Insights.

Weekly highlights focused on challenges of entrepreneurs, distilled from coaching sessions throughout S.E.Asia and North America.
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The future of coworking, and the rise of an indulgent nerd culture

3 minute read

Coworking is in danger of becoming mainstream.

Their numbers have grown dramatically every year since 2006 – in 2017 more than 1 million people will work in one. But their business model won’t scale and profits are low. Worst, their mainstream appeal may threaten their success.

Pieter Levels gives a bleak analysis of their business model – coworking spaces have low margins and don’t scale. Only 40% are profitable. He suggests looking at big pocketed corporates wanting to do remote work and get into the ‘free thinking’ vibe. These corporates would send teams to remotely build products and services in coworking spaces, and pay top dollar for it. But I doubt that this will work – it goes against the magic potion that makes coworking so effective. I don’t believe that just because a team of stiff corporates trade in their leather shoes for flip-flops and sunburns that they are going to transcend their old thought patterns and ways of working. Only immersion into a new culture can do that. 

The strength of the nerd community makes coworking great.

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Pivot with grace – designing agility into your startup

Every startup evolves – often unexpectedly. How do you manage this effectively?

How to transition from Free to Pay? How to take that thriving community and monetize it? How can you keep doors open to embrace all the potential but lock in what you need to move forward? And sometimes we just have an awesome business idea, something radically new. We don’t know how yet, but we feel it will work. In all these contexts, how to skillfully navigate this all the twists and turns so you can get to the best business? This article looks at one tool from design which can help improve your agility when you need to reconfigure your business.

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Can you multiply your time?

I can appreciate the 80/20 rule, yet I think it’s outdated.

Sure, I accept that a first analysis will often show that 20% of inputs lead to 80% of outputs. I also agree that you can use this to sharpen your focus. But this analysis isn’t a catchall for every situation, and therefore hard to consistently put it into action on a daily basis. Most importantly it misses an opportunity for making really good use of your time – the potential to do things that multiply their effect over time.

How to use time today so that it multiplies its effect in the future?

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Leadership starts with energy

Is leadership the starting point for new business? If so, then what does leadership look like starting from zero, from a blank slate?

In a recent working lunch in Vietnam, I was consulting 10 disabled artists seeking to start a new business as a collective. But they lacked a starting point. How to start their business? What to do first? How would the pieces come together? Collectively they had a rough vision for what the business should be, but no plan to put it into action. They were paralyzed.

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Because you can learn anything (Part 2)

The tables of learning are turning,

now that we can learn anything what should we do?

 

Today school requires you to memorize,

yet tomorrow’s work requires you to adapt.

The internet has made memorization obsolete,

and our next task easy to learn and complete.

Amidst AI and robots, online courses, and e-learning,

this is the new choice, for all students of life, leadership and business:

now that you can learn to do anything,

what does mean for your life?

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How to learn anything (Part 1)

Think you can’t change?

That you will never be creative? Or do public speaking? Or that leading a team is not your thing? You can. Without having met you I know that with the right approach, you can learn anything.

This article will recap how you can learn anything, and once you’ve accepted this is possible, I will follow it up with an article considering what this means for building an ambitious startup.

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Handicraft and the new world order

Today the Economist declared the age of Multinational domination has passed. The market for Handicrafts is on the rise.

Handcrafted products have been integral to the recent US election. I’m (kind of) serious. What do Donald Trump and handicrafts have in common? Nothing you say? Think again:

  • His ties? Handmade in ‘Gina – not in ‘Merica.
  • His suits? Handmade by Brioni in Italy – not by Americans.
  • Pink hats worn at his protests? Hand-knit by American women with a message of gender equality.

Will handicrafts determine the new world order? It’s a stretch, but we can learn some lessons from the rich stories behind local artisanal products. Read more

Why workaholics won’t change the world

I can’t deny that workaholics have serious impact, but should we emulate them?

I admire entrepreneurs, I think they will be the ones to make the necessary radical changes to the world viable – economical, culturally, environmentally. But it’s hard work, how to bring about change without losing balance in your own life? Does sacrificing your personal life like so many leaders (think Elon Musk, Steve Jobs) really change the world for the better? 

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Knowing what to share

You’ve got a massive business idea…worried about someone stealing it?

Farouk Meralli was bouncing new startup ideas off of me at rapid pace. Tantalizingly big ideas. I am bound to secrecy, but it got me thinking how often I meet entrepreneurs who feel nervous about sharing their ideas.

As a consultant it seems there are an increasing number of requests for non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) – just for initial conversations! Sure, NDAs have their place, you shouldn’t share patent worthy info without one, but you can’t build solid business ideas in isolation either. So how do you figure out what to share?

The key is understanding your competitive advantage and uncertainty.

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