Month: May 2013

May 30 2013

Floating In An Isolation Tank

Yesterday I floated for an hour in an isolation tank at Cloud Nine Float Center. It was awesome.

When I was in college, I spent a summer floating. I had recently seen the movie Altered States and was fascinated by it, but uninterested in drugs. I found an isolation tank in Dallas where I was living with my parents and working 100 hours a week at Petcom writing oil and gas software. Twice a week I’d go spend an hour floating. I loved it and it helped me chill out and recalibrate my brain which was deep in code most of the time.

After I’d float, I’d have this incredible calmness for the rest of the day. I generally floated at the end of the day and then took the evening off. Sometimes I’d go out to dinner with my girlfriend, sometimes I’d lay in my parents hammock and read a book, and sometimes I’d go for a run. When I crawled into bed a few hours later I would always have an incredibly deep sleep.

For some reason that I can’t remember why I stopped doing this after the summer. I think I never found a float center in Boston and just let it slip away.

Yesterday I rediscovered something that I did 27 years ago and loved. I floated from 5pm – 6pm. It took about five minutes to settle down – I had 55 minutes of extreme bliss and calm. I let my mind wander wherever it wanted to go and whenever I started thinking about something too deeply I’d just listen to my breathing until I stopped focusing on something. I have no recollection of what I was actually thinking of during that hour. When I got out, I was in a calm state unlike anything I’ve felt recently.

I went home and spent the evening with Amy. I was very quiet and it was hard for her to pry words out of me. I ate a light dinner, did a little end of day email, and then watched a few more episodes of Revenge. I walked Brooks twice. And I fell into a very deep sleep around 10pm.

I will be floating a lot more.

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May 29 2013

The National Day of Civic Hacking

national day of civic hacking

The open data movement is great for business, but is also great for us as citizens.  To accelerate that program, President Obama and US CTO Todd Park have created a national event to leverage technology and open data to strengthen our democracy in the United States.

On June 1st and 2nd the largest hackathon in the world is forming. Over 5000 people in 87 locations will be joining up to use their talents to make their communities a better place. The National Day of Civic Hacking is the first of a yearly event created by the White House to gather Citizen Engineers and have them use newly accessible government data to improve their communities and our entire society. The multitude of data that is being released as part of the Open Data Initiatives.

A company I’ve been involved for a long time with – Rally Software – is taking a leadership role in this. Rally’s product development team is devoting their talent and energy to participate and host the Boulder, Denver, Seattle, and Raleigh event (join up at these locations.) Through their corporate social responsibility initiative, Rally for Impact they are offering an exclusive and complimentary one-year subscription to AgileZen and Flowdock to all participants of the National Day of Civic Hacking.

Specifically for Coloradans, there are sites in Denver and Boulder.  In Denver, the site is focused on open data from the State of Colorado and called Hack4Colorado.  In Boulder, the Boulder Civic Hackfest, is focused on local data, the Census Bureau and the National Renewable Energy Lab’s Open Energy Info project. On Saturday, NREL engineers will join the local civic hackers too.  Hacking isn’t just about writing code, it’s about exploring the boundaries of what’s doable and what’s desirable.

Rally is also donating three seats to their  Enterprise Lean Startup training course to this effort.  This highly interactive workshop, on June 5 & 6 in Boulder, teaches you how to systematically discover what’s desirable for users and customers. To claim the training seats be the first three people to send email to rallyforimpact@rallydev.com if you are attending the event in Boulder or Denver.  Awards will be given at the closing of each event in Boulder and Denver by Rally staff.

I’m proud of my long time friends at Rally for providing leadership here!

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May 28 2013

Foursquare and Gnip Form A Powerful Partnership

Our investment in Gnip keeps getting better and better.  While the company is growing like crazy and the financial results would make any investor giddy, what really gets me excited is to see how Gnip is disrupting how business decisions are made.  Gnip believes that someday every significant business decision will include social data as an input and they’ve been working hard for the last five years to make this vision a reality.

Last week, Gnip made another significant step forward towards their ultimate vision. Foursquare and Gnip just announced an exclusive partnership that allows Gnip to provide full coverage of anonymized Foursquare check-in data to Gnip’s extensive network of customers.  Gnip is delivering over four billion social activities to their customers every day and their distribution network is delivering insights and analytics to over 95% of the Fortune 500.   As much progress as they have made, location-based activity is one area of social data where the ecosystem has lacked significant coverage.  Companies wanting to analyze geo-based activities around locations have been begging for more location-based activity.  With the partnership between Foursquare and Gnip, the entire social data ecosystem gets a big win with this key signal of physical presence.

I’ve been a user and believer in Foursquare from the earliest days. It will be fascinating to see what types of analytics are built upon this new data.  Both Foursquare and Gnip discuss some examples in their blog posts. It doesn’t take much imagination to think about how businesses can capitalize on this unique data set.  And with this partnership, we no longer have to imagine!

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May 27 2013

Wear Sunscreen and Use Bitcoin

My long time friend Terry Kawaja (history question – which Colorado-based company was Terry once CFO of) from Luma Partners sent me his latest parody video titled Use Bitcoin. I knew it was a parody of something, but I didn’t remember “Wear Sunscreen” (which I saw when it first came out in the late 1990’s) until I read the liner notes on Terry’s Youtube post.

Both are awesome. But to really grok how awesome Use Bitcoin is, you have to watch Wear Sunscreen first. It follows.

Now – Use Bitcoin.

Count me inspired. And amused.

If you want something serious from Terry, his 20 minute State in the State of Digital Media 2013 is definitely worth watching.

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May 26 2013

Abstainer vs. Moderator

I love summer – it’s by far my favorite season of the year. While the summer solstice (6/21) is the official beginning of summer, I always view summer as being bookended by Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. So – for me, summer has begun.

As I was walking Brooks this morning for his early morning poop, I pondered the dynamic of “abstainer” vs. “moderator” which Amy pointed out to me comes from Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. I’ve never known how to moderate particularly well, in any aspect of my life, so I’ve always been an abstainer. For example, I’m afraid of drugs, so I simply don’t do them – I abstain, since I’m concerned that if I started I wouldn’t know how to moderate.

Another example is my struggle with eating. I’ll use sushi as an example. If I’m part of a group sushi experience, I don’t know how to moderate. I’ll eat whatever is in front of me until it’s gone – sometimes a legendary amount of sushi. So – the only way for me to control myself is either to have a separate order to myself (e.g. abstain from the group plate) or use extreme effort to moderate and only have a reasonable amount. Same with bread or tortilla chips – if they are on the table I eat them all. My only way of not doing this is to abstain completely.

This applies to my work. I’ve always struggled to moderate – that’s part of why I chronically have gone through my annual boom / bust cycle where I completely wear myself out by the end of the year and have to abstain for a while. My Qx vacations – quarterly weeks off the grid – are a version of abstaining. My daily schedule is another example of this – and something that I’ve recently started approaching very differently as I’ve grown weary of being schedule from early morning to the end of the day.

Most recently, Digital Sabbath is another example of this for me. I’m now shutting down completely from Friday night at sundown to Sunday morning. I’ve been doing this for few months and think it will become a rest-of-the-life habit. It’s been fantastic for me and Amy. No phone, no email, no work. Just living for a day a week. Yesterday we slept late, wandered around Boulder a little, had brunch at Snooze, binge watched the rest of Season 1 of Revenge, had dinner with friends, and just lived.

I know that I don’t know how to moderate, whether it’s food, work, relationships, sports, communication, or something new. I’m all in and the only way for me to manage the total load is to abstain from some things and create specific times where I abstain from most everything.

Are you an abstainer or a moderator? How do you think about this?

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May 24 2013

Discover Some Awe This Weekend

It’s the beginning of summer. That is a good thing. Spend three minutes watching the amazing video below and get inspired to open your eyes and breath in this weekend.

As I come out of my depression, I’ve been systematically changing many of my tactics and habits. Simple things like deciding not to wake up with an alarm clock. Having a digital sabbath (no email / phone from Friday night to Sunday morning). Talking to Brooks the wonder dog when I take him for a walk, rather than have my thoughts wander around in my head.

This video reminded me to break that patterns that my brain has completely assimilated, in a search for awe, inspiration, and innovation. Thanks Anthony for pointing it out to me.

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May 23 2013

Announcing UP Global

A global partnership that connects entrepreneurs with their communities and the resources they need most.

Startup Weekend and Startup America Partnership are joining forces to create UP Global.  In addition to Startup Weekend, UP Global also runs Next, StartupDigest, and NYSE Big Startup. Marc Nager, the CEO of Startup Weekend, will be the CEO of Up Global. Steve Case, the chairman of Startup America Partnership, will be the chairman of Up Global.

I’m extremely psyched. I’ve been involved in both organizations since inception. The first Startup Weekend happened in Boulder in June 2007 and have been on the board for the past few years. I was at the White House for the launch of Startup America, which included launch of the privately funded Startup America Partnership. NCWIT and TechStars were founding members. I’m the co-chair of Startup Colorado. Many of the ideas in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City have been informed by my experience with both organizations, and they’ve each incorporated many of these ideas into what they are doing.

I’ve made many new entrepreneurial friends on this journey so far. I’ve been absolutely delighted and blown away by the leadership of Marc Nager and his team in the growth of Startup Weekend around the world. Scott Case and Steve Case, along with their team, have done an outstanding job at Startup America Partnership mobilizing broad startup community initiatives across the United States and elevating the understanding and importance of entrepreneurship at a national level. And the Kauffman Foundation – who I continue to have immense respect for – has been an incredibly strong supporter of both organizations.

UP Global is a logical next step in the creation of vibrant entrepreneurial communities around the world. I’m a huge believer in consolidating efforts in the non-profit between complementary organizations. This one was a natural and logical one and I’m excited about what’s coming up.

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May 22 2013

Patent and Immigration Reform Activities

h1b in canadaTwo of the public policy things I care about are patent reform and immigration reform. I believe our patent system – especially with regard to software and business method patents – is completely and totally broken. And our immigration system – especially concerning immigrant entrepreneurs – is an embarrassment.

There is suddenly a lot of focus and attention on both of these issues. That’s good, and I’m hopeful that it will result in some meaningful positive changes. It pains me to see other countries – such as Canada, the UK, and New Zealand – be more progressive, open, and forward thinking around entrepreneurship and innovation than the US. There are days when I’m discouraged by our political system, but as I’ve gotten older and spent more time with it the past few years, I’m getting to a zen state of not being discouraged, but rather accepting the reality of the process and just being consistent and clear about what I think is important and how to fix it.

On the patent front, Twitter recently finalized a powerful approach – the Innovator’s Patent Agreement (the IPA). With this, they’ve agreed – as a company – to only use their patents defensively. I think this is extraordinary leadership on Twitter’s part. Our government and the USPTO is not moving aggressively to fix a problem that is now stifling innovation in the software industry, so leaders in the software industry can, and should, take matters into the own hands. As Fred Wilson describes in his post today, the IPA is an incredibly clever and forward looking approach. I’m proud of my friends at Twitter for providing this leadership and I encourage entrepreneurs and investors to understand the IPA and consider applying it to their patent approached.

On the immigration reform front, today is the second to last day of the March for Innovation. Go to the March for Innovation page to tell your Senators how important this issue is and read what a bunch of tech leaders are saying on the Mashable March for Innovation page. If you want just my thoughts, you can go read them at Broken Innovation Shutters Innovation.

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May 21 2013

An Unexpected Night In The Hospital

First things first – we are fine. Amy had an emergency appendectomy last night. She’s recovering extremely well and feeling great, albeit a little sore, this morning. We’ll be going home in a little bit once the doctor gets here.

Yesterday was a typical Monday. Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion. I went for a run. My partners and I had sushi for lunch. I did a bunch of email and phone calls. I walked 20,000 steps on my treadputer. I gave a talk with Jeff Clavier for one of our LPs (AMG) at Frasca to a bunch of their clients. Normal stuff.

While hanging out at Frasca, I got a text from Amy that said “I might have appendicitis. Getting ready for IV and scan. Can’t find vein, as usual. I’ll keep you posted.” Well – that’ll throw a guy off his game. Amy wasn’t feeling well in the morning and had gut pain – I told her to make sure she went to the doctor if she didn’t feel better by the end of the day. I headed over to CU Boulder to interview David Cohen as part of the Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurs Unplugged event, knowing that I could get textus interruptus at any time.

Five minutes after I started interviewing David, I got a text from Amy that said “It’s appendicitis. I will need surgery at Boulder Community tonight. Boo.” Fortunately, there was another Brad around (Brad Bernthal) who quickly stepped in for me as moderator as I exited stage left to go get Amy and take her to the hospital.

Amy went to urgent care at 5:30. I picked her up at 7:00. She was in surgery by 9:00. She was out by 11:00. We were asleep in our cozy hospital room by midnight, romanced to sleep (her in a hospital bed, me on a cot) by the six second repeating hum of the IV machine.

I’ve never spent the night in a hospital before. I certainly didn’t expect to do it last night. I guess there’s a first time for everything. Boulder Community Hospital and their staff is just awesome – and as the sun comes up on another day we begin again, reminded of our priorities.

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May 20 2013

Bolt – Making Hardware Easier

Over the past few decades, the most compelling engineers and entrepreneurs I’ve met have tended to be working on problems that can be solved with software. Software has some great advantages but it comes with a few big drawbacks, namely it’s tied to a few standard types of input, although we are trying to impact that with some of our investments in our HCI theme.

Along with the rest of the tech ecosystem, I’m starting to see more and more entrepreneurs with a piece of hardware in their development plan. These are not your parents’ hardware products. Instead, they are software companies that happen to have a physical component in their stack – something I call software wrapped in plastic.

Adding the plastic around the software is no short order. MakerBot, FitBit, Orbotix, Sifteo, Modular Robotics, PogoplugSlingbox, and a slew of others have taught me that even though much of the business-side is similar to a software company, the product-side most definitely is not. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s stunning how much damage one bad component on a PCB board can do to a company’s bottom line, or how different industrial design is from software design, or even how the brains of a software person and a hardware person collide in bizarre ways.

I’ve learned how critical it is to get the right kind of help for young companies with a piece of hardware, which is why I invested in Bolt. Bolt is one of the more unique accelerator programs I’ve seen. Ben and his team have designed, developed, manufactured, and financed a long list of successful products and they’ve built Bolt around best-practices for these kinds of companies. Over 6-months, accepted companies get a long list of benefits, the most valuable of which are a full-staff of senior engineers and designers at your disposal and 24×7 access to their $1M of prototyping equipment.

If you’re a startup with a piece of hardware (or plan to have one) check out Bolt and apply to be part of their first accelerator class. Applications close in two days – Wednesday, May 22nd at midnight.

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