Erec Makes A Fire: A Children’s Book About Entrepreneurism

Erec Makes a Fire was successfully funded on Kickstarter! Thanks for all your support.

What is the book about?

Erec Makes a Fire is a story of how a group of kids stumble upon a cave covered in ancient writings depicting the story of how a unique young cave boy (Erec) accidentally created his first great invention, fire. The story shows how, even in the simplest of times, one is able to form a business, sell a product, and create a success. The book is written to subtly embed one of the most fundamental parts of business in a child’s mind: leveraging an opportunity when finding demand in your community and providing a supply for it. Even before cash, computers, technology, LLC formation or business entities, business and entrepreneurs thrived through observation and invention,  and they still do so today. This story helps teach youngsters, and remind their parents, that entrepreneurism is all around us and to keep an eye out for one’s own personal “fire” opportunity.

Why did I write the book?

As a person who loves the world of entrepreneurism, I also love telling a story about how anyone can turn a will or idea into a business. I have enjoyed telling that story, and giving tips on how to do it best, for a number of years through various mediums such as interviews in print, in person, and on TV. Now that more and more of my close friends are having kids I want to share that passion and story through a form that their kids can benefit from. I noticed there wasn’t much out there in the world of children’s books that took business concepts and simplified them into stories kids could love, as well as learn from. So, what else was I to do as an entrepreneur but to fill that void. Erec Makes a Fire is the first in a hopeful series of books that builds a foundation of business mindedness in our children.

Beliefs that inspired

Two major beliefs of mine contributed greatly to the creation of this story: First, immersion is a great key to early developmental learning, and secondly, kids are extremely capable of learning and understanding complex concepts early on, especially when it is told through story and analogy.
In regards to immersion, I believe that even if a child does not understand a concept introduced to them directly, being surrounded by that concept will help them become more comfortable with the subject matter as they mature. This makes the principles taught far less foreign to them, and therefore more easily consumed when they grow up, as compared to those learning the same concepts for the first time later in life.

I also believe that children can grasp complex concepts, like supply and demand or finance, far earlier in their lives than is generally taught today. I have always been amazed at how kids pick up core concepts so deeply. Yet, adults at times “protect them” from complicated concepts for worry of it going over their heads. Supply and demand can have complexities within – yes, but the basics are – well – basic and building stories around those concepts can most definitely be consumed by children. Look how well they understand other stories we give them, like ones around “how to share”, a concept that I find many adults still struggling to grasp. I remember sitting with adults during dinners as a kid while they talked to one another about their businesses around me. Over time and many family diners a grew more familiar with many of the things they talked about while still being a child. Although I was unable to articulate my perspectives on the subjects at the time I mades notes to remind myself that one day, when I got older, I would remember this: kids get more than you think.

Stickers
Sticker Collection Available Through KickStarter

Erec Makes a Fire is a new kind of children’s book that immerses young people in concepts they should be given the chance to understand early in life so that they can have a foundation for understanding it more deeply as they grow up. As such the company under which the book is created is called “Small People. Big Ideas. LLC”

How and When Can I get it?

The first few copies will be made available as gifted items through a fundraising drive on KickStarter. I have my initial proofs and prototypes complete. Based on how much I can raise through KickStarter I am shooting to making it available by the spring of 2015. There will be special gifts given out through KickStarter in addition to the books themselves to make things more interesting, such as: signed copies; custom printed copies; packages including digital, print  version and stickers; as well as custom designs where our artist injects a characterization of your child  into a character in the book! Books will be made available through softcovers, hardcovers, and ebooks.

About Kick Starter:

KickStarter is a crowd funding platform that allows projects to get funded before they start. It is a great way to start a business or project and works perfectly with the Erec Makes A Fire book as the funds are only released if the book gets enough demand. The simplest way to think of KickStarter is this: think of those PBS drives on TV, the “If you pledge more than $50 you get this free tote bag” type of promotions. For a project like mine my gift will be an early copy of the book and other creative unique offers mentioned above that only funders will be able to receive. You can read more about KickStarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics#Kick 

Erg: Erec's first customer as a Sticker
Erg: Erec’s first customer as a Sticker

Why Did you Spell “Erec” with an “e” instead of an “i” ?

The names of the book are witten with some historical significance in mind. Homo Erectus and Homo Ergaster are the scientific names for the two homonids believed to be around during the time period fire was discovered. So, the characters names in the book take each half of each of those names: Erec, and his friend Tus are the first two characters introduced. Followed by his first two customers Erg and Aster. Just in case though, we made sure Eric Makes a Fire works too 😉

Slides of Creative Process

Original Idea Draft
Original Idea Draft

Draft Rewrites
Draft Rewrites

Preliminary Sketches and Character Development
Preliminary Sketches and Character Development

Backdrop Scene Development Sketches
Backdrop Scene Development Sketches

Story Board Final Sketches
Story Board Final Sketches

Final Sketches Converted to Digital
Final Sketches Converted to Digital

Final Layout Colored for Publishing
Final Layout Colored for Publishing
20130211-P1090359
Printed Proofed Books
Sticker (kids) Proofs
Sticker (kids) Proofs

Get in to the cheering section and like us at http://www.facebook.com/ErecMakesaFire, and subscribe to email updates as we neat the big release here (http://signup.erecmakesafire.com)!

Google Maps for iPhone Saves the Day. Thanks Santa!

It’s finally here – Google Maps for iPhone! Seriously, thank god.

The Apple maps has gotten allot of flack, and I try to stay out of the bashing business, but man – it kept shoving the fact that it blows in my face for quite some time and it couldn’t be ignored.

On my iPhone4 the new Google maps movement is a bit choppy, but that could very well be my old device struggling to keep up. The funny thing about this app coming out now before christmas is that I was seriously considering upgraind to Android (as I believe 2013 will be the true shift for Google/Android’s supremacy  , but with this app iPhone5 slipped right back into my option pool. Interesting play Google, interesting play…

 

One thing to observe: My home screen of my iPhone has now gone from Apple maps, mail, and safari to now sporting a Google trifecta of Google Maps, Gmail, and Chrome. All with my user account logged in. It is like Google is slowly creating an unatachable symbotic relationship with my iphone. All the apps from Google listed are a bit choppy but I still made them my primary apps for those functions for two reasons, 1) I am ready for a visual/ux refresh and a hybrid of Apple charm with Google power is satisfying 2) I use Google in every other aspect of my life, so why not one more? I see more of this to come in 2013.

Also, cheers to Google for giving into the mobile app revolution and ending their forced fight to “preserve” the HTML5 movement for the better of us all. The goal is always to make great products, and if HTML5 can do that now – use it, if you are giving up quality – don’t. It’s simple. I am glad they and others like Facebook finally realized how to play the game. Although it is a 6 year delayed reaction I am happy it’s here.

Not the Facts Just the Data: More Google Census Data

I am posting some updates to census stats since, as I said before, the data is there, it’s public and people should be exposed to it without ads or “interpretations” in the middle.

So, here you go:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feedback: The Greatest Movie Evert sold

I just saw Morgan Spurlocks “The Greatest Movie Ever  Sold”

The tight contracts, partner rejections, pitch meetings, cold calls, partnership management, moments of loss of control, brand push back, product placement challenges, and managing the selling of ones sole is depicted with more real reality in this movie than all reality shows on TV today.

I wanted to post this as a blog because I wanted to get your take on it. I feel that Morgan has yet again done a public service by exposing a hidden world in a creative and digestible way.

Here is a wiki on it

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/POM_Wonderful_Presents:_The_Greatest_Movie_Ever_Sold Check it out. For those that don’t know it actually is a pretty transparent view of what raising money, pitching ideas, and getting rejected really feels like. (As apposed to the faux “reality” TV shows trying to recreate reality)

Rotten tomatoes 73% fresh

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/pom_wonderful_presents_the_greatest_movie_ever_sold/

IMDB

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1743720/

The summary of my rabbit hole conversation with big media company and how they see digital vs linear

Them: Linear does not easily show ROI, we are slaves to Neilson and the data isn’t even accurate. – Digital has a definite ROI we can track.

Me: Is getting digital traffic and market appeal your #1 focus then?

Them: No, we don’t drive search and discovery towards digital nearly as much as linear

Me: Why?

Them: Because digital doesn’t make good money

Me: Why?

Them: Digital doesn’t get good value on ads or have enough ad fill compared to linear so there is less money

Me: Why not?

Them: becuase advertiser don’t spend there money on digital

Me: Why not?

Them: because there isn’t enough traffic going there with the right type of viewers?

Me: Do you know why there is a difference in veiwer types or know exactly what types of veiwers are on each?

Them: No.

Me: Do you try to drive the users you do like or want to digital?

Them: No.

Me: Why not?

Them: because there isn’t money there

Me: Is there ad roll in streaming video on digital?

Them: Yes

Me: Can you track ROI and metric/conversions easily in digital?

Them: Yes

Me: What is the retention on digital for vistors to streaming and non streaming video?

Them: Very high

Me: Why don’t you push people toward digital that you have ROI metrics on that you can push?

Them: Becuase there isn’t as much money in digital…

—Start over from top

Funny thing is as I looked at them like they are on crazy pills, they looked at me the same way. I think the next big media company will be one with less to lose so they can open their eyes at taking the necessary risks needed to evolve into the new market. Maybe Yahoo studios?

Use Case: Searching for PMF

Scan.me is great use case for focusing on the right customer, not just the right product.

AND that the product doesn’t *have to* be complicated or new to be wanted.

It just has to be easier to use, and packaged up better then the alternative.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/23/scan-gets-1-7m-from-google-ventures-and-shervin-pishevar-to-make-qr-codes-actually-useful/

 

Steve Jobs in the beginning

Here are a couple videos that show Steve Jobs growing his philosphy, company vision, and product. One comes with a nice narration around his time building Next Computers. It’s a great glimpse into his fundemental beleifs that guided hmthroughthe years. The other is hi giving a lecture of where Apple came from and where it is going.

 

This video narrates Jobs creating Next Computers with the first group of employees at their company retreats.

This video is an early presentation by Jobs from 1980 describing how Apple started, what he sees its affects being, and some interesting insight into what he sees in tech startup potential and the growth of the human race.

Deciding on a new feature: An Insta-Test-market. (AKA: Ghetto Testing)

I love making a decisions tree as efficnet as possible, especial around discussion that steer the business or the product within a business. Or in another words, I HATE “tough decisions.”

Here is another addition to the decision tree to make life easier, it is called “Ghetto Testing” and coined by the founder of Zenga.

How do you figure out if you should go with a feature with minmal disruption to the company or its engineers, and how can you invest in it with the highest posible certainty of success? Ghetto Testing a feature. The concept is there are a wide range of data points you can aquire to guage interest on an idea before the idea is fleshed out. At the “Ghetto” stage, it sint so much a test of the product value or feature set itself, as much of a servey to see if the concept will get clicks or interest by the public. It’s basically an adhoc test market. If you think people will love feature x for instance, create a google adword promoting the vapor-ware concept and run it for 5,10,30 mins.  The resulting page of the ad could technically go to a 404 page, and although that would be a horrible experience it still wouldbe a valid ghetto test.

From there you can invest incrementally into how deep of a gauge you want to testing of the idea i.e. a pretty landing page with feature highlights, a download, or a purchase wall.

http://grattisfaction.com/2010/01/how-zynga-does-customer-development-minimum-viable-product/

 

“Should I add x to my product line?” litmus test

For small startups it is essential to decide what not to do as much as what you decide *to* do. As new technologies come and go, ideas for change could cripple a companies productivity or ability to reach any single objective (AKA Distractions.)

If your objective is to build an awesome product, and work hard at solving a problem that others may not have been able to solve yet, then here is a “is this a distraction right now, or a need for change?”  litmus test for small startups.

Test:

Do I believe we should *only* do [new idea] and grow the company out from from there?

(i.e. stop focusing on the other thing you had previsouly decided was *the* way to grow the company from.)

If you find yourself getting to a strong yes, then the convo to get into the new idea may be ripe for discussion, and it may be time to focus energy on a new strategy and to pool your resources to build a world class product. I’ll go into what you can do to break the new idea down further from there, to see if it makes sense in your business in other ways, in later blogs.

Side notes as to why this problem may often come about:

For one, the grass is always greener. So you need to be carefull when shifting towards an idea that is not on your mind every hour of every day…There will often be different problems, not less, to overcome when you switch.

Second is brain time. The amount you spend on solving a problem has some (not sure yet what amount yet) relation on the lack of time you have spent thinking about the new thing. All the litte details that are reflex knowladge for you for is lost with a new idea and direction.

Analogous Exmaples in life:

For a simplified abstract example, you spend a few hours packing the night before a trip. Last minute the morning of the flight you realize, “Hey, I can just take the smaller bag! How much smarter of me, I can save much space!” So you do.

At the airport you realize that one of the side reasons you wanted the bigger bag was not just to carry more, but to so your friend could but his shoes in it. Damn! You over looked ne of the many small details that led to the dscisoin to pack the big bag in the first place, but the new idea that came to mind, that you took action on in a shorter amount of time, did not allow you to consider all the many reasons why you made the decisions you did the night before.

A more common example: “Ughhh, I left my wallet in my other pants pocket!” You look better, and it’s a good thing too because now you need to find someone to pay for your dinner :p

Closing

You may not be able to avoid these smaller mishaps, but you definitely have the power to minimize disrupting a company by paying attention to these business distractions vs changing directions type decision points.

Remember: A small comapany needsto solve *a* problem, focus on it, and when they get their fit and a few wins the grow into more spaces. Here is a great article on focus as it pertains to Product Market Fit and MVP:

http://www.svproduct.com/mvp-vs-product-vision/

“…But of course that was just the beginning of the product line and not the end.”