Solve Your Gmail Contacts Problem

I live in Gmail. Gmail Contacts has been lame for a long time. Within an email, it’s even lamer on the right side bar, especially since it could be so amazingly useful.

FullContact has just released their FullContact for Gmail product. It’s a free download in the Chrome Store. I’ve been using it for about six months since and it’s just awesome.

I’ve been obsessed about the contact management problem for many years. In 2012 when we invested in FullContact, I wrote a post titled One Address Book To Rule Them All. FullContact has made great progress in the past two years on this problem while building a substantial enterprise API business. At the same time, we’ve been working extremely hard on a wide range of consumer products which are all just now rolling out into production (many have been in beta for the past year.)

I use all of them. FullContact for Gmail. FullContact for iOS. FullContact for MacOS. FullContact Web. All integrate with each Address Books on all my devices and computers. Everything syncs bidirectionally. Everything integrates with my contacts in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, AngelList, and Foursquare. FullContact deduplicates everything so I only have one integrated contact record for each person. It enriches each contact record automatically with new public data that is finding on a continual basis.

This is a really hard problem. We invested in a company called Gist in 2009 – it was acquired early in its life by RIM in a deal that was financially successful for everyone involved, but before Gist rolled out in a big way. At the time, Gist was competing with several other companies, including Rapportive, all which were ultimately acquired and then more or less abandoned.

While we hoped to blanked the world with FullContact in 2014, we knew that waiting until we got the underlying massively large data infrastructure right, at scale, in a way that wouldn’t fuck up any contacts, was price of admission for going big on the consumer side. So we focused on building out our enterprise API business which started the year at a substantial level and tripled in 2014. At the same time, we acquired a company called CoBook and went extremely heads down on getting to a place where we thought we were ready to fix everyone’s address books on Planet Earth.

We are there. FullContact for Gmail is the first product to be released. If you are a Gmail user, quit fooling around, download it, and make your life a lot better right now. And get ready for several more releases in the next few months.

The FullContact team works as hard as any team I know. I’m proud of you guys and glad to be on this ride with you to finally solve a problem that has vexed me my entire adult life.

Two New Techstars Programs – Mobility/Detroit and Techstars++/Mayo Clinic

I’m fascinated with Detroit. When I was there in October 2012 with my partners Ryan and Jason to run the Detroit Marathon we talked about the idea of getting more involved there in some way. Jason grew up in Detroit and has lots of stories there. He goes back regularly to visit his parents and Ann Arbor where he went to school.

Since we were there, I’ve read a few books on Detroit and many articles that popped up about it’s downfall along with some of the entrepreneurial activities trying to revive the city. My partners and I believe that Detroit hit rock bottom around 2012 and in a decade has the potential to be an amazing city once again.

So, Jason and I started talking more about things we could do to positively impact the Detroit startup community and looped the Techstars gang into the conversation.

David Cohen, David Brown, and the team at Techstars grabbed it and ran with it. Last week Techstars announced the new Techstars Mobility program, Driven by Detroit. The local Detroit startup community engaged very powerfully in the idea. From the post about it:

“Throughout the development of the Techstars Mobility program, Techstars worked with Detroit based venture capital firms Fontinalis Partners, Detroit Venture Partners and Renaissance Venture Capital to recruit mentors and ensure capital was ready to deploy in the region. Many other venture firms have also contacted Techstars communicating their interest in bringing capital to Detroit.

Techstars will be bringing their proven accelerator model and extensive network of mentors, founders and corporations to Detroit to support this program. Techstars will also coordinate efforts across the Detroit entrepreneurial ecosystem as a member of the Detroit Technology Exchange (DTX), ensuring that Techstars can have a positive impact across the entire community. Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will run for three years with a new class of 10 startups each year.

Several years ago I met Ted Serbinski. Three years ago he moved from San Francisco to Detroit to help rebuild the city. In his words:

“Ten years from now, San Francisco will be just as good as it is today. But in ten years, Detroit will be a roaring city once again, defining a new technology hub at the intersection of muscle and brains. Where do you want to be in ten years? Status quo? Or one of the heroes that rebuilt a city?”

I think Ted is awesome and it’s super exciting to have him join Techstars as the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility. He’s written a great story about how it came together and why it is so powerful at Joining Techstars in Detroit.

My partners and I at Foundry Group – especially Jason – will be playing a role in this new program. Also, expect something really fun from us in the next six months. Hint – it’s something we’ve done before that I’m not sure any other VC firm has ever done – at least not that I’m aware of.

And – if you missed it, Techstars also launched a new program with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota called Techstars++ with the Mayo Clinic. Look for a bunch of new Techstars++ programs coming, along with lots of interesting new startup communities in our future.

Jerry Colonna and Rand Fishkin Discuss Depression and Entrepreneurship

Jerry Colonna spent a few hours with me and Amy on Saturday at our house. Jerry is one of our closest friends on this planet so any time we get time with him is a treasure for us. It was a cold-ish, snowy, gloomy Colorado early winter day. Amy and I were pretty off-balance due to my blood clot so it was especially nice to be with him as he always helps rebalance us.

We talked some about his new company Reboot. I’m a huge supporter of Jerry’s work – recommending many of the CEOs we work with to him, or his associates, for coaching. I attended a recent CEO Bootcamp as a special guest and it was amazing – I recommend it to every CEO.

Jerry mentioned that the recent Reboot podcasts were doing great and really fun. I noticed this morning that the podcast he did with Rand Fishkin, another close friend, titled #7 Depression and Entrepreneurship – With Jerry Colonna and Rand Fishkin, came out today. So I read the transcript (I can read a lot faster than I can list) and thought it was dynamite.

As usual, Jerry goes deep and intimate – very quickly. So does Rand – total, extreme, full transparency. Enjoy!

The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

I’ve had a powerful exchange via email with Mario Cantin over the past few days. He pointed me to a post he recently wrote titled Empathy is feeling *with* others and an amazing three minute RSA Short video on The Power of Empathy by Dr Brené Brown. It’s stunning crisp and enlightening.

Amy and I are huge believers in empathy. In our book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur we come back to this idea over and over again as one of the biggest challenges in communication between people.

Thanks Mario for sharing this with me.

An Example of Life Being Messy – My ER Visit Last Night

Yesterday I wrote a post titled Life Is Messy For Everyone building off of Nick Grossman’s great post Everyone is broken and life is hard.

I was in a nice rhythm after being back four days from my month long sabbatical. I felt completely relaxed, I had an awesome day long offsite with my partners, I was generally caught up with things and was loving being home. I’d scheduled a Monday trip to San Francisco to do something important with one of our portfolio companies and overall felt like I was ready to roll through the rest of the year, including committing to ramping up my running with a goal of doing another marathon in Q115.

The only thing that was bothering me was a sharp pain in my calf. I coincidentally had my annual physical yesterday afternoon. My doctor and I talked about it and she took a look at it. It wasn’t obvious what it was and she decided, after we went back and forth, to have me go to BCH (our local hospital – which is just awesome) and have an ultrasound.

I went over at 4:30pm. They finished at 6:00pm and put me on hold (e.g. wouldn’t let me leave until I talked to my doctor). That made me a little nervous. At 6:30pm I was at the ER in triage for a blood clot in my leg. I was supposed to have dinner with my friend Raj at 6:00pm – he left the restaurant and just came and hung out in the emergency room with me. Amy drove in. By 9:30pm, I had a full regiment of blood thinners, prescriptions, I’d learned to to give myself an injection since I have to do that for a week, and knew what all the risks were in the short term given the size and location of the clot.

I’m doing fine, but it’s yet another reminder that there are many uncontrollable things in life. I’ve got a good attitude about it, everyone in my office was amazingly supportive, Amy and Raj helped me stay mellow, and I learned something new yesterday (how to give myself an injection). Obviously I won’t be ramping up for a marathon (the cycle I’m going to be on is a three to six month one) and I’ve now got something new in the chain of health stuff that happened this year to process.

Even when things are amazing in your life, they are still messy.