Blog Category: Animation

What Failing with 28 Start-ups Has Taught Me

Yep, 0 and 28; that is my startup record. 100% of the time companies I work with fail. 100– that hurts a bit.

You might be asking, “Who the heck are you? And why do you suck so much at this entrepreneurship thing?”

Great questions, let’s start with who the heck I am.

I’m Miles. As a developer for the past 10 years, I have always worked for startups. But for the past four years, I have been able to watch startups bootstrap from a 100,000-foot ivory tower.

I work for a private company that specializes in computer programing training. For years, my employer and local school districts have been working together to revolutionize public education.

For the last four years, I have been assigned to work at a magnet high school where students learn entrepreneurship skills (financing, MVPS, SWOT, LEAN Model, etc.) with the goal of launching a business before they graduate. Not make-believe businesses but real businesses. At least that is the goal. 

During their junior year, students find a problem, create a solution, run M.V.P.s, and pitch their businesses to local investors. Any profits the students make they get to keep.

Senior year students run their companies.

First, A Word to the Critics

Some balking critics might say, “These are high schoolers not running ‘real’ businesses. Why should I care?” Two points.

One, tell that to the students — a student body that has received over $20,000 in angel investment funding by winning pitch/code competitions, competing against college graduates and entrepreneurs for funding.

Two, yes, these young entrepreneurs are just that: young, which is why we should pay attention. Soon they will become the workforce, and your clients. ALSO sometimes the wrath of adolescence bursts into the room, filling the space with a tornado of drama and emotion. A drama which leads to extreme conflict; thus allowing the opportunity for extreme conflict resolution.

For realzies, you should mentor a local entrepreneurship club or company; you will learn a lot.

Now to the lessons.

A wrong hire will kill or save you (no pressure)

You might read about the importance of hiring all the time on LinkedIn. Probably to the point where you want to throw up. All those cute little quotes you read like, “hire slow and fire fast” ain’t nonsense. Hiring is damn important.

For a growing organization, a SINGLE hire can tear down everything. Conversely, the right hire can elevate a team.

The wrong subtraction

Case in point, one year we had a team primed for success. The group produced a great product concept —  to place sensors in your lawn and only water the sectors that need watering. In California, where we have no water, this product naturally attracted lots of attention. The cherry on top? The team was extremely talented.

The exciting launch

This team of six had it all; prodigy-level technical chops, solid financial insights, and expert level presentation skills.

Out of the gate, they rolled over the competition in every pitch /code events; winning over $10k in their first year. 

Success will lead to turbulence

If you fly for long enough, you will hit turbulence. The question is, how well is everything bolted down?

Some laws of physics seemingly apply to business too, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

The Startup Genome Project, a group that studied 3200+ high growth technology startups, boldly stated in their report’s analysis:

More than 90% of startups fail, due primarily to self-destruction rather than competition. For the less than 10% of startups that do succeed, most encounter several near-death experiences along the way. Simply put, we just are not very good at creating startups yet.

I guess Diddy was right, “mo money, mo problems.”

Success, even small amounts, can be intoxicating.

This team hit some major turbulence because of success. Rather than focusing on their next steps, team members wanted to focus on who should receive the most praise and money.

The nugget of wisdom: with growth, you can expect conflict.

Rough winds are when real leaders emerge

Turbulence is when true leadership appears. For this team, a young, powerful woman emerged and was named CEO. She had her team solidify roles; she took care of the front-facing team while her CTO developed the product. But unfortunately, it didn’t last.

Losing the Captain

Sometimes even the best leaders can’t right the ship. After months of fighting her team, the leader threw in the towel.

Running out of Jet Fuel

Now that the captain was gone the talent began leaking jet fuel. A once productive team that was continuously coming up with updates turned into a group that missed investor deadlines. Dwindling to just a cool high school project.

Moral of the Story

  • Early on a single hire or fire can alter your company’s culture.
  • You must protect your culture and not let success destroy you.
  • Arrogance will kill you like Icarus flying too close to the sun.

Now we know it is vital to hire the “right” people, you might be asking how? Or more importantly, who? 

First, you need women on your team. Period.

I really wish I didn’t have to write this section. I mean it is 2019, but some of us tech-nerd men still don’t get it. You need women on your team.

Still not listening, dudes? YOU NEED WOMEN ON YOUR TEAM. 

Besides it being 2019 and you know being just the right thing to do, if you HAVE to have numbers know that having women on your team might make your company more successful when it comes to funding, running your company, surviving, all that. As Fishkin puts it, 

Teams with at least one woman founder performed 63 percent better than all male founding teams — Rand Fishkin, Lost and Founder, Page 157.

I have seen this truth play out over and over again.

The four most advanced teams I worked with all had at least one strong female team member.

Some of these young women took a bold and direct approach. Some took more subtle methods. But in all cases, they were by far the most talented technically and social-emotionally.

Time and time again, a struggling team that brought in a strong female team member increased production almost instantly. 

Strong teams that lost their vital team member would then crash and burn.

The all-male teams and male-dominated teams were significantly more likely to underperform when compared to mixed gender teams and all female teams.

Moral of the story, it is freaking 2019, hire and promote women.

When you know, you know.

When you find a superstar hire them even if you don’t have a job for them yet. Don’t let the employee of your dreams slip away because you don’t have a job title created.

From my non-scientific observations, I can tell you this truth:

You are WAY more likely to hire the WRONG person.

Regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, sexual preference, background if you find a superstar that fits hire them.

Design your hiring process to find these super-stars. Since companies are often trying to solve problems quickly, you might be tempted to focus too much on hiring for hard-skills. I promise you, after four years of teaching, it is much easier to teach a hard-skills than foster soft-skills. It is the lack of soft skills that will destroy your team. Hard work and communication will always outpace talent. 

So who do you hire? Per my observations, when given open-ended tasks or projects, individuals fall into five groups: the minimalists, the fabricators, the grinders, thought leaders, and the diamonds. Here are some thoughts about each of these categories.

The Minimalists

Minimalists are just that, minimalists. They do the bare minimum on open-ended tasks; if you are lucky.

Per my pseudo-scientific observations, 30-33% of the potential workforce is built up of minimalists, making them the most prominent population segment.

Being a minimalist has nothing to do with a lack of ability but everything to do with motivation. Minimalists need guidance because they lack internal motivation or confidence in a subject.

However, for whatever freakonomics reason, this group is by far the most creative and often have the best people skills.

Minimalists are not destined to stay in this group. Once the minimalist has a breakthrough, they morph into unicorns. But this takes a great effort from external sources; it can take years. Others have to believe in minimalists before they believe in themselves.

How to work with minimalists.

  • Invite them to be apart of the design process, but don’t rely on them for significant production.
  • Break-up tasks into small chunks, they need to see small wins.
  • Try giving them a people-oriented position (e.g., customer support or sales). Often the minimalist’s people skills are superior to other groups. Once you provide the “minimalist” the right task, they often morph into “grinders.” Just don’t expect them to find their kung-fu on their own.
  • When a minimalist gets excited leverage the excitement and build their confidence by setting a plan with lots of small wins. This continues to boost their confidence while also helping to hold them accountable.
  • Leverage growth mindset practices to teach grit.

The Fabricators

This group scares me the most.

Even scarier, fabricators come in at a whopping 26-29%.

Fabricators are extremely talented. However, they are even more talented at disguising themselves as highly effective workers.

Fabricators spend more time convincing you they did great work rather than doing the job. They settle well below their capabilities and try to convince you they did more.

Fabricators will get an open-ended project done, but they perform best with milestones.

Be ready for fabricators to cut corners and give excuses. Don’t allow excuses, stand firm. Anticipate their tendency by baking in extra time for revisions.

How to work with fabricators.

  • Set high standards.
  • Don’t pull punches on your critiques.
  • Review their work early; set the tone and direction.

The Grinders

You want grinders. Grinders are the workhorses that get stuff done.

Lucky for society grinders take up 25-28% of the potential workforce.

Not all grinders start off producing great work; they have various level of ability. However, I promise they outperform every other group over time.

Grinders are not the most creative; they are not flashy on their solutions. They get it done. Sort of set and forget team players.

When a grinder is frustrated, it is often too late. Because grinders don’t usually complain, you need to protect this group. A grinder can be easily overworked and taken advantage of by others.

How to work with grinders.

  • You need to protect grinders from burnout. Remind grinders to take breaks.
  • Be keenly aware of other group types over using the grinder; you don’t want this person to get burnt out.
  • Focus on teaching them new strategies and encourage them to try to reach for higher level skills.
  • DON’T micromanage.
  • DO encourage and recognize them; they sometimes take a back seat to the “thought leaders.”
  • On rare occasions, you will have to motivate them, but if this is happening, you need to take a step back and see if there are more significant issues are in play.

The Thought Leaders

Thought leaders have many great ideas and almost naturally take control of a team. But, this group isn’t as uncommon as you think, coming in at about 7-9%.

Thought leaders are a highly sought-after group. On paper, thought leaders appear great but BEWARE these individuals can be your biggest asset or greatest issue.

An unhealthy thought leader becomes a dictator and micromanager. They can quickly become the hardest person to work beside. They can single-handedly kill your team’s morale.

Teams are all about collaboration and balance. You need to teach this lesson to the thought leader. Their arrogance and ego can lead them down a dark path if gone unchecked.

Not all thought leaders are hard workers.

Being a thought leader does not automatically make them a grinder. Some burn through life purely off talent making them apt to start projects and never finish. Time after time again, I have seen thought leaders bail when situations get hard.

When a thought leader is frustrated, you need to be ready to spar. A frustrated thought leader will test your leadership. It doesn’t mean that they don’t respect you, but they do want to be heard. Let them have their moment but don’t be afraid to push back with your direction and reasons.

How to work with thought leaders

  • Foster their leadership skills.
  • Be aware of their duality, continuously grow them into the leader you for your organization.
  • DON’T LET THEM OVERPOWER.
  • Encourage them to share ideas and listen.
  • Be ready to spar when they are frustrated, overworked, or out of their comfort zone.

Diamonds are Forever

1–2% of the workforce are diamonds — individuals that eventually believe in themselves and turn into rockstars. They are the perfect balance of grinder and thought leader.

These people are hard to spot and come from all places. Sometimes they are minimalists turned grinder, sometimes they are grinder turned thought leader, etc.

Often these diamonds are buried in the rough. The team has to believe in them before they believe in themselves.

Given the perfect conditions, a diamond will emerge and change everything.

That’s it, well not all of it. But that is enough for one article.

I hope you consider my failures when you start. But wouldn’t blame you if you don’t… I’m 0–28 remember.

One last thing…

TL ; DR

  • Hiring is very important (actually the most important). One team member can make or break your company.
  • The highest performing teams ALWAYS have at least one extremely effective female team member.
  • The most successful teams are not the smartest or most talented; hard work beats talent every time.
  • 30–33% of the workforce is minimalists. However, this group tends to be the most creative and friendly. They are wonderful for creative or sales roles if you can motivate them.
  • 26–29% of the workforce is frustratingly above average minimalists who spend more time and effort settling rather than producing.
  • 25–28% of the workforce is workhorses/grinders.
  • 7–9% of the workforce is made up of thought leaders/strategists, but these individuals have a duality of either being a significant asset or hindrance.
  • 1–2% of the workforce is diamonds in the rough.

Best Animation Sites

So you are looking for the best animation sites well look no more. This is a directory of animation related topics and sites for you to check out.  Honestly, your search term is pretty vague, so I am going to provide a few different scenarios and help point you in the right direction. I have hand currated a list to try to solve your query for the best animation sites.

Why am I doing this? I am a nerd and love animation things. I actually animate and am a web developer, so this search has items that go hand in hand. Let’s start with the scenarios.

Where you looking for the best animation news websites? Or the best animation industry websites?

Here is a quick list of websites about what is going on in the animation industry. All three update about latest productions, technology, and events going on in the animation industry.

Where you looking for best websites that have animation?

I am guessing you might be looking for websites that have some cool animation effects. Perhaps some parallax or things popping in and out as you scroll down the page. In this case, I have included some tutorial links and inspiration.

With these examples, I expect you know the basics of HTML, CSS, and Vanilla Javascript.

Where you looking for best sites for learning animation?

Perhaps you are looking for ways to learn how to animate. If that is the case you have definitely stumbled upon the right lists. First I would suggest to check out these books, I know it isn’t a site, but still. Also, I created a post “best resources for learning animation”. You can read it, or if not, this is a fast breakdown of the websites on that list.

Where you looking for best animation sites for inspiration?

Here are some of my favorite animation sites for inspiration. They have wonderful forms and communities. Check them out.

Best Free Animation Software

Best free animation software for download

So you are interested in studio animation but can’t afford the software? Yeah me too. Luckily we are in “the era of the nerd”. Fellow geeks have created studio quality free animation software we can download and use for our projects. Because dang, industry standard animation software suites are damn expensive. So I have hand curated a list of software solutions that I believe are currently the best free animation software. I mean really, how do they expect to train more professionals if we can’t afford the software? Buying spaghetti, a.k.a. “fancy top ramen” is a stretch for some college students let alone a five hundred dollar piece of software. I mean really, who can afford these animation programs? Rich people?
[Read more…]

Best Animation Resources
for Learning Animation

Best Animation Resources <br/>for Learning Animation

While I am not a professional Animator, yet, I am a student. But, I believe that like all professions everyone is always learning something new. So I decided to create a list of the “6 best animation resources for learning animation”.  This is a list of resources to help individuals looking to pursue animation as a profession, career, or hobby. These resources are geared towards the art of animation, not the technical, like how to use a software.  I believe you should learn the craft before you learn the software. Some of the resources are books, some of them are web sites, some are free, some cost money. So let’s start my list of the top and best animation resources.  Please feel free to disagree, or comment below, growth is made through sharing resources and ideas!
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KennyRoy.com Review | Animation Resources

KennyRoy.com Review | Animation Resources

I am not going to lie, and just come out and say it, I am sort of a Kenny Roy fan boy. I really enjoy kennyroy.com. I believe that anyone who is starting out in animation should subscribe to his site. It is wonderful for people who are deciding if they want to pursue animation, students, and young professionals. Here are the reason why I think everyone should join Kenny Roy at his site. Now, this is a review of the site KennyRoy.com, not the person. I don’t know him personally but every interaction I have had with him, he seems very wonderful and friendly. So keep that in mind when reading this post. I will provide five reasons why you should join KennyRoy.com and a few minor cons.

Pro’s to KennyRoy.com

1. Kenny Roy provides fresh exciting lectures.

I know that I said this isn’t about Kenny Roy the person but in some ways it is… now I have probably lost you… Kenny Roy creates the content for the site, and his content is AMAZING. His lectures are always fresh, and you can tell he has thought about the subject intensely before placing it on a webcast. His lectures and posts are always relevant because he actually listens to his user base. Often lectures are based around experiences he is having in his studio, student work he sees, or questions he often hears. How can you not respect and like that?

2. Kenny Roy does weekly Video Questions.

Again, going along the lines of fresh content, Mr. Roy answers posted questions once a week in a online 20 minute miniature lecture. So not only do you get one main lecture a month, you get four mini-lectures. Honestly at first I didn’t these were real questions, I thought he made them up… One day I worked up the courage to ask a question. Next week, yeah I got a personal 20 minute lecture from a professional animator. This helped me a ton when going through Animation Mentor. Yes, other animation learning institutions will help provide feedback but this was an actual lecture, geared towards me. Now this doesn’t happen with every question, but it will when it matters most.

3. KennyRoy.com gives you the “AnimGym”.

Here is Mr. Roy’s explanation of the “AnimGym”.

Each month, I will post an assignment in the Kennyroy.com Forums. Create your animated test and upload your progress to the animgym dropbox at the end of the month. Give comments on others’ work, and receive some notes on your own from animators here. When the month is over, I will schedule a LIVE WEBCAST during which I will give a critique to ALL of the Kennyroy.com members. Non-members can still participate in the AnimGym, you will just not receive a critique.

So basically, you can get reviewed every month by a professional animator and it is already included in your costs, this is insane. I don’t know how he has the energy do to all of these things, plus run a studio. Kenny Roy has more energy up than a cheetah on Redbull. But seriously, as a student who finished an animation program, I know the value of getting professional feedback. It is nice to know there is a place that will help continue to refine your skills without costing a small fortune.

4. Kenny Roy, the man, cares about animation.

I know I said that this isn’t about the person Kenny Roy, but it is hard to keep him out of the spot light. Following Mr. Roy, you can tell he actually cares about students and the industry. This is quite refreshing since the craft is hard and it is a tough industry to get your foot in the door.

5. The Community

Kenny Roy is trying to foster an animation community on his web site. It is always great to get feedback from other animators on your tests. Feedback is everything, so use it and get it!
The Cons of KennyRoy.com

1. The User Interface

As a web developer, I would like to see an updated user interface. But, I cannot say much since I have not updated my site’s design in a while and my own personal site needs a more help than KennyRoy.com

2. The additional cost for past lectures

I understand the costs but as a cheap internet user I would like to see all past videos in the vault without having to purchase them. Some of the videos in the past are really good, I would like to watch them again, but honestly U don’t want to pay again. I would suggest that Kenny puts a higher price on the membership and allows access to all material. I think that people would pay a lot more than what he is charging to see everything he has, since it is all so good. But, I understand it is a business with costs and his time is worth money.

Want more animation resources?

Read my review of the best resources for learning animation or list of top ten animation books.

A wonderful web site for those looking to refine their animation skills, get monthly lectures, and review of their work.
4.5 / 5 stars

Best Animation Lectures

I love lectures about the principles of animation. Here are a few I have found are the best, some of them cost money, but are worth it. These lectures are meant for a wide range of skills, from beginners to advanced. These lectures are not meant to supplement traditional learning, but it should enhance your learning process.
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Animation Mentor Spike Start8

I was a bit bored so I created a Start Menu 8 for Animation Mentor.  I used Animation Mentor’s Spike, let me know what you think.

Get iobit.com’s Start Menu 8

Off State:

Hover State:

windows8-animation-mentor-hovera

On State:

windows8-animation-mentor-hover

Click Here to Download

Copy the image files into the following location
C:\Program Files(x86)\IObit\Start Menu 8\StartButtonSkin

Animation Demo Reel Tips – Are Viewers Bored? Get the Real Results

animation-demo-reel-tips-engagement

Animation is all about getting reviews and feedback. If you get great feedback from mentors, peers, family, and friends you are going to make your work better and stronger. While there are many great sites, and schools, that foster creativity and feedback, all methods really lack one vital piece of information. When do people get bored and stop watching your reel? Well in this animation demo reel tip I will shed some light on these questions.
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Animation Inspiration – Scar from Lion King Pencil Test

Andreas Deja: Scar from Lion King/ Part 1 from Jamaal Bradley on Vimeo.

Here is a beautiful pencil test from Andreas Deja. The pencil test can be found on Jamaal Bradley’s vimeo account.

Notice the subtle acting choices. Scar is given so much live and emotion without going too crazy. Disney does an amazing job at not “over animating” their characters. Something that I know I often do in my animations. Subtle is sweet, so keep it simple.

Personally I know I will be studying this shot frame by frame. The body mechanics and weight sing. You can feel the weight of scar as he stands up from a seated positions. A truly inspiring animation for every young animator. This clip has very working principle of animation, I just love it.

Kenny Roy announces Collabs.Arconyx.com An Animation Collaboration

Animation Collaboration

Kenny Roy, the owner of Arconyx Animation Studios, announces collabs.arconyx.com (Collabs).

collabs.arconyx.com (Collabs) is meant to bridge the gap between animation school and the production pipeline.   What is Collabs?  It is going to be an intense eight week production course where students will meet daily, have industry leading instructors give a daily lecture, receive dailies and full access to KennyRoy.com,  all while providing “live” industry production experience.

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