How we Squared Up Contact Info

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In The Innovation Stack, Jim McKelvey tells how he co-founded Square — the mobile payments company now valued at $70+ billion. Making the iconic Square card reader (that plugs into an iPhone) was the easy part. Giving small business a square deal on payment processing took an entire Innovation Stack — a whole set of interlocking inventions behind the scenes.

The book teaches startups how to pick the right problems, and create unbeatable, market-changing solutions. This article explains how my team used The Innovation Stack, and how you can too.

Finding the Pyramids

The first step is picking your perfect problem. A problem you’re passionate about, that the market hasn’t found a simple solution to. An unfair system that needs to be squared up. …

Phone & Email Don’t Work for New Customers

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Millions of small businesses have the same “Contact Us” page: a phone number, an email address, and a contact form. But just try reaching them — it takes 24 to 48 hours to talk to someone who can solve your problem.

Small businesses can win if they get a knowledgeable person in front of the customer quickly. The small business owner can ask the right questions, show their expertise and propose the winning solution.

But if new customers can’t get in touch with a small business, it’s over.

New Customers Arrive by Phone

What happens when you call a small business today? 62% of calls to small businesses are not answered. Many of the calls that are answered go to a call-center answering service, which most callers are unsatisfied with. …

The New Economy of Habits

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Image Licensed from BigStock. Fair Use of Logos for Editorial Purposes.

If there’s one thing our tech industry does well, it’s training us on new habits.

Google, Facebook and Twitter started out as free services with no advertising. They spent millions of venture capital dollars training users to come back to Google, Facebook and Twitter every day. Only then did they monetize those habits through advertising.

Uber has spent billions of investor dollars training us to use Uber. Apps from PostMates to TaskRabbit are following the same path. And there are offline habits as well, like getting a Cinnabon every trip through the airport.

You might not want be trained on all these habits. Let’s talk about why, and what we can do to reassert our own priorities in our daily lives. …

It Takes a Robot to Fight the Robots

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The same thing happens every time you contact a company by phone, email or chat. Did you notice? A robot answers and tries to figure out if it’s worthwhile to connect you to a human.

It’s time to turn the tables. When they call, text or email you, they should get your robot, who decides if it’s worthwhile to connect them through to a real person — you. Their marketing emails, robo-texts and sales calls should hit the same brick wall that ordinary people hit when contacting a company.

The same technology that’s used to run modern automated contact centers also makes it possible to set up an effective, low-cost Assistant that everyone can afford. Your “Robot Assistant” will be a piece of software running on your device, or in the cloud. …

Put a Friendly Bot Between You and the Evil Bots

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A Few Popular User Interfaces. Image via BigStock

Movies like The Social Dilemma and commentators like Tim Wu, Shoshanna Zuboff, and Tristan Harris have shown that the phones, apps and websites we use are doing collateral damage to our mental, physical and financial health.

They tell a strong story about the harms of our current tech, but their story about how to fix it is a lot weaker. I’m proposing a radical new kind of solution. Small, scrappy companies are already building the first pieces. It’s just crazy enough to work.

The World Is a User Interface

I interact with 100+ user interfaces (UI’s) every day. Every piece of technology I touch or see, is an interface with a computer at one end and a human (me) at the other. Someone designed everything I look at or click. …

Reverse Compatibility Is the Missing Feature

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Most adults use at least one of the popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, (Facebook) Messenger, or business messaging tools like #Slack and Yammer. Everyone has a powerful smartphone in their pocket. The usefulness of email and phone are collapsing— most calls and emails are now sent by robots trying to harvest a human’s attention.

But I still get business cards with a phone number and email address on it. I still verbally tell people my phone number, so they can text me, so I can text back with my email address. Hopefully I’ll get them into my Contacts, since I don’t pick up calls if I don’t know who it is. …

Tech’s Original Sin

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In The Social Dilemma, the narrator asks a parade of tech reformers a simple question. What exactly is the problem with Tech? They have a lot of trouble answering. Here’s my answer:

Free is Evil.

How much do you pay for your email? Your search engine? Your social network? Your radio and TV? They’re all free. Americans spend about 11 hours each day engaging with free media, apps and websites.

Someone is paying, though. How much are the advertisers of the world spending for access to your brain? What are they buying, anyway?

When you use a free service, you are consenting to let someone inside your head, to change your behavior in ways that benefit them. You’re joining a behavior change program that turns your own behavior against you. …

This is the Future

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How do you get in touch with the people you need to meet? Whether you need advice, funding, a partnership, or a new employee — it’s easy enough to find likely candidates. Getting reliable contact information is another thing entirely.

Today’s default is email introductions. If I want to contact you, I need to convince someone who has your email address to send an email to both of us as an introduction. You know the type: “I think you and Jesse would have a lot to talk about, so here you go — “

There has to be a better way. In this article I’ll explain why we still use email intros, and what is being built today that can help us change to a better system. …

What You’re Feeling When You Decide

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Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

If we have free will, why is it so hard to make the changes we consciously want to make? I’ve spent over a decade developing apps and websites to help people change their habits to be healthier and happier. I’ve read the neuroscience research, the psychology research and the philosophers.

In this article I’ll explain the framework I use to make sense of our experience of free will and the realities of habits, behavior and change. Let’s get started.

The Ghost In The Machine

Since Isaac Newton’s day, science sees a universe governed by deterministic laws. It operates like a finely tuned clock. …

Lean Manufacturing Ideas to Fix Email

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Image by Wavebreak Media on BigStock

Instant Delivery is Bad Design

In 2003, Blackberry released an exciting new feature — emails would be pushed to arrive instantly at your device. No more need to “check email”. Ding! Here it is. In the smartphone era, emails arrive with a push alert in your notification stack. Desktop clients like Outlook work the same way.

Instant delivery is the model for asynchronous communications of all kinds — Text messages, WhatsApp messages, #Slack notifications, SnapChats. Tech companies compete to deliver the fastest, and be the most synchronized across devices. All messages get our attention — whether urgent, important, or not.

This is terrible design. Humans pick up their phones 80+ times a day, usually in response to an alert or inbound asynchronous communication. Every interruption costs us time and focus. A 3-second interruption doubles mistakes at work. Having a smartphone face-up on the desk leads to a 26% productivity drop. …


Jesse Hercules

20+ year Tech Entrepreneur. Building a future where tech serves people, not the other way around. Learn more at:

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