When driving back from rugby training last night, I found myself thinking about the transferable skills and practices between rugby and starting up a business.  I thought, both require a lot of preparation, a willingness to learn strong execution to come out on top.  Below I have jotted what I thought to be the main correlations between the two practices to see if knowing how to play rugby can assist your understanding of how to startup a new business.

Pre-Season Training/Business Plan –

When creating a startup, you need to know your objectives, plans of execution, research, prototypes, areas requiring refinement all in time for launch, likewise for the first game of the season.  The first games will show you where your weak spots are and what you need to focus on to reach the top of the League Table; or top of the market for new businesses.


Team/Colleagues
 –

Communication is just as important in both rugby and business startups.  Everyone is working towards the same goal, and it’s not always possible to read every part of the game.  That is why it is good to listen to those around you who can see what you might have missed.  Guy Kawasaki describes the key to this bit as “creating meaning”.  There must be a common objective that everyone is striving to and therefore requires each participant to be speaking the same language (i.e. playing the same game).

Positions/Business model –

How are you going to make money, for you, consumers, and other businesses?  In rugby, this is the same as asking what the role of each position in the game is there to do to put points on the scoreboard.  It helps to plan for as many possibilities as you can so as not to be caught unprepared.

Membership fees /Bootstrapping & Raising Capital –

Without some money being injected into the business or club, there will be no action.  You must pay to play.  Simple.  There are many ways to accumulate the funds, but today the costs for startups is a lot cheaper with the tools available than it was say 15 years ago.  Google has made this RIDICULOUSLY easy.  Back in the days, you had to account for TV ads costing thousands of pounds (you now have Youtube), had to buy computer suite packages like Office to create presentations for hundreds (you have Google Docs), the need of office space and so on (Google Drive and Plus).  Now, all can be done with a Gmail account, for free.  No excuse.

Referee/Consumer –

You have to respect the consumer and let them dictate the game.  In the world where the customer is always right, you can’t afford to tell them they’re wrong if they have already spoken up because it could result in you being penalized.  The power of social media nowadays too can make this far more painful than an extra 10 metres and could be repeat penalty tries.  I found that Shane Gibson and Stephen Jagger’s book Sociable helps to understand how to use social media to your benefit.

Set Plays/Marketing Strategy –

In rugby, the back line and forwards during a line out have an idea of where you plan to arrive and how.  Similarly, you must be on-side/working with the consumers to make sure it’s all fair and square.  In rugby this simply requires you to look up and read potential opportunities.  If you see an opening in the opponent’s line, you would be silly not to go for it, especially since you have the energy of a startup against heavy legged companies caught on the back heels.  Execute.  However, going for something that is not actually there can have devastating effects on the scoreboard.  Always play to what is in front of you.

Defensive line/Market trends –

You have to keep an eye on the game at all times because small changes on the field are enough to create huge changes on the scoreboard.  Companies like Apple went from just producing computer software and hardware to becoming world leading mobile/cellphone and MP3 manufacturers.  You must always stay alert to the consumer’s desire, whether they want functions over beauty or otherwise.  Whatever the trend is you must move with it, you simply cannot expect that if you just stay in the same position the customers will continue to come to you.  Likewise in rugby you have to stay in tune with your opponent and move accordingly to eliminate all possible gaps.

Opposition/Similar companies –

Though it is not always the case, you have to believe that everyone is out there to be at the very top of the League Table.  To believe this is to be ready to give your very best against any opponent.  Research is however essential.  Not only are you likely to learn of ways to improve your game, you may also learn what they’re doing wrong and that signifies potential opportunities for your team.  You cannot expect to enter the game clueless of the habits of your opponent.    It’s all about making the right decision at the right time, and good research is integral to this.

Half-time/Team meetings –

Whether it’s a review or an urgent need to refer back to the drawing board, it is always good to see what effect you’re having in the market and what changes need to be made (if any), but do not trivialize the need for a REVIVAL MEETING.  In any case, it is extremely important that you take note so that you know what role you need to play.

What I have taken away from both my involvement in a startup and rugby, is the desire to grow within both context.  I want to be a better player and a more successful businessman, but they both require the ability to spot opportunities and the willingness to take unusual risks.  Adaptability is crucial for survival and winning and research in the world of business as rugby aids focus and adaptation.

The game of rugby is always changing with new safety and equity rules as well as the desire of individual teams to beat those in its league and be at the top of its League Table.  Similarly, the environment for startup business changes with government regulations as well as the desire of competitors to be the number one or only company operating its arena.  The important thing is not only to know the rules of your game, but to maintain precise focus on your main goal and to quickly seize opportunities with decisive action.

Apologies for the long delay between now and my previous blog post.  A lot has happened since; finished my MSc, refining MyLi’s website from prototype to market ready product and much much more.  This post is not really about any of the above but something I felt worth discussing.

Recently, I surprised myself when trying to explain to someone what my venture aims to do. It came to my attention that some are unaware of terms that I thought were common among the general public.  The word is “streaming”.  Fair enough, I understand that I am part of the MSN Messenger generation (for you “whipper-snappers” it was the ‘in’ thing before Facebook and Myspace; I go way back) and think I kept up pretty well up to today.  Streaming is a way of accessing media files by sending/receiving data across the Internet on to your computer device.
Streaming has been around a while.  I remember the days of streaming Internet radio and videos with RealPlayer, then YouTube made it more popular and so on.  At the end of the experience you do not retain any of the files unless you go ahead and purchase your own copy.
I believe that streaming has massive potential in the near future.  Technology is growing in a way that supports the case for this method of access to media, and although it has its disadvantages still, I think they’re not significant enough to put a case against it.  I have drafted out a few of the advantages and disadvantages below; please feel free to reply so that I may update this list, it might even change my stance on it.
Advantages:
  1. Enables sampling without the need to give away free copies; It’s the try before you buy model working at its best,
  2. Provides access without large download files; conserves disk storage space for files we want to access to 24/7,
  3. YouTubeLast.fmSpotifyHuluNetflix and Amazon are moving with the trend and growing popularity of streaming with millions regularly using each,
  4. Accessible anywhere with an Internet connection regardless of the computer device used,
  5. There is potential for streaming to become more appealing with Internet speeds growing meaning high quality media by this means; 4G and Fiber Optic,
  6. There are plenty of companies where you can access a lot of media for free by streaming.
Disadvantages:
  1. It requires a constant Internet connection to enjoy the full experience; no signal can be very annoying especially if you’re really getting into a song or watching a video and it stops,
  2. Likewise, buffering will always be annoying; it is typical of a slow connection to the Internet,
  3. Streaming is a term not known by most and therefore results in lost potential adoption,
  4. Not always free.  Payment models are additional hurdles for users; “Do I fork out additional money on top of what Im already spending for everything else?!”,
  5. This method has been used in the past to illegally share other media format in the past
Streaming is great for many reasons and I have named a few above.  It shows confidence in what you’re trying to sell by allowing it to be streamed you are saying, “I know people will buy it after streaming it because they will like it and want to fully experience it in HD (high-definition), off-line, on demand etc.”
The advantages are growing for streaming, in today’s economy where we pay for disk space (a 16GB tablet computer can be $100 more than an 8GB!), a lot of people are more concerned about accessing media and sampling it however suits them best.  This eliminates the need to locate the free preview and remove from your device, streaming is ‘instant’ (depending on your Internet connection speed) and if you find that what you’re streaming is not for you, you simply move on to the next one.  Simple.  I know its ‘only’ 2 steps less, but its makes all the difference.  Think about it this way, when is the last time you went into your email and begun deleting all your read or junk mail … to save space?  Email accounts have unlimited space nowadays so you don’t bother and streaming is in keeping with these tech’ behavioural patterns.  I think this is just what we do.
I believe that the main strength of streaming media is that it provides access.  The price of media today is high enough to stop us in our tracks to make an informed decision, the days of “it’s only £3.99” are long gone.  Today I find myself saying, “£3.99??  Hmmm, that’s my spotify budget/spa add-on at my gym/my train fare/lunch today…” etc.  Streaming can assist your decision, the same way when you listen to the radio and say, “I like this song, I need it for when I go to the gym”.  Streaming is one of the best ways to sample media at the moment, I’m excited to see what the future has in store for it.  It is even a way of sampling ebooks with companies such as 24symbolsGoogleBooksMyLi and Oyster coming to the scene.
Therefore, make sure that you’re not missing out with what you can do by streaming data over the Internet.  A lot has changed over the last decade (and a bit), and more so for the better.  We’re in the technological era, minus the flying car (I didn’t say flying-motorcycle).
– Eric

Popular digital services today are successful partly because of how easy they are to use.  User Interface (UI) is key to mass adoption of what you’re ‘selling’.  You typically have 30 seconds to pitch to your audience and if it’s not easy enough to understand the first time, they’re possibly gone forever.

MyLi cannot afford to have this happen.  We are focused on helping to develop the reading skills of young pupils everywhere with high quality material they can trust.  These skills affect them from the days of school throughout to the duration of their life, so its crucial that they have a good foundation to work from.  Yes, we know children just want to finish their homework as quickly as possible so they can do all the other [fun] things they wish.  This usually means that students use message boards and alike to find their information.  Both adults and these young pupils know these sources of information are nowhere near as reliable when compared to recent published material in print or e-books, but they still continue to do so because it’s quick and easy.

Education should not be difficult because it is hard to locate the right information.

And it is for these reasons that we are already planning for the next phase of MyLi.  This will include a complete revamp of the UI, a suitable workspace for our team to expand (create more jobs), app development and much more.  Our prototype has demonstrated the demand for what MyLi is offering.  However, initial tests show that there is still room to make it easier and therefore expand our service to all demographics.

We have created a campaign on Indiegogo with details of what we’re doing and need to deliver for MyLi.  So far, our prototype has only been able to show functionality and how we can be a catalyst amplifying book sales (digital and in print).

Any support for this campaign would be greatly appreciated by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, by email, and more so if you feel moved by the cause any funding provided by yourself would be rewarded with perks according to the amount given.

If you find there are any questions we have not answered, don’t hesitate to contact us by email (info@cmy.li), telephone (0700 349 6954), facebook, twitter or just by commenting on this blog.

 

E

In February 2012, we announced Pear Jam Books (PJB) and MyLi would team up to run a pilot programme providing Primary and Secondary schools in the UK with free access to e-books (click to see announcement).

PJB was founded by author, trainer, editor, publisher, storymaker, Jill Marshall in 2011.  As a successful author herself, she learned how authors like to be treated.  Hence Pear jAm; j for Jill and m for Marshall, with a big A for authors, at the heart of the company.

PJB books are all fiction, ranging from picture books through to adult fiction.  They are chosen because they are fantastic stories which MyLi’s target audience can enjoy.  These books can help develop their reading skills which will assist our young readers throughout their life.

The word “Pear”, forming the name of the company pays homage to the four formats in which their books are published:

  • P for play as an app, game or production,
  • E for e-book,
  • A for audio book, and
  • R for Read in the traditional print form.

These books will add value to MyLi’s services and we are looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for this collaboration.

We all know the importance of having as big a pool of potential customers as possible because it directly correlates with the increase in potential sales.  The issue here lies with consumers who are now predominantly ‘spending-conscious’ as opposed to ‘price-conscious’ as in the past. So how do we progress past this hurdle?

It’s simple.  Allow the consumer to browse/read as much of your book/e-book as they wish for free and to then decide whether or not to make the purchase.

You may be saying right now, “That’s CRAZY! LUDICROUS! NEVER-GONNA-HAPPEN-BUDDY!”  But looking at consumerism today, free trials work differently compared to the days of my parents. Back then, free meant you had to endure the lengthy contract period or buy something first to receive your ‘free’ incentive. Today it is a completely different matter.

“Free”, today, means no risk for the consumer and in turn high demand for your work.  Regardless of the price you charge, you’re creating a mental barrier that a lot of people won’t bother crossing. “Free” in the contemporary sense however enables potential consumers to move past that decision and discover your books/e-books risk free (at no loss to them).

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting you give your books/e-books away for free via download or however many print copies some may give away to reach the ‘best-sellers’ list.  But remember, each of these are potential sales lost and it’s only fair that you are paid for your hard work.  What I am saying is, there are other ways to achieve these results.

This is partly the reason MyLi streams your e-books.  It means that no copy of the e-book is retained on the users’ computer device after reading it unless they download a copy, for which they will obviously need to pay.  It’s all similar to listening to the radio, hearing something you like and retaining a copy if you buy one.

Last but not least, free e-book streaming doesn’t mean your revenue is solely dependent on converted book/e-book sales.  Publishers will receive PPV royalties from their material featured on MyLi and therefore gets paid according to the performance of their books.

First-Class win-win situation!  What could go wrong?!

The Kids Come First

May 16, 2012 — 4 Comments

MyLi streams e-books.  It is what we feel to be the next evolutionary step for e-books.  We’ve created it to help get school children reading more with ease but also a way for all other readers to benefit.

We’re in a day an age where the ‘kids’ tell me they get their information for homework and general purposes from what they know might not be the most reliable resource, but continue so because it’s quick and easy.  This is where MyLi comes in.  MyLi is designed to provide what they want and need, how and when they want it.

Likewise, school tutors want their pupils reading more, regardless of the material tutors simply want to see their pupils produce high quality work.  Again, MyLi has been designed to make as many resources available to young readership whilst complimenting the curriculum.  The way we have gone about this is getting lists from each of our pilot schools from their libraries showing the most frequently borrowed books.

The evolution of e-books and the Market in which it resides is still exploring its options; and there are many.  With much research, we’ve figured out a way to make MyLi a win-win situation for everyone affected (Authors, Publishers and Readers).  It strengthens our confidence that a number of the Big Six publishers have shown interest in what MyLi is working to do.

Check out the video below quickly explaining what we’re doing.

E

Welcome to MyLi

May 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

Welcome to our creation, MyLi.  MyLi is the quick and easy way to discover the books you want.

It’s a simple web tool we have been working on for the past year, we have worked on fine tuning it and plan to deliver it in a way that is accessible regardless of your computer skills.

For our pilot schemes we have decided to trial MyLi amongst young pupils in the UK because they’d benefit mostly from this service especially as there is a lack of reliable services available for this demographic.  We currently have a manageable number of schools to pilot MyLi with for the first phase.

Pear Jam Books has currently agreed to work with us during these pilot schemes (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/50578-new-zealand–s-pear-jam-books-teams-with-myli-com.html) and following recent meetings we might have one of the Big 6 Publishing houses on-board in coming weeks.

Stay tuned for future updates.

E