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Showing posts from May, 2013


A friend of mine let me know that one of the VC firms they've been meeting with decided to pass yesterday. That's always tough to hear; along with the pass comes the self doubt, the temporary buzz in the brain that says "you're not good enough", "they don't get it", and "how am I going to explain this". You place your hopes with someone, and they let you down--that's what it feels like. The potential date that says no, no thank you. You get that sinking feeling. But the problem is you've allowed your hopes to become expectations, and have attached that to a single person, firm, date, or kickball teammate. Rejection sucks. But it sucks worse when you drink your own Kool Aid and expect that to be enough. The letdown is big. Now what? Raising capital is a sales process. Treat it that way.  You want true believers as investors. If they passed, they weren't true believers (yet) and you didn't want them anyway.  Y

Starters & Finishers

Fred posted on Finishing today. I've allowed this line to stalk me for years: "You never finish anything." Spoken by the VP of Engineering at ChiliSoft. Bastard. He was wrong, but right.  Right in that I don't finish some things. Wrong in that I finish things in my own way. Maybe it was the way I communicated things we were going to try and they were interpreted as "complete this at all costs". Maybe not. Some of us are starters--that's the highest value application of our time. The best thing to do is get it rolling and then bring in specialist to do it better. That's finishing, too; our job is to get things rolling. And keep getting new things rolling. But when I look around the apartment, or at my github account, Russ's damn words pop up in my head, along with that sneer, which he earned because he was a finisher. Screw that, I'm a starter. Here's to the Starters. (love the half-ass lip sync)

Vision Vs. The Little Things

Vision is great and important. As I said yesterday, I've got piles of papers with ideas, plans, and vision of all sorts. Vision is one of those words that's typically taken as positive, or without qualification. Some vision is great, some is lousy, some is unrealistic (hopefully!), and some is downright wrong. Vision's what gets me up in the morning. And when I'm not working toward a vision, I have trouble getting up in the morning. It's why I pass on a lot of opportunities that might be blockbuster companies, or intellectually stimulating, but lack a vision that I can embrace. For me, that vision has to at least contribute to the greater good. So you've got your vision. Now put it up there on the window sill, or hang it from the ceiling and shine a light on it, and roll up your sleeves. It's the little things, stupid. When you're an ADD entrepreneur, organization is, well, we organize differently from, say, more organized people. But we have

On Big Exits

Tumblr's exit is amazing and likely worth it for both parties. Tumblr has something like 300 million users. Yahoo's at 700 million. Now I don't know what constitutes a user, but let's assume "active users" are readers of tumblogs, and that it's likely something well shy of 300 million. No matter. But this isn't about Tumblr. It's about startup aspirations. Congratulations, though, to Karp, Tumblr, and the backers. Great stuff. How much is enough? Can you build a model that leads you to a billion dollar exit? Is that what motivates you every day? It's not a bad exercise. Assume you're a fast-growing startup and you have $50 million in break-even revenue. Can you sell for 20 times revenue? It depends on the buyer. But let's walk that  back to $50 million. It's easy to throw out numbers like that. The back-of-napkin calculation is pretty simple; let's say you're a consumer-facing site with decent daily engagement.

The Free Economy

Last year I started Lancaster Community Gardens with the help of volunteers and the cooperation of the school district. It's been a fun learning experience. And it's turned me into a habitual Craigslist user. Every day I keep CraigsList open, mostly scanning for free or cheap stuff. Need stones for your garden? I didn't know I needed them until I found them free. Brick? Free--yeah I'll take that. Garden tools? Haven't come across those yet. They probably get sold early in the season at garage sales. Lately I've been looking for a clean water tank--something that hasn't housed chemicals. Organic gardeners don't tolerate chemicals, even in scrubbed tanks. So it's more likely we'll buy something new. But a lawn mower for $50? Yeah, we'll take that. A pile of wood? Ok maybe later this summer. Raspberry bushes for $1 a piece, right out of the woman's garden? Sure. We'll take 5 and plant today. But I'm not the only one loo

Cure for Grumpiness

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the community gardens, installing chicken wire along a stretch of fence, then weeding the garlic plot we planted last November. I was joined by two plot-holders and their kids, who were exactly the right amount of helpful and complaining about doing garden work, especially on a Saturday. Great kids. And that was enough to move me from grouchy to grateful. I'm going to schedule daily garden trips for the next few weeks--lots to do, and it turns out it's the cure for the common grump.

Wisdom of the Crowd

Yesterday's post evolved into an exploration of what it means to help people vs serving as a gatekeeper. I'm concluding I'm not a gatekeeper, but just a node on a network, mostly of helpers, and that it's only helpful to everyone involved if we use our judgment with advice, introductions, and encouragement. The wisdom in the comments was particularly helpful. From JLM: " I will help any son of a bitch who can find me, contact me and form an articulate sentence --- why the Hell not?" From Jim about filters: " Doesn't always work." Arnold: " at the core through all this human layers and baggage true friendships does indeed happen" And Mike: " one of the mysterious forces here that you're leaving out of major discussion are the social repercussions that occur" I'm still thinking about this. The impression I gave in the original post is that I don't want to help--that's not at all the case. I'm happy

Networks, and Gatekeepers

I don't like gatekeepers. I don't like private clubs. And I don't like being a gatekeeper. I don't belong to clubs. Through luck, hard work, contributions to networks and communities, and the kindness and openness some people along the way, I've developed a network that includes some really special people, some of whom have significant position and power in their respective fields. Most of them are very open people, which is the only reason I'm part of their networks. They're also very busy, and I respect their time. Thousands of people try to reach them, try to connect with them, want something from them. When you're building a startup, you need things. You think certain people can get it for you. In some cases you're right. But (and I hate this there another?) when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And startup need is a hammer that you apply to everything and everyone you meet. You need stuff. You ask ever

Second Anniversary of Startup Lancaster

Two years ago I started Startup Lancaster with the help of Dave Weaver, Ross Kramer, and Kirk Barrett; they are local tech startup founders with varying degrees of success. The next meeting is next Monday--join us at We deliberately limited the attendees to founders of tech product startups , so service providers were not allowed into the group, nor were vendors or employees. That limited the range of topics and challenges to what founders face, while excluding other smart, motivated people, but there are other forums for that like Central Penn New Tech Meetup. That focus has served the group well. We'll likely start another group that is more open and encourages a broader range of subjects. For now, founders talk to other founders, mentor each other, learn from each other, and occasionally join each other in new ventures. The first meeting had something like 17 people. Subsequent meetings ranged from as low as 5 founders to as man

Hitting Send

I just replied to someone in a thread, where earlier in the thread I had forwarded  part of the conversation to someone else, and so that forward was included in the new reply. Ugh. That sinking feeling. So I read back through the entire thread, and there wasn't anything in there that would be embarrassing, confusing, or upsetting, but that sinking feeling is still there. Cringe-worthy morning already :)

Disqus Digests

This morning my phone dinged with a fresh notification--a new email! What oh what could it be?  I rush over to check while thinking "I need to unsubscribe to a lot of stuff so I get fewer non-urgent dinging notifications." Well shoot, that's disappointing. It's Disqus Digests, one of the biggest wastes of dopamine anticipation ever.  It simply sucks.  Disqus itself is great as a commenting system. I've been there since the beginning and have mostly enjoyed its evolution.  And then they did this interruptive, irrelevant email. Well why does it suck, you say.  Every one of these "Digests" sends a few comments from a blog conversation in which I've already participated. That means it's very, very likely that I've seen the comments before.  So I open the mail, see something I've already read, and curse Daniel and Company for enticing me into wasting my time, and cursing myself for falling for it.  So I unsub