Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPads or iAid?

Within seconds of the unveiling of the iPad by Steve Jobs, Twitter lit up with women complaining and/or joking that the name immediately made them think of a certain feminine hygiene product. #iTampon was the #1 trending topic on Twitter yesterday and remains so this morning.
That is from a half tongue-in-cheek post by Bill Easterly at Aid Watch.  The comments section has a lot of back and forth about the state of feminism in the US, but one comment in particular caught my eye.  One person griped: "I thought this was an aid blog," and went on to say that the post was more suited for a tabloid.

Well, it turns out that this issue does relate to aid.  The likelihood that girls in developing countries will stay in school once they hit puberty is directly affected by their access to sanitary pads.  If they don't have them (along with private bathroom facilities at school), they tend to drop out.

The silver lining of the controversy is that it raised consciousness about this problem on Twitter and Facebook. As a result of tweets and Facebook posts, 28 donors gave $1,300 to that provides affordable sanitary pads for girls in Uganda.  A total of over 1,200 donors has now given $56,000 to this project.  Keep in mind that $30 is enough to help keep a girl in school for an entire year!

Friday, January 22, 2010

How to improve health and save lots of money

Here is a great TED talk by Dan Buettner describing 9 diet and lifestyle habits associated with much better health and longer lives.

Getting Americans to adopt these habits could lead to dramatically lower health costs. And fortunately these habits are not expensive - to the contrary, certain things like increasing walking rather than driving would directly save people money.

Making these changes would help stem run-away health care costs for society as a whole, which is a concern for nearly everyone - regardless of where they are on the political spectrum. So what's the problem? The problem is that changing behavior is tough - even when people know it is in their own interest.

Nonetheless, even modest investments in getting the word out could have big returns. So pass the word.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Happiness = Giving/Getting

Dunn and her colleagues found that the higher the percentage of their windfall workers spent on others, the happier they were, an effect that still existed when statistically controlling for relevant variables such prior happiness, income amount, and bonus size. What’s more, the data revealed that how the employees spent their money was a better predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself.
For more, see this article by Noah Goldstein reporting the work by Dunn, Aknin, and Norton over on Bob Cialdini's website.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A blast from the (GlobalGiving) past

In late 1999 when Mari and I began to think about the concept of what is now GlobalGiving, we jotted down this "manifesto," a copy of which I found in my new year's cleaning.  GlobalGiving has come a long way since then (and has a long way to go), and some of what we wrote ten years ago seems naive.  But I am also struck by how many of the main principles remain the same.

[Click on image for larger view.]

Innovation v. Novelty

Innovation is about finding new ways of meeting consumers’ needs, including ones they did not know they had. Sometimes it comes from a laboratory scientist but, more often, the innovation that changes the business landscape comes from the imagination of a Henry Ford or Walt Disney, Steve Jobs or Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
That is from John Kay, writing in the FT, who also notes:
[U]nderstanding the needs of customers is what distinguishes innovation from novelty. Quirky inventors have a place in the affections of everyone who enjoyed physics or chemistry at school. But...[p]ioneers of innovation are routinely pushed aside by competitors whose skills are in the marketplace rather than the laboratory.
Thanks to Keith Hansen for the tip.

Monday, January 04, 2010

When Small Changes Bring Big Results

Earlier I wrote about how a small change in the external environment can turn a modestly successful product into a runaway success.  The example was Evernote, a software program that allows people to store and synchronize information across their various devices.  Evernote's user base grew respectably after launch, but nothing special.  In June 2008, they had about 100,000 users.

And then the iPhone App Store launched, which turned out to the be the perfect distribution and application platform for the software.  By November 2008 they had 500,000 users.  And recently the NYT reported Evernote had surpassed 2 million users - fully half of which are iPhone users.

As usual, there may be other confounding factors that explain the growth, so this is not conclusive.  But it does reinforce the importance of persistence in entrepreneurship and the introduction of new products.