Busy, busy – Toygaroo, Kyoto and more

Haven’t been blogging on here at all lately! Things have been quite crazy!

#1 – Toygaroo! My new company is Toygaroo. Founded by a bunch of great guys (and a gal!) in California this company looks set to change the way parents get toys for their kids. Toygaroo is a rental model, like FilmAmora and NetFlix. I came on board as CTO, bringing along the software and experience from years of renting DVDs and FilmAmora. If you live in the US check us out at

#2 – Kyoto! At the beginning of the year we completed our purchase of a house in Kyoto, Japan. After the series of disasters there it has been difficult to not just watch the news all the time. Luckily the house is a long way away from the problems.

#3 – FilmAmora! We’ve taken FilmAmora offline for now. We are looking at changing the business structure. There is a lot of potential in the business, but we need to do it right. I think it was suffering from some problems. When it comes back it will be bigger and better than ever.

I’m trying to get more disciplined about blog writing. I’ve got 3 on the go – this one (ostensibly about business related things), (about buying our house and spending more time in Japan) and rorramblings (occasional notes on software development).

I’ve never been a fan of blogging for blogging’s sake, but, there is lots going on now and hopefully I can find the time to write coherent articles that might help others.


finding lost bags… is this not the 21st century

Recently both my wife and I had our bags lost by British Airways on a flight back from Canada. They have asked us to send a list of contents to help identify the bags.

Surely if they can look at the contents then the bags have been broken open… so we are going to have to buy new bags anyway.

But this is the 21st century. Surely there is a better way?

Why not:

  • BA staff organize lost bags by day
  • Take photos of lost bags
  • create website where we the customers look at bags by day!

Most people know exactly what day their bags were lost. And what their bags look like (they could also photograph any identifying marks).

This solution would put the time consuming process of bag identification onto the customer. And not require the breaking open of bags. It is also relatively trivial to implement!

Even with 1000 bags a day this would not be tough to do.

Blogging Spain

The on-going scam in the Spanish BluRay/DVD marketplace

It never ceases to amaze me at the absolute ripoff policies of the studios when it comes to selling their discs in Spain. The latest – and one of the most shocking – is in the new release of the Lost TV Series. Now that the series is over of course there are some nice ‘complete’ box sets. Including, of course, a BluRay one.

But look at this:

This is the box set available from Amazon UK for £119. Not bad, considering it is 6 seasons!

Now look at this:

This is the same box set here in Spain. Yes, you are reading that right. €284 (from a suggested retail of €299). That is almost 3 times the cost!

The truly amazing thing is that some of the UK BluRay releases have Spanish on them… so there is not even the extra dubbing, subtitling to take into account. It is just pure greed.


Spain has the lowest per-capita income in western Europe – yet the highest cost of consumer goods. (I could do this same example using the Suzuki SX4 car, which is also more expensive here than in the UK). What is going on? Who sets these prices? Why does no one protest? Why does the government not comment on price fixing (maybe because they are too busy screwing even more money out of the Spanish!).


Rich Schefren & Strategic Profits… not Strategic Customer Relations!

In my last post I commented on how I wanted to take the Rich Schefren course about Strategic Entrepreneurship (a term which, by the way, is the title of another business textbook from several years ago, so I find it a bit hard to see how Rich can claim he was ‘the only one thinking such things’… but I digress.

Rich’s course is about $3000. But, according to his testimonials, it is money well spent. And I will say that his lengthy introduction videos did actually contain things that I found interesting. I was legitimately interested in taking this course! But I sent the email asking about experience in non-English markets. I sent that email 3 times!

Today I received this:

Dear Phil
Strategic Profits and the Abraham Group would greatly appreciate
your feedback.  Our records indicate that you recently contacted
our support team.
You are invited to participate in an online survey about your recent
experience with our team.

That’s very nice of them. Except, of course, that no one ever answered my emails or questions I submitted through their support forum! My suggestion to Strategic Profits is that they first check that they have done any customer support before asking for feedback on it.

Oh, and the email was sent from: Brian Johnson , so obviously they don’t want me to answer!

For a company and a man who claim to be teaching you how to have a great business and to serve the customer, this is a rather painful failing!

Blogging SmallBiz

How not to sell – Earth to Rich Schefren!

Recently I watched the incredibly long, 2-part, sales pitch from Rich Schefren over at Strategic Profits. Supposedly Rich is a ‘guru’s guru’ (when it comes to internet marketing I guess, not as in a spiritual guru).

So, I made it through the pitch and I have to say there were some things I found interesting. Perhaps even interesting enough for me to join Rich’s personalized training program and see what it could do to enhance’s sales and profits.

But I had some questions. Principally, had Rich (or his ‘team’) ever dealt with a non-English language focused business. 90% of our customers are Spanish (not surprising, being based in Spain!) and obviously our marketing had to be in Spanish and had to tackle a Spanish approach. Despite what you may have heard, marketing in a different language and country is not just a matter of translating your materials.

So it seemed a valid question.

Now, like almost all of these internet marketing people, getting ahold of them is almost impossible. They want you to buy their product, not waste their time with pre-sales questions. Rich’s company, Strategic Profits, has a support website where you can fill out tickets. So I did. Many days ago. I can log in and look at the ticket progress (none). There is no email address. No way to reach them!

In ‘traditional’ business we focus on getting the customer (and keeping them happy once you have them). I have noticed this trend in online marketing to ‘here’s what we have, like it and buy it or go away’. To them it seems to be all about the sizzle, building anticipation and urgency. That is why they are all in the internet marketing space, and what they sell are courses about internet marketing. It is an incestuous business, creating more people to market competing products.

Or at least that is how it looks from out here.

But the tools are not without merit. And I think that they can be applied to a ‘real’ business… But if you have no interest in answering questions in order to get my money, how interested will you be in answering questions once you’ve got it!

Blogging Music

In Remembrance of Lolly

Just over 5 years ago a dear friend and fellow musician Paul Lawton was killed in a horrific industrial accident.

Paul and I played together in ‘The Margraves’ and on some other sessions. Paul moved out to Vancouver in the late 90s and took up with some great musicians out there, including the multi Juno-nominated band ‘The Paperboys’.

An album is available on iTunes that contains songs of Lolly’s – some sung or intro’d by Lolly himself. The songs were found on a MiniDisc after Lolly’s death and were re-recorded.

If you want to show support for his family – or just want some great folksy/rootsy music then I highly recommend you check the album out!

Read more about Paul at:

Buy the album:

itunes canada:
itunes us:
itunes uk:
itunes spain:
Blogging SmallBiz

The value of things

One of my pet peeves is when I get emails from ‘Internet Marketing Gurus’ who claim that when I buy their course I will get all these ‘bonuses’ at greatly reduced prices.

Here are some recent ones:

Bonus #1: 1 Ticket To “GURU Traffic School”: VALUE: $2,500

Bonus #2: 1 Ticket To Any Live Event In 2010: VALUE: $5,000

You get the idea.


These courses are worth what people will pay for them. So – if you are giving them away for free, they are worth nothing. If you are selling something for $97 then it is worth, oh, I don’t know… $97? Not $2000 and we get 95% off.

And what is even more annoying that people doing this is people believing it! We have arrived at the point where pretty much we cannot believe anything that comes through our email – thanks in large part to idiots who make offers like this.

If you have read other articles by me you know I hate the whole ‘make a million online’ movement. It is – to be blunt – bullshit. Anyone who has done it could probably have made a million anywhere. They had a great business idea and spent thousands of hours perfecting it and their presentation. They did not buy a domain name, set up a wordpress blog, outsource to an article writer and collect a 7 figure sum.

I would challenge any of these gurus to prove

  1. they have in fact ever made the money they claim. A tax return would be nice proof!
  2. that any money can be made doing anything except selling the idea of easy money to desperate people
  3. that anyone who has bought their product went from zero to hero directly because of it

Anyway, rant over.

Welcome to my blog where I will never sell you anything… though if you live in Spain you might want to sign up for – the best way to rent movies in Spain!

Setting Up SmallBiz

Great article

The Japan Times today is running a good article – not just about setting up a business in Japan, but about starting and running a business anywhere as an expat.


Mobile game startup boss set own bar from ‘The Japan Times’

Setting Up SmallBiz

Step 1: Choosing your business name

Ok, I’m assuming you’ve done what I laid out in the introduction as far as coming up with a business idea and model and you think you are onto a winner.

Now the fun begins. (Note: heavy sarcasm).

The first thing you need to do is decide on a good name for your business. You want something memorable, descriptive.. I don’t know! That’s up to you. But, don’t just choose one name. Think of several.

The reason for this is that when you go to register your business you will need to provide a list of possible names to the ‘Business Name Registry (Registro del Nombre Comercial)’. They will let you know which one is acceptable in their eyes, so, to save time it is best to give them a list (I did 5), in order, that they can choose from.

A word of caution: they are not fans of business names that have foreign languages in them. So make sure your list contains some business names that are entirely in Spanish.


Greed as a business model – LOTR on BluRay

In a couple of weeks Lord of the Rings finally makes an appearance on Blu-Ray (the delay caused in most part by legal wranglings).

Fans around the world are complaining that the editions being released are the theatrical editions – not the extended editions that we’ve been able to buy (or rent) for years. (God, has it really been 10 years since LOTR came out?!)

There really only seems to be one motivation behind this: greed.

Paramount knows that LOTR fans have been waiting and will buy whatever edition they put out. And then, in a couple of years, will buy again the extended editions on Blu-Ray. They did this on DVD with good profits, so why not do it again?

Here in Spain, to make matters worse, the LOTR BR Box will cost almost double what it costs in the UK and the USA. And they wonder why piracy is rife. Spain has the largest problem in the western world with movie piracy. And we have the highest average cost – as compared to average income – of DVDs. Hmm. Coincidence?

Do these people never learn? There is panic in the movie industry right now – companies are going out business left and right, people are losing jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars are not being recouped… it is mayhem.

We, as the consumer, of course have to foot the bill where-ever possible…but why?

Rant over.