Well my Mac experiment is going extremely well. I’m not sure I remember how to use a Windows PC, nor am I sure why I’d want to. I’m using a Mac that is at least a year old (2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB RAM) so I’m not even tuned to the max but I’m absolutely loving the overall experience. As so many people have told me, “shit just works.” And so far, whenever I’ve had a problem, I’ve been able to quickly find the answer with a Google search (e.g. “three pane mail view in Mac Mail” – two choices: WideMail or LetterBox).
As I’m starting to go well beyond the things I did with my Windows PC, I’m starting to bump into some issues. I’m using Skype constantly for video and audio calls, including regular phone calls. It’s way better than my iPhone (oh – the irony) and given how solid the audio / video on the Mac is I feel like I can just use it whenever I’m in front of my laptop.
But – there are a few things I’m struggling to figure out. I’ll lay them out here for y’all in case anyone has suggestions. I’m also interested in any Skype-related Mac happiness people have found – please leave hints in the comments.
Issue 1: I’m still using Exchange for my mail, address, and calendar store. Mac Mail, iCal, and Mac Address Book are working great – no issues at all other than sending large attachments through the Exchange server (which is a well documented issue.) But for some reason I can’t figure out how to get Skype to include all my Address Book contacts. I only seems to integrate with the contacts listed in the “On My Mac” folder, which is empty since I have all my contacts stored on the Exchange server. Any clue how to get Skype on the Mac to read the Exchange contacts?
Issue 2: I can’t find a Safari plugin for Skype. I’ve got a Firefox one – where any phone number gets highlighted. But I’d like one for Safari also.
Oh – and if you want to reach me via Skype, it’s just bradfeld.
When my partners and I started Foundry Group, one of our key principles was to be “theme-based investors.” At the time the phrase “theme” wasn’t being used in VC-land so we got to make up what it meant, at least for us. We decided that a theme was a “broadly horizontal technology area that would have dramatic impact and opportunity over the next 10+ years.” (see Jason Mendelson’s post titled What Is Thematic Investing for a deeper explanation.)
At Foundry Group, our themes have become our intellectual filter to the world of what we invest in. As a result, they are always evolving, expanding, and changing as we learn more and as technological innovation continues its tireless march. We try to spend as much time as we can rolling around in our themes, playing with stuff, spending time with smart people in each theme, and just thinking and talking about stuff.
Several years ago a guy named Eric Norlin reached out to me after I wrote a blog post in 2006 titled Intelligence Amplification and suggested we start a conference around the idea, but with a better name. The Defrag Conference resulted from that discussion, as did our now four year old collaboration with Eric and his conferences. Not surprisingly, since we referred to one of our popular themes as “Glue” it made sense to start a Glue Conference several years ago.
Last year Eric and I started talking about doing a conference around our human computer interaction theme. We’ve now made a number of investments in this theme, including Oblong, Organic Motion, EmSense, and Sifteo. It took Eric about a year to get comfortable that the timing was right, but he’s now ready to do it. As a result, he’s launched his latest conference – Blur.
The Blur Conference, like our human computer interaction theme, is based on the premise that the current models of human computer interaction are undergoing a rapid change. Technologies that were until recently science fiction or university lab projects are now showing up all over the place. From the promise of the tablet computer to touch computing to motion capture to augmented reality to the “minority report” interface, the ways in which we interact with computers are moving far beyond the keyboard and mouse.
Eric’s goal with Blur is to have it be massively participatory. Everyone will get to use all tech at Blur, hack on it, explore it with their colleagues, and figure out new and inventive ways to work with it. Because the goal of Blur is so participatory, Eric is going to limit the number of attendees in year one to only 250 to make sure he nails the experience.
Blur is taking place on February 22nd and 23rd at the Omni Orlando at Championsgate. The facility looks awesome and Eric assures me Florida is a lot warmer than Colorado in February. Early bird signup is up for $995 (the full price is going to be $1495) so get a jump on things if this floats your boat. I’ll be there!
I’m extremely excited that Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), the senior senator for Colorado, has signed on as a co-sponsor of The Startup Visa Act of 2010 that was originally proposed by Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Lugar (R-IN). Senator Udall joins his Colorado colleague in the House, Jared Polis (D-CO), who has proposed Startup Visa legislation as part of his EB-5 reform bill.
In addition, our friends at SVB Financial (the parent of Silicon Valley Bank) have also formally endorsed the Startup Visa. My partner Jason Mendelson wrote a post about a roundtable that Silicon Valley Bank hosted for members of “the new Democrat Coalition” which included Jared Polis. Shortly after this meeting, SVB formally endorsed the Startup Visa.
I’m really proud that two of Colorado’s members of Congress are leading the charge on the Startup Visa. I have deep respect for both Mark and Jared, their understanding of the importance of entrepreneurship, and their vision for innovation in our country. I’m also grateful that SVB – which has been an integral part of the entrepreneurial activity throughout the US – for their support as well.
We are working on a few additional major announcements and endorsements in the next sixty days. I’ve received a number of requests for ways to help. At this point, if you are part of an organization that you think would be supportive of the Startup Visa, please drop me an email and let’s talk about ways to get a formal endorsement.
Emily Eveleth, a favorite artist of mine and Amy’s, was profiled in the Boston Globe this weekend in an article titled It’s Time To Paint The Doughnuts. My long time friend Shawn Broderick (who runs TechStars Boston) knows about our Emily doughnut obsession and pointed it out to me.
Amy and I are huge collectors of Emily’s work and have tons of doughnuts, some hula hoops, and as of this month, a magic eight ball and a dinosaur which Amy bought for me as my life dinner present on July 1 this year.)
If you want a quick feel for her art, a Google Image Search on Emily Eveleth will give you several pages of doughnuts. I asked Amy how many she thought we had in our collection – she guessed 10. Yum.
Amy wrote a post in 2005 titled Emily Eveleth Paintings that has one of our hula hoops on it. She also pointed to the two galleries that we buy Eveleth’s from – Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston and the Danese Gallery in New York. They are both awesome galleries – if you are in either city stop by and take a look.
My favorite Emily Eveleth moment was a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon from 1994 which I’ve been trying to find forever. Of course, it’s there – front and center on Emily Eveleth’s bio page!
Now I’m hungry for doughnut.
Amy and I have been up at our house in Homer, Alaska for the last two weeks. We try to spent every July up here – something we’ve tried to do every year for the past decade (we missed in 2007 and 2009.) I’ve had a lot of people say things similar to “I hope you are having a great vacation” which I corrected for the first few days (we aren’t on vacation – just living in Homer for the month) but I got tired of this so I stopped correcting folks after a few days.
Our lives are generally insane. Anyone that knows us knows that we both travel a ton, work like maniacs, and generally cover a lot of ground. We don’t have kids, so we get a lot of time together in between things, but there are rarely any uninterrupted stretches of just “living together.” We address this four times a year by going off the grid for a week of vacation (no phone, no email) but these are special events rather than just the normal tempo of life.
Our month in Homer gives us a chance to spend a real month together each year. As I type this, we are both sitting at our dining room table (our “office”) typing on our laptops listening to the Augustana channel on Pandora. It’s a beautiful sunny day – I’m going to head out for a run after I post this and then I expect we’ll both settle into an afternoon of writing. The days are long so we don’t worry too much about pacing as the sun doesn’t go down until 11pm or so and we usually just sleep until we wake up. We spend most of the 24 hours a day physically near each other – often less than two feet away – for an entire month. This is just priceless for me.
The past two weeks have been a little too busy for my taste. I don’t have any of the normal friction of work (travel, meetings, getting from point A to point B) so I expected things to calm down a little and give me some room to finish the final draft of the TechStars book now that David Cohen and I are in the “march to publish with a real publisher” process with a goal of having the book in the stores and on Amazon by October. I’ve had little bits of time between things but no real space to just concentrate because of all the other stuff going on in my work world.
When I look forward, the next two weeks are a lot less scheduled so I’m optimistic I can finally get in a rhythm. Amy says it takes two weeks to knock off all the stuff from life when she tries to settle down to write. She’s correct.
The one thing I get to do when I’m up here that I wish I could incorporate into my non-Homer time is to sleep more. I wear a Zeo when I sleep and during the week I usually score in the 50’s and 60’s each night. I’m always a little tired and sleep whenever I’m on a plane and often do long stretches of catch up sleep on the weekends where I score 120+ and sleep 12 to 14 hours. I know this isn’t healthy long term, but I haven’t figured out a solution. The last two weeks I’ve been averaging 10 hours of sleep a night and scoring between 90 and 110. I’m not using an alarm – I just wake up when I want. After two weeks of this, I feel well rested and physically much better.
We have two more weeks up here and I feel myself shifting into a mellow gear where I can concentrate on longer arc things rather than just reacting to all the day to day stuff in my work world. We don’t have any visitors so I get to spend another 336 hours in a row (minus a few) with my best friend. Life is good.
A few weeks ago I had my weekly mentor meeting with Ian and Adam from Gearbox. We messed around with the latest version of “the ball” on an Android phone and then talked about a bunch of things that were going on. I am totally amazed at the technical progress they are making this summer – these guys are magicians. But they’ve been shy about getting out there and showing off what they’ve been up to. My sense after talking to them is that their hesitancy was a combination of prioritization, focus, and “the need to get everything right.”
I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like “this stuff is so fucking cool – just start blogging about what you are doing, get the API out there, and get out in front of the world with this.” Two days later they sent me a note that their first blog post Gear What? was up and they’ve been blogging and talking up a storm ever since, including emerging on the bunker to play on the Pearl Street Mall and flying to Aspen in Paul Berberian’s plane to spend the day at Mini Maker Faire Aspen.
Now they are having a Hackathon on the weekend of July 24th/25th. An early version of their API is out and I’ve seen some cool shit running on an Android phone so I know it’s hackable. If you are an Android developer, this is going to be fun, plus there’s the staple of every hackathon (free food, beer, and red bull.) If you want to play, send an email to ian [at] gearbox [dot] me.
Oh – and if you are into robots, go check out the 2010 Denver Robot Expo & Mini Maker Faire. Yup – the Gearbox guys will be there.
This week’s episode of The Founders is all about “the team.” Ryan Sarver from Twitter is the guest of honor so all my links will be twitter handles. David’s mom (gingerale) makes a nice appearance (follow her and follow my dad sfeld while you are at it) along with Eric Norlin of Glue, Defrag, and now Blur.
The meme of the lack of women in tech (or software, or entrepreneurship) appeared in several places today. Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been the chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology for a number of years and deeply involved in this issue. It’s very satisfying for me to see a meme like this pick up speed and appear in a bunch of thoughtful articles and discussions. If you are interested in this issue, I have three articles from the last 24 hours that I encourage you to read.
Let’s start with a high level discussion in the San Jose Mercury News article titled Startup boot camp illustrates dearth of women in tech. The article does a nice job of framing the issue and the last few paragraphs bring up the idea that the “paucity of female tech entrepreneurs has something to do with what has been called the soft bigotry of low expectations.” A similar concept is that parents of young girls (junior high / high school) discourage (or “don’t encourage”) their daughters from exploring computer science.
Next is a chewy blog post by Eric Ries titled Why diversity matters (the meritocracy business). Eric tackles a bunch of concepts around diversity with a focus on gender diversity (although a lot of the constructs are applicable to ethnic and racial diversity.) The comments to this post contain some good additional refinements to the discussion. In reading through the comments, I find it interesting to see how loaded the word “diversity” is as some of the commenters seem to confuse “diversity” with “equal numbers of all types” or some kind of specious politically correct construct. Eric also includes a tremendous short presentation by Terri Oda about how biology (doesn’t) explain the low number of women in computer science.
Finally, Fred Wilson’s excellent post titled Some Thoughts On The Seed Fund Phenomenon has a comment thread started by Tereza that talks about an idea she calls XX-Combinator (a seed accelerator for women).
For those that question the lack of data surrounding this area that is driving some of the current thinking, the amount of actual research that NCWIT has either sponsored, co-sponsored, or done over the past five years is substantial. As with much social science research, there’s a big gap between the core research, the conclusions, and long term behavioral change, but as Lucy Sanders (the CEO of NCWIT) is fond of saying, we are five years into a 20 year shift.
I love when companies I’m an investor in use acquisitions to build out their product line. In April Rally Software did one when they acquired AgileZen; yesterday they announced that Rally Software has acquired the ScrumAway iPhone app from Blue Hole Software.
Rally has re-released the product (previous a $15 download) as a free product called Rally for the iPhone that tightly integrates with the Rally SaaS-based Agile software lifecycle environment. If you are a Rally customer, this is a no-brainer app for you; if you aren’t a Rally customer but are an Agile development shop that also has a bunch of iPhone users, take a look at Rally’s products.
And – if you are an entrepreneur running a company that you think fits with any of the companies I’m an investor in, don’t ever hesitate to drop me an email to explore things.