Category Archives: Awesome Tools

Peanut butter and personal branding


I recently have the privilege of meeting Pic from Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter. Pic is the biggest fan of peanut butter I’ve ever met (and about as engaging as they come). He displayed so much enthusiasm for his product that made an unintentional mockery of ‘personal brand’ expertise, which was timely, because I’ve heard the phrase a fair bit recently.

I understand the requirement for a personal brand, I just think adding a term to the concept undermines the whole point. To me, your ‘personal brand’ is the person other people believe you to be. Since I’m a fan of authenticity, that means your personal brand is, in fact, who you are.

There’s definitely room to put in some thought about who you are, what defines you and how to best represent that publicly… but I find it a bit scammy to do much more than that in terms of ‘brand development’. While shyness is probably the biggest barrier to conveying your personal brand, coming up with what it is, shouldn’t be. For the likes of me, something as structured as actually crafting a ‘personal brand’ is counter to who I am. Basically, what Im saying is your personal brand is simply knowing who you are and being yourself (regardless of the scale or situation).

Maybe the likes of Pic are personal brand experts, or maybe they just innately ‘get’ it. Regardless, I suppose you know your personal and business brand are raving successes, when suddenly every man and his dog are jumping on the peanut butter bandwagon. It takes a lot to turn a completely ignored product into the newest craze.

My Tours make finals of BNZ Startup Alley

We had a pretty good year at My Tours last year. We launched some very cool apps for museums, councils and businesses around the world…. Cumulating in our first bilingual app of Old City Jerusalem Tours for the Jerusalem Development Authority. We also now have iPhone and Windows 7 versions of the apps and the Android one on its way.

We have no one working fulltime on My Tours (though I suspect Glen Oli may beg to differ at various points), and were now at the point where its sort of make or break.

We’ve already lined up one trip to the US this year, but the BNZ Startup Alley provides an opportunity to essentially buy time for Glen to really push My Tours, while still being reasonably confident of feeding his expanding family.

The finalists were announced a week or two back, so this is sort of old news. But it did give me a chance to reflect on the year that’s been and the year ahead, and provides a good opportunity to check out the competition – and marvel once again at the range and calibre of local startups (especially the likes of Educa, who are a favorite customer of mine :))

iPoint2: Stay pointing in the right direction!

Disclaimer: I did design this app, so am very biased :)

However, it IS cool.

iPoint2 is super simple, all it does is allow you to plot locations, and then, wherever you are, it will point to any of your saved locations and tell you the direction and distance you need to go to get there. We kept the interface suitably simple so it doesn’t get in the way of quickly adding points or viewing one. The only extra cool thing we added, was the ability for you to take a picture or upload one of each place, which the compass overlays. This personalises each of your places and can provide a visual reference for those of us who like that sort of thing :)

BUT what’s cool is how you can use it.

One of the initial thoughts is for all those praying to Mecca – it’s a very simple way of always knowing which direction to face. Or your favorite fishing spot, where your car is parked, where your best friend lives on the other side of the world…

What’s even cooler, is that as people have started to use it, they have come up with their own benefits. As this AppShopper review writes:

“Say you’re vacationing in an exotic location and want to head back to your hotel but also meander around a little on the way to see the sights. Or you’re exploring a large park and want to keep track of where you are in relation to the park’s entrance. iPoint2 is perfect for these types of situations and many others.”

I love it and highly recommend spending $1.99 and getting yourself pointing in the right direction.

For anyone who’s interested in their own mobile app, iPoint2 was developed by the geniuses at Able Technology

Financial health

I have a lot of inspirational friends doing inspiration things, but one of the most practical pieces of wisdom Ive stolen in the last year is from Amy Hodgkinson, who got herself into a wee bit of debt in her early twenties (like many I know) and last year, paid the whole lot off.

Her big trick? Quite simple really… In an age of electronic transactions, she bucked the tide and withdrew her allocated allowance every week. When that was gone, so was her ability to spend.

Ive managed to avoid debt (outside of business debt early on, and my mortgage) and I think as a result, Ive become somewhat flippant about money. I have a sneaky suspicion that while Im merrily not monitoring whats in my bank account, Im spending extra on things I really dont need.

So, after several conversations about the requirement for a break somewhere tropical this year, Ive decided to make a real effort to monitor my spending.

My budget is drawn up, my next pay is tomorrow and from now on, I will come complete with a wad of cash.

$1000 charity giveaway

A few years ago, when we set up Flower Power on Powershop, one of the big drivers was being part of a big change in an industry that seems to quiver in fear at the thought of progress.

Powershop is a huge success story, with around 40,000 customers by the end of August this year, New Zealanders are really embracing the power that they have to control their energy bills, and enjoying significant savings as a result.

We set up Flower Power to jump on that revolutionary bandwagon. Flower Power has always been about the power of the masses (as an aside, it’s very hard to write a post about ‘Power’ as in electricity, and ‘Power’ as in control without getting the words all confused). As part of that, we have always wanted to get a picture of what our customers/supporters believe in, and do some cool stuff on their behalf, that none of us could do on our own.

The big, obvious one, is supporting people and organisations within our communities in a way that can go beyond the $20 donation that most of us can afford. At the beginning of this year, we wanted to get started, and then the second earthquake in Christchurch hit and there was absolutely no doubt that in New Zealand, the one and only option we had was to give a lump sum, on behalf of all of us to those who were suffering. So every single one of you who has bought Flower Power, contributed to the $5050 donation we made to the Christchurch Earthquake appeal.

Time has moved on, and christmas is fast approaching. We thought it was high time we resurrected our Facebook page and get it to start doing what it was meant to be doing all along – being the place where we could all get together and do some cool things. So this time, we’re leaving the choice to you: who do you think deserves a $1,000 boost this christmas? All you need to do is nominate them and encourage others to agree with you.

Whatever group gets the most votes after nominations close on December 5, will get a $1,000 cash to cover some of the extra costs christmas brings.

So get nominating: On facebook or go to our website and click that nifty banner at the bottom of the page to enter your favorite.

And if you have any ideas about what we could do in the future, we’re always open to them… And thanks for believing in power to the people!

Wellington’s Genuine Progress Index wins national excellence award

We launched the GPI website earlier this year. The GPI is a fantastic project that aims to measure how well we as a region are doing on a number of social, environmental, economic and other measures. More accurate than just measuring GDP, it’s part of a growing trend to look at a more holistic measurement of progress.

The team at the Wellington Regional Council were a joy to work with, and their enthusiasm and the results they have achieved are thoroughly worthy of this award.

My favorite part of the press release

“The GPI provides comprehensive information, largely through its innovative website, about the overall health of the region and how it’s doing economically, environmentally, socially and culturally. It enables anyone with an interest in the region to see and understand where improvements in well-being are being made or where efforts need to be focussed to make improvements.”

It’s actually quite hard to create a website that provides such different levels of detail over such a large area and translating a lengthy report into an interactive view was an interesting challenge. Im really happy with the result, and stoked that it’s being recognised as part of the success of the wider GPI project.

More customer success: MyLawsuit

Just heard from Michele about some early buzz around

Michele and I ‘met’ several years ago now, and we designed the initial screens for MyLawsuit. Michele is a true inspiration (just read the articles to see what she gets up to!) and I love the concept of a website that helps the little guy in the legal world. With a limited, yet hugely painful experience of the reality of legal battles, I very quickly realised that even if you are 100% in the right and/or you are fighting to regain something someone took from you, it costs a FORTUNE in time, emotion and finance…

Michele (like all my favorites clients) has a very unique and very cool view on her industry, you can see a lot of her personal ethics in the product. I love the fact that she’s trying to remove the terrifying legalese that you are normally subjected to, and run a very open and transparent process to connect lawyers with clients. Its an industry full of sharks and awesome to see someone who’s not afraid of taking them on!

An impossible position

After a couple too many shocking pictures at photo exhibitions, I realised that I have no stomach for stories about bizarre and violent punishments.

But stupidly, 15 minutes of free time yesterday led to me stumbling across this story on I can’t understand a culture where it’s deemed acceptable to brutally punish a woman for pretty much every perceived violation, I’m not even sure those cultures exist or the likes of Stuff dramatise one or two stand out events.

Regardless, one nightmare that is beyond imagination, is having acid thrown in your face, being rendered blind and disfigured, then having the world call ‘human rights abuse’ when you take up the option to deliver an eye-for-an-eye punishment to the man who did it to you. Especially, if your only alternative is to completely forgive the guy and set another precedent that it’s ok.

I get that violence doesn’t solve violence, and instinctively, I believe that you’re better off to fight violence with understanding… But when you even attempt to start to put yourself in this poor woman’s position, it just feels impossible.

Moneyscope: Standing out from the Crowd

One of my favorite customers just sent me the latest review of Moneyscope – a Basecamp style approach to financial planning, that enables financial planners to quickly produce attractive, simple and understandable reports for their clients… As opposed to the typical, hugely complex modeling systems that result in reports no one really understands.

I love this product. I love designing it, I love working with Richard (who is about as onto it as they come), and I love the idea of taking on an industry that, to the ordinary person, is shrouded in mystery and complication.

Moneyscope has never intended to compete directly with the big players – it’s monthly cost and simple functionality attest to that, BUT we are quickly picking up on more and more users switching the vast majority of even their most complex customers to Moneyscope… And this is even before the next release of some cool functionality that will take it to the next level.

Read page 25 of this industry publication for this full review, but I think this sums it up:

The discussions with the users of Moneyscope were quite enlightening. We had expected the tool to be used by the mainstream adviser, for simple cases or for initial engagement of clients. The reality is that it is used by sophisticated financial planners as a core part of their advice process.

Keep an eye out for Moneyscope, it’s got the perfect mix of strict focus, simplicity and a massive need from the market.

A new way of giving: The One Percent Collective

A lot of people around Wellington (and New Zealand) will have heard of Pat Shepherd. He’s a brilliant photographer, publishes a highly sought after magazine and in recent years has launched into philanthropy. It’s very easy to make him sound too good to be true, and very hard to capture in a couple of sentences the amazing work he has done.

After a massively successful start to the Good Karma Project, Pat got his thinking cap on about charity, community and how we can do it better. And he is now launching the One Percent Collective.

People have good ideas all the time. Other people are quick to point out how hard it will be to bring them to reality. Pat is one of the few people I know who consistently achieves things the rest of us only dream about, and he has the backing of some pretty successful people:

Advisory board members include:

  • Starfish founder and fashion designer Laurie Foon
  • Rippon Festival director Lynne Christie
  • Managing Director of The Body Shop in New Zealand Barrie Thomas
  • Chairman of Wise Counsel and
  • Ben Irving
  • entrepreneur and businesswoman Melissa Clark Reynolds.

If you believe in bootstrapping, in getting big things done with a little money and a lot of hard work and that if everyone did their bit, we could have a big impact on some major issues, please consider getting involved. And before you ask, I have put my money where my mouth is!

In his words:

The idea behind One Percent Collective is to change the way Kiwis give to charities by encouraging them to donate one percent of their income and help grow smaller New Zealand-based charities.

At its heart, One Percent Collective is an online community where members register to donate one percent, choose one of six charities to support, and gain access to benefits at Wellington’s most interesting cafes, shops, bars and music events. We will be spreading to other NZ locations as things progress.

I’m working with some incredible people to get One Percent Collective off the ground and I want to make sure that 100% of people’s donations go directly to the charities, rather than the setup costs of One Percent Collective itself.

So I’ve created something called the One Percent Collective Founding 40.

The Founding 40 members each donate $20 a week for 52 weeks to secure enough funding to get One Percent Collective off the ground and cover start up and website development costs for her first year of life. That $20 a week is the difference of three less pints a week, a reduced hangover and a healthy conscious. It can make all the difference. Plus, it’s all tax deductible, so a third of it can easily be claimed back.

I’m looking to get in touch with anyone you think might be interested in chatting to me about One Percent Collective and becoming a Founding 40 member (friends, family, work mates, etc). Everybody knows someone affected positively by charity work and all I ask is that you speak to as many people as you can to ask them if they might be interested in getting involved and helping us make a huge cultural shift towards generosity in NZ.

Download the PDF of info and Pat’s contact info