Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending an hour with Robert Scoble (author, tech evangelist, and blogger-extraordinaire) at his PodTech office in Palo Alto. Scoble's blog (Scobleizer) and video program (Scoble Show) are viewed by many, many tens of thousands of loyal fans.
The two things that struck me about Scoble are his accessibility and affability. I called him up out of the blue (his telephone number is on his web site), and said, "I'd like to meet you." "Fine," he responded, "how about tomorrow at three?" When I met him, I knew immediately that I'd like him — he's very down to earth and friendly.
We chatted about his work, my work, and then I gave him a Ball of Whacks. Here is a photo of Robert happily playing with it
Actually, this photo is not a bad metaphor of what a conversation with Scoble is like. He's playful. He puts ideas together in different ways. He tries different ways of looking at things — some of them brand new. He sees the obvious. And he has fun doing it.
I mentioned that I had been at Google the day before and that company had reminded me of Apple in the early 1980s: "Lots of young people, lots of energy, and no parking." I asked where he saw Google going, and if anything could stop them. "I'm not sure anything can stop them, not even a deep recession. They got a lot of smart people there." He paused a bit, and continued, "Maybe there is one thing: the Department of Justice." And he went on to give his theory that the Feds went after IBM for monopolistic practices after it had been in business for 50 (or so) years; they came after Microsoft after it had been in business for 25 (approximately) years; perhaps the Feds will go after Google when they're twelve. Interesting theory.
"What are your keys to success?" I asked. He mentioned that he works hard and "loves to talk with Geeks." But the key reason is that "I was in the right place at the right time." Scoble was a very early adopter of a disruptive technology, namely, blogging and other Web 2.0 social media tools. From there he built an audience, a great set of contacts, and a name for working hard and having "take-after-provocative-take" of what was really going on in the burgeoning blogosphere.
I then asked him, "Where was Microsoft in 2004-05 when this was happening? Why didn't they see the opportunities?" Scoble's response was revealing. He showed me a memo he had written to senior Microsoft execs more than two years ago. In it, he outlined the great future in store for the various social applications. Microsoft didn't buy Scoble's vision.
Scoble then gave the following metaphor: "Which would you rather have: a penny that doubles its value every day for thirty days, or $100,000?" On day 15 of this exercise (which is where the new web 2.0 apps were when Scoble made his proposal to Microsoft) that penny was now worth a little more than $300. But Microsoft felt that was insignificant compared to $100,000, and passed. But if you do the math, you find out that in 30 days that penny is worth more than $10,000,000. Interesting way of looking at things!
Scoble also has some interesting marketing ideas. And he used himself as an example. He is about to become a father for the second time (his wife Maryam is due in September).
"When someone gets married, they are inundated with offers of products and services before the actual marriage itself. But not so with having a new child. At five months [into Maryam's pregnancy], we've already made a lot of the purchases for our new child: newer sturdier car, more insurance, etc. But no one marketed 'new baby' related products and services to us. We took care of that ourselves.
I think it will happen in the near future that someone like Google or someone else will be able to look at my online behavior and see the sites I visit, and aggregate that information into a pattern that says 'new baby on the way' and then start marketing to me at three months and get my business."
Talk about killer apps! We also chatted about Twitter (he likes it), people (he likes them), creative thinking (it comes easily to him), and Apple (it mystifies him). It was a great hour — the kind in which I could feel new connections being made in my mind.
Thanks again, Robert. Look forward to seeing you again soon!