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Mike Macadaan on redesigning MySpace, helping startups at Science

When Mike Macadaan was asked to redesign MySpace in 2009, he said that was the only thing that could have kept him in Los Angeles. The redesign of the large social media company was, he said, “the most sophisticated problem I’ve ever faced.”

Recognize the hairball of invested beliefs

MySpace was an organization that Macadaan said had a lot of invested beliefs and a lot of opinions. “We tried to be inclusive,” he said during his presentation on the second morning of our Big Kansas City event, “but we were also trying to get something done that wasn’t a crazy beast.”

A book that he referred to constantly while at MySpace was “Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace,” by Gordon MacKenzie. “I had to go to that book a lot,” Macadaan said. Like the gross tangle of a hairball, working with a large corporation that had lost its core focus was something he learned he shouldn’t try to weave through or even unknot. “Just stay outside it.”

Macadaan joked that he lost his job to Justin Timberlake, but the move from MySpace led him to found Science with five other guys in November 2011. The L.A. technology studio advises and invests in tech startups. It’s launched 18 companies in the last 18 months and has raised $35 million for them.

“Where are there real, universal problems?” Macadaan said, noting that those are the problems Science wants to solve.

Let go of your ego and move on

Macadaan’s area of expertise as chief creative officer of Science is in brand strategy, product design and user experience. He compared his work to what Cremalab has done for the branding of Big Kansas City. Macadaan instructed event attendees to check out the Dollar Shave Club video as an example of some Science redesign cred.

He did admit that Dollar Shave Club came to Science with a strong understanding of what the company should be. It’s important to have that conviction, Macadaan said, but it’s equally important to be open to change. “Change, when you’re attached, hurts,” he said. “I’m the one that has to kind of tell them their baby is ugly.”

The reality, Macadaan noted, is that there’s not a business Science has worked with that hasn’t changed. “We’re inspired by people who can let go of their ego. We admire people that can be open to being wrong and can jump into the next thing very quickly.” Since change is inevitable as a company progresses, he advocated putting a product together quickly and getting it out there. “It’s important to move quick because, by the way, there are people trying to outsmart you and beat you.”

Test your ideas but keep your conviction

For those who may feel as though they’re passionate about a bunch of different things, Macadaan suggested just testing out some of those ideas. “But make sure you have some kind of conviction around something,” he added.

Big Kansas City is a two-and-a-half-day event that aims to inspire, educate and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the heart of the Midwest. Produced by Silicon Prairie News, it’s part of the Big Series, the nation’s most ambitious events on innovation and entrepreneurship.


Credits: Video by Quadrant5. Snippet photo by Kenny Johnson Photography.

The Big Kansas City Video Series is presented by NIC, Inc.

NIC Inc. is the nation’s leading provider of official government portals, online services, and secure payment processing solutions. The company’s innovative eGovernment services help reduce costs and increase efficiencies for government agencies, citizens, and businesses across the country.

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