Christopher Sanchez, Founder Wandering Alpha
I became inspired to create and write this site thru the process of running my companies during 2014 to 2017. To be frank, I’ve always been much more of a private person and never really sought any sort of public attention, preferring to operate quietly and relatively unnoticed. But the changes in the market place and the severe lack of simple, clear and actionable information pushed me to put that way of being aside and put myself out there. The best way for you to understand why this site is here, why I chose to write about technology, why it’s important for everyone to read (business owners, entrepreneurs, and especially employees) is to tell you the short story of how WanderingAlpha.com came from being an idea to the site you are reading right now.
My entire career has been as an entrepreneur. Taking on challenges, addressing un-met needs in the market, and thankfully creating jobs coast to coast in the United States and in Europe. I had been trained by some of the best business people in the United States and Europe and even though I didn’t have an MBA, many would say I definitely earned a few over the years thru various companies. They pushed me hard, taught me how to break problems apart and most importantly they helped me nurture my natural talents as a businessman and recognize my weaknesses. It is this last point on weaknesses that I want to focus on for a moment.
We can generally become aware of our personal and professional weaknesses when we come into contact with a problem or situation that causes us to deal with the problem head on to move forward in our lives or goals. In most cases, we (or the people close to us) can identify the problems we’re facing and more importantly the best course of action to address the problem and move on. But sometimes it becomes more difficult to identify the problems and even harder to come up with a solution. Leaving the problem unsolved and causing continued damage.
A few years back, when businesses were still playing by the traditional rules of competition it was easier to predict where trends were going, what customers would want and what the causes of competitive problems were. Entrepreneurs, owners, managers and investors would be able to reasonably come up with solutions to problems the business faced based on the previous experiences they’ve had. But the disruptive technologies launching around the world has rendered the old way of diagnosing and solving problem obsolete. What happens when the problems can’t be properly defined because the rules have changed? What happens when all the tools, skills and strategies you’ve spent a lifetime learning no longer fully apply to the problem of today and even less to the problems of tomorrow? What do you do? You can learn, innovate and prepare yourself for radical change.
Think about this: The business specializing in producing audio and video cassettes could only survive and thrive if they accepted the need for radically changing their view on the products they sold. The companies who changed, survived. The ones who refused to recognize the changes went bankrupt. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have strong convictions and change your business and strategy like a leaf in the wind. But you must be aware when your convictions are diverging greatly from the economic realities of your business, job or investments. No amount of good intentions and pivoting could have kept and maintained an audio and video cassette viable until 2017. Now the point isn’t if you are in the cassette business or not, no! The point is, has (or will) the business you’re in materially changed? Are customers habits changing because of technology and not your normal competition? Let me explain with a personal story.
One group of companies I had founded focused on providing the complete range of home service to high end clients in the New York Metro Area. Daily Maid Services, Pet Care + Boarding, Handyman, Painters, Landscaping and a few other services. With a simple online setup and booking, clients could secure regular, high quality services with world class customer service. These companies operated as major players in the North East and California primarily with competition coming mainly from the national chains and local players. We knew the game, we played it well, and we expanded to city after city. Times were good. I would read about some of these tech startups who wanted to break into the various businesses. Some of them even wanted to partner with our companies. But they didn’t really have their concept or strategy together.
Around late 2015 things started to change. The competition from the On-Demand Companies (also known as the Sharing Economy and Platform Economy Companies) were competing against us in multiple markets, with more funding, lower paid freelancers, and generally slicker websites and apps that were very hard for a non-On-Demand company to compete with. Clearly, many of these startups had learned a thing or two over the past year and were now raising more money than they knew what to do with. They smashed into every market with huge promotions and mediocre services, but were willing to operate at huge losses over a long period of time. It was clear that I was not interested in fighting a price war racing them to the bottom, so I knew we needed to make some changes. We slugged it out successfully in some markets, less in others and in some we just had to close. I was able to see these companies coming and had worked with staff to create competitive strategies to build the business and then exit them by in 2017. and in hindsight was the best thing I could have done.
During this time of competition with these well-funded competitors who could operate with losses longer than any other non-VC backed company could, it became crystal clear to me that the rules of the game had changed. Many companies who were still in the market were making cassettes and the new wave of competition was streaming the music live. So many business models, strategies and methods had become obsolete in a matter of 18 months. Even though I had gotten out with great success, I knew that I had to update what I thought and how I evaluated business opportunities if I wanted any chance of succeeding and building dynamic, durable and innovative companies.
This put me on a two year journey learning about everything I could related to disruptive technologies, what they were, how they operated, where they were strong, and where they were weak. I got into the nitty gritty details of the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Automation, Blockchain, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, I learned to code (Python) and made the tech capital of the world, San Francisco, my second home . It’s been an experience that has changed my perspective on the future of business, work, employment and the shared future we are creating with these technologies. Essentially, I went as deep as I could to understand the opportunities and risks ahead of me (all of us for that matter) and I’m still going deeper.
It was mid 2017, I had completely exited the previous companies and was now in the process of building my technology focused company, Blackstream Associates LP, and I was having more and more conversations with people asking for business and investment advice related to what I had done and just as importantly in regards to what I was now doing. I was acting almost as a bridge for many of my business friends between the old and traditional way of doing business and the new tech way of doing business. I’d tell them in the not too distant future, all companies, irrespective of size, will need to be digital businesses. How competition, business norms, customer acquisition, and so many things had to be rethought and redesigned. Before long, I had more requests, invitations and request for formal advising than I could have ever imagined so I also launched an advisory service at my company to help people compete and succeed in this new era of industry disruption. But what about the people I wasn’t advising? The business owners, entrepreneurs, workers and students who want to start wrapping their mind around their issues. I wanted to help them as they make their way in the world. They deserve a clear, straight forward explanation of what’s waiting for them now and in the near future.
This is how I came to create and write WanderingAlpha.com. I wanted to provide information that was clear, accessible, straightforward and free. Where anyone with an interest can gain a clear perspective on the future and begin informing themselves. The site will always be a work in progress and I’m adding sections and content to it every week. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. If you ever feel like asking a question, feel free to do so and I will answer you to the best of my abilities or point you in the right direction.
With that I wish you lots of success whatever your goals are. Now let’s do this.
Christopher Sanchez, Founder WanderingAlpha.com