Vincent Writes

Welcome to Vincent van Wylick's Website

Category: About (page 1 of 2)

Ahem, hello and welcome back

First of all, happy new year! Second of all, this was one of those years where the transition of one to the next was less special than other times. I am not 100% sure why — less happy new year wishes on Facebook, a stressful few months, perhaps other priorities in life. But still, happy new year and may this one bring joyful news about your friends, family, work, and/or geopolitics.

Two months ago, I started a strange workflow that both works and doesn’t work for the purpose of this weblog. I started making notes offline, for the purpose of writing a blog post in the future. Why it works: it’s considerably more stress free than writing up one post at a time, sometimes over several days/weeks. Instead, I start with micro-thoughts, tag them for this blog, and finish it when inspiration hits.

Why it doesn’t work: long breaks mean I have a huge backlog of these ideas and that it’s a challenge knowing on where to start. I like going back and publishing the oldest thought and continue from there. That works well. But what if the oldest thought was from a time where you don’t even remember what you were really thinking? Can you recreate it? Is it still relevant? Then the search continues along the timeline to reconnect with a thought worth publishing.

That aside, what is the plan for this weblog in 2015? I’m afraid it’s more of the same, while I promise to continue to make the structure more transparent and easier to navigate. I started a little with this end of 2014, by creating a landing page and a separate blog view (found under this weburl/blog). As mentioned, I have a backlog of ideas (91 according to my CMS), of which I hope half are word-worthy.

Until the next time then.

Link = 火

I’ve spent a short while searching for a symbol to represent links on this blog, vs. original content. I decided upon , which means “Light” in Japanese.

Two reasons: it’s a single symbol, the Japanese word “Link” is not. And I generally like Japanese culture, at least the creative elements of it. Light seemed fitting, as I’m trying to throw a light on content.

It’s also kind of a funny symbol 🙂

Re-share: Preparing for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

Tomorrow is the 1st day of NaNoWriMo – (Inter)National Novel Writing Month. I wrote some encouraging words last year and I think they still apply today.

The gist of it: write 1665 words per day & several of the great novels in history were written in a less than a month. So let’s get it done!

Also a short announcement.
I will obviously not be publishing much here, but I created a blog called JustforSnG just for the purpose of story writing. Since I’m more prolific a blog writer than a “write for myself” writer, I’m experimenting a little with that format. It already features part 1 of a story I started a few days ago, just to “lubricate” the finger joints.

I’ll do my best to put pieces of my Nanowrimo novel on there regularly (when I’m happy with a chapter or section, basically) and I also made the resolution that I will finish this novel, even if I don’t make it in a month. Projects half done are like projects not done at all…

Wish me luck, thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to give feedback.

Table of Contents in the series of "trying to better understand the creative & publishing process"

Below is how I would like to structure future posts in the series of “trying to better understand the creative & publishing process.” Please note that these topics will be written over the space of perhaps / hopefully less than 6 months, and I may interject other relevant ones. But below is really my learning trajectory. I start with cost centres from each perspective, because cost represents pain. And pain is the strongest incentive to change or to improve upon. Profit indicates the carrot, the different ways in which an artist, book or magazine publisher can cover costs and make money. The Web represents the perspective of the contemporary disruption happening to all three actors. The Future is the most exciting part, of course, where we expect publishing to head and what will disrupt contemporary (web-based) models in the future.

Table of contents

Intro & overview – the value chain (I may have already written it, have to check past posts)

Section 1: Singular artist perspective

1 A. Cost Centres
1 B. Profit Centres

Section 2: Book publisher perspective

2 A. Cost Centres
2 B. Profit Centres

Section 3: Magazine publisher perspective

3 A. Cost Centres
3 B. Profit Centres

Section 4: The Web

3 A. Cost Centres
3 B. Profit Centres

Section 4: The Future of Publishing.

In case you were wondering about the TBCs

I tend to view any learning as dynamic. I’m starting at -10 in terms of knowledge, so I’m doing a lot of brainstorming (with myself, in writing), while I figure out where to go next. That’s all, it will get better. TBC…

The future of this blog

Ahem… cue the familiar words that you’ve heard so often before. I’m busy, I’m busy, I’m busy, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Bottom line, I’ve taken a position as European sales manager in a US company, managing a team of now 6 sales people selling our product into different regions of Europe. The job is exciting and provides me with direct feedback on (much of) my work, exactly what I was looking for. As a (former) entrepreneur, you kind of always look for the holy grail of having your work generate greater and rewarding change. Sales is the purist form of this.

About this blog… there’s no shortage of topics to write about, just a shortage of time. And that’s what it comes down to. My future, I feel, continues to be in publishing. I often wake up with dreams for original stories and participating in Nanowrimo, albeit in an incomplete fashion, was the most fun writing I’ve ever had. But I also care about the process of creating, editing, marketing, distributing, selling work into the world, via the web or written media that exist. So, we, publishing and I, are not done yet. But in the mean time, allow me to further enjoy from this valuable experience I’m gathering, which, just like story writing, provides me with tremendous fulfillment. Good bye, but not forever.

The Difficulties and Opportunities in Covering Electronic Publishing

This summer, when I just started this blog, I wrote a post entitled ‘Clash of the Titans.’ It was my first, somewhat clumsy attempt to express my frustration at the sector(s) I am covering. Reading the following disclaimer (bold parts added by me), I could have saved myself the struggle of writing that post.

From ‘E-Books in Libraries: A Briefing Document Developed in Preparation for a Workshop on E-Lending in Libraries‘ (Harvard University – Berkman Center for Internet & Society, July 1, 2012):

The topics presented in this briefing come at an important moment for the publishing industry, and in particular the e-book market, both of which have been rapidly evolving over the last several years. These changes are, in turn, affecting the models used by publishers’ horizontal and vertical business partners, such as libraries and distributors. While we have endeavored to provide accurate information within this document, the dynamic flux of the industry can make it difficult to accurately capture a comprehensive snapshot of its current state. For instance, during the course of our initial research we found that some information published as recently as September 2011 had already become outdated; other salient information is not made publicly available for competitive reasons. Please note that we consider this to be a working document, which we hope to develop further as information changes and the issues evolve.
You normally get disclaimers in front of industry reports, but the ones I read about publishing usually include something about it rapidly evolving, which is certainly exciting, but also means that static findings only have a limited time span of relevancy. 
As a writer, I want to achieve some kind of permanence, but as a blogger I very much realise that that it is sometimes like hammering a nail into a sandy beach. That said, I hope to balance my content between both, what I call, exploratory topics (reviews, news, 1st impressions) and those with lasting value (original content, analyses, how-to’s, etc.).

End of this public service announcement.

The Publishing Value Chain Version 1

It seems like a good idea to start with the definition of Publishing. Wikipedia defines it as: “Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of literature, music, or information — the activity of making information available to the general public. In some cases, authors may be their own publishers, meaning: originators and developers of content also provide media to deliver and display the content for the same.”

The primary focus of this site will not be music publishing, except where it contributes to the understanding of the publishing sector.

Publishing can be envisioned as a value chain consisting of four major categories: content,
distribution, added value services, and consumption. For the purposes of structuring the writing on this website, these will also act as the main tags for articles, however as the Wikipedia definition makes clear, there is some overlap between activities, e.g. production and dissemination, therefore other tags describing these may be used as well.

To briefly define the four categories, as I see them:

  1. Content: within the context of this site, I choose to primarily focus on the written word, or variations there-of. I would love to exclude categories of a less permanent nature, but the truth is that all is competing content in the eyes of consumers, whether producers like it or not.
  2. Distribution: Essentially what a publisher does or is supposed to do. This is an interesting category, undergoing much change. Technology, strategies, and business models are my focal point here, as well as the historical evolution of the industry.
  3. Added value services: Tentatively labeled as a growth category, especially if the core business, distribution, is eroding (let’s call that a hypothesis)
  4. Consumption: I am mostly interested in what private and professional consumers value today and tomorrow. However, equally so, the evolution of consumption trends and its drivers are very interesting and will hopefully be covered here in some depth.

Much of the thinking about the content of this website is in its rough phases, so bear with me as I further develop my hypotheses and topics. 

Why publishing, why not retail or technology?

My welcoming post mentioned that I had started a technology business, wrote a blog on technology and another blog on horeca/retail. So what is different about publishing?

The purpose of retail is pure and simple turnover. They don’t produce anything expect for the gate between producer and consumer, and they aim to both collect their share and make the access so seamless (arguably) to speed up that process over and over again. They add value by making connections between purchase A. and other related purchases a consumer could make, and of course they add value to producers by providing them with access to consumers. But the product is essentially not important.

Well, it is important to me.

Technology, you could argue is a product, but is also a fairly incomplete one. What is a social network exactly? Why do people like a particular social network? Do they like the tool or do they like the people that produce content on it? You could ask the same question about any modern website, and really about any piece of software on your computer (Do you like the interface of wordprocessor or do you like the content that it allows you to produce?). I see games as an exception, except social games, which again focus on exploitation rather than the benefit of users. All of this is a discussion about software, but hardware raises equal questions (is a TV the point, or the shows that you watch in it? Is a computer the point, or what you do with it?).

Publishing is both a type of retail and a technology as well. I have expressed my criticisms of both, but those criticisms do not mean that neither serves a purpose. My aim is to better understand the purpose and to especially understand how to bring great content, which I care about deeply, to the surface. My aim for my Food & Retail blog was similar, except that I focussed on the process used by restaurants, supermarkets, furniture stores, and more.

In this weblog, I hope to understand the stakeholders within a single sector, publishing, the different types of content brought to the market (or not), the art-creation process (if that can be understood), history, innovation, and disruption, and much much more.

Welcome

I am a former technology entrepreneur, though arguably the taste of creating a business never leaves you. As my interest in publishing has been ongoing since I was young and wondering what books were made of, and as I am also passionate about the Internet, data-mining for the purpose of better serving users, electronic reading, and other geeky tech stuff, I decided to start a blog about it.

This is actually exercise 3 in my blogging career, not counting private / justforfun blogs, the first being www.techiteasy.org, where I blogged mostly about technology and the Internet, the second being foodandretail.blogspot.com, where I blogged about methods and business-models in horeca and retail.

Writing is in my blood and I aim to write at least once a week on an interesting topic, and if time allows more frequently. Please send a friendly reminder, if you like what you read and want to see more. My email is: vincentvwpublic@gmail.com. You can also join me on Twitter, @vincentvw, but you’ll have to ask for permission to read my feed.

Hope to read you soon!
Vincent
vincentvwpublic@gmail.com

The Conclusion

I bet you that these are two words you won’t often read in the blogosphere. Usually when something ends, it is accompanied by a deafening silence, which, years later, is broken by a nice 404-page announcing that this page/blog no longer exists.

I don’t like ending things, but prefer to do so as loud and clear as possible, as it both forces me to stop something and to do something else instead.

So this blog has ended! Which is logical, as it has, from the beginning, been a limited enterprise, a conduit into the world of food and retail, even though I’m pretty much decided—though never say never—that the food-industry is not where I am going.

The truth is that I have learned a lot these last 6-7 months, enough to form a relatively clear vision of what I want and what values I believe in. The food-industry is a great vehicle for that:

  • It’s low-tech, it’s not rocket-science to follow the path of a good from the farm to a person’s kitchen.
  • It’s a people-business (whatever Harvard business review may say), and understanding people’s taste and expectations of food is translatable to any other industry.
  • It’s a global industry and affected by economic cycles, just like any other industry.
  • It’s got a variety of business models to choose from—from restaurants to supermarkets, from franchises to super—fmcg—companies.
  • etc. etc.

I encourage anyone who has some learning to do on a subject, to start a blog about it (for a limited time) and write to their heart’s content. Just don’t confuse your learning-project with a media-project, or else you’ll never end it! And know that your innocent passion in the beginning may take into a completely different direction in the end!

Reasons for me to stop are personal and I won’t discuss them here*. These last few years, I wrote a lot, which means I had to come up with new ideas daily, find new and better ways to communicate them, and of course gather new information constantly. And I enjoyed it most of the time, though now it is time to put those creative and problem-solving skills to use in a different environment.

So… here I go and retire from this activity. That also includes my work on Tech IT Easy, btw., though I expect that my co-bloggers are more than capable of producing great content (and hope this post hasn’t depressed them too much).

In the words of Mr. Hodgman, “That is all!“, and in the words of Mr. Murrow, “Good Night, and Good Luck!

Sincerely yours,
Vincent van Wylick

*: Anyone who knows me, knows that they can reach me anytime and discuss what’s going on in their life and mine. To the visitors of this blog, you can also feel free to drop me a mail, knowing that, even though any subject will be treated with complete respect and confidentiality, my time is limited.

The value of support

All right, in 10 mins or less…

I just started reading a series of essays, entitled “Wish I’d known: Insights and inspirations from the journeys of successful entrepreneurs.” Do a search, and you’ll find it for free online. One essay finishes with:

“I wish I’d started younger and wish I appreciated how much family and friends would support me beyond what was reasonable and fair. I wish I’d know it was OK to have fun and in so doing not taken myself so seriously—the journey is often superior to the destination.”

Words to live by!

Last weekend, I wrote the acknowledgements for my thesis. The cherry on top, which I’d left for one of the last things to finish. And it would’ve been impossible to write it before anyhow, as even in the last lap there were/are people driving me on.

During the writing, one person died, another got terminal cancer. Both much too young and undeserving of such a fate. And both of whom I consider good friends, whom I trusted and who trusted me. In part it was the thoughts about them that prevented me from giving up.

But, strangely perhaps, it was also my little brother, just 19 years of age, that was unrelenting in pushing me forward and not letting me quit. It was as silly as him telling me 6 months ago, “I want you to finish this in three weeks,” which got me to get my act together, perhaps taking longer than three weeks, but not stopping until I was done.

And it was all the people I interviewed for this study—my subjects, and ultimately my customers—all of whom unquestionably agreed to share their wisdom and whom I ultimately do it for.

It’s only about a page worth of acknowledgements, but it is for the people on that page that I spent countless months writing, that I ultimately produced a 120 page-document for, and without whom I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today.

That… is the value of support and why nothing is impossible!

(No picture, as I found nothing that could do them justice)

Apologies to You!

storm rainbow.jpgDear reader,
If you’ve been following my blog, which is kind of you, you may have noticed both a drop-off in posts, and, more importantly, a drop-off in relevancy.

To put it bluntly: I’m bored of the topic! I’ve been researching this industry to the extent that everything seems similar, rising food prices, fmcg-marketing strategies, the “organic” differentiator, etc. etc., it all feels like I’ve seen it before, and I’m struggling to come up with new and interesting topics.

In addition to this, and this is entirely my fault, I’m stuck with a project that doesn’t want to finish itself, my thesis that refuses to get published, or rather that I refuse to be published. The effect is that I’m sitting behind a PC… a lot… and not experiencing/talking with insiders/etc. enough to get fresh perspectives on the field of “third places” and feel productive in that setting.

I’m not going to abandon this blog; no, very likely I’ll continue to publish several posts per week. However, some, if not all, will not exactly be on topic; they will likely be discussing things going through my mind, on business, on art, on technology, etc. and hopefully on sounds + food ‘n’ retail as well.

Until I dig myself out of this valley, and I will, I hope you’ll be patient and not hold my lack of focus against me. I still aim to be a producer of excellence in mine and your world.

Sincerely,
Vincent van Wylick
Main honcho @ foodandretail.blogspot.com

Entrepreneurship requires more & more focus + love

entrepreneurship focus.jpgWhen I started this blog as an experiment, I purposefully kept it vague, while maintaining a fairly clear industry-focus. However, taking a value-chain view of food & retail only gives you so much. It allows you to identify tensions and possible opportunities, but unless you want to be a consultant regarding value-chain issues or are the strategist within a business, it doesn’t really bring you all that much.

Where the imagination really kicks in—and you need that to think of new business ideas—is when you start matching you— the individual or groups of individuals with a particular skill- and experience-set—with a particular opportunity that you can feel both passionate about, and confident that your skills & resources are sufficient to add value to it.

Blogging about FnR allowed me to look at segments in the industry, such as:

  • farming
  • supermarkets
  • franchises
  • online-retailers
  • electronics retailers
  • coffee-shops
  • restaurants
  • cinemas
  • furniture-stores
  • and fitness-studios

As well as product-areas, like:

  • fast-moving consumer-goods
  • coffee
  • beer
  • private labels
  • organic food
  • and media

And of course a lot of business-issues around it.

However, starting or working in a business is of course more than writing about it. It’s the process of building up a vision, gathering up resources to execute it, and executing it. I was reminded of how powerful such a vision can be just last night when I was evaluating a business-idea and what it would take to execute it (I ended up dismissing it for now).

And of course, starting a business is not the same as running a business, the latter of which can be defined as a sustainable* process of making money (*: not in the environmentally-friendly sense of the word). So many stages to go still.

Will this have consequences for this blog? In the short-term, the next few months, probably not much. I’ll still be looking at more industry-segments, product-areas, and business-issues. Ultimately though, I will have to focus on one particular industry-segment and one or a set of related product-areas. Of course, when that happens, I’ll continue to share my thoughts here, as that is my not-so-secret way to build mindshare (insert: evil laugh).

Take care,
V.

Sabbatical

Dear readers,

I’ll be taking a few days to a few weeks off to reflect on my current state and activities, my goals and the steps needed to reach them. I’ll likely post a few thoughts about this on Tech IT Easy in the near future, as that seems more suited for that somehow.

Until then, my links are being still updated and I’ll discuss some of them this weekend again. At the end of this month, I’ll also wrap-up what I’ve covered in February 2008.

Until then, take care,
Vincent

My relationship with story-telling – a short autobiography part I

I’m in a philosophical mood today, after having spend an hour this morning sorting through the rough drafts for this blog (estimated at around 150), which I categorised as “idea,” “rough notes,” “feature complete,” and “send it already.” There were so many of them that I found myself a little overwhelmed to address a single one, a little afraid to miss seeing the forest through the trees, and instead decided to write about a core-principle in my life: story-telling.

I’m very attracted to the concept of telling stories. It’s perhaps a little difficult to explain, but certainly related to the reason why I write so much, and also integral to what I want to do with my life.

When I grew up, I was reading all the time. From the back of cereal boxes, to encyclopaedias, to even the bible (which I thought was a great fantasy book). As a kid, I also remember building up cities in my room and garden, made out of toy-parts and characters, and constructing visual stories around what was happening.

I did not watch TV until I was 10, but, around that time, I fell in love with fantasy and sci-fi stories, both in book-form and on TV. I liked the way the story was constructed, and loved to imagine myself being there. I remember having magnificent visions of what I imagined the future of society, cities, and the home to look like.

Around 17, I decided to hold my first teen-party (the last one before that was probably around the ages 8-9). At that time, I was playing around in a band and very much into music-culture. I remember coming up with the party idea, which was essentially a visualisation of a club. It was lucky timing. We were just about to move and I had a huge house to my disposal.

The way I visualised it was to have rock-bands playing live in the living-room, a techno-room with a (borrowed, I think) strobe-light in the basement, and some other theme-related room elsewhere. Important were of course drinks and drugs, as, hey, I was 17. And equally important was the concept of complete freedom, which I think was communicated quite clearly.

A large inspiration was this video by the Prodigy – No Good (start the dance):

The end-result was great: around 50 people showed up, 2-3 bands were playing, and people did some crazy stuff, without getting me in trouble. In the end, I was still the one responsible, and took that seriously, but essentially everyone could do what they wanted. I repeated a similar party a few months later, which revolved around the same principles, with some restrictions, though around twice the amount of people.

That’s where I’ll end this. Lot’s of stuff happened since then and will continue to happen, and I hope to write a second part in maybe 5-10 years from now (maybe sooner) about all the adventures I’ll hopefully have, and evolutionary leaps I’ll hopefully make.

Core to everything, I think, is vision and freedom. When you create a story, you have a vision of the components and the way they fit together into a dynamic process. At the same time, a story-teller must realise that his/her story is just the start for the listener/viewer/experiencer. It’s a synergetic interaction between creator and beholder and the end-result can be both unpredictable and quite beautiful sometimes, a risk that, to me, is entirely worth it.

P.S. Happy Valentines day!

An XXL wrap-up – Months 3-6 on Food ‘n’ Retail

technorati tags food n retail-1.jpgI’m still following my tradition of looking back at what I covered and processing it into a blogpost. The general aim is for me to process the stuff I wrote about before, and give a reader some compressed value of an otherwise unforgiving linear medium. Time waits for no-one.

Why did it take so friggin’ long?
For Months 1 & 2, I did so on a monthly basis. Later on, I was interrupted for study-related reasons, so hereby a 3 month summary (though only about 6 weeks of real activity).

Now, if month 1 can be categorised as a focus on market research, design, core-values, the value chain, and trends in FnR, and month 2 on human resources, business strategy, branding & marketing, innovation, and finance, months 3-6 aimed at news & trends, operational issues, marketing & branding, entrepreneurship, and strategy. Phew, what a mouthful… this is going to be a long post, so let’s get started.

Micro-topics

Following three headings cover, what I call, micro-topics. They delve into specific situations (news & trends) or issues in running a business (operational, branding & marketing).

News & Trends
I noticed a decreased focus on news these months, simply because I didn’t want to re-blog other people’s stuff, and found conceptual lenses, and micro-topics more interesting. Also, my links often covered some news, as do my continuously updated bookmarks.

Nevertheless, I tried to identified some trends, namely private labels, organics, and SEPA, which I discussed at some greater depth. For Private labels, I looked at what regions and product lines were doing best, and came to the conclusion that there’s huge potential in terms of lifestyle-products and offering higher quality goods than manufacturers can, simply because of the savings in marketing. I discussed lifestyle in a number of other posts, but I will go into those later on.

For organics, which has seen a huge upsurge in the last 5 years, I remain bearish, simply because I see it as a very inefficient, resource, and human-intensive process, that, in combination with the high energy-costs and rising food-prices, may not appeal to consumers increasingly shrinking wallets. That said, innovations are usually inefficient at the start, organics fill a certain need, and more automisation in such production-methods may dissolve many of my arguments.

I also looked at SEPAthe single European payment area—which was just launched (and you should be seeing an option to pay via SEPA in your internet-banking site now). Arguably the most boring post, I’ve ever, ever written (well, there are some contenders), but since I want Europe to be a single market so that businesses can finally benefit from the same economies of scale as the US, China, India, and Brazil, I thought it be important to discuss it.

Microscopically, and just for fun, I also identified some trends in terms of cinematics, beers, and pie, as well as a changing perception of expertise (more on this when I discuss entrepreneurship later on).

Operational
A second focal point was on operations of food & retail-outlets. I’m fascinated by optimising internal processes of businesses, so one of the topics I focussed on was whether it would be possible to use lean Toyota principles in a Food / Retail environment. I think it is, but at the same time, should not act as a replacement for customer-service. Granted, competition is fierce and any cost-savings should be welcomed, but the differentiating factor should be the amount of cherries on top: service-quality, product-quality, etc. I still need to read the book, though, and I definitely have more to learn/write about this subject.

I also looked at real-estate, fairly extensively, though some topics for future exploration remain. Clearly one of the biggest pains for FnR-venues is location, location, location… (it is also an inherent strategic component to large franchises like McDonalds) and I started with looking at structuring search and using checklists. In a second post I looked at the competitive/cooperative context of choosing a location, and in the third post, I looked at a number of costs that are part of the location choice.

Marketing & Branding
M & B is a continuous micro-topic of mine, even though I don’t consider myself a marketeer. Two of my favourite topics include “the service paradoxon self-service and customer-rentention,” which discusses the strangely liberating effect that no service has on today’s individualised customers and positively affects their loyalty in return… talk about an eye-opener, for me at least… and “Lifestyle productsthe costs of educating a market,” which looks at the significant marketing-costs associated with starting a company in an unmapped market. As for the latter, I’ll definitely be writing more about the particularities of lifestyle-products pretty soon.

The other three topics were interludes—hence the reason why I don’t consider myself an expert. I wrote about how much of marketing is based on arguments, how arguments are often designed to distract or confuse an audience, how the consumer is overwhelmed with them, and how their value is ultimately decreased drastically. Very abstract… I also proposed that this is exactly why simple products work exactly so well: kill the argument.

Two more interludes include a review of Malcolm Gladwell‘s books, which both offer great insight into how people think (and how to market products), and I re-blogged “a marketing plan in a nutshell,” kindly provided by an MBA-student at MeFi, which should be useful as a general reference.

Macro-topics

Following are topics that are core to what I write about: entrepreneurship and strategy. The first aiming at starting, running, and growing FnR-related companies, and the second at the bigger picture: taking an industry-perspective, how to interact within the context of a value-chain, core-pains, etc. There is also considerable overlap between the links I discuss now and those that came before.

Entrepreneurship
Looking at my eship-posts, I found that I often take a more personal stance at issues, compared to other disciplines. I think that’s related to that the human element is stronger in these businesses, something I found out from speaking to many start-ups, incl. ca. 300 start-ups for my thesis.

In “The business of HoReCa – Hotels, Restaurants, Cafes,” I discuss the issue of semantics in regards to choosing a vocation, and the perspective of my father, who helps me think about this area a lot. This is somewhat contrasted by my post on my own generalised (vs. specialised) look at the food & retail-industry, in the sense that I care more about the big picture (for now at least). I’ll come back to this in the future, I’m sure.

In my post on “lifestyle-products,” which I mentioned before, I also try to approach the topic of starting such a business in a second-world country, through a friend’s eyes. Similarly, my post on “How being in the right place at the right time translates to starting a business,” takes a very personal, and perhaps subjective approach to the issue.

Some micro- and just-for-fun topics include the “10,000-hours-to-be-an-expert rule,” in which I identify a trend that’s pretty similar to crowdsourcing expertise. On Tech IT Easy, Georgia Psyllidou discusses a similar phenomenon about how people can find work nowadays, and I think I will approach this topic again in the future. Call it semantic, crowdsourcing, open innovation, etc., but the world is changing, it is getting flatter, which has both implications to finding human resources, as well as distributing knowledge. For instance, in a recent article on HBR, the topic of authentic leadership is discussed entirely from the perspective of 1000s of examples. Worth a read and thought-inspiring!

Another fun topic was the Lowest Common Denominator (LCD). I first approached this abstractly, while under thesis-stress, but I find it a useful way of thinking about simplicity of action. What is the simplest, most basic feature that your product needs, that your strategy needs, that your company needs to work? Later on, I explored this again concerning my friend’s lifestyle-business.

The strategic lense
Strategy has always been difficult to conceptualise, I felt, because there’s strategy to everything—war, running a business, running your life, getting the girl, etc. That’s perhaps the reason why I never got around to writing a thesis for it, and chose entrepreneurship instead.

I discussed IKEA a number of times in my blog, and one strategic issue I approached, were the early years of growth for the company. My philosophy concerning business is that, generally, “where you are from and when you are from matters a great deal to where you are going,” and the same applies to IKEA. Of course, IKEA went far beyond Scandinavia, and I hope to get around to discussing the later expansions the company went through.

Amazon & Jeff Bezos was another topic, in which I wrote about Amazon’s approach to innovation (very customer-focussed) and Bezos’ transformation from entrepreneur to CEO (from micro to macro, challenging for many).

Another topic was the growth strategy of Starbucks (wholly-owned), vs. that of Subway’s (franchise), which is clearly receiving a lot of flack these last months. In the article, I commented on some of the reasons given by other smart people, about why these strategies differ. Some good economical reasons were given, however, none, I felt, went into the roots of the issue. Two factors affected Starbucks’ strategy: the roots of the business and the roots of the founders.

Somewhat related, a few weeks ago, i discussed the intriguing strategy of Metro-Group, which has placed two electronics-chains into the European market, Media Markt vs. Saturn, seeming to everyone as competitors. Turns out they are the equivalent to a franchise-system (though certainly a more complex one than Subway), which I think are meant to saturate the market.

Some just-for-fun topics included another post on the lowest common denominator, which I felt was a good lens through which simple strategies can be designed; two posts (1 & 2) about big pains the food-industry is feeling (and which ties into my post from yesterday; and why fitness studios are employing such restrictive contracts, which I felt was caused by either an inelasticity of demand or because they were in trouble.

Clearly a number of other topics fit within the strategic paradigm, but I’m not going to discuss them here.

Wrapping up

What about those Sounds?
I’m considering dropping the “Sounds” from S+FnR, however, it is still a very strong topic in the back of my mind as I’d like to work in venues where people dance… No, seriously. The way I’m looking at it is that I have to focus on certain basics first, and music & media will eventually pop up. So the title stays as it is.

Final thoughts
The nice thing about blogging is that you can measure your progress. I measure them both by readers, by feedback, and by my own perception. During the first months, I was very much in the dark about this industry, and to a degree, I still am. But I notice that things start making more sense, there is a certain logic to how processes work, why certain business models are chosen, etc. So, mentally, for me, there is a certain growth and I hope I can continue at that rate in the future.

I’m still on a certain trajectory in my mind, regarding the amount of secondary and primary activities I have to do to reach new levels. On the latter front, I definitely have a much better idea of where I want to go, after having blogged/thought/discussed about these topics for so many months.

That is all! I can enjoy my weekend, enjoy yours, and until next week.

P.S. I’ll be doing some housekeeping these next few weeks. Some of my interludes will be migrated to another personal blog of mine. I wrote it, read it, liked it, so it stays.

Interlude of interludes… no more g.d. interludes!

interlude |ˈɪntəl(j)uːd|
noun
1 an intervening period of time : enjoying a lunchtime interlude.
• a pause between the acts of a play.
2 something performed during a theater intermission : an orchestral interlude.
• a piece of music played between other pieces or between the verses of a hymn.
• a temporary amusement or source of entertainment that contrasts with what goes before or after : the romantic interlude withered rapidly once he was back in town.

I’m going to quit the interludes. When I’m back, I’m back.

Happy 2K8 !
Vincent

Meta-fnr – Hi…atus

hiatus.gifHello friends and fauna,
I want to reassure people once more that this blog is not dead, though, for the moment, admittedly of little value to readers looking for food, retail, or related coverage.

As was hopefully made clear before, I’m busy with finishing of my master-project, which includes finishing some chapters on the practical data I collected, the conclusions, and the final editing. Since it is technology-related, you’ll find my conclusions about it on Tech IT Easy, started with my latest thoughts about funding innovative start-ups.

There’s plenty of stuff, I wish I could write about sounds + food ‘n’ retail every day, but I notice that I get so much more done when I focus on just one thing, and I’m very close to finishing this particular thing.

After this is done, I can get back to posting (my own crappy) drawings and learning/writing about the business and art of running a venue in my chosen industry.

Until then, you can always check out my links, which I do update continuously, and to which I added some cool and useful stuff for interested parties.

Until soon, I hope!
Vincent

The picture is courtesy of Aaron J. Louie.

Meta-fnr – Blog (and thesis) status update

logo-vincent.JPGHello,

In this piece, I am planning to discuss my current thoughts about my thesis, this blog, and my plans for the future.

I suppose, to a great degree I like to be a focussed person. I like to have goals, pursue them, and not get too distracted by things. It’s kind of a silly attitude, because life is an exercise in overcoming distractions. As Fred Wilson wrote recently about something that Dick Costolo, co-founder of FeedBurner, said:

A startup is the process of going down lots of dark alleys only to find that they are dead ends. The art of a successful deal is figuring out that they are dead ends quickly and trying another and another until you find the one paved with gold.

I love that quote and I think it’s a great attitude in life as well.

But, as I said, I love planting myself behind a project and shutting the door to everything else. I tried doing this here, 8 days ago, and, as a result, underwent a pretty amazing productive period since then. So what are my plans for my thesis?

My thesis on funding high-tech start-ups
As I said, 12 days break, which would give me another 4 days. Truth be told, I have to add writing a conclusion, writing mini-summaries per chapter, an executive summary, and editing the whole thing into the mix, so I will like likely be busy for another 10 days after that. The nice thing about conclusions is that they are already in your head, summaries happen automatically as you edit a piece, and editing is a perfect all-nighter activity.

The not-so-nice part is that we are currently at 150 pages of material, which would more or less make my thesis a book about innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and incubators.

2 thoughts:

  1. One of my thoughts is to edit it down to a reasonable size and publish the whole thing as a pdf.
  2. A second thought is that as I write summaries per chapter, I might as well turn them into blogposts about innovation, entrepreneurship, finance, and incubators, and publish them in the form of regular blogposts on Tech IT Easy.

And if I have the chance to do either or both, I think it would be a great way to close of that chapter of my life, as well as increase my social capital a little.

Which brings me to this blog…

The status of (my blog on) sounds + food and retail
The funny thing about this blog is that it is interconnected with my life. Random readers may think this is a nice (or not so nice) blog about subjects concerning music, food, and retail, but it is in fact, what I see as, one of several stages towards forming a career and a business (or series of) in this industry.

So my head has not stopped thinking about this subject, and I’ve actually been making summaries about interesting topics, and thinking about the shape of things to come. I cannot interrupt this blog too long, at the same time it is reassuring (to me), that even though my publishing took a break, my mind did not.

Concerning this blog then, I will be back and I already have a huge backlog of material to publish here… looking forward to that!

The status of “real life”
As I speak with friends and strangers about my ideas I also realise that there is much that remains to be done in “real life” also. I believe everything starts with a good business-plan with realistic assumptions about what you want to set up. It is the ultimate “social object” towards getting my plans in motion, convincing partners, investors, employees to work with me.

Questions I have received so far include:

  • What type of place do you want to set up? My answer has so far been: probably a night-venue, a restaurant or night-club, or something in between (this may come as a surprise to some of my readers, as I write a lot about retail). Ultimately though, I want to set up a successful venue and am flexible on the format.
  • Where do you want to set it up? My answer: I’m flexible, but it depends on where I feel most comfortable to set it up.
  • How are you going to fund it? My answer: I’ll need to save a bit, but I expect my first business to be sponsored, probably over 50%, and will look for suitable working partners also.
  • When do you want to set it up? My answer: 3-5 years from now would a realistic number in my mind.
  • When do you want to exit? My answer: Depends on how much fun I am having, as well as other factors. I see myself as both a serial entrepreneur and someone who wants to create great things, and I’ll have to find the middle-path between both.

Final thoughts
First thing first. Finish my current project, get a degree, close this chapter of my life.

Intermediary thing, publish blog-posts when I can and want to, in between.

Afterwards, blog more, look for a cool job to gain experience, contacts, and cash. I also want to travel for a bit through Europe to decide on a suitable location, check out different formats, and brainstorm with friends.

And then, take the plunge.

So, à bientôt, I hope!
Vincent

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