Burnt Out and Bummed Out: RIP Social Media (2008-2019)

Image: Animated Heaven via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/S7w8UL Used under Creative Commons licence.

In a world where algorithms relentlessly filter our social media sharing and the only way to get noticed is to be SEO’d or more provocative, what’s the point of social media anymore?

I joined LinkedIn in its early days, probably 2004 (my member number is in the 50000s) and then forgot about it, getting active again only in 2009. I got on board with Facebook in 2008 when “Likes” hadn’t even been invented yet, if you can believe it. 2008 is also when I started Tweeting (@coachdavender). I’ve explored others such as Pinterest, Instagram and Path (and for a brief moment, Google+), but they didn’t resonate in the same way as the Big Three.

Over the years I’ve organically built a good-sized following (6500 on LinkedIn, 3000 on Twitter, 2000 on Facebook). Although these are not huge numbers, I have not spent a penny nor have I done any growth-hacking or SEO content.

There was a time when I truly enjoyed conversations on these platforms. I spent an hour a day on the sites, discovering a lot of things about entrepreneurship, leadership, startups and personal development. I also hope people who read my postings learned something from me, too.

But I started noticing, especially in 2015, that I was getting less and less engagement. I would often be the only one tweeting a conference hashtag. The same people were replying or liking my Facebook posts about entrepreneurship. The algorithm was getting more and more strict. Paywalls popped up, limiting my Facebook Page reach.

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A Few Unicorns Are No Substitute For A Competitive, Innovative Economy (Gary Hamel, HBR)

So we’ve built this whole system to find the Next Great Unicorn that will save our local economy, sucking up hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private money. Is this strategy realistic or a waste of time, money and effort?

By design, Unicorns can only succeed if they establish a monopoly by being the sole receiver of all transactions in its market. But the moment you become a monopoly, you cease to be entrepreneurial. The game is no longer to add value but rather to defend the monopoly position. We’re seeing now how even the unicorn of all unicorns Facebook is growing out of their geeky teenage mindset and behaving like just another corporate behemoth.

Gary Hamel’s piece in HBR starts off by making a good point about how unicorns don’t contribute to the economy and actually stifle innovation. And that it’s harder and harder for a startup to achieve unicorn status, anyways.

But then he makes a mistake in pointing out how Amazon is diversifying by encouraging lots of little startups (Whole Foods?). Continue reading

Resolutions – the futile hope of willpower over reality

Resolutions are the futile hope of the triumph of willpower over reality. If you want to change things, you need to instead use a Project framework based on the power of action.

I’ll say it directly: if you’ve made resolutions in this New Year’s season, stop it. You’re setting yourself up for failure right from the start. Google tells me that studies show that over 88% of Americans fail to follow through with their resolutions. I think this number is rather optimistic…

Why don’t resolutions work? Because the act of making a resolution requires resolve – betting that willpower will triumph over reality. Unfortunately, our brains are not wired up to make it happen that way.

If you want to change things, you need to stop drawing on your finite reserve of willpower and instead create a framework based on the power of action.

In my initial career as an aerospace engineer, one of the first things I learned is that everything is a project. Any time we received a request to fix or change something, that request was assigned to a project that was actioned, tracked and managed until the desired result was achieved.

So if you want to really make changes in your results, whether professional or personal, it pays to think in terms of projects with measurable deliverables. By executing your project, you fall naturally into action mode.

A project is an organized system with a mission, a deliverable, and the resources (time, people, actions) to carry it out.

The key elements of a project are:

WHY – Mission: A concise description of the problem or opportunity you want to address, and the motivation or need that justifies the change. The mission statement should address the importance and urgency of taking action now.

WHAT – Deliverable: The tangible, measurable and demonstratable result to be achieved. The deliverable should be a change that is evident to the outside observer.

HOW – Strategy and Resources: The actions needed to acheive the deliverable, and what you need to execute your project (time, team, tools, money)

WHO – Accountability and Communications: Who is responsible for what, and reports to whom?

WHEN – Timeline: The delivery date and the milestones that demonstrate progress, plotted on a calendar (or GANTT chart)

For example, if your resolution is to “lose some weight”, the questions to ask yourself are:

– Why? What is your motivation? Why is this important to you? Why now? This becomes into your “Mission”

– What? How much do you want to lose? By when? What is a tangible measure that you have reached your objective, something that you do? This leads to your Deliverable

– How? What actions do you need to take? What resources are needed to make it happen? What is the strategy you can take to achieve this result (the elements of your Strategy and Resources)

– When? What is the timeline, the end goal and intermediate milestones

– Who? Who is your team (accountability and communications)

I organize my projects, whether they are personal or professional. Each project gets a number, and all communications, plans, logs, and every other record goes directly into the project folder in my Dropbox, with corresponding actions planned and logged in Omnifocus. In 2014 I had over 160 projects defined and tracked. Some were carried through to deliverables, some others were closed or suspended, but each gave me a point of focus to create change.

So as you plan a New Year, try the project strategy. Take a “resolution” that is important to you, and build a project around it, with a mission, a deliverable, resources, timeline, and an accountability structure. Experience how adopting a project mindset can produce results with less stress and more productivity than simply wishing for the triumph of willpower over reality.

For more information

Photo credit: Bekah (beXoutloud) via Flickr
Direct link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bex_x_pi/3157409347/sizes/m/
Used under Creative Commons licence

Updated from the original published on LinkedIn (26 Dec 2014):

Looking For The Faint Signal of Opportunity In An Avalanche of Noise

Effectuation is not magic, but it is magical. It is a dance between constraints and means.

Instead of trying to bend our environment to conform to an arbitrary objective, Effectuation teaches us to develop a particular sensitivity. Focus on detecting the faint signal of opportunity in an avalanche of noise, and act quickly to maximize its potential. You will get a result which is more sustainable, resilient, even anti-fragile. The bonus is that the end-state is better aligned with who you really are. 

The Effectuation Process

The Effectuation Process (Source: https://www.effectuation.org/?page_id=207)


 Here is a brief video explaining effectuation:

For more information: effectuation.org

A Few Answers About Me

Cooperathon2018I will be mentoring at this year’s Coopérathon 2018 (Finance). As part of the mentor process, they sent me a short profile survey. Thought I would share it here, too:

Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ?/ What makes you jump out of bed in the morning ?(what motivates you in life/ what do you do in life)

Fondateur du “The Scaleup Project” – une communauté de passionnés qui aident les innovateurs à bâtir des entreprises d’impact et de conséquence dont ils peuvent être fiers.
// Founder of “The Scaleup Project” – a community helping innovators to build businesses with impact and consequence of which they can be proud.

Qu’est-ce qui vous tient éveillé tard le soir ? / What keeps you up at night? ( what are your current challenges)

J’écris un livre pour communiquer une nouvelle approche à la croissance des entreprises innovantes
// I’m writing a book which explores a fresh approach to scaling innovative ventures.

Qu’est-ce que le Coopérathon peut apporter à notre communauté? / What can Cooperathon bring to our community?

Le Coopérathon est un appel aux armes pour encourager les innovateurs, autant les novices que les chevronnés, à passer à l’action dès aujourd’hui.
// The Coopérathon is a call to arms for all innovators, be they novice or experienced, so that they move into action, today.

Quelle ambition as-tu pour le monde de ”demain”? / which ambition do you have for tomorrow’s world?

Les solutions pour les grands défis auxquels nous faisons face ne viendront pas de nos leaders politiques ni des PDG de la vieille garde… C’est au tour aux citoyens-entrepreneurs de créer l’avenir dont ils rêvent.
// The solutions to our huge challenges will not come from politicians or the old-guard CEOs. It’s time for citizen-entrepreneurs to get moving and build the future they dream of.

Quel conseil donneriez-vous à quelqu’un souhaitant lancer son projet ? / What would be your advice to someone launching a new innovative project today?

Tombez en amour avec ce que votre utilisateur essaie de faire. Comment pouvez-vous l’aider à vivre un impact positif et mesurable qui touche même son entourage et au-delà?
// Fall in love with your user’s “job-to-be-done”. How can you empower your them to experience a positive and measurable impact which even goes beyond their circle and out to the community?

Qu’est-ce que ça signifie pour vous , ”entreprendre” ? / what does it means for you to ”start up” ?

Entreprendre c’est un engagement à changer l’avenir. Il faut le prendre au sérieux.
// Entrepreneurship is a commitment to change the future. Don’t take it lightly.

Link to Coopérathon main website:

95% of VC funds aren’t profitable. Why? (TechCrunch)

Startup entrepreneurs are trained (brainwashed?) to pitch to VCs or their seed fund proxies as soon as possible.


The short answer is that this is the pattern established by the original Y-Combinator program by Paul Graham in 2005 to prepare startups to be presented to potential investors.

But the answer behind the answer is that VC funds are like trawlers: they need to cast a wide net to find that one-in-a-thousand startup with the potential to become a billion-dollar exit.

The search for that elusive unicorn exit is the main reason why most VC funds are not profitable.

I like this detailed overview of the VC business model as described from an entrepreneur perspective, by Tomer Dean on TechCrunch:


Premature Synchronization Is The Root Of All Evil (Venkatesh Rao)

Premature Synchronization (Venkatesh Rao)

As I am building The Scaleup Project, I’m struggling with the reality that TSP is more than a business.

I guess it’s my ego which imagines me wearing Colonel slipons as the CEO of a tightly disciplined team, each one saluting me with a jaunty “Yes, Sir!” at my every instruction.

But this 1960’s view of business cannot work as we warp-speed towards the 2020s. I’m dealing with a group of talented adults, each offering a unique experience and skill set. People float in and out of the team according to their needs, our needs and the needs of the entrepreneurs we serve. They are as busy making their impact in the world as I am in making mine.

Traditional org charts cannot work in an agile economy

During my EMBA I applied four times to senior management positions related to entrepreneurship or economic development. I know I brought a fantastic life experience to each organization. I wanted to throw my whole self into each project, to make a difference and leave a legacy.  But at each interview I felt as if I had to leave part of me at the door to fit into the job requirement. I was a round peg that could not fit into a square hole. And interestingly enough, three of those four organizations disappeared within a year…

If I don’t fit into an org chart, why am I trying to build one for my own venture?

This is not a trivial concern. It leads to a whole list of questions about how to design this community:

  • Do I incorporate? If so, with who? how?
  • What about shareholder agreements? Compensation?
  • How to develop standards, share information, come to a consensus?
  • How to share the value we create as a team in a flexible way which reflects what people contribute (beyond just time)?

I’m concerned about encoding too much structure at this early stage because I know that as we scale from preparation to beachhead, there are many unknowns unknowns which will pop up.

The value of desynchronization in time and space

As Venkatesh Rao explores in his post:

10/ Humans are of very low value as cogs in a machine doing identical things in interchangeable ways, on the same clock, on the basis of identical kinds of training to graded levels. That’s for robots.


11/ Humans are most valuable when they have high autonomy, and able to play to their unique strengths and histories, particular sensitivities, op-tempos, and patterns of privileged information


12/ The idea of “wisdom of the crowds” in fact rests on humans having diverse, unique private knowledge bases (foxy!). The madness of crowds kicks in with synchronization and imitation (hedgehoggy!)


13/ Why desynchronize in space? If you are marching in a straight line on a road, and your buddy is clambering over rooftops roughly parallel to you, should he try to move in strictly parallel ways? That would be dumb.


14/ Why desynchronize in time? Different kinds of work have different time constants and generate actionable information at different tempos. Different people are in different emotional states at the same clock time.


15/ Synchronized communication follows from synchronized work: reports on a forced identical tempo. Mandatory meetings. Mandatory annual reviews that must happen in December.

Instead of synchronization, use focused (what he calls “laser-beam”) coordination only when the situation demands it. Laser-beam coordination is expensive in energy and lost opportunity. It is most useful to use when dealing with an urgent issue.

(Not sure where I’m going with this but it’s where I am at this point…)


Redefining Dilution (Eric Paley)


Raising more capital is not necessarily dilution. It’s what you do with the money after raising it.

Eric Paley (Founder Collective) describes a novel distinction between accretion and dilution:

When you accept a new investor, everyone’s piece of the pie gets smaller because the pie is fixed but the number of shares issued have increased. So your share of the company may go from 20% to 15% because of the new investor.

However, if the shares are priced correctly, the value of each share should go up because more equity has been sold. So your total 15% after the round should be worth more than your 20% before the round. This is accretion, or increase in value. The important thing is to look at your worth, not your percentage.

Now if you take the money and use it on things that do not add value to the company, such as features that customers don’t want which cause your sales to fall, then you have lost money and the value of your company decreases. This is the real dilution.

“Dilution is a function of your burn rate relative to your accretion of value. It is often measured in financing events, but it actually plays out every day in the choices the startup makes and the work the startup accomplishes. Simply put, if you are accreting more value than you burn, there is no dilution. If you’re burning more cash than you’re accreting value, then there is dilution.

Put another way, you’re not being diluted because a VC decrees it; you’re being diluted because you spent money building features that your customers didn’t want, instead of the ones that they need. You’re being diluted because you kept scaling up an ineffective sales process because you didn’t want growth to slow.

Each financing event is more of a check-in point on the value of the company than a true dilutive or accretive event. It’s the time between the financings, when the company was burning cash to build additional value, that was truly the accretive or dilutive journey. In other words, the company isn’t worth $20 million because someone bought stock in a day. Its valuation increased from $10 million to $20 million because of the work that was done to increase the value of the company that greatly outpaced the cost of creating that value. If the cost outpaced the value of the work, that would have been dilutive, as demonstrated by a down round.”

In summary, ensure that each dollar you spend adds value to your business.

Quote: “Businesses serve needs, not markets”


“When identifying new market opportunities, it’s critical that you begin with a focus on the customer’s job to be done, rather than on your company’s capabilities. It’s tempting to look at your capabilities as the starting point for any expansion, but capabilities are of no use without a job for them. (…) To Corning, businesses serve needs, not markets, and as technological or market shifts occur, the company continues to grow by remaining focused on the need, which we call the job.”

— Clayton M. Christensen, Thomas Bartman, and Derek van Bever, The Hard Truth About Business Model Innovation (MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2016 Issue)