Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

After a friend recently sent me the above Kirby Ferguson video, I had to think about how Remix has evolved over the years. I first blogged about this video in 2011, yet it’s still as relevant today as it has ever been. But remix has taken on a very different role in culture since 2011.

As I see it, Remix has gone through five major cycles and will continue to evolve as much as we content producers and consumers will let it.

Creative Commons
When Remix first entered the stage of common internet nomenclature it was all about Creative Commons. Flickr had brought Creative Commons to the fore but there was still a lot of confusion around the term. When YouTubers began downloading video, remixing and reuploading, it was often done under the guise of Creative Commons licensing. This then quickly turned into a privacy issue.

If I upload my cute baby video then it’s remixed with Britney Spears, surely that’s a violation of my privacy. All of sudden we began to see just how open and assessable the web really was. People who never head a camera or cast an actor were making movies with Hollywood appeal. And we also saw the speed that content could travel.

This iterative speed blurred the line of who was the original creator. This made it impossible to claim any rights to the content and even more difficult to monetize. But there was money to be made thanks to the expansive reach.

As networks grew in size and social connectivity remix began to fuel these connections. If you wanted something to spread, to go viral, it was almost never the original. Nor was that really important if the goal was to reach the largest possible audience.

Now Remix is at the heart of any engagement metric. Anyone can like, tweet, pin or tumble but remixing shows a level of commitment. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery then remixing someone’s work is down right flirtatious. Word of mouth advertising has long been the mecca because it converts the best, but Remix has both WOM and advocacy and earned media distribution wrapped all in one.

So what’s next? Remix for the masses. Everything will be seen as a bit more fluid, open, available to be played with. The debate will always rage on about CC, Privacy, Ownership, Rights of redistribution and engagement but while all that happens in the background let us remember that nothing is purely original so let’s just have a little fun with our creativity.

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WorkLifeCollective – an experiment in live/work lifestyle design

WLC new LOGO Hipster
I’m super excited to share a bit more information and inspiration on why we started a new co-op workspace and yoga studio, WorkLifeCollective. The concept is born out of endless conversations with co-workers, co-collaborators and friends from around the world. I choose to surround myself with people who are really engaged in their work and passionate about their careers, but all to often I would hear of burnouts, flameouts and freak outs. The exciting careers that fuelled friends to work long days, neglect health and ignore family became less of a passion and more of a nightmare. This doesn’t have to be the case. We can work and we can live, life and career to the fullest. At least I think we can. This is the experimental impetus for WorkLifeCollective.

It’s often said that the most successful entrepreneurs are visionaries who built product from themselves and for a market they know intimately. Admittedly WLC is for me as much as anyone else. I’ve pushed co-workers way to hard, I’ve ignored my health to the point of needing daily massage to make it back into the chair for work. Don’t mistake this post or concept for advocating to work less. I in fact want to work more, I love what I do but I think that more work doesn’t mean sacrificing life, health and relationships. And I personally don’t subscribe to work hard, party hard. Maybe because one IPA gives me a hangover for days, but I also think this isn’t sustainable in the long run. I’d rather be passionate about work and life.

So how does the concept work? Firstly, combining working and friends. We rented a huge warehouse space and invited all our friends who were otherwise sitting at home working. to work with us. Next, take care of our health. We built a small yoga studio inside the office and offered free yoga to all our workmates and neighbours. We offer fresh food, smoothies and power teas as a refreshing break but also to stimulate conversation. This has created an atmosphere of trust, health and serendipity. Mentorship meetings pop out of nowhere. New businesses have been formed and there’s plenty of peer pressure to put the nose to the grind stone and get shit done.

But wait, there’s more. The Digital Detox program was born out of the reoccurring admission that the biggest killer of work productivity and happiness was our insatiable desire to check social media and email. I make my living off social media, so I’m not hating on social but it can become a source of angst as we consistently see others who are so much more successful or reading an endless stream of Top 10 things we should be doing. We should be working and living, not feeling bad about our life. So once a month, we hide our devices and try to spend a day eating, drinking, and exercising with friends and co-workers. A hike and a picnic, a swim and a BBQ, a surf and pizza party. It doesn’t seem like much, but it helps relax some of those digital synapses so we can hit it hard the week ahead. And as it turns out, what we missed is never greater than what we gained.

Intrigued yet? Want to take it up a notch? How about doing all this is a tropical paradise for no extra money than you’d spend at home? Let’s add surfing and kayaking to the mix, with some fresh organic food straight from the jungle farmers. I’m a firm believer that the creative class and knowledge workers need new cultural stimulus and that temporarily stepping out of own environment can provide that in spades. Travel forces us out of comfort zone and bends our mind to see the world differently. With this in mind we’ll be taking the office space concept to India for two months and Panama for a month. After the jet lag settles down it’s back to normal with a solid wifi connection surrounded by people who are passionate about their careers and life. We’ll do what we do in the northern hemisphere but with more Vitamin D. Well maybe, we’ll sneak in a surf in the morning and add another sunset yoga session, but new ideas, friendships and inspiration will bubble forth.

Sound too good to be true. Well it’s not without its downside. This is out of the ordinary. This is not the way society works. The sharing economy and remote working is more a buzzword that common practice. People don’t like being jolted out of their normal way of working and living. It’s comforting to stay as is, even if we’re unhappy, unproductive and bored. When a community challenges the status quo then there’s some friction. There’s almost misconceptions about this way of working. I’m not going to spend hours dispelling these misconceptions, I’ve going to build business, launch products, mentor entrepreneurs and connect friends from around the work with each and a better way of working and living.

The Secret to Being an Entrepreneur: Balls

At the risk of sounding a bit immature and crass I’d like to present my secret entrepreneurial silver bullet: brass balls. Or more eloquently put: vision, confidence and irrational optimism. Okay great, where does one procure said balls? You grow them over time. Why do you see serial entrepreneurship and why do these entrepreneurs often have repeat success? They grew balls and managed to not get castrated by the stress of running an unproven business, in an unproven market, with an unproven team. Here’s how they grew them:

Are you awesome? It’s hard to know in an unproven market. This is why it’s imperative to look at hard data numbers. Concentrate on improving one or two data points at a time. Don’t try to improve everything at once, you just don’t have the resources and by moving multiple variables around it’s going to be impossible to get an accurate read on our business. The secret to growing balls through data is to make sure it’s going up and to the right. If your data points are improving then your’e doing something right. This will give you confidence to continue. Down and to the right or flatlining is death. If this happens, you’ll need some other help to grow your balls so you can keep moving forward without shutting down the business.

You’re doing something that has never been done. This can be lonely when the self-doubt creeps in, so it’s a must to have a support network around you. It’s a huge plus to have the support of your family and friends. Ideally, they support your decision to quit your job, pursue a different path and work 18 hour days. But be warned, they’re usually too nice and won’t give you the tough love you also need.

This is where mentors and advisors come in. Pick your mentors and advisors based on people that have big balls and success. There’s a lot of advisor out there that are more than willing to tell you why you’ll fail based on their experience with failure. Failing isn’t bad and you don’t need people to blow smoke up your ass but you don’t need haters and naysayers. You need mentors and advisors that can help draw out the talent and help focus you from the distractions.

Investors are also great. They want you to succeed and have an amazing reference point to other companies like you. If you’re struggling and need some balls to power through a rough patch, check in with your investors, they’ve been there.

The last and perhaps most important group are your co-workers. Running a start-up is a team sport and in any team sport you need each other to get the win.

Internal Self Belief
This is what most people rely on. This can be dangerous because we all have self-doubts, that’s just a reality that everyone deals with. So it’s important to get some wins under your belt. Set out some attainable goals and crush them. Then build on that. No one knows what they’re doing in a start-up but they believe they can get there. This self-awareness and ability to constantly pick yourself up and try again is a rare skill. If you got it then you’re further ahead than most.

Some say that you have to have gone to Havard or Stanford to raise a Series A, bullshit but it helps. Not so much because of the school but because having the best education can help your balls. I went to NYU, a premiere school, and I have two other degrees including a Masters. These have nothing to do with business but it does prove to me that I’m not a total screw-up and that I should have the intelligence to figure out some difficult problems in the industry I’m disrupting. If it’s not school than maybe it’s another business that you’ve¬†succeeded¬†in or something in your life that was difficult that you came out the other side on. The more you put big obstacles in your own path, over-come them, the more your balls will grow.

Make sure you have a strong internal motivation to make your business succeed. If your motivation is money, that’s external. You can’t always control external factors so if your vision and drive can’t be controlled then it’s hard to have that internal drive, motivation, and balls.

This isn’t really the place to get into the why MBAs suck as entrepreneurs but it’s mostly because they’re trained to mitigate risk, don’t screw up and climb the ladder. This is the exact opposite of ballsy entrepreneurial behaviour. Lots of people will give advice on how not to fail (according to their zero knowledge of your venture) but few will tell you to grow bigger balls. And that’s really what it comes down to. Good luck growing a pair.

Mentors Matter – A Personal Recap of my Time at 500 Startups

The arrogance of any artist is that they can do it alone. This was may be true when I toiled away in the atelier making obscure media art installations but the more I collaborated the more I enjoyed the work and the more I learned. Now as an entrepreneur this collaboration married with solid mentorship has added rocket fuel to creative drive and desire.

After the first couple of months down in Mountain View hanging out with the 500 family of mentors I felt like our start-up had just got shot out of a canon. This rapid pace of acceleration is all thanks to the brilliant minds that are part of this 500 family. So in the spirit of sharing the family love I thought I’d share some of the knowledge nuggets that lit a fuse under our company as we continue to accelerate forward.

On user-research:
Look for patterns. If 5 people tell you the same thing, then you probably don’t need to look too much further.
Your friends and family are liars and they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Worst yet they think you’re so smart that you clearly saw your obvious errors.
Pay special attention to feedback that relate to the core of your product. You can largely ignore the other feedback.
Don’t premature optimize.

On user-experience:
Get them to the magic as quick as possible.
What’s the one thing that makes you special? Focus on that.
Nail it. Then scale it.
Reduce friction, increase frequency.

On fundraising:
You can’t convince someone to invest, you can only educate investors on what makes you awesome.
Make the product so (expletive) amazing and everyone will want to invest.
Find one thing that makes you amazing, not 10 things that make you okay.
Don’t be weird.
The best investor is the investor that will give you money when you need it the most.

On running a start-up:
Dream big, then dream bigger, then 10x that and you’ll be fine.
Remember why you started this company in the first place.
Survive. Survive and you’ll figure it out eventually.

I’m so proud of our team for the exponential improvement on product, the amazing partnership we’ve put together and the sweet Angel Round we raised. It’s so flattering to have these very same mentors invest large sums of money in the dream, the vision, the team and our kick-ass products.