Summer Reading List: Business, Startups & (Personal) Finance

It is summer! That means it is time for a summer reading list. I tend to mostly read during vacation times, and then I read a lot but this year I actually prepared for my vacation with literature. The theme of this summer is business, startups and (personal) finance. Not as casual as most literature I read but interesting. Without further ado, here is my reading list for the summer:

I Will Teach You to be Rich: No Guilt, No Excuses

I Will Teach You to be Rich

I Will Teach You to be Rich – cover off Amazon

I Will Teach You to be Rich (by Ramit Sethi) is a quite pretentious title but the book is well worth a read, I got the UK version of it which is not entirely applicable to Swedish situations but the core of the book is very relevant. It is basically a personal finance book with actionable advice how to start saving, easily and automatically manage your savings. The book’s author also has a blog with the same type of advice and more available for free, lots of good content on his mailing list. I have read about half the book so far and you can get most of the same advice from /r/personalfinance. I feel I knew most of the advice already but it is an easily digestible book with check-lists of what you should do to improve your finances. Well worth a read. For the gist of the book check out the video below, Ramit is talking about personal finance at Google:

This lecture is quite America-centric but has valuable advice for everyone. Check out the book at Amazon (Don’t worry! This isn’t a referral link!)  The book is well worth a read for anyone who is looking to sort out their finances in the near future, this is especially important if you need to get cash for a down payment on a flat in Stockholm….

 

The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume

Personal MBA

Personal MBA

The Personal MBA is 400 odd pages MBA. That is the premise of the book. Josh Kaufman‘s book is a crash course into the world of business. Well written, to the point and actually extensive. It is not terribly in-depth but it will give you an idea of the most essential things that you probably would like to know about business. It can easily be used as a reference manual for business-stuff. Well worth a read for anyone interested in business. Is it a personal MBA? Perhaps, it sure is cheaper than a traditional MBA. The book has a vendetta against MBA programmes, which Kaufman thinks are WAY too expensive. And he is probably right. The book spawned from his blog PersonalMBA.com. Don’t think the book is in-depth enough? It is not meant to be, but Kaufman has compiled a list of the 99 best business books over at his blog so there is plenty of additional reading available!

I am half way through the book and it is really good. I am not sure it is an MBA replacement but it sure is a compliment that should be read by everyone who is involved in the business world. It is a great introduction/reference book. Well written and engaging but the vendetta against MBAs brings it down a bit. None the less my recommendation is: READ THIS BOOK! You can pick it up at Amazon (No referral this time either!).

 

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank is one of the most recommended books for technology entrepreneurs. I have so far only read a few pages but it seems great so far. All recommendations claim that this is THE book you should read as an entrepreneur.  The four steps of Customer Discovery, Customer Validation, Customer Creation and Company Building. I cannot yet recommend this book as I am only a few pages in but it definitely seems to be worth a read, not only for start-ups but for anyone within a company launching a new product, or developing a current product. I will report back when I’ve finish the book.

You can pick it up on Amazon.

 

The Intelligent Investor

The Intelligent Investor

The Intelligent Investor

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham was originally published in 1949 and is about investing, as you may suspect by the title. This 600+ pages book is a classic. Graham preaches Value Investing rather than focusing on hype. I have not yet started reading this, but by all accounts it appears to be a rather heavy read. To quote an Amazon review: in sum, this book is full of gold; but be prepared to dig for it. The book is a classic and regarded by some as the investment bible. It appears to be worth the time to read but it will probably be quite the journey. I will, as with the previous book, report back once I’ve finished it. Focusing on value rather than hype seems like a good idea though (I am looking at you Zygna, Groupon).
You can pick up the book at Amazon but be prepared for a heavy read.

 

That is it! This is my summer reading list

That is my current reading list. Subject to change! I think I will throw in a few relaxing fantasy books once I get back to Sweden but this is what I will spent my summer reading, apart from all the academic literature my Thesis requires.  Personal finance and business literature feels like a good thing to read now that I am finishing up my master and will soon be entering the ‘real world’.

I ‘borrowed’ all the images in the post from Amazon.

-P

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Follow-up: MTGx Investor Presentation

I’ve finally had a chance to properly look at MTGx‘s investor presentation that Rikard Steiber posted on Twitter a few minutes before my last post went live. I apologise for the delay but my master thesis had to take priority 😉

I will not discuss everything presented in the slides, but on the parts that specifically interest me.

[Edit: Embedded the slides, had forgotten you could do that with Slideshare]

xVentures: MTGx incubator/investor arm. xVentures is very interesting as they can actually offer  startups a lot than traditional incubators and investors lack: advertising and sales infrastructure. Both of of these are usually a problem for startups and one thing is for sure, MTG knows their advertising.  From the slides (The Pitch):

60 channels in 35 markets
TV operator, Radio, Digital
Media cross promotion
Content cross creation
Local sales force to sell
Local editorial to curate

Ability to advertise in 60 channels across 35 markets? That is an amazing opportunity for most companies and startups in particular. Let’s not forget that MTG(x) are used to selling B2B. I am quite positive they can assist startups with marketing (Sorry, most people (including myself) are just not as good at marketing as we think) and pricing.

Viagame: I could not really understand why MTGx would spend the time and money on Viagame, it is, as I said in my previous post, a deviously hard market to make a decent buck in and they basically had nothing that differentiated them from the competitors. I was wrong. They do have one thing, which is mentioned in the slides: Leverage unsold TV inventory to drive online traffic and sales.

Leveraging the unsold inventory, where they were unable to sell advertisement, to generate (some) revenue. It is quite brilliant. The margins on each sold game are probably around 15-30% (I believe Steam takes ~30% from game sales), which is a healthy margin for relatively small investment on MTG’s part (Shelf-ware distribution tool, basic adverts for Viagame etc). The unsold inventory would otherwise be ‘wasted’, now a profit can be made, albeit smaller than if the inventory had been sold but it helps smoothing out the revenue streams – no/smaller dips in revenue if inventory goes unsold.

xCreations: ‘Youtube style’ production/content (my own interpretation). Rikard Steiber correctly identifies that ‘old media’ have not been very good at embracing Youtube and they, in my opinion, have often failed to create the type of content that the Youtube viewers expect, thus it makes sense to create a small and innovative team to embrace the Youtube-styled content. Perhaps on their own platform, perhaps not.

I would love to see production companies embracing gaming content (my personal favourite among the Youtube content). eSports on Youtube, game play commentaries and Let’s Play are quite big business these days and they could be so much more with proper production companies behind them. Companies like Yogscast have come a long way with their production, they got a really good crew going right now, and they are still growing, but many others are still 1-3 man operations and could use a good production crew. Yes, I know they get support from Maker studios/The Game Station etc. but it just doesn’t have the same finesse as traditional production for the most part.)

The slides make me even more excited to see what MTGx has in store for us. Will the be successful?  I don’t know. I hope so, it would mean more jobs in Stockholm, which is never a bad thing – except if you want to buy an apartment. MTGx still have a long way before they can revolutionize digital media but god knows it is sorely needed. ‘Old Media’ seems to have trouble to adopting to Youtube-style content. More innovation is never bad in my opinion. I will continue to keep an eye on MTGx and other potentially innovative companies in Sweden.

P.S. I should say, if you found these things interesting, you probably should apply at MTGxJobs.com, they seem like nice people and currently got 25 jobs up for grabs. (And no, I have no relation to MTG(x))

Now back to writing my thesis. Perspectives on ES/ERP implementation success (in the onward and upward phase). Interesting stuff if you like large scale implementations of IT systems and the factors that leads to successful implementations.

-P

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MTGx – Internal Digital ‘Startup’ at MTG

Modern Times Group (MTG) announced their new digital venture today, called MTGx. The idea behind it seems to be to consolidate their digital offerings into a new ‘startup’ in order to quickly adapt, pivot and innovate without being limited and restricted by MTG’s internal workings and the inherent rigidity of a large company.

To me it sounds like a well-funded ‘startup’ within the media conglomerate that already starts out with some pre-existing assets. MTG has also managed to hire people with impressive resumes to head up the project. Earlier in the year they poached Rikard Steiber from Google and made him Chief Digital Officer(CDO – Collateralized Debt Obligations?) at MTG and head of MTGx.

MTGx’s tagline is:

For decades MTG has been in the forefront of entertainment broadcasting. Now we want to revolutionize the digital entertainment industry too. With MTGx we’re combining the power of a global media group with the energy of a startup, to turn the grey corners of Internet into amusement parks. And if you’re the top talent in your field, we’d love to have you on board. We can assure you, it’ll be fun.

To me it seems like MTGx is a great way enable quick adopting, prototyping and pivoting (Lean style) while still having the financial clout of  MTG. I am actually rather interested to see what they will do in the future, their current products are quite diverse and I suspect they need a rather large team to keep them all going, not that I should complain about a company having to hire a lot of people. Anything that helps Swedish GDP along makes me happy.

MTGx splits their products into four different categories: xPlay (Core Services), xVentures (New Services), xCreations (Digital Production) and xLabs (Development Shop)

xPlay includes Viaplay, TV Play and Sports
xVentures includes Music, Games and Like.TV
xCreations includes Mobisodes, Webisodes and TV Extensions
xLabs includes Web / Apps, Social and Sign on

The xPlay area mainly circulates around Viaplay as far as I can tell and it is pretty much a Netflix competitor in Sweden. Priced at 79SEK/m for movies and tv series. This area has massive potential but they need to be able to offer a better service with larger offering than Netflix et al.

xVentures is the most interesting part in my opinion, this area will focus on the actual new services and a lot of good things that could come out of this. I am especially interested in the collaborations with startups, that they claim will be part of xVentures:.

As part of this effort xVentures will establish presence in start-up communities in several countries, with an initial focus on Sweden, the UK, and the US, to find partnership and investment opportunities.

Both partnerships and investments could be very beneficial to start-ups in these areas. MTG has huge reach with their media offerings and they sure know how to handle themselves on traditional media so I would trust them to run promotions. More investment money is always a good thing (as long as it is sensibly spent of course) and there is a lack of VC money in EU compared to the US so I am quite delighted about MTGx’s xVentures.

However, on the subject of xVentures, I am a bit worried about their current products, primarily Viagame and Like.tv.

Viagame is in a hard, competitive business. Selling PC games online is NOT easy in this day in age. Steam has a near monopoly on the main stream (and to an extent indie) scene. EA (Origin) and Ubisoft (UPlay) are trying to get in on the action and GOG has the niche market of older games (without DRM) in their pocket. What does Viagame have? A website, with a ‘shelf-ware’ distribution system and TV advertisement. TV ads are worth a lot and I did hear about the company via their Swedish ads but it is not an easy market. Just look at Gamersgate, the quite established Swedish digital distributor – in 2011 (most recent figures available) they only had 35m SEK in revenue, and a minor loss. It is not an easy business and I think Viagame needs to do more than they currently do to become a contender in the space. Don’t get me wrong, more competition is great and I would love for them to succeed but to do so, they need to have an edge.

The traditional ways to generate value in the IT economy is:1) Lock-in 2) Novelty 3) Efficiency 4) Complementaries. Viagame currently has none of these, though I could see both complementaries and Efficiency playing a part in the not too distant future. Complementaries as MTGx other products might be very good compliments to selling games (producing a video game review show or such perhaps). Efficiency as I assume it was not very expensive to set up the service and once it is up the fixed costs stay the same and the margins go way up – though I still suspect they won’t have an easy time generating enough revenue.

Like.tv is a second screen service, I never understood them and I am not sure how they will generate any money but I can see the use for live statistics, polls and betting. Other than that I fail to see the point. However, it is wonderful compliment to MTG’s current offerings, which mainly revolves around TV. It is actually brilliant but I am not sure if it will  actually make any money, mobile (incl tablet) is hard to monetize – the ad revenue isn’t exactly stellar for these devices.

I have been a bit negative toward the end of this post but I do hope this venture will be a success for MTG and those involved, innovation is damn important and will in the end benefit the consumer. On a related note, the stock markets appear to be quite neutral to the initiate, MTG closed 0.37% up.

In this stage they seem to be mostly recruiting new talent – over 25 positions within the ‘startup’. A quick glance suggest that they are building a solid backend team (Venture mangers, financial mangers, etc) but also investing heavily in new technical employees. Last I heard lots/most of the technical graduates in Sweden got swallowed up by Spotify and Skype but MTGx may be able to compete for these graduates in the future as they do have solid financial backing and are offering a startup environment – or claim to at least.

Or they can just hire me (hint hint nudge nudge) as I am soon done with my master. The results from my last exams are just out and I am officially done with all courses and only got my thesis to go. I shall soon return to Stockholm! In all seriousness though, I am (causally) looking for work so any hints would be greatly appreciated. See About for more info.

P.S., in case someone at MTG(x) reads this; the email at the bottom of your page says jobs[at]mtgx.com but as far as I can tell you don’t actually own that domain,  nor is the mail server run by you? I assume the correct email is either @mtgxjobs.com or @mtgx.se : ).

Edit 00:38 14/06: Just a few minutes before this post went live Rikard Steiber posted a 40 slide long presentation about MTGx on Twitter, sadly I did not see it before finishing the post. I will write an additional post with thoughts on it tomorrow. It is late and I want to be awake when I go through the presentation properly. You can check out the presentation on Slideshare.

-P

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Moz Vs. Doz: Trademark Battle

Online Marketing firm Doz‘s CEO Anji ISMAIL posted a guest post at the French startup blog Rude Baguette titled “Why trademarks are important for startups” OR “How SEOMoz sent us a takedown notice.” The ensuing discussion on Hacker News about the post has been quite a bit back and forth. Many argue that Moz is in the fault here, by abusing their trademark lawyer and taking advantage of a poor startup while others argue that Doz is too close to Moz’s business.
Both sides have merit in my opinion. Spontaneously I did side with Doz, but thinking about it, reading the comments and writing this post I am actually more inclined to believe that SEOMoz/Moz have a case. I don’t know if it will hold up in court, I am no lawyer after all.

When first writing this post I typed Moz instead of Doz several times, so there are clear similarities – if just superficial. More importantly, Moz and Doz are in pretty much the same niche, SEO/Online Marketing. Moz feel that they have an obligation to protect their trademark and that Doz is uncomfortably close to it. This will generate them no good will, and they probably know it but they feel they have to take legal action.

Looking at Anji, Doz CEO,’s Twitter, he has not changed his website to Doz (from CapSEO.com), nor has CapSEO been migrated and Doz.com’s SSL certificate belongs to CapSEO. The rebranding process seems rather painless to me at this point. It sucks that they spent a fair chunk of money on a domain, As far as I can tell Doz filed a trademark in ’12, SEOMoz filed one in ’11. Everyone would probably be better of if this got cleared up before Doz decided to rebrand. In their defence, SEOMoz -> Moz.com rebranding happened only a few days ago.

The HN discussion also contains comments from Moz employees (directly and indirectly), and they put Moz in a better light in my opinion.

So, I did what I would want someone to do for me. In January, I called him to give him a personal heads up that we had a problem, that the brand felt too close for us. I told him we had a registered intent-to-use, and that we were planning on launching soon, just like him. I asked him to use a different brand for his future product or that we would have to cancel his mark. He explained to me that his product is different enough from ours that there wouldn’t be confusion. I urged him to talk to his lawyer and get independent advice before he launched his product.

Sarah Bird, COO of Moz

When Anji reached out to us initially, they were CapSEO. At the time, I had no idea Doz existed, or that CapSEO was rebranding. As Anji and I talked, the discussion was around the functionality of CapSEO, which I saw as complementary. Later the discussion moved to their plans to rebrand to Doz, with a fuller focus on inbound marketing services (and software). This too is complementary, but not with the brand of Doz, as Sarah alluded to. There’s obvious confusion and brand dilution of Moz that can come as a result, and it’s our duty to protect our trademark.

I think it’s important to have this context. It feel into our lap with no other option than the action we took, we didn’t seek this out. We’ve taken every step to be transparent into why, and hope, still, that we can resolve this in a civilized manner. I’ve spent the past 8 years of my life doing startups, the last thing we want to do is derail a startup from their mission.

Andrew Dumont, Biz Dev at Moz

Moz did give Doz a heads up and while it is unfortunate, I do believe that Doz’s business is way to close to Moz’s and the names are rather similar. They are not the most similar names ever but they are close enough for the average user to mix them up. I have mixed them up several times already when writing this post, and that is when focusing on the topic.

Time will tell if Doz gets to keep their name or not, I am not a trademark lawyer so who am I to judge if the complaint is valid or not.

 

Edit: Fixed some of the things mentioned above about filing the trademark. See Sarah Bird’s comment in the original blog post for further information. The comments on Hacker News are getting progressively worse, trademarks are no longer to be protected according to most it seems. Except when it would cause issues for oneself of course.

-P

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