How I Do Referrals

Since I’m a connector, I often make referrals.  However my referrals are different, since I am able to make connections across unusual markets or very far away internationally, both cases where there is much less trust.

Fred Wilson and other well known venture capitalists now ask for double opt in introductions.  Fred writes:

When introducing two people who don’t know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it.

I don’t do this, because its I think we can do better.  I’m glad to make unannounced introductions.  However we need to do the introduction REALLY WELL.

Here’s what I look for:

  • If I’m forwarding along an email from you, is your explanation of what you’re looking for clear, well written and something the other person will immediately want to jump on?
  • Are you willing to do something of real value for the person?  If you’re well known that may be enough – or it may not be.  Maybe you will need to be willing to jump on the phone to give some free consulting.. Or take them out for a nice dinner.. Or gain special access at an event..
  • Are you willing to jump through hoops and be super responsive to the other person, even though this is something someone of your status in your market would normally never have to do?

This can be hard to take for people who are used to being top dog in their market and used to special privileges.  But the way different markets interact can be complex – what you have achieved in one arena may not translate to another.  And I’m not a world famous guy like Bill Gates.  I’m not listing these things  for fun, I’m bring these points up so the introductions will WORK.   And I’ll work with you in whatever it takes so we get it right.

I’m glad to do referrals and like to help my friends out.  I want my referrals to be powerful and useful so the person receiving them instantly says “yes, that is definitely something I want” instead of viewing it as an imposition.

And for those receiving my referrals, if I got it wrong and the referral isn’t useful feel free to just ignore it.  I’m very clear that I have to bring value.

Beginner Internet Business Setup

If you’re getting started in an internet business there’s a few services you should sign up for.  Even if you have some of these services elsewhere, in most cases you will be best off moving everything to this setup.  A lot can go wrong with this stuff and you want to spend as much time on your business as possible with as little time as possible on the technology.  I’ve had this conversation with enough people that I’ve now decided to put it into a blog post.

1.  Domain name: namecheap.   You need a domain name of your own.  I host using name cheap.  Its cheap and reliable.

2.  Your website should be hosted on  This will let you map your domain name properly and make it very easy for you to edit your site.

3.  Google apps email.  Get a business account which gives you email + a host of other services.  This will avoid a huge number of problems such as getting your email delivered.  Your email will be all set up using your domain name.  Its also a good idea to start using:

  • google docs (replacements for word, excel, etc) inside google apps – as your team grows it will make collaboration easy.
  • google drive (similar to dropbox), making filesharing easy.

4.  icontact.  To connect with your customers you should be using email regularly.  I use icontact.

5.  Facebook / twitter.  Everyone tends to start with these.  Social media is good.  Just make sure you have the rest as well.

You can hire a company to get everything set up.   There are lots out there.

With a setup like this you’ll be stable, have to spend a minimum of time on technology and can focus on building your business.

Update:  one of the nice things about this setup is all security is handled by other people.  So you don’t have to worry about things like this.

I am legend

For those who visit me in New York, you may end up with a photo like this one of my mother standing in washington square park.


Well, I watched the movie “I am Legend”, with Will Smith yesterday.  And almost the entire movie takes place in the apartment with the white door to the right of this photo.  All this happens right down the street from my apartment.

Here’s a video someone made talking about it


I know the jaded new yorkers will not find this too amazing, but I grew up in a small town in australia so this was pretty cool.  Check out the movie, its great!

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Religion and business

The reason people have a problem with gambling isn’t because they lose.  Its because they win.  They go to a casino, they bet, and they win – big!

This triggers a huge amount of excitement, even for people who are already very wealthy.  So they keep going back to get that high.  And thus a gambling problem is born.  It almost becomes a religious experience.

Business has similar elements.  We find something which works for us in business, so it becomes our religion.  And when things work, they can REALLY work, so this can be a big deal and change every part of our life massively for the better.  Its very easy for us to become religious about certain things in business.

But business changes.  And if we don’t change it with it, we can end up out of business.

An example is data driven businesses that sell products to customers.  Those who are analytical (like me) LOVE the idea of being able to track every part of a business, better and better optimizing how things work.  This is perfect in a huge array of internet businesses.

But there’s a problem with this.  If your entire business – your religion – is built around this kind of optimization, and you REALLY optimize to the maximum possible, you can only reach a certain size.  If you’re optimizing based on analytics, no matter what you do, you will end up generating more and more complaints from customers.  So you’ll have two choices – one is to consciously limit how aggressive you are at optimizing.  The other is to be shut down by the FTC due to complaint volume from your customers.  This might not happen in a bricks and mortar business, but it can with online businesses.

So while optimizing data is awesome and critical for running a business, if you’re at scale selling to customers I want to suggest a to switch to a better religion – to get close to your customers.

Here’s how Brian Chesky from Airbnb describes it:  “build something that 100 people love rather than 1 million people kind of like.”

 In the company’s earliest days, its most ardent users were in New York City. It had about 100 hosts there. “So what are you doing here?” Graham asked. “You should be in New York.” And so every week, Chesky would fly to the Big Apple.While there, he learned a lot about Airbnb’s hosts and even served as the company’s first “professional photographer.” To do the job, he borrowed a friend’s camera and went door to door in the snow. ”The thing that was so special was that you would meet them, and you would learn about their lives,” he said. He woud also use the site to stay at their places. “I was literally living with our users.”

If you’re billing customers for something and building your entire business around analytics you’re doing it wrong.  Your first religion should be being close to your customers.  Then your second religion can be analytics.

Travel Home Entertainment System

Since I’ll be travelling for the next 6 months I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at how I can reduce my key content to be able to bring it with me on the road. I’ve had quite a bit of success and here’s how you can do it too.

The solution has turned out to be a combination of the 13″ Macbook Pro with a 1 terabyte drive, along with the ipad. The 1 terabyte drive finally gives me enough storage to keep everything on one small laptop, and the ipad works as a display device.

I’m finding so far that I’m extremely comfortable whereever I go — I always have my information with me (books) and TV to watch if I want to. It is starting to feel like “home” can almost be anywhere.

Anyways, here’s how it works: There’s 4 key types of content I want to be able to travel with..

1. TV

Since quite a while now I’ve made all my content digital; downloaded from the web from a variety of sources. I’ll assume you know how to do this part already. Today’s breakthrough was when I realised I could run an Ipad application: Air Video, and display TV on my ipad. This means if I’m in a hotel room the computer sits on my desk and the TV is displayed on my ipad from bed, streamed wirelessly. It works very smoothly.

2. Books

Readers of my blog will know I have about 800 books which cost approx $25,000 over 10 years to buy. I’m getting closer and closer to the point where I no longer accept physical books in my life and only do reading on my ipad. This would mean I only buy books on the kindle, or read PDFs via goodreader. For books which I simply have to have but are not available, I am looking into a PDF scanning service where I send the book to them and they send me a PDF. Its simply too awesome to have all my books with me electronically wherever I go. I have no problems reading on my ipad unless I’m in bright sunlight.

3. Music

For now I’m just using Itunes for music with MP3s played on my laptop when I don’t have internet, and pandora when I do have internet. It works pretty well.

4. Photos

Storage has been a big issue for photography since I shoot very high resolution. Now with the bigger drive this isn’t a problem. These are displayed on the web via my smugmug site: I also display them on my screensaver on my computer, pulled down via an RSS feed.

I’ll continue to update on this topic, but so far this is looking very promising. Here are the components:

13″ macbook pro:

1 terabyte drive for 13″ macbook pro:


good reader:

kindle app:


Why the ipad will change the book industry

Right now I’m in Nassau, the Bahamas, learning to scuba drive.  I have my laptop and ipad with me.  Scuba is pretty fun, and I was very intriuged when I learned about underwater photography.  I had an interesting conversation today with a guy on the boat who told me about Cathy Church, who runs one of  the top underwater photography schools in the Cayman Islands.  A trip to the Caymans in the future to learn underwater photography was sounding pretty interesting.

I wanted to learn more.  Yes, I can browse the web, but I wanted a basic beginners summary for a decent photographer on how to do underwater photography.  But I’m currently in the Bahamas and have no clue where a bookstore is, nor transportation to get to one.  So I got on my computer and looked around for some books online.  I was able to find a PDF book by doing some ninja searches. I put it on my ipad using Goodreader.  And suddenly I was reading a book about underwater photography on my ipad.

I was reading for a while in my hotel room, but I was hungry so I went out to eat.  Along came my ipad and I continued reading during dinner.

And my conclusion?  Underwater photography is not for me.  Its too complex and the price doesn’t make sense to me for the ability to shoot shots underwater.  There are technical issues with salt getting into your camera, different color adjustments underwater and needing to use lots of flashes because its dark in the ocean.  I’ve never been interested in shooting flowers or bees and most underwater photography is focused around shooting things close to you.

A quote from the "Dear Leader" of North Korea, taken in North Korea

So the ipad made it very easy for me to get a book while on the road, read it and learn what I needed to know in order to realise I don’t want to learn underwater photography.  This has saved me a massive amount of time of asking people about it on my trip and thinking about it as a future hobby to get involved with.  I was almost going to take a multiday class on it.  So this saved me a lot of time.

Yes, I can read books on my computer or iphone, but its not the same since its not a book sized screen.

Additionally to my ipad, I’m in the process of moving.  I have about 800 books, which cost me about $25,000 to buy over 8 years.  Its my braintrust.  But so many books is such a hassle to move.  I’m seriously considering switching everything over to digital because I just don’t want bookshelves anymore.  I’m really happy with the kindle app on the ipad, and a good PDF reader.

So book distributors, watch out.  Your future doesn’t look good.

How I Almost Crashed Our Helicopter In Haiti

This is probably a post I’ll regret making, but its just such an interesting story I thought I’d share.
A friend offered for me to spend some time in Haiti.  Since it was only a 90 minute helicopter ride away from Santo Domingo, I accepted.  I also wanted to see my friend who lives in Port Au Prince and learn more about what was going on. My friend’s team had 3 helicopters over in Port Au Prince and they were delivering aid across the city.  At night they were sleeping in an orphanage.

me in front of the presidential palace in port au prince

I was offered to help the guys deliver supplies via helicopter.  “sure”, I said, not really knowing what that meant.  Our pilot was a very nice guy named Ryan who had spent 4 years flying helicopters in the middle east for the US military.  He really knew what he was doing.

So we load up into the chopper, per this shot.

See the big box on my lap in the chopper?

The back of the chopper was full and I had the big box on my lap.  That big box was going to be a problem later.  🙂

So then we fly out to a basically empty field which looked like this:

empty field (for right now)

What happens when a helicopter shows up and delivers free stuff out of the sky?  That empty field within 90 seconds looks like this:

chopper dropping supplies

I am not kidding.  The formerly barren field is suddenly filled with people who just show up out of absolutely nowhere.  We still have no idea where they all come from.  Its more than a little scary – these are people in a very desperate situation

Anyways, Ryan told me we have to get to another empty field, put the chopper down, get out and then drop off all the supplies before the haitians can run over to the chopper and try to get in and/or steal from us.  So we find an empty field and start to land.  This is immediately what I saw:

people running towards the helicopter

I got (ahem) a little nervous.  So I frantically tried to get the big box out of the chopper.  Unfortunately the box got wedged on the steering column which controls the entire helicopter.  I was pretty nervous about the guys running towards us, so I did get the box out, but almost rolled the chopper in the process.  Ryan fortunately was able to keep control of it.  He said later on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is extremely dangerous that my little maneuver with the box rated a “9”.

We were able to drop the supplies off, this is people picking them up:

people picking up supplies after we drop them off

and here’s a zoom of one of their faces as they’re looking up at us:

expression on a guys face as we're dropping off supplies

And this photo is of the moment exactly as I almost rolled the helicopter:

the exact moment i almost rolled the chopper

You can see in the above photo how close everyone got to us (and remember, this was a previously empty field).

Apparently we probably would not have been killed, but it would not have been much fun. So Ryan, thanks for keeping things under control!

I’m not sure there’s anything to be learned here other than be careful if you visit a disaster zone, and have a lot of respect for the people who are out there risking their lives.

UPDATE: One of the pilots (Ty Corbridge) dug up a video as we were doing one of the dropoffs. You can watch it here: