Collaborations don’t need timelines

In January, I declared 2017 the year of no networking.

Two years into San Francisco life, I swore off “networking” events and took a step back from teaching at General Assembly. I started studying data science and started writing on a consistent basis.

I recently took time to reflect on the most memorable moments in San Francisco. For me, it’s easy to fill my time with speaking events, coffee dates and tech events. However the most interesting moments have been spent writing in San Francisco and checking out talks at City Arts & Lectures. Ira Glass, Jennifer Doudna, and most recently JJ Abrams and Andy Cruz.

For me personally, these talks have very practical applications for personal and professional life. Personal storytelling is an art that takes a lot of practice. After hearing Jennifer Doudna, I reached out to Hillary Wicht to diligently work on my voice and personal storytelling.

Most recently, I learned from JJ Abrams and Andy Cruz’s talk that “collaborations don’t need timelines.” Meaningful collaborations take time.

Collaborations don’t need timelines 

One of my first projects at Expedia was the creation of a global partner program. Our goal was to monetize our web traffic, social channels and other owned properties with global partners like tourism boards, hotel chains and airlines. Coming from a performance marketing background, I wanted to create a highly profitable media network to fund my future growth experiments. Early tests were successful, particularly in emerging markets where US partners were not familiar with platforms like WeChat. But the key was audience, timings and measurable outcomes.

Too many collaborations dilute your brand

With my performance marketing hat on, I only thought about scale and efficiency. The primary metrics were return on ad spend and direct revenue from partners, however a secondary metric was repeat partner activity. Media Solutions become a highly profitable channel, however I feared our brand was becoming diluted. As you start to scale, it becomes harder to find companies with an audience and design that complements your brand.

In my particular case, this led to early influencer marketing tests where we created a network of influencers and partners paid a premium for on-brand creative.

The “x” collaboration model is broken

In a world with so many collaborations, brands are seeing audience fatigue. Big retailers like Target and H&M saw success with early collaborations, however today we’re seeing fewer more strategic partnerships like Target’s collaboration with mattress company Casper.

“Following a 10-or-so-year run of nearly constant collaborations from many a fast fashion retailer, the status of the designer x mass-market retailer situation is up in the air a bit. It seems the days of Missoni for Target-induced hysteria are gone… A trending hashtag does not ensure sell out status of a collection.” [The Fashion Law]

For Abrams and Cruz, they presented a new concept that flips our traditional view of collaborations. Often times, collaborations are not created for the consumer.

The collaboration is purely a creative escape for the artists. 

Over a number of years, Abrams and Cruz have developed a wonderful friendship with no true business collaboration yet. Cruz described this by saying “collaboration doesn’t need focus groups or timelines.” To create an authentic collaboration, you need time.

Go deep and perfect your craft 

This is something I’ve been exploring for a while.
There’s a misconception that building a network means going wide. But as you become more skilled in your craft, it’s more important to go deep.

Cruz talked about starting with a shared philosophy to give you structure and community. When you start with a common ground, it establishes credibility and empowers you to evolve your personal style over time.

The key is to keep doing the work and go deep to perfect your craft. When you find someone with a shared philosophy and exceptional craft, then keep working until the collaboration comes to life. If that person happens to be JJ Abrams, then you’re just pretty damn lucky.

Skilling up without getting distracted

When I hit my two year anniversary in San Francisco, I realized it was time to start giving back to the tech community.

Throughout my career, I’ve had a number of incredible mentors.
From moving overseas to starting and selling my first company, I’ve learned that asking for help is a strength and not a weakness.

So I started weekly office hours and 30 minute jam sessions in Hayes Valley to give more time to my GA students and fellow Y Combinator alum.

Through many conversations and matcha lattes at Boba Guys, I’ve found many of the best and brightest young entrepreneurs I meet are missing one thing: focus

For some, this can be attributed to a recent move to the Bay Area.
They’re frantically exploring all facets of technology and hitting every Meetup and startup event in town.

For others, they’re bouncing around in what I call the pinball effect. They pull the trigger by moving to San Francisco and then bounce, bounce, bounce hopping to hit the jackpot.

Here’s a quick summary of insights shared in my office hours:

  1. Start with a goal – write it down and track it in Trello
  2. Conduct a skills gap analysis – be honest with yourself
  3. Skill up – take a class, learn from peers, find a mentor
    • Reduce the number of networking events
    • Go deep – develop one or two skills at a time
    • Take a class that tactically teaches this skill
    • Find a peer or mentor to help build this new skill over time
  4. Stay focused – refer back to 1.

Some examples of tactical courses: 

A better bubble

I had a lightbulb moment this week.
One that took me back to my freshman and sophomore years of undergrad.

 

As I scroll through my Twitter feed and read trending headlines, I realized something…

 

 On paper, I’m a white girl from Ohio.
While I didn’t vote for Trump, I’m sure I know a couple people who did.

 

In San Francisco, I often times get mistaken for a “Marina girl”.
A label that I still don’t quite understand, but for simplicity let’s say it’s some fancy variation of a “basic bitch.”

 

After getting hit with a few nervy comments this week, I decided to make a few personal declarations.

 

I don’t agree with the white majority.

 

How can a white girl from Ohio say that?

 

Well, my entire understanding of the media changed after taking courses with Gene Shelton. A former publicist for Motown & CBS Records who worked with Prince, Stevie Wonder and served as Michael Jackson’s manager.

 

For the first time in my life, I was encouraged to question everything. Question everything and proactively find ways to truly walk in someone else’s shoes.

 

If you look at my Twitter feed, I read Blavity.
You won’t find a better news source for African American news.
From amazing stories of unsung heroes to in-depth coverage of national headlines.
Blavity Founder Morgan DeBaun

 

Dig a little deeper, I read Muslim Girl.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, this is the year of Amani Alkhat. Look out!

Muslim Girl covers hot topics like immigration and more fun topics like fashion, fitness and music. It’s a great source for Muslim news and cultural trends.

Muslim Girl Founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

 

I don’t believe in making America great again.

We can’t stay stuck in the past.

The future is Female.
Black.
Muslim.
etc. etc…

 

I don’t believe in bubbles.

 

Before moving to San Francisco, I was warned that I would hate the bubble. The lack of diversity, the subtle sexism and the homogeneous tech lifestyle.
After spending two years in the Bay Area, I couldn’t disagree more.
When you proactively seek out unique perspectives, you will find them.
If you feel like you’re in a bubble, change it.

“If you live in a diverse city, you are not the one living in a bubble” 

 

My morning routine

I’ve been spending lots of time on Whale. I have to admit I’m a total sucker for social apps and will download just about anything, but I generally lose interest after a week or so.

With Whale, I’m hooked. You meet awesome people and you ask them basically anything you want. Lately, I’ve been asked some really great questions which warrant a more thoughtful, long-form response.

Someone recently asked me how I start my day, which got me thinking about overall productivity and life hacks. So, I’ve been asking friends, mentors and randos* on the street for their best tips.

*Currently writing this from Sydney and rekindling my love for Aussie slang

For now, here’s how I start my day:

Gym or some form of exercise 

Having spent four years living in Sydney, I quickly assimilated to the early morning Bondi lifestyle. This is something that’s stuck with me and I’ve found my most productive and memorable days always start with an early morning workout.

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I joined ClassPass and found this was the best way to discover new neighborhoods and meet like-minded, fitness-loving girls in the city. Now, I’ve transitioned to developing my own workouts using a mix of apps and trainers I follow on Instagram.

Artsy 

This may sound like a peculiar way to start the morning, however I’ve found Artsy’s recommended works and explore functionality to be very inspiring. Now that I’ve spent a lot of time on the app, the recommendations are great and it’s my own personalized creative outlet.

Recent recommendations include: Massimo Vitali, Yoshiyki Ooe, Alec Soth

"Sari" by Alec Soth
“Sari” by Alec Soth

Google Alerts 

When I started out my career in advertising, I made it my mission to learn everything about my clients. In agency land, there’s a very thin line between personal life and professional life.

During my time working with Nikon, I did everything possible to understand the whole journey for a photographer. I geeked out on hardware, invested in great editing software and spent a lot of time with professional photographers. Hence, all of my wonderfully creative friends in Sydney.

As part of my morning routine, I found Google Alerts to be the best way for staying on top of client news and discovering relevant content. To this day, I have a dozen alerts set for trending topics and companies I’m watching closely.

Product Hunt 

It’s obvious that PH is the best place to catch the latest tech announcements and discover new and trending gadgets. For me personally, I’ve learned so much from the PH community. It’s a great way to connect with new people and share your thoughts on the latest technology.

By geeking out on PH each morning, I find water cooler convos at work get instantly more interesting. For example: While everyone is talking about Spectacles by Snap and the random vending machines across America, it turns out you can create instant Spectacle-like videos with SnapView.

watch-snapchat-surprise-a-mom-and-her-two-kids-with-spectacles-after-they-couldnt-get-any