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113. Jacqui Boland’s Entrepreneurial Journey on a Red Tricycle

This week on the Economics For Business Podcast we were gifted the opportunity of reviewing and assessing a completed entrepreneurial journey, courtesy of Jacqui Boland, founder, CEO and now alumna of Red Tricycle, following the acquisition of the company by the corporate owner of tinybeans, a family photo sharing and journaling app.

Red Tricycle is a brand — “a lifestyle brand that fuels the parenting universe with daily inspiration for family fun.” In the “Economics For Business Value Proposition Template,” the Red Tricycle proposition would be:

FOR: Fun Moms

WHO: Search for and utilize ideas for family activities for parents and children to enjoy together.

VALUE PROMISE: A unique daily source of ideas and inspiration for family fun

VALUE RATIONALE: Every day, Red Tricycle finds and presents all the best local and in-home family fun opportunities and makes them easy for Moms to research, evaluate and act.

BENEFIT > COST: In one daily web visit, Moms have easy access to a unique curation of new ideas and inspirations, simply formatted, and requiring a minimum of their precious time.

Jacqui was generous in helping us map her entrepreneurial journey to the stages of the Economics For Business GPS.

Key Takeaways And Actionable Insights.

Imagination

The pre-design phase in which entrepreneurs develop the imaginary construct of their business idea.

Jacqui was a new mom in a new and unfamiliar city. She wanted to identify all the opportunities for fun with her family. She became an avid online searcher. A few conversations with some other moms revealed that many moms are searchers — with intensity and determination and a commitment to find and evaluate all the relevant information in their field of search. The idea of an online one-stop location for information about local family-friendly fun activities was born.

A useful tool for the Imagination phase of entrepreneurship is “Entrepreneurial Empathy”: Download Here.

Design

The phase where a validated imagination is transformed into a more formal business model.

Jacqui capitalized on her existing knowledge field. She knew magazine publishing and the power of content, and how to source it. She knew the advertising revenue model for magazines. She was able to design a crisp business model of content creation, content presentation, consumer engagement, and attractiveness for local and eventually national advertisers.

One of the tools in the Design tool set is the “Means-Ends Chain,” helping entrepreneurs to align their business design with customer values: Download Here.

Assembly

The phase in which design is operationalized by selecting and combining assets: people, technology, content, operating processes.

Assembly for Red Tricycle began with people: content producers, editors, salespeople. Jacqui found investors, initially angel investors, then angel groups, and, later in the business’s evolution, institutional venture capital. In turn investors and investor groups like 500 Startups were very useful in providing connections and recommendations for technology and software resources. Comparisons between different operating models that the investor groups were able to provide were useful guidance in making resource selections.

Consult our “Austrian Capital Theory” tool for capital assembly of resources: Download Here.

Marketing

The phase in which the designed and assembled entrepreneurial offering is presented to the market for consumer consideration.

Red Tricycle adopted a city market-by-market rollout strategy, starting in Seattle, proceeding to San Francisco, then systematically adding more cities. The killer app for market introduction was “Mom Word Of Mouth”. Moms have friends in other cities, and travel between cities, and are excited to share family fun ideas with others. The best sharers were subscribers to the Red Tricycle newsletter, so the brand worked hard to build up a subscriber list.

Red Tricycle KPIs were traffic, subscribers, and revenue. As a result of a system of creating and testing content, Red Tricycle could seed new markets with say 20 or 30 stories that drove good SEO traffic. And then the job was to convert that traffic to subscribers to the newsletter.

Building brand uniqueness is fundamental for the Marketing Phase. Use our “Brand Uniqueness Blueprint”: Download Here.

Customer Experience

The phase of the value learning process in which customers try the offering, experience its benefits, and assess the subjective value.

Red Tricycle designed a very specific customer experience, which Jacqui described as: “Quick, get an idea and inspiration to spend time with your kids, and then go offline and do it, and then come back two days later and do it over and over again.” The model was distinctive in not asking for too much time (“the infinite scroll”). Red Tricycle helped Moms focus on the lighter side of parenting and having fun with their kids.

Social media came into play as an aggregator of subjective value anecdotes. Moms would share a picture of themselves at the zoo and use Red Tricycle’s recommended hashtag, “Best weekend ever.” And not just everyday moms, but even celebrity moms, like Randi Zuckerberg, Pink, Ivanka Trump, sharing that they found a great idea for a campsite or a restaurant. These were subjective value data points.

Facilitate great customer experiences with our VUCA tool: Download Here.

Management and Growth

The phase where the business model is scaled and the marketing and customer experience reach is expanded, with continuous innovation accelerating growth.

The major growth pivots for Red Tricycle were the transition from local to national advertisers, and hiring and assembling and empowering the new team members best suited to lead the way in the new business environment that this entailed.

The goal for the management and growth phase was to roll out multiple local markets, and build a strong foundation of local advertising revenue until Red Tricycle had enough scale to interest national advertisers. The transition was a 5 year process. As Jacqui described it: “We put a plan in place and then we adjusted and adjusted and adjusted.”

A core element of the transition management is hiring. Skilled national advertiser salespeople are expensive, and sometimes it might take a year of that salary before a new salesperson can close a big national deal. There’s a lot of foundational work that needs to be done. Scaling the business was a delicate process. A fully staffed company would have a sales team across the U.S. in every market, but if you can’t afford that, you have to stretch and think, “Can this person sell local and national? Could this person cover Chicago, and L.A.?” And then once you start to get a little bit bigger, and you can hire an L.A. staff, what happens to that Chicago rep?” It’s a constant adjustment.

How does growth feel? “You’re always looking for the next milestone. And you have about a minute after you hit a goal or a milestone to celebrate, and then you run into the next quarter and you have another goal that’s even higher. So it’s a constant stretch.”

“Upsizing a Customer Need” is a useful tool for the Management and Growth Phase: Download Here.

Disposition

When the entrepreneur decides to sell the business, merge it into a larger business and relinquish the founder / owner role, or to turn it over to the next generation.

Selling a business is just as much a marketing task as establishing it and growing it. And that means seeing the business through the eyes of an acquirer — empathic diagnosis of their needs, their preferences, their goals and desires, their constraints.

Jacqui had made the economic calculation that the best path forward was not to raise additional venture capital for continued high growth, but to demonstrate solid and sustainable profitability and look for either a strategic partner or an acquisition partner. She didn’t use a banker (whose process she compared to a dating app) but conducted her own search for a firm that would recognize a complementary asset that could be a marketing engine for them. She found a partner in an adjacent field (family photo sharing) that was strong in technology and would benefit from Red Tricycle’s content creation and sales expertise. The deal was made quite quickly.

Additional Resources

Map of Jacqui Boland’s Entrepreneurial Journey (PDF): Download PDF

eGPS Handbook (PDF): Download PDF

107. Ivan Jankovic: The Special Understanding of Entrepreneurship by Americans of the Austrian School

Austrian economics has always been on the leading edge of innovative thinking applicable to business. Back in the last century, there was a group of American economists of the Austrian school who greatly advanced theories related to subjectivism; that is, the role of human beliefs and preferences, and of the market as a process. Here are some of the insights they gave us about entrepreneurial business.

Download The Episode ResourceEntrepreneurship Drives Markets, Innovation, and Value Generation – Download

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The function of entrepreneurship is the generation of new subjectively perceived value.

These economists got the name The Psychological School, because they understood that value is a function of human feelings, preferences and beliefs. The secrets to the successful pursuit of new value are not found in data and mathematics, but in human motivation.

The activity of entrepreneurs is the development and implementation of value-generation business models.

The twentieth-century economists we talk about on the podcast this week would probably never use the term business model. But their concept of the market as a process governed by subjectivism would embrace this modern term. A business model is a recipe for identifying value potential — an analytical outcome of understanding customer preferences — assembling a value proposition — a creative act of the entrepreneur — and enabling the customer to experience value, some of which can be captured by the entrepreneur via exchange if the business model is well-constructed.

Who are entrepreneurs?

Historically, some economists have debated whether entrepreneurs play the role of managers of the assets and activities of firms, or the role of owners establishing the asset base and purpose of the firm, or the role of capitalists providing the enabling financial capital. From the subjectivist point of view, it’s not a difficult question. Entrepreneurs are those engaged in the business of pursuing and generating new value. They might play one or more roles (manager, owner, capitalist) at different times in the pursuit.

Those in business firms who do not have an entrepreneurial role are the bureaucrats engaged in governance actions with no customer value, imposed by external influencers, usually government.

How do entrepreneurs generate value?

These economists understood the market as a process of individuals interacting to exchange. Therefore, they were able to establish that entrepreneurial value generation is a process and that it can be systematized (which is the essence of our Economics For Business project). A process has a beginning — in this case the identification of value potential, which requires a deep understanding of subjective value) and an end — the facilitation of value to the point where the customer can easily exchange for it, activate it, and experience it. It’s not necessarily linear, rather it’s recursive and dynamic, a continuous creative flow of knowledge gathering and learning and responding via innovation.

How are entrepreneurs compensated?

These economists realized that it represents a poor reflection of real life to identify the compensation of entrepreneurs solely with profit. On the monetary axis, they can just as well be paid in wages or dividends or other forms of monetary compensation. On the non-monetary axis, these subjectivists fully understood the concept of psychic profit: that entrepreneurs can do what they do for their own individually-perceived motivations, including achievement, fulfillment, the reward of serving others, and the purpose and meaning found via the entrepreneurial journey.

 

Additional Resources

Entrepreneurship Drives Markets, Innovation, and Value Generation (PDF): Download Here

Professor Jankovic’s Book, Mengerian Microeconomics: The Forgotten Anglo-American Contribution to the Austrian SchoolBuy on Amazon

The Austrian Business Model (video): https://e4epod.com/model

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

Ready to put Austrian Economics knowledge from the podcast to work for your business? Start your own entrepreneurial journey.

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91. Curt Carlson on Innovation Champions

Austrian economics sees an economy in motion, perpetually renewing itself. Economic agents (firms, customers, investors) constantly change their actions and strategies in response to outcomes they mutually create. This further changes the outcome, which requires them to adjust afresh.

Entrepreneurs live in a world where their beliefs and strategies are constantly being “tested” for survival within an outcome these beliefs and strategies create. It’s complex.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

One of the strategies required in this dynamic system is innovation: the enabling of new value propositions to customers, sustained by new resource combinations, new technologies, new go-to-market capabilities, new channels and new delivery mechanisms.

Innovation has often been characterized as presenting the entrepreneur with an unmanageable level of uncertainty. Curt Carlson challenges this idea and believes innovation can be predictable via the utilization of sound process, captured in his N-A-B-C method, which we explained fully in E4EPod episode #37.

In addition, Curt tells us in episode #91 that the right individuals can strengthen the process by acting as innovation champions. Here are their characteristics.

1. Originate a value proposition.

The route to value starts with a value proposition — accurately identifying a need and developing the appropriately differentiated approach with the right cost structure. Champions are those who can originate innovation projects with an energizing and inspiring proposition. They are customer advocates with creative capabilities. Champions can use Curt’s process map for guidance, or our own “Economics For Business Template” ().

2. Collaborate with a complementary partner.

Innovation is a team game, and it often starts with a partnership of two. Venture capital funds often look for a team of co-founders rather than on brilliant individual. A combination of an engineer and a marketer is a good one, but there are many more. The key is that the partner is complementary: different skills, different experience, same commitment and passion.

3. Build a team over time.

The benefit of complementary skills is not limited to co-founders or co-champions. As an innovation project evolves, the need for more skills and different experiences expands. A champion is able to add complementary skills via new team embers over time, while maintaining team cohesion and integrity.

4. Learn necessary value-facilitation skills.

Recruitment is not the only route to new skills for the team. The champion should be able to recognize skill gaps and fill them via their own learning. For example, mastering the interpretation of qualitative data from customer learning sessions is imperative but not intuitive. Champions work hard at gathering the data (listening and empathy skills) and processing the data (interpretation skills) to project possible future solutions (imagination skills). These new skills are learned over time.

5. Iterate with the team and in larger forums.

It is impossible to predict how an innovation process will proceed, and what twists and turns will be necessary. A champion is able to iterate the understanding of the need, the approach to solving it, the use of technology, and the management of costs. Change is constant not only in the world, but in the innovation project. Iteration can be conducted in the small team, but the champion should also seek larger — perhaps company-wide — forums for sharing and commentary. Everyone’s input counts. Champions don’t become too possessive of their ideas.

6. Champions exhibit enviable human values.

Project teams are often under stress. Deadlines loom, experiments fail, ideas clash. A champion demonstrates human value of trust and respect and integrity that bind teams and projects together. People want to work with champions.

7. Champions take organizational responsibility.

All innovation projects are fraught with risk and uncertainty. Some will fail. Others will take unexpected turns. When the unwanted or unexpected happens, a champion takes responsibility and does not try to deflect blame to exogenous factors. All decisions are subjective, and champions take ownership of their decisions.

8. Champions persevere.

Innovation project timelines can be long. Curt described some that took 10 years or more (like the development of Siri, which eventually became associated with the iPhone4). Despite barriers that might seem insurmountable, and setbacks that might feel humbling, champion s keep going no matter what. They are inspired, and inspirational to others.

9. Champions succeed.

Success is not a behavior or a characteristic, it is an outcome. Nevertheless, with the right process and a good team, champions succeed repeatedly.

In our hyper-competitive world, without a champion success is not possible. The only viable path is to aspire to be the best at what we do. That starts and ends with someone committed to success — a champion.

Additional Resources

Check out Curt Carlson’s HBR article, “Innovation for Impact” (PDF): Click to Download

Curt’s website is PracticeOfInnovation.com. Click on “Innovative Indices” to see how to assess the innovative potential of your firm and projects.

“N-A-B-C Innovation Process” (PDF): Click to Download

“Curt Carlson: There is a Systematic, Repeatable Process to Generate Customer Value”: E4EPod episode #37

83. Clay Miller: An Entrepreneurial Journey to New Lands, New Organizational Designs and New Value

Key Takeaways & Actionable Insights

The entrepreneurial instinct can be sparked in K-12 and around the family dinner table.

An entrepreneurial culture is highly beneficial to society at the global, national, and local level. We should examine how well we nurture the entrepreneurial instinct in K-12 schooling and in the discussions we have with our kids at home.

Clay Miller got a Commodore 64 (you can look it up!) when he was 11 years old, and his interest in computing, software and writing code started there. He was a programmer at 11 years old (something that is more common today than it was when Clay was young) and developed a taste for programming and an aptitude and some skills. He learned how to jump over hurdles of software-writing complexity at a young age.

A mentor can reinforce a young person’s disposition towards entrepreneurship, and accelerate their progress.

A local tech entrepreneur took Clay under his wing and hired him for programming projects. Clay built accounting software and other products in this arrangement as a high school student. Observing and participating in this entrepreneurial environment at an early stage in life gave Clay the idea of entrepreneurship as a future pursuit. He started to take on consulting assignments while at college, although he wouldn’t yet identify tech entrepreneurship as a “career”. He was able to begin to make the transition from pure programmer to customer service entrepreneur. Starting early can influence a lifelong entrepreneurial journey.

There are many ways to accumulate knowledge, and entrepreneurship is a fast track to applicable knowledge.

Clay chose serving customers as a pathway as opposed to continued learning in school and a conventional corporate career path. Both paths are ways to acquire knowledge. Identifying the process you prefer for knowledge acquisition – school or entrepreneurship – is a valid choice. Entrepreneurship may be the quicker and more direct route. And entrepreneurial knowledge is often more applicable, and more rapidly applicable, for your own individual economic ends.

An entrepreneurial leap forward resulted from identifying and supporting a new emergent industry.

Clay took a job as a CTO in an emerging industry; organ and tissue transplants. This enabled him to experience economic growth at a higher level through the application of technology in a high-demand environment. He learned about fundraising and financing and shaping resource allocation based on the funding available. He learned about mass customization for a diverse customer base. He learned the role of the technical advisor vis-à-vis the CEO, enabling the executive suite to achieve its vision. Finding a growth industry can accelerate your individual development.

Transition from tech expert to global customer service entrepreneur.

Clay was initially a user of offshore outsourced technological services. He mastered the economics and logistics of this organizational arrangement. Quickly, he founded his own Asia-based outsourcing corporation, and added a significant innovation: the embedded outsourced CTO. Often, firms use outsourced technology services for the flexibility of dialing up and dialing down service intensity on demand. There is a downside to this flexibility, which is loss of continuity and accumulated knowledge, as contractors move on to other jobs. Clay performs the role of CTO for his clients, ensuring them continuity of strategy, and keeps his outsourced tech talent available in his own ecosystem, so that accumulated client knowledge is not lost and can be reapplied later in the cycle.

Perception-Decision-Action

Clay’s journey can be seen as an illustration of what psychologists call the PDA cycle – Perception, Decision, Action. Entrepreneurs perceive the world around them in a subjective manner, conditioned by their individual circumstances. In Clay’s case, those circumstances included exposure to technology, and some experimentation with it, at an early time in his life. Later, he made some decisions on best choices – e.g. between school and entrepreneurship – based on his perceptions. He acted, became a tech entrepreneur and then a customer service innovator. Every action changes the world, and so changes the entrepreneur’s (and the client’s) perceptions, leading to new decisions and new actions. Entrepreneurial success emerges from the process.

See our PDA graphic to further stimulate your thinking.

You might also enjoy reading this paper from our colleagues Nicolai Foss and Peter Klein on the language of opportunity. They say that opportunities do not exist in any objective fashion. They are not “out there” to be “seized”. Entrepreneurs create their own outcomes. Foss and Klein call their process B-A-R: Belief, Action, Results. See if you think B-A-R is different from P-D-A.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

The Entrepreneur’s PDA Cycle: Download PDF

Foss & Klein’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities, Who Needs Them?: Download The Paper

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): https://e4epod.com/model

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

Ready to put Austrian Economics knowledge from the podcast to work for your business? Start your own entrepreneurial journey.

Enjoying The Podcast? Review, Subscribe & Listen On Your Favorite Platform:

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81. Dr. Keith Smith: The Free Market Medical Association Brings Entrepreneurship to Medical Services

Dr. Keith Smith, co-founder of The Free Medical Association (FMMA.org), is an entrepreneur and free market warrior who is undaunted by the seeming scale of his innovation task: to bring to healthcare the kind of customer experience only entrepreneurial free markets can deliver (see “Pillars of the Free Market Medical Association” PDF).

He is laser-focused on the problem to solve.

(Full episode transcript available here.)

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

The aim is to bring buyers and sellers together.

As Dr. Smith explains, simply stating that there is a need to bring buyers and sellers together is an indication of dysfunction in the market for healthcare. Buyers and sellers talking directly with each other is what makes a market: willing buyer, willing seller, mutually agreed price.

Buyers are patients who care what healthcare costs. Today, they have sticker shock.

Buyers who care about price can be direct-buying individuals, and their proxy buyers, who can include self-funded employer health benefits systems, more and more of which are emerging. Innovations like Health Savings Accounts and high-deductible insurance policies are bringing more direct buying into the market.

Willing sellers should be complete and comprehensive advocates for the patient, across the whole range of their needs, including financial aspects.

The targeted customer experience is for patients to feel confident when they visit a doctor that they have an unapologetic advocate. Today, physicians are medical advocates, but to be a more complete advocate, physicians must think and act like entrepreneurs, bearing some risk in serving their patients. Many say, “I don’t want anything to do with the business side or the money side of medicine.” By doing so, they are abandoning their patients to the financial wolves, many of whom are willing to step in and make a living off the patient. It’s not so much willful neglect of the patient’s interests, as simply caving in to a system that has become extremely difficult to navigate.

A problem in healthcare is the dominant presence of intermediaries between the buyer and the seller.

Dr. Smith described the wide range of intermediaries, cartels and proxies that get in the way of a direct, transparent and mutually beneficial relationship between buyer and seller. Insurance companies are “money handlers and money changers”, keeping healthcare prices high, so they can offer false discounts and skim off the difference. There are brokers and consultants to employers, whom Dr. Smith calls “self-dealing”, who add a layer of costs. There is Big Pharma, the pharmaceutical industry that largely funds the FDA, making it inevitable that the regulator will protect the pharmaceutical companies and their business model and their pricing.

In the end, the “ultimate culprit” is the Federal Government. None of the financial abuse of the patient would be possible “without Uncle Sam riding shotgun for all of this thievery”.

A solution lies in decentralization, disintermediation and the application of Hayekian knowledge theory.

Dr. Smith alluded to F.A. Hayek’s concept of dispersed tacit knowledge in describing the FMMA’s decentralized approach. The Free Market Medical Association establishes local chapters, who follow a small number of “pillars” regarding price and value and mutually beneficial exchange, including equal pricing to all cash buyers of the same service. The chapters are completely free to respond to customer preferences in their own local market. These chapters create new knowledge based on their transactions and experiences in their local market, and can share it with all other chapters.

Austrian principles of decentralization, free exchange without intermediaries, and the recognition of the value-creating dispersed knowledge of patients and entrepreneur-practitioners are Dr. Smith’s starting point.

Free Downloads & Extras From The Episode

Pillars of the Free Market Medical Association: Download PDF

The Free Market Medical Association’s annual conference, “Mission Possible: Healthcare Entrepreneurship as the Antidote to the Broken Healthcare System”: FMMA Annual Conference

“The Austrian Business Model” (video): https://e4epod.com/model

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

Ready to put Austrian Economics knowledge from the podcast to work for your business? Start your own entrepreneurial journey.

Enjoying The Podcast? Review, Subscribe & Listen On Your Favorite Platform:

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65. David Bienstock on the Business of Politics

When we talk about entrepreneurial alertness to opportunity, it can sound pretty vague. What exactly does that mean? How is alertness translated into profitable action?

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

This week’s guest, David Bienstock, provided us with a very precise example. He had just started his media buying services business when a phone call came in. Do you provide service in the category of political advertising? David’s answer was yes. There was no reason for it to be otherwise because there was no information at the time that would indicate any differences between media buying services in the political advertising category compared to the commercial advertising category.

He was able to transfer existing knowledge from his expertise in media buying and placement, and also develop more and more new knowledge. He thereby identified more and more ways in which political advertising was specialized — factors of timing, competitiveness, geography, pricing, regulation, and many more. David built his own island of specialization and became the foremost expert in a burgeoning field.

What can we learn from following David’s entrepreneurial journey?

David Bienstock's Entrepreneurial Journey

1) The alertness we talk about that entrepreneurs display to opportunities can be triggered by the smallest piece of data. For David, it was one phone call. His instantaneously positive and open response led to a long and successful journey.

2) Wherever there is business expenditure there is an opportunity for an entrepreneurial business service. The business we discussed in episode #65 is campaigning — political, public affairs, ballot measures. How much is spent on campaigns? A lot. There’s the opportunity.

3) The best entrepreneurial businesses are often the ones that clients put you into. David’s inbound phone call was a new client stating an unmet need. That’s all the invitation the alert entrepreneur requires.

4) Opportunities, once seized, expand. David has expanded his original business by adding many related services for current clients to utilize, including multi-channel media, market research and analytics. In addition, he has added multiple new businesses in related spaces. He’s been creative, he’s taken action, he’s been constantly looking for new opportunities that are complementary to the first one that he spotted. However small the start, the next steps will quickly become apparent to the entrepreneur who is not only alert to opportunity but also to expansion and growth.

Free Downloads & Extras

“David Bienstock’s Logic Of Customer-Led Growth”: Our Free E4E Knowledge Graphic
Understanding The Mind of The Customer: Our Free E-Book

Start Your Own Entrepreneurial Journey

Ready to put Austrian Economics knowledge from the podcast to work for your business? Start your own entrepreneurial journey.

Enjoying The Podcast? Review, Subscribe & Listen On Your Favorite Platform:

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