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Author: Andrew Turk

Stack Gives Back: A Note of Thanks From Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley

Stack Gives Back: A Note of Thanks From Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley

One of the things I love most about my job as CEO of Creative Commons is getting to know our supporters. CC draws a community that is creative, entrepreneurial, innovative, and truly collaborative. And so I was particularly excited to learn of the generous offer from StackSocial to contribute 10% of price-select bundle sales to Creative Commons and to have an opportunity to connect with the company and team over these last many months. We are of course thrilled to put these essential funds to use furthering CC’s mission and programs, and beyond that we recognize the importance of our aligned efforts and values, and the work we’ll be able to accomplish together that we couldn’t otherwise. All of us at CC are excited about this partnership to help support creators and publishers around the world. We want to say thank you, and to share a bit more the great work that you are enabling through your purchase with StackSocial and your support for CC.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization at the center of a high-profile, international movement to promote sharing of creativity and knowledge. Our goal is to help realize the full potential of the Internet—universal access to research and education, full participation in culture—to drive a new era of development growth, and productivity. CC provides the well-known suite of licenses (nearly 1 billion CC licenses in use across 9 million websites) that have become the global standard used by leading companies, institutions and individuals across culture, education, government, science, and more to promote digital collaboration and innovation.

The CC licenses are everywhere, making it easy for anyone to use and re-use content. For example, CC licenses help the world gain access to NASA’s most iconic images from space, help educators create curriculum that will bring down the cost of college for everyone, and allow scientists to freely share their work with medical professionals around the world as they did when they identified the strain of Ebola in West Africa. CC also works with foundations and governments to ensure that when they fund new content, like research and educational materials, those materials are made available for us to freely use, share, and improve. If you’re eager for more, our State of the Commons report provides a snapshot of our success.

What does all this mean for StackCommerce? Donations made through the platform are helping to support millions of creators and collaborators every day. And by inviting customers to support Creative Commons through their purchases, StackCommerce is building a community of content producers and publishers who share our values and who can join us in leading this global movement.Creative Commons is proud to have StackCommerce as an ongoing supporter of our work, and we hope all of you are as excited as we are about your contribution to building a more creative, free, and open internet with every purchase you make through StackSocial.

With thanks,

Ryan Merkley
CEO, Creative Commons

Minecraft’s Unhappy Billionaire: The Pitfalls of a Singular Financial Focus

Minecraft’s Unhappy Billionaire: The Pitfalls of a Singular Financial Focus

The old cliché hasn’t lost its potency: Money doesn’t buy happiness. But what is the end game for entrepreneurs and startups if unlimited funds and open-ended positioning in life isn’t the fulfilling dream we’re hardwired to believe it is? That’s the dilemma facing Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson, since he sold Mojang to Microsoft for a massive $2.5 billion nearly a year ago.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday, Persson lamented the void of struggle and reward in the eyes of wealth, finding social experience impossible due to imbalance. Hanging out in Ibiza, rubbing elbows with celebrities, able to do anything he can imagine, but the feeling has left a void inside.


Persson’s sense of personal value, tied in part to the social constructs among the staff of Mojang, has gone haywire. The Mojang crew “all hate me now,” he insists, though one Mojang employee responded that he only hated Persson during the initial shock of him leaving. However, Persson aggressively rejects the notion, saying  “nobody reached out and said it was just initial shock. So fuck all of you. Fuck you so hard.” Needless to say, there’s a deep-cut sensitivity to the situation that defies gentle hindsight. The sudden burst of wealth is reportedly romantically isolating as well.

However, as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer illustrates in action, success and a traditional sense of happiness can walk hand in hand. She’s running one of the world’s most highly recognized tech companies with a family at home and twins on the way. Balance is key, she stresses.

“Moving forward, there will be a lot to do for both my family and for Yahoo,” Mayer wrote in her Tumblr page announcement. “Both will require hard work and thoughtful prioritization. However, I’m extremely energized by and dedicated to both my family and Yahoo and will do all that is necessary and more to help both thrive. The future looks extremely bright on both fronts.”

Though Persson’s pessimism seemed to take a turn at the end of his Twitter streak – noting that others in his position have told him such feelings are normal and will pass – his predicament is hardly unique among the ultra-wealthy and celebrity elite. When you work yourself to the bone and your efforts finally pay off, sometimes beyond your wildest dreams, what new horizon will inspire passion and value?

The answer – and even the question itself – applies to nearly all of us more than one might imagine. Ambition drives innovation, industry, competition. But a sense of harmony among life’s core value points is essential to maintain longevity of contentment, fulfillment and well-being. To succeed in a competitive market, we will work ourselves into the ground and set goals beyond the rational. But if we sacrifice our creative trajectory – let alone our family and health – for single-minded financial gain, the very meaning of our existence will have been lost in the waves of professional peaks and valleys to which we assign our own value, even if the gamble pays off monetarily.

Though he’s wary of it now, Persson could do well to follow the example of Elon Musk, who turned the incredible payout from his stake in PayPal to eBay and used it to start businesses that are changing the trajectory of future tech. Musk launched Tesla Motors, which is developing an affordable electric car, and the Mars-bound SpaceX, which aims to make interplanetary travel accessible on a very real timeline.

Musk is using his billions to change the world. While Persson, Mayer and others are by no means obligated to follow in such altruistic footsteps, the importance of a course for betterment within and without cannot be overstated. It’s not enough to get a grip on that elusive brass ring – the key is to use it as a stirrup to reach far more meaningful ground.

Amazon and the ‘Company Culture’ Controversy: Why it Matters to Startups

Amazon and the ‘Company Culture’ Controversy: Why it Matters to Startups

Last week’s New York Times article about Amazon’s cutthroat company culture has sparked a wildfire of debate over just exactly what 2015’s biggest corporate buzz-term consists of. As the discussion expands to the impact of company culture on employees and the businesses they populate on the whole, renewed attention is being drawn to perhaps the most grueling and demanding professional climate of all: the startup world.

Amazon founder & CEO Jeff Bezos is the fifth-richest man in the world. His methodology in getting very most out of every employee, to ensure the velocity of his company’s success, has paid off: Amazon recently became the country’s largest retailer. Their reputation for hard-working employees precedes the NYT piece, but the article outlined the harsh intensity of Amazon’s operations in embarrassing detail: email attentiveness at all hours is required. Vacations are a myth, and weekends exist only as mile markers on the path to success – by no means a time to downshift. If you aren’t working all the time, you’re failing. Amazon’s ranking system regularly purges the low performers, but also factors in how well employees interact. Their employees are reportedly encouraged to send negative feedback about their peers to their bosses, a confidential exchange that pits staff members against one another and creates an air of paranoid hostility.

The list goes on. Amid the flurry of criticism, Bezos and others at Amazon have challenged the spin and professionalism of both the report and the NYT reporters. A Bezos memo to employees following the piece has made the rounds, clearly PR bait: the CEO said he wouldn’t tolerate a “callous” working environment, and doesn’t believe one exists at Amazon. In tandem, Amazon employee Nick Ciubotariu published his own defense of his employer as well as a few shots at the NYT article, summarizing the NYT approach as a preconceived hit job against the company.

To Bezos and Ciubotariu’s credit, in a company with so many employees, it is statistically guaranteed that many heartwarming examples of fantastic company-culture experiences can be found within Amazon’s corporate narrative. But to find over 100 employees willing to share tales of woe is uncommon, particularly given that the sample group consists of members of the leadership team, human resources executives, marketers, retail specialists and engineers who worked on projects from the Kindle to grocery delivery to the recent mobile phone launch.

Similarly, startup culture is cutthroat, take-no-prisoners and absolutely hostile to the idea of shared priorities. As a rule, startups do not foster an environment conducive to healthy families, well-rounded childhoods or “quality” personal time. Free food, team games, onsite barbers and other benefits often exist in companies large and small to allow people a break without leaving the office, softening the impact of those grueling 60-to-80 hour work weeks.

Ideal company culture demands a balance between pushing employees to go above and beyond, and allowing a personal sense of worth and vitality within the corporate structure. A company set on long-term development and success requires leadership who can fully understand and pass along its corporate atmosphere and philosophy to other employees. To accomplish this they must be engaging, inspiring and above all, willing to work harder than anyone else.

With 150,000 people on staff, Amazon boasts an army of people mandated to devote their life to their work. Is total sacrifice of personal life on a company-wide scale the most desirable model for success? For those whose life priorities aren’t inextricably topped by fealty to a corporate success story in the making, absolutely not. So where is the middleground? How can a balance be struck while a company struggles to emerge as a leader in its field?

A frequently cited example of great company culture is Google. With an employee count nearing 50,000, it’s remarkable and refreshing to see workers describe operations as having a small-company feel, free of senior-officer intimidation. Company culture is determined by company morality, how it treats others, and there is a direct result in staff morale & motivation. Googlers can be found volunteering directly in company efforts to give back to the community, and lead initiatives around the world with financial aid, restoring public parks and  beyond.

At StackCommerce, we’re striving each day to sharpen the balance between driving success and enriching staff. There’s rarely an amenity unprovided, with the office boasting a stocked kitchen, surfboards and bikes at the ready (the Venice Beach boardwalk is just outside our door), a ping pong table and entertainment lounge in the basement (hell, even a basement in Southern California is a unicorn perk). But these are mere decorative boosts, a handful of bright colors on the tapestry of a company culture that encourages personal wellness through yoga breaks and volleyball games, through enlightening guest speakers and regular happy hour gatherings. Robust benefits, sign-on stock options and encouraged use of personal days provide employees with a sense of security and control over their personal lives – an extreme rarity in startup culture.

Sure, we work our behinds off, often arriving long before the workday begins and leaving long after rush hour has subsided. But those of us making the early-morning rounds are often greeted by wetsuit-clad employees greeting the day with enthusiasm; they want to be here early. They’re invested in a company that’s equally invested in them.

The link between employee happiness and productivity has been documented at great length. Companies cannot thrive on a singular character model of A-type workhorses giving their every waking moment to their employer, with reckless abandon of personal stability. Diversification is essential, creating constellations of different skill sets and different opinions to stay innovative and to continually thrive. Personal and professional values are essential, but this does not mean absolute sacrifice at all times. Company culture must align with personal stability, particularly in the startup world.

Entrepreneur.com‘s Eric Sinou put together a great infographic on the impact of company culture, as well as the perils of being on the wrong side of a corporate atmosphere:

1413910062-really-pays-rich-company-culture

Alphabet: Exploring 6 Brands Under Google’s New Holding Company

Alphabet: Exploring 6 Brands Under Google’s New Holding Company

Google announced a huge company restructure this week, establishing themselves as a subsidiary of a new parent company named Alphabet. Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page will serve as President and CEO of Alphabet, while Google head of product Sundar Pichai has been appointed as the new Google CEO. And provided that Google can clear numerous potential legal hurdles, we’ll likely be hearing a great deal more on Google’s new holding company in the near future.

In a blog post explaining the news, Page outlined how the restructure will make the “slightly slimmed down Google” more accountable. He explained that Alphabet is a collection of companies, the largest of which is Google, with companies “pretty far afield” of Google’s main internet products being shuttled under Alphabet’s umbrella.

“Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence,” Page wrote. “In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well. We’ll also make sure we have a great CEO for each business, and we’ll determine their compensation.”

The Google business will remain in command of features including search, ads, maps, Gmail, YouTube, Android, and the related tech infrastructure, while branches including its health and investment efforts, such as Ventures, will move to Alphabet. This will allow the subsidiary companies to experiment freely without tarnishing the Google name in the process (the failure and prolonged death of Google+ comes to mind).

“The whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands,” he wrote. Alphabet, he continued, isn’t meant to be a consumer brand unto itself. “For Sergey and me this is a very exciting new chapter in the life of Google—the birth of Alphabet. We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products—the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.”

In light of Google’s announcement, it’s time to take a closer look at Alphabet, particularly the major brands under the company’s umbrella.

[x]

Run by Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google and will also serve as president of Alphabet, Google’s secretive ”moonshot” lab is devoted to building the tools of the future in million-to-one scientific ambitions that require enormous amounts of capital and risk-taking. In its Star Trek-level conceptions, the company aims to come up It has incubated highly publicized projects such as the self-driving car, Google Glass, a drone delivery service called Wing and the Fiber internet service provider.

Nest

When former Apple engineer Tony Fadell built a vacation home, he was unimpressed with available thermostats and other security systems on the market. In his quest to design a better alternative Nest Labs was born, and has since expanded into an all-inclusive smart-home product source. Google bought the connected-home company for $3.2 billion in January 2014, and it will serve as a subsidiary of Alphabet in the restructuring.

Calico

Calico’s core mission is simple and universally appealing: it wants to create the fountain of youth. Formed in 2013, the R&D company is headed up by Art Levinson – 14 year CEO of biotech company Genetech – and utilizes advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology dictating the human lifespan. Through development of age-slowing developments and tools to fight age-related diseases, Calico is helping people to lead longer and healthier lives.

Sidewalk

Founded in June 2015, Sidewalk Labs aims to foster the development of technology products, platforms and infrastructure that help improve life in cities around the world. Led by former Bloomberg CEO Dan Doctoroff, the New York-based company will implement technological breakthroughs to solve urban problems, tackling issues like cost of living, transportation, reducing energy usage and more.

“The biggest challenges that cities face — such as making transportation more efficient and lowering the cost of living, reducing energy usage and helping government operate more efficiently have, so far, been more difficult to address,” the company said in an announcement. Doctor has said that Sidewalk “will play a major role in developing technology products, platforms and advanced infrastructure that can be implemented at scale in cities around the world.”

Ventures

Founded in 2009, the venture capital investment arm of Google has backed more than 300 growing startups including Uber, Slack, Medium, Periscope, Nest and 23andMe. Providing venture capital funding to bold new companies, Ventures invests independently of Google, and provides these companies unparalleled support in design, engineering, recruiting, marketing, and more. They’re not afraid to take on riskier tech challenges such as clean energy, cybersecurity and health, and have devised independent complex computer models to offer better predictions of market outcomes.

Capital

Google Capital is the growth capital fund financed by Google, with a devoted interest in established private companies. Focusing on larger, growth stage technology companies, Capital invests for profit rather than strategic positioning for Google. Led by partners David Lawee, Gene Frantz, and Scott Tierney, Google Capital’s approach includes giving portfolio companies access to Google’s people, knowledge, and culture to support the companies’ growth and offer them guidance. This has served FanDuel, SurveyMonkey, Renaissance Learning and Glassdoor.

Why Social Media Can’t Save You (But Your Brand Needs It)

Why Social Media Can’t Save You (But Your Brand Needs It)

Data rules the day. Facebook and Google are thriving, because they study the habits and preferences of their users and play directly to them with advertisements. Do you follow the transaction trail your customer leaves, with direct email offers within their buying ecosystem? Data analysis and specialized customer service are absolutely everything in a world where commercial access is now ubiquitous in the developed world.

How thick of a security buffer are your Facebook followers or YouTube views? Slippery statistics in an ever-shifting algorithm aren’t success guarantees of any kind, regardless of the numbers. Your core functionality must be vivacious; in E-Commerce, social media alone will not serve a buoy in the high seas of change amid technological progress. The numbers can be (and often are) faked, and every few years we switch platforms and start counting all over again.

It is your fans, your readership, your customers who own your business. If they lose interest, if you stop producing in accordance with their needs you wither on the vine of missed opportunity and poor planning. Knowing your target audience and reaching them with an inspiring, engaging dialogue is vital to your success. Consistency is absolutely essential in delivering a comprehensive world in which your customer can find an engaging and comfortable place to explore – and keep exploring.

Your business relies on knowing who your fans are and how to reach them, but the same applies in the inverse. Don’t overload them – instead, play the notes they want to hear. How is your email strategy geared toward specific readers/buyers? A scattershot one-size-fits-all method will not yield the results that focal targeting can. Are you regularly updating a blog, to keep readers up to date on happenings around the office and culture periphery as related to your company?

If not, today is the day to begin.

Most of your fans are not vocal, but if you can inspire the few who are, they will not just click or tweet or explore your e-mails with an open minds – they’ll be satellite hubs of awareness in their support for your efforts. Stand for something. Bring the public into your world and give the effort a greater meaning. You’ll be surprised by the engagement, goodwill and meaningful brand recognition a partner charity cause can inspire. In the coming weeks, StackCommerce will outline the framework of our partnership with Creative Commons, a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.

B2B Podcasting Tips: Why Its Important, How To Get Started

B2B Podcasting Tips: Why Its Important, How To Get Started

Have you started a podcast yet? If not, you’re potentially missing out on a direct connection to customers and prospective clients, as the number of monthly podcast listeners has tripled in five years to 75 million. Podcasting has yet to reach its zenith, with new shows and topics cropping up by the day as brands and publishers realize the value of a direct voice of authority and authenticity in a world of hype-driven advertising.

Millions in the daily commute grind spent their gridlock time listening to podcasts. Not everyone has time to read your blog or keep up with your social posts – an audio format for your ideas and offers is essential in the time-is-money world. So how do you keep your brand engagement active, particularly in an E-Commerce world where physical retail isn’t an option? Download-ready podcasts allows brands to develop a true-voice persona while advertising inexpensively. Eventually, several episodes with valuable content will make great strides in defining your company’s profile in the minds of an unlimited audience.

So what are you waiting for? If the endless options and avenues to getting your own podcast started are paralyzing, you’re not alone. I’ve compiled a good range of info to help you get started, from help with technical resources to the all-important question of why.

Plan Your Podcast

podcastsThere are an incredible number of B2B podcasts out there, and Marketing Dive has compiled seven of the best for your quick reference. Business-podcast rookies can find clear-cut paths to success through the expert advice of B2B podcasters and brands who are already finding a foothold in the field.  I’ll add one to that list: Tim Ferriss’ podcast, the #1 business podcast on all of iTunes. In addition to interviews with a kaleidoscopic range of top-level CEOs, celebrities and industry heads, Ferriss also offers vital meta-learning tactics in his 4-Hour Chef audiobook, which is totally free on StackSocial.

Gear

Your recording will require some basic hardware and software essentials. As for software, a wide range of options can do the trick. Many podcasts are done on free iPhone apps, while others are recorded directly to GarageBand. Have a look at 45 top podcasters’ recommendations on the necessary gear to kick off a successful series.

On the hardware side, a Macbook Pro is ideal, though an external hard drive is recommended in such a case to handle the heavy data use. PCs are, of course, just fine – as long as you have an audio input.

Microphones: Don’t cut corners, but don’t break the bank. While you have a wide variety to explore, Blue Microphones’ Snowball iCE is ideal, a plug-and-play USB mic with swivel tripod stand. Another popular mic, the Samsung Meteor will run you $49.99 on Amazon.

Headphones: Everyone has their favorite, and as long as they do what they’re supposed to, you don’t have to stress this one. Good quality headphones of your own choosing are all you need. Built-in microphone not recommended.

Choose Your Audience

Trying to appeal to everyone is the easiest way to fail. The kaleidoscope of interests & passions out there is exceeded only by the amount of opinions and polarities involved. Find your niche, do your research and stay informed. What can you offer to the conversation that hasn’t been said before? How can you inspire your listeners? Think about what you can offer in a way that nobody else is.

Establish Consistent Structure

How long and how frequent will each episode be? Establishing regularity is key for building an audience. Will the show be segmented? Do you have a sponsorship plan? Will you feature guests?

Strong Content is Key

No matter how intelligent and charismatic your host may be, off-the-cuff podcasting is risky business. What ideas do you have to offer that’s worth the direct attention of strangers? Establish an outline structure, key points of discussion, and guide conversations with guests to remain on-topic. Bouncing from topic to topic with rambling digressions is unappealing at best. Bullet points for reference will help guide the discussion down a clear path.

Personality

You aren’t going to be Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan or Tony Robbins, so don’t try to sound that way. Speak with authentic character, express enthusiastic humility in your words and be as informative and engaging as you can.

Promote Your New Brand Voice

itunes podcastThe recording may be finished, but your work is far from complete. Promote your podcast in consistent installments via social media, newsletters, RSS feeds and more. Link to previous posts whenever contextually appropriate, and keep the conversation going so your prospective client, partner or customer is consistently drawn to you.

A few great examples can be found on Entrepreneur’s list of 11 Clever Ways to Promote Your Podcast, including submitting it to iTunes, implementing video and more.

Happy ‘Casting!

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