Should Is A Terrible Word

I’m not sure who taught me this originally. As with all things I can’t source back, I assume it was my awesome and supportive parents who unconditionally loved and encouraged my wacky and zany child self to develop into this effusive and certain blogger (?) or whatever I am now.

Anyway, something I learned growing up at our house was that:

should is a terrible word.

We should not be in the habit of telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do. :)  It’s really rude almost 100% of the time when using the word should. You sound hypercritical using it in common vernacular. You (almost always) sound as if you know something that the other person does not and you are trying to enlighten the path for him/her. Even in very specific instruction - i.e. yoga or dance instruction - where there is a commonly agreed upon placement of the parts of the body. “Right elbow to the outside of left knee to twist” -- this can (and should!) be said without a twang of ‘should.’ Should is ableist in this context: it implies one way of doing something. Should is limited and finite; it doesn't leave room for possibility. 

Even if you’re speaking to yourself. Think of the internal dialogue: “I should stop procrastinating and go to the grocery store.” Be kinder to yourself. How about something like: “If I want to eat a healthy meal for dinner tonight, I will go to the grocery store in the next 20 minutes.”

When working with start-ups and founders, I resist the urge to use the word. No matter what I think they should or should not be doing, I try to get them to just talk out their reasoning and logic for making their decisions.  I tell them how I learned something - how I got to a conclusion -- but not what they should do. Some of the best business (and otherwise!) decisions come not from a place of should but from a place of if. Less lacking, more possibility. Less grasping, more optionality.  

By the by, I just looked up what should means -- here it is:

Yeah, fuck should. 

Nonetheless, I like to sit around and think of business ‘should’s’ for big companies. Because it’s fun to dream with limitless potential and with a very wide aperture about what could happen in a free and open world.

Here are some of my shoulds -- let me know yours!! Respond below or Tweet me!

Start ups that Uber Should Acquire

Bird, Lime, etc.

Postmates, Grubhub/Seamless,  AND the top 5 - 10 restaurant chains in each city (byChloe, Sweetgreen, Chipotle, etc.)

Local Messenger Services in cities

Tuktuk’s and Pedicabs Everywhere

Companies that Facebook Should Acquire

All the media companies - starting with the big ones

Production Studios

Sponsorship Model for Talent

Partnerships that Twitter Should Do

News Companies - LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL

PR Firms  - breaking news should always be on Twitter - ‘real time verification’

Bloomberg + any other live live financial news

Sports - any other live live sports news

Technologies that Amazon Should Deploy

Basket Technology for crowd-sourced pricing and  Best-Of lists

Those are my 'should's' in today's business landscape -- what are yours?!

Teacher Appreciation Day

My college asked me to write about my favorite Professor as he's receiving a Distinguished Faculty Award this year. Since he's recently been promoted to Interim President of the school, I'm fairly certain he's too busy to read this in between now and when it is published :) so here's a copy for you, in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day.

It was the greatest fortune in my academic experience to have Professor Pat McGuire as my advisor, my mentor and my teacher.

McGuire brought to life all of the facets of economics in ways that were tangible, lifelong and multidisciplinary. Today, when I walk through the streets of New York City, I see the “ballet of the city sidewalk” in my every step - “never repeating itself from place to place…(and) always replete with new improvisations,”* because he (and Jane Jacobs) taught me to see it that way. He and Professor Spates even took our class to meet Jane! We sat on her porch in Toronto on a beautiful crisp Spring day - what a great honor - and a memory that we will all cherish for our lifetimes.


Because I was his student, I see that companies need diverse representation in boardrooms and in design rooms because, like cities, “(they) have the capability of providing something for everybody only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”*  He encouraged us to bring our individual backgrounds to our economic studies and the world around us -- because, in fact, the world needs more diversity in thinking, building and dreaming.

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Prof. McG was the very first teacher I had who challenged the status quo - only after he taught it to me. A memory of this was in Urban Economics -- a difficult class that required quite a lot of work, we were discussing the week’s reading - a controversial book about white flight and the changing American City. Professor McG led an open discussion and after we talked through the various elements of the book, he pondered aloud “well, isn’t anyone going to ask me what I thought about the book?” So we asked, what did he think of the book? “I hated it!” he exclaimed. (Dramatic pause!!!) This was shocking to me - the first (and maybe only) time a teacher ever pulled a bait and switch - in Economics class, no less! He went on to give us good reason to doubt the entire ‘gentrification’ (and underlying racism) that the book espoused. Flash-forward to now, as a 10+ year, very happy resident of America’s largest city, I’m so glad that Prof McG showed us it was possible (and critical) to think differently.

jane jacobs.jpg

I could go on and on about the things he taught us, the ways he ingrained complex topics into our developing minds - the multiplier effect, his laugh, “feel the power” at the Federal Reserve, his intense love for Alan Greenspan, the macroeconomic flow chart, his ability to be my teacher for four years but when election time came, I had no idea who he was voting for. His camaraderie and banter with Jim Spates (and so many other colleagues). Again, the laugh.

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Besides the things he taught me, though, he believed in me. His great faith in me has propelled me throughout my lifetime. Knowing he is rooting for me and encouraging me - both while I was a student and in my career has been the greatest gift from my time at Hobart and William Smith. For this, I am most grateful.

** With homage and gratitude to Jane Jacobs for many lessons - particularly those in quotes above - and especially the ones learned on her porch.**


just get to 5minutes 30seconds...

...and you will know why this is worth your while...

congrats to first portfolio company

Did y'all hear the news?  Cameo has merged with Vimeo. Cameo was the very first portfolio company for Adipose and is representative of the type of work we're keen to do.

  • Cameo has tremendous value to advertisers, brands and consumers alike: allowing anyone to make a simple, beautiful video.  Because it's cloud-based, groups of people can make a Cameo, too.  This is a huge pain point for experiential marketers and a need that is ever-growing in the land of social media.  Therefore...
  • ...Brands and industry influencers were eager to get involved with Cameo and reap the benefits of first-mover success. Here are some examples: Free People, Bespoken Clothiers, CMJ, PopWater, Pete Francis, Rebecca Minkoff, Washington Post, Mike Schmid
  • Adipose structured strategic partnerships and alignments with brands and influencers for Cameo.
  • Adipose advised and retained marketing and PR support for Cameo through to sale of the company.

Looks like this is going to turn out well.

serendipity knowing a good idea when you see one and then realizing gratitude when you're sitting at the table with the founders. 

or put a different way..."luck is preparation meeting opportunity." - the wise one, Oprah.

the name, Adipose

The Adipose Fin represents a fin on a fish that has long been misunderstood to be a useless piece of fatty tissue but may in fact, be quite important to some fish.  It has repeatedly evolved a skeleton across many different species of fish who are not related (Catfish, Salmon, Trout, etc.) : offering a new understanding into tissue types and convergent evolution.  Adipose fins, therefore, represent a new model for exploring the evolution of vertebrate limbs and appendages. "It's pretty incredible that a structure which is incredibly common could be so misunderstood," Stewart said. "Our finding, that adipose fins have evolved repeatedly, shows that this structure, long assumed to be more-or-less useless, might be very important to some fishes. It's exciting because it opens up new questions."

Read the full report here from Science Daily, oh ye of disbelief.


So, why the name for our company?

Well, we're of the disposition that companies ought to think through sales and marketing strategies concurrently with their growth

...(not after they IPO or a significant capital raise).

We've heard the tales of companies like Twitter losing money rapidly before their IPO and heard from many an optimistic Wall Street analyst say "because they haven't yet started actively working on revenue models, there's tremendous upside! much more than Facebook - who has revenue models and sales teams in place and therefore, less potential upside in the future."

This is bubble thinking.  Here's why:

- Twitter counts 60% or more of its traffic from mobile devices each month.  Mobile advertising is still very undefined. If we're at our infancy with digital and banner ads, we're at the point of conception with mobile ads in 2014.  A few things are certain, though, about mobile advertising:

  • It should cost more than traditional advertising.  (A mobile device has become your most intimate possession: with you at all times.  This precious experience has taken mind share from others you used to focus on - TV, magazines, books, etc.) More engaged minutes should dictate a higher CPM.
  • In Q4 Twitter reported an average CPM increase of $1.49 up from 97 cents in the previous three months.  This is not a good CPM. It is much harder to drive a price up than it is to bring it down.  Starting at 97 cents doesn't give us tremendous room to charge existing advertisers more money and puts the burden on Twitter dramatically increasing the number of users to make this a profitable enterprise.

- We have an irrational market dictating the value of a company like Twitter in a very short-term, news-oriented way.  I believe great businesses are built over time and with careful consideration towards revenue, growth and profit.  In fact, history supports this with companies like GE, Apple, and Exxon all building profitable businesses over the long term.

- The irrational market believes that with this increased liquidity, Twitter will get to work on the hard work of finding advertising dollars and partnership deals throughout the world.  The fact, though, is, we now have a lot of smart people who were, at one point affiliated with Twitter who are now #filthyrich and it's unclear who's left to actually execute on sales and revenue strategy.

So...what does all this have to do with Adipose?

At Adipose, we will help your business think about revenue, sales, modeling and financial forecasts before any life changing event.

We think the companies that will succeed in riding out any market volatility will be the ones with clear revenue streams structured well in advance of any liquidity event in the public or private markets.

We think once you're worth a couple hundred million dollars, it may be too late to run around doing hundred thousand or million dollar ad deals...but the truth is: that's where the long-term, stable, bill-paying, business-building money is.