The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Double Interview! Dash and Claire Bring Founder Institute to Perth — October 29, 2012

Double Interview! Dash and Claire Bring Founder Institute to Perth

This week Perth curator, Justin Strharsky, interviews Dash Dhakshinamoorthy and Claire Robertson about why they’ve decided to bring start-up accelerator Founder Institute to Perth.

Why Founder Institute?

Claire:  There are certainly a lot of accelerator programs and in most cases choosing to start one will mean developing your own program and leveraging only your own connections. Founder Institute exports their model around the world and have a proven track record: 41% of the 500+ startups that have graduated receive funding within 18 months of graduation. How do they ensure that figure stays impressively high? By connecting each local chapter into a network of awesome mentors and making it possible to bring some of these guys to our city, by providing really amazing course material, and by selecting candidates that demonstrate entrepreneurial prowess.

Dash:  There are obviously many incubators and accelerators around. As a frequent traveler to the Valley and also to startup hubs around the globe, I am familiar with some very good ones too.

However, in my view, there are two types of accelerators:

  1. Location based : Those which are extremely successful in a particular ecosystem like the Y-Comb model. These are like the top universities of the world – they are institutions that cannot be replicated in other locations.
  2. Those that can be scaled and globalized as they become feeders to the location based ones. These are like the INSEADS other top notch universities that have successfully replicated their models elsewhere.

The FI is one such model that has managed to build the fundamental elements of a successful accelerator (content – community – connectivity : my words) in a hugely scalable model.

  • Content – very strong entrepreneurial learning content that underpins one’s knowledge into a solid practical grounding.
  • Community – systematically builds a very collaborative community my moving away from traditional economic models of “winner takes all” to a “rising tides raises all boats” model.
  • Connectivity – connects the local ecosystem to other global ecosystems. Being connected to the world is a huge skill and entrepreneur cannot live without but the venture more often than not keeps the entrepreneur stuck to his ideas and the immediate ecosystem. This may lead to the fact that the entrepreneur may not be aware of what is going on in his space in other parts of the world which he/she can leverage on. So a good program systematically imposes the need to be globally aware and to keep one’s fingers on the pulse of the innovation cycle.

FI’s vision is to “Globalize Silicon Valley”.  Don’t we have enough Silicon Valley mythology and hype in start-up land?

Dash:  In my view the terms FI refers to when it says it aims to “Globalize Silicon Valley” is not about any myth or intention to create Silicon Valleys around the world – this is like saying “globalizing the Vatican” – an impossible task.

What it means is to systematically instil the key ingredients of successes of a vibrant ecosystem around the globe such as:

  • Building a strong entrepreneurial competence and excellence – through its content and curriculum of teaching entrepreneurs as opposed to teaching “about” entrepreneurship as most entrepreneurship programs aims to do.
  • Being mentor driven: where more successful members of the community spend time and money to help others become successful
  • Success is Celebrated and failure tolerated and not derided
  • Where resources are mobile and boundaries are porous.

By instilling these qualities early in the game, avoids many trial and error an ecosystem has to go through to arrive at the same point by self-learning and this will only waste time and money and may be counter-productive for entrepreneurs. We need to work on the entrepreneurs fast and not try to fix the system from ground zero if we can stand on the “shoulders of giants” and learn from them.

Claire:  Yes, I agree we have enough mythology about the valley, but this isn’t mythology. FI’s program is recognised by incubators and investors around the globe as a trustworthy qualifying process that reduces the risk associated with investing in a new concept or idea. The ideas that have been through the FI process have been subject to a rigorous process of validation and development, and the founders that participate are passionate, smart, and entering into “startup land” with their eyes open. The other real strength of the program is the connections the participants form that can help them on their way; it’s more about globalizing the strong, well connected community in the valley, supporting the creation of a strong local ecosystem that is plugged in to others around the world.

Do you see any unique characteristics of the Australian start-up ecosystem worth nurturing?

Claire:  Aussies tend not to embrace jargon and buzzwords to the same extent as our American and European counterparts. Aussies are also honest (perhaps a little too much so) about their limitations. The result is a very straight-talking community – I love that.

Dash:  As an Asian coming into the system, I obviously don’t have deep insights into the ecosystem. However, the advantage I may have is I don’t have any baggage and see everything with “new eyes” – another skill needed in innovating something.

So the Australian ecosystem in my view:

  • Comprises of very smart and educated population and as such can be a very good testing ground for startups before they scale;
  • The entrepreneurs I see here are as hungry and ambitious as I’ve seen in other parts of the world – however, there appears to be a fast growing population of young people wanting to be startup entrepreneurs and want to learn from their peers around the globe
  • People are more willing to collaborate with each other than their Asian counter-parts. Maybe this is a cultural thing in Asia where people are more secretive and protective of their ideas.
  • The most unique thing I see is : there is a lot of “old” money in WA and if there are credible “dealmakers” who can help these folks with old money understand how tech startups operate and help them manage their risks, you probably would witness a steady growth of angels and VCs emerge. To ensure this happens, we need to build entrepreneurial competence and excellence fast, showcase some really solid success stories and build trust quickly in the ecosystem to ensure more old money fuels new innovation.

Is there an unfilled need here in Perth that you think FI will serve?

Dash:  The gap as I see it:

From the startup entrepreneurs perspective:

  • Lack of a place to learn how to become successful as a startup
  • Lack of a platform that can connect the entrepreneurs to the three key elements needed for a successful of startups: money, markets and mentors.
  • Lack of seed stage capital and a structured angel investment community

From the perspective of VCs and angels:

  • Lack of ideas that can scale – not enough deal frow
  • Good ideas are far in-between

From the Old Guard of the Economy:

  • No idea what a startup is
  • No immediate motivation to help innovation as the business in resources is thriving and there are no “pain points” to create an innovation culture immediately
  • Better to invest in “what we know” than what we don’t know.

So the FI closes all these gaps through its education, connection to global mentors and its events. Every single of its events can be a big education for all the above target audience.

Claire:  The inaugural Startup Weekend really underlined to us that Perth is a city full of motivated people with great ideas. The difficulty when you start work on a new idea is very often staying on task, setting deadlines for yourself and your co-founders or team, working out what you need to do and who can help you do it. It’s also hard to start something whilst working full-time. This has been the kind of feedback I’ve heard from the teams from SWPerth and FI offers a great solution to those issues: you can do the course whilst working since the sessions are at night, you have a mapped-out curriculum that ensures you think through all the critical elements of your new startup, and you’re held to account with progress reviews from awesome mentors periodically during the program. By the end of the 16 week period you will be ready to launch.

FI calls itself “The World’s Largest Accelerator” but much of the program focuses on a curriculum of training.  What’s the ‘accelerator’ bit?

Claire:  Deadlines are hard to stick to when you’re working alone or in a small group, on a project that isn’t generating revenue yet. It is really common for startup businesses to take many months or even a couple of years to get to launch, by which time technology may have moved on, or you find that you’ve developed a product that is not something people actually want and will pay for… and you’ve spent all your cash! FI keeps the founders in the course on task, picks out the really critical things they MUST attend to, and reduces the “head-scratching time”… you know, all those minutes, hours, days you can spend thinking about what task to tackle next.

What can you tell us about the curriculum?

Dash:  The curriculum has 3 components to it and will be divided into 15, 3.5 hour sessions:

Phase 1: Idea Refinement Stage

This stage has the following topics that entrepreneur needs to cover:

  • Startup Basics
  • Vision and Values
  • Startup Research
  • Naming and Branding

Phase 2: Business Set-up

Has the following components:

  • Startup Legal /IP
  • Cofounders Hiring/Firing
  • Revenues/Cost/Profits
  • Product Development

Phase 3: Launch Planning

Topics include:

  • Outsourcing/Suppliers
  • Marketing/Sales
  • Presenting/Publicity
  • Fundraising

As you can see these are the key elements any startup entrepreneur needs to know. The overarching philosophy of the content is: experiential enterprise education. Its a content not about theories or rhetoric but what working knowledge one needs to know to build a successful venture.

A good example is on playing a chess game or playing a musical instrument – both require creativity and rigor. The content infuses rigor, the community and connectivity bit opens the entrepreneur to serendipitous discoveries and the combination of both is in my view lethal for the creation of a successful startup.

FI does testing of applicants and you as local leaders.  What kind of testing?

Claire:  The application process is part subjective and part quantitative. The subjective part is all around you, what your ambitions are, what ideas you have and so forth, the quantitative part is designed to test both your fluid intelligence – they type of intelligence linked with ability to learn quickly from experiences and identify patterns – and also to identify what personality traits you have that make you more or less well suited to entrepreneurial work.

Dash: Basic logical thinking, fluid intelligence and pattern recognition.

Any entrepreneurial opportunity is a result of three key things that trigger what one would call the EA – or entrepreneurial awareness:

  • Domain knowledge
  • Interest
  • Social networks

The test is to establish the fitness level of an entrepreneur and where he can build on quickly.

What was the strangest question on your tests?

Claire:  If I told you I’d have to kill you!

Dash:  The questions challenged my “business as usual” thinking to its core – it forced me to think outside the box and also forced me to realize there are 2 levels of thinking that goes on in a person : the “visible” logical thinking bit and also the other more subtle thinking bit that goes on behind – the subconscious mind. The entrepreneur need to harness both.

FI also has an equity sharing pool – what can you tell us about that?

Claire:  In my opinion this is the “secret sauce” in the FI model… Successful graduates of FI have the option to donate 3.5% of the equity in their company into a Bonus Pool. The mentors and graduates of that semester, the local Co-Directors (me and Dash) and FI HQ all share the upside of that equity when any of the companies in the graduating semester have a liquidity event or exit. So that means you share in the success of your classmates, and also that myself, Dash and the mentors you’ve met are all personally incentivised to continue to support one another after the semester ends and help the graduates move towards incubation and/or funding.

How do people learn more or sign up?

To learn more about FI and the course visit the website.

To complete the interest form (first step in application) please visit http://fi.co/apply/perth/fetch. We’ve negotiated free applications for Perth’s first semester.

Our first event, the Startup Pitch Bootcamp will be November 20th, 6.30pm at Spacecubed – it’s free and everyone is welcome whether you plan to apply or not – come along and see what we’re up to! Follow @PerthFounders on Twitter to be the first to hear when tickets become available in the next few days.

Claire:  If you would like to catch up in person with me, email me at claire.robertson@founderinstitite.net and we’ll arrange a time to meet at Spacecubed – our major sponsor and the venue where all FI events will be held.

Interview: Perth local, Larry Lopez — October 15, 2012

Interview: Perth local, Larry Lopez

This week, Perth curator Justin Strharsky interviews Larry Lopez, Partner, Australian Venture Consultants.

Larry Lopez

Twitter: @lopezjohnston

What brought you to Perth?

I came to Perth at the insistence of my Perth born wife, Janet Crossland. I was bored with the direction my life was taking in Silicon Valley, and I wanted a change. I certainly got that!

I’ve read in one of your bios that you been involved in several countries with the “development of investment models to enhance growth in emerging technology”. What does that mean?

Early on I spent a lot of time working with different communities outside Silicon Valley that wanted to expand the knowledge-based sectors of their economies. At the Bank, we believed if we could help create the market, we could own a large part of its banking business, so we spent a lot of time in markets we thought would become creators of new companies (the Bank now has successful operations in India, Israel, China and England). This meant understanding what their region’s strengths were, and how they could build upon those strengths.

I spent a lot of time in England, Sweden, Israel and Australia, and I got to follow my partners around Asia including India. So many regions wanted to be the next Silicon Valley. I always fought that idea, as the Valley has so many unique attributes that cannot be replicated. I am of the view that each community must build on its own strengths and then plan based on what it can learn from other successful models.

Israel is a great example of how a small agriculture based economy could turn itself into a global tech powerhouse. They initially built their aspirations around silicon and defense spinouts. This gave them the opportunity to play off existing competency and relationships. It was a natural transition to communications and security, and ultimately the internet.

Here are the two great lies communities convince themselves of:

  1. They can become the next Silicon Valley
  2. They have the unique opportunity to become global leaders in biotech

If you have been around enough different emerging regions, you can imagine how pathetic that sounds, but I still hear it all the time.

So, how do you feel the investment climate in emerging technology differs here in Australia from other places you’ve worked?

There are too many pretenders in Australia.

Most of the companies I meet here are about getting people rich (unsuccessfully, I might add), not about building great companies. That formula doesn’t work.

Companies need to be built around great people identifying and solving market needs, that once the solutions are articulated, they seem OBVIOUS. I just don’t see that here as much as in some of the other markets I am involved in.

Also here people expect the government to play a role. WTF? I don’t’ buy into that baloney! The last folks I would want to rely upon for the success of my startup would be the government.

That is not meant as a criticism, it is a fact. Governments are not meant to be entrepreneurial, and generally don’t attract entrepreneurs. They are here as the umpires not the players.

I find that Aussie investors are too nice to management teams. If a company is underperforming, it probably needs new leadership not just more money. It is ok to switch out management.

Also many crap companies here survive much too long. In the Valley, dud companies usually die a fast death. There are some absolutely crappy companies around Perth that should have been shut down years ago, yet they stagger on, burning capital and wasting time and other valuable resources.

How would you characterize the investment landscape in Australia? In Perth?

I think there are some great entrepreneurs and deals around town right now. I was at the Perth Startup Weekend not too long ago, and I met some great young and passionate entrepreneurs including the organisers of the event. I feel really good about the future. I just hope some of the old guard doesn’t fuck things up.

What trends in emerging technology excite you?

I am excited by projects that are easy to move around geographically and are capital efficient. Mobile apps are a good example. You can make a lot of mistakes and not burn all of your capital. If you get it wrong at first, which is the most likely outcome, it is easy to re-focus, and get back on track.

I also love technology that has applications in the resources sector. I love disruptive technology. Ironically that may not work when it comes to solving needs in the resources industry. Perhaps, we’ll save that discussion for another day.

Are there any opportunities or trends that Australia/Perth are particularly suited to tackling?

In terms of mining and petroleum, we are the biggest users and therefore buyers of mining and petroleum technology in the universe. While we are leaders in implementing and using cutting edge technology, most of the invention comes from overseas. It would be great to become exporters of technology over time. I beleive WA Universities are becoming more engaged with industry in looking at future technology needs. The key will be to enable researchers to access commercial opportunities. There are a number of new programs around Perth addressing this. Hopefully there can be a shift in mindsets that will produce positive outcomes. If you think about some of the great companies of our times, HP, Cisco, Yahoo, Google and Apple, they came from academic and corporate cultures that made it easy to spinout. Sometimes I think people here try too hard to add value. Maybe they just need to let go.

The building of the SKA should also produce some derivative benefits in terms of access to computing power and also innovation. The danger is in not having the foresight to take advantage of the opportunities, or even worse, getting in the way.

We see a lot of “not enough access to capital” vs. “not enough quality deal flow” debate in the Australian start-up press. Do you have a take on this? Are there enough quality early stage investment opportunities here? Do start-ups here have enough access to capital?

I think this is a catch-22. If there were enough successful deals, there would be a lot more risk capital in Australia available for startups. The reality is, Australia has not produced very many big exits relative to the amount of capital that has been available over the last 15 years. So investors aren’t that excited about the market.

That being said, I have never seen a good deal that didn’t get funded. The other day, a friend in the Valley was telling me about a company he met from Perth that couldn’t get funded here because local investors didn’t understand the value proposition. I happened to know the company. The issue was that it had a terrible value proposition and a sub par team. I think some of the local investors are world class.

In addition, current Commonwealth Government policy and is not well suited for attracting capital. Capital markets want clarity, not broken promises and misleading policy. One of the positive government initiatives over the last few years has been the Commercialisation Australia grants program. This allowed a certain amount of risk mitigation for investors in the form of low cost or free capital from the Commonwealth. Now I am not saying I like that kind of policy, but hey it was good for startup companies and their investors. Without warning the government hit the pause button. Investors hate that kind of behavior.

Aside from the performance, another major issue facing venture capital as an asset class is that the primary target investors, superannuation funds, have been scared off by an over awareness of the management expense ratios which are biased against venture capital managers when compared

Clearly there are a lot more investors concentrated in some other markets like Silicon Valley and Israel when compared to Australia. That being said, there are large startup ecosystems in those regions that can support a vibrant investment community, we just don’t have the volume.

So what is the solution? I believe you can only fix what you can control (duh!). We need to start from the ground up. The local startup community needs to abandon its greedy nature and embrace a more constructive future. People need to focus on building great teams around great ideas. They need to spend every dollar like it was their last. They need to learn to walk away from failure without shame. There are a lot of new faces around town going in the right direction, we need to support them and help them embrace a new paradigm that is about building great companies not promoting deals. When this happens the wealth will come, but if folks want to create wealth with hype and over promotion, we will be doomed to more of the same old same old, as the saying goes.

Interview: Perth local, Brodie McCulloch — August 24, 2012

Interview: Perth local, Brodie McCulloch

After recently visiting Perth and hosting some beta launch drinks, Kate chats to Brodie McCulloch – one of the city’s chief instigators. Brodie started Social Innovation in Western Australia and most recently opened a coworking space in the CBD called Spacecubed.

Name: Brodie McCulloch
Website: www.spacecubed.org, www.siiwa.org
Twitter handle(s): @brodiemcculloch @sii_wa @space3ed
Works: Founder of Social Innovation in Western Australia and lots of stuff for Spacecubed (still in startup)

Perth is the most isolated city in the world – how do you think this affects innovation in the city?

This has both positive and negative elements to it. Some of the positives are that it is a much greener field and less crowded market place so doing anything can really get you noticed. Also people in WA are very resilient and willing to take risks… often these risks have been in the resources sector but I think moving some of that thinking to technology, social and environmental startups is starting to take place. Some of the negatives are that Western Australians think they need to reinvent everything rather than borrow and build on what is happening internationally and interstate. I think the positives outweigh the negatives especially with our proximity and shared time zone with Asia.

The Spacecubed coworking space just launched – for professionals in Perth who aren’t familiar with the concept, how would you describe it and what does it facilitate in the industry?

Spacecubed is a 550sqm Co-working, Collaboration and Innovation Space at 45 St Georges Terrace in the Perth CBD. It has been designed to facilitate a community of Entrepreneurs with a mix of 1/3rd Social and Environmental Startups, 1/3rd Technology and Creative Industries and 1/3rd Government and Corporate Innovation Projects. We think by collocating these diverse groups there will be real opportunities for Innovation. On the day to day we have events, talks, hotdesks, permanent space and are just gearing up for our Office Hours (professional advice and volunteering) and Intensify Scholarship which is for people in the idea stage.

The space:

What kind of events are you holding in the space and where can people find out more?

We have a number of member run events which include lunchtime learnings but there are a whole lot of community events that aren’t run my us but we facilitate. This includes Morning Startup, Port 80, Lean and now we have some bigger events like the first Startup Weekend Perth in September. As well as going out through The Fetch Perth you can find it on our Facebook, Twitter, Blog and subscribe to the calendar.

You founded Social Innovation in WA in 2010 – what is the purpose of the initiative and how’s it going so far?

We setup Social Innovation in Western Australia after seeing a real gap in the fact that WA is going through massive change with a quarter of a trillion dollars being invested in the next 30 years but we couldn’t see a proactive building of the Social Infrastructure (resilient communities etc) that is going to support this massive growth. So we started looking at the specific things we could start doing now that would really build this and one of the key issues from Social Entrepreneurs was that they had nowhere to startup. We also saw that more broadly there wasn’t much support for any entrepreneurs so Spacecubed is our first big project to shift that.

What’s been one of the hardest challenges you’ve had to face work-wise?

I think I was expecting things to move more quickly, having to accept that it realistically takes 3 years to get an idea off the ground and into some semi safe territory is something I was hoping wouldn’t be the case. Executing on ideas takes time and money.

What other groups or city-wide happens do you recommend in Perth?

I think there is big changes happening in Perth right now and so much interesting stuff happening compared to when I moved back to Perth two years ago. There is some interesting stuff happening in the creative industries with Creative Corps and I think the tech community is really bubbling with Startup Weekend and some really interesting collaborations.

What’s next?

Focus. We are currently building Spacecubed and listening to members and what they need to make their businesses, projects and organisations successful while still building out the space to make it really awesome. Also we have our Open House on Friday between 9am – 12pm where anyone can come and work for the morning for free.

Interview: Perth Local, Sam Birmingham — August 5, 2012

Interview: Perth Local, Sam Birmingham

Perth curator Justin Strharsky learns a bit about starting a business in 54 hours from Perth local Sam Birmingham.

Sam Birmingham

Name: Sam Birmingham

Website: http://sambirmingham.com/

Twitter: @sambirmingham

Works at: Making it all happen.

You’ve been a fixture in Perth’s entrepreneurial community for a while – what would you say are our unique challenges here?

Disconnection. Perth is the most isolated capital city in the world, yet we can all do so much more to find out what is going on in our own backyard. With challenge comes opportunity though — it fills me with optimism every time I meet a new person or hear about a new venture starting up here.

Do you see any unique advantages or opportunities to starting a new venture here?

Absolutely! Beyond the obvious answers like servicing the mining boom, access to Asian markets and tapping Perth’s entrepreneurial spirit, starting a new venture in a (relatively) small and (very) isolated city gives you the chance to test and refine your service amongst a receptive local audience. Then when the time comes to scale up, hopefully you’ll already have a lot of the gremlins out of your system!

Oh, it is doesn’t hurt to have great weather and an amazing coastline — sometimes you’ve got to reward yourself with a break and there aren’t many better places to do that than here!

You are currently organising a Startup Weekend for Perth .  Can you give us a three sentence explanation and pitch?

Startup Weekend is an intense 54 hour event which brings together people with diverse skills sets — from software developers and designers, to marketers and hustlers — to build applications and develop a credible business around them. As well as meeting a bunch of interesting people, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to give life to the hundred and one ideas that all of us have swirling around our heads each day.

There is no better way to test your ideas and skills than put them into action, and what better place to do it than in an environment where you’ve got nothing to lose?!

Why does Perth need a Startup Weekend?

To address that disconnection issue that I talked about earlier… By its very nature, Startup Weekend brings a bunch of otherwise disconnected people into the same room, to work on solving a bunch of problems together. By the end of the weekend, not only will everyone have learned a lot and had a heap of fun, hopefully we’ll be more aware of the countless others who are doing awesome things all around us.

You recently returned from seeing Startup Weekend in Wellington. What excited you about what you saw there? Were there any disappointments?

For sure! I had high expectations before Startup Weekend Wellington and left even more excited and optimistic by the end of the weekend. Perhaps the most exciting thing was seeing such a diverse group of people (almost all of whom had never met) form teams organically, and so openly share the journey with their teammates and everyone else who participated.

I wouldn’t say there were any disappointments. There were certainly some reality checks for a few people, though, but that’s what happens when you condense the entire ideation, validation and business creation process into 54 hours!

Any tips for those who are going to participate in Perth Startup Weekend?

First and foremost, get involved — JFDI!

Embrace new perspectives; learn, learn, learn; focus on solving problems; and whatever you end up building, keep it lean!

Interview: Perth Local, Bernadette Jiwa — July 9, 2012

Interview: Perth Local, Bernadette Jiwa

Perth curator Justin Strharsky learns a bit about how to tell a brand story from Perth expert Bernadette Jiwa.

Name: Bernadette Jiwa

Website: http://thestoryoftelling.com/

Twitter: @bernadettejiwa

Works at: The Story of Telling

You help entrepreneurs and newer businesses craft what you call a ‘brand story’ – what’s that?

A brand story is the sum of all the parts that make up your brand, from your product, name and copy, design and marketing, to your mission and how your customers experience your brand.
I’ve written a post that details the various elements.

I imagine that many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by the demands of a new business. How do you explain why telling the story of their brand should win their limited resources?

It’s as simple as understanding that it doesn’t matter how good your idea is if nobody knows.

You primarily work with entrepreneurs and newer businesses – why is that?

Actually I work with startups and entrepreneurs who are further along the track with developing their business. The best time to work out what differentiates you is right at the start, that way you can take your product to market with confidence. Sometimes people come to me when what they’ve been doing hasn’t work and then we track back to work out why.

Should the stories of newer businesses be different than those of established companies? Why?

Newer businesses are often at an advantage because they get to tell te story they want to tell. More established businesses have shareholders to please.

What’s the most common mistake entrepreneurs make in telling their stories?

Not understanding what really makes them stand out from the competition. Overlooking something in the detail, because they are too close to what they are doing to see the big picture.

What makes you uniquely suited to helping others tell their stories?

There is no formula for this kind of work. I guess you could say it’s a gift. Part science and part art. I got to be good at it by doing the work, building bridges to where I wanted to be as an entrepreneur, failing, learning from failure, then getting up and doing it all again only better next time.

You’ve seen (and helped) lots of young businesses. Are there any characteristics that make some stand out compared to the others?

The ones that stand out are the businesses who do what the big guys can’t do, or didn’t think was possible. The entrepreneurs who go narrow and deep.

Have you encountered any brand stories that are best left untold?

Actually most of what I encounter are stories that should be told that aren’t. The kinds of stories that illustrate why brands are least like their competitors. The ones they often overlook.

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