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The two sides

Scott points us to the latest from the happy go lucky lawyers at the MPAA: Podcasting News…Should Ripping Videos To iPod Be Illegal?.

It’s copyright vs. copywrong

Some big copywrong holders hate the digital technology that has made them so much money. They would like to charge you every time you listen to a song or watch a movie (like a theatre or a concert). They abhor the fact that one DVD might get seen at a Boy Scout meeting or end up on your iPod. Scratch a disk? Buy another. Upgrade to a new machine? Buy another. The more they can cripple the distribution of their product, the better they do, they think.

Others realize that ideas that spread are worth more. That the souvenir value of a popular idea is very high.

We’re going to see this fight 1,000 times until those in the spreading camp start to put up the serious numbers it will take to convert those that would build walls instead.

Your Name On Toast

The latest in the traffic pyramid pages, this time for charity: Your Name On Toast :: Your name, except on toast. I like the fact that Pete is donating all his profit to charity, and no, I’m not endorsing this one (or any of them), just pointing them out.

I think the success of the various pages (they need a name, don’t they–how about link promo pages) is that there’s a real need, almost a desperate need, for the 999,000 vibrant webpages that aren’t in the top 1,000 in traffic to find a way to get there. To get the word out.

As entrepreneurs figure out how to help websites to do that reliably, they can’t help but succeed.

[PS June 2007: Pete tells me that they’ve raised more than $8,000 and they’re about to give it all away to a charity selected by voters.]

A friend in need

Rick writes:

Yesterday on her way to work, my wife had a flat tire at the post office. She coaxed her car to the nearest tire shop to see if they could fix the tire, we’d already ruined the spare, Wal-Mart couldn’t repair it when IT went flat a couple of weeks ago. (Funny how there’s never time to fix a spare tire!)

Our little tire shop repaired her tire and had her on her way in a few minutes. Now, we’ve just moved to this small Texas town, and though we’ve lived in Texas for years, what happened next still took me a bit by surprise. My wife inquired about payment, and they wouldn’t hear of it- she needed help and they gave it to her. Well, she decided it was time for some new tires and told them she’d be back in the morning for two.

I went with her this morning for the new tires, and what do you know- on a banner in the front window they proudly proclaimed- "Voted best tire store in Central Texas 2004". Wouldn’t you know it. And the total bill for the two tires was about $20 less than Sam’s, took less time, and we had a fun chatting with the employees. Yeppers, small IS the new big.

The funny thing is that I had a blowout this week as well. And I had precisely the same experience. Maybe it’s something about helping folks with a flat, but what a great example of how easy it is to build a brand when you help someone in need.

The lambchop theory of success

I asked my friend Charlotte to recommend a professional the other day.

She sent me a note today, recommending someone, and pointing out that his wife was a real "lambchop."

I had never heard the expression before, but immediately knew what it meant. No, not a sock puppet.

A kind, thoughtful person. Someone who keeps her promises. Someone who does great work but doesn’t always brag about it. Someone you’d like to work with again.

It used to be that a real jerk who got results was exactly what you needed. Today, in a world that’s a lot more connected and a lot more permeable, lambchops win out.

Why not do it on purpose?

Mike sends us to:  Steak and Shake’s Blue Mix-Up � Resisting Inertia. Apparently, the Steak and Shake in Indianapolis sent a coupon to 600,000 Colts fans that read, "Proud Sponsor of the Dallas Cowboys."

The big game is Sunday. (Dallas vs. Indy).

To make up for sending the wrong marketing to the right market (or the right marketing to the wrong market) they’re offering a free shake to anyone who shows up in a Colts jersey.

Sometimes, making people angry is the best way to get people to notice… Except when it’s not. Except when you are disrespectful or contemptuous., not just hamhanded.

Honesty vs. self-esteem

Here’s a self-description from esnips: FubarSam’s Profile. (Thanks, Adam)

Im a mediocre looking guy who has very little going on. I work at Tiger Express Wash in Columbia Missouri.  I make six bucks an hour and a little bit of tips each day to pay for gas and smokes. I live in a Single Wide Mobile home that I own. I am married now for almost 11 years.  I am going bald and I am overwieght somewhat.  I  dont drink anymore because I am an idiot when I do.  So I have not drank since 97.  I lived most of my 20s and 30s in the Missouri Department of Corrections.  I was a failure at being a criminal so I decided to change and try a different path.  I stay home.  I dont go out.  I pay my bills.  I appreciate what I got.  I sing and record music.  Other than that, I am about as interesting as an empty sheet of paper.

Don’t make a bad deal

Here’s what entrepreneurs and bizdev folks ought to remember before they do a deal:

First, doing a deal is a good thing. Despite my warnings below, you don’t get anywhere if your idea is a secret. A leveraged idea is worth sharing.

That said, please remember that the idea isn’t what is worth anything. It’s the effort and the cash and persistence that pays off.

  1. Don’t do a deal where each side gets a fixed percentage. A 50/50 split of a company invented in a bar is always a bad idea. Even paying someone 5% for some sort of contribution can come back to haunt you. Instead, build the deal around a shifting percentage based on contributions over time.
  2. Don’t assume that the money you start with is going to be enough. Let’s say you and a buddy each put in $5k and each take half the business. Then what? What happens when the money runs out and only one of you is willing to put in the next block of capital?
  3. Think about taxes. If you build a Sub S company, and the company loses money, you both get a write off…
  4. Don’t forget the arbitration clause. Sure, your venture won’t go bad, but others do. A clause that guarantees informal binding arbitration not only saves you time and money when stuff goes wrong, but it helps keep stuff from going wrong because no one will blackmail the other with court.
  5. Do a deal with someone you trust, but don’t do a deal with a friend. You’ll likely end up with neither a partner nor a friend in the end.
  6. Don’t forget the shotgun clause. At some point, one of you is going to want to run with the project. So build in a clause that says, "At any time, one person can offer to buy the other out. The second person then has the chance to either buy the first person out at the same valuation, or sell." Money can solve a few problems, and this is one of them.
  7. In case you forgot, reread #1.
  8. Worry about control. A lot. Sooner or later, control matters. Do you have it? Really? If you don’t, are you okay with that?
  9. The myth of most legal documents is that the world is going to stay the way it is. Or that the world is going to change, but just the way you expect it will. It won’t, and it doesn’t.

Little billboards

Scott on sugar packets.

Love and Money

Joel Spolsky shares this great story from a flight attendant:

Alright, I am gonna dote on my company for a few minutes. As most everyone on here is probably familiar with, last night was a nightmare for people travelling to and from the Northeast. We currently have 5 flights a day from CMH, 4 to/from JFK and 1 to/from BOS. Last night, out of CMH alone, Delta cancelled 3 flights, American cancelled 2, and Continental cancelled 1 and those are just flights that I know of. After we found out that our flight was delayed until 2223, the captain and the rest of us station employees decided to pool our money and we purchased pizza for all passengers on board our aircraft. Since the pizza place wouldn’t deliver to the airport, one of our crewmembers volunteered to go pick it up. Once the pizza was brought back, the passengers were boarded, our live tv and xm were turned on and the pizza was served by ALL the crew, not just the flight attendants. The Captain, FO and other airport crewmembers went above and beyond. Granted I may be a little biased, but I was glad to be here last night. The feeling of seeing that plane take off and those people get to where they are going, even if they were late was pretty darn good. Not too many other airlines that I know of will do that for their customers.

It’s not just "not too many other airlines…", it’s, "not too many employees." Wanna bet she had more fun than most flight attendants that day?

When to start

  • The best time to start is when you’ve got enough money in the bank to support all contingencies.
  • The best time to start is when the competition is far behind in technology, sophistication and market acceptance.
  • The best time to start is when the competition isn’t too far behind, because then you’ll spend too long educating the market.
  • The best time to start is when everything at home is stable and you can really focus.
  • The best time to start is when you’re out of debt.
  • The best time to start is when no one is already working on your idea.
  • The best time to start is when your patent comes through.
  • The best time to start is after you’ve got all your VC funding.
  • The best time to start is when the political environment is more friendly than it is now.
  • The best time to start is after you’ve got your degree.
  • The best time to start is after you’ve worked all the kinks out of your plan.
  • The best time to start is when you’re sure it’s going to work.
  • The best time to start is after you’ve hired the key marketing person for the new division.
  • The best time to start was last year. The best opportunities are already gone.
  • The best time to start is before some pundit declares your segment passe. Too late.
  • The best time to start is when the new generation of processors is shipping.
  • The best time to start is when the geopolitical environment settles down.

Actually, as you’ve probably guessed, the best time to start was last year. The second best time to start is right now.