I’ve been bouncing around the world of video conferencing for a while. The guys at Raindance – a company I was on the board of from 1997 – 2002 – knew this stuff cold (and what worked / didn’t work) as they were previously the founders of LinkVTC (one of the first video conferencing bridge service companies.) One of the applications of the stuff Oblong (one of our new investments) is doing applies to video conferencing, and the little cameras on top of my computers occasionally get used.
While video conferencing is "ok" (and definitely 10x better today and at least 100x cheaper than it was a decade ago) it still sucks. My reaction to the demo of Cisco’s On-State TelePresence Holographic Video Conferencing system was "bitching." It’s pretty amazing to see it, even via online video. There are definitely some hacky aspects to it (as my partner Ryan points out, there is some sort of transparent screen being used), but it’s still incredible.
Another reason for airlines to be scared.
A few weeks ago, my friend Alan Shimel connected me with Jennifer Leggio. Jennifer is the Director of Strategic Communications at Fortinet and an active blogger in – among other things – security and communication. Alan suggested to Jennifer that she might be interested in the work we have been doing at the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
I remember the conversation fondly because I was sitting on the floor upstairs at Oblong’s office in LA while a bunch of people ran around downstairs looking at some cool stuff that Oblong was presenting to one of their customers. Oblong had recently moved in to their new office and there was a noticeable lack of comfortable surfaces or devices to sit on (or in) upstairs. The floor had to make do. It was actually pretty clean and comfortable.
Jennifer asked a bunch of hard questions. We had a great conversation. I connected her with Lucy Sanders, the CEO of NCWIT, and they talked. Jennifer got her mind around how to engage in the problem NCWIT is addressing and Women in IT – Be A Change Agent (Part One) is the post she wrote kicking off her thoughts and actions.
I appear to have said at least one memorable thing during our conversation:
“The most impactful people tend to be the doers in the organization. We can’t rely solely on entrepreneurs, who may have very little time, to make change happen. Anyone with a strong voice can be a role model. It’s easier to get started when you’re a leader but real change happens when you build momentum across a much broader spectrum.”
Jennifer riffed nicely on this and came up with a number of actionable things for doers to do which she enumerated in Women in IT – Be A Change Agent (Part One).
Jennifer – great stuff on many levels.
My partner, Jason Mendelson, had a post yesterday on AskTheVC about our view on the problem of figuring out who will have to serve as the shareholder rep following the closing of M&A deals. For anyone who doesn’t know what this shareholder rep issue is, Jason does a good job of briefly explaining it.
We’re pretty much done serving as the rep on these transactions. It’s been a problem for us for years, but we’re now working with and advising a company called Shareholder Representative Services that professionally manages the post-closing process so that we no longer have to get stuck with this job. We also get better information and results when SRS is our rep than when one of the other stockholders takes the job.
See Jason’s post more background on what this shareholder rep issue is and why we try hard to avoid it.
The concept of "sucking" has been a recurring theme in my work that I’ve co-opted for the good of the universe. I’ve written about it plenty on this blog, including the origin of the concept – the motto of my first company – We Suck Less.
At last night’s TechStars orientation, one of the exercises that David Cohen had everyone in the room do was talk about one thing they suck at. Mine was portion control. I eat too much. If there is a full plate of food in front of me, I will eat it. I like to live an abundant life and I have trouble limiting my abundance when it comes to eating.
We only went around the room one time, but as David noted we could easily go around ten times and have everyone self-identify nine other things they suck at. The meta-message was that we all suck at some things; understanding them and being able to articulate them is the first step to addressing (or managing) them.
Ironically, I had done a pretty good job on portion control all day until I showed up at the orientation. I had a nice modest dinner at The Kitchen beforehand that I topped up at TechStars with a nice big plate of Noodle’s Mac and Cheese. I did manage to stop after one plate. Fortunately I ran for two and a half hours in the morning.
Intense Debate founder Jon Fox is a huge Leo Laporte / TWiT fan so it’s super cool that he ended up on net@night with Amber MacArthur talking to Amber and Leo about Intense Debate’s commenting system. The interview with Jon and Intense Debate CEO Tom Keller is about halfway through the show.
I’ve been really pleased with the progress Jon, Tom, and team have made with Intense Debate. A year ago when Intense Debate showed up at TechStars, Jon and his co-founder Isaac had an idea for an online consumer debating site. This morphed into the comment replacement system that is Intense Debate. I’ve long talked about comments being the dark matter of the blogosphere; Intense Debate helps to make them (and the ensuing conversations) much more relevant and useful.
Features are coming fast and furiously. Last week Intense Debate integrated with Lijit (so you can now include your comments in your Lijit search profile) and the reply by email feature is now out – I’ve been using it for about 60 days and it’s awesome. Look for Twitter integration this week along with maybe another magic special thing depending on how many all nighters Jon pulls.
Intense Debate is growing like crazy. If you have a blog and are still using your native commenting system, take a look at Intense Debate.
As a special bonus, Jon has a blog and have been putting some of his startup thoughts out there. You can follow along at home at Jon Fox: The ramblings of a young, web entrepreneur. His latest – Those dreadful early decisions.
Ah – the bipolar nature of the web. Today’s daily reading includes some humor and some lessons, all rolled into one (or five).
– Fear: it’ll make you shit your pants: Thanks for the image Andy.
– Hiring; and Personal Responsibility: Everyone is hiring. Jud Valeski – the CTO/co-founder of Gnip has some points of view. Oh – and they are hiring awesome software developers in Boulder and San Francisco that like to work inside the web pipes.
– Fantasy: My almost daily dose of xkcd made me smile. It’s like many of my dreams – there’s fire, death, and irrational behavior usually involving guns and car chases.
– How to be a TechStar, Part 1: What I wish I had known at the beginning: This year’s TechStars program officially started yesterday. I was at part of orientation last (including the what do you suck at part) and am psyched to work with this year’s crop of TechStars. Rob Johnson – the founder of Eventvue – tells what he wishes he had known a year ago.
– Grandpa: My partner Seth has a lovely post up about his grandpa, career paths, and letting life take you where it will. My grandfather also passed away about five years ago and I miss him dearly whenever I think of him. He was the first entrepreneur I ever knew and I learned an enormous amount from him, especially about seizing the moment and doing what you want to do.
Now – would someone tell all the clouds and rain in Boulder to relocate back to Seattle?
My partner Jason Mendelson has finally started his own blog titled Mendelson’s Musings. Jason has been a guest blogger on Feld Thoughts for several years (in our Term Sheet, LOI, and 409A series) and he and I have been collaborating on Ask the VC since the beginning of 2007.
Given Jason’s unique proclivities, I expect music to be a central theme on his blog. He even has a special magic Music tab. The subtitle – Tales from a VC and recovering
drummer, software guy, lawyer tells the tale.
Let’s all give Jason an official blogosphere welcome by subscribing to his (FeedBurner) feed.
If that heading makes you think "Relax, relax, relax I need some information first" then you have the same Pink Floyd addiction that I have.
Eric Norlin – my co-conspirator in the Defrag Conference – has a very relevant post up titled Beyond Incrementalism 2.0. I expect we are going to hear a new wave of "why aren’t we (where "we" is the computer industry) going after big problems right now."
Tim O’Reilly had a dynamite post up over the weekend titled MicroHoo: corporate penis envy? (anyone bold enough to use the phrase "penis envy" in the title of a blog post is a personal hero of mine.) Fred Wilson weighed in, called it the Best Blog Post In A Long Time and pulled out some of the great one liners. Among other things, his post is about the need for Big Hairy Audacious Goals to move innovation forward.
On my run this morning (during the 60 minutes where I got lost in the mountains and added a very muddy extra 30 minutes to my normal two hour run to the office) I ruminated on the dynamics of incrementalism and whether I was seeing enough radically new stuff – or if the new things I was seeing was merely an incremental build.
In our friendly neighborhood "Web 2.0 space" (god I hate that phrase) there is a ridiculous amount of incrementalism. When the echoes in the echo chamber echo even more than usual, that is a signal – mostly about the signal to noise ratio getting out of whack.
When I think of other areas we are playing around in (HCI, Digital Life) I’m seeing plenty of stuff that I would put in the "radically new / BHAG" category (e.g. "the mouse and keyboard are an anachronism – their time is up – let’s make them vanish.")
Based on Eric’s brain and what he’s thinking about, I expect this years Defrag Conference to step wide outside the Web 2.0 / Implicit Web echo chamber and try to re-energize some seriously cool thinking around BHAGs in this arena. Come play.
Fred Wilson has a great post up today titled Can We Live In Public? If you go back in time to May 4, 2004 when I started blogging, you’ll see that Fred was one of the key inspirations with his post Transparency to my question of To Blog or Not to Blog. At the time, my interest came from a very simple place.
I’m a professional emailer / phonecaller / meeting taker (aka a venture capitalist). Much of my time is spend writing, reading, thinking, talking, and learning. As a result, I’ve been fascinated (and deeply involved) with the evolution of email and web-based communication and technologies.
I just wanted to learn how this stuff worked. Blogging, RSS, user generated content. All the corresponding web-based tools and technologies that were emerging in 2004. To me, learning how this stuff worked wasn’t just reading about it and observing, but actually participating. UGC was a big part of it – I believed that I wouldn’t really understand it unless I was a content creator. So, while my blogging was motivated by transparency, my meta-goal was ultimately a selfish one – to learn.
I massively underestimated the value of this to me. When I reflect on the last four years of my blogging, it’s been one of the most interesting, enlightening, stimulating, and – ultimately – rewarding things that I’ve done professionally. It’s resulted in new investments, new friends, lots of stimuli I doubt I ever would have encountered, plenty of healthy conflict that has caused me to think through things I otherwise wouldn’t have thought much about, and an outlet for my desire to write that is clearly aligned with what I do every day for work.
The notion of living in public is an unintended side effect of this. It’s part of the package if you really want to engage with this stuff. I’ve had my share of bad moments; like Fred the worst is when I piss off my wife Amy with something I write. It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then I get an email saying approximating "please delete that tweet".
Over the past year or so, the ideas swirling around my head have coalesced into a construct that at Foundry Group we are calling Digital Life. As I continue to live in public, the friction and overhead associated with it increases geometrically since I am both a generator and consumer of content. I’m continuing to work on understanding (and investing in) the tools, technologies, and services on both sides of this equation, but I also want to knit it all together at a higher level.
I’ve got a long way to go. I learn a little every day. By doing. Thank you for helping.