FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Battletoads as Business Metaphor

Struggling daily deal site Groupon fired CEO Andrew Mason on Thursday. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. The company posted a terrible fourth quarter and the conventional wisdom has taken a dim view of Groupon’s business model for a while now.

Instead, the chatter focused on Mason’s epic farewell message. In it was found one of the surest signs yet that the Nintendo Generation has truly come of age: a reference to the ‘90s video game Battletoads.

Specifically, Mason compared his journey to the heights of entrepreneurial success – and subsequent fall – to making it to the infamous Terra Tubes level without dying. Wired unpacks the semiotics of Battletoads – and just what Mason meant – pretty well in this article. You can also check out Terra Tubes in their unedited glory on YouTube.

I never imagined I’d think about Terra Tubes again. Actually, that’s not true, because I’ve never even thought to think that I’d never think of Terra Tubes again.

But now that the memories are rushing back to me, I can’t come up with a better example of struggling against impossible odds in a ruthless digital world. My seven-year-old self aspired to defeat Battletoads above all other games. I even cleared Terra Tubes (although not without losing many, many lives first). But hey, the next level is called Rat Race (another great metaphor) and I never did beat Battletoads.inflatable air dancer

If the self-esteem movement brought us participation trophies and scoreless soccer, ‘90s video games were still there to teach children what it’s like to strive in the face of perpetual failure.

Not a bad lesson for budding entrepreneurs.

FreakyFriday – Weird of the Day: Long Live the Royal Molecatcher

By iCopy blogger Alex Dalenberg

We live in an age of disruption. Trends come and go. Companies rise and fall. Groupon surged out of the gate to be hailed as the next big thing, but it now seems to be declining just as quickly, with its shares tumbling. The New York Times, the closest thing there is to a bastion of old media, announced this week that it will be offering buyouts for 30 newsroom positions.

But there are some jobs and industries that stubbornly endure. Enter the royal molecatcher of Versailles.

Yes, according to the Associated Press, an official molecatcher has been gainfully employed at the French court since the 1600s, surviving the monarchy itself, multiple revolutions and two world wars. Today the job is held by Frenchman Jerome Dormion, who even signs his text messages, molecatcher to the king.

Versailles it seems, isn’t just a pleasure garden for the human set, but also moles. The population has been booming since its natural predators – wildcats and weasels – have declined in the wild. The job is still much the same. Even the tools haven’t changed. Dormion is charged with keeping the roughly 2,000 acres of grounds – an iconic symbol of France – mole free.

Not to uh, make mountains out of molehills, but I actually see a few smart business lessons buried here.

1. Dormion fills an important niche: a single mole can make up to 30 molehills per day, so even a handful of moles can completely deface a country estate.

2. He’s unlikely to be replaced until engineers invent an efficient mole-catching robot, probably not a major concern for robotics experts.

3. He’s an expert. Most amateur gardeners struggle to capture wily moles, which are exceptionally intelligent.

What does your business do that will stand the test of time? Do you have a “royal molecatcher” position?

Photo credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus