Chapter & Lesson #13

Chapter 13 

 

“It takes a leader to create the momentum, it takes a vision to direct the momentum, it takes a massive action to build on the momentum, and it takes self-discipline to sustain the momentum. Momentum is the bridge between a vision and its results. 

Farshad Asl 

 

After the big launch of MSN 8, and the total self-destruction at AOL Time Warner.  The damage was done,  AOL no longer looked like a threat to Microsoft.  The momentum had changed, for both companies.  New Internet darlings were being formed, and the fear of AOL stealing Microsoft’s relevance seemed almost silly in retrospect.   Many in the division said that we had followed AOL right over the cliff.  Now both seemed to be dead.   To me that description, while harsh, felt accurate.  MSN was still losing money and had no clear reason for existing now.   Sure, everyone at Microsoft understood that the Internet was important, but it was now less clear how important it was to Microsoft specifically.   Microsoft was still selling Windows and Office successfully and was becoming increasingly strong in the enterprise software space.   Leaders all across the company were growing tired of losing money on MSN, without the threat of irrelevance looming from AOL, the investment in MSN seemed more and more pointless.  

Without a raison d’être the MSN  Division was sent into a state of chaos.   The battle was over, Windows had no looming threat from AOL.  Yahoo! looked like an interesting business.  But never seemed to represent a big threat or big enough opportunity for Microsoft to take seriously.  Google was starting to look like a serious business to many of the people who worked in MSN, but CEO Steve Ballmer seemed to have absolutely no clue of how huge search would be.   Ballmer totally missed that Google was setting up to shake Microsoft to its core.   All the winds were out of the MSN sail.  It was a division with no momentum at all, it was losing gobs of money, and had no clear idea how it would ever make a profit.  MSN’s biggest problem was becoming its own existence. 

For the next couple of years, MSN and the Online Division at Microsoft was basically totally rudderless.  There would be multiple executive changes at the top, along with constant staffing reorganizations laced with new memos stating where the new focus would be.   As a middle manager, it got to the point that it was just embarrassing trying to explain the new goals and strategies the latest executive wanted to go after.   Almost every 6 months there would be a new division leader, new lieutenants would be named, and reorganizations would become a routine of life while working in that group.  It was painful to watch and be a part of it.  The silver lining is I was being paid well to put up with all of the nonsense.   Otherwise, it would have been totally intolerable. 

The oddest reorganization I remember was when Steve Ballmer named a guy who was a friend if his,  and one of his “mentees”, to head the Marketing and Business functions of MSN.  This guy (who I won’t name) had made his reputation at the company leading the battle against Linux.  Linux is an open source software program for operating systems, where people and organizations donate code that is then freely available to anybody who wants to us it.   Open source was considered to be a huge threat to Microsoft’s proprietary and closed Windows Operating System, where Microsoft made most ofit’s huge profits at the time.

This new guy’s claim to fame at Microsoft was that he had crafted a marketing campaign called “get the facts” which was a successful competitive smear campaign on Linux.  It used all the fear uncertainty and doubt you could muster up, to scare IT managers and developers away from using Linux.  Steve loved it, and apparently loved this guy.   Within a few weeks of him landing in our buildings across the freeway from Microsoft’s main campus, it was clear that this guy was a gun slinger.

One of the most outrageous things about the new guy was that he had 2 business managers, one of whom was an extremely attractive young female.  The other, who was not as attractive, seemed competent enough.    (It is not unusual for a senior executive to have a one business manager at Microsoft.  These roles basically do all the dirty work that executives don’t want to deal with.  They organize staff meetings, they take personnel meetings that the executive himself does not want to take or have time to deal with, they deal with administrative type stuff)   The consensus on the team was that 2 business managers for this relatively small group was far from necessary.   More concerning to the business, nothing was happening with this guy’s leadership, he seemed to be traveling all over the world, not leading the group in any direction at all, or making any decisions.  One odd side note, that everyone on the team noticed, was that his beautiful business manager was traveling with him on extended trips.  This was very unusual, in fact, it was much more common to see business managers stay back at HQ to handle any routine things that might come up while an executive was out traveling into the field.

On one of those trips, apparently, Steve apparently received a heads up that some hanky-panky was going on.  To Steve’s credit – he put an immediate end to whatever was going on, and this particular leader never returned to Microsoft.   The details were never revealed to the team on exactly what happened.  But it was clear, something had gone very wrong with this rising star’s career, and it was likely a result of personal misconduct.

That VP’s firing was sort of a sign of the rudderless times in that division.  Another leader lasted only 6 months before he had a nervous breakdown.  Another was hired in from Kimberly-Clark who had worked on the Pampers brand, she was a disaster.  Diapers and software are not very deeply related, I remember a meeting where I had to explain to this person what Internet Explorer was, literally she did not know what an Internet Browser was, or how it was different from Yahoo (the web portal).   I knew she would not last past 6 months in that job, and she didn’t.    I could never quite figure out why she was hired in the first place.  

The place was a mess.  We had a running joke on the team that our job was to educate the newly named executives as they passed through the division.  We put a sign up on our doors that read “EEC” which nobody outside of our group knew what it meant, it stood for “Executive Education Center”.  It was one of the more idiotic corporate jobs I had ever been a part of.  I finally decided I had too much of the drama, the stupidity and the bridge to nowhere mentality that was taking over in the online group.  I started looking to get out and move to a division with more focus and better opportunity to keep my career moving forward.   It was a wise move.

 

 

Learning Lesson #13   Momentum is as important as any feature when working Technology.   I was lucky enough to get an up-close view of multiple big platform battles while working at Microsoft.  I learned that “capturing the narrative” of winning momentum is as important as any product feature you can deliver.

Momentum can come in many forms.  You can be far behind a competitor, but if you are stealing away market share from them, you can translate that into your own momentum.   Or you may be losing a lot of money in a business, but if you are reducing that loss significantly QTR over QTR that also counts as momentum.   You may launch an obviously technically superior offering, and if you can keep that superiority gap over the competition, even if you are not gaining share or profits yet, that can still be good for momentum.   

The ultimate in momentum is when you are taking share, increasing profits and or gross margins, and delivering a product that is perceived as better than the other guys.   If you have all of these things in your favor at any company or division, you will be riding high while it lasts.

Momentum convinces the press, customers, partners, and even your own employees that you are winning a battle.   The momentum is what creates the necessary resources to keep the battle well-funded, and the army well motivated.   If momentum dies you go to the grave with it, this is what happened to Nokia, Blackberry, Netscape, HP, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Bing and a host of so many other great companies and products.  

You can be way behind a competitor, but if you have more momentum, if you are stealing away market share, mind share or both, you can be perceived as winning. 

This is a critical element to recognize in technology competition, primarily because things change so quickly in technology.  You can be the leader one day, and in the doghouse the next.  Technology companies run on fear, and if you are not beating the competition, you are losing.  In the winner takes all world of platforms battles, losing means long days trying to reinvent your product, your company, and your reason for being.  Thus momentum is everything.  

If you find yourself in a place where there is no momentum and little hope in finding it, consider making a move elsewhere. 

Chapter and Lesson #12

 

 

“You want to know what it’s like to be on a plane for 22 hours? Sit in a chair, squeeze your head as hard as you can, don’t stop, then take a paper bag and put it over your mouth and nose and breath your own air over and over and over.” 

Lewis Black 

 

 

Anthrax  & Business Travel 

The next incredible, or maybe bizarre, experience happened on my next trip back to New York City just shortly after that fateful  9/11 trip.  This trip was to finish the meetings that had been canceled during the week of 9/11.  It was October 12, 2001, just a month after the 9/11 attacks.  Tensions in New York City were very high, new security procedures were in place at all the major buildings in Manhattan, of course, the airports were now like military zones.  Everything and everyone in the city was still on edge at that time.   

One of the meetings scheduled that day was with Saul Hansel, who at that time was an excellent and very influential technology reporter for the New York Times.  The meeting was held in a windowless building in the iconic old New York Times building on West 43rd Street.   Just as we were sitting down to talk, a loud alarm started blaring in the building.  Saul didn’t seem too concerned, so we just continued on with the meeting.  The alarm did not stop, and it was getting harder and harder to ignore.  After several minutes of this alarm sounding off, Saul was getting a little annoyed and decided to go find out what was happening.  Just moments after he left the room, a loud voice came over an intercom system telling everyone in the building not to move, the man on the intercom said. “stay exactly where you are and wait for further instructions.”   After what seemed like forever, but was really only a few minutes, Saul returned to the room to give us an update what was going on.  He informed us that there was a possible bioterrorist attack underway and he had been told to go back to the room and wait for further instructions.   Just a couple minutes later another loud voice came over the intercom system and blared, “anybody who is not of the 3rd floor of the building evacuate immediately!  If you are on the 3rd floor stay where you are and wait for further instructions.”  This time, it was bad luck!  Of all the floors in that building, somehow luck had it that I was on the 3rd floor!

The 3rd floor happened to be where Judith Miller’s desk was, a reporter who had co-wrote a recent best seller on bioterrorism, “Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War” she had opened a threatening letter containing a powder-like substance that appeared to be like talcum powder, when she opened the letter the powder came flying out of the envelope, which led to a scare that the envelope could have been one of a series of attacks that had been unfolding throughout that week.    

Those attacks became known as Amerithrax from its Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) case name, and it occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on Tuesday, September 18, 2001, just one week after the September 11 attacks. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to the FBI, the ensuing investigation became “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement”.  

The next set of instructions blared over the intercom, everyone who was remaining on the 3rd floor needed to slowly walk down the stairs to the lobby area of the building.  We picked up our stuff, headed out of the room and started walking down the stairs.   In the old New York Time’s building, there is a  large grand staircase that enters into the bottom floor of a large lobby area.  As we approached the lobby coming down from the stairs we were shocked to see that the doors of the building had been chained shut from the outside, emergency personnel were suiting up into hazmat suits.  We were trapped in the lobby – like of group of people who had just been exposed to an unknown contagion!

We were told to remain calm and stay in the lobby area.   We could see outside the front of the building, all traffic had been shut off to the area, there were only police, fire and hazmat vehicles out front.   At this point, everyone who had been locked into that building was feeling very rattled.   We were all thinking the worst, had we been exposed to Anthrax? or maybe something worse?  Nobody knew, the Health Department gathered samples from the desk of the reporter, and they would be flown immediately to a lab someplace in Virginia for testing.  Oddly, there was no place in NYC who had the capability to effectively test for Anthrax.   Panic in the lobby area kept going up, we were informed by one of the reporters who was locked in the building with us that a woman in the NBC offices just a few blocks away, who was Tom Brokaw’s assistant, had tested positive for Anthrax.   There was a very real possibility that this entire group had just been exposed to Anthrax, a lethal substance that can kill people with a horribly painful death. 

I called back home to Seattle to my wife to explain what was happening.  It was a hard call to make.  I tried to be as unemotional as possible.   I told her about the events that had happened up to that point, and that I didn’t know what was going to happen next, but to stay near the phone.  I told her I loved her and I would call back as soon as I knew more.  I can only imagine how unsettling that call must have been for her.    

After a couple of hours of waiting, and tensions getting higher and higher, with the people in the lobby including a host of New York Times reporters all locked in and now demanding that they be allowed to leave the building.   The Health Department finally hatched a plan to deal with the escalating situation.   They took down specific information of everyone who was in the building and was on that 3rd floor, where exactly they were on the floor at the time and numbers where they would be able to contact you as soon as they got back the definitive results from the tests of that spilled substance.   My group happened to be just around the corner where the envelope was spilled out, which did not provide me with any additional comfort.

Adding to the stress and confusion of the situation for me and my travel companion.  We had plane tickets scheduled to fly us home that evening.  We didn’t know if we should go ahead and take the plane back to Seattle, not knowing if we had been exposed to Anthrax or something else.   Would it be safer to stay in New York City, in the event that if we had been exposed to something we could seek more immediate medical care?  Nobody from the health department could give us a straight answer to that question.

Anthrax itself is a tricky substance.  It takes about 10,000 spores of Anthrax to make you sick.  It is worse if inhaled and it can kill you in about 2-3 days.  It can also contaminate you by contact on your skin,  that takes longer, up to 6 weeks to kill you.  It produces toxins in your system, and the symptoms are cold or fever like symptoms.     It is easily treated with Antibiotics like Cipro.  However, once you show signs of symptoms, it is already too late to treat it and there is nothing that can be done, you will die.   So timing is of the essence if you are exposed to Anthrax, you want to seek treatment immediately. 

It is not totally clear exactly how much time you have, but the health department official seemed confident that as long as I was back on the ground in Seattle within the next 12 hours, I would be fine to start treatment then if needed.  They would contact me via my cell phone and home phone as soon as they had results.  If the powder tested positive for Anthrax, I would need to contact the local health department and have them approve a prescription for the Cipro immediately when I arrived in Seattle.    

At the time of the Anthrax scare, all Cipro had been locked down by the health department and was being stockpiled for the possibility of a weaponized Anthrax attack.  There were all kinds of fears that a dirty bomb filled with Anthrax somehow could be set off in a crowded populated area as some kind of follow up a terrorist attack from 9/11. 

With that information I called my wife back at home, and asked her to get going on tracking down who at our local health department could prescribe Cipro upon my return if needed.   This turned into a nightmare for her.  She called the health department, and they treated her like a crazy lady, they knew nothing of the New York Times building incident and basically treated her like she was an insane person.

She called officials at Microsoft to try and get help, which they did try and help.  It was overall a big mess.  They kept telling her that nobody in Seattle had any exposure to Anthrax reported and there was nothing they could do for her.  It was crazy, there is no system in place to deal with things like this, I highly doubt there is any such system now.  In hindsight, I probably should have stayed in NY to wait and see what the results were and then get treatment there.  But when you fear you might risk dying, all you want to do home to see your family as soon as you can.  It was one HELL of a long flight back to Seattle, wondering, worrying, had I been exposed to this stuff, or something else, every hour that went by on that flight seemed like an eternity.

Finally, when we landed and my cell phone messages started buzzing in.  I called my voicemail, as you did back in those pre-smartphone days, and there was a message from the NY Department of Health, the powder had tested negative.  It was talcum powder, it was a hoax!  A terrible hoax and scare for me and my family.  Business travel is hard enough, getting stuck in DC on 9/11 and caught up in the Amerithrax scare 2 weeks later in New York was starting to kill my love of the road.   The joke around the office was don’t travel with Bob!  He’s bad luck, you’ll be risking your life..  I had to agree, my record was looking spotty!

 

Back on the Road this time with Bill Gates! 

The third big adventure on the road was on October 24th, 2002, I was now the head of PR for MSN, and on that day we were launching our latest competitive threat to AOL called MSN8.  It had all kinds of new features, better personalization, improved email experience, parental controls, and other good features we were proud of.  It was the first time that we really had something that was as good as or better than what AOL had been offering.    

We had planned a big elaborate launch event in New York City.  The event was at the height of our spending, we erected a huge bubble in the middle of Central Park – imaging a bubble like you see that cover swimming pools in the winter, only 10 times the size.  Inside the bubble, we would host over 300 press people, partners, industry dignitaries and the like.  Michael Eisner, the chairman and CEO of Disney would make a special announcement with Bill Gates where the companies would partner to deliver special Disney content via the newly minted MSN 8 product.  To celebrate the launch Lenny Kravitz would play for the press, and Bill was the host and keynote speaker.    It was a big event for the company and a big deal for me personally. 

I was assigned to accompany Bill Gates for the day’s press meetings.  In the morning we had a long list of press engagements.  I was nervous and excited to have a chance to spend a day with Bill.  It was for sure going to be a unique opportunity. We were all staying at the W hotel.  Bill had come in the night before on his private plane.  The rest of us all flew in the day prior, economy class of course!  I got up early that morning, I was told to meet Bill in the lobby of the hotel.   Bill, his driver, and a small security and PR entourage showed up right on time.  Bill seemed to be a little groggy but ready to go.  We walked out to the busy New York street, where there were two cars waiting for us.  I never knew this prior, but Bill’s security and medical people followed in a car behind Bill wherever he went.  The other care would contain a driver, another security person, Bill’s full-time PR person, and myself!  to ride in the SUV that would lead the two-car caravan.

Making Bill Gates Ride hump!

So here I am with the richest man in the world and a business and technology icon, trying to sort of act like this was not a big deal.   Once we all gathered on the street next to the cars everybody started loading in the cars, it was all very routine to them where they would ride, they had done this hundred of times together.   In Bill’s car, which was a big SUV, the driver and security person both jumped into the two front seats.  Bill’s PR person, and Bill jumped into the back seat.   I was sort of standing there waiting awkwardly to see where I should sit.  Bill Gates deadpanned me and says “get in” and scoots over to the middle and I get in and shut the door.   I immediately think to myself, “oh shit” I just made Bill Gates ride hump!   Not a great start with the CEO I thought to myself… 

Luckily, I had some fantastic news to deliver to Bill that morning.  Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, and the most important technical press reviewer of all time, and probably the most important tech journalist ever, had published his competitive review of MSN8 vs. AOL8 that morning, and MSN had won big!  It was a huge win, and as the head of PR for MSN I could not have been happier to hand that newspaper to Bill.   I asked him, “have you seen the Walt review yet?” He said “no”.  I smiled and handed it to him.  I said, “I think you are going to like this one”.    As we raced through Manhattan to our first meeting, Bill quietly sat and read the review.  The review headline read. New MSN Online Service Outshines Its Rival AOL” He read the article in about 3 minutes time, he put it down, and said, “that is the best review we have ever had from Walt”.  Bill was in a great mood for the rest of the day.   

It was fortunate that Bill was now in a good mood because the rest of the day turned out to be much more challenging.   Our first scheduled PR meeting was booked with the ABC morning show hosted by Charles Gibson.  Unfortunately for us, there was a huge news story breaking that day.  Earlier that same morning authorities had finally apprehended the infamous Beltway Snipers.   

The Beltway sniper attacks were a series of coordinated shootings that took place over three weeks in October 2002 in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Ten people were killed and three other victims were critically injured in several locations throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and along Interstate 95 in Virginia. The rampage was perpetrated by John Allen Muhammad (then aged 42) and Lee Boyd Malvo (then 17), driving a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice sedan. Their crime spree began in February 2002 with murders and robberies in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, which resulted in seven deaths and seven injuries, bringing the total victim count to 17 deaths and 10 injuries.  It was a huge news story, and every news outlet was covering it 24/7.  It gripped the nation in fear.   

The Bill Gates entourage was now sitting in the green room waiting to go on the ABC Good Morning Show.  We  sat watching the TV’s in the room as details of the capture were unfolding.  Soon Bill’s scheduled time to go on had slipped by.  Bill waited patiently, and his time slipped again.  Finally, Charlie Gibson came into the green room and graciously said to Bill, “I can’t believe I am doing this, but I have to bump the richest man in the world”.   Bill and all of us were obviously disappointed, as Bill had come a long way and taken a lot of time to come out and do these meetings, and he had a lot of positive news about Microsoft to share that day.  That said, Bill was also very gracious to Charlie and made some good small talk with him, as we left the studio we walked through the set with Charlie on the way out, and Charlie promised he would someway make it up to Bill a later date.   It was incredible experience for me to see all of this take place.  Subsequently, the entire rest of the day’s of PR meetings were canceled, all coverage from the big networks was moved to 100%  focus on the Sniper shootings.   So we headed off to Central Park, where Bill could get some privacy backstage before leading the big launch event, and the rest of the team could prepare for the evening’s festivities.    

Bill ended up doing a fantastic job at the launch event, and the positive reviews set up the evening and the ensuing news coverage for a big momentum shift in favor of MSN.    It was an incredible day for me, one I will never forget.   The day also reinforced for me that the world is a very unpredictable place.   You can have plans laid out for months, and have done everything possible to make things go smoothly, and at any moment a new event can enter into the fray and change everything in a literal New York minute.   I also learned that year that traveling on business is difficult and exhausting, sometimes you can get too much of it, and that is a mistake. 

 

Learning Lesson # 12 –  Avoid jobs with too much business travel – business travel starts out as a fun and provides incredible experiences, but it also can become a terrible grind over time.  When you are early in your career, embrace all the travel opportunities you possibly can, seeing the world and visiting customers directly is a very valuable experience.  But be very careful not to commit to a lifetime of being a road warrior.   The first time you visit great cities like London, Paris, New York or whatever fabulous city you travel to for business, it is very exciting.  Meeting customers and partners directly face to face are invaluable for your career and building up your network.  Take whatever free time you have when doing business travel and play tourist visiting all the awesome places in whatever city you happen to be in.  It really is a fantastic experience. 

Unfortunately, after you have been to these cities 15-20-30 or more times, you have pretty much seen all of the top tourist destinations.  If you are lucky enough that your company will pay first class or fly you privately, most of this does not apply.  But believe me when I tell you, your enthusiasm for flying 10-18 hours on an international trip and then being expected to work hard for 3 to 5 days will wear down your body, mind, and soul.  You will start to really miss your family and friends, your house, your own bed, and your dog! Try to avoid any job that claims over 50% travel.  Those jobs are for suckers, and people who travel that much rarely move up the ranks very far.  Oddly I found that people who travel more than 50% of the time are often resented by their managers, co-workers, and employees.   The people who work at HQ’s are tribal, almost pack like animals.  If you are gone and away from HQ you will start to lose your connections with people, and they will start to think you are traveling just to get away from the office.   Don’t be fooled into thinking you will be a hero for all those hours spent on the road.  The more likely outcome is you will move up the ladder slower, and you will alienate the people who are the most important to you.    

Moviepass Maybe Finding Some Footing

It’s been a while since we have talked Moviepass here. Basically, the company has been on a silent death spiral for the past few weeks and there has not been much to say other than to hope and pray that management could get their act together, or even better, get rid of Fartsworth altogether.

Amazingly folks across the internet and social webs are reporting surprisingly good ticket availability. I have noticed a small but significant improvement here in my small hometown as well. I was even able to score 2 tickets to Bohemian Rhapsody, a movie that I thought sure I was going to have to pay the full ticket price for expecting I would never be able to get a ticket via the Moviepass scam. I had to run to the theater many hours before the movie time to make that work, and there were other poor souls from Moviepass who had already beat me to the punch, but l was still lucky enough to score the tickets.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Moviepass has gone low. The service is settling in as a bargain basement type service that offers a decent value with some extra headaches, it is not for everyone, but it can and should work for many. As I have explained before, if Moviepass can extend a theatrical release of a film and boost box office total receipts it can be good for both theaters and for studios. Theaters gain in two ways. 1- more people fill seats instead of waiting to see the movie in-home. 2- of the films are viewed later in the theatrical release the theaters keep more of that revenue for themselves. The consumers have to accept that they may have to wait to see the movie later in the cycle. But for many, not all, that will be a trade-off they will be willing to make.

Studios benefit as not only does the improved theatrical release help the bottom line immediately, it also helps to drive downstream revenue for streaming and other in-home release revenue streams. Downstream revenues are determined by a factor of how well a film does in the theatrical release. Meaning a strong theatrical release improves all the rest of the revenue a film will make 10 years or so of its life. It’s important to studios. And it is why the MoviePass Ventures could someday have a leg up on the competition.

Another piece of positive news was the promotion of Khalid Itum to Executive Vice President of the company. He appears to be a solid choice for the role. He has the right background, but even better, he seems to have a clue when it comes to what the company needs to focus on to achieve and capitalize on the success it once enjoyed. As stated in the release. While his quote was extra long he hit exactly the right points and the right tone. It’s the first thing I have seen from this management team that appears to be truly customer centric!

“I’m eager to continue building MoviePass and am proud of how far we’ve come. The road hasn’t been easy — and the hyper growth has been challenging. However, we’ve taken a hard look over the past few weeks and months at what needs to happen in order to not just preserve what we’ve built, but to use it as a foundation upon which to build. Because of this, I know we’ll emerge a better partner to the theaters (big and small), major studios and independent distributors with whom we have the privilege of working to collectively best serve the interests of the American consumer,” said Khalid Itum, Executive Vice President of MoviePass. “You may notice we’ve been out of the news for some time, and that’s been by design. At MoviePass, we’ve recently prioritized building toward a vision that aligns our success with greater consumption of entertainment. You’ll soon be able to judge for yourselves, and I believe that the best marketing we can do, today and always, is to enhance our product and treat our subscriber as a member of something special: because that’s what MoviePass is to a great number of Americans already. It’s on us to regain their trust. I believe the future is bright for our company, and I couldn’t do it without my team which has been giving its 200% dedication and effort to transform the offering and platform into its full potential. I look forward to announcing some powerful additions to our management team to join with us in charging forward.”

This sounds like a guy who actually “gets it”.

There is a lot packed into that quote. Let’s go over it.

  • He knows that they grew too fast and screwed up the experience
  • He believes focusing on the customer experience is the best marketing- that’s really really important. Just doing stupid deals and promotions doesn’t work. They need the product to work. And be something people value. He seems to get that.
  • He tips his hand that things are about to change and new things are coming. He sets expectations to see some decent news soon!
  • He seems to be dedicated to helping his team succeed and to bringing on new talent who can help him with improving the service.
  • For the first time in a loooong time it appears we may have a solid guy leading the day to day operations. Mitch Lowe I think is a good concept guy, and big thinker, but I think he is weak on details and hardcore operations. Fartsworth is essentially worthless. He was supposed to be a money and deal guy, but he has proven to be neither. So having a guy in place who may actually be able to run a business could be a very big boost to helping Moviepass survive.

On a final note. It occurred to me that the Costco promotion for Moviepass happened about this time last year. We don’t know how many people found Moviepass via Costco, but I think it was a big chunk of their early hyper-growth. Costco customers will take a good deal with extreme confidence because they know that Costco backs their products 100%. I know I would have never bought Moviepass had the yearly deal not been offered by Costco. This was probably a deal the Moviepass ended up regretting a great deal. Costco customers – particularly their online customers are deal seekers, and they love getting something of a crazy good deal.

The problem with these customers I believe is that they used Moviepass more than they ever thought they would. Just think about Costco’s members. They have a TON of people who are retired who have little else to do than wander around the store snacking on samples looking for bargains. These are the exact people who have too much time on their hands and will see lots of free movies on an unlimited plan. Yes- I am one of these people. Although I was not a huge abuser of Moviepass because I am actually pretty busy. I did intend on using the service and getting my money’s worth.

Making matters worse for Moviepass, the deal they struck with Costco forced them to keep Costco customers on the unlimited plan. Moviepass was able to move all of their other customers over to the limited plans months ago. Because they were out of money and had all these unlimited Costco users eating up cash, they hatched all kinds of ways to restrict usage. Those measures basically ruined the service for everyone. Although in the past several weeks users on the new restricted month to month plans did start seeing more showtime availability, much better than the legacy Costco customers on unlimited.

The good news for Moviepass is the Costco customers are now starting to expire their first year. These customers will be rolled into the limited plans, and Moviepass will start seeing revenue from the customers who remain. Who knows how many are still around? That’s anybody’s guess at this point.

I do think that this may be the beginning of the end of the terrible Moviepass experience from the last couple of months.

Let’s hope the new guy can live up to his promises. I am calling him DJ Khalid!

Lord knows Ted never could!

Chapter and Lesson #11

 

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”  

Helen Keller
 

Three of the more incredible and memorable experiences I had while at Microsoft happened in the midst of the hyped up battle between AOL and MSN.  The next few chapters cover a few of the more personal experiences and stories I experienced during my time at Microsoft.   I think they are worth sharing in this book because they are both fairly interesting and they highlight the importance of adventure in a long career.

When I look back over my time at Microsoft, there were many days that basically just fell into the trash bin of long & boring corporate work days.  Any career that spans more than 20 years is going to have ups and downs, and more than its fair share of days that are nothing more than the average day on the job.  The unique adventures and the stories and learning around them are what makes work and life interesting.

If I had it to do all over again, I would have jumped at taking on more adventures and pushing the boundaries much further.   The best and most interesting parts of any career are the times where you are taking risks and doing new things.   Those risks and adventures can come from lots of different paths you take when you work at a big company.  As discussed in the last chapter, joining a division or group of your company where there is a big strategic battle is one way to ensure that things stay interesting and exciting.   Another great way to keep things interesting is to go out into the field as often as you possibly can.  Getting away from the Company HQ when you are in a big company is a really important way to experience new learning, hear directly from customers, partners, investors, press and whoever else might be taking interest in your business.   I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to see a big part of the world while working at Microsoft.   I am super thankful for the experiences, the learning and the adventures I had along the way.  While some of these events were stressful and very difficult, they helped me become the person I am today and have helped me to appreciate all I have now. 

September 11th, 2001

One of my biggest adventures on the job happened during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  I was scheduled to do press briefings and updates on MSN’s business and product offerings the same terrible week of the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.   As fate would have it, my original schedule had me set to be in one of the smaller neighboring World Trade Center buildings on the actual day of 9/11.  Luckily for me, my schedule had shifted around based on the availability of Walt Mossberg and a couple of other important technology reporters.

In fact, as I remember it, Mossberg was in NYC the day of 9//11 and he was scheduled to fly back to his home near DC that very morning.  So instead of being in NYC on the day of 9/11, I was in Washington DC.   I was staying at a fancy hotel just steps from the Capitol Building the night of September 10th. I had flown in the day prior as we normally did when doing press tours on the East Coast.   I got up early that morning of 9/11 and I turned on the TV in my hotel room.  I remember I was ironing a dress shirt for the day, and looking at the TV getting caught up on the latest business news.  I was watching CNBC, and the anchor was Mark Haines, who by the way,  was an awesome and entertaining anchor for CNBC for many years. He has now unfortanetly passed away. I was watching Haines do one of his classic interviews with Bill Nygren of the Oakmark Select Fund, the market was not yet open.  It was approximately 8:50 in the morning.   (You can see the coverage here.)  

I  can clearly remember how Haines calmly covered the first plane hitting the first Trade Center building.  He quickly cut over to the live pictures of the tower on fire.  He called it a significant problem and didn’t speculate very much further other than to say it was safe to assume there was probably some fire in the building.  His coverage was excellent all the way through, and if you have never watched it, I recommend it, as it was a defining moment for Haines and for CNBC in my opinion.   It was truly excellence in live journalism.

Because I was scheduled to be in NYC the next day, and I was previously scheduled to be at the WTC buildings that very day! I was now on full alert! watching the horror unfold.  It took only a few more minutes to confirm on live TV that it was a plane that had hit the first tower and that a large hole could be seen in the building.   At 9:03 EST, for just a brief second the CNBC feed actually went out, and then came back and I (with millions of others) watched in horror as a huge explosion erupted in the other tower.

Like so many others on that terrible day, I just could not believe what I was seeing.  I was in shock.  I quickly called home to my wife back in the Seattle area and told her to wake up and turn on the TV.  She was back home with my young children and on West Coast time, so it was still really early and she, like most others on the West were still just starting to rise for the day.  I told her I would call her back and then quickly called my parents who were also on the West Coast and told them to turn on the TV, that something very major was happening.  I then called the PR Agency woman from Waggener Edstrom I was traveling with, Marla Polenz, and we discussed quickly if we should start to cancel our meetings for the day.  While it was obvious in retrospect, that all meetings would be canceled that day and for the entire trip, we had only had about 15 minutes to start to understand the magnitude of what was happening.

We both agreed to call back to our respective bosses and get a quick opinion on if we should continue on with meetings for the day.  I could not get a hold of my boss at the time.  Marla’s boss at Waggener Edstrom was Colleen Lacter, who is an awesome person and great PR leader, she suggested that we should plan to go on and do the meetings for now and see how things unfold for the rest of the morning.  It was a good thing she did as it kept us moving that hectic morning.  Marla and I agreed that we should meet in the downstairs lobby and see how things developed before we made a call on heading out to our first meeting.  As soon as we met in the lobby it was very quickly becoming obvious that there would be no meetings that day, and for the foreseeable future.

This was a good lesson in how fast things can change in life and in business.  I was up late the evening before, stressing out over every little detail of the meetings that were going to take place the next day.  Rehearsing our pitch, going over in great detail every point we wanted to get across, repeating the technical demonstration on my laptop over and over again making sure that everything was just right for the meetings.   In a flash, those meetings now seemed totally meaningless, there were much more important things happening in the world.  It was a good reminder to not take yourself too seriously.  Something always worth keeping in the back of your head.

The particular hotel we were staying in was very close to the Capitol Building, just a couple blocks away and you could see the Rotunda from the street in front of the hotel.  We had a driver who was to be waiting for us out front that morning.  So I went out to the front of the hotel to see if he was there yet, when I poked my head outside I saw that the entire street and sidewalks had been totally shut down.  There were black government SUVs everywhere, D.C. cops, secret service people and bomb dogs all over the place. With all the different black cars parked and mostly sitting empty in the street, I had no idea which car was intended for us, and all traffic was essentially shut off in the street.  I raced back inside the hotel, on the TV’s in the lobby at 9:30 AM President Bush made a statement that he was heading back to Washington from an elementary school visit he was doing that day in Florida. In his statement, he confirmed that this was a major terrorist attack on the country.

By 10:00 AM a full evacuation of the White House, the Pentagon, and the Capitol had been put into action.   The hotel was asking people to stay inside and in the lower lobby area on the first floor in the event that any more planes were still trying to hit the Capitol.  At this point it was more than clear, we were experiencing the worst thing that had happened to America in a very long time.   

Marla and I got very lucky that our driver for the day had come inside the hotel to wait for us.  His car was still there at the hotel and we found each other in the hotel lobby.  By the time we found the driver and realized the severity of all that was happening it was announced that all air travel was now grounded, it was clear to me that we were not going to easily get out of D.C.  At this point, we were rattled, I personally just wanted to get away from the city.  It was a combination of fear, emotions and my natural inclination of just not liking big cities very much in the first place.  I simply wanted to get away from the D.C. area ASAP, and more than anything wanted to be home with my family.

I asked the driver if he would wait for us to gather our luggage and take us out of town.   He said he would.   Marla and I grabbed our luggage from our rooms and raced down to meet the driver and get to the car.  By this time they were allowing people to now leave the hotel area and go into the streets, all flights had been grounded are diverted away from D.C.  The driver asked where we wanted to go, I asked him to just “Head West” and we will figure it out as fast as we could.   He took us out of town on the I 395 which travels right by the Pentagon.  We could see the flames coming from the Pentagon where the 4th reported plane had come down.  It was extremely scary, eerie and horribly sad to see.

We quickly came up with a plan to try and get a rental car, so that if nothing else, we could be far away from the D.C. area for the next few days until things calmed down a bit.    

We found that the closest place where we could get a car would be at the Budget Rent a Car at Arlington Virginia.  This particular Budget has both Trucks and cars.  By the time we got there, they were down to the very last couple of cars.  In fact, the agent there told me that the only car we could have was a local rental and had to be returned to the same office.  I told him that was fine, we would find a way to get it back to him.  As we were getting the car rented at the front desk, more and more desperate businessmen and women were streaming into the rental office to try and rent cars, all wanting to get out of town as fast as they could.  I vividly remember a group of three businessmen from Florida who wanted to head home, there were no more cars, so they rented a big box truck and had planned to take it all the way to Florida.

Marla and I felt very lucky to have secured a rental a car, it was a nearly new Jeep Cherokee, we started driving West without a clear plan to start.  As it turned out, Marla had a family wedding she was planning to go to in Nebraska after our meetings that week.   We talked about it, and I said, “well, we might as well head there, I will drop you off in Omaha and continue west until planes start flying again and will catch a ride home from there”.   It is around 1100 miles from Arlington to Omaha, it took us a couple days driving to get there.  I think Marla was ready to be done with me after that trip.  I was happy enough to continue the journey home alone.   We had some fun along the way chatting about things and getting to know each other, but that was a long and unplanned road trip for two people who didn’t know each other very well.   We ended up becoming pretty close colleagues after that trip.  We definitely had some laughs after it was all over. 

After dropping Marla off in Omaha, I ended up driving toward Wyoming.  I learned that Nebraska is a VERY long state.  The I80 portion of Nebraska is 455.27 Miles long.  It boasts 25 rest areas, 82 interchanges, and One scenic overlook.  Driving that distance alone through the hundreds of miles of farmlands with nothing more than a radio that was airing constant talk of the terrorist attacks was very depressing and isolating.  I started to regret my attempt to drive home and wished that I had just stayed in Washington until flights started going again.  But I was too far gone on the journey by that time.

It is hard to imagine now, but the 9/11 attacks actually happened before the advent of the iPod – which wasn’t launched until October of that same year in 2001.  So we didn’t have smartphones,  Facebook, Twitter or any other technology during that time to keep us both connected and distracted about the events of the day.   I think if we had all of those things back in 2001 it is probably more likely that 9/11 may have never even happened.   Or, quite possible that much more of it could have been thwarted.  The speed at which information now travels and the connectedness of people make it more likely that somebody may have found out about the attacks before they happened and authorities might have been able to stop it.   Certain it may have been possible for people flying on the planes to get messages about what was happening and more fully rebel against the terrorists.   We, of course, will never really know if it could have made a difference, but it certainly seems plausible.  It is hard to even conceive of major geopolitical events like this happening prior to social media and access to always-on broadband connections.  Thinking back to my trip across the United States starting the day of 9/11 is like going back to a time that I can barely explain to my children.   The changes in the way we react, communicate, exchange ideas are completely different now.

I grew so tired of listening to the radio coverage of the 9/11 story for hours on end, I decided to buy a couple of music CD’s from a truck stop, I played them over and over and quickly grew tired of them as well.  For many hours I just drove silently, thinking how strange it was to be out there in the middle of the country driving alone, with no planes in the air and very few people out on the highways.  My work had stopped completely, nobody cared about the battle between MSN and AOL, it was completely insignificant in the world.  Silently driving across the vast plains of the country gave me time to think about how ridiculous it was for me to be so caught up and stressed out about my work.  It was a good time to do some reflecting on what was really important to me.  I think others had similar reflections on their own lives.  There were a lot of important cultural changes after 9/11.   Many families decided to spend more time together.  The display of patriotism was strong, church attendance went up, and people spent more time at home than going out.   Some of these changes were more long-lasting than others.   But no doubt, 9/11 was a major watershed moment for the USA.

The rest stops along the highway were full of other stranded business travelers and made for some entertaining encounters.  Everyone was trying to find their way back home to their loved ones in rented cars that had been flung all around the nation.  Everyone had their own story of where they were and what they were doing when that horrible tragedy took place.  Sharing that story was not something you put into social media in those days.  Sharing the story meant you were talking to strangers at a rest stop, or at a gas station or restaurant along the highway.  Looking back now, I see those times, as horrible as they were, as a moment that truly brought the country together in a meaningful way.   The spirit and love for America were strong at that time, people looked into each other’s eyes and shared their story.  And in that way, compared to how we communicate today, it was beautiful.   I spent one night in an old motel in Casper Wyoming, it was a fine place and it gave me some time to rest and relax, that night I decided to go up to Yellowstone National Park as part of my journey home.  My boss at the time was Christophe Daligault, a great guy, who was a Frenchman, he had an incredible marketing mind and a great spirit about him.  He encouraged me to take my time, relax and try and enjoy the journey home.  I figured driving through one of the nation’s most beautiful and iconic national parks might be good for me.  And it was.   

Yellowstone was almost completely empty the week after 9/11.    I will never forget the startling contrast of escaping one of the biggest catastrophes ever on US soil, leaving a city under siege and chaos and then ending up wandering around amongst wild buffalo in Yellowstone National Park in utter silence and serenity.  Yellowstone is possibly the most beautiful place in the world, the contrast was such a mind bending experience.  For me, it cemented my fondness of country life over city life.  The experience was one of transformation for me.  I viewed work and life and that balance very different after that trip.   I knew at that point that I did not want to spend the rest of my life fretting over small details, I made a bargain with myself to find a way to retire early from Microsoft, but also to enjoy the time I spent there as much as possible.      

Learning Lesson #11-  Take risks and let adventure guide you in your life and in your career.   The journey truly IS the reward.  It has taken me a lot of time, contemplation and perspective to really appreciate that fact.  So much has been written about how to achieve great success in life, how to find your passion and how to find a truly satisfying and successful life that you love.  One of my favorite books I have read on this topic is Ray Dalio’s -“Principles” In it, Dalio talks about the importance and the balance of taking on risks and challenges and truly embracing and learning to love the pain involved in learning new things and new lessons.  He advises that if one learns to love the process of making mistakes, love the learning from them, and advancing from each lesson, it becomes a formula, or a “machine” for achieving whatever goals you want in life.  In the book he walks through his method for how to think about loving that pain, and how our brains work for and against us when trying to embrace that type of learning.  His methods have certainly worked well for him, he runs the biggest hedge fund in the world, and by all accounts has had an incredibly good life.   

One other book I highly recommend on this topic is “The Element” by Ken Robbins.  This book covers some similar ground in Dalio’s “Principles” but focuses more on how to find your passion through a process of discovery.    If you are just starting out in your career, or still in school, this I think is a MUST READ book.  Every single very successful person I have ever known or studied has one big thing in common.   They LOVE what they do.  Finding that passion for some people comes early and very naturally.  For others, it takes more time, and sometimes it means you need to toss out some of the programming you have received from your education, or perhaps your parents so that you can find what you truly love to do.  Read Ken Robbins book to help you find your passion, he has some really useful ways to think about this.    

In my experience, taking on risks, and taking on as much adventure as you possibly can with your career is the best way to keep things interesting. New adventures will lead you to new areas you likely never knew would excite you and bring you new success.   When things go wrong, learning to feel the pain and embrace that pain as good thing will also teach you what you don’t like, and as you embrace that pain, and use that as a force for good, you will grow and find new heights of success. 

 

Chapter and Lesson #10

Chapter 10 

 

“The four most dangerous words in investing are: ‘this time it’s different.’” 

 Sir John Templeton 

 

I landed a role in Microsoft’s buildup of a team that was going to go after the dial-up and internet king of the day – AOL or America Online , it was a new war for Microsoft, with many veterans of the browser wars taking on new leadership positions in the fight against the newly merged AOL Time Warner.

My first role was in PR, but this PR job would be very different than the role I had in Windows Marketing, and this would be where I received my first promotion to being a Group Product Manager, my first time managing other fulltime employees at Microsoft.   I honestly can’t remember if I was ready to manage people, and thankfully I only had a handful of employees at the time, with well-defined roles.

I am almost certain I was a terrible manager.  First-time managers usually are, and I see no reason why I would have been any better than average.  Most of the skills developed as an individual contributor don’t translate to being a good manager.   I had previously done most of the tasks that each of the people on the team had assigned to them, so I was comfortable enough taking on the role of managing these things.  The problem with first-time managers who previously did many of the jobs he or she is now managing is that they think they know how to do the job better than anyone else.   It takes time and a lot of experience to appreciate how to get things done through and with others.  That is a different book altogether, but a topic that tech companies need to figure out better and fully embrace.

My job was to orchestrate a narrative that Microsoft was serious about competing with AOL.  And, In fact, we were serious.   The company was spending literally BILLIONS of dollars, and taking huge losses that impacted Microsoft’s bottom line to try and slow down the AOL juggernaut. When the effort first began, nobody was really taking Microsoft’s competitive threat serious, so we set out to prove to the press and to Wall Street that we were indeed very serious, and we were going to spend like crazy to compete and catch up to AOL.   They had a big lead, and all the momentum in the marketplace, so proving our ambition was not going to be easy.

The spending to fight AOL was ferocious and the tactics involved in doing so were at times absurd.   I remember at one desperate point in the battle, we hatched a plan to give customers at “Radio Shack” $400.00 to spend immediately in store if a user would sign up for 2 years of MSN Internet access on the spot.   Just as soon as we implemented the plan there were reports of people coming into the retail stores multiple times under fake names, bogus credit cards who were walking out with brand new TV’s and DVD players from their 400 free dollars, courtesy of Microsoft’.  Radio Shack, of course, loved the deal as it drove a ton of traffic and purchases at the store, in hindsight, it was an idiotic and desperate move.   Making things even worse for Microsoft’s financials, we agreed to pay a bounty to RadioShack for every customer who signed up!  There were similar deals offered at Best Buy, Office Depot and other retailers.    It was was a crazy tactic with insane spending to try and steal share away from AOL.   

At the height of it all CNet had reported on a story that covering Microsoft’s earnings “Retailers relied heavily on $400 MSN rebates to sell PCs during the holidays. Customers agreeing to make a three-year MSN commitment with their PC purchase received an instant $400 rebate subsidized by Microsoft. 

But Microsoft also extended the rebate to other non-PC products. Retailing giant Best Buy, for example, sold 200,000 MSN subscriptions worth about $80 million in instant rebates on anything in the store. 

“Obviously stores used the rebates to drive sales across other categories,” said PC Data analyst Stephen Baker. “It means maybe people aren’t as tied to the Internet as a PC thing, so people used that $400 to get a big-screen TV.” 

It was crazy and some would say it was totally out of control spending, all to try and eliminate the fear, and kill off the AOL Time Warner monster.  

To give you an idea of how crazy and frankly unethical things had got inside of Microsoft at that time, they set up a top-secret competitive intelligence group to try and track every move of AOL.  Microsoft even hired private investigators who dug through AOL’s garbage.  At one point there was even an employee who started dating a girl from AOL just so he could collect intelligence.   The Microsoft employee had convinced her somehow give him access to a private internal phone conference call bridge number where the team would sit and listen to many of AOL’s internal conversations.    Later these employees would receive a slap on the wrist for going too far on gathering intelligence.  But it was widely known that this group was pushing the boundaries of corporate “intel” gathering, though most were rewarded and or later promoted for their efforts.   In a very strange twist of faith, one of the employees involved was later arrested for embezzling millions of dollars from Microsoft.     I guess you reap what you sow.

The name of the game was to take away the momentum from AOL, make them look vulnerable, show the marketplace that MSN had a serious competitive offering, and start to erode the finances of AOL to take the wind out of their sails – and their sales I guess too…    Indeed the narrative started to work.   Each Quarter both AOL and MSN would announce how many net new subscribers they had gained.   It had become a brutal game of churning and battling for customers.  The customer acquisition costs for both companies were going through the roof.  It was an arms race.  And MSN with a smaller base of customers, and ridiculous offers in the marketplace was able to show accelerating growth that was outpacing AOL’s customer numbers.   The market started to take the threat from Microsoft very seriously.    Momentum had shifted.    Microsoft had a competitive offering.  And at the same time, AOL was hitting the wall with 3 other nasty problems.    

1) The .com bubble was bursting – revenues from companies who were paying huge sums to advertise on AOL’s network were evaporating as fast as companies like pets.com were going bankrupt.  The outlandish advertising revenue projections AOL had made to justify their merger with Time Warner were looking obviously inflated.    

2) The merger of AOL and Time Warner was breaking down into a mess of two cultures who hated each other – it was a disaster.  Wall Street coined it the worst merger ever in history.  

3) Broadband was starting to take off and customers were ditching the slow dial-up access provided by AOL to move to the new fast and always on connections provided by their phone or cable companies.   AOL never “owned the pipe” or really any of the actual infrastructures that was carrying the bits and bytes through to the telephone modems to a consumers PC.   They were an easy way to get onto Narrow Band access, and the original “training wheels” for the Internet for the first time, but as people switched to faster DSL and Cable Internet access, they had little use for AOL’s proprietary network.

AOL had missed the strategic inflection point of Broadband mass adoption.  Broadband was always connected, versus AOL’s Narrow Band which used special software which connected the PC to a modem on an old fashioned phone land line.  This software called a “dial-up stack” was one of the differentiated things that AOL had made easy for customers, and it was their bread and butter product that was now no longer relevant.   AOL had thought that their content and services would be the differentiator, and they made a bet that combined with Time Warner they would be able to hold their lock on the consumer market by packaging all the content and services together, even if users did not need AOL as their everyday onramp to get online.    

Over time this proved to be a foolish bet, the World Wide Web, and democratization of inexpensive publishing onto the Internet was a much more powerful force than almost anybody had anticipated.    AOL Time Warner fell into a total meltdown.   It missed the next big thing that was coming, the idea that any individual could publish content for negligible cost.  Content was exploding all over the Internet in the form of blogs and new digital-only publications were more popular than the old analog content that Time Warner was slowly moving toward the digital age.  The great hope of combining Time Warner’s content with AOL’s technical know-how was now looking like a dubious value proposition.  Stockholders in this deal were about to lose their shirts. 

The value of the combined AOL Time Warner sank from $260 Billion to just $20 Billion in a few short years.  The company was forced to write down $99 Billion of “goodwill” assets less than 2 years after the acquisition was complete.

This story is really not all that unusual in the tech sector, but it does illustrate on grand terms why tech leaders are so paranoid, and how fast fortunes can change as technology platforms shift and consumer behavior changes.  The tech sector is littered with these irrational buildups, buyouts and mergers, there are many of them out there today that will end up the next great business flop.  Be careful not to indulge in the irrational valuation of these seemingly “brilliant” next big things.   It is a good way to lose a lot of money.

Learning Lesson #10- The Tech Industry is full of incredible hype and has a massive herd mentality, picking the Winners and Losers is EXTREMELY difficult and can be dangerous for investors.  If you are an investor or somebody who works in the Tech industry.  It is useful to look at the history of the wild swings and the herd mentality thinking that repeats itself again and again in the industry.  Tech is really a series of micro booms and busts of different micro cycles.   It is very difficult to predict both the timing and who will be the winners and losers of the next big wave in tech.   There have been lots of booms and busts in tech.  The .com boom and bust is probably most widely known and understood because of its incredible meltdown of the NASDAQ in 2000.  But there have been many other tech sector buildups and meltdowns.  3D Printing, PC OEMs, Console Gaming, Instant Messaging, Search, Mobile Phones, Social, and many other sub sectors of tech have seen huge crazy run-ups of investment followed by harsh periods of consolidation and price correction.   The same types of buildups will repeat with Wearables, Internet of Things, Electric and Self Driving Cars, Virtual Reality and more.   Globalization, Cloud Computing, and super-fast transcontinental fiber optic communications are hastening the pace of these buildups and meltdowns.  Wall Street is always trying to predict who and when the next big winner will be in one of these hyped-up areas.  Unfortunately, they are almost always wrong, and when they are right, they almost always way overvalue the opportunity to the point where when the damage comes, it cripples the company involved and the reckoning day is very painful for those who have to do deal with it.  If you are an investor, an employee or a partner company of a newly unloved sector or company it can be extremely painful.  But this is what tech is all about, and like it or not, much of the economy is now becoming part of this rapid boom-bust cycle of innovation.