Nov 15 2019

Shirt Competition: Brad Feld vs. Warren Katz

For almost 30 years, I’ve shared a huge number of life experiences with Warren Katz.

Yesterday, I did a breakfast AMA at Cooley’s office near La Jolla with the Techstars MDs and PMs from the western half of the US. At the end of the hour, we were presented with the above video from Warren as the final word on a question that is on everyone at Techstars’ mind.

I suppose if I used Facebook, I’d post this there. But I don’t, so it lives here for all of posterity.

I just showed it to Amy and she laughed out loud four times during the four minutes, which is a record for her since she doesn’t really understand humor very well. But, like me, she adores Warren. And his shirts.

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Nov 14 2019

Happy 13th Anniversary Techstars

Techstars was born 13 years ago. There’s a delicious article in the Denver Post that was the launch article of the first accelerator in Boulder titled How TechStars was born from 5/18/07. The photo is fun.

Some of my favorite lines from the article include:

Jared Polis, Brad Feld, David Cohen and David Brown are the “professors” – the founders of an organization called TechStars, created to mentor 10 startup companies for the summer. The inaugural session kicks off Monday.

“I had never met David (Cohen),” Feld said. “We had a random meeting and in 15 minutes, I was totally in love with the idea.”

“I was thinking about the gaps in my own experience. I made a lot of mistakes,” said Cohen. “I wish I had had more mentorship, and more access, not only for capital, but the critical thinking. How to think about (starting a company) and approach it from a strategic standpoint.”

“Certainly people who are investing look into us and what we’ve done. There’s really a strong bench of support and proven success there,” Polis said. “I wish when I was first starting out I had access to this kind of brain trust.”

“I love helping start companies,” Feld said. “The four of us funded TechStars this year. If it’s successful, we’ll do it again.”

TechStars hopes the summer will shine light on Colorado as a top destination for technology startups.

Happy birthday Techstars. It’s pretty awesome to see what you’ve become after 13 years. And, thanks to everyone who has been involved throughout the entire experience, as Techstars simply wouldn’t be relevant without all of you.

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Nov 13 2019

Laser Engraved Personalized Chocolates

I love chocolate. I love lasers. So it would be logical that I’d love chocolates that are engraved with personalized messages with lasers.

I met Jennifer, the founder of Noteworthy Chocolates, in Boston at the Authors & Innovators event. She handed me some chocolates engraved with “Authors & Innovators” we talked a while and she sent me a long story about how she figured out how to laser engrave chocolates.

A week later a special box of laser engraved chocolates arrived at my office for me and Amy.

They were clever and delicious. Jennifer won me over and I expect that laser engraved chocolates will be on my gift rotation (for gifts I give my friends) in the future.

If you like chocolates and lasers and want to give some customized laser engraved chocolate gifts for the holidays, Noteworthy Chocolates has you covered.

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Nov 12 2019

Through the Looking Glass: Chapter 2

Personal robots and replicators and instrumented humans. I like to invest in areas predicted by the mountains of science fiction I read.  

Today, I’m delighted to report that another science fiction dream is becoming real. Take a look at this insane video of the Looking Glass 8K Immersive Display, which is the world’s largest and highest resolution holographic display.

Foundry invested in the Looking Glass team in 2017. Since then they’ve shipped thousands of desktop holographic developer kits. But the Looking Glass 8K is something different.

The Looking Glass 8K is more like the looking glass that Alice stepped through. It’s a holographic window for groups of up to a dozen people, connecting the world of atoms we inhabit with the world of 3D digital space. In tribute to the sci-fi dream, the holograms in this new iteration also aren’t bound by the physical volume of the device itself – they can extend in front of and behind the glass. 

And this all works without VR or AR headgear.

The Looking Glass 8K is in production now in limited quantities, with units shipping in volume in Spring 2020. Arrange for a private demo to see one for yourself by going to look.glass/8K.  

I think it’s the universe telling me to get ready for Season 4 of The Expanse.

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Nov 8 2019

Give First Podcast with Rajat Bhargava

It was a delight to interview Rajat Bhargava for the Give First Podcast. We’ve been working together since 1994 when I made my first angel investment in Raj’s first company (NetGenesis). We’ve worked on a number of companies since then, some successful, and some not, but our friendship – even with our own personal ups and downs – has been a constant.

Raj covers a lot of ground in this podcast, including some origin stories, his relationship with Will Herman (who co-invested in NetGenesis with me at the very beginning, which is how he met Raj), a moment where I treated Raj poorly and our relationship could have easily gone off the rails if we hadn’t both put energy into acknowledging what had happened and getting back to a healthy place, and how he thinks about Give First, both in the Boulder startup community and at his current company JumpCloud.

Raj – 25 years later, I still learn something from you every time we talk. You are a gem. I’m so glad you came up to me after that MIT guest lecture oh so many years ago.

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Nov 7 2019

One Reason Superhuman Is So Much More Effective For Me Than Gmail

I’ve been a Superhuman email fan for a while. I decided a week ago to go try Gmail and see if I still liked Superhuman so much better.

After about two hours, I went back to Superhuman.

Several days later, I tried Gmail again, deciding that I was just grumpy for some reason. I bounced back to Superhuman within an hour.

This time I sat and thought about why I liked Superhuman so much better. It took a little while for it to come to me, but when it did it was painfully obvious.

When I’m looking at Superhuman, I am processing one consistent font. All the time. It’s the same for every email, except the occasional over formatted and stylized email marketing newsletter thingy. My focus stays on the content and the clean screen. I just read and respond.

When I’m in Gmail, there are a zillion random things everywhere. Emails are in different fonts – both types and sizes. My brain is constantly processing multiple inputs that make me tired, distract me, and slow me down.

All I really want to do it get through my email. When I just sit and process it email by email, with no context switching or distractions, it gets done quickly. Superhuman facilitates this; Gmail doesn’t.

Blogging is similar. The newest WordPress editor is delicious. I just type. It’s clean, simple, and always the same.

When I chew on it more, it’s part of why I love reading on a Kindle. The font is always the same, no matter what I’m reading. Suddenly, my brain is not processing different textures when I’m processing text.

It’s kind of clear to me when I type it out, but it wasn’t obvious until I thought about the other day. We’ve taken the UI to a place of divergence – it’s either consistent and simple or chaotic and complex. I’m all about consistent and simple.

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Nov 6 2019

Looking for Mentors for Entrepreneurs for All – Longmont, Colorado

Earlier this year Amy and I, along with a number of other local friends, supported the rollout of a new organization in Longmont called Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll).

EforAll is a nonprofit organization that partners with communities nationwide to help under-resourced individuals pursue their dream of starting a business. They believe everyone should have the opportunity, resources, and support they need to successfully start their business. Its programs include a free, full-year Business Accelerator that utilizes a cohort model and includes intensive business training and mentorship as well as quarterly community pitch contests.

Since I first wrote about their launch, EforAll Longmont has hosted two pitch contests featuring over 50 entrepreneurs. To get a feel for the activity, take a look at the article about Lorne Jenkins after he won the top prize at one of the pitch competitions.

EforAll Longmont is accepting applications for its first Accelerator program which will start in early January. To help these entrepreneurs, EforAll is looking for experienced professionals across a wide range of industries to serve as mentors for these entrepreneurs. I’ve written extensively about the importance of effective mentorship and one of the things that I love the most about EforAll is their mentorship model.

After spending time with a few EforAll entrepreneurs, I came away excited by their ideas and aspirations. What they need now are mentors who can serve as their champion, coach, and support network as they navigate the challenges of starting their own business.

If you are an entrepreneur or business leader living near Longmont, Colorado, especially in an adjacent town like Boulder, and you are interested in becoming a mentor for EforAll, please reach out to Harris Rollinger, the Executive Director of EforAll Longmont or volunteer online to become a mentor.

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Oct 28 2019

Pandere Shoes, Anchorage Startups, and Techstars

Pandere Shoes is an Alaskan founded and women-owned startup that creates expandable footwear that accommodates a host of conditions such as edema, diabetes, and neuropathy. 

I met the co-founder Laura Oden when I was in Anchorage last month to speak at the Accelerate Alaska event. She came up to me after I gave my talk and told me that her company wouldn’t exist without Startup Weekend and Techstars.

While that caused a big smile to cross my face, I asked her to tell me more. She described how she met her founders at Techstars Startup Weekend in 2016.

Laura struggled for 40 years to find shoes to accommodate her lymphedema which caused one foot to be chronically swollen. Off the rack shoes only fit one foot and she needed a shoe that would expand to accommodate her swollen foot. Over time, the team realized that millions of people all over the world were struggling with a similar problem.

This was the idea she brought to the Startup Weekend. At the end of the 54-hour event, Pandere won the top slot and the company was born. The event fostered confidence that buoyed the team through enough contest wins to develop a prototype.

When you think of Alaska, you probably do not think of it as a popular location for producing shoes. The founders loved where they lived and put together a support team of shoe experts and designers in Boston, France, and Portugal. They were able to obtain early capital from prize winnings, along with mentorship from fellow entrepreneurs and investors. While Alaska is not a shoe capital, it is now headquarters to a shoe company addressing a global problem.

Pandere launched publicly on Nov 2018 and has produced five unique styles that accommodate wide and extra widths for men and women who cannot fit into traditional footwear, with more styles to come. Their shoes are made in Portugal. Every shoe sale generates a donation to the Lymphatic Research and Education Network (LE&RN). 

When I got back to the hotel at the end of the day I bought a pair of Pandere Saturday Shoes to give them a try. I have wide feet and they are often annoyed with me from all the running I do. The Pandere’s are wonderfully comfortable and have replaced my OluKai’s, which replaced my Allbirds, which replaced my Vans as my daily kicks.

The team at Pandere continues to #givefirst by giving back into the ecosystem that fed them. They have stayed involved in the community by volunteering as coaches, hosting dinners, and offering advice to budding entrepreneurs.

And hopefully, I’m helping them out a little by highlighting them here. I love origin stories that link to Techstars, and this one combines Techstars, Alaska, women-entrepreneurs, and shoes that I’m loving.

Give them a try at the Pandere Shoes online store.

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Oct 26 2019

Jules Pieri Advice For Fathers of Daughters

At the Authors and Innovators event, the last panel included a discussion about diversity, with a particular focus on gender diversity. The actual segment was titled Success through Strategic Innovation but it was awesome to watch it evolve into a gender diversity conversation.

One of the panelists was Jules Pieri, who is the founder/CEO of The Grommet. I’ve known Jules for a while and loved her book How We Make Stuff Now: Turn Ideas into Products That Build Successful Businesses. As she usually is, she was great on the panel and when it shifted to Q&A, I asked the second question.

“Lots of men in the audience, like me, try to be helpful around gender diversity, especially now that there is a good understanding of the value of being a ‘male ally’ and how to do it. Can you give us one actional thing we can do right now?”

Jules responded immediately with something close to:

“While I feel a little uncomfortable referring to something I wrote, go read my post For Fathers of Daughters. It has easy, medium, and hard level of efforts of things you can do.”

I took a note to read the post and just read it. Jules is 100% right – go read the post For Fathers of Daughters right now. If you have a daughter, go read it. But also go read it if you don’t have a daughter.

There are some real gems in it including several things I’m going to add to my personal list of things to do, even though I don’t have kids.

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Oct 25 2019

Innovation Women

I’m at the Authors and Innovations Business Ideas Festival in Boston put on by Larry Gennari. It’s a neat collection of people who are interested in entrepreneurship, innovation, and books, three topics that I love so I’m having a lot of fun.

I ran into Bobbie Carlton, who I met a number of years ago around Startup America stuff and then again at an event at 1871 in Chicago when I released my book Startup Communities.

Bobbie is running an organization called Innovation Women which is an online speaker’s bureau for entrepreneurial and technical women. In addition to being an entrepreneur herself, she’s helping women get more visibility as entrepreneurs through her business.

There’s something that gives me great joy about the random connections with people over a long period of time. While I haven’t worked closely with Bobbie, running into her for a third time in around a decade at different in contexts that are interesting to me, causes me to want to put some effort into finding ways to work together.

I’m personally done with being on ManPanels so if you are a conference organizer looking to get more women involved as speakers at your conference, take a look at the speakers at Innovation Women.

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