I’m not at SXSW this year. I sort of miss it, but not really. Last year I cancelled at the last minute (the day before – I was already in San Antonio at TechStars Cloud) to come back to Boulder after Amy fell and broke her wrist. This year I just didn’t feel like I had enough extrovert reserves in my tank to deal with it. I stayed home and am hanging out at my house in Eldorado Canyon enjoying what looks like at least 12 inches of snow in the last 12 hours. And yes, I’m heading out later for a very quiet and transcendent run.
I got an email this morning from Ethan Duggan who is at SXSW in the #VegasTech booth with his dad Rick. I met Ethan when I was in Las Vegas in January for CES – he came up to me at the VegasTech event I did and showed me the beta of LazyHusband. It’s a cool app, but what’s even more awesome is that Ethan is 12. I met his dad Rick the previous year at CES at a breakfast we had talking about the Las Vegas tech community and how they could use some of the principals I was working on at the time around building Startup Communities that have since shown up in Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.
I loved Ethan’s demo energy. He literally forced me to go through all the options while a crowd of people were waiting patiently, and respectfully, to talk to me. I think they were just as amazed as I was that a 12 year old was so enthusiastic about he app he’d created. And, out of the corner of my eye, I saw his proud dad smiling and thought of my dad. I started programming at the age of 12 (my first language was APL on an IBM mainframe in the basement of a Frito-Lay datacenter) and my dad – and my uncle Charlie (who was the VP MIS at Frito-Lay at the time) supported my enthusiasm for computers.
Ethan – I’m psyched for you. I just downloaded LazyHusband. Enjoy SXSW. And for all you out there at SXSW, go check out #VegasTech and see what Ethan is up to. If you are a husband (or a boyfriend) it’ll help you out!
This morning I was taking a break between meetings in San Antonio at TechStars Cloud to check my email when I saw a note from my wife Amy with the header “I just broke my wrist.” The email said “Fell on stairs. At urgent care. Got x ray. Have “dinner fork” type fracture. Pam and Ryan will get me home. Not hurting too bad. Right wrist so also lucky.”
I called Amy immediately and got her voice mail. There isn’t anything more disorienting to me than hearing that my beloved is in distress and not being able to jump into action to help her. I sent her a note that said “I just tried to call. Call when you have a chance” and then tried to get my mind back into my next meeting. She called about 30 minutes later and we had a short tearful conversation but then she went into some room at urgent care where she couldn’t talk on the phone. I didn’t hear back for two hours, but in that period of time decided that I was heading home first thing tomorrow morning to be with her.
My awesome magical assistant Kelly dealt with the 20-ish SXSW meetings and panels I had set for Thursday through Sunday. The notes back from people were very supportive of me choosing to go home to Amy, even though I’m sure I’ve inconvenienced or disappointed a few of them. By the time Amy and I finally connected, she was doing ok but glad I was going home. By about 1pm I settled down and wasn’t thinking about her every two minutes and feeling helpless as I went through my meetings.
I had a super day at TechStars Cloud. The gang down here is doing great stuff, there are some really neat companies that are developing nicely (and quickly), and the vibe is dynamite. While part of me was excited about SXSW, the introvert in me was dreading it. This was the first leg of the trip and I was gaining energy from the focused interaction with the TechStars Cloud folks which I hoped would sustain me through four days of SXSW extrovertness.
Life got in the way. Being with Amy is infinitely more important to me than four days of nerd craziness. As I sit here in my hotel room wound up and unable to sleep I long for a teleportation machine that would get me home in 30 seconds. I’ll be home in 12 hours, but that feels like a long time. I know Amy is fine, but the magnetic pull of what matters to me overwhelms my patience right now.
Yesterday at TechStars for a Day in Boulder, I gave a short talk about obsession. As part of it, I focused on the importance of taking a long term view and being obsessive about what you do in a way that you can sustain over a lifetime. I made the comment that unexpected things will happen continually throughout life and you have to be flexible enough to react to them, especially when they are difficult, painful, or tragic in a non-work dimension. I had to live with those words today and it was easy. So while I’ll miss a bunch of friends at SXSW, I’ll be spending those four days with the person who matters the most to me on this planet. And that feels good.
I’ve thrown my hat into the SXSW Panel Picker this year – please click here to upvote my panel titled An Inside Look at BigDoor’s Venture Funding.
I’ve never presented at a SXSW panel because I usually like to stay flexible and check out whatever’s interesting, but we came up with an idea that got me excited enough to commit. An Inside Look at BigDoor’s Venture Funding is going to be me, Keith Smith (BigDoor CEO), and Andy Sack (Lighter Capital, Founder’s Co-op, and the TechStars Seattle Managing Director). Both are good friends of mine and have really interesting philosophies about startup funding.
I think Keith was once quoted as saying “I’d rather give up my left nut than give up equity in my company” and having gotten to know him over the past couple years, I don’t think that’s far from the truth. Keith has over a decade of experience running startup companies and is extremely passionate about BigDoor, which made him aggressive in any discussions involving giving up a stake to both Founder’s Co-op and Foundry Group.
Andy’s a serial entrepreneur who has spent the past few years working on ways to make the funding process better for entrepreneurs. He led the first round of funding for BigDoor through Founder’s Co-op, but used a creative structure, partly because Keith is such a stickler on valuation. Andy and Keith will discuss this more on the panel, but they used a RevenueLoan approach to bridge the gap on price.
The RevenueLoan structure is something new Andy’s been working on at Lighter Capital, where instead of making an equity investment, they get a set percent of the company’s revenues over time. It’s a cool idea that worked out well for Andy and Keith, since it got Keith the funding he needed on terms that Andy was comfortable with.
As a side note, Lighter Capital is the leader in a new funding approach called revenue based finance which is an interesting alternative for entrepreneurs to fund growth in their small business. I may write about this more in the future, but in the meantime Lighter Capital is funding an “explosive” company in August (you’ve got two days left to apply), a fun idea to keep small business funding interesting and worth checking out if you need 100K to 500K right now.
During the panel, I plan to bring Keith and Andy water to support them, as is my typical role. I actually didn’t like Keith’s business when I first came across it but as we got to know each other he did an awesome job keeping me in the loop, listening to my feedback, and iterating, so after about six months, I came around especially to Keith but also to BigDoor’s business. I’ll be giving my thoughts on how Keith convinced me to invest by just running his company and interacting with me over an extended period of time rather than by pitching me.
If you are into this, upvote our panel. Either way, I’ll see you at SXSW.
I’m going to be at SXSW from 3/17 to 3/19. At 1pm on 3/17 at Mezzanine 1 at the Austin Convention Center I’ll be giving a talk titled What’s Next For Venture Capital Investing and Entrepreneurship in the US. It’s being hosted by CanadaConnects, a partnership of the Canadian Interactive Alliance, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Consulate General of Canada. If you are interested in attending, drop Michael Mendoza an email.
I don’t have a deep agenda at SXSW – I’m just going to wander in, take in the sites, check out some things I’m interested in, and have a few great meals. So – if you are there and want to connect, just send me a note on twitter between 3/17 and 3/19 and I’ll try to meet up with you somewhere.