The hidden benefits of Uniform Culture

Requiring uniforms in schools has been a subject of debate in America for decades; today 20% of public schools require uniforms. Many Americans find this repugnant because it mutes personal expression, further reinforcing the notion that people are standardized factory workers instead of creative individuals, as well as an implication that your unique style is unimportant or de-valued. As Banksy says, “The creative adult is the child who survived,” and uniforms are yet another way in which the creative child is killed.

Surveys of students in those schools, however, reveal that more than half are happy to have the uniforms, naming a variety of benefits, and say it doesn’t prevent them from personal expression.

There are indeed benefits that Americans ought to prize. For example, it removes class-culture. With a uniform, you cannot tell from visual inspection how much money you have, what family you came from, or where you were born. You have to judge the person, not their appearance.

Applied to a corporate context, those same benefits accrue, and more: You can’t immediately tell their title, their status, how smart they are, how wise they are, or their seniority.

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Pricing determines your business

It’s often said that you shouldn’t talk about price during customer development interviews. The usual justification is that your goal is to uncover the details of your potential customers’ lives and pain-points, whereas a mention of price turns attention away from that topic, diverting the discussion to budgets and comparative value.

But I disagree. Price is as important as any other feature to determine product/market “fit.”

How many times have you heard someone agree that “it would be great if someone did X,” but when show them someone did do X, but it costs $39.99, they don’t buy? Or seen a review of an iPhone app hung up on pricing trivialities: “It would be pretty good at $0.99, but it’s not worth $1.99.” How many times have you seen someone struggle with an inferior product because they cannot afford the better one? Or struggle with an inferior, expensive product that was purchased based on the salesmanship — the idea that “expensive must mean it’s better” — instead of craftsmanship?

Price is inextricably linked to brand, product, and purchasing decisions — by whom, why, how, and when. Price is not an exercise in maximizing some micro-economic supply/demand curve, slapped post-facto onto the product. Rather, it fundamentally determines the nature of the product and the structure of the business that produces it.

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Stubborn Visionaries & Pigheaded Fools

How to make decisions faster, with less guilt. And less credit.

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You’re a company when…

My hope is that you’ll point up to that sign five years from now and explain to the children in your back seat that it’s there because of you, not just because “I was there,” but because you actually helped create it, one customer at a time, whether you thrilled them with customer service so deeply that they convinced a friend to sign up too, or helped them find us through the fog of “web hosting” propaganda, or helped them decide whether we’re the right partner for their business, or got them excited and saved them hours of drudgery through platform features, or helped all of us run the company smarter through finance and metrics, or made our office a lovely place to come to, or ensured that everyone we hire shares our values, or if you’re the silent hero who put out fires at 3:15am while everyone else slumbered in bliss.

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In its emptiness, there is the function of a startup

Thirty spokes join in one hub
In its emptiness, there is the function of a vehicle

Mix clay to create a container
In its emptiness, there is the function of a container

Cut open doors and windows to create a room
In its emptiness, there is the function of a room

Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit
That which is empty is used to create functionality

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The only way to guarantee startup success

“Backstage, after their amazing performance, I chatted with [lead singer] Dave Gahan as he cried from pure happiness. He told me that the tears were because he didn’t know if the group could ever pull off anything this great again and for him it was the most emotional concert of his career.”

But what does it mean for you or me, that reaching the pinnacle of success is not only strikingly fleeting, but also sad? That tears of joy transmute immediately to tears of sadness, because reaching the peak means by definition your next steps must be downhill?

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No, *I’ll* tell you the answer!

When are you going to stop, take a breath, think quietly, shut out the cacophony of expectations and press releases and chest-thumping and biased storytelling, and decide what’s right for you? And then, harder still, can you be comfortable and confident in your choice?

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Why startup biz dev deals almost never get done

As the founder of WP Engine, I get a few emails a week from startups wanting to “do a deal” with us. So far, almost zero of them have resulted in an actual deal.

Here’s the problem, and how you can change your approach to business development so that it has a chance of succeeding.

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The public invisibility of running mid-stage successful companies

So says Keith Rabois, and the Internet generally: “I don’t know of a single successful CEO or entrepreneur who blogs regularly.”

If true, why?

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Smart Bear Live 8: Edwin from MeetingKing.com

Listen to this episode if you want to hear about a founder who has a product and users and paying customers … and is trying to figure out how to take his company to the next level and grow faster.

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Come visit @asmartbear and the @wpengine gang at SxSW in our new office space!

If you’re in Austin for SxSW, come say hello between 10:00 and 2:00 on Saturday, March 8. We’ll have an open lounge with food and coffee at our World Headquarters.

It’s an easy 5 blocks from the convention center, so there’s no reason not to hang out with us for a while, an oasis amidst the craziness.

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Raising money & selling companies at the end of the year

People say the end of the year is a terrible time to raise money or sell a company, because “everyone’s only thinking about the holidays” and “people with money are away skiing in Aspen.”

Except, my previous company Smart Bear was sold on Dec 20, 2007. And we completed our Series C round here at WP Engine on Dec 23, 2013. And no fewer then three other companies I was previously an investor in also raised a round that closed in December of 2013.

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Visualizing the Interactions Between CAC, Churn and LTV

You may have seen these metrics defined before, but this is the best visualization of their effect that I’ve ever seen.

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