Tag Archives: education

kbs+ Ventures: Creative Entrepreneurship

Just last week, we launched our first book at kbs+ Ventures.  The book was derived from the insight that our agency‘s staff wanted to learn more about innovation frameworks and what entrepreneurs have to do in order to build a business.  You can download the book here (more formats for the book coming in the near future, follow me on twitter to find out when launched).

Creative Entrepreneurship Books

Last summer, Lara, Eugenia, Taylor and I embarked on the process of creating this book with the support of our agency and MDC Partners.  A few months later, we had a finished product of the book in-hand and were ready to launch it.  We turned the book around in about four weeks.

We decided not to re-create the wheel and write all new content.  Some friends of ours are top venture capitalist and entrepreneurs who already write amazing content online so we asked them to donate some content to our book.  And they did;  some old posts they had written and some brand new content for our book.  A huge fist bump to all the contributors including Blake Masters, Tim O’Reilly, Paul Graham, Jay Jamison, Sarah Lacy, Felix Salmon, Mark Suster, Steve Blank, Marc Averitt, Fred Wilson, Charlie O’Donnell, Chris Dixon, Andrew Chen, Seth Levine, Scott Weiss, Babak Nivi, Matthew Waterman, Dave McClure, Dan Shapiro, Adam Penenberg, Robert Ackerman Jr., Walter Kortschak and Rutul Dave.

We plan to use this book for our Fellows Program.  We also plan on making the book much more widely available – it’s free to you.  We will be distributing the book thru different accelerators, incubators, venture capital offices and other places of entrepreneurship.  Reach out to me if you want to put a bunch in your office or in a place which could reach many entrepreneurs.

Here are some pics of our launch party for the book.  It was a blast.  And here is the writeup on our Tumblog.

We believe this book can have an impact and I’m super proud of the team who made it happen.


Rethinking What I Know About Formal Education

I grew up in a middle class home in Westchester County, NY where the forced dream was to go to college.  I grew up with the pressures of “not if” but “where” I was going to college and from early grade school, I was prepping for the SAT’s.  That one test was the key to getting through the admission door at many top tier schools, all schools in which I had my sights set on.

I graduated (almost did not – was going to leave early to pursue a startup) with my 4 year degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.  I did not have the typical college experience as I was only there for 13 weekends in four years due to running a business while in school and traveling to the office and clients Friday-Mondays.  School provided a campus for learning as learning did not happen in just the classroom.  I think I actually learned more outside of the classroom then in it.

Fast forward to today, I have two children, both under the age of four.  I’m thinking about college for them already but I do not know if they will have the same college education I did.  Why?  The forthcoming education evolution here in the United States and how it might impact them.  The NY Times just wrote an article called The Campus Tsunami that outlines a lot of the current landscape.

Companies like Skillshare, General Assembly, Lore/Coursekit, Udemy, Minerva, Khan Academy, Codecademy, Edmodo, and others are forcing us to re-think what education is, not just what college is.  While much of this post has been about college, I think I need to re-think how my kids will even go through grade school.

I do not know what the future holds, but I have to imagine that the Internet will disrupt everything it touches.  This means education as I and my parents know it is being re-written.  I am excited for what lies ahead.

Announcing Marketing Wednesdays

On the heels of Albert‘s Technology Tuesday’s, I’ll be launching Marketing Wednesdays.  Both Albert and I were both inspired by the magnificent job Fred has been doing with MBA Mondays.

Marketing Wednesday’s will be a post on a certain “marketing” topic which could be applied to both startups and large corporations.  Fred theoretically could cover marketing under his topic as Marketing is offered as a MBA track.  One of the top marketing MBA schools is the London Business School, and they define their Marketing MBA as the follows:

  • advertising
  • brands and branding
  • competitive strategy
  • consumer behaviour
  • customer focus
  • distribution
  • entrepreneurship
  • innovation
  • marketing analytics
  • marketing ethics
  • metrics
  • media
  • pricing and price promotions
  • product strategy
  • related management processes.

We’ll be covering all of the above.  Luckily, I’m part of a top tier marketing agency that has experts in each of these areas, so I can pull them in when I’m not as strong on a particular topic.

The first post of the series will be on Wednesday.  Don’t forget to follow me on twitter or sign up for the RSS feed to keep current.

Agency Demand Platforms

My friend Jay Sears (@jaysears) sent me an invite to the AdClub/ContextWeb event on Agency Demand Platforms a few weeks ago and was impressed to see the high caliber speakers but was bummed out that MDC/VMM was not asked to participate as well, as, my friends at Havas.

The event was packed – almost every seat taken in the beautiful NY Times Center and quickly got underway by a speech by Carl Fremont about the Digital Action program of the AdClub.  Digital Action is actually really cool – publishers donate inventory and the AdClub gets to sell it and keep the money to provide scholarships for their students.  We’re working on a deal which should hopefully provide some dollars to the AdClub so I was excited to see Carl speak about it.

Bant Breen (Initiative), Sloan Broderick (Mediacom Interaction), Greg Green (VivaKi), Matt Spiegel (Omnicom), Ross Sandler (RBC), and Wenda Harris Millard (MediaLink) all participated on the panel and had a healthy discussion that to industry outsiders may have been fascinating, but to industry insiders, was much of the same fodder we hear each day.  For those interested in reading the play by play of the event, AdExchanger has a fantastic writeup and I recommend checking it out.

I want to use this blog post to talk about a few of the issues/hurdles that affect Agency Demand Platforms and their roll-out to advertising agency holding companies such as IPG, WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Havas, and MDC Partners.  Many of these thoughts come out at lunches or dinners I have with my peers at other demand platforms but I thought that publishing them online may spark a larger conversation with all industry constituents:  investors, agency execs, media folks, technologists, startups, PR, etc.

What is a Demand Platform?   This term is thrown around with increasing frequency but I’ve not seen a solid definition around it.  AdAge wrote a piece on all of our agency platforms that we are building and this comes closest to what I define as a Demand Platform:  a technology solution with a front-end interface where agencies (media, creative) have access to procurement, optimization, warehousing, and analytics.  All of us are building something within this vein but each of us has our own cupcake with different sprinkles.

I do not think that Demand Platforms have to be limited to single supply sources such as advertising exchanges.  It seemed as if the majority of the AdClub/ContextWeb event was based around exchanges, but supply sources can be various.  Currently, we are seeing typical ad networks, publisher exchanges (i.e. FimServe), reservation systems such as Apt, broad exchanges (e.g. RMX, AdX) and sites direct are able to plug into Demand Platforms.  Personally, I look forward to the day when inventory goes beyond OLA into search, mobile, print, radio, television, and OOH.


Agencies vs. Technology Companies: Agencies have always adopted technologies tactically, but if they are to roll-out a Demand Platform, to be successful, it must be strategic.  Most agencies are not staffed up with technologists (broad term for many different types of technology people) and most management in agencies are not trained in running technology companies.   Technology companies also invest in R&D and top talent, as what they build has scaling capabilities and they can recoup these dollars.  Agencies are a staffed differently and generally never hire beyond revenue.  Depending on the agency, holding company, and timing of the financial markets, agencies wanting to become a technology company may be a far dream (if building their own tech).

I predict most agency holding companies are going to work with strategic partners to roll-out their Demand Platforms as for the aforementioned reasons.  There are a few partners in the market today that are getting some nice publicity and traction such as MediaMath, Invite Media, Triggit, AdChemy, X+1, DataXu, Brilig, and others.  The question is whether to go exclusive or remain independent and this is a major question for many of us.   The partners above service the ad-serving & algorithmic optimization space but there is also data warehousing, data aggregation, and creative optimization that plays within here too and there is a whole host of other partners to deal with there.

Changing Media Culture:  Media planners and buyers have applied the human element to optimization for the past 15 years or so and are used to buying sites as a proxy for audience.  Most of our Demand Platforms focus on buying “audiences,” which is fundamentally different than purchasing sites in themselves, so re-educating the entire media planning and buying world about this new paradigm will have to occur.  Technology is going to strategically penetrate agencies if this happens and the education process is going to take a while and not only are we going to have to educate internally to our agency staff, but also, to our clients.  As always, there are going to be conservative clients/agencies and progressive which means that most people will fall in the middle.  I can’t stress enough how much of a barrier this is for the industry.  Changing culture is not easy and the visionaries will have to be in place in the agencies and clients must remain open minded, as the way they have purchased digital media in the past will change.

I am not stressing that media planners and buyers are going to be out of a job, as one can read the above paragraph and deduce that.  I hypothesize that we are going to have a something like a performance display group and an integrated team.  All IAB/OPA standard units will run through the performance group through a Demand Platform while the media/creative staff’s time will be freed up to create big brand experiences.   For publishers, read my “Goodbye Media Sales Execs” post.

Business Terms/Pricing:  I’m going to attack this dead-on as all too often, this question gets avoided.  In the USA, agencies typically do not take posession of media (unlike Europe) and sell back to their clients, but rather make a scaling commission on all of the media that is purchased on behalf of clients.   With Demand Platforms and the ability to purchase on Advertising Exchanges, there are similar models to SEM (search engine marketing) emerging:

  • Cost Plus – this model takes into account of the cost of the media plus a standard consistent markup for the “secret sauce” (optimization, data, research, analytics, etc)
  • Blended/Arb – this model is where the agency takes posession of the media and prices it back to the client at their discretion
  • Pass Through – media agencies will just take their typical media buying or success comission/compensation for OLA planning

Most of the players including VivaKi, Cadreon, B3, Adnetik, VMM do not publicly disclose their business models and that’s valid and fair.  I’d assume however that most models are based on one or multiples of the three scenarios above.  If there is another scenario that I’ve missed, I’d love to know about it.

Note:  as explained above, agencies in the USA cannot take positions on media and sell back to clients.  This is why seperate companies have been set up to provide church/state seperation.

Real vs. Near-Real vs. Non-Real-Time:  I don’t know how this is a hurdle, but I want to point out that saying “real-time” is the “cool” thing to say right now but there is almost no substance behind it to the trained eye.  There are less than a half dozen exchanges who can support real-time, and of those real-time exchanges, they are dwarfed in scale from the big guys.  There is no doubt that real-time is going to be interesting in the future, but as of July 14, 2009, this is purely an ego play.

The Agency Demand Platform Ecosystem

While working on the Agency Demand Platform project, an entire ecosystem is impacted and innovated upon.  The following business areas are affected by these new Platforms (depending on the particular platform of course):

  • Dynamic creative
  • Analytics (insight)
  • Data warehousing
  • Decisioning and processing
  • Visualization
  • Algorithmic development
  • Yield management
  • Ad operations (trafficking, pixel implementation)
  • Data privacy
  • Media planning & buying (communications planning)

Want to share your viewpoint?   Did I miss something?  Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me at @dherman76

Imagine It Project @ Stanford University

I came across the videos of the Imagine It Project @ Stanford University and have to say that it’s a great compilation of students from around the globe and seasoned entrepreneurs/executives.  If you’ve got a spare 30-45 minutes, certainly check out a few of the clips over at ImagineItProject.

Students were tasked with creating value from an already existing and popular product.  I think it is safe to assume that P&G, Unilever, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Heinz, and other mainstream consumer products/food companies were secretly recruiting at the event.

Angel Investment: Path 101

Path 101I’m exposed to quite a bit of early stage deal flow and from time to time, certain deals peek my interest more than others. I’ve known Charlie O’Donnell for a few years now because we run in the same circles of the Silicon Alley scene and have always admired his viewpoints (he’s not afraid to share them) and his thoughts on the digital media landscape.

When he decided to leave Oddcast to work on Path 101, I met with him in Bryant Park to discuss the landscape and potential synergies. Since it was extremely early in ideation, I couldn’t grasp the idea 100%, but I was intrigued by the market he was going after.

It was announced this morning that Sherri and I joined the list of amazing angel investors in Charlie’s new startup, Path 101.

Why this investment is different for me… because my wife Sherri is involved. Sherri typically is my largest critic and shoots many ideas down (don’t ask her about Gmail), but after we hosted brunch for Charlie at our home in Westchester to hear the Path 101 pitch, we were excited about the market. The market is not one that I know very well so I’m deferring to my other half to lead the deal. Sherri’s got quite the knowledge of Human Resources and I think Path 101 will benefit greatly from it.

We are excited about the potential in Path 101 and over the next few months, I’ll be writing about other companies that I’m investing/advising/directing.

I’d expect Sherri to be blogging about this later over on HermanWeb

Art 101: Buying Prints

For most of us, we can’t always buy original pieces of art because of their high price tag. For much of the art that both Sherri and I like, original pieces range from $25k-$500k+ and at this point, we have other areas that we’re prioritizing our investments.

Artists generally make different types of prints of their work so that the particular piece exists far beyond that one original master. There is certainly a market for buying/selling/trading high quality prints and that is an area that I’ve been exploring for a while now, whilst we furnish our new home here in Westchester.

Once you fall in love with a piece, you’ll find out that the gallery or artist has the piece in special prints. I would highly suggest you only buy prints that are part of a limited edition as you don’t want the artist creating more supply, as the price of your new art will potentially go down (supply/demand science). If it’s not part of a limited edition, chances are, the print is part of an Open Edition. This means that the artist or his publishing company will still have the right to create more prints and send them into the market.

The most common types of prints are: serigraph, lithograph, and giclee. Please note that I’m not an expert but have found the following information to be useful.

Serigraph: Considered an original graphic, they are produced as multiples. The process employs silk mesh, which is blocked by a photoemulsive varnish. Various color separations are projected onto the photosensitive surface that create stencils through which ink is rolled, brushed or “squeegee´d” onto high-quality paper in multiple layers. Each color requires a separate “screen” and may number into the hundreds; resulting in vibrant and richly textured silkscreen prints.

Lithograph: Considered an original graphic, they are produced as multiples. The artist draws on the surface of a limestone block (traditionally) or metal alloy plate (contemporarily), with a grease pencil or “touché”, where he would like his image to appear. The surface is dampened with water and oily ink is rolled over the drawn areas. The ink clings to the greasy marks, but not to the dampened areas. Paper is applied to the stone and the ink is transferred from the greasy, inked areas. Each color in the print requires a separate stone or plate and sometimes as many as fifty stones or plates are used.

Giclee: Considered an original graphic, they are produced as multiples. The term originates from the French “to spray” and employs inkjet color application and digital color separation. Millions of ink particles can be applied simultaneously to the paper. Flawless color reproduction and extraordinary consistency are the trademarks of this new technology and is rapidly becoming the preferred method of fine-art print production.

Just because a piece of art is a print, doesn’t mean there isn’t a heavy price tag associated with it. We’ve found above prints to be anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. The prints are usually signed by the artist and come with a COA (certificate of authenticity).

When buying prints, there are different editions that you can purchase which include the limited edition, artist proof and so on. You’ll usually always buy from the limited edition (mostly 100-250 prints) but if there are any prints labeled a/p (or AP), you may want to consider that. An a/p is an artist proof.

Artist Proof: An old tradition of reserving a quantity of prints for the artist’s use, usually equal to about 10% of the edition. In the early days of printing, these prints were the only remuneration the poor artist received. Proofs are signed by the artist and numbered showing the quantity of Artist’s Proofs issued in the edition and generally marked a/p. Because of their highly restricted number, Artist’s Proofs are sold at a higher value than the regular prints in the edition.

Hopefully, you found this post useful. There is certainly a lot more to talk about which I’ll cover in the coming weeks. Have fun art spotting… and don’t forget to send me links to artists that you find interesting!

Using Internet Business Strategy

I received an email from Smart Experience, an independent school in New York City offering classes on state-of-the-art topics to working professionals in the Internet, mobile, and software fields.  I am looking to possibly take one of their classes, which is 2 2-hour sessions that are on July 10/17th here in Manhattan on “Using Internet Business Strategy.”  I’m a huge fan of learning and feel that the class may be beneficial, but I’d also like to meet the other cool people taking the class as well.  I believe the class costs $140.

Is anyone signed up to take the class?  Have you taken any classes with Smart Experience in the past?  Was it worth it?