Strong Opinions @marksbirch

Random thoughts from a NYC entrepreneur and investor about start-ups, technology and the people that make it all happen. Also find time for good tunes and good food.
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Foundations Of Burden

METAL MONDAY: Worlds Apart by Pallbearer - After a brief hiatus, the metal returns and kicks off the post-summer season with simply a monster of a new album.  Sophomore slump for Pallbearer?  Nope, not here with their second studio release Foundations of Burden, picking up where Sorrow and Extinction left off.  The Arkansas doom band continues to bring their brand of Sabbath charged doom metal to the masses, and it sounds more confident, more massive, more ambitious.

The album launches with Worlds Apart, an awesome track to get the album going.  The guitars are as dense and layered as ever, Campbell’s vocals are clear and strong, and the tune is an interesting mix of doom yet with an uplifting sensibility.  There is no doubt you are listening to metal, but unlike so many practitioners of doom, you do not get the fatigued listening to the same droning monotonous sound.  This is a great album and no doubt will be revisited later this later on many a best of list.

Just some end of summer fireworks…

88 plays
Miles Davis,

JAZZ AT NIGHT: Sid’s Ahead by Miles Davis - Long day and an even longer day driving back home.  So I just chill, kicking back, and listening some tunes to unwind.  What better then than to spin some Miles from his groundbreaking Milestones album from 1958.  Considered one of his signature albums, it marked the beginnings of his foray into modal jazz from the formulaic structures of bebop that dominated the 50’s jazz scene.

One of he longer tracks on the album, Sid’s Ahead, is just the prototypical chill jazz tune that we would come to expect from the master as this stage.  This was the last album that would feature the first great quintet of Coltrane, Chambers, Jones, and Garland.  But on this track Miles does double duty playing the trumpet and filling in for Garland on piano.  Anyway, it is a great tune on a great album and definitely one to chill out to.

Underdogs are not popular because we are underdogs. Underdogs have to fight for everything. Underdogs have to fight to be heard, to be seen, to be respected. Of course we don’t want to think that we’re them. We want to think we’re winners, that we sit at the special table (you can’t sit with us), that we’re better than everyone else, but what are you winning? What did you win? Sh*t, what are you even playing, dog?

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Karen, created an excellent site ”Hire More Women In Tech" is a great starting point.  She built this as a resource for helping all of us to get smarter on the issue of gender diversity in the tech industry and to actively improve the situation.

There are some that continue to proclaim that the issue is overblown.  The recent release of diversity numbers however by a number of well known tech companies makes it readily apparent that there is still a long way to go and much to be done to create a better environment for women to pursue careers in tech.  To that end, it is encouraging to see more people recognizing this is an critical topic and creating programs and resources to tackle this issue.

NYC Enterprise Sales Meetup

The first event for the newly launched NYC Enterprise Sales Meetup went way better than expected!  Free events are tricky to gauge when it comes to RSVP’s, but that evening over 75 sales folks attended and out of 90 sign ups.  The first panel topic “Your First Five Customers”  garnered some great discussion by our five panelists and moderated by Jake Dunlap of Skaled.  It was great to hear each panelist candidly share their experiences in finding and driving home those first enterprise deals for their early startups.

We have to sincerely thank our panelists for being so generous with their time and insights:

We also have to thank our sponsors, Work-Bench, who provided the space and Enhatch, who sponsored the food and snacks.

Come join us for the next event in September on ‘Creating “Sales Effective” Sales Messaging’.  It will  be a panel discussion talking about how one takes a marketing message and transforms it into something that gets buyers interested.

16 Days by Ryan Adams - A song originally written for his band Whiskeytown back in 1997, Ryan Adams reprises the tune on the Letterman Show a few years back.  I always enjoyed his metal cover songs (he can often be seen sporting death metal T-shirts), but the breadth of his influences is much wider, including country.  In a genre that pumps out tunes that are about as original and poetic as a supermarket tabloid rag, Adams brings depth and poignancy that is heart rending and painfully honest.  His solo performance here with just his guitar and harmonica is simply devastating in its power and beauty.

h/t to my friend Andy for pointing me to this incredible song.

The element that’s missing the most is that of empathy and understanding. Most PR pros and marketers act without understanding or build without knowing what the complete experience is of their brand as it exists today. They just keep shoveling new and creative campaigns and material into this fire for fear that the fire would burn out otherwise. Without knowing what that experience is right now we can’t honestly know what needs to be fixed or have a vision of what that experience should be.

Live Your Brand the Way Your Customers Do by Brian Solis

No empathy plus a lack of conviction in their product/company leads to the classic “chicken with its head cut-off” marketing approach as they contort themselves to achieve viral awareness.  It is marketing without any soul or knowledge about the customer.

Ice Bucket Marketing Strategies

I would say this represents a true low-point in brand marketing, but I saw some folks recently use the passing of Robin Williams as an opportunity for promotion.  There really is no floor by which some marketers will debase themselves for a quick bump in awareness, however fleeting, vapid, or repulsive.

If your product has any value, then cheap stunts will not move the needle in the long term.  Great brands and companies realize their worth and play to their strengths, not to fads or pirating other’s ideas.  Maybe it is no wonder then that Samsung went ahead with their own parody video…

102 plays
John Coltrane,
My Favorite Things

JAZZ AT NIGHT: Everytime We Say Goodbye by John Coltrane - The album My Favorite Things was a commercial breakthrough for Coltrane, with the title track of the famous musical tune.  This album was also a turning point for Coltrane, who by this time had thrown off the old hard bop ways for the newer territory of modal jazz.  While the album did not feature any original compositions, opting for standards, it nonetheless had a major impact on the world of jazz and was recognized many years later for a Grammy.

As incredible as the title track is, the other tunes are also excellent, including the tune Summertime and the ballad Everything We Say Goodbye.  Cole Porter tunes were popular territory for jazz artists, and this one from a lesser known production Seven Lively Arts is a smoky burner of a tune.  It is the classic late night slow dance type of ballad and a good one to close the evening out with.