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Showing posts from September, 2012

There's a Cost to Free Speech

I'm a regular at for a number of reasons. Three of them were on display today with Fred's post about free speech : The post itself is highly relevant and compelling Fred has a policy of allowing any comment to stand, even when it's hateful stuff toward him, which is in great contrast to some bloggers like Dave Winer, who once censored me because he didn't like the use of the word "bullshit".  The conversation is pretty intense today with people from around the world weighing in on everything from free speech to the US history of supporting dictators and overthrowing democracies (Chile, for instance).  But free speech can be costly to those who exercise it. Which led to my comments, which I'll share here, with a few minoir edits. Some free speech comes with a cost. I've been personally effected by expressing my beliefs--opportunities denied and doors closed, reprisals delivered subtly and not so subtly; and in several cases, been

5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Raising Capital

Paul Graham posted a long perspective about "going big", raising capital, growth etc. It's worth reading, even though he was off base about what constitutes a startup: A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup.  That's pretty much BS; it's the definition of a startup in the Graham Bubble. In the real world, a startup is in fact something newly founded with the intention of getting to sustainability. How you want to define sustainability and the process of getting there is up to you, but pay no attention to pronouncements like Graham's. He's a very smart guy with a lot of great things to say, which is partly why it's disappointing to hear this sort of thing from him. Marc Suster had a good post in response  that is, again, worth reading in its entirety. But I believe that without presenting the other case to my definition of startup entrepreneurs who want a different path and

Build Your Own Economy

That was the tagline for the CRM we developed but never got off the ground (ironically). And that's the message from Brad Feld, entrepreneur and parter at The Foundry Group, and one of the Tech Stars early mentors/backers. Fred blogged about Brad's new book today. I started reading it yesterday, and so far it's spot on and very helpful. If you're wondering how to make something happen outside the Valley or other US tech centers, you must absolutely get this book. It's available on Kindle today, and through atoms next week. Check it out over at

Sell What You Have Today

From my first tech business through the last one, I cared about serving customers. Some people call that sales, but to me it was matching the customer's needs with something affordable that would serve them well.  There were nights when I didn't get home until 11, because I was at a PC customer's house trying to fix a computer I sold them that was running on the highly unreliable Windows 3.1, on top of hardware that might have been unreliable.  I cared about the outcome. The money mattered, but my customers deserved stuff that just worked, and I was selling stuff that at the time didn't just work.  With ChiliSoft, I was dying to get the first sale. Saloman Brothers bought Chili!Reports when it was still in beta. It was so satisfying--a large company wanted our stuff, we had made the right call, we were getting paid for it, and the customer was forgiving enough to pay during beta.  And that wasn't even the product that would change everything.  With

Networks & Communities

I weighed in with this over at AVC today... ________________________________________ "community" and "network" are not quite interchangeable, but the strongest networks are also communities. If your service doesn't provide more value to a user than she contributes, it will not become a network. I give a dollar and get 3 back, I'm going to come back the next day. Add your music library to Napster, get access to thousands of others. Comment on AVC, and get value from interaction with other commenters, from comments themselves, and relationships. Join Facebook and connect with friends, get access to their endless stream of manufactured memes :) (oh and they joy of sharing their life experiences, photos, randomVille). And if your service doesn't allow me to share content and opinions with other users, it will not become a community. The strongest networks are also communities.

What's Buggin' Me on a Blue-Sky Day

It's a beautiful blue-sky day here in Lancaster, and I have plans to shop at market then head to the gardens to get in a late fall planting. But I ran into some bugs over the past two days after upgrading every component in my node stack. Of course. The one thing about open source is that while the source might be open, you really have to pay attention to the discussions and updates--at least in the case of Express.js--to track changes. The primary author is incredibly smart, but he's also highly opinionated about what makes good programming and good programming languages. It seems as though he's constantly trying to optimize, which is great. But after looking at the migration docs for Express 2.x to 3.x, I'm pretty certain he's not optimizing for the developers who have built dependencies on the earlier versions. In particular, it appears as though he's ditching partials in favor of includes and mixins. And I'm not going to get into that, but I can

When You're Sick

Ugh. What I really hate is that I can't seem to concentrate enough to get anything done. It's blue-sky beautiful out, and I dont' really want to move. I have a pile of bills to pay, but no energy to look at them. A 2-hour coding project but I'm just not able to think. So, I guess I have to sit with it. Watch some HBO reruns. Drink water. Feed a fever? Something like that. Thankfully there's a new Pho restaurant a block away. They deliver--kind of. Poor Bear. He needs a run and it's just not gonna happen.

Not a Post about 9/11

I remember the day very clearly; I lived on Great Jones at Bowery, a 2-block stretch of 3rd Street. Lost a friend, some neighbors, and maybe some sanity and health. And I'll reflect on it at some point this morning--likely on my walk. In the technology world we measure progress--daily, really. We're so often amazed at discoveries, and the process of discovery itself. And once there's a breakthrough technology (or set of technologies), like Nano-tech for instance, it's easy to re-imagine what we once thought was simply a dream, but unattainable because of a gap in the tools available to us. In the pat 11 years, we've witnessed a number of game-changing, enabling breakthroughs in technology and have entered a new era of innovation as a result. Storage of information is cheap and super fast. Processing power is cheap and super fast. Companies have embraced open APIs so other developers with different inspiration and vision can now build on top of the original inn

Crowded Out

Just a few weeks ago, Steve over at Mission Research informed me that they had recycled or trashed all of the remaining CircleDog boxes that were in storage over at our warehouse office. I was unmoved--I had gotten over that set of failures a few years ago. Ok I'm lying--you never get over the one where you drive everything at high speed into a brick wall, but that's another story for another time. CircleDog was a desktop-web hybrid CRM for small business. Meaning you installed it, but there were web services, so you got the performance of the desktop and utility of the web. The Hybrid Web is what we called it, and it's interesting to see how much that approach is still in use. But try marketing it through Google AdWords. At the time, any term around sales management software, CRM, contact management, etc, cost anywhere from $8/click to $25/click, thanks to and its competitors vying for enterprise customers. We weren't. We wanted to sell to the lit


I hate that title, but it's Saturday night and I'm feeling saucy. Suster posted a rant about convertible debt vs equity. Fred followed up. Everybody's weighing in.  McClure jumped in and dropped his pants, and the place went nuts and then it spilled over onto Twitter. I can't stop commenting about it, which makes me a very poor participant in the conversation (or a great one). I'm almost a troll at this point. My last comment was reflective, and I think it nails it. We're talking about several different worlds.  I don't know why I'm so obsessed with this topic but I am. Maybe it's because in some ways it's about fairness.  What I've realized after reading the comments and reflecting  on my own experience is that the one thing the post and many of the comments don't consider is CONTEXT.  If I'm a hot deal in NY or SOMA, maybe I can raise and close an angel round in a few weeks. That's perfect because my team

CEOs: Reap What You Sow

This morning  I walked the bear over at Lancaster Community Gardens. When I got there, two of the gardeners were there. One was mapping out a new teaching garden for students, and the other was clearing the western plot for tomorrow's United Way Day of Caring, where about two dozen volunteers will help prep the land for seed. The gardens are split into two plots--eastern and western. The eastern plots are rented annually by whomever agrees to the rules and lays on 20 bucks (organic methods, no chemicals, keep your clothes on, etc). 600 square feet on the north side are dedicated to community benefit. early plotting The western plots are part student gardens, community benefit plots, and one or two private plotholders. Ron, the bear and I walked around the community plots. He said he had harvested about 50 lbs of veggies and dropped them at the Lancaster Council of Churches. To date we've harvested over 200lbs, which isn't bad given the early July planting. fi

Startup School

I've been doing a lot of research this week because I'm working on starting up another company (I'll go into that some other time) somewhat related to Jawaya, and I needed a refresher. I've come across some really great stuff, which I'd like to share with anyone in the formation or seed capital stage. Sometimes formation and capitalization happens at about the same time. Term Sheets For term sheets and an explanation of deal terms, there's nothing quite as comprehensive as Brad Feld's Term Sheet series he did with his partner Jason. Marc Suster ranted today at Techcrunch about convertible notes vs straight equity in the seed round. It's definitely worth the read, though I don't buy all of it. Make sure you check out the links he shares from other voices on the issues. Startup Issues Feld's blog is also great for a lot of startup issues, but he blogs about other things to

Repost: Your Are Not Alone

This morning I wrote a post about blogging and decided to can it because, well, it wasn't useful to anyone. Sometimes you just gotta let it go and call it a day :) Here's a  post  from January you might appreciate. I've been thinking about community a lot recently (well, over the past year), and about the startup community and ecosystem we're developing here in Lancaster. I think my ideal situation would be to launch a new company here while running an accelerator--as though either of those weren't beyond full-time jobs. It's been great getting to know so many passionate startups here, and I know there's the capital and room for a regional venture fund. But I digress...


Doors opened. Conversations happened. Approving nods all around. Emails flew about.   Lunches, then dinner some nights. People showed up and stayed. You soaked it all in, counted your cards, dreamt of what could be next.  It was a grand time.  After the break, silence. Doors closed. Conversations stopped. No meetings, no nods. Emails dried up. Bag lunch, leftovers. Nobody showed up. You soaked it all in, no cards to count, wondering if this is how it all falls apart.  Momentum is fleeting. Don't take it for granted. Those balls you were juggling are now hanging in the air all by themselves, stuck in the magic of the moment. The magic leaves, the balls fall down. And you pick 'em back up again and try to remember how you made it happen.  When you know there's momentum, seize it. Carpe diem. Hoo-rah. Hop on the desk. Make your stand. Round everyone up and ask them to join you. Sign 'em up. Take pictures. Slap backs. Share apples. Or cookies. High fives all