Month: April 2019

Apr 30 2019

Next Generation Video Conferencing

I’ve been a remote worker for many years. As a result, I think I’ve used every flavor of video conferencing and screen sharing going back to Carbon Copy and PC Anywhere.

Today’s bell of the ball is Zoom, which has an outstanding video and audio conferencing experience. But, like most video conferencing services, there are significant limitations when you are working with content in a video conference. Existing video conferencing is adequate when one person shares content with a group. Sometimes you can pull it off when two people share content within a single video call. But once you increase the number of users trying to share content, or get into a real collaborative situation where multiple users are trying to comment on and interact with multiple pieces of shared content, everything breaks down very quickly.

We’ve been investors in a company called Oblong for many years. They invented the idea of multi-stream collaboration and have been implementing a high-end multi-stream sharing environment in high-end video conferencing rooms with their Mezzanine product. In addition, they provide a spatial operating system so you can control the interaction simply by pointing at the screen. And, with their g-speak platform, you can integrate this capability into any technology environment.

But to do this, you needed a Mezzanine room system. Until recently. Now, you can use Oblong’s cloud-based collaboration system, called Rumpus, to bring all the multi-stream sharing and concurrent interaction features of Mezzanine to any video conferencing system, including Zoom, BlueJeans, Webex, and Google Meet.

Show is better than tell for this, so I’ll walk you through several examples. Let’s use Zoom and launch things using a Zoom conference ID. Rumpus is the window on the left and Zoom is the window on the right. All of the users automatically end up in the Rumpus app based on their Zoom ID.

Next, each person in the conference can share screens at the same time (in the Rumpus window). You can see the different screen shares at the bottom. Any of the users can switch between any of the screen shares. In this case, there are three screen shares happening at the same time with the current focus on the one in the middle.

Now, we have a fourth video user who has joined and a slightly different view (partial screen side by side instead of a full-screen view. In the Rumpus window, you can see different colored annotations for the different users. All of the annotations are live and persistent on whichever screen is in focus.

With Rumpus, the conversation just flows. There’s an always-on opportunity to access content – any of the material anyone in the conference needs to talk about is always accessible. You don’t have to ask permission to share, nor do you have to override someone else’s presentation as everyone can share a different screen simultaneously. Each user has a personal cursor so annotations are done live, rather than someone verbally trying to explain what they are virtually pointing at. There are endless extensions to this collaboration interaction from the years of Oblong’s experience with multi-share in Mezzanine, each of which are quickly being rolled out in Rumpus.

The way we communicate and collaborate online is rapidly evolving. I think video conferencing has entered a new era where it is infrastructure that fades nicely into the background. However, the collaboration layer is completely nascent and is wide open for innovation. Oblong’s experience over the last decade at the high end makes it a natural for bringing the collaboration capability to the masses. And, this is another step in the path towards Oblong CEO John Underkoffler’s vision of a new UI for always-on collaboration.

Rumpus is in public beta right now on the Mac. Download it for free at rumpus.co and invite your team to try it out alongside their favorite video conferencing system. If you are interested, the Oblong team will work with you to help you get set up and using Rumpus, as they are iterating rapidly on the beta. Drop me an email and I’ll connect you.

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Apr 29 2019

Book: How We Make Stuff Now

If you are an entrepreneur working on a physical product, Jules Pieri’s new book How We Make Stuff Now: Turn Ideas into Products That Build Successful Businesses is a must read.

Jules is the founder / CEO of The Grommet, a website that discovers a new and amazing product every single day. They’ve been doing this for around a decade (over 3,000 products). I’ve known Jules since around the time she started The Grommet and they’ve discovered and reviewed a handful of products that we’ve invested in over the years.

The book has two particularly compelling characteristics. Jules goes through 16 competencies for success for a hardware or consumer product business, each which are a chapter. These include chapters like Design and Documentation, Prototyping, Funding, Manufacturing, Packaging, Direct to Consumer, Logistics, and Inventory Management.

Then, each of these chapters is filled with case study examples from companies that have had products in The Grommet.

Jules’ context, experience, and practical advice combined with the case studies are powerful.

The book also starts off with a section (and five chapters) on starting your business, so it is extra helpful to the aspiring entrepreneur.

Jules (and team) – congrats on all the progress over the years with The Grommet. And Jules, thank you for this book – it’ll be very helpful for a number of entrepreneurs I know.

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Apr 23 2019

Defy Colorado Graduation and Coaching Events

Defy Colorado is growing nicely after some overall challenges with the national organization in 2018. Defy Colorado is now a separate 501c(3) and my partner Jason Mendelson and his wife Jenn Mendelson have been playing a huge leadership role with the Defy Colorado team.

Defy is in the business of building restorative communities and that community begins with us. On Wednesday, April 24th at noon at the Dairy Center they are celebrating the graduation of two special EITs who were released before they had the chance to officially graduate from the CEO of Your New Life Program. The afternoon will feature a primer on Defy Colorado and its work in Colorado prisons, a panel discussing transformative change, and the opportunity to hear energizing pitches from our graduates. Don’t miss it – register now.

Defy Colorado also has a business coaching session coming up on May 16th at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Ordway, Colorado. There will be up to 40 volunteers and 40 Entrepreneurs-in-Training at the event for the day. If you are interested in joining, reach out by email to Stacey Putka.

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Apr 23 2019

Physical Space in Boulder for the Media Archaeology Lab

Amy and I are big supporters of the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL). I love the idea of a computer museum and believe Boulder deserves to have a large one.

We’ve donated our computer collection to it, which includes my original Apple ][, my first portable computer (a Compaq luggable), an Apple III, an Apple Lisa, my original Mac 128K, a MITS Altair 8800b, a NeXTstation, and a bunch of other random stuff. Recently, my dad pitched in and contributed his entire cell phone and PDA collection, which included every cell phone he ever had.

MAL is located on the edge of the CU Boulder campus in a small building that they have outgrown. They have new space coming online in 2022, but until then they are looking for some additional space for both display and assembly purposes.

The display space needs to be near downtown Boulder or walking distance to the CU Boulder campus. This will be an extension of the existing public MAL space and, in the best case scenario, could actually be publicly accessible space. Worst case, it would be reservation-only space. Ideally, this would be anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 square feet.

The assembly space can be further from downtown and can be warehouse style space. MAL currently has over 50% of its existing space consumed with physical equipment that needs to be cleaned, staged, and assembled. One of the magical things about MAL is that all the computers on display are fully functioning, which means there are a lot of mice, keyboards, and disk drives as backup parts for when things inevitably go bad.

While MAL doesn’t have any money to pay for the space, I expect we can arrange things so that the space is a charitable donation.

If you have some extra space, ideas for space, or old computer stuff you’d like to donate, drop me an email.

And, if you want to contribute financially to support MAL, we’ve set up the Anchor Point Fund for MAL (Media Archaeology Lab) at CU Boulder.

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Apr 19 2019

Q219 Vacation Reading List

Amy and I took our Q219 Vacation in Kyoto and then finished up with a few days of work in Tokyo. I had a terrible cold so I spent a lot of time in bed sleeping and reading. We wandered around some in Kyoto and saw cherry blossoms, but the food was mostly lost on me given how crummy I felt.

I did, however, get a lot of reading done. So, as a return from vacation bonus, you get my reading list with some short comments.

It’s worth noting that I’m a “nice reviewer.” If I don’t like a book I don’t finish and, don’t list it on my Goodreads page, and never recommend it. So, my stars on Amazon / Goodreads always bias high and I try, in my reviews, just to give a feel for why the book might be interesting to someone.

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life: This was a quick read that helped get me in a frame of reference for the trip. It didn’t survive my cold or jet lag as the thoughts got buried, but I think they were rumbling near the surface again the past few days.

No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work (and How They Help Us Succeed): If you are a millennial, are frustrated with how you feel at work, or want to try a reset on your emotional engagement with your job, this is a great book. It is part of the Next Big Idea Club that I’m a member of (thanks Andy for the membership) so it was obligatory reading for me versus something I’d naturally choose, but I’m happy I read it.

Overclocked: More Stories of the Future Present: Lots of short/medium stories that Cory Doctorow has written in the past decade or so about the near future. Some were great while some were a little long and tedious and became skimmers. I love Doctorow’s writing (and mind), so even the tedious ones are worthwhile getting a feel for since they provoke a bunch of ideas.

26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career: I loved, loved, loved this book. Meb Keflezighi is one of my running heroes and he does an awesome job with this book. He uses his 26 marathons, in order, to tell his running autobiography, but more importantly explore lessons he’s learned on many dimensions from the challenges he faced before, during, and after each race. If you are a runner, this is a must-read.

Biohack: I liked J.D. Lasica’s second book in this series (Catch and Kill) so I figured I should go read the first one. It was a fun, fast read.

The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are In a Video Game: I’ve been friends with Riz Virk since the mid-1990s when we were involved in a few early Internet companies. We haven’t had a lot of contact over the years, but I’ve enjoyed reading his writing and when he told me about this book, I gobbled it down. I’m going to write a longer post about it in conjunction with another book I read, but if you are intrigued (like I am) by the simulation hypothesis (e.g. our current existence is merely a computer simulation), grab it.

Becoming a Venture Capitalist (Masters at Work): Gary Rivlin did a nice job of a survey level book around the styles and approaches of contemporary VCs. It’s an extremely bay area / Silicon Valley-centric view but is a great introduction to anyone new to the industry or who wants a contemporary view of some of the higher profile and more successful Silicon Valley investors. He has a nice, and completely unexpected reference to the book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist at the end of the book, which made me smile.

Permutation City: This is the fiction version of The Simulation Hypothesis. I have a longer blog post coming on this one also, but it’s a massive winner and a delight to read. Great setup that is complicated, but comes together well followed by a gigantic pace of mind-blowing awesomeness.

Solitary: Mind-blowing, but in the opposite of awesomeness category at one level, and incredible at another level. Albert Woodfox is one of the Angola 3 – this is his autobiography of being in solitary confinement for over 40 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s a magnificent writer who captures the depths of what he confronted while staying true to how he faced it. This book is the heaviest I’ve read in a while, and, against the backdrop of life as a computer simulation, was hard at times to handle. It’s another must-read, but you need to settle in and give yourself space to process it while you are reading it.

Happy reading.

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Apr 18 2019

Reflections on Board Members By Some Great Ones

I spent the past few days in Tokyo at the Kauffman Fellows Annual Summit. Over the past five years, there has been a large increase globally in the number of venture capitalists and people interested in becoming VCs. As a result, an organization like Kauffman Fellows is more important than ever as it helps build an incredible community of the next generation of VCs to learn from each other.

In the mid-1990s, I learned how to be a board member by sitting on a lot of boards, learning from other experienced board members, and making a lot of mistakes. I still make a lot of mistakes (that’s that nature of venture capital, and of life in general), but I like to believe that I’m a much more effective board member than I was 25 years ago. That said, I still have my bad days and walk out of a board meeting feeling unsettled for one reason or another.

Recently, Mark Suster, Fred Wilson, and Seth Levine each wrote excellent posts on how to be a good board member. Each post is worth reading from beginning to end carefully.

Mark Suster: How to Be a Good Board Member

Fred Wilson: How To Be A Good Board Member

Seth Levine wrote a five post series: Designing the Ideal Board Meeting

I especially love Fred’s punch line, which I strongly agree with.

Which leads me to my rule for being a good board member.

It comes down to one word.

Care.

If you care, really care, deeply care, like the way a parent cares for a child, you will be a good board member.”

If you are a board member (or interact with a board as part of a leadership team) and want to go even deeper on this, I encourage you to grab a copy of my book Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors

And, if you are having a board meeting that I’m a part of, take a look at my post from 2014 if you want hints about My Ideal Board Meeting.

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Apr 16 2019

That Day When Your VC Tells You She Is Leaving Her Firm

There are some blog posts that every entrepreneur should read.

Hunter Walk at Homebrew recently wrote one of them.

It’s titled Oh Shit, Your VC Just Quit Her Fund! What a Good CEO Should Do Next.

He covers three cases:

  • Bullish aka You Are Absolutely Killing It
  • Written You Off
  • Too Early To Tell – Some Good Stuff, Some Challenges But A Lot To Do

The real gold in this post is in the Too Early To Tell category. Hunter has a great lead in:

Here’s where I think founders and cap tables should be more proactive. The default is to let the firm assign another person at the fund (hopefully a GP) and then just keep working on the plan of record as if nothing changed. My experience suggests this will be neutral to negative long term, unless you end up in the “killing it” camp by next fundraise.”

Hunter’s notion that founders and the CEO should be proactive here is right on the money.

At Foundry, we periodically load balance our boards. This is a different phenomenon than the one Hunter is talking about, although we’ve learned to be clearer about what we are doing when we are doing it. I recall a personal low point when a founder/CEO who is a close friend asked to go for a walk and started the conversation with “You could have told me that you were leaving my board in a more graceful way than a one paragraph email.” Very true.

The lesson once again is things change, communicate clearly, and be proactive.

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Apr 12 2019

Formlabs Form 3, 3L, and Digital Factory

Formlabs Digital Factory is happening on May 7th, 2019. If you are into 3D printers, this is shaping up to be a key event of 2019. The speaker list is epic and one you don’t want to miss.

Yeah – there’s more …

Formlabs also recently released two new printers – the Form 3 and the Form 3L. The Form 3 is impressive on its own, but the Form 3L is five times the build platform and double the laser power.

Formlabs Digital Factory is for anyone interested in 3D printing. And, if you are already a Formlabs customer, the Formlabs User Summit is the next day, on May 8th, 2019.

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Apr 4 2019

Entrepreneurship For All in Longmont, Colorado

Amy and I recently decided to support Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) and their national expansion to Colorado through our Anchor Point Foundation.

EforAll’s mission is to accelerate economic development and social impact through inclusive entrepreneurship in emerging communities. They are focused on fostering small business development and entrepreneurial activity amongst under-networked and under-resourced populations in communities that have been traditionally overlooked for economic investment.

The decision to support EforAll was easy for us as they focus on two distinct issues that we care about: building entrepreneurial ecosystems and supporting underserved entrepreneurs. Their metrics speak for themselves as their entrepreneurs have been: 57% unemployed or underemployed (when they started the program); 70% female;  41% immigrant; and/or 55% minority.

They also locate their programs outside, but near, communities that are traditional hubs for entrepreneurship. In Massachusetts (where they are based), they run programs in cities like Lawrence, MA, and Lowell, MA – both recovering factory/mill towns that lost their economic driver years ago when most of the factories closed down. In these two cities, EforAll has launched more than 130 small businesses and startups which have created almost 400 jobs in the community. 

While there’s been tremendous growth in Colorado, it has been uneven across the state. We believe the importance of investing in the types of entrepreneurs and communities that EforAll works with is crucial, especially as the wealth inequality gap in our country continues to grow.

I’m particularly excited that EforAll has decided to launch their first Colorado site in Longmont. I’d like to invite you to come to an event on April 17th from 8:00am-9:30am with the Longmont Community Foundation to learn more about EforAll. It’s being held at the Xilinx Retreat Center (behind Xilinx Main Building).

If you are interested in getting involved or supporting the effort, email Harris Rollinger who is the Executive Director of EforAll Colorado.

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Apr 3 2019

Feminist Lab Symposium at CU Boulder #feministlabs

On April 17th and 18th, the “What Is a Feminist Lab?” Symposium will take place at the University of Colorado Boulder.

It is co-organized by Maya Livio, Lori Emerson, and Thea Lindquist. The event will examine the recent proliferation of labs, survey the lab landscape, and explore ways in which intersectional feminist approaches can be integrated into labs and the work they do.

While I won’t be in town, the speaker list looks awesome. If this is a topic you are interested in, send the organizers an email to get involved.

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