Fatherly Love


A year ago today my father passed away.  It seems really weird to write that.  The passing of someone so close to you is a really tough situation to internalize.  In many respects it doesn’t seem real.  Sometimes you simply wonder where that person went.  Everyone deals with grief differently.  For me, I miss him very much, but the thing that hurts the most is that my daughter will never really get to know him.  That just makes me sad, because my father was such an awesome guy.

The best thing I can think to do to honor his memory is to use of the love and kindness that my father showered on me and pass it along to my family and those around me.  With this in mind, I wanted to share with anyone reading this something that my father gave to me and something that I think is one of the most important things any father can give to his children – confidence to believe in yourself.  I know that may sound a little cheesy, but I think confidence is the key to a successful life.  I believe that the very first step to succeeding is believing that you can succeed.  Without that confidence and belief you are dead in the water.

My father always conveyed to me that I could be successful in whatever I wanted to do.  He also worked hard to expose me to successful people.  As young as 16 years old he brought me along to business seminars where I met wildly successful people.  He always gave me the sense that “if they can do it, so can you.”  I realize today that this was so critical to my path in life.

It also makes me think when I see so many tragedies and craziness in the news.  I wonder if many of these people that have gone down the wrong path may have not had someone in their lives to give them confidence to believe in themselves.  Without that foundation I believe many people have a tougher time in life and never get off on the right foot.  So for this and so much more, I appreciate that my father gave me a strong foundation to launch my life in the right way.

Now that I am raising a family and many of my friends are also having children, I want to use the anniversary of my father’s passing to pass along his gift to me.

Try to instill confidence in your children and those around you.  Believe in people even when they don’t believe in themselves.  Give them the confidence that they can succeed… so they can.

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A Bold Prediction?

ImageAnyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Apple fanboy.  So a lot of my friends have been asking me what I think about Apple’s stock and why it has been so badly beaten down.  Here are my thoughts and a prediction.

There has been a lot of discussion around why Apple’s stock has been hit so hard over the last few months.  It has gone from about $700 to $500 in the last 4 months.  Some people say it is because investors are afraid of Google’s Android taking market share from the iPhone.  Some people say that without Steve Jobs Apple has no big tricks up its sleeve anymore.  And other people say Apple is just too big to get any bigger.

Personally, I think all of this is just noise.  The real reason why Apple’s stock tanked is due to the fiscal cliff negotiations.  This is because many investors were afraid that the fiscal cliff deal would include an increase on capital gains tax (income from the sale of stocks) from 15% to 20%.  Over the past decade there are not many high-profile stocks like AAPL that have performed as well and  nearly every single mutual fund holds large positions in this stock.  In other words, many large investors have made a TON of money off of Apple’s stock over the last decade and they needed to sell their positions over the last few months to capture their gains at a lower tax rate before year-end.  Now that this is out of the way I am confident many of these same investors will buy back into the stock and drive the share price to record levels.

Android is good, but there is plenty of room in the market for two major players.  Steve Jobs didn’t just build awesome products, he built an awesome company with incredible talent that will thrive for years to come.  And Apple still has a small market share of the global market and has plenty of room to grow.

Think of our younger generation – Are they buying PCs?  What phone do they want to buy?  What device do they use to play games?  The Apple generation that is taking root before our eyes is going to continue to drive the growth of this company for years to come.

So, where do I think AAPL is heading?  I don’t see any way AAPL won’t return to $700 sooner than later.  In fact, I believe AAPL could easily hit $1,000 mark by year-end.  The great thing about the stock market is that it is very easy to hold my feet to the fire on this prediction…;)

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Sky is not the limit…

As many of you know, I recently decided to join Sky Analytics as a founder and Chief Marketing Officer.  Sky Analytics helps large corporations manage outside legal costs via sophisticated invoice analysis and benchmarking tools.  Two aspects really attracted me to this opportunity: the team and the traction.

Sky Analytics was founded by and is lead by the team that built Shareholder.com and sold it to NASDAQ.  This is a team that knows how to spot a good opportunity and execute on it from initial strategy through exit.  It is a team that has experience in both entrepreneurial and corporate environments.  And, most importantly, it is a team on smart, strategic thinkers and people I respect.

On top of the team, I was really impressed with the traction this young company has already established.  Without divulging numbers, I will say they have gotten a strong foothold in an absolutely huge market (companies spend over a half of a TRILLION dollars every year on legal counsel!).  Simply put, legal spend management is a great niche with huge potential.

At Sky Analytics I will be responsible for the company’s entire marketing strategy from branding to email campaigns to SEO.  You can get a taste for the initial fruits of my labor by checking out our new website at SkyAnalytics.com.

I will also be responsible for Sky’s product development initiatives.  I have always had a passion for creating software from sketches through development and launch.  I spent that last 3 years of my career at NASDAQ heading product development for global investor relations services, so this new challenge is right in my wheelhouse.

All in all, I am excited to be an integral part of a great team that is seeing early success.

Finally, I would be remiss to not say this…we are always looking to speak with new companies about our legal cost control software, so ping me at chris.bullock[@]skyanalytics.com if you’d like to learn more!

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Random technology musing…

Over the past couple days I have been reading about a new technology that has gotten me really excited.  The funny part about it is that it is a new thermostat of all things…

You can read about it here.  And watch a video about it here.

What makes this technology interesting though is that it comes from a group of people that were behind the design of Apple’s iPod.  In other words, many of the lessons learned from cramming extraordinary amounts of technology into a small physical devices is now being applied to devices people normally wouldn’t think.

Frustrated with thermostat technology caught in the ’50’s, a group of Apple engineers left Apple to create a device that was not only much easier to use, but was also designed to be an object of affection.  Behind its sleek and simple design, lies some serious technology.  Some highlights – the thermostat actually learns when you normally turn up and turn down the heat and then adjusts so you don’t have to remember, the thermostat has motion detectors to sense when people are in the house and will adjust the temperature to help save money when you are out, and the thermostat can also connect to the internet so you can adjust the temp from your iPhone and track temperature trends.

While the device is not cheap ($249), I have a feeling that any house would make its money back pretty quickly through cost savings.  This pricing strategy is also another carry-over from Apple – i.e. make the best products and people will pay a premium for them.

I have a feeling Steve Jobs influence and his “think different” mentality are going to have a long-lasting impact on the world.  And hopefully this is just the start…

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The Next Chapter

Sorry there’s been a couple weeks hiatus in my blog posts, but there is a good reason.  I recently made a major career change having left NASDAQ (after a nearly 7 year tour of duty) and joined StockTwits.

I actually started my career at NASDAQ at Shareholder.com as an Account Executive (read “sales guy”) in 2004, but we were acquired a couple years later.  After the acquisition, I worked as a Senior Product Specialist (read “sales engineer”) and supported the team that was the primary liason to the NASDAQ-listed companies.  A couple years later I convinced the senior management team to let me found a new Product Development team having seen a void between what the sales team needed to sell and the products that were being built.  I eventually became a Senior Managing Director at NASDAQ and was the acting Director of Product Development for Global Investor Relations Services.  It was a great ride and I learned a ton.  In the end, it was the launching pad for the next chapter in my life.

While at NASDAQ I was assigned the informal duties of leading our social media product development efforts.  I began researching the internet for anything related to social media in the financial market space.  One of the companies that immediately stood out to me was StockTwits.

StockTwits was building a social network for investors on top of Twitter.  They had invented the use of the $ sign to tag tickers in tweets.  In other words, when their members tweeted about a ticker they would append a $ sign to the ticker ($GOOG, $AAPL, $AMZN, etc.).  This would allow for the easy aggregation of messages surrounding a particular ticker – i.e. you could search for Apple (AAPL) and the site would show you every tweet about the stock.  I found this tremendously interesting from the vantage point of the public companies who were being talked about.  Companies definitely want to know what is being said about them and if StockTwits could build a substantial network I could see it becoming a major player in the financial industry.  So I decided to reach out to the StockTwits CEO, Howard Lindzon, and a new journey began.

Howard Lindzon is a successful entrepreneur, hedge fund manager and angel investor.  A simple search on Google or YouTube for his name will pull up hundreds of results.  And after getting to know him over the last year, I have found him to be visionary, witty and a tremendous people connector – all invaluable entrepreneurial traits.  I also found that he has built a team around him that is defining the cutting edge and is tremendously creative.  So when Howard offered me the opportunity to join StockTwits I jumped at the opportunity to join not only a company full of potential but also a company full of talented people.

In my new role at StockTwits I am charged with developing a strategy to engage public companies on the platform and ultimately develop a new revenue line from services sold to these companies.  Social media is a new phenomenon that public companies and their investor relations departments are trying to make sense of, so this is a very interesting challenge that I am excited to take on.

All in all, I look back on my career at NASDAQ with appreciation of everything that I learned and the people I met.  And I now look forward to meeting new challenges and meeting worlds of new people.

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The Rise of Social Influencer Marketing

I’ve been fascinated by the wild growth of social networks.  Obviously marketers have also taken notice and have been trying to figure out how to tap into the power of this tremendous market.  For the most part we’ve seen the traditional culprits – text ads (right side of Facebook), sponsored promos (Twitter Promoted Tweets), and contests galore.  There is one new marketing tactic that has caught my eye as something new and totally different…social influencer marketing.

The idea behind social influencer marketing is to get people with the most influence (think followers/friends) to talk about your brand.  As I mentioned in a previous post there are companies like Klout that actually score how influential a person is on a 1 to 100 scale.  To get an idea on how powerful this is becoming, I’d highly recommend reading this story published in the Wall Street Journal:  Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers.

Basically, the gist of the story is the marketers are actually contacting the people with the highest Klout scores and giving them free stuff (hotel rooms, party invites, free goodies) in hopes that they will Tweet out to their massive follower list or post a single link to their brand on Facebook for all their friends to see.

I even recently came across a website that makes targeting influencers easy:  mylikes.com.  While I am not a big fan of the name, the concept IS cool.  Marketers post their brand/product to the site and tell influencers how much they will pay per click.  Influencers then choose what brands/products they want to tweet about and then then get paid every time someone clicks a link in their tweet.  In other words, if you have a massive following on Twitter, this is a way to monetize that list (if that’s what you’re into…;).  You can also get paid to post links to your Facebook wall if you have a large friend list.  Pretty wild stuff.

Marketing is evolving at a tremendous speed and only seems to be speeding up.  I hope you find it as fascinating as I do…

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About that “Enjoying Life” thing…

So I started off this blog with a post saying that I’d be writing about technology, investing and enjoying life.  So far, the first two topics have consumed this blog.  As such, this post will focus on one of my favorite ways to enjoy life…snowboarding.

I’ve been skiing basically ever since I could walk.  As an avid skier, my father bestowed this gift on me at a very young age.  I grew up hearing stories of him heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies.  So when the chance to heli-ski fell upon me in Utah this past week, I leapt at the opportunity.

Only a 20 minute drive from Salt Lake City, Park City is very accessible and has an abundance of ski resorts within a short drive.  In fact, Park City is actually surrounded by three resorts – The Canyons, Park City Resort, and Deer Valley – and has several resorts, including Alta and Snowbird, within an hour’s drive.  Combine this location with an incredible amount of fresh snow and Park City is an absolute dream to someone like me.

Here are some pictures from the heli-skiing trip – I hope you enjoy…

= Salt Lake in the distance in the top right =

= Fresh tracks in the canyons =

= The bird coming to pick us up =

= Nice and sunny at the top of our run =

= My brother (right) and I at the top of the last run of the day =

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