Maps #2

The first posting on paper maps (Maps, Paper) helped pique my interest in researching, at least a little, the paper map publishing industry.  As a map aficionado myself, I started by taking note of the publishers represented in my personal map inventory. There are at least two dozen of them, which I’ve listed in the following spreadsheet with comments, most gleaned from their websites.

 

I continued my research by searching for one or more complete as possible listings of English speaking paper map publishers. The best source for that that I could find was the International Map Industry Association (IMIA), with a membership list of approximately 370, most publishers.  (The association publishes some details on members but, unfortunately, the format is quite unwieldy, so I haven’t done anything with it yet).

The IMIA website helpfully has descriptions and links to 15 affiliated organizations.

If you need a map, large Internet retailers include Maps.com, Omnimap.com, and TrekTools.com.

When I began to think about writing this column, an op-ed piece in the New York Times  appeared propitiously and I learned of an excellent blog on maps, http://bigthink.com/blogs/strange-maps, which I heartily recommend for any map enthusiast.  There may be others.

Finally, I want to give some visibility to several of my favorite boutique publishers - to recognize them as examples of what is possible and also to introduce them to others who, perhaps, will send them some business so they can keep doing what they do so well!  Small, specialized publishers who have carved out a niche include:

Franko’s – appealing, highly informative maps.  Mostly recreational sites in California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.  Many are intended for divers or surfers.

Map Adventures – small selection of excellent maps of trails in New England and the Bay Area

MapEasy – especially the Guidemaps, not to scale but informative city and country maps with interesting sites noted & described.

Pease Press – small selection of undermapped Bay Area parks

Professor Pathfinder – detailed maps of college campuses & adjacent towns including Princeton & Stanford

Tom Harrison Maps – very well done maps, mainly of California parks and hiking areas, which include distances, topo information, etc.

While I’m not a paper map industry insider and privy to all its challenges, it’s clear the industry is still alive, notwithstanding the Internet.  It’s also apparent that the industry follows a pattern: entrepreneurs with a passion, talent, and hard work can start and build a decent business by following their star, just as those behind the above publishers are doing.

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Checklists – Due Diligence

A few years ago The New Yorker published an article extolling the virtues of checklists in a hospital setting.  Then, in 2011, the author enlarged his essay and published a book, The Checklist Manifesto, which has received laudatory reviews.

The idea of using checklists isn’t that earth shattering – checklists have been around for a long time because they work – by taking what can be a complex activity path and reducing it to bite-sized steps that, as part of a checklist, can’t be ignored.

For example, decades ago, when I was in the Navy, we had checklists for many evolutions (getting underway, anchoring, etc. including checklists of checklists*) –  since then I can’t imagine how a ship’s operations could be undertaken without checklists.  Similarly, I’m aware that even experienced aircraft pilots who know the material by heart won’t begin taxiing without having gone through a tangible checklist.  And, of course, only a fool would pack to go on a backpacking trip without the benefit of a checklist.

As one might expect, Googleing “checklist” will surface many, many checklists available online, most free.  However, few published checklists are perfect for a specific instance.  So, the user is advised to think through the process being modeled and customize any checklist template provided by a third party.

In the business environment, a prominent checklist type is the so-called “Due Diligence Checklist” used in business combinations, angel investments, etc.   Many of these are online and the reader can scout around for one that suits her needs – meaning one to serve as a starting point for one’s own due diligence checklist and process for the situation at hand.

A project I’m involved with now is tethered to a due diligence checklist.  An independent, consumer facing, single location asset manager in the East is considering investing in a presence in the Bay Area because of all the new money here.  I was asked to create a discussion framework to advance the evaluation process.  I took what I could find on the Internet, massaged it, tailored it a bit to the client’s business as I understand it, added to it, etc., and the result in barebones form is here.  Whether it is called a checklist or discussion framework, the purpose is the same: to have a written roadmap that will enable all the bases to be touched.

You’ll see this checklist emphasizes elements thought to be relevant to possible investments in a startup business development office – investments by either or both the investing “parent” as well as the downstream “worker.”  Some of it could easily be borrowed to begin to rough out a checklist for almost any remote startup sales oriented office.

*see, for example, Watch Officer’s Guide, 9th edition, copyright 1961, published by United States Naval Institute, p. 32.

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Maps, Paper

Yesterday morning, as a friend and I began a short walk from the Dolphin Club to Anderson Bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf for coffee, we were summoned by an attractive woman who, as the passenger in the front seat of a very large black SUV with darkly tinted windows (Secret Service came to mind) parked right in front of the Club, had rolled her window down. “How do we get to Route 1 heading south?” she inquired.

DC is well located.

DC is well located.

A simple question, tourists we assumed. My friend and I were both flummoxed – it was a new, shiny, impressive vehicle, her blond hair was long and handsome, and she was courteous with what seemed to be an Australian accent.  As there are many acceptable choices for driving from where we were, the northern edge of San Francisco,  to Route #1, we stumbled a little. “Get on 101, take it to 280 and pick up 1 in Pacifica” was the first idea. I thought “Take Hyde (10 footsteps away) 3 blocks, turn right, keep the Bay in sight and you’ll get there.” Eventually my friend & I settled on “There’s Hyde, take it about 15 blocks to Geary, turn right and go about 5 miles to where it ends at the ocean. Then turn left.”

The blond’s friend & driver piped up “What city should we put in the GPS?” After learning they were just going for a sightseeing drive, we easily reached consensus on the town of Montara, he punched it in, they seemed satisfied, and we parted.

Drawing of San Francisco peninsula.  (Montara is in the Southwest quadrant)

Drawing of San Francisco peninsula. (Montara is in the Southwest quadrant)

My friend & I walked on. We were both astonished the tourists chose to make themselves so dependent on a little computer/GPS screen. My friend, an editor who deals with authors and books that go on shelves, and I lamented that the world has become too dependent on gadgets – adding machines so ubiquitous they’ve neutered many people of the ability to do even the simplest arithmetic (retail staff, for example), along with all the devices accessing the Internet and simultaneously inflicting  pain on incumbent newspaper and book publishers, among others. And now GPS, having become available almost anywhere in just a few years, must be, I thought, making life very difficult for the old, honorable profession of map making (“cartography”) and publishers.

Well, I happen to like paper maps and can’t imagine traveling without them.  Maps enable one to “see” where one is in relation to the geography. Good maps offer a learning experience, by providing curated details of interest to their target audience, not a known function in Google Maps, at least not yet.

The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the western United States just to the east of  the Central Valley of California.  The vast majority of the range lies in the state of California.

The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the western United States just to the east of the Central Valley of California. The vast majority of the range lies in the state of California.

What a treat it is to just be sitting at home in the winter with an unfolded map of the Sierra Nevada plotting a future backpack.  (Try doing that on a screen!)  Putting their obvious utility aside, how can one not get pleasure from daydreaming with an open paper map of their next vacation (or day hike) destination?

The morning interchange and discussion piqued my curiosity about the map “industry,” so I decided to take a look at the publishers represented in my easily accessible map inventory.  My goal was to understand the map-making industry at least a bit and, possibly, discover good publishers as yet unknown to me and maps I need.

Results should be Coming Soon!  In the meantime, enjoy the irony of my using this publishing platform as well as this colorful & expressive map:

Maps can convey a lot at once and be fun at the same time!

Maps can convey a lot at once and be fun at the same time!

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Repotting

You know what this term means out in the garden…plant is growing, needs more space, gets repotted.  In its new location we anticipate the plant will thrive, and it normally does.

Over the past few weeks my spouse has been leading a major remodel of our garden in Laguna Beach; there is of course some repotting going on there:

Example of "repotting"

Example of “repotting”

 

The first time I heard the term “repotting” in a business context was around 1971 when I began at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. A former Dean and remarkable leader, Ernest Arbuckle, coined the term to describe his desire to have a significant variation in his career path every 10 or so years.

He was a businessperson in several industries. As Dean, he is widely credited with leading the ascendance of the Stanford GSB to the top rankings of business schools in the world. From 1978 to 1981 he was chairman of Wells Fargo, helping to put in place the culture that has fueled WF’s growth – from being one of many small regional banks to what is now the most valuable bank in the world.

His concept of repotting was a familiar idea around the business school back then.  It was an original and thought provoking statement in that day’s world of steady employment with one employer or in one industry.  Although I don’t recall thinking much about the term when in school or for years thereafter, the idea may have sunken in.  Or perhaps the world changed.  In any event, as things have unfolded, I’ve “repotted” more than once and feel I may once again be flirting with that phase. I fear not.

As I look around at the young entrepreneurs flooding San Francisco from all over the world, I do wonder how they’ll repot and how successful they’ll be at it.  (Not a question of if they will, IMO, they will).  Many, perhaps most, of these fortune seekers are trained in coding computers, a skill they’re using to make a good living.  However, for most, coding ability is an asset with a short half-life.  In the time they have with the high beta skill of coding in the rapidly changing environment of programming languages, and with new entrants (younger people) nipping at their heels, will they find the treasure they’re seeking?  What if they don’t?  Do they even know what treasure they’re seeking?

A recent article in a Stanford publication outlines how one of Dean Arbuckle’s mentees outlines his approach to repotting as a proactive career/life choice:

  1. Know when it’s time to change.
  2. Seek support and commit to a new direction.
  3. Embrace uncertainty and tune out the noise.
  4. Network broadly.
  5. Synthesize your experience to make a difference.

It’s a good article.  Inc. magazine also has a couple of articles on the subject, for example this one.

Finally, in a nod to the pertinence of the repotting concept in today’s world, the cover story of the June, 2014 Psychology Today is “Reinvent Yourself, how to plan your next act.”

Repotting is big and growing, so get used to it!

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SeniorsSay.com

Ten days ago I, along with 4 friends also on Medicare, visited a mutual friend many miles away who is seriously ill with cancer.  Confined to a bed and hardly able to talk, weighing 50 or so pounds less than his once very fit 165#, this mountain climbing buddy’s condition was far different from only 18 months ago.  Seeing this pal, a truly nice guy who never complains, in such very difficult straights was a reminder to me to get going on something I’ve thought & talked a little about for a year or so, a website that collects and makes available to others short essays from seniors on topics of their choice.

(This is a variation on a theme I’m familiar with, namely the reunion books that are often  created in conjunction with major reunions at places like Princeton, Yale, Stanford Business School, etc.  Generally, the books get thicker as the years go on, and my sense is the 50th reunion book is the class’s capstone book. That meshes well with the SeniorsSay concept.)

The primary catalyst for thinking about doing a Seniors Say type of thing was last summer at the Dolphin Club. Within a couple of weeks, two seniors I’d seen frequently in various roles over 20+ years but didn’t really know, passed away. Through Club remembrances and their obituaries I learned both women had very interesting lives and had spend their days, until their premature deaths, living, as Frank Sinatra sang, “my way.”

If only I’d have said “hello” to each some day over the decades…and known them even just a little.

If only there was an outlet for such interesting people to say whatever they wanted to, if anything.

Another nudge was a relative I hardly knew who also passed away fairly suddenly last year – only after that did I learn of her large footprint in the LA Jazz scene and to appreciate her lifelong interest in manhole covers, a subject on which she and her husband published a definitive book.  What might she have wanted to express?

Well, the final nail in the coffin was this morning, when I received an email from my class at Princeton that a classmate, clubmate*, and friend had just passed away. Once more I was hit with how I and my peer group are “in the zone.”  Admittedly somewhat selfishly, I’d like to hear what friends and others have to say before it’s too late.

Hence, I resolve to launch SeniorsSay.com by July 31. I don’t have a business plan and it will take some time to get it going as a business, if ever.  In any event, my gut tells me just my own network could yield interesting and potentially important messages for younger readers.

This is a start-up but the business plan is non-existent. Monetization is unclear, although there are paths to some revenue, provided content is good (which is what I expect). I haven’t done a “competitive analysis” but another clubmate, one active in social work, told me about Cornell’s Legacy Project. In the case of SeniorsSay, things will evolve.

If you’re a senior and have something you’d like to express through SeniorsSay.com, feel free to start writing or to let me know.  The ground rules are expected to be pretty simple – a preferred length of 1000 or fewer words, for example.  Of course, terms of use will need to be established.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know…

 

*the club was Cannon Club, one of the earliest of Princeton’s eating clubs. While we were there it was an amazingly diverse collection of characters too difficult to explain properly in the time I have (today). For a fond portrait of how things were when we were there, I suggest another friend’s recently published ebook,
The Thinking Man’s Animal House: Benghauser Remembers F’Boy.

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Web Developer Opportunities

Over the last several years I’ve acquired* a number of domain names – some were acquired for speculative purposes, while others were acquired because each seemed to be well suited for building a business that I’d probably find interesting.

I’m looking for help to develop several sites - life is short and my skills lie in areas other than the nitty gritty of coding**.  Following are examples of names I control that I’m interested in developing with one or more partners (who would handle the technical side):

BuyAm.com – envisioned to be a platform enabling improved access to and better distribution of goods made by carefully selected American manufacturers.   Although there are a number of sites that purport to sell American-made goods, none appear to dig much into the origins of the products’ components, a service consumers may value. Plus the UIs of current participants are generally pathetic.

KenyaJobs.com – self explanatory.  With content, this site will rank very high in relevant searches and should become a good business.

RetiringSoon.com – a statement name with good monetization prospects with vendors & service providers who target the demographic described.

SeniorsSay.com – my hunch is that a good number of seniors have important or interesting things to express that the world could find of value. I’m certainly interested in querying my peer group and hearing from them in a systematic way.  Before it’s too late.

This site would be a curated content site monetized by advertising and content repackaging.

TermsTracker.com – a subscription based service that would track and alert customers to changes in the Terms of Service and Privacy Terms of various websites. Think of this as a service that provides redlines of the web-domiciled contracts that almost nobody reads (except the provider’s lawyers). It could also “score” such contracts on user friendliness. Another idea is for the business to develop and offer standardized contracts such as those found in the residential real estate industry, and which would be a better, more predicable deal for the consumer.

There have been what appear to be half-hearted attempts to provide the types of services described, so the idea is out there, but it hasn’t yet been executed very well.

500 Jobs – is the working name for a location based job board business to be built using over 250 dot-com domains I control, each of which begins with a telephone area code, for example 415jobs.com.  With 90% of the U.S. and Canadian area codes in such a format, 500jobs has the raw material to become a distinctive, geography-based advertising network for employers of all sizes. And one whose individual job board sites are easily remembered by both consumers and job posters.

It is an excellent time to develop the 500jobs portfolio of names.  Not only is the web classified’s job board segment continuing to grow, the genre’s gorilla, CraigsList, with over $100 million in annual job posting revenues, is of somewhat limited functionality and has an antique UI.  Nonetheless, it is said to have a profit margin of 80%.

500jobs will be scalable because content of value to job seekers can be reused across the chain of boards. It is likely that 500jobs would engage entrepreneurs sited in the local markets to assist in building the business.

If any of the above business opportunities interest you, and you’re a smart, energetic tech person who can work independently, please reach out to me with some info on yourself.

 

* “acquired” is loose language. One doesn’t own a domain name, one registers it for a finite period of time, during which the name may be used in accordance with various protocols, and, assuming good behavior, one gains the opportunity to renew/extend the registration. If the registrant doesn’t renew and make the required payment, the domain name is lost and, in all likelihood, enters an auction process in which anyone can acquire it.

**my skills & interests are more in the realms of business: positioning, financing, marketing, branding, contracts and other legal, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

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Resources for Start-ups & their Entrepreneurs

This posting is for both of us, you and me.  Over the years I’ve assembled a good number of resources relating to startups & entrepreneurism.  For the (possible) benefit to you and others including myself, it seems sensible to collect/aggregate links to these resources and put them in one spot, here. (Please be aware that, since my resources are housed in Explorer, G2Reader, scratchpads, etc., and good resources surface over time, this post will be subject to revision for a while until it’s given its own page on this site.)

So here goes:

Sample/model/form documents as suggested by several law firms and a venture capitalists’ trade organization:

SeriesSeed.com – by Fenwick & West.  Start-up documents periodically revised with crowdsourced comments.

Startup Percolator – by Perkins Coie law firm.  Start-up and financing documents by the large law firm I’ve used for many years.

Start-Up To0l Kit - by Orrick law firm.  Term Sheet Creator & start-up forms library.

NAVC – National Association of Venture Capital - this link to “model” documents, consider the source.  The NVCA site has a lot of information of value to entrepreneurs who may seek venture capital.

“How to” and/or best practices ideas:

Sales Guide by Batchbook.com - Sales pipelines, strategies, metrics … This guide is intended to enable adoption of big sales concepts in a small, friendly way.

Stanford’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies resource page.  An excellent collection of links on entrepreneurship, startups, etc.

UC Berkeley Startup Competition’s Launch resources page – Another excellent assemblage of links to articles on business plans, pitching VCs, etc. along with links to presentations and collateral from 3 years’ of its Entrepreneurial Best Practices series.

YCombinator Startup Library – an extensive compendium of relevant articles, blogs, etc.

Interesting service providers:

Foundersuite – “Streamline startup operations…Foundersuite is bringing structure to the messy job of starting a company via a curated set of spreadsheets and templates designed to help you get off the ground faster and easier.”

Gust.com – “Gust connects startups with the largest collection of investors across the world.”

Insightly – A young, VC backed company which asserts it is “…the #1 Online Small Business CRM & Project Management software company used by over 500,000 people worldwide.”  I am trying it, when time permits – so far, so good.

LaunchRock - a startup helping firms setup a viral “launching soon” page.

LivePlan - “Write your plan with the #1 business planning company.”

 

Recent data on venture capital activity:

Venture-Capital – San Jose Mercury News – MercuryNews.com - The latest news about startups and venture capital funding in Silicon Valley, from the San Jose Mercury News.  Quarterly summary reports on Bay Area fundings.

 

 

Support Organizations – National*

*(thanks to the Ohio Venture Association, which offers a more extensive list of resources tailored for Ohio startups)

Selected Thought Leaders*

*(per the Angel Capital Association, to which I express appreciation)

 

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