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Lessons from the Forbes Under 30 Summit

Michael Schroeder attended the Forbes Under 30 Summit, using funding available to students pursuing the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate. Read on for details on his experience. If you are pursuing the I&E Certificate and you would like to apply for this funding, click this link.

Failure. As Duke students, it is something that we often consider as not being an option, or something to be avoided at all costs. We are consummate achievers, pursuing only those things in which we excel and shying away from those things in which we may stumble. However, in all of my exposure to the entrepreneurial world, the most successful people stress that failures are some of the most important experiences, in life as in entrepreneurship. When I went to the Forbes Under 30 Summit as a Forbes Under 30 Scholar, I expected to see people who were the pictures of success, merely coming to the conference to speak about what they had achieved. Yet even in this environment of extreme success and accomplishments, failure was something that all had endured, and even embraced.

The importance of experiencing and dealing with failure was a theme across many speakers’ presentations. My personal favorite interview was with Kendrick Lamar, a Grammy award-winning rapper and songwriter from Compton, CA. One of the main themes of his interview was about how he could not have been successful if he had been afraid of failure. “You have to almost intimidate this word… there is no better way,” Lamar said. “Failure is the one thing that stops us all from being our own entrepreneurs and following our dreams and having ownership of what we do.” This is the same sentiment I have heard echoed by many of the successful entrepreneurs I have had the opportunity of meeting since coming to Duke University.

However, I am generally somewhat skeptical of these words of advice, due to survivorship bias. In other words, I fear that the only people you hear advice from are those who have managed to be successful, while there may be many times more people who followed the exact same words of advice, but failed at whatever it is they tried to do. In essence, I feel that it’s a lot easier to say, “Follow your dreams!” when your dreams came true.

I had these concerns addressed in an interview with Sophia Amoruso, founder of women’s fashion retailer Nasty Gal, and one of the richest self-made women in 2016. However, within the next year, she stepped down as CEO of her company, got divorced, and watched as her company filed for bankruptcy. Here was someone who had seen great success, having followed her dreams, only to have it all slip away. Hearing her speak about how she plans to still move forward, in the face of all of this failure, was truly inspiring. She answered my skepticism with resilience. What happens when you follow your dreams and they don’t come true? You keep going.

Michael is a senior studying computer science as well as Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Outside of school, he enjoys playing ultimate and the piano. After graduating in December, he looks forward to working as a software engineer for Facebook in Cambridge, MA.



Who Let the Dogs Out?

This post was written by a student in Dr. Aaron Dinin’s Building Global Audiences (I&E 250) class. You can learn more about their class project and why they’re blogging about it here.


If you’re anything like me, you probably have no idea who let the dogs out. The owner? A mailperson? Are the “dogs” fluffy companions, or are they referring to men as dogs?

The answers to these questions are probably as unknown as the question, “Who sings this song?” How can the lyrics of a song be so widely known without even knowing who created it? Baha Men, the band who made the song, are a one hit wonder. Their song went viral, but the band didn’t gain much popularity.

As the Baha Men know, going viral isn’t the best way to build a sustained audience. The same logic can be applied to the FHI YouTube channel. My group and I could focus our energy on trying to help the FHI YouTube channel get a video to go viral, but focusing on that alone is a waste of time.

Instead, the sustainable way to build an audience online is to put links to your content in as many places as possible. These backlinks slowly but steadily build an audience over time.

So, to help the FHI YouTube Channel steadily build an audience, the Building Global Audiences YouTube Group spent a portion of our fall break brainstorming ways the FHI YouTube Channel can get more backlinks. Here’s our Top 5 list of link opportunities:

  1. Tags at the end of their videos

Most popular YouTube channels have links to their other videos embedded at the end of each video, which is something we can utilize on the FHI’s page.

  1. Linking the YouTube channel on each FHI Itunes U podcasts

Right now, the Itunes U podcasts and the FHI YouTube videos deliver very similar content. If we add backlinks to the podcasts, these two FHI information platforms can work together.

  1. Linking Social Media

Every FHI social media platform should have     the link to the FHI YouTube Channel in the bio.

  1. YouTube Comments

Go to other YouTube Channels with similar content and comment with links to similar videos.

  1. Spotlight

Make sure some FHI videos get featured in every FHI newsletter to its email listserv.

How the Health Humanities Lab Can Learn From Its “Competition”

By Ethan Holland

This post was written by a student in Dr. Aaron Dinin’s Building Global Audiences (I&E 250) class. You can learn more about their class project and why they’re blogging about it here.

Two weeks ago, the Health Humanities Lab (HHL) project team in Dr. Aaron Dinin’s Building Global Audiences class was researching HHL competitors in order to understand who they are.

For reference, when we think about competitors for a project like the HHL, we don’t necessarily mean it in a “cutthroat” sort of way. We simply mean that the HHL’s target audience has a limited amount of time it can spend on health humanities projects, so time they’re spending on other projects is time not being spent with the HHL.

Building on our work from two weeks ago, this week we examined strategies the HHL can adopt from its competitors. Here are the Top 3 strategies we identified:

Strategy 1: Promote Other Health Humanities Events

The first strategy we identified is the opportunity to actually promote health humanities events hosted by other organizations. Sure, promoting other health humanities events might seem like it’s actually helping the competition, however, doing so will help the lab build its reputation and provide value to its followers. In other words, the HHL can “piggyback” on the work of its more established competitors to help build its own credibility.

In addition, the type of person the HHL wants following its social media is also the type of person who will see value in hearing about related events. Plus, cross promotion may encourage other organizations to promote HHL events down the road.

To be fair, the HHL already cross promotes some events, but there’s opportunity for improvement. For example, the HHL recently promoted the upcoming 2017 Mayo Clinic Humanities in Medicine Symposium on their Facebook page. While this is a helpful type of promotion, social media is not always the most effective way of reaching faculty and the medical school. Furthermore, any promotion of other events should include a short blurb describing the HHL and including a link to the website (for more health humanities content visit our website…). But the HHL’s Mayo post didn’t include that.

By posting links to health humanities events on the HHL website, in listservs, on social media, and around campus, the HHL can further develop as the meeting point of health and humanities and while bringing more attention to itself with the HHL’s desired audiences.

Strategy 2: Restructure Website Using HHIVE as a Guide

Looking at competitor websites is a great way to find flaws in your own website. As an example, we analyzed the HHL’s UNC Chapel Hill counterpart, HHIVE (Health and Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Venue for Exploration).

HHIVE not only has more content posted on the site, but also has a clearer and more aesthetically pleasing layout. We identified two specific areas of improvement: presentation of events and external resources. Both websites have a designated events page, but the HHL page is in list form whereas the HHIVE events are presented on an interactive calendar. This allows the user to view more events at a time and visualize when events will occur.

In addition, the HHIVE website has a page dedicated to external health humanities resources. This fits into Strategy 1 discussed above, as well as giving people interested in the health humanities more reasons to visit the website. The HHL currently has no such page, and we feel this would be a simple but important addition to the website.

Strategy 3: Collaborate with the Trent Center

In addition to looking beyond Duke, we took a second look at some of the “competitors” under the Duke umbrella.

One particularly important competitor is the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and History of Medicine. The Trent Center is of interest specifically because they have a larger reach than the HHL into medical faculty, staff, and students.

According to HHL lab manager Thomas Johnson, the HHL has had trouble distinguishing itself from the Trent Center and finding areas it can provide value to the medical center. However, the HHL has some advantages over the Trent Center, including the backing of the FHI, the ability to act on a national level, and its existing audience of non-medical-center professors and students.

Because of the differing audiences, instead of competing, it seems as though the two organizations could benefit from mutual promotion and co-hosted events. Such proposals should be framed as ways for the Trent Center to expand their audience outside of the medical center and to foster collaboration.

How Did The Apple Strudel End Up In Your Mouth?

By Daichi Matsuda, Pratt 2020

This post was written by a student in Dr. Aaron Dinin’s Building Global Audiences (I&E 250) class. You can learn more about their class project and why they’re blogging about it here.


When you’re eating something, have you ever wondered how and why it’s in your mouth?

Take the example of an apple strudel:

Did a friend tell you about a delicious apple strudel at a certain restaurant, and that’s why you’re eating it?

Was it on sale?

Did you randomly spot it at Costco while you were trying to buy croissants?

Was a character eating it in a TV show you were watching, and that gave you a craving?

There are many pathways that can lead to someone eating an apple strudel. The process in through which someone ultimately does eat an apple strudel is called the Customer Buying Journey.

This week in our class “Building a Global Audience” (part of the Duke University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship certificate program), we learned about customer buying journeys. Simply put, a customer buying journey is basically the path someone takes that ultimately leads them to purchasing a product.

Technically, for our class projects, we aren’t trying to get someone to purchase a product. Instead, we’re trying to get them to watch videos on the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI) YouTube Channel. But, in a way, that’s still a purchase. However, instead of spending their money, they’re spending something even more precious: their time.

Our assignment this week was to map out the journeys someone could take to get to one of the FHI’s videos.

The first and all important step of the customer journey is audience awareness of the product. To know that, we had to know who the audience was. And, to know that, we spoke to Eric Barstow, the Chief YouTuber/Director of the FHI YouTube Channel. Mr. Barstow came up with the following target demographic profiles:

  1. Undergrads
  2. Graduate Students
  3. Humanities Professors/Faculty
  4. Health Care Students
  5. Health Care Faculty

Once the audience had been established, we decided to send surveys (google forms) to a group of prospective customers to figure out how they navigate YouTube and how they might stumble across videos like the ones from FHI.

Here is a link to the exact survey we used:


The Four Main Takeaways from the Survey:

  • When we showed them the FHI YouTube page, there was positive feedback regarding their first impressions. Many complemented the organization and professional look, while some took it as being a little too serious and somewhat boring.
  • Based on a question regarding what their Primary Social Media was, the results, showed Facebook(41%) as the most popular with Twitter(22.7%) being second.

  • When asked what they would want from a YouTube video, a majority said that they want a short quick easy to watch video with lots of academic content. Others wanted more content relatable and relevant to being a Duke Student.
  • The majority of survey takers said that they would consider spending 0-20 minutes on FHI’s YouTube channel. While this may sound promising, we need to remember that the majority of FHI’s videos are longer than 20 minutes.


What does all this data mean?

The main point of understanding the Customer Journey is to understand how consumers reach a purchase decision. When it comes time to buy something, consumers consider their options and try to figure out what will be best for themselves. In the apple strudel example, the purchase is made with money, a resource which is overtly limited and precious, so consumers think about it a lot.

In the case of the FHI’s “customers,” they’re “paying” with their time. As our Professor, Aaron Dinin, pointed out, while people are constantly spending time constantly and without much thought, this also means that virtually anything that takes time is competing for our target customers.

Even if we narrow down the competition to the world of YouTube, this means that EVERY SINGLE OTHER YouTube video/YouTuber on YoutTube is a form of competition.

How can the FHI’s YouTube channel compete for views against Pew Die Pie, TED, Buzzfeed, and countless other established YouTube Channels?

Based on our research, we believe the best way to compete is with knowledge. The quality and quantity of knowledge that can be found in FHI’s videos is astounding and very valuable. However, this knowledge is usually packaged in the form of 1-2 hour long lectures, something that even the most adventurous Youtubers may shy away from.

If we’re going to ask people to spend their valuable time in order to gain knowledge from the FHI’s YouTube channel, perhaps we need to focus on decreasing the cost.


Our plan moving forward:

With this newfound information and feedback from some potential “customers” of the FHI YouTube channel, we plan on meeting with Mr. Eric Barstow again to reexamine the prospective audience.

Right now we think that aiming for all five of the demographics he listed may be too broad. If we instead focus on a certain group of people and specialize, we can more efficiently and effectively target the audience and gain their viewership.

We will also discuss and see if there’s a way to either create shorter videos or shorten existing videos by creating highlight videos of the long lectures. We believe shortened videos will be more approachable to viewers that are less academia-oriented and may even serve as a gateway to more viewers being interested in watching the 1-2 hour long lectures.

In addition, based on the results we found from the question regarding the survey takers’ preferred social media tools, we will be figuring out ways to use Facebook and Twitter as the main platforms to share and spread the FHI’s videos.

To follow along on our Youtube journey and to see if we can get as many apple strudels in people’s mouths as possible, keep up with our blogs and subscribe to the FHI YouTube channel!

YouTube for a Grade?

By: Reeya Gupta, Trinity 2020
This post was written by a student in Dr. Aaron Dinin’s Building Global Audiences (I&E 250) class. You can learn more about their class project and why they’re blogging about it here.

When I registered for my first Innovation and Entrepreneurship class at Duke — Building Global Audiences — I didn’t know what to expect. I figured we’d read the standard 30 page, double-sided, small-font articles characteristic of most Duke classes and discuss random marketing topics like building international markets for companies.

Instead, on the first day of class we watched Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” video, which was released the night before at the VMAs. The video had 31 million views in its first 24 hours.

After showing the video, our instructor, Dr. Aaron Dinin, paused and asked us, “What have you all done in the last 24 hours?”

Pictured (Left to Right): Reeya Gupta, Ben Wyatt, Blaine Elias, Katie Cromer, Daichi Matsuda, Soravit Sophastienphong

At the next class, the 18 students were split into 3 groups. Immediately, we were pushing desks together to join our new teammates, and I suddenly found myself staring at a group of 5 other good-looking, well-dressed Duke geniuses (see for yourself) who were given the task of making the YouTube page of Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute go Swift-level viral.

For those who don’t know, the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI) is a Duke University organization of educators and scholars who initiate discussions and content related to research and education in the humanities field. The FHI youtube channel is dedicated to documenting this work. It includes a variety of videos ranging from lectures given by distinguished speakers and conversations with students, to insights into recent topics of controversy including social activism, politics, and racial disparities.

Currently, the 7 year old channel has 349 videos and 948 subscribers.

Our mission: to grow its audience. But how?


Step 1: Assess The Current Status

At our first meeting, everyone in our group scrolled through the channel and subscribed to it.

Woohoo! The YT Squad (that’s the nickname we gave ourselves) achieved 6 more subscribers in less than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, we knew that wouldn’t be enough. Instead, in order to grow the FHI YouTube channel, we needed to do some indepth research.

8:00 p.m Tuesday, September 7th. — Project Room 9 The Edge at Bostock. Amidst due dates of several math problem sets and essays, YT Squad meets and discusses its next strategy.

The FHI’s YouTube channel has over 900 subscribers, which is a lot, but the channel had already existed for over 7 years. Why weren’t there more subscribers? We decided to take a hard look at the videos and note any red flags. Here were some of our initial observations:

  1. The videos themselves are amazing. They’re high quality and have excellent graphics. However, some of them have very long watch times of well over an hour and a half. Online audiences rarely spend that kind of time on anything.
  2. The titles of the videos are informative, but they’re also wordy and, as a result, might not be catching the eye of fast-scrolling YouTubers.
  3. The content covers lots of different subjects. While the breadth of coverage is impressive, we wondered if this prevents people from subscribing because their interests aren’t as diverse as those covered by the channel.

Once we’d assessed the content, we decided the best way for us to learn more about the goals for growing the channel would be by meeting with the brains behind the operation.


Extra Credit can get Duke kids to do almost anything

Dr. Dinin offered us extra credit for attending an open house the FHI was hosting during the first week of classes. This worked out great because everyone in the class was collaborating with an FHI project.

Along with great (i.e. FREE!) food, we quickly found the primary point of contact for the YouTube channel: Mr. Eric Barstow, the producer and director of all the FHI videos.

One of my groupmates and I had a great (but short) conversation with Eric about the setup of the channel. We’d been warned by our professor ahead of time that some clients aren’t open to changes about their products, but we were lucky to find that Mr. Barstow was excited and eager to make the channel even better.

We scheduled an appointment with him for the following week so we could have a longer conversation.



9:00 a.m Monday, September 11th. Conference Room of the Smith Warehouse.

Goals of Day:

#1 Target: Locate the coffee machine of the building

#2 Target: Have a great meeting!

Mr. Barstow gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the FHI’s YouTube channel. He showed us statistics on the watch times of the most popular videos, number of views, locations accessed from, and many other useful stats and figures. After that, we discussed his vision for the channel and its mission.

Mr. Barstow explained that their target audience includes the Duke humanities faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, health care professionals, scholars outside of Duke, and the larger Durham community as a whole.

We also discussed potential advertising options for the channel as well as some of the pros and cons of the channel itself. The meeting provided great information and insight into what our group needs to do next in order to help build the FHI’s YouTube channel audience.

To continue following along with our journey, subscribe to the I&E Education Team Blog. And of course, you should also subscribe to the FHI youtube channel.

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