Sunday, February 19, 2012


I've been reading The 4 Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank. I couldn't have decided to open the book and start reading at a better time! Just right for this new stage of the NEH and the Cells of the Earth project. So I thought I would start applying its advice, which in fact, is very related to Business Model Generation and I am very excited about the new book, The Startup Owner's Manual, with the integration of the two concepts, to be launched in March (pre-order: Ticked!). This book [The 4 steps to the epiphany] is all about the Customer Development concept and process. The first advice I took was what I read as "make sure anybody who might be in your team, knows and agrees to use the Customer Development process"...That is why I'm writing this.

So I thought that in order to agree on using the Customer development process, we need to know what the process is, what kind of effort it implies and what we're meant to do in each of the stages. To fulfill that need without having to buy the book I decided to go through a kind of painful process: Creating a Prezi about it. The editing is painful, but there are big rewards, the concepts are definitely staying in my mind. Here it is. I suggest you use the full screen mode to watch the presentation, otherwise some parts will be hard to read. It is not too visual, but it is definitely not as long as the gotta be kidding me!!...looking at how many pages the book has (282), I just found that there is a summary of all what I've been doing for the last 2 days...any's not too visual, but it is very helpful and very much worth it to make the decision to agree or not on it. I'm wondering if The Startup Owner's manual is going to change much what I know about Customer Development and Business Model Generation...just wondering.

After you play with the presentation, you'll notice I'm on Phase 0: Getting a team to buy-in the process, core values and to present my problem hypothesis and product vision so we can start Phase 1. I think this corresponds to the Mobilize stage of the Business Model Generation process, which I found hard to get going because I didn't really have the instructions I found in Blank's book. I also wanted to mention that I won't worry much about using the mainstream business vocabulary. Although I don't agree with much of it, I hope that the description of the hypothesis will put it clear what I am about. My intention is to use mainstream business vocabulary to start with and "upgrade" to what I'd think is a more appropriate vocabulary later, when the startup starts using its own invention to recreate itself. 

I'm using this evernote notebook to keep all my notes related to the first step of the Customer Develpment process, which is Customer Discovery. So everything you need to know about it, will be there. Check for updates. 

Let's Get Productive!!

One of the things I'm doing to start fresh with the NEH and my life, is getting my head organized. Looking for how to do this, I found that I needed to become more productive. That was the key word. I needed to find a way to be able to explore and do a lot of things I dream of doing without driving myself to exhaustion with an imbalanced life as I was doing. So if you think you should look at doing the same, I've found some tools that are taking me out of the hole. Pack your believes in a box while you read about them and when you finish, open the box again and see if you can align the new info with what you believe in. 

Getting Things Done (GTD): The title says it all I guess.The foundation to how I do things now and how I'm sinchronizing all my tasks and the different online tools I use. This is a very good introduction and compilation of what GTD is and how it works with lots of links to get informed before you make the decision to read the book and get started. 

Evernote: An AWESOME...AWESOME!!! software that lets you pretty much remember anything and everything from everywhere. I think the easiest way to explore it before signing up is via videos, so this page might help. Of course there is the long option, which is reading their guide.

Nozbe: Another AWESOME software specifically design to put in practice the Getting Things Done approach. This page will probably give you a synthesis of GTD and Nozbe. 10 videos 3 to 5 minutes long each, explaining each of the steps to use Nozbe and GTD).

ActiveInbox: An extension for Gmail that lets you organize your emails according to your GTD system. I'm finding it helpful to help me clean up my cluttered email.

Just so you how I find them useful, let me show you a bit of what I do with the ones I'm using every single day of my life since a January 2012: Evernote and Nozbe. Inevitably, since I really do use them, you'll find out about what's happening with the Cells of the Earth project. Let's start with Evernote. can create all types of notes, you can write them yourself, you can drag and drop files in the desktop version, you can create voice and ink notes, you can clip articles from the internet, pictures and websites. On the far left, you have your notebooks and tags to organize your notes. As you can see, I'm organizing pretty much everything here. You can share your notes and notebooks with some people or with everybody. So here is an example of one of my notebooks. The link will take you to the web version of the notebook. Feel free to read anything in there, that's why I'm sharing it, although mind you, contents are not finished yet. I also used Evernote to get the screenshot by the way.

Evernote doesn't work so much to actually DO things for me.  Although it does have the capability, it would mean that I have to design my own system to move tasks and actions forward rather than just keeping notes in a safe place. There is however, an unofficial guide to create a GTD system within Evernote. It costs $5 but I'm not sure how good it is. So here is where I keep stuff. 

Nozbe, instead, is where I do stuff. 

You can see there all the projects I have. As it is there, it is showing you the tasks I need to do for a particular stage in a process called "Customer Development" that I'm summarizing in this prezi. You can drag and drop your tasks to the calendar, contexts and projects sections to add information to the tasks. Starring them means that they become your priority, and you check your priorities by clicking on "Next Actions" at the top left hand side of the page. Your inbox is where you collect all your ideas and things you'd like to do and have them ready to be processed. "To process" means to decide what action you need to take in order to make that item happen. Then is when they become tasks. So I just check my inbox once a week to keep the flow going.

Now, go to the public notebook on evernote again and click on the "task list" note. Now scroll down and see what you find...YES!! the evernote notes related to the project!!! can link your Nozbe and Evernote accounts and by naming tags in Evernote as you name projects in Nozbe, you link awesome! for me at least! I don't really need to have that task list note there in case it looks redundant to you, it was just to show you the nozbe/evernote integration.

Both services give you an email account for you to send emails to and with both services you can send the emails straight to the project, notebook and/or tag where you wanted it to go. Although that might be useful, I find it a bit hard to use because I have to think about how I named the project, notebook and/or tag in evernote and/or nozbe, in order to send the email properly. That is why I looked for a GTD application for email and found ActiveInbox, which I just recently started to explore so I don't have much to say yet. However, I can tell there is a potential cool feature in the paying service that lets you push emails into you GCalendar(s). The coolest possibility is that Nozbe also lets you synchronize your Nozbe calendar with your Google here is the the story:

I linked my Nozbe account to Google calendar. This means that if I create a task that says "call mum" and drag it and drop it on to the Nozbe calendar, it will show up in a Google calendar named "Nozbe". Since I have an Android phone which associated google account is the same I linked to Nozbe, I can choose the Nozbe google calendar to be my default calendar and it will remind me on my phone of the things I have to do that I initially put on Nozbe. I'm not sure if my excitement is because I'm a newbie to these productivity things but it was just so cool to see!! So...if you push an email straight from your inbox gmail to your Nozbe Google Calendar, as opposed to having to go to Gcal page and enter the details,  or to Nozbe Calendar so it shows up in Nozbe GCal, it will do all with the one action: show  up on  your Nozbe GCal, your Nozbe account and it will remind you on your Android phone. 

I'm still discovering a lot of things and the more I understand how they work, the more excited I get about what I can do and my usage has been increasing with my understanding of them. The pricing system of Evernote is very flexible and I would even say generous. To get the most out of Nozbe you have to pay, but the price is relatively low compared to the frequency you'll use it if you find the GTD system appropriate for your lifestyle...I am a happily paying customer. The free version of Nozbe will get you only five projects to work with. As you can see, I have more than that. The free version of Evernote will give you 60Mb data usage per month and 200 or 250 notebooks maximum. The premium version gives you 1GB a month plus other features. I'm still in the free side of Evernote customers.

The most functional version of Evernote in my situation is the desktop one, whereas the web version of Nozbe works the easiest for me. They both have web, desktop and phone app versions so you can be productive on the go if you want to. Although I haven't mastered the whole system yet and I'm still learning and figuring things out, It has been working for me, I hope it does for you. Cells are very productive units and I would think that we are meant to be like that too.

Just so you know...I decided to become a Nozbe affiliate because I truly believe in it and recommended from my heart. I recommend Evernote in the same spirit, just haven't found out if they have an affiliate program. The Nozbe program was way easier to find...actually, it found me. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Setting the Stage year, new start...

The coming era of the NEH is likely to be about testing ideas in practice, to go beyond my theories. I was offered invaluable help with putting a local team together to work on this project, however, I feel I must unload my feelings about this new approach so that help can be channeled accordingly.

The previous stage of the NEH concluded when I reached a point where I envisioned what sort of business I wanted to create and wrote down my version of an "elevator pitch":  an online platform that provides the business model generation structure and process to [learn to] collaboratively transform socially just, spiritually fulfilling and environmentally sustainable ideas into value creating entities (businesses), by matching pools of entrepreneurs, work investors and  financial investors.

Then, again, all the questions about the how and the imperative to put a team together came to the table...should that team be local and/or global, how can I select "the right people"?? what kind of people do I need?? Isn't there a self organizing path to do this?? How do cells choose who does what and when, what influences their decisions, how would they define value?? Is there anything at all that they wouldn't consider of value?? I felt that there was something missing in the project. Yes, the "elevator pitch" may sound interesting to me, but for a team to agree to work under the same foundations, to agree on some basic/ground "rules" and use them in practice...that's where I felt there was a gap, and that's when I started to think about making some changes about the blog and the project.

I kept thinking about how what I envision would work and there are so many things in our cultural story that I believe require a fresh new start and that are essential to bring that vision to reality, that I thought the project would be better of if it focuses on the refined version of the question that gets me going: How would humans create, capture and exchange tangible and intangible value if we were to the earth, what cells are to our bodies? 

For instance, one of the things that I would like to see in this business project, is making high quality products and services the cheapest so that they are accessible to everybody, they become everybody's right to have, rather than a luxury for those who can afford it. Why is clean water, quality institutional education, high quality health services, organic food, energy and water efficient products, the most expensive things to get?? Yes, mainstream economics have an answer for this, but to me it is non-sense. If cheap means labor abuse, environmental degradation, social injustice, work/wage slavery...shouldn't these things be actually very expensive so that people don't get them and then we reduce stimuli for their production and increase pressure for their improvement?? Prices and costs should reflect quality in the opposite way we've been using that equation where cheapest means excellence and quality in every sense, expensive reflects negative customer satisfaction and low value. Would a cell work very hard and drive itself to exhaustion for something that creates cancer in its host body?? I think a cell does look for minimum pay for maximum return, what the value of the return is very different to that of human the question of what it is that we should value comes in handy.

Those are the sort of questions I would like to explore. I feel I need academic support, I would love to maybe accompany this project with a Ph.D because I sense that a mix with that side of cultural knowledge and science would give us more understanding of the possibilitiesThe bit that excites me the most so far, is that this exploration forces me to look at what we consider of value, define it and redefine it in different ways, which is in fact, what I anybody who might come to the team will have to explore as well, and we'd all have the freedom to create our own believes and set our own theories and run experiments to test them accordingly but all based on the same question, all to generate a pool of possibilities from which our societies would choose those more adept to their conditions and evolve. The problem is, is there such a thing as value for a cell, is there anything that a cell does that is not of value for it or for its host body?? So that makes me think...should I change the question to: If business where to behave like cells, what would they do?? how would they go about it? ...are they actually different questions?? businesses are value creating entities so...a cycle...this is where I am, and this is part of what I think needs to be clear if I'm to put a "research/practice team".

There are other two reasons for me to enroll in a Ph.D. One is that I like the Uni environment, the access to information, the smell of the library...I enjoy it a lot, I like studying which is a relatively new liking in my life. The second  might come out of some fear. It is very hard for me to actually talk about this idea to people because I don't think I have "evidence". For so many years I've been talking about things based on this question, but it is so different, I can't really talk about it to everybody, they sort of need to fall in some kind of greenie-hold-hands-and-sing category, which I love, but I don't really know many of them. When I'm asked for what I do other than looking after my child and if I'm planning to get a job, my answer is limited to say that the mainstream jobs, specially now that I'm set in a mining town, are absolutely frustrating for me, only to know that there will be a comment or some advice about how "oh...but this company is doing this or that, or you could do this or that there".

Imagine I could say "I am part of a group of bioentrepreneurs, we research  and build start ups and businesses based on cellular behaviour. We've run some tests and our findings suggests that if we choose to behave like cells in our bodies do, a lot of the world's issues would disappear. For example we ran this experiment and blabalbalblablaba and the blabla happened! and actually, we've got this start up in our platform that is doing X thing, it completely reflects the choice of what we call "cellular action"...." It just feels different just to think about me having some possibilities to show people...specially since we are so much of a "show me and I'll believe" kind of culture. 

I'd like to see a group of people who are interested in exploring the question as well and who are keen to run experiments to learn from them, test ideas, iterate and move forward our discoveries. 

I dream of many groups in different parts of the world undertaking the same quest to explore this question...I'd call those groups diasporas: for them, the exploration of the question in their local areas may imply differences, just as heart cells and liver cells are different and perform different functions within the same body...they are all cells, we are all humans.

I'd like to make the 'put a team together" process as public and visible as possible. And I'd like the group(s) that form to be able to build the business based on the findings. 

I hope the team building process goal starts soon, I'm very excited...keep checking.