Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An update on Member:Ship and New York

A short while ago Yellow Yellow launched Member:Ship our person-to-person membership card sharing scheme that allows anyone to rent out their membership of, say, a museum or gallery to a stranger. The person renting access to the museum or gallery gets deeply discounted entry and the person renting recoups the cost of their membership.

In that post we anticipated that some of the old world thinking prevalent in industries (like museums and galleries), that are literally stuck in the past, might clash with the way the world works today. Old 'laws' and 'contracts' tend to clash with the new way of doing things.

We were shocked to learn that the Museum of Modern Art in New York had the gall to create fake profiles on Member:Ship pretending to be legitimate card renters. They used those profiles to rent cards from MoMA members and then, having got the names of the MoMA members using Member:Ship, cancelled their membership for 'breach of contract'.

At Yellow Yellow we condemn this underhand behavior. To make up for it we have bought new MoMA memberships for all those listers affected and introduced a new photo-id requirements for renters. Anyone wishing to rent someone else's membership card must now upload a government-issued photo-id to prove that they are who they say they are before renting someone else's membership card to surreptitiously use.

But truth be told we love MoMA and museums and galleries. We never set out to hurt them and so we commissioned a survey of museum revenue to understand the interplay between membership and other spending in museums.

Here's what we found.

Museum members spend more in museum shops and restaurants the people who pay for tickets. So, in fact, Member:Ship is actually better for museums than asking people to pay an entry fee. By bringing more people in the door of MoMA (and elsewhere) we are increasing spending inside the museums themselves. A win for everyone. Sure, the museum is missing out on the entry fee, but we believe they'll find that over 5 years they are making up for that by selling trinkets and sandwiches. And that Member:Ship will drive innovation in those areas.

And another thing.

We truly believe at Yellow Yellow that Member:Ship will be a force for cultural change and exchange. Where visitors to New York (and elsewhere) might be put off by the entry fee to MoMA etc.,. with Member:Ship they'll visit them all and see the wonderful cultural offerings that New York has ready to serve up. We'll literally be making the world a better place... one visitor at a time.

To bring that point home, I met with the Executive Vice President of MoMA Membership to discuss how Member:Ship could work with MoMA. She was obviously concerned about what we were doing and I took the time (about two hours) to fully explain our business model and how it helps MoMA with vital 'foot traffic'. She replied by describing me as a 'lamprey' (where do these people find these words?).

After Googling on my iPhone 5s I realized that she thought of Yellow Yellow as a parasitic eel that bores into the flesh of fish and sucks their blood. I replied that we were "Way more than a parasite". Yellow Yellow is more like those birds that eat the food between the teeth of hippos. Sure they're parasites, but they're performing a service for the hippos and making their lives (or at least their teeth which is just as important) way better.

For some reason, she didn't like MoMA being compared to a hippo and we agreed to disagree.

On reflection, we've decided to introduce two new Member:Ship services to show how much we care about the museum, gallery and other stuff sector: Give:Back and Private:Label.

With Give:Back we'll be returning 10% of all profits made on membership card rental to the museum, gallery or other thing involved. We expect to start giving back in about 2024 when Yellow Yellow becomes profitable.

Until then there's Private:Label which allows any museum or gallery (or whatever) to sign up for a private Member:Ship site and take control of the exchange of their membership cards. Yellow Yellow will share rental revenue with the museum in a 70:30 split (a generous 30% for the museum) so that each rental transaction helps the museum itself. Museums interested in joining Private:Label should call our Enterprise Major Account Line to discuss their specific needs and our sign up fee pricing (starts at $10,000 a month for smaller institutions).

Brad Bradstone
Museum Lover
NYC Resident
(CEO Yellow Yellow)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Yellow Yellow launches Member:Ship

Ever since I launched Yellow Yellow we've been taking the 'double stealth' motto into our hearts and making sure that both the competition and ourselves were in a state of confusion. But as some wise man said "confusion now hath made his masterpiece".

We've spent the last two years pivoting so hard that at times we had motion sickness, but, with a little help from metoclopramide, the Yellow Yellow thinkubator is now ready to release its first non-beta product: Member:Ship.

Prior to Member:Ship we had been in private beta with StormInADCup, an application that matched people who wanted breast enlargements with those who wanted breast reductions. The idea was that, for a small fee, Yellow Yellow would find a matching implant donor saving women a large amount of money on buying newly manufactured implants.

It turns out that there's a ton of regulation around medical procedures, and women weren't as accepting of the idea as myself, Tim and Michael had imagined.

But we learnt two things from that experience: there's a lot of money 'doing nothing' (i.e. taking a fee for linking people up but not actually performing any real-world effort) and there are a lot of 'regulations' that need disrupting.

Which brings me to Member:Ship.

Cassiopeia and I have a membership of the New York Museum of Modern Art which costs $140 a year. But here's the catch: only the two of us can use it. But there are a ton of visitors to New York paying $25 each to visit MoMA. What if they could use our membership (for a small fee)? We'd get to maximize our investment and they'd get discounted entry to MoMA.

And that's how Member:Ship was born. It's a peer-to-peer exchange for sharing expensive memberships. Here's how it works.

Suppose you have a membership for the Guggenheim Museum which you use a few times a year. The rest of the time the membership lies idle. Now suppose Luigi and Gina are visiting New York from Rome and want to visit the museum but can't afford the $18 entrance fee.

Member:Ship to the rescue.

You offer your Guggenheim membership card for rental on a weekly basis for a small fee (say $10). Now Luigi and Gina get to visit the Guggenheim for a steep discount and Yellow Yellow takes a small transaction fee (10% + $2.50). Just think how fast your membership would be paid for? All you do is ship the membership cards to them and they ship them back when they're done.

Now, I can hear some naysayers harping on about 'terms and conditions', 'fraud', 'non-transferrable', and 'breach of contract'. When I hear that I just hear the sclerotic past crying out to be disrupted. There's a market for membership cards, people, and Yellow Yellow intends to be a player. Just because layers of regulations have built up like congealed lava doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

And the best part: we're not actually responsible for those legal troubles because we're an intermediary. We just take a cut of the transaction and it's up to Member:Ship listers to check the small print on their contracts. And we make that very clear to everyone who signs up in section 78 of our terms and conditions.

We believe that the world-wide membership card marketplace is worth close to $28B annually, but there's a catch. Some membership cards include photographs of the people who bought them. That's where our patent pending DoppleGanger technology comes into play.

Everyone using Member:Ship has to upload a photograph of themselves, both listers and renters. DoppleGanger uses advanced facial and hair recognition to match a renter with a membership card that is owned by someone who looks similar.

There's deep technology and a new marketplace in Member:Ship.

Sign up today for the low, low membership fee of $25.

Friday, July 4, 2014

My six months of eating Swill

How much time per week do you spend grocery shopping, cooking food, buying food, or even just eating? How much time does someone in the third-world spend doing the same? Answer: a lot. And that's a lot of time wasted on what is nothing more than refueling.

As the CEO of a successful startup I don't have time to sleep (let alone eat) and so I'm always looking for ways to optimize my day. About a year ago I first heard rumors of a way to eliminate all the wasteful time spent on personal refueling using a new product called Swill.

Swill is a 100% Total Meal Replacement Drink that contains everything the body needs in a convenient powder form that is simply mixed with water to make an appetizing gray drink. For the last six months I've been FoodFree by drinking only Swill three times a day.

Just look at the data, I've got low cholesterol, low body fat and I've lost 20 pounds. The combination of Swill and my Treadwater Desk has made a huge difference to my life.

Now, some people might be put off by the name Swill because of the connection with the traditional method of feeding pigs from a groundup mixture of food scraps that are turned into a liquid diet. But that's the genius of the Swill brand. Ever taste bacon? Isn't it good? Yep, well bacon comes from pigs fed on their own version of Swill.

It's also an anti-brand. At first it seems off-putting (like Uggs boots) but after a while you get used to saying "All I eat is Swill" and you realize that the laughter of those around you is hollow. The hollow sound of people who still chew their food.

Chewing's bad. You can't talk and chew at the same time otherwise food (remember that stuff?) falls out of your mouth onto your iPad Air. But with Swill I just suck on the straw, swallow and keep Skyping.

Sure, as a pioneer I run some risks and the long term effects are likely unknown. But you can't trust scientists on this because look at the mess they've made of dietary knowledge (oh, it's sugar that's bad for you now, not fat?!?). That's why I'm happy that Swill has been created by people outside the Food Industrial Complex.

There have been some noticeable side effects in the short term, but side effects are just proof that you're pushing the envelope and stepping outside the No Danger Zone. As an entrepreneur you only make progress by taking risks.

For me the side effects have been: excessive flatulence and loose teeth. The former is no big deal as I work from home and I've mostly cured it by making my Swill with biolive yogurt to keep the old intestine in ship shape.

As for loose teeth, well that comes from not chewing. And I've optimized that away using Swill Gum. This new product from Swill replaces all the useless 'chewing food' with 'targeted chewing'. When I'm working out in the gym I use the SwillApp to target each chew-zone in my mouth. After an hour of lifting weights and masticating, my muscles and teeth are pumped up.

It's worth mentioning that there's a correlation between the time people spend eating and their productivity. An inverse one. Just look at those long lazy lunch countries like France and Italy. Where are they on the list of awesome iApp producers? Nowhere. I don't think you'd see the French inventing Yo.

Swill's the future. And I've started to introduce it to people I meet with. Instead of asking people to 'do lunch' I now say 'Let's talk it through over a trough' and offer them their own Swill cup. Believe me, those meetings are way shorter and way more focused then a traditional chewing-laden business lunch.

No chewing, no conversation pauses, just two-way information flow. Thanks, Swill!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Treadwater Desk

If you're the CEO of company, like me, you do a lot of sitting and talking. And all the evidence points to sitting being a disaster health-wise. As a father it's my responsibility to take care of my health over the long term so that my kids, Dagwood and Spaniel, have their father around for a long time. Sure, they don't see much of me because I'm building Yellow Yellow, but I want to be there when we can all enjoy the fruits of my labors.

So, I looked into the current fads running through Silicon Valley. NoSitting has displaced NoSQL as the current buzzword and there are two current solutions: standing up and walking.

At Yellow Yellow we like to blaze our own trail and in NoSitting we're no exception. But rather than standing up all day (which kills your legs and leads to varicose veins---a major problem if you plan on spending your retirement years in the Caribbean on the beach) or walking on a treadmill (which causes wear and tear on your ankles, knees and hips) I've come up with a far better solution.

The Treadwater Desk.

In our basement we had a disused well from back before our brownstone had municipal water. It didn't take much to fill the well with water and a bit of carpentry later and I had my laptop and an Apple Magic Mouse (wrapped in Saran wrap).

Now my day starts by changing into a suit (in this case a wet suit) and plunging into the chilly waters of my treadwater desk. That blast of icy water is better than any espresso from the Daily Grind and really gets me in the mood for work. Also, the vasoconstriction of most of my body means more blood for my brain to keep Yellow Yellow running.

Then it's treading water while Skyping with my team. I've found that using Siri I can dictate emails without a problem and the Magic Mouse is working well.

And let's face it, we all came from the sea originally and so treading water is natural for us all. It's also aerobic and far easier on the joints than walking. It's also a full body workout. Rather than just working on my legs I get every muscle moving. And the health benefits of that are well known.

It's also a metaphor for what it's like to be a startup CEO: I'm literally keeping my head above water all day long and if I don't keep making an effort I (and Yellow Yellow) would go under.

Finally, I'm planning to add Epsom salts to the water to increase buoyancy and help keep my skin in tip top condition.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Brad's ToBe List

A lot of people spend time making ToDo lists. ToDo lists are a fools errand, they're nothing but a measurable, actionable list of tasks. People mindlessly checking off tasks completed think they are working to some great future result, but what are they really doing? They're marking time; a steady drum beat of 'done!' onwards to the grave.

What you should be making is a ToBe list.

A ToBe list is a list of people to be in the future. It's a true list of goals, not a list of items to be checked off, but a list of vague, fluffy, unmeasurable states of mind and body. The beauty of a ToBe list is you never check things off, you never need an iPhone app to measure them. In fact, you never 'do' anything.

Brad's ToBe list has the following on it.


1. A great father

2. A loving, caring, thoughtful husband

3. A mensch

And that's it. Three little things that guide my every day. Personally, I wear three rubber bracelets inscribed with the words: father, husband, mensch.

That way I never forget who I want ToBe.

Cassiopeia says I'll never be any of the three, but that doesn't stop me turning up every day and working towards those goals.

Who do you want ToBe?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Daily Grind tries a Groupon

My local coffee shop, The Daily Grind, is run by a wise and down-to-earth Italian immigrant named Gino who moved to the US from his native Naples. He makes, hands down, the best coffee in the world. Not the watery buckets of soup offered by chain of so-called coffee shops like Starbucks, but real Italian expresso and cappuccino.

The other week his coffee shop was, unusually, packed with people and I get a chance to ask Gino about this fortunate change in his business the next day.

"Hey, Gino, my man, what's happening? Crazy busy, yesterday!", I said.

Gino looked at the floor and said quietly, "I tried a Groupon".

"High five, dude, that's awesome"

"No, it's not", he replied, "my entire coffee shop has been filled with needy, entitled morons who couldn't distinguish espresso from Nespresso. One of them even asked me for 'creamer'".

He continued, "I should never have given in to the guy on the phone".

"What guy?", I asked.

"Groupon. They kept calling me telling me how 'great it would be for my business' to 'work with them'. How easy it was to 'offer a Groupon'. How it wouldn't cost me much to 'grow my business'. I kept ignoring them, but they kept calling. Then the calls stopped."

"Go on", I said.

"And one day a guy walks into The Daily Grind. Never seen him before. He buys a coffee and spills a bit on his way out. Just before he leaves he says: 'You guys should totally try a Groupon'. I got the message. I grew up in Naples. I know how this stuff goes".

I was baffled, and then it dawned on me, "Are you talking about the Mafia?"

Gino went white and made a strangled sound in his throat that sounded like 'yelp'. When he'd recovered  he continued, "We never say that. Never. Not as a joke."

"OK, I'm sorry", I lied. "But weren't all those idiots good for business?"

"I doubt it", he replied, "and, after all, I've already got plenty of dumb customers as it is. Come te."

I just smiled and walked out with the venti cappuccino Gino makes just for me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Some advice for Marissa Mayer

I cannot believe I didn't get a call about the CEO position at Yahoo. Seriously, if anyone knows how to raise a brand from the dead it's me. Just ask the owner of The Daily Grind, my local coffee shop, and how my social media savvy saved him from the disaster that was a Groupon. I'll leave that story for another day.

But given that I've been temporarily overlooked I'll serve up my Bradstone Wisdom (pronounced wiz-dome) here for MM to read.

Do you know what Yahoo's greatest strength is? I'll tell you what it is.

Yahoo's greatest strength is that no one, not the company, not the press, not the public, knows what Yahoo does.

It's literally putty in MM's hands.

Is it a social network? Search engine? Email provider? Photo sharing site? No one knows.

And Yahoo's greatest asset? Its users. The millions who still use Yahoo are literally people who've had years to use other sites and haven't. They could have changed to any other site on the web, but they huddle together, a mass of terrified pawns scared to try anything new.

And right there is the secret of Yahoo's future success. It needs to learn the lesson of history and look to the greatest of all online brands for inspiration: AOL. It needs to play on the fears of its users and make YOL the one place the go.

If I were CEO I'd kill the deal with Bing and cut Yahoo's links to the web. Whenever a user finds something on the web outside Yahoo and clicks through, YOL should flash up a warning that leaving the safety of Yahoo puts their users at risk of viruses, scams and worse.

Also kill off any innovation. YOL needs to be the Walmart of the Web. Its customers should go to it and only it for everything. Drop all that money spent on clever stuff like YUI.

And then six months in hit the user base with the revenue plan. YOL goes subscription only. $5 a month for peace of mind.

Think about it! Where's the competition? Literally no one else is going to go the one stop, closed ecosystem route. No one.

This would be YOL's "Apple Store" moment. Just when everyone thought retail was dead Apple saved it. And YOL can do the same for closed, proprietary systems.

They're literally the last hope. Even Microsoft has embraced the web.