Month: July 2012

Jul 31 2012

Work Diligently, Work Intelligently, Work Patiently and Persistently

The title of this post “Work diligently, work intelligently, work patiently and persistently” is a powerful line from S.N. Goenka that is part of magnificent blog post by Ben Casnocha titled Reflections and Impressions from a 10-Day Meditation Course.

On July 18th, Ben wrote a post titled Something I Think I Could Fail At: 10 Day Silent Meditation Program , promptly went to Northern California Vipassana Meditation Center, and went off the grid for ten days. He resurfaced today. His post about his experience is awesome – go read it now.

Amy has done several ten day silent meditation retreats with Goenka. The first time she did it was the longest we had ever not communicated – an entire ten days of zero contact with each other. When she got home, she proceeded to spend five hours telling me everything that had happened over the preceding ten days. I like to tease her about it, but it was fantastic to just sit and listen to her replay her experience.

Ben’s first paragraph sets the tone for the entire post.

It was during the 8-9 PM meditation session on the 8th Day — by then I was 80 hours into the 10 day, 100 hour meditation course — when I experienced something remarkable. I was partially kneeling and partially sitting on a small bench in the meditation hall with about 45 other meditators, doing breathing techniques (anapana) and scanning my body for sensations (vipassana). Shortly after starting the session, my mind became as sharp as I’ve ever felt it in my life. I was in complete control of a lucid, concentrated mind.

I let you read it and I challenge you not to be inspired by it. Not by the amazing accomplishments of Ben during the ten days, or the magical breakthroughs he had, or the powerful new insights, but merely in the experience of how he worked diligently, worked intelligently, worked patiently and persistently at something he thought he could fail at, but he succeeded.

Powerful stuff Ben. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

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Jul 30 2012

TechStars Boulder Demo Day – 8/9/12

On August 9th, TechStars in Boulder will wrap up with their annual Demo Day investment event.  If you’re an active investor and are interested in attending, send me an email and I’ll get you an invitation.

It’s always amazing to witness how the teams transform in three short months and this program has been no different.  This year, we have everything from internet-of-things companies to travel, enterprise software to consumer devices, and platforms to crowdsource plays.  There’s a strong showing out of Boulder this year and its yet another reason why my partners and I at Foundry Group continues to support the program.

I’ll be there all day so I’d love to see you.

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Jul 30 2012

Lessons From Maker Hours

My shift from manager hours to maker hours is officially over. I’ve learned a lot the past two months about how I work and the challenges of trying to both shift to maker hours as well as be effective in a blended manager / maker world.

I started out in June with a hard shift to maker hours. I only scheduled calls between 1pm and 4pm – the rest of my time was unscheduled. I was able to maintain this rhythm for about 30 days before my scheduled time expanded to 5pm, then 6pm, then noon. Ultimately the backlog of “other stuff” started to creep in and it was hard to ignore it.

My primary maker task was writing – I finished Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, the second edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, and made some, but not nearly enough, progress on Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur (which I’m writing with Amy.) There was a lot of overhead associated with each book as I worked on the website (I’ll finally launch the Startup Revolution site later this week), some publisher stuff (which I knew about from before), and plenty of “edit cycle” stuff.

I discovered that I could only write effectively for four hours a day – any more than that and whatever I did was crap. If I did anything – even check my email – before I started writing, I got virtually nothing done that day. So – the ideal “writing day” was “get up early, have coffee, write for two hours, run, write for two more hours, switch into manager mode and deal with everything else.”

The magic lesson here is something I already knew – my best time for creative work is from 5am to 7am. This is my normal rhythm that I’ve had for a long time. Trying to change it was hard and when I reflect back on things I’m not sure I was any more productive than if I had simply decided to be incredibly disciplined for the past 60 days and just written every morning from 5am to 7am and then let the day be whatever it was.

As I shift back to manager mode, that’s the approach I’m going to take for August and see what it gets me.

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Jul 28 2012

The Inspiration of the Olympics

I’m not a huge sports fan – in my house I’m the sports widow during football season since Amy is a total football fanatic (although she’s pretty down on the new Broncos quarterback.) So – I sit downstairs with her while she watches sports and I bang away on my computer.

We are watching the Olympics today. I always get sucked into the Olympics especially individual sports like swimming, tennis, and track and field. As I was watching the heats for the 400 IM and pondering Phelps and Lochte I suddenly realized how inspiring the Olympics are to me.

I’ve felt flat the last few days – I think I picked up a small cold when I was in Boulder on Wednesday and Thursday and I finally got tipped over by a hater yesterday. I’ve got a bunch of writing deadlines in the next week so I’m in that classic “grind to ship” mode on a couple of fronts while trying to stay on top of everything else going on in my world. I’m in Boulder all next week and scheduled wall to wall with stuff and my running training has increased steadily over the past few weeks.

Basically, when I woke up this morning, I felt really flat. I got up early, did the dog thing, and then crawled back into bed for a few more hours. I’ve spent the morning catching up on email, watching the Olympics, and pondering punting my workout (an 18 mile bike ride.)

A few minutes ago I finally lit back up and decided to do my bike ride. At the same moment, I somehow shook off the malaise that I’ve been feeling the past few days. I paused and tried to figure out what had changed. It was that I was watching the Olympics and seeing the incredible individual achievement of these athletes who were totally giving it their all after years of disciplined training.

If you are feeling down, do yourself a favor – get comfortable, turn on the TV, and watch the Olympics for an hour. I challenge you not to feel inspired.

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Jul 27 2012

Justin Is Cancer Free!

Let’s end Friday on a high note. The recipient of our first Random Act of Kindness in support of my marathons is now cancer free! If you go out this weekend, do a random act of kindness. Buy the meal for a young couple in the same restaurant you are in. Tip 50% instead of whatever you normally tip. Do something unexpected for someone you don’t know.

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Jul 27 2012

It Comes With The Territory

The phrase “it comes with the territory” is one my dad said to me when I was a kid. I can’t remember the context in which I heard it for the first time, but I internalized it to mean that whenever you are trying to do something interesting or amazing, there will always be people who try to tear you down, lob random insults at you, or just do and say things that make no sense to you. I’ve also observed many times (and experienced) the steep curve from obscurity to hero to goat to re-emergent hero that the media loves to play out over and over again. And my day is filled with random interactions – many of them interesting and stimulating – but plenty of them hostile, negative, and troll-like.

I’ve had a weird surge of being on the receiving end of hostile stuff from random people I don’t know the past few weeks. I pondered this a little bit last night on my drive back from Boulder to Keystone after a long, wonderful conversation with an entrepreneur I haven’t talked to in a while. This morning, after trying to have a rational email conversation (again – who I didn’t know) with someone who was just incredibly hostile to me because I didn’t agree with his perspective on “the value of an idea” Amy asked “Why do you bother?” I responded “It comes with the territory.”

I’m fortunate that I get to choose who I work with and am surrounded by awesome people. I’ve also decided philosophically to try to be responsive to any entrepreneur who is looking for help or feedback. I can’t spend “30 minutes on the phone” or “have coffee” with everyone, but I can respond by email to quick specific questions or requests, and I try to respond to all of them. When things go off the rails, which they do occasionally, I’ve decided the only approach is to completely disengage.

I find the noise, anger, hostility, and misinformation spiking up again. I speculate that is has something to do with the election cycle, the general warmth outside, or some new sunspot thing. Regardless, as my dad said when I was young, “it comes with the territory.”

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Jul 24 2012

Boulder APIs and IPAs Meetup/Drinkup Thursday July 26th

If you are a web developer in Boulder who does stuff with APIs, I encourage you to join our friends at Singly on Thursday 7/26 at the Bitter Bar from 5:30 – 8:30. They are building an organic network of friends and evangelists around APIs and looking to have a conversation with anyone interested. Several Foundry Group companies who are API-centric will be there including FullContact and SendGrid are co-sponsoring the event and helping to promote it.

When: Thursday July 26th
What: APIs and IPAs. Free drinks and appetizers; Sign Up Here
Where: Bitter Bar Boulder | 835 Walnut Street | 5:30pm – 8:30pm

Singly is an API abstraction layer and data service for developers who are building apps that consume data from multiple authenticated/private social data sources.  They handle/unify auth, data syncing, unified access patterns for query, cleaning (deduplication, etc) and storage. In general, they are seeing more apps being built that are “smart” apps that create new data/experiences drawing from the growing body of already generated data/experiences and are aiming to make it increasingly easy and cost/time efficient to do so.

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Jul 24 2012

Have A Wake For Failed Startups

In my upcoming book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, Mark Solon (Highway 12 Ventures) tells the story of a “startup wake” in a section where he gives an outsiders view of the Boulder startup community.

“I’ll never forget one of my early visits to Boulder. After a full day of meeting with startups, I was asked by the entrepreneurs I was with if I’d like to join them and some peers for a “special dinner.” “Sure,” I replied. “What’s special about it?” “It’s a wake” they deadpanned. That dinner showed me that the fabric of this small mountain town was different than anywhere else I’d been. Turns out that earlier that week, a local startup had decided to shut down and the “wake” was the startup community’s way of showing these young, fragile entrepreneurs that it was okay to fail – that the honor was in trying.  They made those founders feel good about themselves in a moment that was critical in their development as entrepreneurs. As an aside, in this case the founders didn’t run out of money. After giving it their best effort, they realized their business wasn’t going to be the great success they had envisioned and they decided to return their remaining cash to their investors. The epilogue of that dinner is that the founders had roles at other local startups within a few weeks.” 

I was thinking about this last night as I was emailing with an entrepreneur who’s company is struggling. Failure is a normal part of the entrepreneurial cycle and it’s talked about regularly. There are endless stories about the entrepreneur who failed and then created a monster success for his next company. But there’s not enough discussion about how startup communities should embrace failure.

I think this is especially important for first time entrepreneurs in a community. It’s easy to prognosticate about failure when you’ve been successful; it’s much harder to go through it. It’s even more painful when it’s your first time and everyone around you seems like they are doing great, even if they aren’t really but are just putting on a good act. So a natural instinct for an entrepreneur on a failing path is to turn inward, shut down, and withdraw.

If your peers in the startup community (the other entrepreneurs) don’t notice, it’s even worse. Failure sucks – it’s often emotional, physically, and financially painful. When your friends suddenly ignore you, avoid you, or don’t have time for you it just reinforces the pain.

Having a wake for a failed company can turn this around. If you are an entrepreneur and observe an entrepreneur in your community failing, do something about it. Organize a group of entrepreneurs to have a wake. Surprise the entrepreneur who is shutting down his company and take him out. It doesn’t have to be a debaucherous, alcohol laden evening (although it can be) – rather do something that you know the entrepreneur in question will enjoy and appreciate. A nice meal. A quiet conversation. A show of support from his peers. Encouragement. Acceptance that failure is part of the entrepreneurial process.

If you are an entrepreneur in a company that is failing, don’t be ashamed. Most startups fail. What matters is how you handle it and what happens next. Let your fellow entrepreneurs throw a wake for you, let the moment happen, and then get on with the next thing. Life is hopefully long. And, for all the entrepreneurs who are leaders of their startup community, make sure you do everything you can to make sure everyone knows failure is ok.

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Jul 23 2012

Gnip is Hiring In San Francisco

I’ve written a lot in the last year about how fast Gnip is growing and how they continue to lead their industry. Many of Gnip‘s customers and partners are in the bay area and they have decided to begin adding people in San Francisco to better support those clients.

They’ve just posted their first position in San Francisco to help manage and grow existing customers. If you have the appropriate skills and want to join a truly incredible company, I encourage you to apply.

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Jul 23 2012

Modular Robotics – More Robots In Boulder

This morning we announced that we have just led a $3m investment in Modular Robotics. I’ve joined the board and am psyched to now be an investor in two Boulder-based robotics companies – ModRobotics and Orbotix. In the spirit of “show” vs. “tell” (which everyone in TechStars has driven into their brains over and over again) here’s a short three minute video that shows how ModRobotics first product – Cubelets – works.

Dan Primack at Fortune has a nice article up about ModRobotics titled ‘Robotics for kids’ start-up raises $3 millionFor a little history of the rapid progression of the robotics movement in Boulder, take a look at my post titled Boulder is for Robots. And – if you are in Boulder and interested in robots, join the Boulder is for Robots Meetup Group.

My partners at Foundry Group and I are psyched to be working with Eric and team on creating the next generation robot construction platform. I believe the machines have already taken over and are just patiently waiting for us to catch up with them. As part of this, every kid should learn how to program, create things, and work with robots. ModRobotics plans to be an integral part of that.

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