It is rare that I advocate so strongly for a brand (other than SkillBridge of course), but ClassPass is truly amazing for the urbanites out there: For $99 a month, you get to take 3 classes at any of dozens of fitness studios in New York City. Typically, these classes cost $25-$40 each, so if you go 4 times in a month, you’re already saving yourself quite a bit of money. From yoga to cycling to bootcamps, there’s something for everyone on ClassPass.
As a man, I had some reservations about joining, thinking it would be all women in the classes. However, this isn’t the case at all.
Some things that I like about ClassPass: Easy reservation system, synching classes with Google Calendar so I don’t forget about them, and solid descriptions of classes. It’s also very easy to cancel classes, so long as it’s more than 24 hours before they begin.
I love that so many ClassPass classes, such as the ones at FlyWheel or Swerve, take a data driven approach. I’ve hit 300+ as my “Power Score” at all of my Flywheel classes this month and next month I”m pushing for 325.
Another bonus: I’ve discovered great gyms, teachers, classes in and around my neighborhood that I didn’t know about! Hat tip goes out to my friend and fellow entrepreneur Anastasia Lang of Hatch for first telling me about ClassPass and saying how awesome it was.
The article’s author Raj De Datta writes, “Going to work at a start-up or growth company in your 20s will put you on the fast-lane learning curve. It will be the best investment you can make because you’ll find yourself.” Your 20s, are, of course, a period of 10 years. I am now 28 years old, and have spent approximately half of my time thus far working for others, and the other half working for myself. While I may be happier overall when pursuing entrepreneurial activities, I am very thankful for the many learning experiences I had at big companies.
The article’s author, Raj De Datta has worked at a couple of larger firms, Cisco in the tech space, and at the investment bank Lazard. Perhaps he chose not to learn while working there, or he didn’t want to advance up the corporate ladders of those institutions.
I am more and more dismayed when I see wantrapreneurs striking out with poorly thought out ideas, wasting their parents hard-earned money, or having zero idea how to run a business because they have never worked at a successful one.
I am quite thankful for the time I spent at William Morris Endeavor (only Endeavor when I worked there), Mother Jones magazine (a large non-profit, technically), Seamless.com (now merged with GrubHub), and Quirky.com — all far larger companies than SkillBridge is today. At larger companies you learn to deal with people: Sure, not every person will be the best. But it is your job to learn to work with them, come hell or high water — so that you, your team, and the larger company can succeed. These experiences have certainly benefited me as an entrepreneur: My customer service skills are now superb because of my experiences dealing with colleagues and customers over the years.
As for De Datta’s argument that Google or McKinsey aren’t ideal places to work, that is complete and utter nonsense. My most intelligent friends from the University of Pennsylvania and other fine institutions started their careers at Google, McKinsey, or other large tech or consulting firms. Some of them are still there — and those who stuck around seem quite happy. For example, my good friend Josh Steinberg heads professional services for Google in Tokyo, his dream city, and has traveled all around the world, on Google’s dime. My other good friend Anastasia Leng founded Hatch.co after working at Google for five years. Neither of them would change a thing about their 20s. They were able to pay off their student loans, travel, and live excellent lives that will prepare them well for the future.
It is no secret that at SkillBridge, we recruit individuals to become our consultants who have at least three years experience working at large, name brand corporations. This is not an accident: We know that Google, McKinsey, and other top-tier firms have vetted their candidates well. We know that it is challenging to work at these places and that Google and McKinsey employees solve real-world problems every single day. Therefore, we know that Google, McKinsey, Bain, and BCG produce the cream of the crop. Why wouldn’t we want these top-notch people to work for us at SkillBridge?
Plus, not everyone is an entrepreneur; Not everyone wants the stress of starting a new company. And not everyone can afford to take the risk to work without payment for a long time, as many entrepreneurs do. Many people would rather spend time with their kids or spouse rather than working at a startup.
More than 90% of startups fail, despite what some Millennial-focused publications may have you believe. There is nothing wrong with wanting the stability, benefits, and perks that come with working at a large corporation. If you have to pay back student loans, few more sensible options exist.
There are dozens of valid reasons why someone would want to work at Google, McKinsey, or another top firm. Heck, many people treat a stint at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG as a free ride to graduate school in which you are being paid to work. The training that you will get at these firms is incomaparable, and can lead to life-long benefits — being able to bill out at $150 or more per hour at SkillBridge being just one of them.
So, to Raj De Datta — who may have just written that article as a recruiting tool for his startup: Stop spreading your gospel, as it is inherently false. And to everyone who did work at a large corporation in your 20s, I don’t need to tell you this, but you made a smart choice.
Last night, I had the pleasure of watching the new Richard Linklater film, Boyhood. Boyhood is unique among films in that it was shot over the course of 12 years. The film starts in an America that was still contending with the post-9/11 world and continues through to the modern day. Boyhood is full of nostalgia — the soundtrack is excellent — and you’re likely to hear lots of “oooohs” and “aaahs” and “I had one of those…” while you’re in the theatre, but that is really just the beginning.
Similar to how The Wonder Years captured the 1960s in a beautiful way for my parents’ generation, Boyhood does this for Millennials. There are many themes and motifs in this film that resonated with me. Here is my analysis of a few of them:
Economic hardship — From paying bills to putting kids through college, our world is expensive. You may have wanted to be a musician, but sometimes you’re forced to put those ambitions aside to take care of your family, as it is necessary to pay the bills. (At SkillBridge, we have certainly provided supplemental income for hundreds of consultants, and it is our hope to continue doing this for many years to come.)
Forgiveness — Moving on is a trait that is undervalued. It is necessary to forgive to move forward. As we see in this film, Ethan Hawke’s character goes from being a 30-year-old bum to a 40-year-old family man. People shouldn’t be punished forever for decisions they make when they are young.
Personal growth — Not everyone makes the right decisions when they are young: Some people become single parents, others fail to study subjects that are relevant to the careers they want. These should all be considered learning experiences. You can go back to school to study the subject that interests you. You can raise your children to become fine people without a spouse. And you can pursue your passions.
America — Living in New York, I often forget about America’s natural beauty. In such a large place, people have differing opinions on politics, religion, etc. This diversity of opinions, whether we agree with them or not, is what makes America interesting and sustainable in the long-run. The American Dream is still alive, and with hard work and dedication, it can still be achieved.
Family — Families grow, families shrink, and the dynamics of the American family in particular is changing. As we see through Patricia Arquette’s character and her significant relationships with three different men — none of which works out for her in the long run — relationships have become more transient, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fulfilling.
Immigration — America has long been a land of immigrants. Those who work hard, succeed. It may not be easy, but it is possible. Nothing happens overnight. Life isn’t one big reality show.
Technology — For better or for worse, technology has grown to be an essential part of our lives. In some places within America, technology still lags. You needn’t be tethered to your iPhone for six hours per day, and there is still quite a bit of beauty in the world, but technology is improving so rapidly that we forget to make time for nature and the other wonderful things that our world offers us. Let us use technology for good, and not for evil.
Life is short — In one of the final scenes of this film, Patricia Arquette’s character starts to cry, as she realizes that she will now be an empty-nester, her kids grown up and moving out of her home. Of course Millennials tend to “return to the nest” at higher rates than previous generations, but this film really puts things in perspective. Enjoy your life, love the people who are close to you. Be thankful to your parents and the other adults who made you who you are.
If there’s one film you should see this summer — dare I say this year — it is Boyhood, as it encapsulates so many of the ethos that have guided our lives since the turn of the millennium.
At SkillBridge, we are working at the heart of the freelance economy: For nearly a year, we have provided white-collar workers with freelance business consulting jobs that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to find. We have enabled individual consultants to win, as they no longer need to be associated with a firm to work at jobs that are of high-quality and well-paid.
There are many other amazing companies out there that are using freelancers to help people. Together, we’re all focused on disintermediating old school companies and dysfunctional/bureaucratic organizations so that individuals can directly connect with the people and services they want. Whether you work at a small business or a large one, your life is going to become much more efficient in the coming years.
Without further ado, here’s SkillBridge’s Ultimate Guide To The Modern Freelance Economy, and please let us know in the comments section if you have more examples, as this will be a regularly updated list:
Hire Great Engineers:
TopTal – Founded 2010. Connects start-ups, businesses, and organizations to a growing network of the best developers in the world.
AirPair – Founded 2013. Connects companies to Software Developers they can book and pay 1 hour at a time.
Use Peer to Peer Taxi-Like Services:
Lyft – Founded 2007, as Zimride. A mobile app for friendly, affordable rides at the tap of a button.
Uber – Founded 2009. Connects you with a driver at the tap of a button.
Summon (formerly Instacab) – Founded 2012. Mobile application that matches customers needing transportation with a taxi driver or a community driver who is willing to provide a ride.
Hailo – Founded 2010. Free smartphone app that puts people two taps away from a licensed taxi, and lets cabbies get more passengers when they want them.
Sidecar – Founded 2012. Smartphone app matches everyday people in their own car with people nearby for shared rides.
UpCounsel – Founded 2012. The easiest way to get legal services.
LawDingo – Founded 2012. Talk to lawyers. Find lawyers online.
And yes, in 2013, business consulting also became a freelance economy sub-genre whenSkillBridge was born (originally spelled SkylBridge, ha!). We’re proud to be a part of it, and we look forward to connecting you with the world’s best business consultants.
Ok foodie readers based in New York City, this one’s for you. I typically write about diversity in the workplace, but now I’m writing about diversity in the kitchen. My former employer from eons ago, Mother Jones Magazine, is hosting a pretty delicious night this coming Monday, featuring chefs of color who command the top echelons of the culinary world. Join chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Gabrielle Hamilton, Floyd Cardoz, and Charlene Johnson-Hadley in conversation with Mother Jones food and agriculture reporter Tom Philpott as they discuss the faces behind our food. Plus, there’s an open bar and appetizers, so get your tickets now!
I recently read Sten Tamkivi’s post on TechCrunch that states some reasons why Americans, in Silicon Valley specifically, should be investing in European startups. Tamkivi’s post was echoed by similar sentiments in a post by Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson. While there are here are 5 major tech hubs in the US (SF, NYC, Boston, LA, Austin) and a similar number in Europe (Berlin, London, Paris, Stockholm, and Helsinki/Tallinn), I do not equate these groups with each other, for reasons I will outline below. And while I admire both Tamkivi and Wilson, they are both wrong in this instance.
1. Europeans Don’t Want To Put In The Work: In general, and I know this is a stereotype based on my time living in Denmark, Amsterdam, and London, Europeans are just not as hungry for success as Americans. In America, we are often ostracized by Europeans for not having a positive work-life balance. Well, any entrepreneur will tell you, that it’s really difficult to build a company when you’re only working for 7.5 hours per day. (I won’t take low blows on Greece and Spain here, as in America, we have Kentucky and West Virginia to grapple with…) That said, Germans do have a tendency to work hard, as do the Brits (due to the Protestant work ethic I learned about in high school).
2. In Europe, There Is Too Much Regulation: In Europe, everything is slow. Blame the bureaucracy. Blame the welfare state. Blame the aforementioned work ethic, but I found that it took months to do things that would be done in America in days. It’s so simple to hop on a web site and start a Delaware Corporation. (I know, lawyers are still better when starting a business, but it really is easy to do on your own.) Even when you look at the whole micro-entrepreneur food truck boom in America, it happened very quickly. In Europe, there are more food regulations than you can possibly imagine (though the food is certainly tasty over there). Europe’s more complex regulatory system, given how varied countries in the EU are, might be what tears that union apart.
3. Language: In Amurrrrica, we generally speak one language. English. It’s simple. You call your developer in San Francisco and he speaks the same tongue as your sales guy in New York and your CEO in Austin. In Europe, there are so many languages spoken that to attract a substantial and scalable user base for your product, you would have to have it translated into many different tongues.
4. Europeans Stay In School Forever: How many times have you met an Italian dude who’s working on his 3rd Masters Degree at La Sapienza in Rome and still lives with his parents even though he’s 37? Or a Danish guy who is doing his Post-Doctoral research despite being 42 years old? In America, we are surely educated, but in Europe, people are over-educated. I have attended both public and private universities in America, as well as public and private universities in Europe: In America, everything moves more quickly. You have more hours of class per week, and you learn a heckuva lot more. In Europe, how are people going to be starting companies when they finally finish school but also have a family to support? That’s why there are fewer European Mark Zuckerbergs or Evan Spiegels.
5. Security And Privacy: Tamkivi writes that “security and privacy” are great reasons to start companies in Europe. Find me an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to collect people’s data. Data = dollars. Harsh personal privacy laws, while good for consumers, mean less money for most entrepreneurs. There goes the incentive to start a business.
6. “400 Million Customers,” But Many Don’t Spend: Europeans are far more frugal than Americans. In America, we love junk. We love the latest and the greatest. We love to fill our closets with 85 pairs of the latest wears. In Europe, people buy things once, spend decent money on their purchases, and then don’t buy them again for years. Personally, I really like this about Europeans, but if I were a European entrepreneur, it would make me wary. Yes, they may have invented Hermes and Ferraris, but how many Europeans can really afford to buy a Hermes bag and a Ferrari?
7. Europe Is Old: Europe is the oldest continent ever. Medicine and technological breakthroughs will keep these folks living until they’re close to 100. Of those “400 million” consumers, most of them aren’t ideal customers. It’s too bad the healthcare sector is publicly funded in most European societies, as in this area I see room for innovation.
8. Global Skills = Nonsense: Yes, I agree that Europeans travel more frequently than Americans and are thus exposed to different ideas. However, some Americans (like, ahem, me) have traveled frequently and can also be exposed to these ideas. To think that Europeans have better soft skills than those from other places is nonsense. Yes, foreign exchange programs like Erasmus have become ubiquitous in Europe, and this is amazing, but Americans are also now studying abroad at higher rates than ever before. While Americans should surely learn more languages than just English, English has become the de facto business and consumer language of the world.
9. Grants: When you compare how films are funded in America vs. how films are funded in Europe, they are very different from one another. European countries have film commissions that deliver grants to filmmakers. Filmmakers apply for the grants and then wait months or years to learn whether they have been selected. In America, films are made by means of capitalism and Kickstarter: You hustle your brains off or you don’t get your film made. (Kickstarter, however, may further democratize European film production.) That said, my friends Torsten Mueller and Frederik Fischer received money for their startup Tame.it from “the German Ministry of Technology and Economics, the business development and promotion bank of the Federal Land Berlin and from a successful Crowdinvesting campaign on Companisto.de.” In America, our government may give money to occasional startups in the energy/defense sectors, but they sure as heck ain’t giving it to a Twitter context search engine. Plus, Americans are way more likely to use our disposable income for crowdfunding. (That said, in America, we still have nonsense laws that prevent the common man from crowdfunding in exchange for equity, which they have eliminated in Europe.)
In Europe, there’s a higher expectation that the government and regulation will solve problems. Perhaps it’s the inner-Ayn Rand libertarian in many Americans, but we have greater faith in the private sector than in the public sector. In Europe, there is also a more incremental, rather than disruptive, approach to progress. That said, don’t forget that the Dark Ages lasted for nearly 1,000 years.
This isn’t meant to knock European companies. I have many European startup founder friends, and I admire the work they do. I am also a fan of European companies like Skype and Spotify. That said, these companies had to come to America to truly make it.
I don’t think the future of Silicon Valley investors is across the pond. Tamkivi writes, “Yes, stuff is happening in Boston and New York, but not so much that a once-a-month trip can’t cover most of it.” Quite frankly, this is an idiotic statement, as New York specifically has seen its technology sector grow rapidly during the past few years. (I’m surprised that Mr. NYC VC Fred Wilson didn’t call Tamkivi out on this falsehood.) So yes, while Europe is certainly the place to go for wind energy startups (Denmark), architecture firms (the Netherlands), and a whole host of random startups from London to Sweden to Finland to Berlin, my bet is still on America.
Reinvention is one of America’s most overused terms.
But reinvention defines some of the best things that have come out of America in the past decade. Yes, celebrities have reinvented themselves: Betty White, Jon Stewart, and Ellen DeGeneres, to name a few. But the rest of us, plebeians, also have the ability to reinvent ourselves, and it has never been so easy.
The most inspirational and functional guide for personal reinvention is certainly James Altschuler’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself that he published in Tech Crunch in October. His words are inspiring and the message is clear: A lot of hard work combined with laser focus and you can become one of the best in whatever your chosen field is.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the burden of tech, as it seems like America truly has start-up fever. When even our prisons are hosting start-up accelerators — and this isn’t to say that prisons aren’t strong markets themselves for start-ups — we either are in the midst of a very serious start-up bubble, or are enabling anyone to live the American dream (or some mix of the two.)
But what if you didn’t want to create a tech start-up? What if you wanted to get your hands dirty in something like product manufacturing? What does that really take?
My friend Michael Paratore quit his job at a law firm to become, in his words, a “peddler.” Yes, being a peddler doesn’t sound as lucrative as legal work, but Michael wanted to seize his opportunity that came when he accompanied his wife Michelle on a trip to India.
Paratore once found himself wandering around Bombay’s backstreets. It was there that he met a shoe peddler who would change his life. Michael discovered what he describes as the world’s most comfortable shoes, and he decided that he should manufacture and sell them in America — and around the world.
And now, one year after his journey began, Michael’s dream has come true.
His Mohinder’s Kickstarter launched, and I happily bought a pair for $50, knowing that they’ll probably the first ethically made pair of footwear I’ve ever owned. Mohinder’s will also likely help the Indian village cooperative comprised of second and third generation shoe-making artisans who manufacture his products. (The cooperative was set up by an Indian NGO that uses a micro-credit style model to ensure artisans are paid fairly and can “break the cycle of poverty” while helping the artisans build valuable business and entrepreneurial skills.)
Whether you need a few hundred grand to create the “first open sensor for health and fitness” on IndieGoGo, or $34,000 to create a funky and eco-friendly YogoMat (I’m still waiting for mine because of production problems), the internet democracy has enabled entrepreneurs to reinvent themselves. I don’t know if the guy who invented the open sensor was a garbage man, a science teacher, or had a PhD in physics before he launched his crowdfunding campaign. I don’t know if the guy who invented the YogoMat has ever done yoga in his life! C’est la vie. I, and millions of others, are helping people to reinvent themselves every single day.
We should all feel lucky that we live in a society where reinvention is completely acceptable. A hundred years ago, you wouldn’t find many people — unless they had just committed some sort of heinous crime — attempting to reinvent themselves. Now, it’s as easy as putting in some hard work and putting up your wares on a crowdfunding site.
If there’s an interest, then, BAM! You’re in business.