Sebastian Arciszewski

Musings & Observations About My Life

A new project: RadResume

I’ve been quietly working on something new in my spare time and now I’m ready to start talking about it. RadResume. It’s an app for iPhone and iPads that is being designed to allow anyone to quickly and easily create beautiful, elegant and effective resumes.

The main impetus for this is two-fold: 1) For years I’ve wanted to put my varied skill-set of design, software UX/UI design, and online marketing to use in an app project like this. 2) A while back I was hiring for a position with one of my older projects and discovered that out of the 150 or so resumes that I received, they were all terrible from a design / standing out point of view. I started to research the market and discovered what I believe is a gap that can be filled with an app like this.

Stay tuned for more details.

Sam & Jenna’s Wedding

This past weekend Michelle and I attended the wedding of some close friends in Harrison Hot Springs. Here’s a few of my favourite snaps I took from the event. Congrats Sam & Jenna.

 

My first Mac. 50 months and counting.

I happen to be writing this on the very first Mac I’ve had the pleasure of owning. No, I wasn’t one of the passionate minority that used Mac products well before the current decade+ wave of Apple product popularity took root around the world. In May 2009 I bought a 15 inch, Late 2008 MacBook Pro – the 2.66Ghz Intel Core 2 duo version with 4 GB of RAM.

A few things made the jump to a Mac and away from Windows PC’s / laptops possible:

  1. I had had multiple iPod’s and loved every single one.
  2. I was one of the lucky few Canadians who managed to go across the border a couple of months after the iPhone’s launch in the summer of 2007, jailbreak it and for a while, I and my other few Canadian techie brethern were the goddamn life of the party anytime we’d bust that thing out. The first iPhone (having owned Palm Pilots and Compaq iPaqs) was the most incredible computing device I had ever owned by a country mile. The oft-described halo effect had its way with me.
  3. I was so sick of Windows, and more importantly shitty PC laptops that would fall apart 18 months in and be really terrible at anything and everything demanding an ounce of portability or power, I was more than happy to try something new.
  4. A good friend and new girlfriend sung the Mac’s and Apple’s praises, and well, who can resist the charms of a new girl in your life?

So here I am, 50 months in with my trusty MacBook Pro. The main things that strike me 50 months in:

  1. This past January, I stuck an extra 4GB or RAM, bringing me up to 8 total and that made a nice difference, but sticking an SSD in there has made this feel like a completely new computer. I can anticipate this being my main machine for probably another 12-18 months.
  2. The build quality of this, at this age, is unlike any other technology product I’ve owned before. It’s simply a tank. I’ve dropped this thing (it has a tiny dent) countless times. Bumped it, spilled drinks on it, basically abused it for well over 4 years and with the exception of some minor scuffing and scratches, it’s still incredibly beautiful and feels almost as solid as the day I bought it.
  3. What four year old laptop can you bring into a coffee shop amidst all the latest and greatest and not feel like you’re pulling out some sort of stone tablet? A MacBook Pro, that’s what. It might not be the thinnest or lightest or fastest anymore, but it’s still beautiful.
  4. It continues to amaze me that after all these years, so many of the PC manufacturers (all well on their way to some level of extinction or severe downsizing) still don’t get the simple idea of build quality.

Hooooo boy…

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this presence on the web. While I hope to continue to post random musings on here about my life as an entrepreneur, I think this site will turn a little more personal as I start to hopefully blog about technology, design and other things somewhere else. In the meantime, I wanted to blog about my experience with my first Mac which you should scroll up for as it will be the next post.

The Apple Maps Debacle

Ok, so maybe debacle is a bit of an overstatement, but the tech press is certainly having a field day with this one, and for once I have to agree. Apple maps in iOS6, in their current form are downright terrible. And maybe it’s because I’ve gotten used to using Google maps for so many years, I actually don’t really like the way it looks very much either. But of-course, this is not the meat of the problem. The key problem is that after many years of feasting on the data rich information that Google maps has built over nearly a decade, this feels like we’ve time warped back five years. About the only good thing to say about Apple’s maps at the moment is that the turn-by-turn navigation seems quite nice.

Of-course, there is a way Apple can solve, or at least quiet the uproar of bad publicity about this:

1) Immediately allow Google to add a stand-alone Google Maps app and ignore their own rules about competing core functionality. The caveat here of-course is that  despite some rumours floating around, nobody outside of Google is quite sure if an app like this even exists or if it’s even being submitted into Apple’s app store.

2) Work their asses off and throw some of those extra millions and billions at kicking Google’s ass at mobile apps. This will be a tall order, but if any one can do it, Apple can.

128 and counting…

Last week I posted a freelancing, part-time job on the local Craigslist job board. In under a week I’ve received over 128 applications. This is what you’re up against if you’re applying for even a part-time gig. Some tips:

  • A sentence or two introduction is not enough. You have to do something special to impress me, even if it’s just a joke or a clever phrase (especially for a writing gig), or a resume that doesn’t look like everyone else’s. Remember, people are visual creatures, we like shiny, pretty things that are not just black text on a white page.
  • 80% of the applications reeked of major laziness.
  • With the endless and incredible resources at people’s fingertips regarding both resume writing and presentation, I cannot believe how bad most resumes are. It’s truly mind-boggling. Do these people actually want a job?
  • 5% caught my attention but were not a good fit
  • 5% caught my attention and were a good fit.

X number of followers = $X potential to crowdfund

The meteoric rise of crowd-funding is changing a lot of things. I don’t think it would be hyperbole to say that places like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to name just a few are creating a massive shift in the way small businesses are getting funded. I haven’t fully examined all the ways in which this is happening, but as a marketer there is an obvious question that I feel a bit of research should be able to answer. How does the existing combined social reach of your current facebook page likes + twitter followers + tumblr followers + google+ followers + etc etc translate to the overall amount of money you are potentially able to raise?

I understand that there are other factors that play a significant role in the ability to, by way of crowd-funding, raise substantial amounts for any given project. The main factor likely being the overall “awesomeness” of the project. However, I can’t help think that there is a significant direct correlation between X amount of followers and X amount of money fundraised. Some ambitious soul should do this research and report back their findings! It’s no coincidence that The Oatmeal with a combined social reach of  nearly 1 million people was just able to raise nearly half a million dollars in one day to “Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum!“.

The Future of E-Commerce

Thoughtful post by Chris Dixon today about the current state of E-Commerce and most likely where it’s headed.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and these two paragraphs sum up my thoughts fairly well on where things are going:

The bull case is that startups neglected e-commerce and are now waking up to the opportunity. The key equation driving e-commerce is: profit = lifetime customer value minus customer acquisition costs. New marketing strategies (“content plus commerce”, social commerce, etc) lower acquisition costs enough to make startups competitive with incumbents.

The bear case is that scale and brand effects make e-commerce incumbents nearly unbeatable. As one entrepreneur said, “If it has a UPC code, Amazon will beat you.” A lower price is just one search away. The only way to compete is to sell used stuff or make your own products (or provide a marketplace for those things). The fat head (large incumbents) and the long tail (artisanal shops) will thrive, but the middle of the distribution will suffer. (The public markets seem to agree with this assessment, e.g. Overstock trades at 0.2x revenues.)

What’s strange is that I’m with both the bulls and bears on this one. New marketing strategies are making it easier for startups and mid-sized E-Commerce companies to make inroads on the bigger guys. I suspect that the recent tidal wave of VC money and the nimble nature of smaller companies has something to do with that as well. The bear case is a little bit scary for that middle-ground. E-commerce has matured and even once untouched niche markets have become saturated. Those guys are going to get squeezed out one way or another, i.e. unless they find some other value outside of the immediacy or shopping experience.

So the question is, what value is left to compete on outside of those two things? Let’s look at a few options:

Customer service – Unlikely. The most you can hope for is to draw even with the bigger guys who will always have more money to provide a superior customer service.  Gaining fame for incredible customer service is played out. Zappos beat everyone to it and they certainly reaped the benefits from that. Now that the bar has been raised so high, you might go broke trying to raise it even further.

Product offering / selection – Unless you’re offering products no-one else is, also unlikely. Product manufacturing is getting cheaper across the board, so it becomes a more viable option if you’ve got the time, talent, money and creative energy to put into product development. Successful online retailers are using this as a major part of their marketing strategy. Just look at ThinkGeek. I bet their most successful and profitable marketing platform is the unique products that they manufacture. They are innately viral.

Price – Nope. Don’t even try.

Promos – Nope. You’ll promo yourself right into the ground.

Partnerships with like-minded companies – Yes, to an extent. Though this generally requires a sales force of some sort and as e-commerce matures and third party providers make the business of selling online much easier for practically anyone, the inherent value that e-commerce and the ability to do fulfillment has dropped somewhat.

Community - I think this is the big one that most online retailers are still missing out on. While content marketing is a part of this, it’s only part of the whole picture. I’ve always thought that if you want to sum up in one sentence the so-called magical formula (and I cringe at having actually put those two words together), to succeeding with any online business it’s this: Build an audience, then sell them something. Most online retailers have attempted to this backwards. Sell them something, then build an audience. Unless you were lucky enough to start your online store before the turn of the millenium, building a database of paying customers has always been more expensive and generally more difficult than building a non-paying audience and then converting them into paying customers. Now I think most e-commerce companies are realizing that driving customer loyalty needs to go beyond customer service, price, and overall shopping experience. They need to build a community around their brand or online store. Over the next few years, a passionate and loyal community is where many online retailers should look to in an effort to significantly impact both top and bottom line growth.

 

The Tweetpocalypse Cometh…

Much has been said in the last little while about the hints that Twitter is giving to developers. I think loosely translated it’s something along the line of “Stop making twitter clients”. Although somewhat purposefully vague in their blog posts about this, Twitter is starting to telegraph its intentions to the world that Twitter API access is about to undergo a major constriction.

While many think this might be a mistake for Twitter, I can understand their thinking on this. Twitter’s made it. They’re huge. They’ve seemingly just passed 500 million user accounts. (Though it’s questionable how many of those are active). They’re in the middle of trying to figure out how to make money and it seems that their preferred method for doing this is advertising. (Though I wish they had gone the pro-accounts route.) The advertising method is most likely to bring them profitability. That said, why would they want the value of their company (their massive user base) using anything other than Twitter.com or any twitter clients, in particular in the mobile space, that are not their own? If Twitter is to be successful with the advertising model, one of the absolute pre-requisites is that they own the content of their massive stream and don’t simply allow any developer to tap into it using a 3rd party app or desktop client. I think they know this, and the days of tapping into the Twitter firehose are coming to an end.

I should also mention that this recent analysis of where tweets are coming from by Benjamin Mayo shows that only about 23% of tweets come from 3rd party sources. While that may not seem like a lot to you and me, I bet the bottom line guys at Twitter are looking at that number and thinking it is way too high.

That said, developers are generally a bad group to piss off. It was the development of 3rd party apps that brought a lot of innovation and growth to Twitter. So it all comes down to the execution doesn’t it? I have a feeling that the mid-to-large sized Twitter clients will get some sort of reprieve in the form of being grandfathered in, but don’t expect to see any new Twitter clients coming on board. If you’re thinking of building something that relies on Twitter offering that data, you should probably re-consider. The new Twitter hotel will be about one-way integration. Tweets check in, but they don’t check-out.

One eye on the shore

A lot of entrepreneurs will tell you that it’s important to “keep your eye on the prize” and relay other cliched motivational platitudes about the importance of focusing on your intended goals with your business. While it’s true that it’s important to stay focused, many entrepreneurs often times forget to keep an eye on the shore. The metaphor is this: Most times when you start a business, especially a bootstrapped one, you start at the shoreline. The moment you start to spend your capital savings or indulge in debt financing to fund your business, you enter the water and start to drift away from that shore. The further you drift from the shore, the riskier the entire proposition becomes.

Have you ever seen the movie Gattaca? Remember that scene where the two brothers play chicken by seeing who can swim further out into the ocean before one of them chickens out and turns around? Being an entrepreneur is a little like that. Do you save anything for the swim back or do you employ some level of self-preservation in how you manage your personal and business risks? How far are you willing to swim from shore before you realize there is no hope in hell of ever making it back to land. Often times, not minding how far you’ve swam from shore can be a fatal mistake and unfortunately most entrepreneurs only learn this by finding themselves in the middle of the ocean, with little to no hope of staying alive. So yes, be passionate, charge forward, but always keep one eye on the shoreline, it could be the difference between failure and success.