredible.

 

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Talkers (Strategy) vs. Doers (Execution)

Adweek

It’s Ad Week here in NYC. You know what that means….lots of panels! Sweet, right!? I love a good panel. I love sitting back and watching really smart executives talk. It’s awesome to see how certain people conduct themselves and interact with other super smart people and answer well thought-out questions provided by an entertaining moderator. It’s great. Get your popcorn people…let’s talk about some industry issues and innovative approaches to solving them!

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I saw some awesome panels with great participants from leading companies. Over the course of listening to these folks…some impressed me and other disappointed me greatly. Specific to those that impressed me, I wondered….Are these folks spewing a bunch of hot air while dressing nicely, speaking intelligently and carrying themselves with an overall sense of supreme confidence and just fooling this entire room full of people? Is it a classic executive smoke and mirror show or do they really have the goods? I’ve learned that, in business and life, there are really 3 types of people….1) Talkers 2) Doers and 3) Talkers who do.

At every job I’ve had over the course of my career I’ve noticed “the talkers”…if they are really good they can almost build a career, and a successful one, by just talking and providing very little executional support at all. For some organizations that’s OK and for others it’s a big problem. These panel talkers were good but I took it all with a grain of salt because I didn’t know what their actions were in the day-to-day business comings and goings. They sure sounded good…but were they just talking or actually making it happen?

I wonder if this issue dates back to the beginning of time. Like do you think back in the Cave Man Era that there was one dude who sat in the village meeting and explained to the group how exactly the food for survival would be found, hunted and gathered? I imagine dude is saying something like this “The need for food is abundantly important for survival. In order to meet our nutritional needs and ensure that our race continues to thrive we need to consume food. Right? In order to solve for the issue at hand, we must make sure that food is our focus and that we can find it. Food is all around us…Over the hill there, I picture a buffalo! This buffalo will eventually provide food and energy for many of our people for a long time…we need this buffalo! Our strategic approach will be to allocate enough man power to surround this buffalo while armed with spears to strike down the large animal. After which…the deceased animal will serve our people and our vision will become an actuality.”

This dude sounds like he knows what he is talking about! He has a plan..a vision…and he can articulate that vision clearly. BUT…what about the dude who is actually picking up his spear, running out to the field and killing the buffalo?! Is the speaker man, the very strategic, big thinker actually out there making it happen? Or is he sitting in his cave, warming by the fire, smoking a tobacco leaf, admiring his mighty strategy to save lives? The vision is important but the doers are the one making it happen and taking words and making them into real actions that provide value in one way or another.

For me…I rather see the visionaries be involved with the execution and really actually be part of the action. Otherwise the talkers will get more and more detached from reality and their visions because unattainable. Talk really is cheap…and while you need strategic visionaries in certain circumstances a really awesome, no joke, value providing executive leader will both set the strategy and be part of making that solution a reality.

But I like expensive Coffee… (re: How I retired at 30)

http://finance.yahoo.com/video/playlist/financially-fit/retired-30-144216321.html

I have some issues with this article.
This read and was written to be all like “Hey guys – check it out…retirement is really easy! You just didn’t know how to do it until now. Check out this amazing story about this genius guy who retired at the age of 30. Can you believe it?…it’s possible and we’re going to tell you how using this wonderful example” Hey Yahoo!….COME ON MAN. Let’s be real shall we?

Let’s start by looking at the numbers…
The article mentions this guy saved $800k and then retired. $800k (of savings) divided by 7 (the number of years he has worked, ages 23 to 30) comes out to roughly $114k of SAVINGS per year. So …going by this article (and Mr. Money Moustache’s amazingly arrogant road to retirement and recommendation) if he was saving about 70% of his income then homeboy was making just about $165k on AVG per year. Nice gig bro. By my view…you were either a engineer, investment banker and/or you worked 100 hours per week to rack up those kinds of figures. Good for you…but that’s not typical for someone who is 23 years old to be making that much loot and certainly not typical for them to save 70% of that when they are just starting out life in the real world.

Now let’s discuss life choices…
So in order to maintain life as a human off his roughly $30k per year (that comes from his investments as part of his savings) this guy rides his bike everywhere, lives in a tiny shack in Colorado, doesn’t buy coffee, lives off of food planted in his garden and I’m sure his wardrobe is just to DIE FOR, right? Let’s be real…Not everyone wants to live that way. I don’t. I mean…I like nice and NEW cars…I need a house that is comfortable for my family, I don’t want to live in Colorado (unless on a golf course), I LOVE good/expensive coffee, I don’t garden and I happen to enjoy nice clothes. Not too mention this guy has a KID. Little fella probably lives a very happy life but might be lacking in the toy department. My kid will be some sweet ass toys, you can bet on that! So apparently this self help guide is not for me? Looks like I might just have to work until I’m 60-70 or so along with the rest of the world. And I’m ok with that.

This is a cute story, I’m happy for this guy…but it should have totally been positioned as a complete anomaly and not “if you follow these simple steps you can retire at 30”.

Hey SPIKE! – Kickstarter is not for rich people

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http://www.businessinsider.com/spike-lee-kickstarter-film-details-2013-7

Spike Lee is rich – He is worth an estimated $40 Million dollars. The median net worth for a family in the US is roughly ~$100k. So using those figures let’s estimate that Spike is 400 times more rich than an average Joe. 400 times! So should he be raising money at all? Further…when you think about those figures…$1.25 Million to Spike Lee, which is the amount he is trying to raise for his film, is 3% of his NET worth. That would equate to around $3k for normal people for some perspective. So it’s not a totally insignificant amount of money but point being…he can do it himself. He shouldn’t need to leverage Kickstarter for a pet project that benefits only him at the end of the day. I’m sure SPIKE would feel that hit to his bank account if he plopped down $1.25 mil on something but he is in a different stratosphere. Perhaps he moves his court side season tickets a seat or two off center or…(gasp) even a few rows back to make up for that hit to his funds.

This dude is LOADED and if he is dying to make a film where he has 100% of the creative control then I gotta say spike “Do the right thing” and pony up and get it done! Don’t use crowd funding and ask your “fans”, most of which are not RICH like yourself, to donate money for your creative freedom when you are more than capable to do it yourself. Kickstarter is not a new pool for you to pull more wealth from so to potentially generate even more money for yourself and yourself alone.

Famous/rich people should not use Kickstarter – it’s counter to the original intent of the platform and completely silly when you really think about it.

Antoni Gaudi – brilliant architect or big ol’ trickster?

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Antoni_Gaudi

I saw this repeat of 60 minutes (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50142539n) last night and it really had me scratching my head. I remember, when I saw it the first time, I was equally confused yet intrigued about this story. Did you see this one? It was about a 20 minute piece, covered by that lovely Australian (or is she South African?) coresrepont Lara Logan, about Antoni Gaudi and the building of the massively insane church, Sagrada Família.

This is a super crazy story and intense history of a guy. I won’t go into too much detail here – as this could easily turn into a essay paper (and my inner 15-year-old refuses to write a 5 page homework assignment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Gaud%C3%AD ) – long story short is… this guy was considered a super genius architect, dressed liked a bum and people are still working on completing his building that he concieved…about 100 years after they started it and way after he died. For a little more context – The Sagrada Familia is a church in Spain that depicts everything that is in the bible with symbolism and design. YES. Everything. “It’s the bible written in stone” Said one dude. So…as you can imagine this is a pretty big building (when completed = tallest church in the world) and the details are insane – thus the 100 years or so it’s taken to complete.

Really interesting stuff here Lara Logan but I need take your “this guy was amazing and way ahead of his time” spin and toss it right back at you because I just don’t agree.

I found it totally shocking that people have dedicated their entire lives to completing this building and spend every single waking moment trying to put together the pieces of this puzzle that Gaudi left behind after he died. Just doesn’t add up to me. They showed this one Japanese stone carver/artist guy who works literally every day, and has for over 30+ years, on carving the stone for this church and I thought “doesn’t this dude want to do something else at some point in his life?” Even more shocking was the project manager guy who, I believe is a relative of Guadi, probably won’t even be alive when this thing gets finished! Could you dedicate your life to something (your ENTIRE life) knowing well that you probably won’t be around to see it completed and/or enjoyed? Not me. I’m a finisher. I want to see things done at 100% especially the things that I care about.

60 Minutes, Laura Logan and everyone who was interviewed in this piece praised Antoni for being a forward thinking visionary who was way ahead of his time. I think Guadi…is just an absolute maniac.

On what planet can someone go to their Church, State/Federal Government, Representative and say “Hey…I have a great idea…It’s just going to take a couple hundred years to finish, ok?” And have the response be “Sure, go for it dude!” It’s just not even in the realm of possibilities – and while some may think that is why Guadi’s church is so special I’d, again, disagree.

Interestingly enough the show never mentioned just how much this would cost BUT they did mention that the entire project has been funded by “donations from the Church”. Does that sound strange to anyone else? Well…maybe we shouldn’t dig too deep or question his will. Because Gaudi asked for it – it must have made sense right?

I think there is something to be said about leveraging real-time capabilities and executing on a plan to completion and providing real functionality to the world. To me…designing something that literally cannot be completed in one’s lifestyle is somewhat of a crock. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people who could put something down on paper that is pretty insane, that would look amazing, set records, change the world etc…but if it literally can’t come into fruition or be built in actuality in someone’s LIFETIME (or two for that matter) does it really count? I don’t think so.

I’m sure this is going to be one lovely Chruch. No doubt about that. But I need to question the glorifying of this entire process and the guy who designed the un-buildable building.

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Steroids and Baseball

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Controversy. Baseball has been plaqued with steroid controversy for the last 10+ years and I’m tired of it. I don’t know what’s worse…The way that major league baseball has handled steriod usage and the subsequent “scandals” or the fact that these MORON players, in this day and age, still think they can get away with it.

Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire are the poster boys and pioneers for the steroid use. Remember these meatheads? Even if you aren’t a huge baseball nut like me…you can re-call those few years when baseballs flew out of stadiums nightly like fighter jets leaving the launching pad. 50 Homeruns was an AVERAGE year…these guys were hitting 60+- 70 and breaking all sorts of records. Barry Bonds, the big-headed one, was the most obvious. This guy entered the league a slender, almost lanky, outfielder and left a mountain of a man with a head the size of medicine ball. Check it out…
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Pretty easy to see…That’s not natural. So either MLB executives and the people who are supposed to police the game were absolutely blind, deaf and dumb…OR they choose to ignore what was super freaking obvious because homeruns were good for the game. You decide.

Steroids

These guys were taken to court for perjury where they all lied thru their teeth (again) and apparently baseball didn’t learn their lesson – meaning the league didn’t wise up to what was really happening all over their game and these players thought the best approach was to deny deny deny. The players, who are now all long gone from their playing days, will pay for it by not ever (or at least for a VERY long time) getting inducted to the hall of fame and the MLB, fans, and future prospects have to hear and deal with this mess as the major scar on the face that it is and continues to be.

And what really gets me is – these were great players and I don’t even consider what they did cheating. I think steriods and PEDs were so prevelant that the playing field was esstentially level. These guys blew it up (literally) and took the fall for a really messed up, yet super exciting, period of the game. But still MLB couldn’t handle it like a proper organizaion, who has an issue, by fixing it and moving on…their lackluster rules, testing procedures, oversight and ultimate control left this mess uncleaned for far too long. And no, I don’t want to hear about “the union” (Bud Selig the “great” peace maker comish) who protects the players and let this practice go on. MLB and it’s owners write the checks. They are responsible for the game and those who play it.

NOW – after Giambi, A-Rod, Palmero, Clemens, Cansesco, Ortiz, Braun, Melky, A-Rod again, Cruz, and A-rod some more – and the list goes on… we are STILL dealing with this mess with “Biogensis” and MLB continues to show a level of incompetence that is utterly astounding. Every year its something and I’m OVER. IT. Like “Breaking news….MLB just discovered that 4 years ago 27 players used a banned substance. Suspensions pending.” Give me a break.

You have TWO choices MLB…Either 1) clean it up 100% and get it done, like for real! OR…2)Turn a blind eye and plead ignorance as these guys stuff their veins and the stat sheets.
In-between doesn’t work.
Players…you have TWO choices as well 1)Don’t be a freaking idiot 2) If you get caught, admit it and don’t go down like Roger Clemens.

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