All posts filed under “Business

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Weekly round-up

Here is a weekend round-up of stuff I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while. Hope you find it interesting.

  • Ever wanted to buy or at least ride a Segway? If you don’t want to ride one across the United States like these guys, maybe you should consider building one yourself. Some UMich engineering students built one for $1750 in two months. Check out the video here (complete with cheesy music):
  • Another cool YouTube video here. Someone takes apart a common “Intelligent Design” argument by showing that in fact, it’s quite reasonable to expect a theoretical box of clock parts to assemble into a clock. It’s fairly straightforward math-wise, using genetic algorithms. I learned and used the same technique back as an undergraduate to calculate optimal satellite orbits in order to conduct “fly-bys” of particular planets within particular windows. Good stuff.
  • Great quote here.

    “I suddenly understood with great clarity that nothing in life—except death itself—was ever going to kill me. No meeting could ever go that badly. No client would ever be that angry. No business error would ever bring me as close to the brink as I had already been.”

  • If you have to use Outlook, first of all, I’m sorry for you. But to help ease your pain, try out Xobni. (Inbox spelled backward.) It will revolutionize the way you work in Outlook.
  • These are great rules to live by: (from Scott Berkun)
    Rules.jpg
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Plaxo + LinkedIn = Golden

There are two things you need to do RIGHT NOW.

1 – Sign up with Plaxo, and add your current home and work information. (If you have them, add the information for your blogs, Flickr streams, Twitter and other web accounts, too.)

2 – Sign up with LinkedIn, and add however much of your resume/CV you’d like.

No matter what you do or where you are in your career, this will be of tremendous use to you.

Plaxo

What the hell is Plaxo? It’s your addressbook on steroids, and synchronized like the fastest rowing boat you’ve ever seen. If you’re on Plaxo and move (either jobs or homes), as soon as you update your information it’s automatically updated in your friends’ and colleagues’ address books! (If they’re also Plaxo members, that is.) When your friends move, their information is automatically updated in your address book. Perhaps more importantly, you can select with each person how much of your information they can see… home, work, and other levels of access. It’s great!

Furqan talks about the latest version of Plaxo here, and John Jantsch of “Duct Tape Marketing” discusses Plaxo here. I know as I get close to Christmas card season, I wish everyone I know had Plaxo accounts! It’s also nice that Plaxo will send you e-mails to remind you of peoples’ birthdays, which can help make sure you don’t miss any important dates.

One of the coolest things about Plaxo is that it synchronizes all of your contacts and calendars across accounts and computers! Just check out this video for more information!

LinkedIn

What the hell is LinkedIn? It’s your resume/CV online, and connections to your entire professional network. Whether you’re looking for information on a company you’re going to do business with, trying to recruit someone for a job at your company, LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to take advantage of the network you already have. (You can have LinkedIn scan your contacts list to find people that are already members.)

You may not see benefits from joining straight away, but at some point, it will be invaluable for you.

Once you’re all hooked up…

Then you can combine Plaxo and LinkedIn if you want to! (I haven’t, but it is possible.) TechCrunch said that Plaxo + LinkedIn + iPhone = Brilliant. Furqan talks about the combination of tools here, relative to a discussion on how to get introduced to venture capitalists.

It’s a small fee that Plaxo charges for their Pro-level account, but then you can attach your LinkedIn account with your Plaxo account so that both of these great services are synch’d up, as well.

Summary

Do it now… register with Plaxo and register with LinkedIn. You’ll be glad you did.

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Racing Teams – Solar and more

One of the most foundational and transformational experiences in my life was working on the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. I had the opportunity to work on and race the 1997 car Wolverine, and to serve as Project Manager for the 1999 car, MaizeBlaze. Wolverine raced across the US in Sunrayce 97, and MaizeBlaze raced across both the States in Sunrayce 99 and the Australian Outback in the World Solar Challenge 99.

As I write this, teams racing the Panasonic World Solar Challenge 2007 competition are making final preparations before the race start tomorrow morning in Darwin, Australia. The University of Michigan is again very well represented with their car, Continuum. It has been 20 years since the first solar car race across Australia, won by the GM vehicle “Sunraycer.” Since then, the technology has increased dramatically. The last race in 2005 was so quick that rules were changed to make an even more challenging competition. (Teams were traveling the speed limit over the entire 1,800 mile course.) Cars in the top class must have much more upright seating positions, with steering wheels and a smaller solar array. These rules seek to increase the power required, and lessen the power available to teams in this category.

Continuum responded to the rule changes with a risky but very innovative design innovation. In this category, teams have 9 m^2 of surface area from which they could collect sun, but only had 6 m^2 of solar cells they could use. Michigan, at a very great risk, spent a tremendous amount of time, effort and expense to develop a system of concentrators. The back of the car has a broad area of parabolic mirrors that concentrate the solar energy onto very small (and specially designed) solar cells that are optimised for high-sun conditions. All of this is packaged under a clear material that conforms to the very aerodynamic body shell. Furqan Nazeeri, the 1993 team manager wrote about just how much risk they took on in a post here.

I wish them the best of luck in the competition. The University of Michigan Solar Car Team is the winningest student team ever, both in the United States and in the World Solar Challenge across Australia. However, because of teams such as Honda and other well-funded corporate competitors, the team has never quite managed to win the Australian race. This race may change that streak, and it is quite possibly the most advanced vehicle designed and constructed. Please visit the team’s blog here to follow coverage from their race.

Finally, it’s a bit of a coincidence that the race starts this weekend, the final weekend of the Formula 1 racing season. I’ve gotten into Formula 1 a bit living here in Europe, and it’s known as the most technologically advanced motor sport. That said, I recently saw some photos of the Formula 1 team garage on a blog post here. Compare and contrast those to photos in the Michigan team’s blog.

SCT-WindTunnel.jpg
Formula1.jpg
ContinuumAndTrailer.jpg
RenaultComputers.jpg

After seeing both, there’s not an amazing amount of difference between the two. One has millions in funding, and the other is a group of students, but the results are amazing.

Best of luck to Continuum and the Michigan team. They have supporters literally across the globe. GO BLUE!

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“Fractal” brands – insightful description!

Recently I happened to read some of Diego Rodriguez’s old blog posts, where he talks about fractal brands. Specifically, the best brands are fractal. Here’s a quote from his post:

Definition of fractal, from Hyperdictionary:

A fractal is a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be subdivided in parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a smaller copy of the whole. Fractals are generally self-similar (bits look like the whole) and independent of scale (they look similar, no matter how close you zoom in)

Good brands are fractal. Every interaction you have reflects the interaction you’ll have with every other piece of the whole, as well as the whole itself. Since “brand” is shorthand for the total experience you get from buying, using, servicing, and disposing of a product, creating a great brand requires taking a fractal point of view to the process of designing total experiences where everything — large and small — is consistent and mutually self-reinforcing.

(Emphasis is mine)

To understand his background, Diego is a partner at IDEO and teaches at the d.school (Design School) at Stanford. He’s been on the forefront of innovation his entire career.

This is a very insightful view on good branding. He later follows it up with this post on Apple Stores, remarking that even three-year olds recognise them as a place to buy an iPod, because they have the same design sense as an iPod. And of course, there are also some bad governmental examples.

Everything you do in a company is part of the brand, but to a geek like me, describing it this way is so simple to understand. What do you think?