Why did we do this? A couple of reasons but the main one was to prove a point, and that point is this: accessing the internet is where Wi-Fi begins, not where it ends.
Bandwidth is cheap. It really is. I didn’t know this before I entered the industry; I was used to this whole notion of either you pay $35 a month to Comcast because that’s the only choice you have, or, in South Africa, you pay for bandwidth normally on a pay-as-you-use basis either to your home ISP or to your mobile carrier. I never really thought about how it worked until all of a sudden if I didn’t, I was going to be in trouble as the new (and foreign!) kid on the block.
When you pay for bandwidth, and I should say here that with uncapped accounts you also pay for bandwidth, albeit indirectly; your provider makes certain assumptions about the bandwidth consumption for a given speed of connection, you’re not really paying for bandwidth. You’re repaying the capital cost to lay the network, or fixed overheads like the people who send out the bills or answer the phone or go fix things when they break. But it’s a model that makes logical sense to consumers. After all, no one wants to pay for overhead, we want to pay for services.
In the world of public Wi-Fi the game is a bit different. There are a couple of schools of thought here:
- There are the closed-loop walled-garden ‘it’s my network and I’m not sharing’ type of service providers. This territory is mine, and I’m going to offer either free or paid access to Wi-Fi in this location as a benefit for my customers and my customers only. These are from the kids who didn’t play well with others in the sandbox growing up. Works great for key locations like airports, transport hubs, etc.; and it can be effective even if it makes your competitors hate your guts.
- There are the ‘open access’ wholesale service providers. In this model, your customers can use your network (again, either free or paid), and the network is wholesaled to other providers. So in this case you get a small amount of money from your competitors for data consumed by their customers on your network.
- Finally, there is the ‘amenity hotspot’ model whereby the venue pays to offer free internet to its patrons. This is pretty much the old ‘Wi-Fi hotspot’ model, which can now be delivered by getting a plain vanilla internet connection and throwing up a Wi-Fi password on the wall.
1) and 2) are similar except for who can provide access; and 2) and 3) are similar, the difference being whether the default action is free or paid. There’s quite a bit more context than this, and it gets very interesting where 2) and 3) combine as Wi-Fi can be free and automatic paid connections over the mobile network remain paid (people being lazy creatures after all), or that even this won’t matter too long from now. But I could write about this all day but this is my personal blog and a lot happened this week that’s not related to the industry at large.
The point I’m trying to make is this: there is no such thing as free Wi-Fi. But if a Wi-Fi network is profitable for the provider who installed it, then in most cases bandwidth is cheap enough that you can make internet access free for the public. Actually, it gets better than that, as you actually WANT people consuming more and more data for a variety of reasons. Almost all newer business models around telecoms understand this, no matter where you are playing and how you are trying to differentiate.
So to answer the question of why we did it. Firstly, because Wi-Fi is a territory game and because we could, and poking the first stick in the eye of the competition is always fun. We’ve lost enough battles; time we won a big one. We’re planning to use Camps Bay as a very visible, very interesting testbed for the new stuff we’re working on across quite a few market segments. It’s also a bully pulpit and a good way to get the brand out there as we reposition ourselves in preparation for 2014.
Now just to get that new web site up and running. Maybe when I get some more hours in the day.
This week was a game-changer on a couple of levels. As with the prior week, I’m actually still reeling a bit from the implications. From personal to partners to prospects, the week was firstly quite full, and secondly marked a couple of pretty significant shifts from the previous week. Not about-faces but shifts nonetheless, and also yet another reminder that as impatient as I can be (or those around me), things don’t happen before their time. Nor should they. But when the time does come; when it rains it pours.
What a difference a year makes? How about a week! My world looked pretty seriously different on Friday of this week as compared to last week.
It was a week in which I found out some of the things other people knew, or thought they knew, or were talking about as it relates to me, or to me and my company. Some good, some bad, some scary, some flattering, some very fair constructive criticisms. Two LinkedIn recommendations that made me a bit teary because …. Well, because I try. That’s all. Not one but two companies that I’d talked with some months back and nothing had come of it, and now they’re back with a force.
What does this teach you? Just because someone’s not communicating with you doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking of you or acting on your behalf. I’m probably never going to forget that. I hope I don’t, at least.
I met a person whose view of the industry, and players, and dynamics matched my own (my strategic soul mate, perhaps!).
I did a hero WOD at altitude.
I went out to dinner in knee socks (didn’t see that one coming especially as it was raining!).
I got my ass kicked at the gym, literally (I am soooo out of shape by my own standards). But I redeemed myself in some other ways. That hero WOD included over 50 handstand pushups, and I could barely kip a handstand pushup last autumn and now I don’t even think about doing them strict.
Sometimes you do forget the progress you’ve made when you’re still so focused on your weaknesses.
I also realised that in the process of healing my shoulder I had become hamstrung by fear. So on Monday I did my first ring dip (just one), and on Tuesday my first muscle up (also just one), a feat I felt I needed to repeat at Kyalami on Wednesday. Call it a final farewell to that gym. Thursday morning was tough, I’m not going to lie, and I’m not just talking about the hero WOD (although all that running! Ugh!).
More fundamentally than anything, I realised that I need to change a couple of my own shortcomings. It may be OK up to a point to just do as I wish and figure that others will either choose to follow, or not. But it’s actually more nuanced than that and I know it. I move so fast that to the degree that I don’t wait for others to catch up, or move faster than I know they are ready for, it’s not ideal. It is nice to have friends politely save you from yourself or tell you to watch yourself, or watch your back, etc.
I was talking to one of the guys at CrossFit on Wednesday about how it is the case that our own sense of self is much more magnified than others’ view of us. If you have a bad hair day or are in a bad mood or put on 3kgs of weight; you’re much more likely to notice than anyone around you. But it’s worse than that; your whole demeanour can change to be less confident and that is where it can kill.
I’ve been specifically pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone these last few months. “Playing it safe” is in the head, but that’s where it matters of course. I’m much more aware of my own areas of insecurity and weakness than others are, of course, so it’s a kind of strange human game we play of how much do we reveal, why, and to whom? People figure stuff out anyway. We’re all very predictable.
At dinner on Monday night I was explaining a lot of things, from what exactly are the implications for my personal life of the time focus of work and of training to some of the intrigue that goes on in this industry, or even just the basics of that a small company can’t play in a big company game without partners … and how do you find the right partners, and convince them to work with you rather than do it themselves? One thing is that there’s so much complexity that goes on behind everything said, or not said, or hinted or implied that it takes so much mental load just to process it, that I even am having a hard time putting together a proper training plan out of the programming (because my programmer requires us to THINK about our own schedules, and strengths and weaknesses). You try to think when you have people coming at you 18 times a day and urgent deadlines and opportunities you are missing because you weren’t in the room.
So, yeah, sorry if I’m short sometimes. It is all I can take to hold it together and be mostly professional in my professional capacities, of which there are now [at least] two. I’m human. I try. To be open, to be fair, to be honest, not to mislead, and to say what I want or need and not keep things bottled up inside. But then again, some battles must be fought at the right time or you just wind up having the same annoying conversation over and over and over again. Or worse.
But then again, sometimes the right thing comes along at just the right time and saves you from all the crazy going on in your head.
And you realise you can do muscle ups again, albeit carefully, and maybe you can compete this upcoming season after all.
All is fair in love & war; all is well in love & war. Life always goes on. But I’m not done with the struggle or the rehab, or the embarrassment of having major technique problems to fix.
That major existential bummer that is entropy? Eat drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die? I love Cape Town so much I’m not sure I’m actually ready to leave it. But I’ve got one foot out the door, and I’m already setting expectations up north. I do know what I’m doing (quote of the week: “Yeah, no, he’s good. But he’s in Cape Town.” – may as well be Outer Mongolia) but it doesn’t make it easy.
In a week which was largely grey in weather (I kept missing it though except for that getting caught in a Joburg thunderstorm Wednesday night; like something out of a bloody movie!), the mood was sombre as there were a variety of memorials and news stories related to Mandela’s passing. The absurdity of the non-qualified interpreter and the implications of that, Jacob Zuma getting booed; I could go on. But that’s a whole other blog post for another time.
For me, outside of all the new and changing relationships in the week, the main theme of the week was trust. Conversations boiled down to this:
- My friend: “How do you know you can trust him and he’s not going to double-cross you?” Me: “I don’t. But that wouldn’t be wise.” I must be careful what I imply lest people read things I didn’t intend into what I say, so I’ll note that this wasn’t an implied threat – I’m not vindictive (although I do hold grudges, I can’t help it); but in a game where you must pick sides either you’re on my team or you’re not.
- My business partner: “You’re right. You don’t ever really know who you can trust.” Me: “No, but at the end it all comes down to this [relationships].” I should also have said, reputation. But reputation is one thing and some people don’t care; trust is another. That’s why wining & dining is so important; it solidifies the trust from the boardroom and the balance sheet to the level at which if you need to ask a favour or call bullshit, you’ve got that relationship.
- Me to my possible new business partner: “We could sign an agreement saying I won’t screw you over. Or I could just not screw you over.” Obvious (to some, perhaps!), but that you even have to SAY IT tells you something.
A few years back the CCF shirts said ‘Harden the f*ck up.’ That’s the message I’m taking out of these last few weeks, or even months. I’ve gotten far too carried away with just about everything. I’m great at rolling with the punches, but I could be less of a drama queen about it. Is it fair that my competition has a budget that’s many, MANY multiples of my entire turnover? Is it fair that I can train all season for a competition then wind up with food poisoning? Is it reasonable to expect the people around me to see it from my point of view if I haven’t led them carefully down the garden path? Is it reasonable to be annoyed at someone else when it takes two?
That’s the key thing. It takes two. If I’m not clear with my staff on expectations or measurement, what result do I expect? And I expect them to be annoyed at me if I come down with some sort of ‘this isn’t good enough’ message without ever clarifying what I expect, and why, and the thinking that brought me there.
I was reading this HBR blog post a few days back about building trust and the part that jumped out at me was this: In the middle of my first week as CEO, one of the company’s original VCs called. “So, what’s your plan?” he asked. I said I have to spend a few weeks learning. He was incredulous that I did not have a pre-baked plan. I was incredulous he thought that I should.
Choose to ignore what you don’t want to see at your peril. The worst thing is that you can’t actually complain; your gut is always right. I was telling my friend on Friday at the AWESOME new wine bar called Publik that the industry resembled a combination of high school and espionage. And I loved it. Then I realised afterwards … no, I don’t love it. My ego might love it, but I could actually leave the drama.
The point of a CrossFit competition is to push yourself and have your competitors there to make you push yourself, and for you to push them. It’s not ACTUALLY about winning at any price. It might be for some people, but not for me. This is just one of the things in which I have my self-worth tied up; and my standards at doing it right without cheating mean more to me than my final standing. It’s actually enough that I can do strict muscle ups. Not a lot of other people can. On one level, that’s enough.
I’ve caught up on my sleep debt so that means I’m less likely to have knee-jerk reactions that aren’t helpful to anyone.
Time to catch everyone up, and stop being an avoidable dumbass. There are enough ways to be a dumbass accidentally without also actually being dumb.
Speaking of not dumb – my team are not dumb. Not even almost.
- “We need someone who’s crazy.” “We’re all a bit crazy in this industry.” – Marnus & Ellie
- “Yeah but they’ve always been asking the wrong people.” “Or the wrong question.” – Marnus & Ellie
- “How the hell did they find out?” – Ellie
- “If you get caught with your pants down you may as well admit it.” “Yeah.” – Ellie & Rudolph (not us, for the record)
- “It would be a good way to lose my gym privileges.” – Ellie
- “But … how do you know this guy is not going to double-cross you?” “I don’t. …. But he shouldn’t!” – Dorothy & Ellie
- “That’s not how it should be.” “No, not at all. But it’s how it is.” – Dorothy & Ellie
- “How did you wind up at Skyrove?” “… bad luck?” – Ariel & Ellie
- “Coming from him that really counts!” – Ingi
- “Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.” – Rudolph
- “They must think we’re having a relationship.” (like we aren’t!)
- “Well I think you should trust me because I don’t lie to you.” – Ellie
- “You’re ticking all the right boxes. BUT –” – Vincent
- “He knows well that dynamite comes in small packages.” – Francois
- “Your deadlift won’t be the heaviest weight anyone’s ever dropped on that floor.” – Rick
- “I don’t just wanna be the guy where people just say ‘he owns a CrossFit gym.’” – Rick (more than just a pretty face!)
- “What is WirelessG?” – the fact that he didn’t know was pretty priceless
- “He’s a player.” “Yeah. He’s a player.” – Stephen
- “Yeah, no, he’s good. But he’s in Cape Town.” – Stephen
- “I’m not in the habit of handing out praise I don’t mean.” – Ellie
- “No more digging for me. Now I move forward.” – Carla
- “If you just look at the P&L you’ll have no idea what’s actually going on.” – Ellie
- “You haven’t gotten any death threats yet?” – Rudolph
- “No one blew up my car over that; what you think they’re going to come after me for Camps Bay?” – Ellie
- “No. Trust me. You’re ok.” – Adam
- “He said ‘I think I may have poked a pen into the reset hole.’” – Charles
- “You just confused a wireless router with a firewall.” “Happens sometimes.” – name omitted to protect the innocent
- “I’ve made my point.” – Elizabeth
- “There’s far too much that’s unexplained not to believe in magic.” – a fellow CrossFitter