The Fetch Blog

The best events and reads for professionals

Interview: Dan Martell, founder of Clarity marketplace — January 6, 2015

Interview: Dan Martell, founder of Clarity marketplace

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Ashley Bloom talks startup lessons, the investment mindset and futurism with the prolific entrepreneur, Dan Martell.

Feeling weary just before midnight, I was met by the steely gaze of Dan Martell, a proud Canadian, husband, and father of two young boys. He’s a five-time tech startup co-founder (two failed and formative, two successful acquisitions), frequent investor and 500 Startups mentor, with all his current focus on Clarity, a platform for paid business advice via phone calls.

Within a few minutes it’s as though I’ve downed a long black or two, buoyed by Dan’s high energy and very Canadian earnestness.

His biggest two lessons from failed startup number one (Maritime Vacation) and two (New Brunswick Host):

  1. He picked too small a market (Canada only, and the very specific niche of cottage vacations that was limited to a market of 300). The action step: Think bigger than your neighborhood, street and city.
  2. He picked a commoditized industry (web hosting) in which the margins are tiny, many customers demand service 24/7, and servers can break down at any time. The action step: Build a differentiated service/product (not a commodity) that cannot be easily replicated, or there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper than you.

Startup Truth Bombs and the investment mindset

Dan explains that since the DNA of the founding team is found in every aspect of a company, what matters more than oft-touted product-market fit is product-founder fit.

Why did you start Clarity?

When I started Clarity, I never thought there was a better idea that had such alignment with who I was as an individual, that I cared more about, as well as a business that could have a big impact… you see it in all the great companies, where the person had deep domain experience, a passion for the customer, and they couldn’t help but start a business to try and solve the problem… the bad examples are completely the opposite, where somebody shows up with a spreadsheet and says… “here’s the opportunity.”

What aspect of running a business is where you shine most?

My default state is trying to find the hardest, biggest problems in the business and solving them. Three months is the longest I can spend on one thing. That’s it. That’s my timeline… Once it’s figured out, I’ll build the team around it to execute. If it’s fundraising, I get it done is six weeks. After three months if it hasn’t made progress then either the problem’s not important, the people around the room are the wrong people, or something changes.

That question right there: ‘What do you want your day to look like?’ is way more important than how much money do you want in the bank. Because some people have $100M in the bank and their day is just totally fucked with back-to-back meetings. They’ve created this nest of bullshit that they have to be involved in. And they’re not happy, and they don’t know how to go back from it… Most people should start off saying ‘In 10 years, what do I want my day to look like?’ not how much money do I want to have.

Is your current business always your Everest? Can you see over the horizon?

I don’t imagine the next thing. To me, there’s enough opportunity in Clarity to be a $10B company… We’re going to be doing a big push into organisations with Clarity for Organizations, which we’ve already tested at 15 companies, where they’re deploying it to their employees. You can imagine the future of learning at companies and corporations. It’s for Millennials. People want self-directed learning. They don’t want to take a course. They want to talk to people who have experience that can give them context.

What’s ripe for investing now?

Anything I find interesting, I just invest in. I’m super bullish around Bitcoin, 3D Printing, Drones and Wearables.  I meet entrepreneurs through Clarity, which is great, since we have some of the smartest entrepreneurs in the world. I don’t need to build the companies anymore to feel like I’m still around and participating in these really disruptive technologies. I’ve done 33 investments, almost 34 now. The cool part is that it allows me to be interested in the new and innovative, but also continue the absolutely content focus on building Clarity into a big company.

Finding clarity and mentorship 

Your blog alludes to being on medication and having a wild upbringing, can you share more about this?

When I grew up, I had a pretty crazy lifestyle. I call it a colorful upbringing. The truth is, I just needed to find something to do that wasn’t illegal. No matter what it was, I was gonna go all the way with it.

This year I’ve already spoken to a dozen groups of kids that are in that kind of scenario. About 13-14 years old, to let them know that what they’re doing… the focus is wrong, but who they are and their skills are absolutely necessary and important and they’ve just gotta channel them.

Perhaps their talent is there, but not in the form of our current education system?

They are talented. That’s the funny part. I know. If I want anything in life… If I want money, I want love, I want relationships – all that stuff. You got to  put it out there first. To me, spending time with these troublemakers is paying it forward. I just can’t have it in my life unless I give it away.

Where would you be today without those sorts of mentors?

I wouldn’t be here, I’d be dead. That’s a guarantee. You can talk to anyone in my family. It’s really the power of the 15-minute conversation… [just like the] moment when someone pulled me aside and said to me, “This really isn’t for you,” and it was the first time in my whole life (at 16) that somebody said that. Even if it’s just the parents or the kids… anytime I’ve just gotten up and shared my story, I know one person out of 100 will change their direction. Because, what’s really important in all this and ties into Clarity is the messenger is more important than the message.

So you have two people go up and say the exact same talk. Me, who has gone through it, and somebody else who read the book. The guy who read the book, people are going to dismiss. Me, they’re going to listen…

So I know my responsibility as somebody who has gone through that specific scenario is to pay it forward, because it’s a very small amount of time that I believe can have a huge impact. So I’d be an idiot not to do it, plus I feel like the only reason I was ever given the opportunity to do this is because I was supposed to give it back.

There’s a great book called ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’. You know, stop trying to be great at things you’re not good at, but instead mitigate them so you’re not crippling yourself, but figure out the things you’re really great at and passionate about and double-down on those. That  was a turning point for me.

Futurism and technology

What do you see will change in tech and business as another ~2 billion people get on the Internet in the next five years?

Knowledge workers losing their jobs to marketplace freelancers. See article Five Reasons Half of You Will Be Freelancers in 2020.

Do you believe in Ray Kurzweil’s (futurist, inventor and Google director of engineering) assertion that a technological singularity will occur?

The biggest concern I have is around AI and how that plays out. When you have computers building other computers (seeing this already with 3D printers), then it’s really about the computers. With the advent of quantum computing coming online within the next 5-10 years, then AI will be a major issue.

What are the most exciting few companies in the world (besides yours) right now?

Less companies, more technologies:

About our writer // Ashley Bloom is a humanoid ball of stardust residing in Melbourne, Australia. One who enjoys writing, expansive living and multifaceted learning. Follow him on Twitter @AshtrayBroom.

Featured event: counting down to YOW! 2014 Conference in Australia — November 17, 2014

Featured event: counting down to YOW! 2014 Conference in Australia

This is a promoted post from our friends and Kickstarter backers at YOW! Conference.

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Melbourne 4-5 December | Brisbane 8-9 December | Sydney 11-12 December

Over 2,000 tech professionals will learn from the best and are expected to attend YOW! 2014 Conference which operates across three cities, with 42+ Speakers39 Talks and 24 Workshops.

There are over 42+ national and international software authors, thought leaders and world experts presenting this year about the latest practices, technologies and methods in software development and delivery. Many speakers have not presented in Australia before so this is a great opportunity to learn from them while they are in town! You can download the list of speakers here.

Topics covered in 2014 include the latest in Agile & Lean, Microservices, Architecture & Design, Functional Programming, Big Data & Analytics, Web & UX, DevOps, Performance & Security, Mobile, and Languages.

Check out the 10 Reasons why you should attend YOW! 2014 Conference.

So your mind is made up. You’ve seen the line-up and the location. You will be attending YOW! 2014 Confence in December. Now a common challenge… how to convince your boss to let you go? You’ll find some information that will help you and your boss make an informed decision here

News & Updates 1

To make the most of the opportunity, YOW! also offers smaller workshops with some of the visiting experts:

These workshops are a great way to learn specific skills, network and brainstorm with international field experts, local thought leaders and other talented developers about the latest practices, technologies and methods. Don’t miss out as places are limited.

Learn more about the workshops in Melbourne on 2-3 December or  Sydney on 9-10 December.

Mapping the future of The Fetch: Kickstarter campaign now live — August 23, 2014

Mapping the future of The Fetch: Kickstarter campaign now live

Back the campaign now here:  http://bit.ly/kickstartfetch

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The past three years have been an exciting whirlwind of a journey, as The Fetch grew from its humble beginnings as an email newsletter and side project into a vibrant and diverse community of professionals from around the globe. We’ve proudly watched it evolve, and even outgrow itself. This is a good challenge to have, and one that we’re now tackling with all of our passion – but we need our community’s continued support to make it a reality.

“Since becoming the Melbourne Curator, my life has changed dramatically in a very positive way. It’s truly been an ongoing journey of personal learning and professional growth. The Fetch has provided me with the opportunity to meet an exciting network of people across the digital, tech and creative industries who are eager to connect, collaborate, and share knowledge. ~ Kat Loughrey, Curator of The Fetch Melbourne

In order to build a true curated city guide for professionals across the globe, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign. There, you’ll learn more about our mission and what you can expect from The Fetch if we get your backing. We believe that in this cluttered, crazy digital world, in-person interactions are more important than ever, and we want to be the catalyst to make those happen.

We hope that you decide to support the campaign, and help us mold the future of The Fetch. We can’t thank all of our community members enough for all of your support and dedication. To help make this campaign a success, please share it with your friends.

In case you’re new to The Fetch community, here’s some insight from some of our amazing community members:

“I regularly recommend The Fetch to people looking to get involved in their local startup scenes — it’s quick, informative and brilliant. As a weekly reader, I’m a huge fan.” ~ Kathryn Minshew, Co-founder & CEO, The Muse

and

“The Fetch has allowed me to invest in my own growth. I have been able to forge new friendships, develop skills and pursue unexpected interests because of what The Fetch has put in my path. As a result of the things I am aware of in my community, I have become better equipped at guiding other people towards the resources they need to fuel their own aspirations and endeavours.” ~ Jackie Antig, City Ambassador.

and

“To feel the pulse of a city’s tech scene, I recommend subscribing to The Fetch. Regardless of whether you’re making in-roads into creative communities, or wanting to attend a web metrics meetup, each issue will have you both scrambling for your calendar and reading up on new and interesting projects!” ~ Rosanne de Vries, Community Manager, Campaign Monitor

Thank you again and we look forward to building something great with you!

Back the campaign now here:  http://bit.ly/kickstartfetch

Featured job: Social Media Specialist, Wellington City Council, NZ — August 12, 2014

Featured job: Social Media Specialist, Wellington City Council, NZ

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Wellington City Council is looking for a social media specialist to join their team.

  • Connect Wellingtonians to their city
  • Increase awareness and participation in events
  • Coordinate corporate social media channels

This is no 9-to-5 role! You will need to be able to attend events, create content and engage in conversations on social networks throughout the day. You should be confident using smartphones, taking videos, photos and interviewing people to produce stories on-the-fly.

A significant part of this role is connecting with people, places and stories around Wellington. You will be an experienced social media or community manager and a confident communicator with the ability to engage in conversations on a variety of topics.

Wellington City Council requires a dedicated Social Media Manager to coordinate the council’s Official Social Media Channels. To be successful in this role, you will need to:

  • Be an energetic and confident communicator – your smartphone will be glued to your hands and you’ll be active on all social media networks especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube
  • Love Wellington – know all the good spots to hang out and regularly attend events around the city
  • Hold a degree in communications and/or marketing with at least five year’s experience coordinating corporate social media channels, content creation and community management
  • This position has been created to tell more council stories, connect more Wellingtonians to the people, places and events in their city. You’ll be measured on how well you increase awareness and participation in events, issues and facilities, while demonstrating value for money to rate payers.

Please include links to personal social media channels and any corporate/brand social media profiles you have managed previously. Applications may be submitted in any shape or form. Be creative to demonstrate you have the key skills and requirements to take on this role.

More:

Wellington City Council is looking for people who share their passion for Wellington and have the same values – to make the city an even better place to live, work, have fun and achieve goals.

Their services and projects are diverse and relate to all aspects of life in the city. WCC offers a wide range of careers, the chance to work with fantastic people, and many training and development opportunities.

Join them in making a positive difference – shape your own future, while contributing to the future of Wellington.

Apply online or for more information contact Angela Meyer on 04 803 8500 or email angela.meyer@wcc.govt.nz.

Applications close Friday, 22 August 2014.

Earthships: The future of sustainable living — July 5, 2014

Earthships: The future of sustainable living

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We recently sat down with Mat Holroyd to discover more about sustainable buildings – specifically Earthships. Don’t let the name fool you – in 10 years time you could well be living in one.

What are Earthships? What differentiates an Earthship from other types of (sustainable) housing?

Earthships are buildings designed to minimize the fuel and resources needed to run the building, while reducing the waste that leaves the house. Earthships typically collect their own water, generate their own electricity, and the grey water is treated onsite. Additionally Earthships are typically built with recycled material, and when you put all these aspects together, the houses are often labeled as “sustainable”, “environmentally friendly” etc.

I should mention Earthships are the houses invented and built by the company Earthship Biotecture. Anyone who’s interested to learn how to build Earthships can buy their books or study at their academy.

As to what differentiates Earthships from other sustainable houses, probably the most distinctive feature of an Earthship is that all the different systems (electricity, water, sewage treatment, growing food, heating/cooling, recycled materials) are cohesively integrated. That is to say, Earthships are well-designed machines, that have been tweaked over decades to bring all those systems together in a practical yet pleasant package. Because of this Earthships have a very distinctive look – they often look like a glasshouse built into a mound of dirt or a hillside.

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What advantages do Earthships have over traditional housing?

Earthships do not require outside electricity or water supply, and do not need waste water treatment. Hence the bills for running the house are cheaper, but it also means you can build these houses where those services are unavailable. The temperature of the house stays a steady 21°C all year round, whether they are built in Sweden or outback Australia. Parts of the buildings can be built with recycled materials, cutting costs and removing landfill. Earthships have interior plants beds that can grow food, which can be enough for 50%+ of the inhabitant’s needs.

There are more advantages, but these are probably the most important to people.

That said, Earthships do have their limitations. Foremost, the design of an Earthship is not as flexible as a traditional house. An Earthship needs a glasshouse on one side, the side that faces the equator, which shouldn’t be in shadow. In essence, an Earthship is a machine like a car – you can’t just change things around without affecting the performance.

Apart from that, Earthships that look and have all the trimmings of a modern house are more expensive then a house with equivalent floor space. Some of those costs pay off when future bills are reduced. Additionally a lot of the skills for building an Earthship are easy to learn, and people go on to build (or volunteer to take part in builds) outside those guided by Earthship Biotecture.

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You went to the Academy build at the start of the year in Argentina – what was the experience like?

It was awesome. The academy consisted of 2-3 days of classes a weeks and 2-3 days of working on a building site per week, for four weeks. The atmosphere was great, all enthusiastic people ranging from 20- to 60 years-old – it had a school-camp like feel. It was affordable too – around US $1500 for the course, with a lot of the skills being useful for decades to come. E.g. I now know how to collect, store and filter water; collect, store and deliver electricity efficiently; building tire walls; plaster; basic carpentry skills; mix concrete and other building materials; and many other things. The academy also happens frequently within the US.

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You said Earthships remind you of Bitcoin – how so?

When I made that comment, I was thinking of how Bitcoin enables people to take charge of their own financial services (savings, trade, etc), an Earthship enables people to take charge of their own living services (water, electricity, etc).

I’ll give two examples to illustrate my point. In early 2013 in Cyprus, hundreds of thousands of private citizens and businesses who held money in banks had part of their cash seized under government order. Any savings held in Bitcoins (or for that matter, gold in personal possession) were immune to that order. Now take the current situation in Ukraine. The Ukraine government cut off water to part of the country that is under control by pro-Russian people. If you were currently living in that part of Ukraine, what kind of house would you rather be in, a traditional house requiring state provided natural gas, water and electricity, or an Earthship?

These are extreme examples but they highlight how dependent the average person is on the government, whether they are in the Europe, Australia, US, etc.

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You recently set-up some solar panels at your city apartment – what was the purpose of this and what advice do you have for other city dwellers?

A solar system on the ground level of a city yard is a terrible idea if the goal is to save money. There isn’t going to be enough sunlight to offset the cost. However, as a learning experience – it was great! My purpose was to see if I could do it, and it was really easy. Anyone can do it.  You only need four components: solar panels, charge controller, batteries, and an inverter. There are heaps of guides on the net telling you how to hook it up.

If you have a yard with less shade, or can get access to a roof, go for it! I got most of the parts off Amazon. Also, I think in places like Australia, Europe and the North America, the price of the setup is such that the cost will be offset by the energy savings after a decade or less.

How can people find out more?

The first place to start is by visiting earthship.com. There are many documentaries about Earthships. The one that introduced me was Garbage Warrior (trailer here). Garbage Warrior doesn’t explain the systems that go into an Earthship in great deal though. To help with this lack of info, I setup an unofficial wiki while I was doing the Academy. There is a bunch of information about the systems in there, but it’s a bit hap-hazard and not complete.

Image credit: all images courtesy of Earthship Biotecture or academy students

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