My Twitter Feed Is Full Of Politics

It’s so disheartening to me. I don’t read newspapers or watch the news on TV deliberately to avoid the noise. Periodically I’ll get a little signal of value from somewhere, usually Amy, but generally I can focus on what I care about.

Twitter has always been that refreshing place where I can quickly find out what is going on in my tech world. I follow mostly entrepreneurs and VCs – some who I know and some who I don’t know. I have a few companies in my feed. But no newspapers, no magazines, and no mainstream media.

Suddenly it’s all politics all the time. The retweeting of stuff I simply don’t care about overwhelms my feed. As my brain gets hit over and over again by the noise of the RNC, DNC, Trump, Clinton, and zillion other people bloviating about what I think is one of the strangest elections I’ve every experienced as a human, it has become hard to dodge and ignore it.

I think today might be the turning point for me. I’m utterly disgusted by the bullying, lies, racism, and hate going on. I’m starting to believe the Russian conspiracy theories. I’ve hit my personal moment of “I’ve got better things to do with my day.”

I know it’s just going to get worse between now and the election. Noisy. Crazier. More offensive and intolerable. Less rational.

Amy reminds me that this isn’t anything new. In the 1930s the anti-immigrant sentiment was high as the economy declined during the great depression. In the 1940s the America First Committee was dominant. In the 1950s McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee was front and center. In the 1960s we had civil rights, FBI overreach, and the setup for the 1970s with Nixon. And on and on and on.

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. It’s time to focus on what I care about and not let the noise take over my brain.

Dedupe Your Processes

The phrase “dedupe your processes” was created at a board meeting I was at last week. If you know our portfolio, you probably can figure out which board meeting it was based on the use of the word dedupe.

It was part of a conversation where the goal of “Simplify Simplify Simplify”, which had been turned into “Simplify Simplify Simplify“, was finally listed as “Simplify”.

It sounds so obvious. But it’s so fucking hard.

If you disagree, do a quick reality check. Focus first on “within your company” when you answer the following questions.

Within your company, do you use more than one of:

  1. Google Drive, Dropbox, Box
  2. Skype, Hangouts, Bluejeans
  3. Asana, Trello, Basecamp
  4. Slack, iMessage, SMS
  5. Word, Google Docs

Those are the easy ones. Let’s keep going. Make a list of every SaaS-based license you have. If you don’t know what this list is, ask your VP Finance. If you outsource your accounting, hire a VP Finance. Now, consider how many different overlapping things you are using.

When you are tiny, it’s fun to experiment around with different things. When you get a little bigger, say 20 people, it’s natural to have multiple systems introduced as you try to optimize things, hire new people who are used to what they used at their previous company, or just get frustrated with what matters and distract yourself with something that doesn’t matter.

As you interact with more people outside of your company, you’ll add systems (and processes) to try to accommodate them. If you want to see an extreme example of this, just take a look at my computer and the number of apps and logins I have.

You will reach a point in your company’s life – typically around 50 people – where you realize you are wasting 20% of your collective time on overlapping systems, inefficient processes, redoing work because someone decided to build a database in Excel that doesn’t link to anything, or scrambling to pull together information that should be immediately available to everyone.

This is the point at which you should dedupe your processes. If you have a good CFO, she’s the one to lead the charge. CEOs should never do this as almost all CEOs I know are part of the problem either by holding on tightly to old processes or randomly trying new things all the time with the elusive goal of continuous improvement.

“Simplify Simplify Simplify”, then “Simplify Simplify Simplify“, and finally “Simplify”.

 

A Typical Example of #GiveFirst

I’ve started working on my next book, currently titled #GiveFirst: A New Philosophy for Business in the Era of Entrepreneurship. As a result, my brain is especially tuned to good examples that show a particular aspect of what we refer to as #GiveFirst at Techstars.

I was working at my desk the other day when Krista Marks, the CEO of Woot Math came in and said hi. We are investors and Jason is on her board. Krista and I have been close friends for over a decade and I always have time for her no matter what is going on.

She wanted to tell me a story about #GiveFirst so I stopped what I was doing, sat back in my chair, and listened. After she told me the story, I smiled and asked her if she was game for me to put it up on my blog as an example. She said yes and after she left I put a draft title in WordPress to remind me to recreate / write the story when I had some writing time.

Later that day, Krista sent me the full story, which follows, in an email. While the example is a simple one, it captures the essence of #GiveFirst nicely. Krista’s words follow.


A couple of weeks ago, I had just arrived in  San Antonio to setup and exhibit Woot Math at a conference.

But I also desperately needed to find a conference room to use in the morning for a video presentation and live demo of Woot Math for the board of directors of NewSchools Venture Fund. The convention center didn’t have a room or WiFi I could rent in the center, but they pointed me to the Marriott across the street. The Marriott did have a conference room available for rent. Awesome! Here’s where the story should end, right? But then came the asking price: $400 for the room, $200 for WiFi, and $250 for a phone! I rejected the offer out of principle.

At this point it was after 4:00pm the day before I was scheduled to present at NSVF, and I was starting to worry.

My colleage Tom suggested, “maybe there’s a startup space that rents rooms.” We searched and found Geekdom:

No phone was listed but there was an address; with time running out, we decide to hop in the car and drive there.

When we arrive, it’s close to 5:00pm. I hurried up to the 7th floor of a new, modern office building. The door was locked, but there was a large window, and I caught someone’s eye. I explained that I’m the CEO of Woot Math, a startup in Boulder, and I need to a room to rent for an hour for an important meeting tomorrow.

I’m immediately welcomed in, and taken to Luke Owen, the COO of Geekdom. Luke asked if I’m involved in anyway with Techstars, and I’m pleased to share that I’m a mentor for the Boulder Techstars program. It turns out that Luke is one of the program managers for Techstars Startup Next in San Antonio, which runs it out of Geekdom.

After chatting and sharing lots of common, small world connections, Luke took me a cool conference room with high-ceilings and a large window. I’m told that it is mine for the day; I’m leant his VoIP conference phone; and I’m encouraged to help myself to coffee and the kitchen.

At this point, I’m pretty overwhelmed by Luke’s warmth and generosity. I say something like, “Wow. I honestly don’t know how to thank you. Is there anything I can do for you?” It turns out he’s working with TeachTag, an ed-tech startup helping teachers be more organized. Luke asks if he can connect  me with the founders Aaron Schuenemann. Here’s the lovely introduction that Luke sent –

It makes me so happy and proud to be part of the Techstars community and it such a powerful reminder of how entrepreneurs make the world better. Every day.

Founder Fights in Boulder

The final event at Boulder Startup Week a few months ago was Founder Fights. A bunch of founders got in a boxing ring for a real, USA Boxing sanctioned event (three rounds, two minutes each). To see a two minute version of what played out, take a look at this great video montage from the event (I make a startling entrance at 0:52 in the video.) It’s worth clicking through to Vimeo if the security settings don’t let it play in your browser.)

While I’m not a boxing fan, this was an incredible experience and one of the most energizing three hours I’ve had in a long time. Carrie Barry and her partner Kirsten Barry run The Corner Boxing Club in Boulder and I’ve done a little sparing there. My friends Jerry Colonna, Dave Mandell, and Chris Marks are regulars and Chris wrote a powerful blog post about why he boxes.

Carrie and Jerry did a great Reboot.io podcast on Carrie’s journey and why she is motivated to do what she does.

The experience of combining a set of local amateur boxers and their supporters with the Boulder startup community getting behind matches with folks like David, Chris, and Nicole Glaros was really inspiring. The event ended up raising $56,000 with $21,000 going to Blue Sky Bridge and the balance to other local charities. I hope we do it again in 2017 and have heard a rumor already that we’ll do it at Denver Startup Week in a few months.

Documentary: Zero Days

Sunday night, Amy and I watched the new documentary Zero Days. It’s the story of Stuxnet, the computer virus created by a set of nation states (including the US and Israel) which was intended to disable and/or slow down Iran’s nuclear program.

I’d read about Stuxnet several times over the past few years so I knew a lot – at least what was able to be cobbled together. I also remember the mainstream media discussion on it well as I was fascinated by it.

The documentary is extraordinary. When I realized that Alex Gibney was the writer and director, I wasn’t surprised as another one of his epic documentaries is Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Then I saw that Jeffrey Skoll was an executive director and knew it was going to be worth watching in its entirety.

I convinced Amy to make it our Sunday night movie. She graciously accepted to watch a nerd documentary instead of a french film with english subtitles. While I was prepared to compromise on an action adventure movie with lots of explosions and car chases, we settled in for a documentary that we expected would rattle us both.

Amy was still talking to me about it thirty minutes after we had crawled into bed. It was that good – there was so much to it that we just couldn’t get it out of our minds. Ultimately, the specific Stuxnet activity was just a backdrop to something much more significant, and the second order effects are the ones that are really uncomfortable and important to understand.

Last night after a long day I turned on the TV to watch a little of the RNC just to be able to say I saw it live. T.A. McCann, who is staying with me at my place in Boulder for a few days, showed up about fifteen minutes later and begged me to turn it off. So I did. When I compare the reality TV bullshittery of the RNC to something like Zero Days, I’m so glad there are serious people in the world making extraordinary documentaries that go deep on real issues.