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On the guest list today is Mia Tramz, Editorial Director of Enterprise and Immersive Experiences at Time Magazine.
Following a degree in Visuals Arts at Columbia University, Mia began her career as a photo editor before branching out into VR through her role running Time’s Life VR initiative.
In this conversation Mia talks about how she tackles telling compelling VR stories across over 30 brands, what’s it like to run a startup within a large organisation, the 4 levels of VR immersion, and reveals a life-changing night in the company of Gwen Stefani and Weezer.
09:00 Taking a visual arts degree into photo editing and VR
12:00 Approaching VR across 30+ brands
19:00 Advice for startups interacting with brands and agencies
22:00 The 4 levels of immersion and the roadmap for VR and AR over the next few years
33:00 Identifying and hiring talent
40:30 The most exciting tracks for storytelling in VR
44:00 Productivity tips and staying ahead
47:00 90s concerts from Weezer to Hedwig and the Angry Inch
One of the best books I read in my 20s was also one of the shortest.
It was by a man called Paul Arden, an advertising executive at Saatchi & Saatchi in London. He was one of those people who was held in very high regard by his direct peers, but little known outside his sphere.
He probably should have had much more of a following as his ideas were valuable and relevant across a multitude of disciplines. Maybe the fact he passed away in the same year Twitter launched is symbolic – I can imagine him being a big hit there.
Although pretty portable in terms of its application, the book is mainly aimed at advertising creative teams, and I enjoyed pulling what I could into other industries.
One of the best bits is about how creative teams tend to think about briefs.
“We are always waiting for the perfect brief from the perfect client. It almost never happens […] Whatever is on your desk right now, that’s the one. Make it the best you possibly can.”
I think this very simple advice is even better 10 years later given how our attention spans have dropped, and feelings of entitlement and frustration increased.
I’ve found myself proffering this piece of advice a few times recently to impatient, ambitious or disgruntled peers.
We get fed up with the briefs that cross our desk.
It’s understandable. They’re often dull, or badly written; lacking incisiveness, or too safe.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t send back bad briefs to their author. But that’s another story.
The point is it’s about focusing on what’s in front of you right now, and like a lot of the best writing this simple little nugget from Mr Arden has a lot packed into it:
You may surprise yourself (and others) at what you can do with what’s right in front of you;
The odds are that you won’t ever get a shot at your dream brief without doing this one first;
The glamour fixtures nearly always come with a catch so be careful what you wish for;
And you never know who’s watching.
Perhaps that brief on your desk right now is perfect. You just don’t know it yet.
I like synchronicity. Every so often I have a day where after meeting a few different people, by sunset several of the topics and ideas we’ve discussed seem to connect and interweave as if by magic.
This could just be coincidence or my biases at work, but I believe it’s something more than that – something closer to the adjacent possible.
I had one of these days a few weeks ago.
After a sneaky late afternoon cocktail with the founder of a new marketing consultancy, I went to a bar around the block to meet a chap who works in a well known media company.
Alongside weddings, craft beer and other typical lines of conversation for men in their 30s, we talked about startup life vs that of a big corporation.
He had worked in bigger companies before and felt he now preferred life at a relatively small organisation. Meanwhile his wife worked at one of the biggest tech companies in the world and absolutely loved it.
He said the reason for this was simple: she was able to handle the big company exoskeleton.
An image from Aliens immediately popped into my mind. You may remember Ripley’s ability with the power loader exoskeleton; first to surprise a couple of sceptical marines, and then to dispose of a Xenomorph through the airlock.
The power loader is an intimidating bit of kit. It looks like it needs its pilot to have serious physical strength and brawn. This may be somewhat useful, but what’s more important is dexterity, patience, and rhythm.
When used effectively, it can handle enormous pressure, apply huge leverage, make big efficiencies and deflect all but the most damaging blows.
Use it carelessly, and it’s a blundering, flailing hulk with no agility and in desperate need of a makeover.
Ironically, one of the biggest problems large companies have is actually the dismissive marines. They’re skilled and to be respected, but sometimes they can be egotistical, elitist, focused on the pay check ahead of the mission, and at risk of being seriously caught out in a rapidly changing world.
So if you want to succeed in a big organisation, it may help to think more like Ripley.
And why the synchronicity that day?
My Tuesday cocktail was with the founder of a female-run consultancy called Ripley, named after…well, who else?
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On the guest list today are Will Prince and Charlie Marshall, principals at Parc Office, a New York based experience design practice.
Blending digital technology with physical environments, Parc’s projects include Google’s Cultural Institute, flagship store design for Adidas, reimagining Le Meridien hotel in Istanbul, and creating a modern day fashion Museum for Gucci in Florence.
Listen on for the duo’s insights into the impact of Instagram, how they assess new technologies, customising experiences for local audiences, and tales of jet-lagged Parisian bar crawls.
09:00 Parc’s founding principles
14:30 Positioning and meeting market needs
21:00 What clients are thinking about today
28:00 Retail strategies
35:00 Innovation and the trough of disillusionment
45:00 Choosing technologies and learning from failure
55:00 Designing for the hospitality industry
62:00 The dive bar experience
A couple of weeks ago I finally went to my first live NBA game.
As the saying goes, it just wasn’t like it was on TV.
What struck me most was the stimulus. The zinging advertising, prime NYC hiphop being cranked up for every play, announcements for every successful shot, breakdancers on the court at every time-out; all this didn’t come through when watching at home.
But every so often the music and announcements stopped and all that could be heard was the bouncing of the ball and the squeaking of players’ shoes on the parquet floor.
For a few seconds the arena was quiet. Despite the only sounds being those most appropriate, those of the game itself, the silence felt strange. It didn’t feel right.
Then the Nets landed a 3 pointer sponsored by Honda and all was well with the world again.
The next day I was in a meeting. There were a few people in the room discussing a project.
When one of the attendees was asked for their thoughts, they would take a deep breath and sit silently, looking into the middle distance for seemed an age before responding. The third time this happened I counted how long the silence was. It was a bit unnerving.
10 seconds, more or less.
It seemed like forever. People shuffled in their seats. Was this person ok? Did they need a glass of water?
And this was after 10 seconds of quiet while someone took the time to collect their thoughts.
I’ve experienced this same feeling recording podcasts, and they’re not even broadcast live. As a host I’ve had to learn to enjoy the silence and encourage guests to do the same. Despite the luxuries of editing, we’re still predisposed to fill the silence with something…anything.
You’ve probably heard the term ‘uncomfortable silence’.
Today it’s easy for us to feel every silence is uncomfortable. In our always-on world we’re just not used to it.
Of course, at the Brooklyn Nets game the silence probably does tend to lessen the experience – we are there to be entertained, to be drawn into the theatre of the game from start to finish, to be transported somewhere else.
But because popular culture teaches us this, we get afraid of silence in other parts of life.
It’s worth thinking about when silence is valuable.
When it can add something to an experience, help create a better feeling in a room, allow time for your best thinking to manifest, or just give more time for someone else to do the same.
And figuring that out is definitely worth more than 10 seconds of quiet contemplation time, whether or not it makes people shuffle in their seats.
The numerous challenges facing venues of all shapes and sizes have been well documented over the past few years.
So how do you go about creating a new place for arts and music in one of the world’s most competitive real estate markets?
Dhruv Chopra is one of the three co-founders of Elsewhere, a 24,000 sq ft space in New York that opened at the end of 2017. After a childhood playing in a wide range of bands, Dhruv spent 5 years as an investment manager at Capricorn, before making the move to start his journey with Elsewhere.
Listen on for Dhruv’s insights into fundraising, managing risk, making the most of data, and the 3 key pillars for local talent to thrive.
09:00 The start of Popgun promotions (now the in-house promotion team at Elsewhere)
16:00 Taking Elsewhere from idea to opening night
23:00 Utilising data and handling construction
29:00 The logistics of operating a venue
33:00 Being friends and founders
42:00 The future of art and music spaces
51:00 The 3 key pillars to support creative talent
On the guest list today is Dave Gamble, programming manager at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
After starting out at the Roundhouse venue in Camden, he spent 5 years as a promotions manager at the legendary Fabric nightclub before moving to the Royal Albert Hall in 2015.
Recorded on the day of the venue’s 147th birthday, in this conversation Dave explains what makes the Royal Albert Hall such a unique performance space, the day to day of being a promoter in a venue holding over 1000 events each year, and what he looks out for when booking emerging talent.
03:00 Recent highlights at the venue
08:30 Dave’s journey from TV and radio workshops to a career in talent programming
19:30 The day to day role of a promoter
35:15: History of the Royal Albert Hall
48:50: Dave’s reading list
This Twitter thread from Josh Wolfe caught my attention earlier this week.
1/ Here are some REALLY interesting findings from a controversial empirical paper asking:
*WHY do some people become ENTREPRENEURS?*
Of the many findings + hypotheses, a few stand out
-REJECTING a system that REJECTS them…
— Josh Wolfe (@wolfejosh) April 1, 2018
Citing a paper from a few years ago written by an MBA student at NYU Stern, it goes some way to explaining why people become entrepreneurs.
The paper states:
Individuals signal their hidden ability to employers (i.e. via educational qualifications).
However, signals are imperfect and individuals with greater ability than their signals convey to employers become entrepreneurs
Quite simply, if a person feels employers perceive their ability/productivity as being lower than they themselves perceive it, they’re incentivised to start their own ventures.
Josh notes that individuals with ACTUAL ability that EXCEEDS the SIGNAL value of their ability (i.e they know they are better than employers can tell from credentials)…become entrepreneurs.
This isn’t to say they are necessarily exceptionally able, it’s just that their ability exceeds the signal. If you take a few steps back from this it appears for today’s job market, especially on the employer side, there’s a huge issue around signalling.
This signalling often comes from higher education – for example Steve Jobs was rejected by HP because of his lack of degree. Many companies will immediately reject candidates if they don’t have an MBA (and yes the irony of the cited paper being written by an MBA isn’t lost on me…).
With increasing student debt and work skills rapidly changing, a growing number of people are now openly questioning the value of higher education and MBAs, suggesting that the main two reasons for enrolling are the i) alumni network, and ii) a school’s brand reputation (i.e. the most obvious form of signalling).
Overconfident, hubristic individuals gravitate toward be entrepreneurs…AND…tend to have higher ability, greater self-esteem AND more likely to have done “illicit activities” than others.
I’ve long had an ambivalence towards current higher education systems (and frankly authority more broadly).
In more lucid moments I also recognise that in certain situations I have very strong hubris.
I’ve never been quite able to pin down why this is, but this thread and the related paper helped me figure it out.
My level of ability vs signal is and has long been imbalanced for the traditional job market.
Taking this a step further, Josh looks at immigrant founders, of which they are many successful ones especially here in the US.
10/ So many stories of great IMMIGRANT founders, here's empirical logic WHY more become entrepreneurs(!):
IMMIGRANTS may have had "less credible ability signals" for "regular" jobs
Why friends/family are dominant source of $ at start when asymmetric info of ability is at max pic.twitter.com/VkyFMVe88i
— Josh Wolfe (@wolfejosh) April 1, 2018
Moving to the US as an immigrant has pushed me go on a voyage of discovery and to ask a lot of questions about myself.
I don’t mind admitting it’s been a hard journey.
My low level of signalling (eclectic background, moderate level of education, and lack of brand name social proof) have meant the ‘regular’ job market doesn’t fit well at all.
I reject the system that rejects me, and now feel almost forced down the path of entrepreneurship, or independent work at least.
Understanding these feelings has been one of the biggest challenges and also breakthroughs of my time here in NYC, especially since finding a tribe of others in the same boat.
I was a little bitter about it to begin with, but now I embrace it.
It’s led me to think more deeply about the world of work and where there are opportunities to make things better for the next generation about to join the workforce. The combination of the current higher education system being eroded, a changing world of work, and more people with an ability vs signal imbalance is going to have a huge effect on employers, talent and economies.
Around 50% of Gen Z are identifying as entrepreneurs, millennials are job-hopping like never before, and a growing freelance and independent workforce is appearing all over the place.
These shifts make me wonder how this is going to pan out on a broader scale, particularly as based on the paper’s findings (and lots of other research) not everyone is going to be able to succeed as a entrepreneur.
This then begs the question of what happens to those who don’t make it.
Do they go back to employment?
Or maybe forge a career as a specialised gun for hire?
Perhaps there’s a 3rd option, the evolution of something Tiago Forte calls the ‘full stack freelancer’.
What interests me most are the structures to support those who take the third option and also those that can’t/don’t/won’t do any of the above.
What will that look like?
Ventures that enable hyper sampling of multiple careers?
A completely different type of freelance work?
‘Micro accelerators’ that help companies build only to a founder’s ceiling of competence, avoiding the Peter Principle?
Wacky ideas perhaps, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the dam eventually breaks and the number of workers wanting to go their own way (the ‘cherries’) outnumber the ‘lemons’.
Or perhaps the signals, the system and the value we place on them need to fundamentally change.
I believe this is going to be one of the most exciting, impactful and maybe controversial areas of the next 5-10 years.
I can’t wait to see how tomorrow’s world of work and entrepreneurship unfolds, and I’m exploring this myself through my Fondo project. If you’re interested in this space I’d love to hear your thoughts – add a comment here or drop me a line
On the guest list today is Johan Ekelund, CEO at Keyflow, a Stockholm based startup helping event producers and venues connect with their guests in more meaningful ways.
Johan’s background spans advertising and technology, working as a marketer both agency and client side and also as a product manager for leading video on demand platform.
During this conversation Johan shared his thoughts on how brands will be investing into live entertainment in the future, the opportunity for dynamic pricing in event ticketing, and what makes the Nordic region such a hub for innovation.
07:00: Developing the Jagermeiester brand in Sweden and creating a Netflix competitor in the Middle East
12:00: Keyflow’s evolution from a guest list app to a way for venues to form closer connections with their audiences
20:00: How venues and promoters in the table service industry identify and build their audiences
23:00: The shift in brand spend around live entertainment
28:00: Dynamic pricing for entertainment
36:00: Does consolidation create opportunity or stifle innovation?
40:00: What makes Sweden and the Nordics so innovative?
49:00: Decision making, and being ‘all in’ or ‘all out’