What Does Jason Calacanis Say About Nexxgen Media?

February 17, 2008

Now that Nexxgen Media is an official company, the planning phase starts, and that means I need to figure out where to start.  Right now, being a “new media experiment” rather than an organization with an official structure and long-term plan, I’m looking at planning a flexible path for year 1.  I expect there to be plenty of crossroads and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.  Contrary to what the experts say about focusing on revenues, expenses and profits, I’m only interested in following opportunities and seeing where these opportunities lead in terms of revenues, expenses, and ultimately profits.  But how will I move an “experiment” masquerading as a business forward and what kind of feedback can I expect from those I pitch my idea too?  Serial entrepreneur Jason Calcanis, founder of the human-powered search engine Mahalo, gave me some ideas via Startup Handbook: How to identify and deal with the slow masses, knowledgeable skeptics, and savvy dreamers.

As Calacanis would know well, every founder with an innovative idea or business model faces convincing the “pitchees” that an impossibly ridiculous idea is in fact completely logical and brilliant.  In the course of year 1, Calacanis says all founders can expect to encounter three different types of “pitchees”: the slow masses, the knowledgeable skeptics, and the savvy dreamers.

70% of those founders can expect to meet would be categorized into the slow masses.  Because the slow masses account for the majority of people in society, don’t expect them to be innovative or understand innovation until it is very near mainstream or mainstream.  Calacanis says that the slow masses typically work three levels below those that are innovative, so most likely they have run-of-the-mill jobs, nothing particularly interesting.  This group doesn’t tend toward the entrepreneurial and tends to think innovation is last year’s trends.  Your grandmother will probably land squarely in the slow masses.

20% of those a founder can expect to encounter in year 1’s “striving to make others understand” populate a group Calacanis calls the knowledgeable skeptics.  You can expect that the knowledgeable skeptics will understand the fundamentals of your brilliantly innovative idea, but their lack of vision will have them convinced it’ll never work.  Hence the label knowledgeable skeptic.  Of course, since you are working with an innovative idea that somehow must eventually appeal to enough people to be successful, you may very well fail.  The knowledgeable skeptics may have the entrepreneurial gene, but they won’t tend to be outstanding.  Think the “mom and pop” types.  Calacanis says that their skepticism often stems from their low self-esteem and image issues, but their very skepticism is an advantage for you.  Listen to this group as they poke all kinds of holes in your plan, because holes you never noticed before may be the ones you need to fill to be a success.

The final 10% are the savvy dreamers.  This is my favorite group because I’m a dreamer myself, though it’s much too early to say if I’m savvy or not.  The savvy dreamers tend to be those that are the most successful, but their tendency toward risk means as a group their failure rate is probably the highest of the three groups.  The other groups credit the savvy dreamer’s success to luck, probably partially true, but this group’s vision means they will actually see your idea as the brilliant one it is.  No challenge or obstacle is insurmountable to the savvy dreamer.  Calacanis says that from this group, it’s important to involve people in your young business.  They create a positive, electric atmosphere and are filled with all kinds of interesting ideas that may play an important part in moving your startup forward.  While it may be tempting to spend all your time with the savvy dreamers, it’s important you don’t.

Like everything else in life, savvy dreamers are optimal in moderation.  They need to be balanced by the steadiness of the slow masses, and the logic and reasoning of the skeptics.  Thanks Jason, you’ve taught the founder of Nexxgen Media his first official lesson.  But since Nexxgen Media is in its planning stages, I’m looking for the savvy new media dreamers out there.  Email me!


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