Highfive Films

Here are a couple films we produced to showcase the Highfive experience.

Brand film - "One Idea"
In this film we wanted to show (not tell) that video is a better, more human experience than other forms of communication. We also wanted to convey the power of having "video everywhere" at work. The great irony of the film is that the actors say everything without saying anything at all. Joe Kayser and I shot this in San Diego and true to the Highfive brand, tried to make it fun and a bit irreverent.

Product demo film

Ironically this film was never meant to see the light of day. We produced it as a backup in case we ever experienced network issues during sales pitches, investor demos, or analyst discussions. Despite the bottom shelf talent (yours truly) the film did such a nice job explaining the overall product experience that we decided to put it on our product page.

Highfive is live!

After more than two years in stealth mode Highfive is finally live! We recently launched Highfive, video conferencing you can actually love. Our mission is to make every conversation at work face-to-face. We think Highfive's all-in-one hardware device and cloud software is a great first step toward making that vision a reality.

Off-site Exercises That Don't Suck

Let’s face it, company off-sites can suck. You have the best intentions of planning an impactful retreat to align and motivate your team but you end up boring them to tears with trust falls and mission statements. We recently held a Highfive off-site in Half Moon Bay. Some of the things we did were awesome and some, well, weren’t. Here are three exercises that worked. 

1. Happiness Index

Our team loves data. Especially our own data. We had everyone fill out a Highfive Happiness Index survey one week prior to the off-site. We aggregated, printed, and bound the results for everyone to see. We shared everything – the good, the bad, the ugly. The free response questions in particular led to honest and open conversations about things we need to improve in order to build the kind of company we love. See our GetFeedback survey here.

Recommended time: 60 minutes 

2. Vote with Your Feet

We developed this exercise with the help of my former Stanford professor and HBR contributor, Ed Batista.

First, we hand-picked values statements from the culture decks and mission statements of companies we admire such as Zappos, Netflix, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, HubSpot, and Google. Next, we created a paper and pencil survey that lists fourteen of these value statements on a Likert scale. At the offsite, we gave everyone the survey and asked them to privately rank Highfive on a scale of 1 (“we never”) to 7 (“we always”) for each of the statements. Download a copy of survey here.

After a short break we placed seven orange cones evenly across the room, each one marked with a number from 1 to 7. We then read out each statement on the survey and had everyone “vote with their feet” by standing next to the cone with the same number as their survey score. Groupthink can be a problem in these environments which is why the paper survey was so important, it kept everyone honest. We then let the conversation begin. We were amazed at how frequently team members rated Highfive on opposite ends of the spectrum for the same value statement. Digging into “the why” behind these outlier rankings brought out some incredible insights and generated a ton of practical ideas.

Recommended time: 90 minutes

 3. Make it Tactical

One of Marc Benioff’s favorite sayings is “the tactics define the strategy.” We decided to commit to a series of tactics with the hope that those tactics will do more to shape the values of the company than a hollow mission statement. We picked four company values using our favorite method of sticky note voting. They are:

1) Make work fun
2) Love our mission
3) Strive for better
4) Deliver magical customer experiences

We then broke into four groups and had each group come up a couple tactical changes that we can implement immediately upon our return to the office. We’re putting these ideas into action right now.

Recommended time: 90 minutes

So there you go. A four-hour off-site program that doesn’t suck. My recommendation is spend the rest of your allocated time eating, drinking, and hanging out – leave the trust falls at home.

Real-time is eating the world


Facebook’s $19B acquisition of real-time messaging company WhatsApp punctuates a broader technology trend towards the real-time economy. While pundits continue to debate the sanity of the purchase price there is no arguing the fact that WhatsApp is the fastest growing and most engaging software product in history. Over 450 million people use WhatsApp on a monthly basis. 72% of those users use it daily. So why does Facebook see it as so valuable? Simple. WhatsApp solved real-time social messaging. Real-time companies like WhatsApp are transforming the way we live. In short, real-time is eating the world.

Real-time technologies are taking off because they enable and promote real human interactions. Companies have always tried to create competitive advantage by producing more products faster and at lower cost (think Ford’s assembly line and Maclean’s standardized shipping containers). However, the real-time economy is not about speed for the sake of lower costs and great margins—its about creating the most human experience. Today's most innovative companies, including WhatsApp, create customer loyalty through real-time experiences.

Examples of the Real-Time Economy:

Amazon Mayday

Amazon Kindles now come with a Mayday button. Mayday is a single-click support service that lets users talk to a remote technical support representative in real-time. Amazon knows two things about customer service: i) people want their problems solved immediately and ii) customers like talking to real people. Mayday represents the future of customer service.


How did this app gain so much traction with email, Facebook, and SMS as entrenched incumbents? Simple. It provided real-time push messages for free over the internet from any mobile device. People use Facebook to share pictures and comments about the past while they use WhatsApp to share pictures and messages about what's happening right now.


From the miracle on the Hudson to Egypt's political revolution, Twitter is now the preferred platform for breaking real-time news. TV networks simply can't keep up with the immediacy of Twitter, nor can they hold information for prime time viewing hours. The Sochi Olympics further illustrated the “death of prime time” as race results broke on Twitter long before NBC's tape delayed prime time broadcast. During the Olympic Games Visa ran a particularly poorly timed ad on Twitter congratulating alpine skier Julia Mancuso on winning an Olympic medal several hours before NBC broadcasted the race on TV.

Massively Multi-Player Games

In South Korea real-time online gaming is now a professional support with top "athletes" earning more than $1M per year for playing games such as StarCraft and League of Legends. Real-time gaming is not just a South Korean obsession. The  League of Legends finals, hosted as a live event at the Staples Center in LA, sold out within an hour of tickets going for sale.

Can people play video games asynchronously? Yes. Do they want to? No. People want to play and spectate in real-time.


Amazon is disrupting its own business model once again with its new Amazon Fresh service. Sure, Amazon consumers can already order anything online and have it delivered to their doorsteps two days later. But Amazon knows about the real-time economy and now provides a new same-day delivery service. Amazon Fresh, Google Shopping and similar services provide same-day delivery services creating a near real-time experience for physical goods.


Gone are the days of calling a cab and guessing when it would arrive. Uber’s geo-aware app gives riders a real-time view of the Uber fleet including estimated time of arrivals. Book an Uber and real-time SMS messages notify you when the Uber is arriving. Furthermore, surge pricing ensures that Uber cabs are always available regardless of demand or time of day.

Real-Time Communications

Email, once heralded for its speed, is losing its share of team-based communications to real-time messaging and video conferencing tools such as HipChat, Google Hangouts, and Skype.

So what’s next?

Real-time Satellite Imagery

Real-time satellite imagery has tremendous applications from environmental management to crop yield optimization to law enforcement. Today only deep pocketed organizations like governments and oil companies have the resources to access satellite imagery. Companies like Urthecast and several others plan to democratize access to real-time satellite imagery.

3D Printing

Real-time manufacturing has the potential to transform the manufacturing landscape by eliminating the long lead times between product design and product delivery. Companies will have the ability to produce products ranging from apparel to durable goods with a day’s notice and no minimum orders.

Real-time technologies are changing the world as we know it. Not just by creating lower cost products and services but by fostering social interactions and creating delightful customer experiences. Speed kills is the new mantra in the real-time economy. Are you and your co-workers moving at the speed of real-time?

How to pick killer company and product names

There is power in a name. Great names communicate certain attributes of your brand and product experience. They create memorable impressions (e.g. Virgin). Over time great names save millions of dollars in marketing expense since you don't have to constantly buy media to explain what your company stands for or what your product does. Conversely, no amount of marketing dollars can makeup for bad names (remember the Chevy Nova?). So how do you come up with a killer name which reflects your brand attributes and product experience?

Sadly most companies fall victim to one of the following naming mistakes:

  • HiPPO (highest paid person's opinion)
  • Keep the project's code name
  • Use whatever domain name is cheap and available
  • Hire an expensive agency

Most of the time these strategies yield poor results. Don't worry! There is hope. Commit to a few simple naming exercises and I'm willing to bet you'll come up with brilliant ideas. Here are a few exercises that will help you find a killer name.

How to Pick Killer Company and Product Names

Exercise #1: Brandscape

This brandscape exercise establishes the personality of your company, product, or service. Think of your brand as a person. How would you describe it if it were walking down the street in the flesh? Branding expert Jonathan Bolden from Leader created this card sorting exercise to help you discover your brand's personality.

Print out cards with images of people, places and things in the following 10 categories.

  • Cars
  • Actors
  • Actresses
  • Trees
  • Places
  • Sports
  • Animals
  • Architecture
  • Brands
  • Colors

Each category should have a set of distinct images. For example the cars category may include: 

  • Toyota Camry
  • VW Jetta
  • Harley Davidson
  • Tesla
  • Toyota Tundra
  • Subaru Outback
  • Audi RS8
  • Lexus ES300
  • Honda CRV
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Range Rover
  • GMC Yukon
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Ford F-150
  • Corvette
  • Rolls Royce

Go through each card and decide whether or not it reflects your brand. Explain why or why not. Write key attributes down on post-it notes and put them on the wall. By the end of the exercise you will have a series of images and descriptive terms which reflect the personality of your brand. You can then group all the terms into four clear themes. Our brand attributes at Highfive are:

  • Progressive
  • Human
  • Empowering
  • Cheeky

Exercise #2: Analogy Boards

Channel your inner elementary student and get ready to have some fun with analogy boards. While the brandscape focuses on brand attributes, analogy boards focus on product experiences. Start by coming up with three experiences which are analogous to your product experience. The three experiences we used at Highfive were:

  • Launching off an aircraft carrier
  • Winning the World Cup
  • The last day of school

Write each experience on a separate poster. Then pick up a stack of magazines fit for creative destruction. I stopped by a couple of the countless nail salons in San Francisco and offered to take old magazines off their hands. After commenting on the odd nature of my request the salon owners happily obliged.

Next, get your teammates together and have them cut images out of the magazines which they feel best represent the experience on the board. Have each person pick their favorite image and describe why they think it embodies the emotion of the experience. Keep it fast and scrappy. Write keywords on post-it notes and put them on the poster board alongside the images. Get creative and get messy! You'll be surprised at how many great ideas and terms come out of the exercise. And yes, you'll be surprised at how much your most hardened engineers enjoy searching through fashion and hair product magazines.

Exercise #3: Crowdsourcing

Create a contest for your teammates, investors and customers. We printed large images of our product on a giant foam board with a note that said "Hello, my name is ________." We provided plenty of food and cocktails and had our guests write their ideas directly on the board.

Exercise $4: Competitive Namescape

While I think great companies and products should focus more on their customers than on their competitors, it never hurts to keep an eye on the competition. Your name should standout in a crowd. Use the competitive names cape to make sure your name doesn't follow the industry herd.

List all your competitors in the left column of namescape matrix. Then put a check mark in the column which best represents the competitor's name. The columns are:

  • Functional - names which describe what the product is or does. Functional names tend to be the most common and least differentiated (e.g. Whole Foods, Public Storage, OfficeMax).
  • Invented - names which have no semantic meaning (e.g. Skype, Häagen-Dazs).
  • Experiential - names which describe the product experience (e.g. Highfive, Zendesk, Under Armour).
  • Eye Opener - names which are provocative and create cognitive dissonance when associated with a particular category, product, or service (e.g. Virgin, Starbucks).

In general, names increase in differentiated value from functional to eye opener. However, its important to look for white spaces which represent opportunities to differentiate from your competition.

Exercise #5: Dot Voting

Okay, now you have a solid list of potential names. Now its time to vote. Put each name on a post-it note. Give team members five dots each and have them "dot" the name(s) they like best. 

Exercise #6: Due Diligence

Sadly, I don't have a fun creative process for due diligence - just hard work and iteration. Once you have your finalists screen them for domain availability, trademark risk, and unintended foreign translations.

Picking great company and product names pays huge dividends for your business. You don't need to be a creative genius to come up with great names. Just use a few of the naming exercises above. You'll not only come up with a great name, you'll also enjoy the journey!