In his premier film appearance in the blaxploitation send-up “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” Chris Rock inadvertently illustrates a key pricing issue faced by most entrepreneurs when they initially launch a new product or service.
Watch this 93-second clip and see if you can identify the pricing pitfall addressed in this humorous clip. Caution: the clip contains a bit of profanity. It is Chris Rock, after all.
Note: This is Part II in a three-part series on Fast Followers. Click here for Part I and Part III
When Superman was introduced in 1939, he was truly a breakthrough comic book character. At the time, most comic heroes were very human, such as Dick Tracy, The Lone Ranger and Tarzan. The very attributes which caused Superman to be unlike anything that came before subsequently became clichéd conventions, which makes it difficult for modern audiences to appreciate just how startlingly different Superman was at the time of his debut. His super powers, costume, dual identity and crime-fighting focus have been endlessly imitated, sometimes a bit too closely.
Within months of Superman’s first appearance, Fox Features Syndicate created Wonder Comics, starring “Wonder Man.” As shown at left, he had super powers, wore a red uniform, fought crime and had a large “W” on his chest. Sound familiar? The public rejected this dismal imitation and the comic sold poorly.
Copies which lack originality are similar to those successively made on a Xerox machine. Each copy is an inferior imitation of that upon which it is based.
Note: This is Part I in a three-part series on Fast Followers. Click here for Part II and Part III
Lou Pearlman, owner of Trans Continental Airlines, watched five teenagers crowd into one of his private planes. He asked himself, “How the hell can these kids afford to charter a private plane?” The answer surprised him.
The “kids” were the pop singing group “New Kids on the Block” (New Kids or NKOTB), which at the time was one of the most successful musical acts in the world.
Pearlman was unimpressed with the group, but his chance meeting with them sparked an entrepreneurial adVenture. He wondered, “How hard can it be? Get some cute kids who can sing, teach them to dance and unleash them on the public.”
With no experience in the music industry, no musical talent and no fear, he developed musical groups and solo artists that collectively sold over 160 million records, twice as many as NKOTB. Pearlman’s most successful artists include The Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync, Aaron Carter and Jordan Knight.
Whether or not you like or even respect the music created by Pearlman’s performers, the manner in which he conquered the music industry offers relevant lessons for any entrepreneur attempting a fast-follower market-entry strategy.
Under the headline “The Cooling World,” a 1975 Newsweek article cited National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research that showed a drop in North America ground temperatures of one-half of one degree between 1945 and 1968 and satellite photos that revealed a “sudden, large increase in Northern Hemisphere snow cover.” The article went on to propose that the world was entering a “little ice age.”
My intent in referencing this egregious article is not to debate “global cooling” – I mean “global warming” – I mean “climate change.” Rather, it is to highlight that journalists often have a very hopeless world view. Irrespective of the facts at hand, they often relish in proclaiming mankind’s imminent demise. Let’s face it, sex sells and so do doom and gloom.
Fortunately for mankind, entrepreneurs do not hope they can make an impact. They act. Improvements in mankind’s lot arise from entrepreneurs who ignore the headlines, hope less and act more to improve their lives as well as the well being of those around them.
In 1899, George Wingfield was a nineteen-year-old cowboy when he attempted to borrow money collateralized by his last worldly possession, a woman’s diamond ring.
The banker initially thought George to be “something of a shambler*.” However, after asking him what he intended to use the money for, he became convinced that there was something special about Wingfield, “the kind of square Western gambler that even a Nevada banker could rely upon.” He loaned him a nominal amount of money; the exact amount is lost to history, but is generally agreed to be between $25 and $75. The loan was quickly repaid, and the banker agreed to provide Wingfield with a $1,000 grubstake, in exchange for fifty percent of the future wealth created by the cowboy’s efforts.
Within five years of their initial meeting, Wingfield had leveraged his modest grubstake into a mining enterprise worth in excess of $50 million, making the former cowboy and his banker two of the richest men in the Western United States.
The factors that led the banker to grant Wingfield his grubstake are the similar to those which drive modern-day, high-tech venture capital investments.
What is a grubstake and how did Wingfield convince the banker to grant one to him? Read on.
“The emperor holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates advancing, one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes creep under it, backward and forward, several times, according as the stick is advanced or depressed.
Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk… and you see few great persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles.”
Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
Jonathan Swift was satirizing the manner in which court appointments were made in 18th-century England. However, his description could be aptly applied to the process by which some Big Dumb Companies (BDCs) and even Bigger Dumber Government agencies (BDGs) execute their procurement decisions.
Most historians agree that professional baseball player and manager Leo Durocher never uttered the infamous words, “Nice guys finish last.” The closest documentation supporting the quote is a statement Durocher made on July 7, 1946, during his tenure as the New York Giants’ coach. Pointing to the opposing team, he said, "The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place, not in this dugout." It was the accompanying headline of the article that boiled down his thoughts to the oft-repeated phrase.
After years of denying the phantom quote, Durocher eventually embraced it, using it as the title of his 1975 autobiography. However, as he mellowed with age, Durocher attempted to rewrite his place in history by claiming that he was not implying that nice guys could not win. Rather, he argued that being “nice” and “winning” simply have no correlation.
Most historians do not subscribe to Mr. Durocher’s revisionist history. The hot-tempered, foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking ballplayer earned the nickname “The Lip” because of his caustic tongue. He is not politely pointing out a soup stain on the umpire’s tie in the above photo. Leo “The Lip” was anything but “nice.”
The 15th century French mathematician and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote, “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.” This loosely translates to, “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.” A more literal translation is: “I was too lazy to pull together my thoughts in advance, so you will have to sort through the jumble of ideas I am about to share with you.”