Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, May 2, 2022
by Neil Senturia
This is potpourri week.
A few weeks ago, I went to an NFT convention in San Diego. Without debating the merits of the metaverse, I clearly saw that whatever it is, it is definitely coming. And it is going to land with a bang, not a whimper.
I met a mother from Arizona who introduced me to her son, “Eric,” who is 10 years old and had already learned the hustle. He was working the room at the convention and selling his art as NFTs. They had just come from Miami where he was on a panel, then they stopped in San Diego, and in June, they are planning to attend the bigger NFT convention in New York City.
I asked Eric where he went to school. Before he could answer, his mother interjected that he was too busy making art and money, and that she was home-schooling him. If this is the metaverse, then maybe Dante should be required reading. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” I’m just saying.
Next up, rituals at work. One of my favorite Harvard professors, Francesca Gino, and her colleague, Michael Norton, have written a piece on the issue of company morale. And it turns out that yes, the cheer, ring the bell, the group softball game, they are important and they matter — and more than you might think.
I recently watched (for the second time) “The Wolf of Wall Street.” One of the early iconic moments is the pounding-on-your-chest chant by Matthew McConaughey. It resonates and energizes the troops. Go to the Internet and watch the Walmart Cheer. Rituals abound. The Theranos yell and the WeWork chant, can you spell cult?
Norton says, “Rituals have a physical element — specific words or actions — and group rituals have a communal element, doing it together at the same time. The psychological element is where one gets that symbolic feeling.” But one of the key elements for rituals is to “keep it employee-driven.”
I confess that I personally have limited rah-rah, but I believe in its power and I do adhere to one of Norton’s rules to never insert myself; rituals are developed by the team.
I recently read a piece from one of the big three consulting companies, McKinsey. It was called “How to crack complex problems under uncertain conditions.”
Herewith their advice from on high at $35,000 per day. “Channel your inner 4-year-old, be curious, ask questions, embrace ambiguity, expand the viewing lens, be willing to experiment, crowd-source diverse perspectives, and finally show and tell the problem-solving process and defend the solution with logic.” How can you not love consultants? My invoice is in the mail.
And finally, let me give a shoutout to the recent University of San Diego Angel Conference. It is run by Mysty Rusk, and it was fabulous. I asked her how she picked the final contestants?
Rusk started with 70 investors who each put money into a fund, ranging from $5,500 to $25,000 per person. The fund had approximately $700,000 to invest. The investors then split into six teams, and each team did the vetting for 15 applicants. Rusk was rigorous in making sure each team had different skills in an effort to reduce bias to any one type of investment.
Various rounds occurred, and at the end of three months, the original 90 submissions were reduced to a final group of six, which competed for investment from the fund. And then instead of bringing in some famous big shots who had not written a check to be the pickers of the winner, the finalist judges were the investors themselves — all 70 of them. Skin in the game, baby. I love it.
Several of my pals, men and women, either have or are starting a venture fund/angel fund. As they try to raise money, the song they are singing to an investor is “I am a better picker than you.” You don’t say, I’ll ask those 70 if they want to bet on you.
The reason it is hard to pick is because often what starts out as an apple pivots multiple times, morphs into pasta and finally ends up as chicken soup.
A good picker is going to need a knife, a fork and a spoon.
Rule No. 711:
We could always get takeout.