Jonathan Brun

Satyagraha

Category: business

Looking for Business Partner – romance, e-commerce, social media, blogging, and more

I am looking for a business partner to build a great company; the foundations are laid, we just need muscle power!

In 2010, I started a project called Make your Girlfriend Happy that has been sitting dormant for two years. If you know a great writer who is passionate about content and technology, please, please put them in touch with me.

To get the site running properly again for Valentine’s day 2014, I am looking to find someone by September. Any names or tips are greatly appreciated.

Full details below!

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Make your Girlfriend Happy is a dormant startup in need of some love. Started in late 2010, the site has been sitting idle for the past two years. We are looking for an entrepreneurial new lead who wants to grow the company and take it to the next level! If you love startups, social media, technology and romance – this is the place for you.

You will be in charge – responsibilities vary from strategy to design to marketing. The site still receives lots of traffic and has thousands of members. There is currently no revenue, though some business models have been tested and work.

Significant equity will be issued to the appropriate person.
Some concrete tasks you will be responsible for:

  • Content creation
  • Social media strategy and content
  • Execute a business model
  • Deal with affiliate partners
  • Improve the technological infrastructure and features

The company is currently owned by Jonathan Brun, an experience web professional, who has technical capabilities and resources for further developing the site. He will advise on strategy and technological development, but you will be the lead decision maker. The position can be part-time or full-time and work can be accomplished at any time of the day, from anywhere. You should have experience and knowledge of online marketing, communications, public relations and basic analytics skills.

If you are interested in starting the relationship revolution, please send an email to cyrano@makeyourgirlfriendhappy.com with your LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, and other pertinent information (CV, letter of motivation).

http://makeyourgirlfriendhappy.com/positions#leader

How to market your indie film or documentary

I have no experience in the movie industry, have never made a movie, and probably couldn’t make one either. But, I recently had an interesting email exchange with the creators of the documentary Buck. I contacted them to outline my frustration at trying to watch the movie in Canada. The movie had been on the festival circuit for many months, and was available on DVD in the United States, but it was not available in Canada. On their website, they mention a number of screenings in Canada, none of which were in Montréal.

Due to my frustration, I ended up illegally downloading the film to watch it. In this blog post, I plan to lay out my thoughts on how film makers can more effectively market their documentary or small indie film.

Let’s face it, the industry’s distribution model is completely broken – it is based in a world where the Internet does not exist. Film makers must fix their marketing strategy so that they can increase revenues and facilitate financing for future films.

1. Don’t waste 80% of your marketing budget!

Movies spend most of their advertising budget in the run up to the theatrical release. But ,by the time the film is ready for distribution on iTunes, NetFlix, and other large scale platforms – the public has forgotten your ads.

Time your advertising with easy access to your film. Since the best way to distribute your movie today is through online systems, not theatres, your marketing budget for online and theatrical release should be adjusted accordingly. Obviously leverage social media for promotion – Facebook, Twitter, etc.

You could also release the film online from the start to maximize exposure from reviews and critical acclaim.

2. Don’t release your film by country, eh!

With the internet, it’s insane to try and stagger your releases by country. When someone in Canada has to wait months to see your US movie, they will inevitably turn to a pirated copy, I did.

Most of your marketing will and should be done online. Because online marketing can easily link to a purchase or rental of your film, it seems wise to ensure it is available everywhere simultaneously. Because the producers of the Matrix 2 knew their audience was tech savvy and would pirate the film; they decided to release it globally at the same time. It worked.

3. Theatres no longer guarantee a better viewing experience

The traditional argument for releasing to theatres has been that the theatre provides the most authentic experience of the film as intended by the creators. In 2011, millions of homes have amazing HD TVs, surround sound and great seating: the theatre -quality argument seems weaker by the day.

As a side note, the move to 3D films in theatres has clearly been to keep consumers coming out to theatres, theatre companies are very aware of this HD TV issue. For traditional 2D movies and especially films that play in smaller artistic theatres, the home often provides a higher quality experience than the theatre.

It all boils down to this: someone has to break the control theatres and distributors have on movie creators. I understand the prestige of releasing your film in theatres, but if your goal is to have as many people as possible pay to see it; theatres are no longer the best approach.

Film production costs have been dramatically reduced thanks to HD cameras and high power computers. Filmmakers have un-rivalled distribution channels to millions of people; yet, they still seem set on the old model of festivals and theatres.

Your goal as a movie creator should be to earn a healthy living and have your film enjoyed by as many people see it as possible, not to get awards and help movie theatres. Simply stated, I think movie creaters should bypass the existing distribution traps, market your film directly to your audience, and retain ownership of the entire process.

It took the music industry a decade and billions of dollars to learn this lesson, how long will it take the film industry?

If you have not read the Long Tail by Marc Anderson of Wired magazine, please do.

Chocolate covered criminals

Chocolate is a delicious, delicious treat; however, it is far too often tainted with the sweat of child slaves. While slavery in the chocolate industry remains a small portion of the global slave population (~27 million people enslaved today), it is something that can easily be fixed.

Today, the cacao industry employees somewhere between 15 000 and 100 000 children in the Ivory Coast (as of 2002), which represents 40% of the world chocolate production of about 3.6 million tonnes. Hundreds (if not thousands) of children are trafficked every year from Burkina Faso, Ghana and other countries to work in the Ivory Coast, children go for 230 euros or less.

I don’t think anyone argues this is a good thing, so let’s move straight to possible solutions. To eat chocolate produced through slavery is to support slavery. Or as Frederick Douglas once said,

No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.

Chocolate is big business and requires a constant flow of cacao beans at low-cost. By making intelligent purchasing decisions and voicing your concern to cacao bean producers, the use of child labour can be addressed.

How can you help? The safest bet is to buy fair trade chocolate, though limited in availability, it does ensure a certain level of verification. Buying chocolate that uses beans from South America should also reduce your exposure to child slave labour.

The alternative is to try to avoid chocolate by the main companies who do not seem willing to enforce child labour laws in their supply chain (though some are doing more than others). Nestle (Nestle contact page), with 12% world market share, should be your first target, also consider Cargill (cocoa@cargill.com), Kraft (Contact Page), ADM (+1-800-558-9958 Contact Page) , Mars (Contact Page) and Barry Callebaut (Contact Page). You can also sign the Avaaz Petition here.

This comprehensive report from Norway lays out details of the chocolate industry in West Africa. A couple of organisations I fell upon include Slave Free Chocolate and work by the Anti Slavery group in the UK with their app (which seems to be down at time of writing) Choco-Coat.com (blog post about it here). Also take a look at this report on the chocolate slave industry entitled Bitter Harvest.

It seems high time to boycott or at least voice your concern to the main chocolate companies we inevitably purchase candy from. Turning a blind eye is no longer acceptable and a short email or tweet is an easy task we can all do. Some dare more.

To expose the truth behind our corner store candy, journalists risk their lives. In 2004, French Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer was kidnapped in Ivory Coast and is still missing. Just that should make us appreciate the risks that journalists take when filming these illicit industries. To better understand the situation, take 45 minutes to watch the great documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate” which lays out the situation quite clearly:

For more information on the current global slavery situation, see this TED Talk by Kevin Bales from Free the Slaves.net

Help, I need somebody!

For the past year I’ve been trying to find a reliable software developer who wants to build a long-lasting sustainable business. Ok, that sounds a bit cheesy, but in contrast to most propositions that start that way, my main company, Nimonik, actually makes money and is growing at 100% a year. It is a painful growth with a long sales cycle, but when we do get a client, they always stick around. We need someone who has the technical chops to tackle iOS – Rails App synchronisation, verification of differences on remote pages, and dynamic linking to content based on semantic algorithms. Don’t say you won’t be challenged!

To better understand my approach to business and why I think this is a great opportunity, take a look at the founder of AutoDesk to his employees way back in the 80s here and see what Stephen Wolfram has to say about building a long-term company.

One main caveat is that we do not believe in external financing and are running everything with real revenues, sweat and our own seed money. Some might say that stunts our growth, but we feel it allows us the independence and freedom to build the business as we see fit. There is a lot of work left to do and a huge market out there, yet few people seem willing to take that jump.

Despite being active in the community, opening up government data, organizing open-data hackathons and personally emailing many developers, I have had a remarkably difficult time convincing them to join us. No doubt, their 150$ an hour rate is hard for us to match, but do people really want to be a consultant all their lives? I know I didn’t and that’s why I quit to start a company. Don’t people want to build a company that they can stand over with pride? Am I crazy?

We believe in long-term hard work, in independence and in doing for others as you would have them do for you. I clean the dishes of my employees, put their pay before mine and strive day in and day out to provide a challenging and dynamic work environment. People before products, but products before money.

We offer strong technical challenges, flexible work schedules and a great team of honest, nice, hardworking people – yet we keep losing talent to social media startups who are financed to the hill. What to do? Does any developer have an interest in building a long-term business anymore? Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but it feels like the ease of credit from banks, VCs, and angels has devalued sweat equity. We can pay a reasonable salary, but what we really want is someone who is passionate about their work and building something that will span generations.

Email me to chat jbrun@nimonik.ca about the job posting found here.

Make your Girlfriend Happy – my side project

Makeyourgirlfriendhappy.com Logo

Relationships are complicated. For one, they rely first and foremost on your understanding of yourself, your needs, priorities and desires. Second, they rely on your ability intimately understand another human being with equally complex emotions, history and feelings. If humanity were given a grade for its romantic relationships, we would fail. Over half of marriages end in divorce and the vast majority of less formal relationships don’t work. To paraphrase Anna Karenina, “Happy couples are all alike, each unhappy couple is unique”. With that in mind, it seems like a service which promotes the commonalities of happy couples might help pull us towards a passing grade.

For one reason or another, I have kept this little side project off my blog. But alas, it has engulfed much of my time and is now receiving thousands of visitors a day. As with all projects, the idea has been growing over time. The original idea was born out of a discussion with some friends in Paris and was centred around a reminder service and mailing list for men in relationships. The next addition to the site was a registry type service where women can indicate their sizes and preferred brands for shoes, clothes, jewelery and lingerie along with secret wishes. We have been adding videos, tips, and games to the site with some ambitious plans for the year ahead. With Valentine’s day in just a couple of days away, maybe take this opportunity to think about how you can make your girlfriend or wife happy. Visit Makeyourigirlfriendhappy.com to see what all the hubbub is about.

Feel free to send comments and suggestions to me jbrun@jonathanbrun.com or, cyrano@makeyourgirlfriendhappy.com.

We’re on twitter too, click here to follow us.

Heck, we’re even on Facebook too, click here for that!

And, here I am introducing the site!

How to end domain squatting

Domain squatting is a major problem. Companies go around picking up every imaginable domain name in the hopes of reselling it or placing ads that generate revenue. This land grab slows growth and drives people and businesses towards less intuitive names. Many registrars allow you to grab a trial period for a domain before purchasing it further increasing the incentive to bulk grab names to test traffic before splurging the 5$ on the actual purchase. To solve this issue, we could raise the cost of domain registration and renewal and remove the trial period. Nothing exorbitant, perhaps 50$ or 100$ per domain – the revenue from the increased price could be donated to charitable causes, schools, hospitals or some other worthy cause. The effect would be increased revenues for our struggling public services and a reduction in domain name squatting.

4 free business ideas to start 2011 off

Here are 4 crazy ideas, let me know what you think.

Membership for restaurants

Restaurants have cash flow problems, patrons often hesitate to go out because of cost. How about a membership (or time-share) system for restaurants. You create a subscription for restaurants where you pay a monthly fee and get x number of meals (table d’hôte – fixed meny). This allows for restaurants to improve cash-flow and for patrons to go more often. There are supper clubs for hard-core foodies, bit this would be for the normal folk.

Justify

Government, like many large organizations, are wasteful. How about we create a website to list the budgets of different government institutions and ask people to vote if they think the budget is worth it. Each institution should have to justify itself in relation to its budget, purpose and impact. As anarchists say, we should constantly question why an institution with power exists and if it no longer lives up to its requests, the institution should be changed or scrapped. Right now, budgets are hard to visualize. Where and why tax payers money goes is a mystery to even the most hardened government official. With this website, the people coulees vote on whether or not they agree with the budget in proportion to the justification.

TED Talk of the Week

When TED started out, they put out 1-3 talks a week, now, there is close to 1 a day. Sadly, I am having a hard time keeping up. Concurrent to the increase in talks, there has been a decrease in consistency. You still have some amazing gems that rock your world, but many talks are now average. What if we set-up a very simple website that allowed people to vote on their favourite talk of the week and propose a winner. This would allow some filtering and perhaps make the real gems stand out.

Contests Aggregator

There is tons of free stuff out there to be had. Local papers often offer movie premiere tickets, raffles give away gift cards and other contests offer innumerable items. Many people, sometimes elderly, spend their time combing through the papers, applying and winning these items. How about we build a simple aggregator for contests for free trips, movie tickets and other items commonly offered by newspapers and promo companies are offered. The site would be membership based with a 15 day trial period.

3 free business ideas

This is a follow-up to my last 7 free ideas, which you can read here. And the excellent discussion that happened on Hacker News.

Why give these ideas away? I have too many ideas and too little time. If anyone wants to take these and run with them, go for it! If you do, I would be keen to know how it goes.

1. Small claims website (class-action suits via the web)

Faulty products, misleading marketing and neighbourly complaints are all too frequent. Most people do not know their rights or how to defend them. Filling out government forms and filing in small claims court is very time consuming and unless the issue really caused harm, you are not likely to file.

There may be an opportunity to build a web platform where users could select a Product or Situation in their jurisdiction and the forms and filing procedures would be automatically populated. This is similar to the online incorporation or will creation websites.

Eventually, if many people file for the same thing (i.e. a faulty product), a class action suit could be taken up by a law firm. This idea is very rough but came about when a friend (who is a lawyer) described his situation. He had purchased  Kryptonite bike lock which is advertised as having “unbreakable bonds, blah blah” and he then promptly had his bike stolen.

He filed in small claims court for the replacement cost of his used bike (about 250$ and a lock 50$). As a plaintiff, it costs 70$ to file, to defend against an accusation, it costs 120$. He filed against two parties – the bike lock distributor and the store where he purchased it. As such, for them to defend, it will cost a total of 240$, make it likely that they will settle. Now, my friend is a lawyer and knows how to file these things and write scary letters, for the average individual, this task is to daunting. We could automate it with some pre-populated forms where users can “fill in the blanks”.

2. A Site for the Elderly

Old people like simple things! Think the Jitterbug telephone, but for the web. In a sense, the iPad is already doing this – but that market is still very small.

Someone could create a web browser homepage with a few basic links: Email, Photos, Telephone Numbers, Skype Video Calling and Other reminders. You could also have a system that allows them to enter their family members contact info and have automatic emails go out to them asking for a phone call, or to send photos, which can be pushed to the grandparent.

Huge market potential.

3. A Marketplace for students to do legal research

Basically like RentaCoder but specifically for law students. A lot of people have no idea where to start when it comes to legal issues, and law firms are very expensive. Even law firms are outsourcing their work to India. Many law students could use the extra cash, they just need a marketplace to connect with clients who want legal research (i.e. compile jurisprudence on a subject, find resources online, do a bit of digging), but the students would NOT give legal advice.

In the UK, they just passed a law (the Legal Services Bill, alternativly called the Tesco Law, see BBC article) allowing non legal firms to offer legal information, soon Tesco, Wal-Mart and other retailers will have a low-cost legal desk. Until then, an online legal service could be great (though it might be illegal in a number of jurisdictions).

Update: It seems someone already did this and even selcted the same domain as me, ha! http://www.rentalawstudent.com/

Knives, Santropol Roulant and Happiness

Last year, I spent a couple of mornings working at Santropol Roulant, a non-profit group in Montreal that prepares meals for elderly people. Every morning they prepare hundreds of delicious meals that are then delivered by bike and car throughout Montreal.

As a volunteer, I cut, chopped and prepped the food. It was a lot of cutting. As an amateur chef, I was amazed at the dullness of their knives. Any chef worth his Michelin stars will tell you that knives are your best friend and dull knives, your worst.

Santropol Roulant’s entire organization is centred around food, which is prepared by volunteers. Keeping the volunteers happy and efficient seems like the most important thing there, yet their most basic tool was horrible. They all complained, but no one did anything – not the head chef, the volunteers, or the management!

So, instead of donating money to the very good organization, I went out and bought a set of new, sharp, high quality knives. For about 60$, the knives made volunteers ecstatic. Efficiency, safety and happiness increased for a tiny cost.

Too often, we overlook the most basic elements, but when those elements are part of the core work – they really, really matter. On top of that, keeping your staff, or volunteers happy should always be your priority. Constantly ask yourself, how can I make my colleagues happier and more efficient; often, it takes very little.

Sharp knifes make volunteers happy.

To volunteer at Santropol Rouland, click here.

Relaxing when late for a flight

Flying out of Hong Kong is an amazing experience. You hop on a bullet train downtown and before you know it, you are whisking past rice paddies to the airport. Travelling is stressful, especially when you are a bit late. Waiting for a train to take you to your flight has a certain element of unknown to it – When will the train arrive? How long will it take? Will I make my flight?

Coming down the escalators at the train station, you see an amazing sign that truly does comfort you. The sign reminds you to relax, a train will be there in a couple of minutes. All airports should have some equivalent sign – for example, at the security check-in where lines can stretch quite long.  Brilliant!