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About MeHi! I'm Ben Parr, co-founder and CMO of Octane AI, the platform for conversational commerce and Messenger marketing for ecommerce. I'm the author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention. I also advise brands like Lufthansa on attention and growth, and I write a monthly column for Inc. I'm the former Editor of Mashable and a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30.
Category Archives: Blog
Today, I’m announcing a new series of talks in partnership with Worldwide Speakers Group (WWSG)! These new talks build upon my wealth of Captivology research, along with the experience I’ve gained through investing, Octane AI, and Mashable.
Here are some of my new topics:
- Bots and the Power of Conversational Storytelling
- Captivating Our Attention: Lessons from Tech’s Great Innovators
Thanks again for your support on this journey.
I haven’t been blogging on BenParr.com for a while. I also haven’t sent out a new edition of The Tech Caucus in almost a year. It’s been bothering me, so I thought I’d explain and why you should expect a few — but not a ton — of blog posts in the near future.
Last May, I co-founded a company called Octane AI (The AI is short for artificial intelligence, not Allen or Al). Octane AI is marketing automation for messaging — we give you the tools to help you communicate with your customers over messaging apps like Facebook Messenger in an easy and effective manner. Our software helps you build up an audience on Messenger (via a chatbot) and run campaigns to engage those followers.
In the last year, we’ve raised funding from General Catalyst, launched our platform, and helped thousands of businesses connect with consumers via Messenger. We were even featured in The New York Times! We’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.
Now the Octane AI team consists of 15 very talented people across the world (we are a distributed/remote company) and growing all the time. It’s hard to blog when you have a startup and especially when you have a team to manage. There’s a lot I want to write about, and I hope I get the chance to write all the pieces in my backlog, but there is always something to do when you have a startup.
With that said, I’m making a more concerted effort to write more posts and articles — not just for BenParr.com, but for Medium and my column at Inc. Example: You’ll see an announcement on from me on my Medium in the next two weeks (stay tuned!). A lot of these posts will be shorter and less-refined. They’ll be my thoughts on everything from startups to film to philosophy. I just need to write more, again.
If you want to keep up with the latest on me and Octane AI, follow me on Messenger. I send out the most important things I’m working on via my bot. Definitely It also dives deeper into the research I conducted for my book Captivology. If you’re interested in my company, follow Octane AI on Messenger. The latest from my company comes via our bot, of course!
I’m also still occasionally speaking as well, though far less than I used to. Contact me or the Worldwide Speakers Group for speaking inquiries. And of course, if you’re interested in using Octane AI, send me a message.
Thanks again for your support on this journey.
I recently spoke with the entrepreneurs and students at Draper University about captivation marketing, specifically the captivation triggers that capture our attention. I talked to them about the tools and techniques they would need to captivate new customers and investors.
Check out the videos Draper University has graciously provided. If you want a deeper dive into Captivation Marketing, I highly suggest checking out my Skillshare class on the topic!
I’m thrilled to announce that my friend Jason L. Baptiste (author, The Ultralight Startup; Founder, Onswipe and Morsel) and I have launched a new podcast: Oversubscribed with Jason L. Baptiste and Ben Parr! Every week on Oversubscribed, Jason and I shoot the sh*t on topics in tech and media (and other quirky things). This is the sort of thing we have always done over dinner, on the phone and in Slack chatrooms. The only difference is that we decided to record our conversations.
Sometimes, we will bring on special guests to help us dissect the most important topics in tech media. Upcoming guests include photographer and entrepreneur Kevin Abosch (the man who took the photo of the million-dollar potato), Descartes Labs founder Mark Johnson, Techcrunch reporter Sarah Buhr, and a special post-Oscars episode with Blacklist founder Franklin Leonard. If you have a suggestion for a guest for our show, contact me!
In Captivology, I discuss the three stages of attention — the step-by-step process in which we pay attention to every piece of stimuli. We react automatically to certain sensory cues during the Immediate Attention stage; we consciously focus using working memory in Short Attention; and in the Long Attention stage, we develop a relationship with a person, product, or idea that sticks.
I outlined the three stages of attention during a recent talk I gave to the students at Draper University. The video, which I have included here, explains the three stages and the memory processes that control each stage. For a deeper dive into Immediate, Short and Long attention, I recommend grabbing my book.
One of the topics that especially fascinates me is IoT — the Internet of Things. For better or worse, there has been a lot of hype around this area, especially as sensors get cheaper and wearables like the Fitbit become more popular.
Recently, I spoke to a crowd of Middle Eastern executives about the future of IoT at the GITEX global trade show in Dubai. After my talk (which I’ll publish once I receive a video of it), I was interviewed by the conference about the concept of “smart cities” — currently a big topic of discussion in Dubai. The city has launched several new initiatives this year to make Dubai a smarter and more connected city, using everything from Dubai’s startup ecosystem to planned improvements to keep Dubai on the leading edge of innovation.
Check out the video above for my thoughts on smart cities and the future of IoT. Let me know what you think of the Internet of Things phenomenon in the comments!
A lot of people are worried about China, Greece, and the markets in general. But should that stop you from starting a company or trying your hand at a new idea?
I deliver the answer eight seconds into this interview with Behind the Brand, but I want to add this: there is never a “best” or “worst” time to start something. There is only the matter of opportunity and execution.
Nobody has the power to predict the markets. Corrections and bull markets are just a part of life, and if you try to start a company based on market conditions, you’re going to get burned. If, on the other hand, you find the right opportunity, execute to solve a big problem, and build something with solid metrics and fundamentals, you will always be okay, even in a down market.
Thinking of working on something? Tell me about it in the comments.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with Behind the Brand and Visage to discuss Captivology and provide advice for entrepreneurs. In this video, I discuss the science of storytelling, the Rokia effect, and how entrepreneurs can tell their brand’s story more effectively using data.
Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments!
I recently dropped by MSNBC to answer business questions from entrepreneurs alongside S3 Agency CEO Denise Blasevick. We answered a question about how a clergyman could market himself tactfully and another question regarding how to focus on a core business while also focusing on expansion and other lines of business with more growth opportunities.
You can watch the MSNBC clip above to hear our advice on both of these subjects, but I wanted to focus on the first question from the clip — how do you build a management team, especially if you’re new to management? This is a major concern most first-time founders have as they navigate venture rounds and learn how to hire and fire employees. Bad or incoherent teams are the top reason I see early-stage startups crumble, so the concern is warranted.
Blasevick’s advice was to make sure you hire the right person the first time, because a startup can’t afford to make a big mistake on a top hire. She specifically pointed out Topgrading, a unique and more rigorous system for hiring, as a tool to help find people who will be truly passionate about the company.
My advice was just as simple to understand but hard to implement: you have to hire people who are smarter than you. Just as important, you have to be able to check your ego at the door.
You are not supposed to be the smartest person in the room. If you are, you’re doing a bad job recruiting. You may think you are a product guru, but there is somebody at Google with double your experience. Nobody wants to follow a micromanager, and if you’re doing your job, you shouldn’t have time to micro-manage anyway.
If you’re not experienced as a manager, learn through osmosis. Surround yourself with the smartest people possible. It may be intimidating at first, but they joined your cause for a reason. As long as you set the vision and learn how to hire the right people,