I’m on vacation this week, so please enjoy an updated version of a piece I wrote early this year. It still resonates, and was published before we formally launched NewCo Shift. In fact, this piece is the essential framing behind both the Shift Dialogs (a new video series coming with partner Nasdaq later this summer) and Shift Forum (a new executive conference coming early next year).
Thanks to NewCo, I’ve gotten out of the Bay Area bubble and visited more than a dozen major cities across several continents in the past year. I’ve met with founders inside hundreds of mission-driven companies, in cities as diverse as Istanbul, Boulder, LA, and Mexico City. (Austin and Cincinnati are coming up later this month!) I’ve learned about the change these companies are making in the world, and I’ve compared notes with the leaders of large, established companies, many of which are the targets of that change.
Usually in this space we focus on Big Picture issues. This week, we’re looking at something much more practical: email subject lines. We all know intuitively that there are things we can do with those subject lines to make it more likely that people will open our emails. But we do that more from the gut than from evidence. What if someone looked at 115 million emails and figured out what worked?
That’s what email automation firm Yesware did. Email Subject Lines That Actually Work, its recent ebook, shares what works (shorter subject lines) and what doesn’t (subject lines framed as questions). Some of the more surprising findings: emails that look like forwards (with “FWD:” or “RE:” in the title) get opened more, although less so on mobile devices, and putting numbers in your subject line gives you a slight advantage.
Some of the lessons are what you’d expect. Lay off the exclamation points! Don’t pretend to know someone when you don’t. Never use the term “appropriate person.” And no, people don’t want to join your webinar. Yes, Yesware published this because it wants to sell you software, and you have to give up your email address for the PDF. But the tips here will be useful to you even if you don’t ever want to try the company’s product.
Today’s Top Stories — Net Neutrality Has Its Day: An Appeals Court ruling supports the FCC. — Apple’s Mid-Life Opportunity: Are we about to see a more open, less insular Apple? — Zenefits Wants You To Leave, One Way or Another: Layoffs are here, buyouts are coming. — A Universal Basic Income Primer: Knocked down in the polls, it still holds interest. — The Ultimate Commitment to an Organization: Would you get a neck tattoo with your company’s logo on it? — Falling Growth Rates Slows Down the Developing World: The path forward for emerging economies is getting tougher.
Net Neutrality Has Its Day Yesterday was a good day for supporters of net neutrality, barely. In a split decision, a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld an FCC decision that broadband is a utility, subject to its regulation (New York Times). This decision has ramifications for everything from consumer privacy (it helps) to carriers’ ability to prioritize data from different content providers (they can’t). It’s not over yet, though. The ultimate stop, according to the carriers who oppose the FCC: the Supreme Court.
If you care about where technology is going, you pay attention to Steven Wolfram. He created the technical computing language Mathematica, he’s a savvy and idiosyncratic business leader, and he does things like take a decade to invent a new kind of science. What’s perhaps most impressive about Wolfram is that even though he’s accomplished so much, he’s still endlessly curious. In particular, he finds time to write extended profiles of the people who have inspired him, and those profiles are filled with wonder and an astonishing amount of new research.
Next month Wolfram will publish Idea Makers: Personal Perspectives on the Lives & Ideas of Some Notable People, a collection of essays looking at what made both historical figures and people he has worked with (the latter group includes Richard Feynmann and Steve Jobs) so important and unexpected. Many of these celebrations have been published already, on Wolfram’s blog and on Medium, and one in particular is a must-read that will whet your appetite for the full book.
Augusta Ada King-Noel, countess of Lovelace, better known as Ada Lovelace, has been considered by some a hero and by others a minor but significant figure in the earliest days of mechanical pre-computing computing. She worked on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in the 19th century and her notes on the Engine are considered the first algorithms written for a computer to execute, making her the first computer programmer. There’s been considerable controversy over the extent of her contribution to Babbage’s project.
Today’s Top Stories — Silicon Valley’s Problem With Problems: Not every product or service changes the world. — Microsoft Buys LinkedIn to Solve a Problem — Could Facebook Swing the Election? Sure, but it has plenty of incentives not to. — Walgreen Has Had Enough With Theranos: The partnership is over. — Speak Up, Lose Your Severance: More laid-off workers are taking the risk. — Silicon Valley Goes Public Its Own Way: A new market built for the long-term may be coming. — The Latest in NewCo Shift: The best of the past week on our website
Silicon Valley’s Problem With Problems Silicon Valley is trying to create game-changing solutions to important global problems. Yet not everything is really a problem. You wouldn’t know that if you follow how Silicon Valley frame its products and services. In a Medium column, Riva Melissa Tez, CEO of Permutation, ably navigates between important problems to be solved and things that are more perks or privileges: “Not knowing if you can get sushi delivered at 10pm to your exact location is not a problem.” It’s an important question to ask about your NewCo if you truly want be a company on a mission: Are you solving a problem or are you just removing a little friction for the already lucky?
Active in 143 Countries, It’s Become the Largest Platform for Young People To Create Social Change
DoSomething.org wants to “make the world suck less.” To do so, it’s created a platform to encourage young people between the ages of 13 and 25 to engage in social action. “Young people want to make a change,” says Michaela Bethune, DoSomething’s head of campaigns. “They’re passionate. They’re frustrated.” DoSomething is tapping into that passion by spearheading campaigns that create change in the world. “Teens for Jeans,” a DoSomething project, collected as many jeans as there are homeless youth in the United States — five million pairs over eight years.
That level of impact is due in large part to the organization’s breadth. DoSomething has 5.3 million members spread across every U.S. zip code. It’s a spirited organization. The company puts transparency front and center on its site under its “Sexy Financials” page, which it uses to tell people what they’re “nailing” and what they’ve “F’d up.” Bethune, who we spoke to for our Spotlight, asked us to warn her if she swore too much. It’s endearing, and indicative of the nonprofit’s passion, which it hopes to continue spreading across the globe.