Working on my plans for Context, I am crystallizing the brand’s philosophy, perspective and purpose
I’ve been tinkering with Context as a brand and vehicle for three years now. In 2018 I produced a few videos in the Good, Bad & Ugly Q&A series. Of course much of what I was writing (pontificating, really) on my Linkedin profile captured the essence of the brand. It’s always challenging to adopt that from one storyteller’s perspective to something wider… Yesterday I caught up with John Stokes, an industry friend and investor who was telling me he was surprised by my Fox in the Henhouse documentary, which I produced in 2019 as I began to pay a bit more attention to the brand.
The Essence of Context
The theme is essentially “Ethical Capitalism” and explores the role of entrepreneurship in society to bridge the wealth and income gap at a time when an increasing number of younger voters are drawn to socialism while billionaires themselves are calling out capitalism’s shortcomings. He was surprised that I (essentially) cared about anything other than business, which is ironic, for I went into business because it was – in my humble opinion – the best means to an end of making an impact. When he cited his interest in “conscious capitalism” and listed:
- Having a purpose (your essence) – ours is Here to Serve.
- Caring about stakeholders (vs shareholders) – my first book, Course To Success, literally opens by quoting Herb Kelleher who rightfully prioritized employees, clients above shareholders.
- a caring and compassionate leadership style – hmm… where have I heard that?
- Focus on culture.
I was thinking “wait a minute, this is how I have literally viewed the world, and thus managed my organization.” I’ve always said the difference between your intentions and perception is what you say and do, which more or less explains my desire to pursue and grow Context which is always rooted in trying to achieve Balance, a key theme in Course To Success (along with Gestalt, Plato’s principle of specialization and Freud’s division of mind theory, which balance ego with essence, effectively).
Along those themes from my first book – which I wrote in 2002 as a 24 year old! – the tenets he lists are part of the essence of Context, which I will be expanding on soon to recruit accordingly. (I have pasted an excerpt from the 10-Year Overnight Success below, which I am slowly but surely adapting into a feature like The Founder or The Social Network – hit me up if you think you’re the writer to partner with me on that!)
Building a Second Army
Given my nature and nurture, I was always very adamant about siphoning any resources from the mothership but in the days/week to come, I will be enumerating the jobs and tasks I am looking to fill via the Open to Work series we have started. If you like what you see, just apply now as I tend to hire based on individual’s strengths and less based on job openings. In essence, I’m planning to build a second, parallel army and properly prioritize & allocate resources to grow for Context alongside the formidable culture and machine we have created at WatchMojo. I am working on the article, but meanwhile, as a teaser, if I had to jot down where the brand’s voice, philosophy, perspective and purpose stands, this diagram (work in progress) may capture it. Can you tell we’re working on having a consistent brand across the ContextTV videos, the Context Is King articles here.
Love the passage re founders and flounders! From the 2016 book, reflecting back to 2008/09:
Montreal’s Real Ventures also took an interest, and while I can only presume that some of the partners there thought little of me, a few of them—I think anyway—genuinely wanted to back WatchMojo. John Stokes in particular, a Brit who met a Canadian woman, relocated to Montreal, and more than anyone else put the city on the startup map and was part of the team that raised $50 million to invest in local startups. Stokes was the answer to what would have happened had Gordon Ramsey developed a passion for startups instead of steaks, founders instead of flounder. While many may have found Stokes’ edge a bit too sharp, I liked it. It was refreshing, and in Montreal—in Canada, even—where everyone is too polite (or so the world claims), Stokes injected a certain brashness and constructive abrasiveness that we needed in our community. London’s loss was Montreal’s gain.
Stokes was always quick to correctly remind me to “stuff it” when I’d bemoan VCs lack of interest in content, since he’d offered to invest $400,000 at a $800,000 pre-money valuation (verbally) in January 2008, which I’d passed on. At the time, ideas on a napkin were fetching pre-money valuations of a few millions of dollars, so agreeing to a sub-million pre-money valuation wasn’t something that any entrepreneur would have jumped at. That said, I did regret not partnering with Stokes specifically. Over the years I’d ping him and pick his brain; he was always full of constructive criticism and intuitive feedback. Even if something he’d say wasn’t reflective of our business or industry, there were valuable takeaways. While I can understand why many entrepreneurs would head for the other direction when they saw him (I think in one segment on Real Ventures, you saw an entrepreneur cry after Stokes gave him some tough love), I always considered myself fortunate to get any face time with him.
The only reason I didn’t regret passing on his verbal offer more was that Real Ventures (and the seed fund Montreal Angels beforehand) were spread so thin that I doubt Stokes would have been able to focus much on us. They invested in other firms including Beyond The Rack (which encountered much headwind after a breakneck start) and Frank & Oak. While both Real Ventures and WatchMojo share a desire to put Montreal “on the map,” I’d be lying if I said a part of me isn’t driven to create a more valuable business than any of their portfolio companies. Although I do sincerely root for all of their portfolio companies, since any time a city spawns a successful business, the spillover and trickles down and has ripple effects across the city, as Aol. did in the D.C. area, or Amazon and Microsoft did in Seattle.