Year: 2018

  • I Love and Hate Sirius Radio

    I love music. I hate commercials. I spend a ton of time in the car. I love Sirius Radio’s product. I hate Sirius Radio customer and billing practices.

    I have paid for Sirius Radio since 2007 across three autos and a digital login. I no longer pay Sirius for their service, although I still love and miss the product.

    A while back, our cars were coming up for renewal and the calls started coming in. I don’t mind the calls save for the fact that they are clearly off-shored and are sometimes hard to understand. Part of scale for them, I guess.

    For 2018 though, there was a difference when it came time to renew. I had already indicated that I wanted to continue and during the enrollment I asked when the contract ended. I was then made aware that there was no option for a set time length.

    All new plans are auto-renew in perpetuity. Huh?

    Essentially they wanted me to sign up to be billed forever, with yearly increases baked in, I’m sure. Well, at least until I remember to call or check a bill. Nope.

    I offered to pre-pay two autos for the year but did not want an auto rollover. I was told no.

    I escalated this to a manager, explained my history (over 10 years) and my desire. I was told, “I’m sorry, but perhaps I could choose a less discounted monthly payment plan and then use a card that will expire in the next year.” His thinking was I’d then hear from Sirius for collection when the billing stopped processing at the expiry of my card and have a chance to opt out or re-evaluate. He actually said this to me.

    This was the proposed solution. To apologize for the company, which I appreciated, and then help me beat their system.

    What I was asking for, reasonable time-bound contractual billing, did not exist anymore from Sirius Radio.

    In the age of customer experience and transparency, how does Sirius think that it will not sour large groups of customers who take a moment to ask further details about the billing parameters of its service?

    I guess the answer is that without a clear alternative in their eyes, they may do as they please. This is such a bad, old retail, way of thinking about consumers and assuming their ignorance and / or need for your product will overcome bad experiences and the misalignment of company and consumer interests.

    We live in the abundance economy, during the age of expanding consumer choice. I know Sirius has a monopoly on Howard Stern, but outside of that consumers have many more choices for lightly ad-supported or fully ad-free music.

    A lack of a billing plan that was not overtly focused on maximizing customer value and minimizing breakage did enough to churn me and sour me on Sirius as a whole.

    How does this happen in 2018? I can’t be the only one shaking my head at this. Who’s in charge of the brand over there? Oh, the public company quarterly earnings cycle…. short-term planning and the agency problem rears its head once more. Sadly, this is not unique to them in the grander scheme.

    Stop emailing me and calling me Sirius Radio. It’s over –  and it was definitely you.

    Oh, hello Spotify Premium…

    I can opt out any time? And you integrate with Waze as well? That’s great. We may have just become best friends. Have you met my wallet? How would you like to go out for a seafood dinner? I’m buying.


  • Cryptocurrency Commentary from John Oliver

    Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is one of the smartest and funniest shows on TV.  As a side note, I still do consider it odd that my pal Steve’s overtly confident walk “destabilized” his live performance at the Tower theater in 2015. Moving on…

    The show’s central topic this week was cryptocurrencies. For those who still don’t have your head fully wrapped around crypto, blockchain or Bitcoin, it’s a decent commentary, that also happens to be 25 mins of intelligent-hilarious.

    The best part is the comparison of blockchain’s high level of security to the level of processing that goes into creating a Chicken McNugget. To hack the blockchain is the equivalent of turning a McNugget back into a chicken….

    If you are wondering, I’m long on crypto and blockchain.

    In tandem or utilized individually, they are going to fundamentally change how we live, work and operate as a society over the next few decades. I own some coin and have placed some early stage bets within the space. This is the next wave of the digital revolution.

    If you want to see one of the best write-ups on the technologies and crypto currencies, read this long-form NYT piece. If you want to watch a 90-minute doc on the origins, watch Banking on Bitcoin on Netflix. If you want more John Oliver, Last Week Tonight is Sunday nights on HBO or free on Youtube the following week (which is awesome.)

    Also, if you’d want to see rational utility and/or valuation currently attached to a token or cryptocurrency in the near term… good luck with all that. We’re probably stuck in 1849 for a little bit longer.

  • Work-Life ROI and Career Lifecycles with a Side Order of Jack Mah

    Last night I had a drink with RevZilla employee #17, who’s last day was last Friday. After 8+ years he’s off to find his next mountain to climb. I’m excited for him. Go get ’em, PCB.

    We talked about life, business and what’s next for both of us at a macro and micro level. We also enjoyed reminiscing about the early days of the company and what it was like to invent things on a small team just starting out vs later operating within a larger industry-dominant machine focused on constant expansion and maximizing its lead.

    We both agreed businesses and opportunities have a lifecycle with different rewards and challenges along the way. Sometimes as things progress you need to be aware of the work / life ROI calculator and how it shifts and can differently impact you over time.

    The personal inputs of time, effort and energy go in and hopefully result in meaningful comp, work, learning, growth, relationships and the joy of doing things you’re proud of. As we all progress through our careers, both sides of that equation change due to how we evolve as people and value our personal time while the companies, people and opportunities continue to change around us.

    He also shared with me one of his favorite videos, which I believe captures the spirit of the arc of the stages of many our lives, entrepreneurial or not. It’s an insightful four minutes with the founder / CEO of, Jack Mah. I had not seen this one before.

    Jack speaks to the value of picking someone to follow, focusing on what you are good at and eventually paying it forward. My favorite part, though is when he speaks to “your mistakes as the income or revenue” of the early career effort.

    My favorite quote: “25 years old. Make enough mistakes. Don’t worry. You fall, you stand back up. Enjoy it.”

    When I was 26, about to leave a good career to start RevZilla, knowing the stats of startup survival rate, I asked my father if he thought I was crazy.

    His response, “What’s the worst that can happen? You learn a ton, it doesn’t work, you pick yourself up and go do something else – with that much more experience.”

    At this stage, I’d probably also add, “and make sure that great learning experience doesn’t leave you with crazy debt, though”.

    Regardless, glad that my father, Jack Mah and I are aligned on this one.

  • Cold Feet on Amazon HQ2 Philadelphia

    Earlier this year I was happy to have been asked by the City of Philadelphia to help connect them to fast movers in Seattle in support of their Amazon HQ2 bid. The cross-functional pitch team was doing their own research and recon, which included spending some time on the ground there, hopefully learning more about the Amazon culture and finding some insights which could increase the hometown chances.

    At the time, my thought process surrounding the value of the ‘Zon coming to town was mostly centered on:

      1. The ability of Amazon to attract a different level of tech / digital talent to Philly;
      2. The ability for the companies I’m involved with and others locally to be able to potentially recruit that talent;
      3. The boost to the Philly economy on all fronts and;
      4. Bringing attention and hopefully improvement to Philadelphia’s national brand, which, in my view, is often overly focused on cheese steaks and public altercations involving snowballs, batteries and most recently a horse. The landscape (food, culture, business) has changed in the even the last decade and this town needs to advertise its new position as a city with much to offer to those open to moving.

      In the last six months, however, reading more about Seattle’s current issues and speaking with friends who are current residents, I can’t say that I have not ended up with cold feet on the proposition of “winning” this bid.

      This week Technically Philly ran a piece highlighting the potential upsides and downsides of winning the HQ2 bid, although the author ended up a net positive on the outcome.

      I can’t get there any longer.

      When I think about Philly in its current form, I think of it as an undiscovered gem, with a burgeoning food and cultural scene coupled with a reasonable cost of living that I still consider any startup-up’s first investor.

      The slow and steady organic evolution in the last two decades has added a romance, inclusiveness and kept a “smallness” that we have all been enjoying. I continue to hear visitors remark, “I had no idea this was Philadelphia”. It wasn’t, but it is now. It’s arriving as we speak.

      The word is slowly getting out, and eventually Philly will mature in many ways that other cities already have. In the meantime, I’d hate to see us potentially fracture the magic if we toss Amazon’s 40,000 new six-figure salaries at it and then hope that infrastructure, housing, amenities and even the suburbs can catch up, keep up and stay stable. Rushing the process will likely break a lot of what’s currently great.

      While I will fully agree that Amazon’s immediate impact to the city’s economy, talent pool and national presence will be real and positive, losing the current “small” and accessible elements of Philly will be an immediate loss to what’s finally starting to work so well and evolve.

      And, for those (including me) who are looking for our city to more quickly elevate its brand on the national stage, I’d say we don’t need Amazon HQ2. We just need more Philadelphia evangelists with bigger megaphones and collectively a bit more patience.

  • First Post. Never Settle.

    Over the last year, I have regularly found myself sharing things I have learned about life and business with people.

    Each new person has occupied a different stage of life and career, but many of the topics have been the same. It’s been lots of sharing, comparing notes and learning, creating a virtuous cycle of value flowing in both directions.

    During these conversations one of us inevitably says, “This has to get written down”. Sometimes it happens, most times it doesn’t.

    During my time leading and growing RevZilla, I used to frequently crystalize my thoughts and share them internally via all-hands meetings or company-wide emails I called “Orange Juice”. It was a great way to engage staff at all levels, capture and teach institutional knowledge while reinforcing alignment around the most important things.

    It also forced me to further simplify and refine my thoughts into nuggets which could become frameworks, slogans, mantras and potentially be referenced later.

    So taking a page out of one of my favorite’s play book (AVC), I’m going to attempt to capture and share more widely my thoughts and insights which continue to be the foundation of many of my conversations focused on improving life and work outcomes.

    I have learned so much from those who took the time either personally or in their writing to share what worked for them along the way. How could I not pay it forward?

    Special thanks to Philadelphia creative stud, Chris Cashdollar (yes, best last name ever) for helping me design and bring the site to life. Special thanks to my Chief of Staff extraordinaire, Lee Anne Fischl, for the kick in the ass to follow through, and pointing out that I hadn’t written a post since 2011.

    Regarding the title of this site, my mom once asked me “If you wrote a book, what would the title be?” Within a few seconds I had it. Never Settle. It seemed obvious.

    Never Settle captures me two-fold. Always engaged and excited, moving forward toward the next thing (read, slight ADD), coupled with the relentless pursuit to see the people and things around me maximize their potential, myself included.

    Tag line, book title, personal mantra, license plate, blessing and frequently curse. Regardless. It’s me and I’m sure it will come through.

    I hope you find as much value here as I find satisfaction in sharing what I have captured. I consider the pursuit of helping those who come next an homage to all those who believed and invested in me along the way.

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