Geek Stuff

Sony 7506 Ski Helmet Mod

Updated: Of course 3 minutes after hitting publish I realize the better headline is “Audiophile Ski Helmet.”

It’s so funny that I have a post today, almost exactly one year from my last one! Of course the last one was that I had finished the book project so that’s a pretty decent excuse to stop writing but that’s not the case, it’s just that the blogging I’ve done has been over at my work site – Trust Insights. For martech folks check out this series on lead scoring, attribution, and machine learning for attribution!

Longtime readers know that I’m a huge fan of the Sony 7506 headphones, and I mod them for podcasting and webinars with a removable mic – the ubergeek special Johnny Headphones.

This winter I decided that I wanted to upgrade from my Bose Sport Headphones and started looking into other options. Taking sport headphones in and out is a hassle and I wanted to see if I could get both better sound and less isolation (being able to hear what was going on around me better) as I’m chaperoning my kids and a couple others after lesson time is over and I need to know who is yelling, and more importantly why.

I was new to helmets when I came back to skiing 4 years ago after only going out a handful of times over the past 15 years. At first I thought I would hate them as it’s a lot like motorcycle riding, although it’s moronic in terms of risk management there’s nothing like the wind coming at you high speed to feel like you’re truly free.

What I was not expecting is that the helmet is the perfect combination of super warm, and yet still with enough ventilation to stay comfortable. I was not expecting a helmet to be warmer and more comfortable than any ski hat I’ve ever had. I’ve had a ton of hats and the very best, I would charitably rate as half comfortable. And projecting my skull from impact is a wonderful side benefit.

After a bit of researching I learned that many ski helmets, like the Boeri I got a great deal on at the local ski sale, are made with velcro pockets over each ear so that you can drop in a speaker solution like these Alta Wireless Bluetooth Helmet Drop in Speaker Chips:

As you can see it’s pretty simple, just drop them in and go.

But, in the process of learning how to mod the 7506 I had a bunch of parts lying around and decided to build my own. There were three benefits to this: first I prefer wired, while bluetooth no wires is a wonderful thing, the freedom is offset by even one day of arriving at the mountain and realizing I forgot to charge my helmet. Second I was pretty sure I could do better sound wise than anything else out there, and so far I haven’t tried anything better (although there is a helmet that has a perfect cutaway so that it includes a real full set of over ears with headband, but I wasn’t about to go that route because of reason three – I already had the parts so this was “free.” It as pretty straightforward:

  • Take apart the 7506s with Phillips head screwdriver
  • Cut all wires, leaving enough for me to see which color goes where (note that the left side that has the jack has 3 points to solder to while the right only has two)
  • Use the Dremel cutter to cut around the plastic plate that holds the driver, and then the Dremel grinder to take off all the rough edges
  • I had an old patch cord that I soldered to both to connect the left to the right driver. The cord fits between the styrofoam and the outer plastic shell of the headphone so it’s completely out of sight running around the back of my head.
  • Plastic twist ties are perfect for securing the cables to the plastic driver plates after soldering, cut the plate leaving pairs of holes that you can run the plastic twist ties through to bind down the cables so they don’t move (cable 1 connecting left to right, cable 2 long enough to run down to my jacket pocket and terminating with a 3.5mm tip which plugs into my iPhone 6 (until next week when my iPhone X arrives!!!)
  • Note that many ski jackets have a loop along side the zipper for cord management and may also have a button hole so you can run the cord into the pocket from the inside. I have both so even though I went all fancy with a Neon Lime cord, you can’t see it at all if I have my jacket zipped all the way up so that it covers the bottom of the helmet ear pads.
  • This bullet and the next two are critical for sound quality – I used another twist tie to connect the driver plate to the ear cushion that attaches to the ear flap. I tried just having it float in the pocket but sound quality can vary dramatically if it moves too high, anchoring it with the twist tie solves this (and be sure the driver is facing into your ear, not out, that was a moronic mistake I made once.
  • Because the 7506 are closed back headphones I found out that by adding a Beyerdynamic driver cover (a piece of foam with velour on one side that normally covers the driver to protect it from your greasy ears) not over the driver but behind it to reduce the amount that bleeds outside the ear flap dramatically increased the sound quality. At this point in the testing I started smiling as the sound quality was fantastic.
  • The third improvement was learned by testing – having the chin strap connected and tight is critical, the better the seal on the ear flaps the better the bass, so much so that if it’s snug the whole helmet will bounce a bit when you his some big bass.

I also covered the solder points with electric tape to reduce the risk of shorting out in case it gets wet, or catching fire against the foam. With that said, if you are going to try this at all let me be clear:

You are violating your warranty, odds are it will light on fire, short out and destroy the headphones and probably kill you. I’m straight up telling you that in no way should you try this, if you are crazy enough to still try remember that I told you it would never work and best case scenario is you dying quickly.

With the disclaimer done here’s some photos:

Driver soldered, cables secured and covered up
Finished project

One last thing, using your phone or the normal buttons on the average headphone cable is mostly impossible. While searching I came across Chubby Buttons – a bluetooth controller for your music (and the watch battery lasts a season, no recharging.) It’s not cheap, around $60 but it is fantastic, I highly recommend:

Chubby Buttons

Ok, start building some playlists!


After field testing I thought the sound was only ok. Then this year I added the EarStudio ES100. It’s a Bluetooth Adapter, you can plug in any wired headphone and now it’s Bluetooth. The big win here is that it also has a full EQ app. So while the sound used to be pretty thin (unsurprising make a closed back headphone open back) as soon as I switch the EQ to the setting I use to make earbuds sound better it was fantastic. I can now recommend this rig whole heartedly.

Also one other update, Chubby Buttons 2 have been released. Same link, same thing but you can now access smart assistants so no more pulling out the phone to read text messages. I’ll update when it gets here!

Productivity Booster

The Marketing Over Coffee Playbook!

I’m very happy to announce that the Marketing Over Coffee playbook is now available!

For everyone familiar with the show the book will be no surprise – quick and easy to understand segments on everything going on at the intersection of marketing and technology.

It’s available on Amazon here. Or you can get more details on the landing page.

This is my second book and (hopefully) a lot more mainstream business than B2B Marketing Confessions. I have to thank Editor Carol for all her work on this project, it could not have come together without her.


Panoramic Photos

My friend Ron took these last year and I was trying them out on different platforms and VR headsets. The files were originally up on Facebook, which has no interest in you linking to them from the outside web, so I’m posting them here so they’re easier to get to.

These shots are from Bonnie Lea Farm, if you’re ever out in the Berkshires looking to learn horse riding, it’s the place to go.

Daily Life

Our Community

Jeremiah Owyang had a post asking why tech has not solved homelessness in the bay area. The obvious snark that’s far below me would be “Yeah, that’s shocking, tech people having difficulty handling social situations.” I know, here I am talking about compassionate stuff and opening being a mean jerk. It’s still funny.

It’s cliche (but still true) to say there’s no easy answer, but there are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about (and I try to write up the lessons of the week as #FriLearningGarry encouraged me to do this).

One problem is that homelessness is a bundle of many things. People having economic difficulty are a different problem than those with mental illnesses, substance abuse is another massive issue. AND, these are not mutually exclusive and a cover a wide spectrum from a little trouble to hazardous. Everybody I know that’s spent time on Market Street has a story about somebody doing something crazy and threatening others. I’ve seen law enforcement struggle with maintaining everyone’s safety and rights, doing all they can to negotiate with the irrational. I can’t give them enough credit for dealing with that daily.

Our country was created as a land of opportunity – you have a chance to go out and get it. I used to think that now a small amount of people have most of it. Having done more research, it’s been that way for most of human civilization, this is not new. I used to think that putting more effort into “helping the poor” was the answer. This divides us and it creates a real problem at the dividing line. The democratic party got a rude awakening this election from voters in the middle class that weren’t excited about paying more to make healthcare more affordable for others.

Maybe it’s not about “the poor” but trying to find a way to make food, shelter, medical care and taking responsibility for others part of who we are. And you can help, there’s no reason to wait for an ambitious government official to figure it out.


Things that guide my opinions: HandUp is has been trying interesting things. The Guardian on the homeless offered trips out of town. Our local food pantry.

Notes: Searching for “FriLearning” in twitter brings them up in chronological, searching on #FriLearning orders them some other way.

Productivity Booster

Not Being A Trade Show Zombie

This was a post that I had done for another company as part of a campaign. For some reason I can’t remember, we didn’t end up doing business with them. After sitting in my drafts folder for a couple of years I thought I’d throw it out there are this week’s #FriLearning  Enjoy your weekend!
Here’s how to fail at trade shows:
  1. Set up your “Professional” looking booth
  2. Show up at the show and hope to find some leads
  3. Bring home some business cards
  4. Maybe close a deal or two

What about the winners?

They Get Seen. When people are walking the show floor there are two states of mind – The Beta state is the normal zombie state of anybody walking the streets. Not really paying attention to anything, having that normal monologue going on in their head. Alpha state is when you snap somebody out of Beta and they are paying direct attention. They are talking to someone, reading something – they are now fully focused and not paying attention to everything else going on around them. Step one to winning – get them to Alpha. As far as the booth is concerned, looking “Professional” is code for “Unremarkable” and a recipe to fail. Work with your marketing team to create a remarkable booth, shocking, offbeat, casual, whatever as long as it doesn’t look like everyone else on the row. Two easy tricks – hire a chair massage, or just pay the extra $100 for super thick floor padding for those shows where everybody has to walk 5 miles of show floor a day.

Signage is important, do what you can within your budget, but optimum would be huge overhead that can be seen anywhere on the floor. A masthead that can be read on the whole aisle. The key here is to keep getting the text smaller as you go lower to literally pull people into your booth.

They Have A Hook. What makes them remarkable also connects to their story. “Sure, you can have a 5 minute shoulder rub, c’mon over here. We’ve been working with this spa for 3 years handling all their accounting, do you get help with your accounting?” Yes. Even an accountant can have a remarkable booth and story.

They Have Appointments Set. The 3 months before the show is where the winners are determined. Winning organizations already have a list of appointments and even a few deals in the pipe before their plane lands in town. These players know that the show will pay for itself before the booth is set up. Don’t be afraid to outsource appointment setting, use a calling automation tool, or a virtual assistant to both set appointments and monitor social media to filter through attendees who are mentioning the show beforehand to determine who might be a prospect.

They Do Biz Dev. For shows where you don’t get the attendee list, find two or three exhibitors with complimentary products and either trade leads or band together and do a follow up event like a webinar that you can all use as opportunity to contact your leads. I’ve found that these leads from other exhibitors to perform even better than leads that visited the booth at many events.
Their Giveaways Generate Traffic. Don’t make the mistake everyone makes of pens, candy or other “From the Far East to the Landfill” giveaways (stress ball anyone?) Give away something $50+ but only to qualified leads. Somebody who can buy your six-figure business intelligence software? Yeah, that’s worth some Bose Headphones if they’re willing to take 10 minutes to check it out on the floor. Wait and see how many people will line up for a Bluetooth travel speaker. Have some candy around for those who don’t qualify…
They Don’t Take No For An Answer. What if you don’t have the six-figure budget for that huge event? Be a Lobby Rat, invite a prospect for a drink after the sessions at the hotel across the street. Suitcase it – sign up for the free expo badge and meet a prospect after one of the big keynotes. Outboarding is also another effective tactic – instead of a $10,000 4×4 booth you could take 5 prospects for the finest steak in town that night for a legendary event.
Best of luck at your next event!
Brain Buster

Computers Will Not Be Misled By The Media

A couple of weeks ago our local news led with a story of a car crashing into a crowd in Austrailia.

400 Years ago a village 20 miles away from me could get wiped out by disease and I’d never even hear about it. Now a car crash on the other side of the globe is considered newsworthy. What about the 3 billion people between me and Austrailia?

Most of the world runs smoothly. Just because every time the evening news comes on it’s shootings, drug deals and disaster, that’s not what most of the world is like.

This week’s #FriLearning:


Using the Audio Tag

I wanted to test out the HTML 5 audio tag. Up until now I’ve been using the LibSyn media player over at Marketing Over Coffee but if native support is now widespread enough I might switch to reduce the loading time for the page and this is a good place for me to take it for a test run.

Here’s a few of Marketing Over Coffee Greatest Hits!

Simon Sinek – with Controls!

Gabriel Weinberg with simple audio playback

Ugh, nobody wants Autoplay

Tom Webster

Daily Life

Trial and Error

Trial and Error sounds so clean, so clinical. Picking yourself up off the ground for the 10,000th time requires a lot more soul than just “starting the next trial”. In many ways I rate this blog as a failure (which sounds much more imposing than “an error”) having not taken the advice many successful bloggers did take of “think of it as working on a book, not a diary.”

But, I like having a bit of my own writing out there that’s fun for me. It may not be a big crowd, but if you do read this, you’re probably into many of the same things I am and I’m happier to have a few kindred spirits reading about things they want to, rather than feeling like I have to post something here seven times a day to “feed the beast”.

So, I’ll ignore the trial and error results and let’s get back to the diary! What’s going on that has kept me away from posting about audio or Christmas Tree ornaments here?

I’m working on a great project called Stack & Flow with Sean Zinsmeister of Infer. Sean’s opened up his rolodex to get Sales and Marketing leaders to talk about the sales and marketing technologies they are using to drive results. It’s just been fun to find a place for Marketing Ops people in the podcasting world.

Marketing Over Coffee has been growing like crazy thanks to all the excitement around podcasting. We’ve decided to launch our first events for listeners to work together in groups limited to 10 people. I’m hoping we get to take it on the road as our audience has grown to around 50% outside of the US which opens up the chance for some foreign travel which would be fantastic.

EventHero continues to grow, doing badging, lead retrieval and session tracking. We’ve been doing a bunch of the Dreaming’ events which keeps me in touch with what’s happening on the SFDC front. It’s always a thrill for me to see the app in action. I’m thankful for the privilege and trust of my co-workers.

The kids are off for the summer and doing a few weeks at camp, and in my spare time I’ve been helping Carin remodel 5 apartments. Currently working on bathroom 4 of 5 so I can’t wait for that to finish, not that it means I’ll have any free time…

I hope your summer has been relaxing, or at least fun!


Brain Buster

Seth Godin at Sales Machine 2016

This is the transcript of an interview I did this summer at Sales Machine 2016. You can listen to the audio of Seth Godin on Marketing Over Coffee.

John: Today, we have a special guest. He’s the author of over a dozen bestselling books. He’s been on the show many times, and I’m very excited to have him with us here today at Sales Machine in New York City.

Seth Godin, thanks for talking to us.

Seth:  What a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

John:  You’re here to talk to this audience about your latest book. In fact, it’s been about a year and a half since we talked to you last. How has the book done? I’ve actually heard you say that you love it more now than when you put it out.

Seth:  Yes, I did a webcast about it the other day. I’m fortunate in that I don’t organize my life around promoting books; I organize my life around teaching people, and if a book is helpful, that’s great. It never occurred to me that I was here today to talk about my book because I’m not.

The book What To Do When It’s Your Turn is a call to action. It’s illustrated. It’s consumed in a way a lot of people consume the Internet these days, in little bits and pieces. It’s determinedly non-digital; it’s only on paper. I published it myself so that I could sell it in boxes, as opposed to by the copy because I believe that if the people around you are also engaged in what you’re engaged in, it’s more likely you’ll be able to push yourself forward.

I’ve gone back to press five times. It’s become this community tool that enables an entire organization or a circle or a mastermind group or friends to be on the same page – literally be on the same page.

John:  So it’s the fifth printing in 18 months. That’s amazing. This has really done well.

Today, this event is all sales focused. What are you going to tie into that? I saw the keynote was about tribes. Does it link into the previous book?

Seth:  This event is called Sales Machine. They didn’t ask me before they called it that. I think it should be called Sales Human. The machine is the last thing we need in sales. When we think about what the machine has done to each industry it has touched, it industrializes it, it commoditizes it, it turns the players into cogs in the system.

Our chance to be linchpins, to be leaders, to speak up, to share what we believe, that’s the human part. As sales people, I think it’s essential that we understand that enrollment is the key to everything, that if the person you are trying to sell with feels like they’re being sold to, you lose. If they’re not enrolled in the process and eagerly pushing it forward, you’re just a spammer.

John:  Yes, I can totally see how a lot of this event is about software tools, narrowing the focus, and automating so much stuff, but bringing you in brings the human element back into it and allows people to think more about the relationship, as opposed to mining coal.

Seth:  Yes, and I think that the smart people, the caring people, the motivated people would rather not mine coal. The software is great if it gets you back to what you’re supposed to be doing, and what you’re supposed to be doing is being the one we would miss if you were gone.

John:  You’ve been doing the altMBA program. That’s continuing to roll on. Tell us about that. How’s that working?

Seth:  I started about a year ago, and the idea was to build a scalable, intimate experience online that does the opposite of most online courses. Instead of being huge, it’s very small. Instead of being easy, it’s really hard. Instead of being free, it’s really expensive. Instead of being open to everyone, you have to apply.

It’s a 30-day workshop. We take 100 or 120 people each time. We have coaches. We run it all in Slack and in WordPress and in Zoom Conferencing. In every given session, there are about 19 time zones represented, and 50,000 messages will pass back and forth in a typical week in Slack. I’m not there. My work is there, my projects are there, but there are no lectures from me. I’m not present. This is not how you get Seth. This is how you level up.

We’ve run it five times so far, and what we have discovered is that it works. It works in a way that’s more dramatic than any other thing I’ve ever done. For the person that seeks to see the world differently, to make decisions differently, and to be able to persuade others differently, this is a massive chance to be able to level up.

I didn’t set it up as a fast Internet thing; I set it up as a slow human thing, over time, drip by drip. We don’t have to run any more sessions. We’re only running two more this year. When we have the right group, we’ll run it again, but I’m not out there flogging it. It’s not some get-rich-quick thing for them or for me; it’s about how to go on this journey of becoming meaningful.

John:  Do you see that expanding into other realms, not just MBA? Would you consider something for kids? I know education is something that you’ve talked about a lot in the past, about how this current system is not serving what we’re doing. Could this expand?

Seth:  A little bit of what we do in the altMBA is like doing brain surgery in a moving vehicle in that it’s not for sissies and it’s tricky. We push people really hard, and they push themselves. I don’t think I have the enrollment or the standing to do that with 12-year-olds. It’s harder to do that kind of work online.

What I believe… And Stop Stealing Dreams, the e-book I wrote that’s free, continues to spread this. What I believe is that all schooling is homeschooling. Even when you send your school to public school as I did, they spend way more time being schooled by their parents. The real leverage that I have is to help parents understand that it’s up to them to ask their kids the difficult questions and up to them to expect their kids to lead.

As I was going through the altMBA stuff, you mentioned that you actually went to China recently.

Seth:  Yes. I went to Shenzhen and Dafen. I gave a speech in South Korea and then stopped by to see where they make all the smartphones and where they paint all the oil paintings.

John:  Has visiting China changed your perspective? Was this your first time there? Have you been there?

Seth:  It was my first time in China. I’m not really a world traveler. I’ve been everywhere but sort of begrudgingly. I didn’t see very much that blew me away in the sense that I’ve been thinking about it and studying it since Tom Peters started talking about it 20 years ago – that the cog economy that a country like China has no choice but to start with, because 20 or 30 years ago, that was the work that was available.

It’s interesting to note that South Korea in 1962 had the same GDP as Haiti. It was one of the poorest countries in the world. In my lifetime, it went from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the top ten. How you do that? You do that by doing the cog work fast and cheap, by being the manufacturer slash systems integrator slash “We’ll do it for you right now.”

But you can’t keep doing that because then you need better wages, then you need people who have better quality of life, then you need a workforce that seeks more than putting part A and part B. We see in South Korea and now in China this urgent move away from “How do we be cheap robots?” into “How do we actually add value by being human?”

The irony is that’s where the US was when I was born, and we keep arguing – quote – “We want good jobs back.” Those good jobs weren’t that good; they were just steady. The steady jobs are gone. We’re not getting any steady jobs back. What we have is a chance for human jobs, for the art of daring and leading and connecting and being human, but it requires way more personal responsibility than people in this country have been trained to seek out.

People want a map. We can’t give you a map. You’re better off with a globe because a globe gives you the lay of the land. It doesn’t show you how to get from here to there.

John:  You mentioned Americans saying they want these jobs back. Of course, those jobs are not coming back, and a lot of it is another thing that you talked about, which is identity versus logic. The logical approach to it just says that, in fact, what we consider terrible jobs could be the best jobs that are available in that country, so you can’t judge that country by the way that things run here.

Do you see China following a similar path as they evolve to become more knowledge-based, more personal touch?

Seth:  As fast as they can. If you think of it as a game or a war between two countries, the only advantage we have is that their schools are even more cog-focused than our schools. In our schools, even though we spend six out of seven hours drilling and practicing and focusing on standardized tests, we still spend one hour encouraging kids to dream and think big and realize that they have a shot to make a difference.

But what’s going on in a place like China… I went to one factory where every single person does exactly what they did yesterday. I went to another factory run by a 29-year-old son of a multimillionaire, and he is right on the edge. Yesterday, they weren’t making hover boards; today, they are. Tomorrow, they’re going to be making something else. He has a flexible workforce. He has people are eager to discover the next thing. You can walk into one of his little labs with an idea, and they’ll have it on the circuit board in three hours.

If there’s that kind of change happening on every street corner, how are we going to catch up when we’re just sitting here insisting on – quote – “good jobs”? That’s not where the good jobs come from; good jobs come from doing things that might not work.

John:  What would be the best advice you’d give to a parent to prepare their child for this new world and to get away from that assembly-line school? What things should they be doing to get on the right path?

Seth:  I volunteered yesterday at the local Farm CSA. I did my few hours, and a woman came in with her kid, Adrian. Adrian is three. She handed Adrian some purslane. “Yeah, I think this tastes a bit like purslane with hints of celery in it.” Then walked over and said, “What’s this?” We had a whole conversation about the xylem and phloem and why the napa cabbage is green on the top and white on the bottom. Then another three-year-old kid came in and the mom said, “Here’s an iPad. I’m going to go pick up the vegetables.”

The difference is really clear. If you say to your kid, whether they’re 3 or 7 or 12 or 20, “Figure it out,” they’re going to learn to figure things out. If you say to them, “Here’s a metro card. Go to New York City. Call me when you’re done,” and they’re 12, why not? What’s going to happen?

If you said to a kid, “Here’s how blogging software works. It’s not under your name, so don’t worry. Just start blogging. Here’s a Wikipedia entry. Put some edits into it” – things that might not work, things that you’re not qualified to do. If you start doing that with your kids, early and often, if you reward them for failing and make a face when all they get is the same grades as last time, then your kid gets the message.

But if the message is you need to go to a famous college, which means you need to get good SAT scores, which means you need to get A’s, which means you need to do what the teacher says, then why are we surprised when the kid is 25 and says, “No one came to the placement office to hire me.” They’re unemployed. It’s because we never taught them to be free-range kids.

I’m ranting. Sorry.

John:  No, this is excellent. I like the free-range kid idea, letting them get into trouble, letting them go out and do what they need to do. What’s next for you? Have you another project that you’re working on? What’s coming up?

Seth: Every day is what’s next for me, so I am thrilled and privileged to be here. We are cooking up some things in the office that I hope to be able to talk about soon, but right now, this now is the best now that we’re going to get for a really long time. I’m really into this now.

John:  That sounds great. Seth, thanks for sharing some time with us.

Seth:  A pleasure. Good to see you.

The Marketeer

Regarding Disrupted

Dan Lyons’ scathing tell all “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble” came out last month and I’d been eagerly awaiting the book as have many in the Boston and marketing software communities. He tells of his time at Hubspot, the Cambridge-based startup that went all the way to IPO and took the lead as champion of Inbound Marketing.

I’m always looking for interesting books to profile for Marketing Over Coffee but decided to pass on Disrupted. I thought it would be just a bunch of stories of startup lifestyle, parties with career limiting consequences, bad ideas and burn rate. The goal of the podcast is to educate and entertain. I try to avoid the negative slants of industry gossip or making fun of failed marketing campaigns. We do cover that stuff, but failing a lot, often spectacularly, is what happens at startups. Most of them fail – Hubspot is one of the exceptions. I’ve been at more than one place that was a lot crazier, that also crashed and burned.

I used my monthly Audible credit to get the book (I said I would refuse to buy it, so this was me going half-truth on that so I didn’t have to wait for a library copy to finally get around to me) and tore through it. Even if you are not going to read all the “Inside Baseball” that follows, the TL;DR is: This is not just a book comparing a startup to a cult, it presents a lot of big issues: the nature of the workplace, the place in our society for the rapidly growing over 40 demographic, our financial system and how it perpetuates disparity of wealth, the death of journalism, and the trade off between privacy and being a member of the online world. If you are interested in any of these topics you should get this book.

I’d also recommend the audiobook because many of the key plot points are meetings and discussions between Lyons and his fellow employees. Hearing him do the voices paints a more vivid picture of when somebody is giving a crazy answer, laying out some wild idea, or the subtle sarcasm in his answers that you would miss if read off the page.

Ok, so if you’ve made it this far I’m presuming you’re in and want all the details. Even though I decided to pass on this for the podcast, so many things about this book were banging around in my mind because I’ve lived through a bunch of these situations, everything from bringing a company from near zero to a successful acquisition, to having my “position eliminated”, i.e. “we promised higher ups that hiring you would create explosive growth this quarter and it didn’t and now I have to fire you so that it’s not me.” Even after many years you can’t help but look back on the turning points and think about how it could have been better or worse. I’m writing this to get it all out of my head, but at the same time my wife listened to much of the book and had questions about how and why this could happen, so if you’re interested in this, my therapy might also give you some insight.

Rules and a boatload of disclaimers: This post is for people who have read the book. There’s been a lot of social media rambling from people who haven’t. I’ll run this by a friend to make sure it can be read if you haven’t read the book, but if you haven’t and you make a stupid comment I’ll probably delete it.

Mike Volpe was brave enough to have Hubspot take a chance as an early sponsor of Marketing Over Coffee, years before the laggards got hooked on Serial. Chris Penn and I were also guests when Hubspot did a video show and we met many team members during our visit there. I met Dan Lyons at his book signing for “Options – The Secret Life of Steve Jobs“, part of his Fake Steve Jobs writing, which is the funniest and most entertaining writing that has ever been done on the tech industry. It’s been 8 years since I read Options and I still laugh out loud when I think of the part where Hillary Clinton goes to meet the Tech Titans of Silicon Valley (pg. 140 in my copy). I’ve known Scott Kirsner for many years and have been to one of his events on Nantucket, he’s brave enough to try and figure out where he fits in the post-newspaper age and he’s painted as a gun for hire but he is the first choice if you have a question about what’s going on in the Boston tech scene.

And this is where you get your first taste of crazy. I’ve worked with all these people and I like them. When I first heard of Dan going to Hubspot I thought it was fantastic, I couldn’t wait to read what he was going to write with access to those resources and audience. Like all startups, it sounds like an exciting idea, and yet somehow it ended up with an FBI investigation.

Where does all this crazy come from? For any startup you are trying to do something never done before, and many may think that what you are trying is not possible, so that’s the crazy seed. The founders may be visionaries seeing the future, or f#$%ing lunatics. Taking money from venture capital investors (VCs) is like alcohol in an the old Bill Cosby standup routine: “Alcohol magnifies your personality”… “but what if you’re an a-hole?” (Sorry about the recursive mess of a Bill Cosby alcohol joke.)

Once you have VC you are pledging to rapid growth. Usually the founders have pitched this but have no real idea if/how it will happen, and the VC’s also live with the conflict of believing in the startup enough to invest in them, while also believing more of their investments will fail than succeed. Finally, the crazy tree is at full height when preparing an IPO, a massive amount of work that does not really have anything to do with directly serving customers (besides making sure you have the money to stay in business).

Dysfunction of demanding quarterly growth from what used to be an organic process – I could belabor this but it’s enough to say if you gather 9 women and think you are going to get a baby in one month it’s not going to be what you’re expecting, it’s going to be crazy stuff.

When I heard about the book I immediately thought “wow, this is going to get messy” and yee-haw, another successful prognostication for me. I was conflicted because I hated the idea of someone taking a shot at a successful Boston startup, yet knew I would laugh at anything Lyons wrote. I said I wanted nothing to do with it, while my curiosity was killing me. Yes, there are the tales of drunken hook-ups, standing desks, crazy outings but at the heart of it is “What happens when your career has been blown to bits and you’re thrown into a startup.”

He writes about his first day, showing up nervous and ready for amazing things. Instead of getting welcomed at the door, nobody knows he was showing up today. It takes more than a day to work things out.

When I started it I’m laughing and already hooked at this point. Rewind about a year – I’m at the Hubspot receptionist desk, excited out of my mind, I’ve set up a time to talk with Dan Lyons, the funniest tech writer ever, and going to guest on their new podcast. I’m also getting an interview with Mike Volpe for Marketing Over Coffee, it’s been a couple of years since he was last on and we’re due for an update on what’s going on with Inbound Marketing. I’m stuck at the receptionist desk, the woman there has no idea who Dan Lyons is. After about a half hour she finds out that he’s no longer with the company. The interviews are still on though and somebody that works with Mike sets me up with a desk so I can get some stuff done as things come together. I’m on the top floor in a space that has just been worked on so most of the desks in the open layout are empty. There’s a big mural of a dinosaur walking through the city and I laugh for a second thinking about myself as approaching dinosaur territory. About 20 minutes later my cube neighbor shows up, it’s Brian Halligan. We’ve met a couple times before so we say hello and catch up, he makes a joke about being the dinosaur in the building and that’s why he’s under the mural and I have some line about it being good to have at least one person in the building that has experience running a business. The interviews go well, everyone says Lyons went over to the HBO show which makes perfect sense to me, so I’m disappointed that my imaginary lunch with Dan never happened and figure that’s the last I’ll hear about it.

Nope. I can’t remember the order, but I heard that the guys were gone and then I heard about the book. I even connected the dots and said “I bet they were trying to get the book!” I wish I could remember who I talked to about that to confirm prognostication #2 but it’s not that important. Then there was the press release, talk of an FBI investigation, but really no new info until the book came out. On to some points to clarify:

All startups tend to be more like cults than jobs. The founders are giving up a normal life of paycheck and health insurance to do something crazy. You can have angels that put money in and work for free to get things off the ground. Teams taking on this insane level of risk create bonds far beyond anything that happens in a standard 9-5 shop.

Comparing any startup to a Fortune 100 company will make it look poorly managed. At a well managed business your list for the day might have 8 things on it. The employee can usually get 6-10 things done. If the employee can’t get the 6-10 they hire another person, if they are constantly sitting around doing nothing they get more work to do or are laid off.

At a startup your list for the day has 25 things on it. 12 of them really needed to be done last week, 10 of them need to be done today. There’s no time travel though,  people still chip the same 6-10 things off the list per day. As a result there are always projects behind or abandoned, this is how things like the receptionist not knowing you happen.

This high risk, low management environment is part of why startups can be innovative. Clayton Christensen has done brilliant work explaining why “well managed” ends up meaning “unable to innovate” and “soon to be crushed by a more agile competitor.” The Innovator’s Dilemma is one of my favorite books (and yes, I realize that having a favorite business book, by definition, makes me old).

Founders not being hands on or in the office every day is not surprising. The problem with the startup is that it is both a sprint and a marathon. I once had to work about 30 hours straight when we had updated our software and needed to get a working demo machine set up to bring to an event the next day. This was just before “The Cloud” arrived so any major project involved building servers. Installing an Oracle database at 2am is a pain, but on the upside there were long breaks in the install process so I could go ride one of the company scooters around in gigantic empty parking lot when I got sick of being alone inside.

Of course you can only do this kind of insanity in short bursts, after 2 or 3 years straight you would lose your mind or drop dead. If the company starts to have some success they get enough resources for more employees. At this point a cultural shift begins from crazy entrepreneurs to more normal employees. As everything gets bigger you are able to find employees who are specialists and if you are doing it right, they are smarter in their area of expertise than the previous round of people. To give you an example, Volpe came on as marketer at something like employee #5. I don’t know exactly where work was divided but odds are he was doing content, running the website, email, advertising… everything. Fast forward 6 or 7 years and now the marketing team is bigger than the whole company was when he started and there’s a whole team doing what he used to do by himself.

Now the founders want to do something different because they’ve been running like maniacs for years so they focus down to the things they want to work on and delegate the rest. And, if they’ve done it right the new hires don’t want the founders getting involved that much anyway, they have more specialized knowledge and are doing the day to day so they have no interest in a founder as Seagull Manager (flying over now and then to crap on everything). In “normal” jobs the manager is working with his employees managing, in startups it’s not uncommon to have founders who just have an office they sit in and work on crazy projects, or they are always on the road doing speaking gigs, or actively working on their next startup project. They are not going to leave because there may be a huge payday in the near future, but they are in no way your classic employee. This is where you see a lot of great startup drama when investors keep coming in and start to gain board seats, and may put the crosshairs on a founder that’s not delivering the growth they originally promised the VCs.

Employee vs. Entrepreneur vs. Internet Celebrity – I’ve always said that building a startup is like creating a recipe for a killer dish by randomly adding ingredients. You may have everything in order for that chocolate chip cookie but if you’re using salt instead of sugar you’re stuck with something inedible. Each employee is a new ingredient and even though each ingredient on its own may be a favorite, you’re not going to sell a ton of Meatball Sundaes.

As positions and culture are built on the fly there’s a lot of opportunity for confusion. Anyone from a normal job might go into a startup expecting a manager that explains what needs to be done, spends time training them, and has clear goals as to what the employee needs to do to be successful. Far more likely, when the employee is hired the entrepreneur is thinking “Whew, that was a ton of work there, I’m glad I’ve got an expert so I never have to do that again.” Now both parties are expecting the other to figure it out. I’m not saying this is right but from what I’ve seen, the burden to clearly define things and get them done falls to the employee, not the supervisor. Yes, it would be great if there was a mentoring and leadership culture but often there isn’t.

I’ve also seen companies hiring people that have their own following, thinking that the employee’s celebrity is a magic wand that’s going to bring thousands of fans and prospects. In reality, internet celebrity is like building a waterfall, it’s powerful and impressive but you don’t drag it around with you. If you’re famous for posting cat pictures and you go work for a plumbing company none of you cat fans is going to give a damn. Or if they do it’s going to be one confused visit to the home page and then gone for eternity.

And of course if you hire a guy who got famous making wise remarks, don’t be surprised when his co-workers get pissed at him for making wise remarks.

Tough questions, no answers. This was the most interesting part of the book for me, it takes on some big questions that we don’t really have good answers for. Disrupted makes light of young people with little experience being hired but at least Hubspot is hiring many college graduate employees at a time when skilled entry level jobs are not plentiful with college graduates facing unemployment rates around 30%. Most startups I know don’t bother with intern programs or first time employees, the infrastructure to train people is not there, you’re expected to show up knowing what to do and how to do it. It also touches on ageism. The simple out is to call it discrimination – old people are not wanted anymore, but it’s more complicated. Old people are not stupid enough to take crappy jobs for 30k. Old people see the disconnect between “We are a team, not a family” and “building a company we love.” And on the other side there are old people not interested in learning new software, or being more than happy to exploit a situation where a company is moving to fast to really see how much work is getting done. This is not a Hubspot thing, this is everywhere.

There’s the hot issue of inequality of wealth, with a small group making a ton of money while everyone else gets shuffled off to the next thing. And a nod to privacy, that anybody can spy on us, through any of the online services we use, but nobody is going to back out of them.  If we want to be at the party, giving your privacy up is the ticket at the door. We’re not using a product, we are the product.

What really happened? We’ll probably never find out, the problem with publicly traded cloud companies is that, at their core, they are responsible for data integrity so there’s no upside to them ever talking about any kind of security breach unless they have to. The reports of a possible FBI investigation would make me think someone ratted to their board of directors. The thought of it being someone on the outside for justice or PR, or someone inside as some kind of coup both seem absurd to me, but I’ve got no other theories that make sense.

There was an official response, and I have to give big time kudos to the fake cover they did, they get the symbolism award for changing the unicorn head to racehorse horse/horse’s ass.

Hubspot Customers don’t care, they want to make more money, they want good tools. They could not give a damn about some internal executive politics, especially if the software is making them money.  You could look at this thing as the new Dean Martin Tech Celebrity Roast. If Dean Martin was still alive, and people still did roasts, and you were young enough to get this joke…. never mind.

I don’t think this book is going to slow Hubspot down, if people are as engaged with this book as I was it will sell lot of copies. The bad news there is that the books I love tend not to be best sellers. As I wrap up I’m the guy at the poker table looking around for the idiot who’s losing money on this deal and realizing it’s me wasting my time talking about it when I could be working. So, after all that, I’m glad this is out of my head so I can get back to making my own mistakes. Thanks for listening.