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Charlie

Entreprenuers as Extremophiles

According to Google no one has yet to make a correlation between entrepreneurs and extremophiles. As a matter of fact, a search of the term turns up only 289,000 results. This strikes me as surprising. But then, most people don’t understand what makes the heart of entrepreneurs tick much less what an extremophile is.

Weird Life by David ToomeyAfter reading a NY Times book review of the recently published Weird Life by David Toomey (a book that delves into the little-understood life of microbes that live in the most extreme environments on the planet), the only thing that kept popping up in my mind as I learned more and more about these micro organisms (called extremophiles), is their similarity to entrepreneurs.

Wikepedia defines extremophiles as coming from “the Latin extremus meaning “extreme” and Greek philiā (φιλία) meaning “love”.”

Extreme love.

Who better understands extreme love than entrepreneurs who sacrifice money, comfort, relationships, careers, financial stability and sometimes life itself for the extreme love of their outrageous dreams, their businesses and their relentless desire to change the world?

As the mystery of these micro organinisms unfolded before me, the correlation between extremophiles and entrepreneurs became forever entwined in my mind:

An extremophile “is an organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth.” — Wikepedia

“Some micro-organisms thrive in boiling water under pressure; others feed on sulfur, salt, deadly poisonous elements, even radioactivity. Toomey describes one fungus found in the “water core of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, ingeniously and fearlessly converting nuclear radiation into usable energy and managing radiation damage by keeping copies of the same chromosome in every cell.” “Extremophiles” can be found living in ice, under the sea floor, multiplying in clouds or huddled implausibly deep beneath the ground in a newly discovered geological biosphere. These tiny cells — a pinhead would be a world to them — do not look particularly spectacular. Most of them are just minute rods that grow by fission. But they are chemical factories of extraordinary versatility.” — NY Times book review,

Extremophiles, in all their exotic glory, sound like the stuff of great science fiction. Likewise, entrepreneurs are more closely related to sci-fi aliens traveling the universe, millions of light years in extreme circumstances, in search of new opportunities and ways to assert their presence, than ordinary human beings who happily accept and live within the limitations that life, society and family place on them.

But what makes entrepreneurs the macro version of extremophiles is their ability, passion and thirst to thrive in the extreme crevices of life in this world (uncertainty, constant criticism, financial despair, self-doubt, fear, failure) when the rest of humanity has the good sense to work at all costs to avoid these painful extremes.  Whereas life tests the limitations of the average person, the entrepreneur (like extremophiles) tests the limitations of life — and they get off on it.

Alas, here is Dictionary.com’s definition of “entrepreneur”:

Entrepreneur: a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

I propose the following revised definition that more accurately explains these odd creatures and their behavior:

Entrepreneur: a person who exhibits extreme love and passion to change the world through creating and managing an enterprise or business and thrives in psychological, emotional and social extreme conditions that are detrimental to most human beings on Earth;  they are creative factories of extraordinary versatility.

My definition may not be entirely spot-on, but it comes far closer to defining an entrepreneur than standard dictionaries do today. Maybe, in this startup-innovation world economy we’re in, it’s time to put entrepreneurs under a microscope to understand what they are and just how they manage to survive and to achieve the impossible in extreme circumstances with extreme passion.

Full Disclosure: I am an entrepreneur.

 

Is The World’s Fastest Agency About to Give The World’s Slowest Agencies a Run for their Money?

Tortoise and the hare color

We exist in the era of the here and now. Living life in real-time and creating media to meet this demand is unchartered territory that confuses and causes fear as much as it inspires and produces incredible opportunities.  Anyone that can’t adapt to and accommodate this growing demand for immediacy (for content and strategy to feed the real-time beast) will undoubtedly be left behind. This is far less an ominous prediction than a bare-knuckle fact.

Enter the recently-launched World’s Fastest Agency — the new kid on the block in digital advertising making waves right out of the gate. On their refreshingly minimalist, one-page website they describe their vision pointedly:

World’s Fastest Agency is a new kind of marketing and communications agency. From briefing to a creative solution within 24 hours, WFA helps time-pressured clients keep pace with the lightning fast 24/7 global media and social culture.

Pow! If that doesn’t grab you, stay tuned…

Unlike a traditional agency, World’s Fastest Agency claims to not only be fast, but CHEAP — $999 gets you an entire creative strategy campaign in 24 hours.  It goes a little something like this:

1.  Deposit $999* fee via PayPal2.
2.  Send a 140 character brief via Twitter Direct Message to: ​@FastestAgency
3.  Within 24 hours you will receive your 140 character creative pitch from World’s Fastest Agency via Twitter Direct Message.

It’s the fast food of advertising. It’s also a compelling concept that hints at the future of advertising while big ad agencies struggle to innovate and keep up with client demand for real-time strategies with bloated staff and slow-as-molasses turnaround times. At their core, World’s Fastest Agency seems to understand this industry quandary.  The last line of text on their website (a footnote, at that) speaks directly to the clients who are frustrated by agencies operating with old business models that can’t create and execute in near-real-time:

“*ever notice ad agencies never place the price of their service online? This is because it’s 10x this amount in order to pay for all that waffling on in endless meetings…”

Could The World’s Fastest Agency win the day by simply positioning itself as the “anti-agency”? Hardly, but it’s a bold enough stance that (1) gives the startup a large platform to stand on all by itself and (2) through it’s “take no prisoners, go hard or go home” unapologetic attitude, puts agencies, clients and industry talent on notice that a new day really is coming (whether The World’s Fastest Agency is the one to usher it in or not). Be ready, play ball, or get left behind. If you’re going to try to change the game, tip-toeing onto the field isn’t the way to do it. The World’s Fastest Agency definitely isn’t tip-toeing.

In his Ad Age article on the agency’s launch, author Rupal Parekh (@rupalparekh) noted that the concept sounds “gimmicky.” It does. But the question shouldn’t be “Is this a stunt?” but rather, “Can they truly deliver quality campaign strategies quickly, effectively and consistently .” Fast and cheap is one thing — fast, cheap and consistently good is another (just ask any fast food manager).

Floyd Hayes (founder of World’s Fastest Agency, Floyd Hayes (@floyd_hayes)) isn’t worried. Quite the contrary, he’s supremely confident. He tells Parekh: “I’m 100% serious. WFA will provide dedication, expertise, respect and passion to each and every brief it receives… Clients increasingly need quick responses and I can provide this.” And while it  may sound like he’s selling a field of dreams, Hayes also reminds us that he has 15 years of experience in advertising working with big brands. Translation: “I know my shit.”

But not everyone is convinced or impressed:

Advertising services is about getting to the right strategic ideasWhile speed to market is certainly important to clients, rushing to the marketplace with an idea isn’t good for anybody… The truth of the matter is that this approach isn’t close to credible and won’t have any impact on the agencies because it’s not legitimate. ” — Tom Finneran, EVP-Agency Management Services, the 4A‘s:

Oreo Super Bowl tweetRushing to marketplace with an idea isn’t good for anybody? Tell that to the creative team at 360i who catapulted Oreo to social media stardom by capitalizing in real-time on the blackout that occurred during the Super Bowl with one clever tweet that trended immediately.

Just the same, I wonder how digital marketing executives at Evian would feel about Finnerman’s comment. Evian notoriously botched a golden opportunity to capitalize on Mark Rubio’s embarrassing water bottle moment that went viral immediately.  By the time the Evian’s digital media team responded in social media, the rest of the country had moved on to the next thing (maybe Evian should give The World Fastest Agency a call, or rather, a Twitter DM).

Ultimately, legitimacy of TWFA’s model will be decided by the clients who invest in it and judge their results against their expectations (not by other agencies). If it works well for The World’s Fastest Agency’s clients, it’s legitimate. And if it’s legitimate, it will most certainly have an impact on the large agencies (either a ripple effect or an outright tsunami).

But who are the clients for this model? With a relatively cheap price tag of $999 that even cash-strapped startups can afford, it will be just as interesting to see who signs up for The World’s Fastest Agency as it will be to see if and how they succeed or fail.

Parekh offers a hopeful turn of events that will benefit everyone (including large agencies):

Where Mr. Hayes could potentially succeed — and this is only if he has the right agency contacts — is partnering with agencies. He claims he’s happy to work with agencies “running in the background” while the typical RFP process unfolds, or when a sudden opportunity arises on a short time frame.

Things could certainly unfold this way, but I’m not so convinced that they will. Agencies (huge corporations protecting massive interests) are not likely to offset real-time creativity (the golden egg of marketing right now) to a startup outside shop it perceives to be a threat.

I think a likely scenario will be that Agencies will watch Mr. Hayes and The World’s Fastest Agency with a hawk’s eye to see if he attains a respectable level of success and legitimacy. If the model succeeds, they will copy it… quickly. And if Hayes is successful, you can bet your ass The World’s Fastest Agency will be acquired by a large agency quicker than the 24-hour turn around time they guarantee clients.

Will The World’s Fastest Agency give the world’s slowest agencies a run for their money? That remains to be seen, but this will this will be one startup to watch in the coming year.

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