The Brand that Inspired a Young Steve Jobs

Here’s an interesting case study for all you entrepreneurs out there: A charasmatic CEO leads his company to launch multiple revolutionary tech products that captivate the press, attract a legion of loyal customers, and earn rediculous margins. If you’re thinking Steve Jobs you’re a little late. The brand was Polaroid and the man was Edwin Land. And long before Instagram or Apple his team gave the world beautiful products and photos. Steve Jobs himself called Land a national treasure and sought his advice during the early years of Apple.

A new book on Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos has been getting attention in Wired magazine and Forbes. The title is “Instant: The Story of Polaroid” and I caught up with him recently to discuss it.

There are older books on Land and Polaroid, what made you want to write this one right now?

I read them all, of course, and there seemed to be room for one more. The book called “The Instant Image,” by a journalist named Mark Olshaker, is from 1978, and “Land’s Polaroid,” by the former Polaroid executive Peter Wensberg, is from 1987. Neither is a bad book, but they deal only with the rise of Polaroid and not its descent and collapse, and needless to say that’s become a whole lot of the story. And then there’s “Insisting on the Impossible,” the definitive biography of Edwin Land, by Victor McElheny. It’s an immense scholarly achievement but is more about the man than the company, and it’s also very heavy on the science for a general-interest reader. It too barely deals with Polaroid after Land, and he left in 1982. Also, none of those books includes any color photography, which is another way to tell the story—I mean, it’s a book largely about taking pictures. You’ve gotta see them!


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Book Review: “Trust Me, I’m Lying” – Ryan Holiday

I caught up with Ryan Holiday a few months ago for an interview on the New Orleans startup scene. This month I reviewed his new book “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

For those not familiar, Ryan Holiday is a media strategist for notorious clients such as Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He is currently the director of marketing at American Apparel. His campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

The following is from the book’s Amazon page.

You’ve seen it all before. A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys Continue reading

The Moment Entrepreneurs Hate

Entrepreneurs love cause and effect. We love being the cause. We love poking life, seeing what comes out. We love change and movement.

But we hate, I hate, I can’t stand that moment when every action has been taken toward the goal, that goal you are committed to, but now you have to wait because everything has been done for now.

Sailboat in still water, Lysekil, Sweden

No news from sales, no feedback from customers, no final decisions Continue reading

Trajectory and Books

Liftoff of a Titan IVB/Centaur carrying the Cassini orbiter and its attached Huygens probe

Photo by NASA on The Commons

I grew up in a tight knit family. But when we talk or I visit home, I can feel like a martian. Like one of those satellites that launch and just keep going. I go out, see and learn new things. But I never get closer to home, always inching farther away.

Now and then we visit and I share my latest experiences and what’s up in my life. But my report gets more foreign to my audience. Sometimes we misinterpret each other. Our list of shared experiences shortens.

But then one day comfort comes from an unexpected place. I read a book and find more in common with the person writing than anyone I know. Their words fit feelings I’ve had but could not describe. And maybe its not the author but the person he or she is describing.

Interview with Ryan Holiday

If you took Don Draper’s marketing, added Theodore Roosevelt’s appetite for reading history, and mixed in some greek stoic, you’d get something close to online marketing guru Ryan Holiday.

Ryan dropped out college at 19. Since then he’s went on to work with best selling authors including Robert Greene and Tucker Max and currently heads up the marketing department at one of the most controversial and successful clothing brands of the last 20 years (American Apparel). And he’s 24. He has a book coming out this summer. And there’s been a lot of talk on the publishing industry blogs about the details of the book deal herehere, and here.

Ryan has lived in New Orleans for the past year and I recently caught up with him for the interview below. It covers everything from breaking all the rules in marketing to Continue reading

Inventor of Twitter – “An Idea on the Shelf is not a Failure”

I really enjoyed this Kevin Rose interview with Jack Dorsey, the inventor of Twitter and Square.

The part where Jack describes how it is fine to have a great idea and then put it on the shelf stuck with me the most. Since college I frequently viewed any idea I didn’t work on as a failure or a missed opportunity at best. The video reinforces a larger lesson I’ve been learning since college, that seldom are markets, or existing products, or supply chains, or customers ready for any innovation including that idea you had last year, etc. Markets and innovations take some serious dancing before they’re ready for a successful match.

So it is perfectly alright to set ideas on the shelf. The guy that invented Twitter even says so. If anything, get out and meet those people you would need to make your idea into a reality. Also get to know people in the markets and verticals it would affect. The world may be far more primed for the idea in the future than at the original moment you had it.