My Friday Post Went Viral. Here’s Why.

Last Friday, I wrote a post that felt more like a personal update than anything else.

It went viral anyway, and I know why. 👇

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Quick Message — I’m Here to Help

☝️ First, let me say: I know the crunch that’s happening all over the country (and the world), which is why I’m cutting my rates and making them as flexible as possible. I do personal branding, relationship-building, content editing, and networking consulting.

I teach people how to get in front of anyone; tech investors, company CEOs, journalists or media, etc., and I do it by teaching basic tactics that anyone could use (patience, value creation, consistency, etc.). If you need help—growing your network, developing your brand & reputation, building relationships for a new job—then reach out to me. I will work with your budget —just send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn.

What We Expect of Our Companies

When we apply for jobs at companies, we expect that the contracts they give us are mutually beneficial at their core. For our part, these contracts require us to show up on time, excel in our skills & dedication, produce results, etc. And for that we get paid. It often boils down to a base concept:

“You give me time and skills, and I’ll give you money and benefits.” 💰

But sometimes in our readiness to accept these terms and get paid, we can overlook the things which we should be expecting & requiring from the companies hiring us.

And one of the core things that every employee should expect of their employer is a safe workplace. This isn’t innovative thinking; it’s a necessary cost which every employer should figure into their overhead.

Here’s the problem with that:

Safety isn’t sexy and profit rules the day.

Many people like to think that their company has their back; that the organization will catch them when they fall. And indeed this is true of many companies, but unfortunately not all.

And I think this is exactly why my post went viral. 🤔

Companies in Two Camps

With all the coronavirus stuff happening globally, there’s a lot of fear about how to weather the storm. Many companies have taken it upon themselves to step out on the limb with their employees and help as best as they can. Some of my favorites like SlackAirbnbZoomPagerDuty, and Box are cutting costs to their premium products so that the sudden influx of people now forced to work from home can continue to be as productive as possible. Many companies recognize that they may see a financial loss in the coming weeks, but they accept that this is bigger than that.

They’re placing their employees’ safety above their fiscal bottom lines. 🙌

And then there are companies which are not.

Even with social distancing requirements going into effect all over the world, there are companies that don’t seem to be taking the situation seriously. Hobby Lobby has adamantly refused to close locations and GameStop declared the same.

These are the poster children for companies which are sticking to the gray areas of what is defined as an “essential business” apparently so that they don’t have to close up shop or move online. And this is going to jeopardize the health of their workers. 😷

When this is all over and the dust settles, there will only be two camps of companies:

  1. 📈 Those who placed the health of their employees over the fiscal bottom line, and
  2. 📉 Those who placed the fiscal bottom line over health and everything else

(For the record, the companies I’m referring to en masse are not the typical essential businesses; i.e. police, medical personnel, grocers, firefighters, etc.)

Why My Post Went Viral (I Believe)

My post went viral (perhaps a poor adjective given our current situation…) because I have been documenting the struggle that one of my close friends is having with some such company. My friend works for a company that is doing its damn best to stay in one of these gray areas; they are not “essential” on the same level as a homeless shelter or police department, nor are they 100% remote as software engineering might be.

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My original post from Tuesday, 3/24/20.

What I do know, though, is that the work my friend does—operations, bookkeeping, customer support—could all be done remotely. Certainly in an extenuating circumstance like the one in which we now find ourselves, 98% (if not more) of my friend’s work could be done from their laptop at home.

Yet the company refuses to allow them to do so.

The optics are even worse: the partners and employees who work in corporate are already working from home and have been for a week. 😡

My post went viral—I believe—because this kind of management of employees is not only reckless and irresponsible, it’s dismaying and unconscionable. People have a right to work in safe conditions, and a right to request leniency in extenuating circumstances like this. They have a right not to fear retaliation for desiring to work from home in the middle of a pandemic.

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My viral follow-up post from Friday, 3/27/20.

This Isn’t Leadership — It’s Extortion

I’ve run startup companies before and I’ve worked for bigger organizations, and here’s a rule I never break: I would never ask my employee or team member to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.

Like, say, risk my life for a good quarterly profit.

The irony is that these companies who are putting profit before safety will see cataclysmic retribution when this is all over. Not from me or even from governments most likely, but from their employees, customers, investors, and advertisers. Nobody wants to work for, buy from, or promote a company which places profits over employee health and safety. Investor Mark Cuban mentioned as much just last week.

My post went viral because people are angry at my friend’s circumstance (and probably those of their close ones as well) and know that this is not right. This is not what my friend signed up for, and certainly not what the company should be expecting of them.

Leaders lead from the front, and what this company is doing now isn’t leadership—it’s extortion. 🚨

The Upshot When This Is Over

For those of you out there running companies the right way and doing your very best to hear your employees and put their health first, thank you. I applaud you. I will patronize your businesses and continue to lead with you in the right direction.

But for those who are not following suit—who view any desire for leniency & safety as insubordination and are living in the gray areas intentionally for profit—, you do so at your own risk. The optics are not on your side, and any profit you manage to make during this tough time will undoubtedly be used on public relations damage control.

And for the hardworking employees out there: you deserve to work in a safe environment. If you know that your company truly doesn’t fall under “essential business,” also know that your health and safety are paramount. This isn’t a normal corporate situation; this is an extreme that we’re living in right now and people need to adapt to that.

I’m truly grateful for all of your support. Keep moving forward. 🚀

***

Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn @adammarx13 and continue to 😎 #LookForTheOrangeSunglasses.

P.S. — Leads on new jobs for my friend still greatly appreciated. To my knowledge, skills include: asset management, operations, bookkeeping, customer service, company relations, & extensive real estate experience.

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2019: A Year in Review

Last year, I took a look back at some of the things that I accomplished throughout 2018. It was a simple writing, but something which really provided some fantastic perspective.

Oftentimes, it can be all too easy to lose track of the little victories which we accumulate in pursuit of our broader goals. But for me, acknowledging these smaller steps has led to an ever-growing appreciation for the bigger picture.

And so with that, here are a few of the highlights from my 2019 year.

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January & February

I kicked the year off by sharpening my meme-making skills. 😂

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As with the last couple years, January brought me what’s become an annual picture with my friend Arlan Hamilton — the work she’s doing with her team at Backstage Capital is something I love supporting here in Atlanta. Her talk this year was no less compelling.

Adam & Arlan 2019

March

I was super excited to have my friend Emily Best here in Atlanta to discuss the work she’s doing at her company Seed&Spark, and the opportunities for the Atlanta film scene.

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“Three sibs” picture with our brother before he went abroad to Germany for six months!

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Two of my best friends in the world formally asked me to be their best man. I could not be more thrilled and am so excited to be there to support Luke and Danielle when they get married. It seems I’ll have to go rent a tux! 🤵

Best man pic

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I had an awesome time recording my first podcast as a guest on Tyler Wagner’s show, “The Business Blast Podcast”. We talked about music, startups & tech, my time as a music journalist, and how learning to build relationships has been key to all of it. 🎙️

👉 Listen to the episode here! 👈

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I did an interview with Omni Calculator for their #HuntedHunters series discussing music-tech, startups, and the importance of cultivating relationships.

👉 Read the full interview here! 👈

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Sometimes the most interesting opportunities come to you from the most serendipitous of sources. 🙃

April & May

I got retweeted by Dee Snider, the legendary lead singer of Twisted Sister! 😱

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And getting retweeted by Atlanta Magazine was kinda cool too.

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I was floored (and truly humbled!) to be name-dropped by Jessi Hempel during her interview with Recode. Formerly of BackChannel, Business Insider, Fortune, and Wired, and now the editor-at-large at LinkedIn, I’ve followed Jessi’s writing for a few years now, and it was some of the first material I gravitated towards upon my entrance into startups & tech. Sometimes in this business (as with everything in life, I suppose), you wonder if you’re making any sort of impact or impression. It’s moments like this that underscore the answer: yes. 😱

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Go out and bring the very best value you can to people; all the rest takes care of itself.

Here’s the full transcript of the interview and here’s the podcast itself. I highly suggest listening to the whole thing (I’d also recommend listening around minute 23:01 😉).

I didn’t make it to the #PitchAtlanta event at the Atlanta Tech Village, but I did make it to the afterparty where I was introduced to the incomparable David Lightburn.

Here’s a snap of the great panel I hope to hear live next year!

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The excitement continued as I became more politically active, meeting a number of rising stars. Some I took pictures with and some are people I’m quietly continuing to meet with. 🗳️

Get out there and get active!

Here I am with Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff.

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And here I am with Gwinett County Board of Ed Representative Everton Blair, Jr.

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June & July

Went to a great 90s punk tribute show downtown with the bestie Abby (before her move to Ohio). This picture accurately captures our friendship. 🙌

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I could not have been prouder of my parents — their win at the 11th Circuit (in a gender discrimination case) was cited at this year’s NELA Conference in New Orleans. Huge deal with far-reaching results. ⚖️

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I met Kwam Amissah around the holiday time last year through Ruben Harris. It’s been awesome to see his growth in the tech world and exciting to hear about his current projects — here we are at Flatiron Atlanta!

(Picture taken by the incomparable Tammy Carson, whom I also met this year!) 📸

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I always love it when Career Karma CEO Ruben Harris is in town and I’m able to come out to support him. He’s doing awesome things in tech and I’m super humbled to count him as a friend & ally. 🚀

I’m also continuously thrilled by the serendipity of tech — it was at this event, heading out to support Ruben, that I had the immense pleasure of meeting Charles Pridgen, a huge asset to the Atlanta tech scene. 👍

Ruben Harris. gathering spot

Then it was time for a break for a little while. Wheels up for a couple weeks in Europe traveling with my mom — one of my best friends in the world. ✈️

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And here’s the post-flight exhaustion in the Frankfurt airport.

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First stop (same day!) — historic Mainz, Germany. The medieval history nerd in me was all kinds of happy. 🇩🇪

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August 

Next day — first full day in Germany, we went to Heidelberg. 😎

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We took in some amazing Jewish history in Worms. Here’s Mom going into a synagogue that is hundreds of years old.

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Hopping over to France, we experienced Colmar, a town in Alsace known as “Little Venice.” 🇫🇷

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We saw the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg in France. The medieval history nerd in me continued to geek out. 🏰

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I saw a hedgehog at our Airbnb and my life was complete.

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We stopped in Basel, Switzerland to see the synagogue. It was closed, but the architecture is amazing. 🇨🇭

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Stopped by the Jewish Museum of Switzerland in Basel before leaving the city.

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Next day brought Lauterbrunnen — it’s cold in the Alps even in the summer.

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We climbed the Schilthorn (ok, it was a cable car, but it was still 9744 feet up!). 🚠

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Jungfrau is known as the “Top of Europe” (11,333 feet). It also means snow in the summertime. 🗻

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Driving back north to Germany, we decided on a couple side-stops…

Like Vaduz, Liechtenstein! I feel like Fulton County in Atlanta is bigger than this whole country. (But it’s an awesome country!). 🇱🇮

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And dinner in Bregenz, Austria. 🇦🇹

This is my Mom, the badass master scuba-diver, Columbia-trained attorney licensed in three states, mature as can be…

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I wasn’t leaving Germany this time without seeing Augsburg. The historian in me demanded it.

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We went to see the synagogue here. Truly one of the most gorgeous synagogue interiors I’ve ever seen. They didn’t allow pictures in the sanctuary, but I will be going back sometime in my life.

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Ulm, Germany was beautiful. We took time to see some of the most popular sights.

And some of the most nondescript — here is the Holocaust Memorial behind the newly rebuilt Ulm synagogue. ✡️

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Before we did dinner in the town, we had to climb the Rothenburg city walls. Here’s Mom trying to distract me from taking a good picture because she thinks she’s funny. 😂

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While Josh finished his final exams, we took in the beautiful town of Bamberg.

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And here’s the camera capturing my face just after she tells me a ridiculous joke. 🤦‍♂️

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Last day before our flight home with Josh in the morning. Some wine in Frankfurt to celebrate a wonderful trip.

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September

Back from Europe, a week of rest, and then I so enjoyed finally having the chance to meet the phenomenal Lolita Taub in person. Gorgeous view of Baltimore in the background!

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Then over to Washington, D.C. to visit Shaina for her birthday. She makes funny faces.

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She also made me a special keychain — “one tiny fuck” as she called it.

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We hit up the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. to take a peek at work from David Best (who’s most well-known for his ephemeral wooden Temples at Burning Man). 🔥

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And yes, we are very mature…

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I did an awesome interview with entrepreneur Rich Cardona which I’m excited to post in the new year! And had the immense pleasure of meeting Allen Gannett before heading back to Atlanta.

I published this piece on three things you should be doing on LinkedIn (or you’re missing out!).

And then dropped my second podcast recording as Mario Porecca’s guest on his fantastic show the “Ten Minute Mindset.” We talked about humor, humility, creating value, how to define a mission, and how to build relationships with people who might otherwise seem unreachable. 🎙️

👉 Listen to Part One of the episode here! 👈

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👉Listen to Part Two of the episode here! 👈

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Made it out to Atlanta Blockchain Week to hear about some of the great blockchain and crypto stuff happening in Atlanta tech. ⛓️

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I met Jon Ossoff again at his official Senate campaign kickoff event.

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And I met the legendary civil rights icon and hero Congressman John Lewis as well!

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October

You know it’s gonna be a good month when it starts with old college friends coming to visit — thanks Esther!

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October was an absolute marathon of Atlanta tech! I started the month off by landing access to the first-ever OTT Fest! The sheer number of talented film, tech, and media speakers over the multi-day event was incredible. 📽️

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I finally met OTT Fest founder (and newly-minted Thea CEO!) Kate Atwood in person.

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I won a Roku…from tweeting about the amazing panels… 😱🤣

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Over the same day during lunch, I raced up to Google Atlanta in Midtown and was able to see my friend Antoine Woods speak at their Founders RoadMap event.

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So I was able to add to my “Google guest” pass collection (I’ve now crossed off Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco ha).

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I was super excited to serendipitously hear Stefanie Jewett speak too, and finally meet her in person as well. 😃

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I was able to attend the TechStars Atlanta demo day and hear some awesome new companies pitch! 🚀

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I kept up the pace by heading out to Atlanta’s Startup Battlefield.

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I was excited to record my third podcast episode as a guest with Luke Williams on his show, the “Grab a Cloud” podcast. The episode drops early in 2020! 🎙️

And my fourth show as a guest, on Emily Velilla’s show, also releasing in the new year. 🎙️

Then I capped off October’s tech marathon by going down to my first Atlanta Startup Village event (thanks to Aly Merritt for the invite!).

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Actually that’s a lie; October’s tech marathon was really capped off with an awesome care-package from my friends over at Shrug Capital (thanks Nick and Niv!). 📦

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November

Could November begin any better than another amazing care-package from the incomparable Nikki DeMeré, who has become one of my closest friends and allies?

I don’t think so. 🤗

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I was super excited to represent my alma mater Brandeis University at the college fair this year. Once a Bradeisian, always a Brandeisian. 😎

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Back up to D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with Shaina. Can’t believe I’ve now known her for ten years. But she works for a tour company and told me some of the cool things about D.C. as we walked around. 🇺🇸

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And I introduced her to her first Philz Coffee! ☕️

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A day in Fredrick, Maryland with Shaina and Kate, two of my closest friends in the whole world. It was cold haha. And Kate’s son is adorable, even if he’s not interested in the picture. ❤️

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Met up in D.C. with my other college friend Victoria — and I was rocking my Liechtenstein shirt.

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And I started planning a short webinar with my friend Elaine Jacques — we’ll see about getting it out the door in the new year. 😉

December 

With multiple birthdays and anniversaries, December is family time.

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Met this wonderful girl a couple months back — here we are at Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Chelsea made funny faces in some pictures… 😂

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And we saw Hanson! The 90s kid in me was happy. 🎸

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December is also friends and siblings time.

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Mom couldn’t resist taking one last funny picture of me for the year. ✡️

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And of course I had to finish the year by posting my new list of “100 Independent Albums and EP’s” that people probably missed in 2019. Gotta keep the ties to the music world strong. 😉🎸

Reflecting on 2019

This was a marathon year for me. I feel as if the seeds that I sometimes serendipitously planted years ago in tech and music really began to yield amazing relationships and opportunities in 2019. And I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. I can see myself continuing to write about music, tech, relationships, mental health, business, and diversity, and so much of my inspiration is drawn from dialogues I had this year.

No plan ever survives the battlefield, and 2019 was certainly no exception to that rule. But I’ve grown as a person and as an entrepreneur, and intend to keep that trajectory moving at full force as we move into the next decade.

Bring on 2020! 🚀

(And remember to look for the orange sunglasses. 😎 😉)

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If You’re Not Doing These 3 Simple Things on LinkedIn, You’re Missing Out

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Underutilized Tools! 😱

Everyone knows that LinkedIn is a highly underutilized platform and that it’s got the power to expand your network exponentially.

…Or at least that’s what we LinkedIn power-users may think sometimes.

The truth is that we who use LinkedIn daily—hourly—can sometimes develop a skewed view of how other users are utilizing the platform. We often assume that the value we see (and experience!) in LinkedIn is inherent, and as such, that it’s apparent to others in the same way.

A trend that I’ve seen lately, however, and that I’m thrilled to engage in is helping newer users “crack” LinkedIn so that they can experience the same sort of value that I and so many others do.

So, in the spirit of “sharing is caring,” here are 3 (three) dead simple things that you can and should be doing on LinkedIn.

Otherwise, you’re missing out!

 

Video 📽️

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way first. If you’re not producing video, you’re missing out.

There’s no nicer way to put it because it’s becoming a mainstay of LinkedIn content.

I’ve heard from some people that they’re nervous about using video because it may not seem “professional” enough (as compared to other LinkedIn power-users) or that they may not be comfortable in front of a camera.

To this I say: I get it and I know where you’re coming from!

I sometimes feel a little intimidated too, but the key thing to remember is that people will ultimately show up for your content because you are (hopefully) creating value for them. This is what should be driving any part of your content production strategy.

Takeaway: produce video! Even a weekly video with the right amount of passion and value is a fantastic time investment. I’d suggest trying to keep it under 1:30—I’ve found that to be about the mental timeout.

(Bonus: If you have access to LinkedIn LIVE, use it! I’m still waiting for access (hint, hint to my friends working at LinkedIn 😉), but I think it’s a great tool to really drive home your message in an authentic way when you find your rhythm.)

 

Voice Messages 🎙️

I’m still shocked that this one is so highly (criminally!) underutilized. It’s really one of LinkedIn’s best-kept secrets.

The voice message feature is only available to send through the mobile app (though you can still listen on desktop).

And It. Is. Brilliant! 🚀

Sending someone a short voice message (you have up to 60 seconds total record time) virtually guarantees that someone will open your message and listen to it. It’s basically changed how I approach new people (especially power-users I wanna connect with, hint, hint!) and communicate with new followers.

Wanna know why it’s so powerful?

Because people respond to the conversational aspect.

In my experience, I’ve found that a few key opening lines virtually guarantee that not only will that power-user listen to my message, but will often respond with a voice message of their own.

Boom! There’s the opening of a conversation that can then grow in interesting directions.

 

Comment Responses ✍️

Lastly, there is the strategy of comment responses.

Now, this strategy requires that you actually produce content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly, etc.), which, if you’re not doing…well, you need to be doing.

But this is certainly one of the easiest (if somewhat time-consuming) strategies to really up your engagement.

If you’re producing that right kind of content that engages people, you’ll hopefully be getting comments on your posts. Even a few comments is a good place to start.

So I’ll say this slowly:

Respond. To. All Of. Them.

Or as many as your poor little fingers can handle before giving out and completely falling off haha.

Responding to my comment on your post tells me that you value my input and recognize the time I took to write something. Me seeing your response makes me want to continue to engage with your other posts with more comments.

Dead simple strategy—HUGELY effective.

Oh, and something like “Thanks Adam” is a copout of a response.

Unless you’re a power-user getting thousands of comments (and if you’re reading this, you may not be there yet), you have no reason not to take 15 minutes (total, not apiece) to respond to each of the 5 comments on your post thoughtfully.

If those 5 thoughtful responses create value, then you’ve succeeded.

Don’t get hung up on the numbers; if you’re building bridges the right way, all those vanity metrics will work themselves out.

 

Bottom Line 📈

So remember, the bottom line is that these are 3 dead simple ways to increase your LinkedIn footprint precisely because they are so simple. You don’t need a large production team or thousands of followers—you just need some great ideas for content and a desire to build relationships patiently and positively.

You get to those “thousands of followers” by doubling-down on the simple things:

  1. Video
  2. Voice Messages
  3. Comment Responses

The other details will iron out in time.

Be well my friends!

Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter at @adammarx13.

And continue to #LookForTheOrangeSunglasses! 😎

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Atlanta: Signs of the Next Major Tech Hub

Atlanta, Georgia, USA downtown skyline.

The Question

Almost two full years ago, in January of 2017, Ryan Hoover asked me what the tech scene in Atlanta was like. I was in San Francisco, and had flown across the country (on a very cheap ticket!) to attend Product Hunt’s celebration party following its AngelList acquisition. We were hanging out on the upper floor of the venue, me, trying to look like I belonged there, and he, casually leaning against a wall, gratefully shaking hands with everyone who wanted a picture with him.

I was actually caught off guard a bit because, frankly, I didn’t know too much about the Atlanta tech scene at the time. I’d grown up here, but left for college in Boston, and if I’m being honest, I only meandered back here after school because of family & the post-college reality of starting a company with essentially no money. As much as I enjoyed my childhood, I’ve never been much of an “Atlanta guy” — I’m a Mets & Red Sox fan (for the rare times I watch sports), I like the cold, and I yearn for the deadpan, brash humor of the Northeast. But I recognized financial reality and made the best of my situation.

The truth was that I hadn’t really invested much time or effort into exploring the Atlanta tech scene. I was head-down working on my music startup, so I was spending more time wiring myself up in the music industry than the startup world. Additionally, everything in 2014-2017 was (or seemed to be) San Francisco, New York, L.A., or Seattle, and that’s where my head was too. I figured it was only a matter of time until I left Atlanta.

From Bust to Boom

Part of the frustration I felt personally during this period was how the tech scene here felt & the tech press seemed to view Atlanta after Yik Yak’s failure: “well we tried, but Atlanta’s not ready for real tech investment yet,” despite our having TechStars, MailChimp, and Calendly, among others. This coupled with “go to California, that’s where all the money is” mentality.

But things change. Calendly has grown. MailChimp is a bona fide unicorn. Salesforce is building Salesforce Tower downtown. And now, Walker & Company Brands is moving here, following their sale to Procter & Gamble. And these are just the names many people are familiar with; there are others, blooming down at the Tech Village, scattered around Buckhead and Midtown, popping up around Tech Square, and nesting outside the Perimeter (OTP) in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.

On the Cusp

Atlanta is fast becoming a tech hub for crypto, SaaS, and media startups. Yet it’s still not mentioned in the same breath as Austin or Denver. Why this is could be a topic for debate, but what ultimately matters is that 2019 will bring a new sense of tech startup intrigue to Atlanta. Warm weather, affordable housing, and ready pools of talent from at least 5 major universities in town (Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Spelman, & Morehouse) — not to mentioned UGA just over an hour away — are some of the unavoidable perks of the city.  And, we’ll begin the year on the tail of a major acquisition coup.

What’s missing — at the moment — is the same sort of starry-eyed, dare-to-dream-it dynamic which pervades tech in SF and NYC. Yes, we have SaaS meetups, startup chowdowns, and interesting groups which meet in the rooms of the Tech Village.

But what we really need to invest in are the more abstract, informal meetups, dinners, and coffee-shop interactions which don’t require reserving a room or having a planned discussion for each get-together. It’s these more abstract, informal dynamics which will generate some of the most exciting ideas, build reputations & relationships, and draw investment to the city in a way that’s more representative of the “dare to dream, go for broke” feel of Silicon Valley.

The Next Crop

As with everything, there will rise a set of core voices and personalities who help shape this new era of tech in Atlanta. They will be the people who just “seem to be everywhere,” seem to know everyone, and have a vision for how to transform the city in the next 5-10 years. It will be interesting to see who’s included on this short list.

I expect that we will soon be seeing more tech conferences here as this new mentality sets in. And while I may not start rooting for the Braves anytime soon, I will nonetheless have my eyes peeled for this group of individuals with the vision to make Atlanta the next great tech hub.

I’m a Writer—Here’s Why I’ve Taken a Six-Month Break From Writing

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The Writer’s Rub

It’s been about half a year since my last real essay or post. I took almost the entire summer and autumn off from writing full-length essays, response posts, and even shorter thought pieces. It feels—and maybe seems—that the only things I’ve been writing this summer have been tweets and LinkedIn posts.

This might seem odd for a writer—after all, writers are supposed to write consistently and be able to produce high-level content with each topic they cover. But here’s the rub; writers are also human. We hit walls, experience burnout, and need breaks like everyone else—especially those who are motivated to produce content at break-neck speed.

And damn was I burned out.

Where Startups and Writing Diverge

In startups and tech development, there’s the notion of “ship early and often.” It doesn’t matter if the first version has bugs (it will always have bugs) or if it’s a little unfocused; there’s time to fix all that junk later. The important thing is shipping, and your perfectionism is holding you back.

The same cannot (and in my opinion, should not) be said of writing. Yes, if you’re a writer or content producer you should employ every tool at your disposal to produce content at a consistent pace. But the “bugs” that exist in writing are a different breed than those of the “ship early, ship often” startup world; pieces aren’t supposed to go out sloppily written, half-focused, and “all over the place” as my mom would say. They’re supposed to be tight and bullet-proof, however you define that. In some ways, Alexis Ohanian addressed this issue in tech recently with his statements on “hustle porn.

Don’t Be Forgettable; Be Magnetic

To maintain this self-defined standard, sometimes the answer is that you simply can’t consistently produce at break-neck speed; sometimes you need a break to recharge and find new ideas and motivation. This is the frustrating, unsexy aspect of writing. It’s what happens behind your closed mental doors, and perhaps the thing that has the potential to make you feel like you’re “not a real writer.”

Stave off this thought and instead focus your energy on recharging. Come back to the writing when you have something real to say. People can always tell when you’re writing just for the sake of filling a quota.

Spoiler alert: that kind of writing is boring and ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable; be magnetic.

All of this is to say that it feels damn good to be back. 😎👍

Time and Money As a Function of People

People: The Uncertainty Factor

Last week, Fred Wilson wrote a post about time and money, and how to value each of them against one another within the context of investing. In it, he broke down a series of considerations which each impact the time-money balance. Rereading through it again, though, it occurs to me that a lot of Fred’s considerations also point to another, perhaps more subtle factor: people.

The people factor weighs heavily on the time-money dynamic, and arguably has the potential to significantly alter one’s perceived outcome. Inasmuch as the time-money assessment is predicated on the concept of effort—that is, how much effort one must put in to a venture in order to effectively procure a sufficient return for one’s investment (both time and money herein)—that effort is nonetheless dictated (or at least impacted) by the people around whom it centers.

Much of Fred’s argument—broken down amongst four examples—revolves around the notion of uncertainty as it applies to people. Uncertainty in this case (or these cases) stems from the fact that people are inherently different, and what holds true for one may not necessarily hold true across the board.

This is why so many investors articulate “the founder/team” as one of the most important factors—if not the most important factor—in their decision to invest. As Hunter Walk notes in his response piece to Fred’s post: “…we don’t invest in people we don’t want to spend time with, even if it could be a profitable investment.” Herein, the investors clearly value their time simply as a function of the personal connection they feel with the founder(s).

The Value of Evaluating Relationships

Yet as Fred notes, the reverse is true too: founders are just as much playing a “game of people” as investors are—the return on an investor’s value to a founder most times goes far beyond the money. The investor is similarly in the position of proving to the founder(s) that s/he is able to balance his or her portfolio while still delivering the necessary value to the startup company.

Evaluating people and relationships helps to assuage the challenges on both sides of this equation. When people learn to know what they’re looking for in a partner (be it a founder in an investor or vice versa)—and to articulate that to themselves, their team, and prospective collaborators—they are able to dramatically increase the value factor in the overall equation. This directly affects the time-money portion of the equation. An investor’s time is better utilized because the founder(s) can communicate their needs and vision, and thus deploy the investor’s money in a more focused manner (all while keeping open lines of communication as to how and why certain strategies might have been taken). The dollar value of the investor’s money thus increases, which increases (again) the value of their time input.

All of these factors work similarly axiomatically for founders looking to extract the most value from their potential investors.

Who You “Click” With

The evaluation of people—being able to discern who you “click” with and the type of personality which best fits your portfolio (or startup) strategy—is key in evaluating one’s time commitment to a project. The time-factor, which Fred articulates should be priced into early-stage investing math, can in fact be thought of as the people-factor. In the early stages especially, the clear dollar value of a company may not be readily apparent and some other—perhaps less tangible—metric may be necessary to consult. This is the people-assessment—this is the scenario in which investors are rife to say, “there was just some ‘It’ factor about her resilience” or “her charisma just sold me on the idea.”

This is not a shot-in-the-dark decision; it’s often a carefully calculated decision that is based less on spreadsheet numbers and more on personality—the potential we’re all theoretically (hopefully) capable of. This is a honed skill—gut feelings about people are as real as any metric and have the potential to return value on time and money investment as much as anything else in the decision process.

Time and money are very concrete things, but like so much else in life, their value can be drastically affected when they are thought of as a function of people.

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Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

Why I Continue to Be Loud About Female-Inclusivity Initiatives in Tech & Business

Over the last few months, I have grown increasingly loud about my support for initiatives that foster diversity and inclusion in tech & business. This has been especially true over the last couple months as I’ve watched what started out as Female Founder Office Hours culminate now in AllRaise.org. What I wanted to see grow and expand—a push from female VC’s like Megan Quinn, Aileen Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, Jess Lee, and their team members to bring more women into tech and foster a support system for them—has indeed now germinated into a force (and I can’t help but be amazed at what they & their allies have already accomplished in such a short period). I’ve written a response piece to AllRaise’s announced launch already, but sometimes one statement of support just isn’t enough.

I came into tech almost accidentally from the music world. That’s really my wheelhouse and one of the main industries I continue to build for and strive to impact. But lately, I’ve been running a thought experiment: is there theoretically anything that could make me walk away from music, even for a little bit?

Recently, I’ve come to the answer that yes, there is: diversity, inclusivity, and egalitarianism.

We’re at an inflection point now—the smart people realize that the future success of and in tech/business will be had by those who invite new perspectives and prize egalitarian dynamics. The future of the tech IPO no longer looks like a bunch of white guys huddled around a singular mindset. Now it looks exactly like Stitch Fix founder & CEO Katrina Lake holding her infant child ringing the bell to bring her company public—just as that picture was a metaphor for changing dynamics in tech, so too is an initiative like AllRaise key in helping usher in that new era of opportunities.

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So if I sound excitedly determined, it’s because I am. Because the historian in me can discern that we’re at the beginning of a new cycle rife with possibilities to have a more diverse tech and business universe than we’ve ever had before.

At the end of the day, I will always be the first to make a music reference, and this just has Riot Grrrl punk written all over it. It’s brilliant and I am 100% behind it.

Note: This post was (unsurprisingly) written while listening to Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, L7, Sleater-Kinney, and 7 Year Bitch. 🤘🤘

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Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

Allies for AllRaise.org

Given my somewhat short break from writing since January, I was wondering what my first post back would be on, and if it would be a lengthy assessment or a short burst.

Short burst it is.

I’ve been following (and championing) very closely the initiatives proposed and undertaken by the group of amazing women behind (first) Female Founder Office Hours, (then) Founders For Change, (followed by) Women in VC community events, and (now) AllRaise.org. Reading Aileen Lee‘s post from yesterday, it’s clear to me that even as painfully slow as it sometimes feels, change is indeed happening. I have sought and want to be a part of the change. And I know there are others like me who do as well.

I have tried to stay keenly aware of my inherent white guy privilege and use that to the benefit of others. I can only be what I am, but I get to determine how that helps others without the same afforded benefits. I can be an ally for the scores of women and underrepresented founders (POC, LGBT+, etc.) who aren’t afforded the same benefits of the doubt off the bat which they should be, and I can similarly use whatever position I have to push for more egalitarianism. And that’s what I try to do daily.

With the announcement of AllRaise.org and its focused initiatives, it is my hope that there is and will be room for the (white & male) allies out there like myself who want to be a part of this new evolution. I am excited to see where something like this can go. We are in the midst of a massive paradigm shift—one which is long overdue in creating a more level field of merit, diversity, and inclusivity. Consider this my name in the AllRaise hat.

I encourage my white and male counterparts out there to afford Aileen’s post and this initiative a heavy dose of retweets and attention; this is the new direction. Be the person who gives the shots to people who otherwise might not get them, and bring attention to the fact that there is clearly work to be done here. Take it from a history major: there is a right side and a wrong side of history—you want to be on the former, not the latter.

To Aileen, the AllRaise team, and the other women, POC, LGBT+, etc. looking for allies: we’re here. Tell us what you need and how we can help. We’ll follow your lead.

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Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

The Power of Ubiquity

An entry in the Minimum Viable Network series.


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I remember once telling an artist that if you want to be in the music industry, you need to be ubiquitous. Turns out the same is true for tech and startups. Who knew?

A few weeks ago, I attended a talk here in Atlanta during which Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital talked about how she broke into VC and how she’s driving her vision forward. As much as I enjoyed the talk, this post isn’t about that discussion. It’s about what transpired after.

After the Talk

Up until then, I’d been lucky enough to converse with a few of the amazing people at Backstage, other than Arlan. I’ve had a wonderful experience getting to know Partner & Chief of Staff Christie [Pitts] and Backstage podcast producer Bryan [Landers].

As neither Bryan nor Christie were in attendance at this event, though, after the talk wound down, I proceeded to go say hi to Dianne [Cherrez] and Chacho [Valadez], other Backstage team members I’d only interacted with briefly on Twitter. I received almost the same response from each (as if it was practiced ha!): “Adam…oh you’re Adam Marx! From Twitter!”

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Both were fantastic to meet, and clearly integral parts of the Backstage team. While other attendees asked Arlan questions, I spoke with Dianne about the normal stuff; how she got involved with Backstage, her role there, exciting things Backstage has going on, etc. During the course of our conversation, she matter-of-factly quipped, “You know, you’re just everywhere on Twitter…I don’t know where you find the energy.”

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the point she was making stuck out to me: ubiquity matters — people notice.

Why Ubiquity Matters

When you’re setting out to build your network, whether it’s your Minimum Viable Network or a more mature version, ubiquity is a key factor in that network’s success.

It’s important to keep in mind that the term “ubiquity” might itself be somewhat of a misnomer; it’s not about actually being everywhere at once, all the time. It’s about appearing to be ubiquitous.

One reason that people remember ubiquity is precisely because of the immense time commitment it requires. Time is energy (and, as always, time is money)—indeed, time is ultimately your most precious commodity. Your time and attention are what businesses want, and what dwindle as you check off the basic boxes like your spouse, family, friends, coworkers, etc.

When people perceive you as ubiquitous in relation to their project or mission—especially when it’s characterized by a positive dynamic—it’s a (sometimes subconscious) recognition that tends to stick with them. 

Ubiquity and Reality

Of course, you can’t actually be everywhere at once, all the time. People are realistic and only an irrational person would believe otherwise.

Rather, it’s about creating a perception that you devote a significant portion of your time and energy (as much as one could ask, or even more) to something you’re really passionate about. This might be tuning in to a podcast weekly to tweet constructive thoughts (something I enjoy as well), volunteering one of your professional skills across a variety of projects (for me, editing and proofreading), or simply promoting a company whose product and/or mission really resonate with you. This type of long-term commitment to a mission creates the perception of ubiquity.

Ultimately, this is how you want people to think of you; as someone who just seems to consistently pop up at the right times. You don’t need to be associated with every project; but by being open to working on new opportunities, the natural side-effect is a quality of associated ubiquity. This creates a positive feedback loop of potential. 

The More People Create…

The wonderful thing about ubiquity is that as people create more things and start more projects, more opportunities are had to further one’s reputation as a thought-leader, team member, and colleague.

No doubt, many of these initial opportunities have the potential to germinate into extended relationships with the right cultivation. In this sense, the ubiquity becomes self-fulfilling; the more you “pop up” and people know you, the more people want to know you. This dynamic becomes naturally and iteratively expansive.

In the end, ubiquity is about a constant collection of “small victories” rather than pursuing a “one-and-done” approach to the opportunities before you.     

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Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

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Three Questions Concerning Spotify’s Direct Listing Decision

Originally published on Crunchbase News on January 3, 2018.


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As everyone was in holiday mode a few weeks ago in December, Spotify confidentially filed documents with the SEC to go public, likely in Q1 of 2018.

Previously, I discussed Spotify’s numbers and examined how those figures looked before an IPO filing. Now we can see how those numbers look in context.

This filing bolsters prior reports that Spotify would forego a traditional IPO in favor of a direct listing, a method of going public that has left many scratching their heads. For those unfamiliar with it, a direct listing is a way allow a firm’s shares to begin regular trading while avoiding the normal IPO roadshow process.

When asked about the direct listing strategy, IPO expert Barrett Daniels of Nextstep Advisory Services told Crunchbase News that there are a few reasons companies might choose to pursue the strategy. It typically boils down to the fact that the company may not be “strong enough” to transact a traditional IPO due to these reasons:

  1. The company’s growth (or lack thereof).
  2. The company’s size (in terms of revenue).
  3. The general climate of the industry.

So do these reasons provide Spotify grounds to go direct, especially considering how much money could be left on the table? Let’s find out.

1. Company Growth

Spotify has the kind of crazy growth that companies dream of. As its subscriber numbers have gone from 50 to over 100 million users, Spotify’s valuation has similarly been adjusted. It’s worth remembering, though, that while the total subscriber number sits somewhere north of 130 million users, approximately 60 million are paying listeners.

So Spotify is big enough to attract attention and generate a lot of excitement. In fact, because Spotify is such a well-known company to go public, an IPO roadshow seems to be precisely what it would want. More attention and more hype might mean more money on gameday.

2. The Company’s Size

This kind of fast-paced growth also contextualizes the music company’s size in terms of its revenue. According to Daniels, the size of a company’s revenue will dictate how larger institutions view it; if the revenue looks too small, larger institutions could deem the company too early or too risky, and therefore might be uninterested. But given Spotify’s outsized growth, though, perhaps this is a reaction to its continued unprofitability (as of yet).

3. General Industry Climate

Daniels also noted that in some direct listing cases, the decision to forego a traditional IPO could be something as simple as a timing issue. Industries go through hot and cold periods, and a cold period could convince a private entity to forgo the public process.

However, this doesn’t typically apply to the music industry. Because of business with mainstream acts, music companies tend to be more well-known among public investors than, say, a company which perhaps works on tooling or shipping. Therefore, Spotify has no reason to think that the climate would change at all between now and an expected 2018 IPO date.

Going through Barrett’s list of reasons, we can see that Spotify’s direct listing doesn’t pass muster on these grounds. But there are two outside arguments that augment the viability of direct listing: saving money on the IPO process and stopping the clock on Spotify’s convertible debt raise.

Saving Money

Outside of Barrett’s outline for going direct, Spotify could limit costs by foregoing a normal, pre-IPO roadshow. However, experts have pointed out that this doesn’t make much sense. The money which Spotify would save on an IPO roadshow is negligible compared to the amount it would ultimately raise in a normal IPO.

But there are other ways Spotify can save money.

Stopping the Clock

Last year, Spotify took on convertible debt from Dragoneer and TPG, totaling $1 billion. According to David Golden of Revolution Ventures, by listing directly, Spotify could essentially “stop the clock” on these debt-conversions, and presumably, save itself tens of millions of dollars.

As a refresher, under the terms of these notes signed in 2016, Spotify was required to pay 5 percent annual interest, a figure that grows by 1 percent every six months for a total of 10 percent. Investors could then convert the debt into equity at a 20 percent discount of Spotify’s IPO price. If there were no IPO within a year, the discount at which investors could eventually buy back stock would increase 2.5 percent every extra six months.

The Questions Left Lingering

All of this leaves a lingering question: if neither of the two most-cited arguments hold water, does the decision to direct list have anything to do with Spotify’s $20 billion valuation? There have been, as of late, multiple sources which have raised concerns, expressing reticence and opining what a public Spotify will look like. Spotify did not respond to a request for comment.

The streaming market also faces stiff competition. Apple can subsidize its music service until the end of time through its phone and computer sales. Facebook just signed a major deal with Universal, and YouTube is gearing up for its own music service launch. Pandora has just created a Spotify clone, and its post-IPO performance doesn’t bode overwhelming optimism. All of this is now against the backdrop of a $1.6 billion lawsuit filed by Wixen Music Publishing against the streaming music company.

Additionally, here are a few numbers we don’t know which will impact Spotify’s business model long-term:

  1. What Spotify royalty rates are. It has been reported the company pays anywhere from 58 percent to 83 percent.
  2. How often Spotify needs to renegotiate royalty deals with the major labels.
  3. What the percentage stakes each major label owns of Spotify.

We’ll see how things roll out by the end of Q1.

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Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!