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Timing is everything — especially in startups.

You need to be pretty durable to be an entrepreneur. It’s said that the best lessons in are often the most painful emotionally and financially. And entrepreneurs get hit by these type of lessons almost daily, sometimes twice.

I awoke this morning to find the New York Times had just the ripped the duct tape off an old, painful wound:

In early 2011, I sunk my life savings to launch PoliMobile. We would bring mobile marketing tools into the world of political campaigns. I didn’t make this decision lightly. I spent six months speaking to politicians, political campaign managers, party officials and others. It was enough due diligence to risk it.

Three years of 70-80 hour weeks, two pivots and some successes followed. I left the decision to the results of a meeting of a 20-something campaign staffer. (I won’t mention the campaign. I respect Al Franken.)

He proved to be a carbon copy of most campaign staffers. He was young, clueless, not curious and somehow arrogant despite this being his second race. He preached that young voters would never connect with campaigns using mobile. His iPhone never left his hands.

Moments later, I happily killed off my startup. I never looked back on those three years until this morning’s tweet, but I learned these lessons.


#1: Due diligence never ends.

While in development, we checked in the with a group of political advisors. They provided excellent feedback. It helped us create a great platform that solve critical issues.

Unfortunately, I was asking the wrong questions to the wrong people. The BETA of our platform got great reviews. The question I didn’t ask the right people is “what you pay for this?” No campaign wanted to buy it..

The reality is that 90% of all the money campaigns raise goes into media buys. The rest goes for food for the volunteers and minuscule salaries for those who manage them. Outside of the candidate in a few key campaign staffers, the rest tend to be pretty worthless.

Those key campaign staffers got to their positions by following the status quo. They stuck to using outdated campaigns tools: lawn signs, direct mail and broadcast media.

Never quit doing due diligence. You can always pivot sooner than later.


#2: Customers pay you.

Startups put a lot of weight on building a sizable user base. They invest hordes of funds to get users. And adapt to keep them.

Users don’t matter. Customers do.

Many campaigns signed up for trials. We invest new features based on some of the feedback we received. Unfortunately, most of them never used our platform for one key reason: they never paid for it. No matter how much you give away, most will never use what they won’t buy.

Focus on those who pay. Fuck the rest.



#3: Timing is everything.

You could do everything perfectly. You could have a few paying customers to validate your work. But if the market is not ready it doesn’t matter.

PoliMobile was ahead of the curve. We launched time when mobile was in heavy use with consumers. Some enterprising campaigns had great success with mobile tools like we offer. Most campaigns today are still not ready for what we offered in 2011.

I ran into that same campaign staffer later. He was pushing bean water at a second tier coffee chain and didn’t recognize me. I left him an $8 tip on a $2 tea in thanks. He saved me from another few years of pain.

3FER: Moto Me!, Amazon smart buttons & killing a connected Chrysler

Chrysler can't get a brake.
Chrysler can’t get a brake.

As a newly minted Chicagoan, it’s great to see a local company gain some mobile street cred. I’m now tempted to finally become an Amazon Prime member. And I’m glad that I decided against purchasing that new Jeep.


#1: Moto Me! Motorola had a great week.

Glad to see positive media coverage coming from Chicago instead of Cupertino for once. A year after its breakup with Google, Motorola has shown it can still innovate:

  • The new Moto G proves that it understands the needs of emerging market consumers. (Doesn’t Apple still push the iPhone 4 in India?)
  • The Moto X will offer a better battery and camera than the iPhone 6 at half the price. And Motorola’s direct-to-consumer push eliminates carrier bloatware and draconian controls.
  • The new Moto Pulse and Moto Surround headphones offer battery life and range unmatched by others. And they even made dramatic improvements to the Moto Hint.

(Full disclosure: I’m a Motorola fan boy who owns a Moto X, 360 and Hint.)

Motorola Announces Moto X Style, Moto X Play, and Moto G (Droid Life)

We All Need Motorola’s Direct-To-Consumer Approach With the New Moto X to Succeed (Droid Life)

Motorola also outs Moto Pulse and Moto Surround wireless headphones (GSMArena)

Motorola quietly launches 2nd generation Moto Hint headset (GSMArea)


#2: Amazon releases a Dashing connected device.

Mastering context is critical when it comes to mobile engagement. Achieving it is also damn near impossible for consumer packaged goods (CPG) marketers.

So when Amazon partnered with CPG brands to capture those mobile moments, magic happens. Starting this week, Amazon Prime customers can buy Dash Buttons at $5 a pop. (Why aren’t free?)

These handy, branded devices will place set orders for more Tide detergent, Huggies diapers and a range other products with a touch of a button. You confirm all orders online or with their mobile app. So your cute kids can’t order a surprised pallet of mac and cheese.

Now when will Amazon start stocking alcohol?

Amazon Dash Buttons Are Now Available to All Prime Members (LifeHacker)


#3: Chrysler confirms our connected car fears.

Auto companies want to supplant our smartphone addiction. (Bluetooth connectivity is so 2011.) Moms want to download directly from iTunes on the road to pacify those brats with Spongebob Squarepants.

Seems that innovation doesn’t come without consequences.  Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.4M vehicles this week a dangerous security flaw appeared. Two hackers cracked their Uconnect system. They disabled the brakes as a journalist sped down the road at 70 MPH.

The journalist and Chrysler’s reputation ended up in a ditch.

Hackers remotely kill a Jeep on the highway–with me in it. (Wired)


(Photo Credit: Andy Greenberg/Wired)