Thursday, December 30, 2010

Do get caught with your pants down

My boyfriend and I took a walk to Bernal Hill this evening.  We set out originally to catch the sunset, but a brilliant conversation distracted us from our goal, slowing our gait without our realizing.  By the time we reached the top of the hill, we were surrounded by a 360 degree view of the city's twinkling grid of lights under a very black sky.  It's a breathtaking sight to see, but Bernal Hill is creepy at night - no lighted pathways, rocky, steep trails, dogs off of their leashes, lots of wind.... So we descended as quickly as my treadless cowboy boots could handle.

Muses was the topic of conversation.  Namely, the fact that many people attribute their creative genius to a force outside of themselves that is conjured at random moments.  So how do we capture those random moments?

As we walked along, we veered off into a mini park between houses.  And there, randomly, was a slide.  A gargantuan slide!

I hastily swung onto the slide and coasted down a little less quickly than I had expected.  When I reached the bottom, I turned around, and there at the top sat my boyfriend.  Stuck, unable to slide.

"What happened?  Am I not a little boy anymore?"

"Lean back!" I suggested.  It didn't work.  He pulled himself down the slide kicking the heels of his boots ahead of him.  He tried again, swinging harder from the bar at the top of the slide.  It still didn't work.

"Maybe it's my pants, or maybe I'm just getting old," he said.

"So then take them off," I jokingly responded.

"Good idea!"  He dropped trow, swung from the top of the slide, and slid down that slide faster than any adult would feel comfortable with.  Pure genius...

Moral of the story: genius comes when you let your pants [ahem, guard] down.

PS he was wearing long johns.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

... and by the way, you're saving the world

So now that I've given out these super energy efficient lightbulbs to dozens of cutting-edge cafes, restaurants, bars and design shops in SF, I need to create marketing materials to educate and intrigue consumers about the product that is lighting up their field of vision.

First stop: Google
Search phrase: "Green Marketing Strategies"
Result: a bunch of boring philosophical articles on best practices for marketing nichey green products

I appreciate the marketing and branding jargon, but frankly I don't have time for it right now.

I began to list successful products that were substitutes for prior "dirtier" products.  Here were my top three:

1. Toyota Prius
2. Civic Hybrid
3. Phillips "Marathon" lightbulb

From these three examples, I learned something AMAZING today that I want to share.

Toyota began marketing the Prius 2 years before it was available for purchase.  They spent millions of dollars on marketing that educated consumers and, in particular, early adopters.  When the Prius came out in 2000, it was purchased by a relatively small group of these early adopters.

Honda began marketing the Civic Hybrid in 2002.  They focused on appealing to the mass market immediately by positioning the vehicle as a regular Civic, but with the added benefits of increased gas mileage and environmental friendliness.  It quickly became greatest selling hybrid in the US.

Phillips began marketing the "Earth Light" in 1994.  Marketing targeted the green-conscious consumers.  This was a niche audience, and despite the superiority of the bulb, sales were dismal.

In 2004, Toyota marketed its Gen II Prius to target the "Early Majority."  They created a larger vehicle, and utilized tv advertising to tout the vehicle as a “performance car that happened to be environmentally friendly."  By 2008, Prius sales had far surpassed the Civic Hybrid sales.

In 2000, Phillips changed the name of the Earth Light to Marathon to explain its benefit of long life.  The marketing message was "save money on lighting" versus "save the Earth by saving energy."  Consumers liked the fact that they could buy the CFLs and not have to replace the bulb for weeks or months.  The Marathon increased in sales by over 10% year on year from 2000 onward.

In 2010, Toyota's tagline for the Prius is "Harmony between man, nature and machine."  The campaign paints the Prius as offering what buyers want--advanced technology, more power, interior space, safety, and the magic 50-MPG figure--while simultaneously giving nature what it wants: lower tailpipe emissions.  Prius sales are now far, far beyond sales of any other hybrid vehicle on the market.

Civic Hybrid ... who would buy one when they could have a Prius?

So I think this is amazing because it means two things:

1. People buy green when the product is presented to them as being, foremost, a high performance technology with the added benefit of a positive environmental impact

2. If a company educates consumers without asking anything of them, then consumers will eventually pay the company back.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Door to Door Giving

In the process of trying to take some time off, I decided I'd take on a fun, little contracting job for a company I've watched grow over the past year. As it turns out, this work is mostly fun and rarely little. As for my free time ... poof! gone for now.

The company makes lightbulbs, LED lightbulbs to be exact. LEDs are the best efficient lightbulbs on the market right now - they're pretty, they last forever, they use virtually no energy, and they're safe to dispose of. Did you know that CFLs (the lightbulbs shaped like a coil) have liquid mercury in them and are extremely dangerous if broken or left in a landfill? They're so awful that in 2012, CFLs are no longer going to be available for purchase in the US.

The drawback for LED lighting is that it costs a heck of a lot, and I don't know anyone who feels comfortable fronting a chunk of change for a 25 year commitment to a lightbulb. In order for massive adoption of a new technology in an otherwise mundane area of people's lives to occur, the lightbulb paradigm must change. This is where I come in.

We decided that people must begin to see the bulbs in places they like to go, learn about LEDs firsthand, and be given the option of purchasing the bulbs on the spot.  We're giving out 5 free LED bulbs to choice locations in San Francisco. Locations include bars, design shops, furniture stores, restaurants and cafes. Each lightbulb that replaces an incandescent will save that location an average of ~$20 per month in energy savings ($2.00 for CFLs).  It's a no-brainer for these locations, or so you'd think.

Of the 50 emails and calls I have made to locations, 5 have expressed interest.  Of the 20 in-person visits I have made to locations, 2 have decided to take the bulbs.  The vast majority of companies are simply not interested - citing their current design specs (understandable), their need to speak with HQ (understandable), or their distaste for third party marketing in their own stores (understandable, but these are just lightbulbs).

My opinion as to why people are not interested is that most are uncomfortable with change, even when it is nonimpactful.  The reason I believe this is is that the locations that were open to the idea were those that were the most cutting edge, successful, popular and young cafes/restaurants/bars in the city.   Upon my call or email, they responded with a resounding "yes, please come in! We're looking for ways to be green, and this seems like the perfect opportunity."

I'm suddenly not surprised that these are the most well-reviewed, well-attended locations in the city these days.  These types of locations are managed by open-minded, enterprising people, people who are a pleasure to work with and meet.

My task of finding 30 locations is going to be tough.  But, when I find the "right" locations, it's wonderful, and as far as I'm concerned, these are the locations that are going to continue to thrive as the world changes around them.  Let me know if you have any locations in mind - whether it's in SF or Silicon Valley, I've got a huge task ahead of me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Living Intuitively

Over the last two years living back in the US I've learned [at least] one great lesson. That is, following one's own intuition is paramount. I moved back for that reason, but jumped into a job too early, afraid of the recession and my own inability to find a job that I was truly interested in. This was an inauthentic move, and while I made the best of what I had chosen, learned everything about a fascinating budding industry, and met a ton of amazing people, it was not an ideal situation.

Now, being outside of that job, I'm able to live just as I had originally wanted. And perhaps even moreso. I pursue projects on a freelance basis with startups that I believe will have a positive influence on the world. I do sales, marketing, and business development work, as these are the three things that I most enjoy doing. I meet even more amazing people all of the time by doing this, and work together with them on these interesting, innovative projects.

Also, I take all the yoga and pilates classes I'd ever wanted. Cook the dishes I'd been meaning to make for dinner for years. I have a clean house. I've started really running again. I spend tons of quality time with friends, family, and my boyfriend. I can finally plan trips I've always wanted to take. And, as a bonus, I took the GMAT and finally got the score I'd always wanted! Maybe business school is in the cards someday...

In the end, I think I'm busier than I ever have been, happier than I have been in long while, and am doing the best work of my life. And though I sound like a 1-900 number, I really recommend this lifestyle to anyone who feels stuck, just trust your intuition and go with it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lech Lecha

I left my job last week. Or my job left me. The company downsized, and thank goodness I was part of it. Like I mentioned in my last post, happiness is when what we think, what we say and what we do are in harmony. Now I can finally begin to live happily again.

The last few days of unemployment have been heavenly. Running when the sun is still up, hiking without the endless discussions about company politics, and open conversations about the millions of options I have from here. This is a wonderful place to be.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Of the Moment

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

I'm at GDC Online in Austin, TX. The conference has a strong focus on social gaming, and I can't help but feel we're a little over the hump in this arena now. I imagine Casual Connect in Seattle a year and a half ago. 18 months ago was the grand debut of social gaming as a widespread phenomenon. I had back to back meetings with casual game developers, introducing them to the Facebook gaming concept. They were intrigued. Six months after that, it had hit the mainstream (FarmVille). And now, two of the three keynotes at the most respected gaming conference in the US are from social gaming companies. Bravo Zynga and Playdom. Oh yeah, and everyone and their mother has tried to build a social game.

So, I can't wait to hear what they have to say tomorrow. Particularly about what's next. Personally, I'm banking on a return to the board game and walks in the woods.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tel Aviv Boardwalk

On vacation with my family in Tel Aviv, I decided to take a morning jog to work out the jetlag. It's the third time I've been to Israel in the past 12 months, and like always, it's just wonderful enough that I wish I could stay. Reality bites.

Anyway, the Tel Aviv boardwalk is really a fantastic place to run if you don't want to deal with traffic, are looking for great views throughout your walk/run, and want to know exactly how far you've gone. It's 5k in length and has mile markers randomly placed throughout - keep your eyes peeled, they're hard to find. It snakes along the Mediterranean coast all the way from downtown, past grand hotels and beachside cafes to the old town of Jaffa at the southermost point of the city.

I have to admit that at 9:30am, it's already too late to run. I think I had a mini heatstroke, and now at 11:50am, I'm still beet red and nauseated. Was it the heat? the sun? the jetlag? Probably all three. Word to the wise, take it easy your first day in a new time zone, and if you're not used to sun and heat, same goes. Combining the two is pretty darn painful.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Redwood Regional Park Surprise

The weather was so sparklingly gorgeous yesterday morning that we could do nothing but leave the house. Headed straight for Mt. Diablo, images of a peaceful ride up the 24 and a picnic with an aerial view of the SF Bay flashed through my mind. That is, until we reached the east side of the Bay Bridge, and noticed the miles upon miles of pileup traffic headed into city. A mile after that, our own pileup headed into the Berkeley Hills.

Here enters the GPS and its handy "no-highway" mode. We pull off highway 24 into winding, hilly neighborhoods, through a small town, and left onto "Snake Road." Snake Road leads us to Skyline Blvd, and soon enough, we are at the top of a ridge zipping through some of the most beautiful open space scenery I have seen in Northern California. 20 minutes from downtown SF. Aside from a few bikers and cyclists, the cars are sparse.

We could have kept going this way to get to Mt. Diablo, but the open space surrounding us was just too compelling. A few clicks into the GPS, and we realized we were skirting Redwood Regional Park. We found the entrance, and pulled into the park.

I have no idea how this park is off the radar for all the Bay Area weekend adventurers. It was downright gorgeous, unpopulated, and quiet (aside from the chattering birds and hum of the bees in the wildflowers). Picnic lunch in an open field, a little bit of frisbee and a lazy afternoon nap in the sun. Then, a hike along a creek, a few campsites and sweet benches along the way, a regrowth redwood forest to cool us down, and a climb up to the ridge surrounding the park - vista views all the way home.

If you are one of the 5 people who read this blog, please go to this park and enjoy it like we did. But, don't tell anyone else :) We like this secret park relatively close to home.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Are the Salad Days Over for Social Gaming ... and Facebook?

Let's face it, the days of tinkering with virtual worlds on Facebook for bored office workers or young mothers connecting to the outside world between kids' naps has peaked. It's just not as fun anymore. Every new game that comes out is just a copy of the last game, and as people care less about what their friends' "Farms" or "Zoos" or "Sororities" look like... the less they're going to tend to their own.

I'm not saying there's no innovation any longer, because there is. The problem really is, Facebook is losing its edge as a personal platform. People may still be using it as a place to passively stay in touch with others, or to publicize their witty thoughts and silly photos. But, as the platform opens up to integrations such as Twitter, YouTube, millions of Fan Pages and Groups, annoying updates from applications like Farmville, Zoo World, Restaurant City, and online ads galore begging for users attention to turn to the right hand pain of the screen, it just doesn't feel personal anymore.

Facebook is turning into an online platform that ENABLES users to socially browse the web - think Facebook Connect for news, ecommerce, blogs, etc.

And Social Gaming isn't dead ... it's just being resurrected in more convenient places like the iPad, the iPhone, the Android.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ethical Gems

Working at a startup in Silicon Valley is just straight up insane. One week is so different from the next that I feel I might as well be working at completely different companies. Ahh, such is life at a social gaming company. I went through three different job titles in the past three months, and somewhere in the middle of that, I began to dream of starting my own company.

Rules for the new company were:
1. Tangible product
2. Ethically sourced and manufactured products
3. A product that could paradigm-shift an existing, traditional industry in an ethical direction
4. A product and industry I, personally, found exciting

So, I created it!

Check it out. I source ethical gemstones for consumers, custom jewelers, and ethical artisans. I work with a small-scale mining association in Tanzania, and am hoping to expand to similar organizations in other countries. These associations, with help from the World Bank, bring together women and small-scale miners to collectivize their products so that they can compete with larger mines and lapidaries, all the while educating workers on ethical, sustainable and fair-trade practices.