Shifting To Maker Mode For The Summer

My favorite and most productive time of the year is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Basically, summertime.

Normally I’d declare this the Tuesday after the Memorial Day weekend but I’m just getting over a cold so fuck it, summertime starts today.

During maker mode, I try to only do meetings and phone calls in the afternoons between 1 and 5. There are some exceptions – mostly board meetings – but I try to give myself lots of space to work on the longer term stuff. While this is mostly writing, it also includes deeper work for specific companies, especially around product and product strategy. Essentially, things that take more than 30 minutes of concentration.

Last weekend Amy and I shifted into reading mode over the weekend (we were both sick so couldn’t do much other than lay on the couch, read, fall asleep, and complain about feeling crappy.) It continued into the week – the TV hasn’t been on for a while and evenings are spent on our couches with the dogs and our Kindles. Heaven.

In addition to turning off the TV, I’ve turned off all the continuous interrupts. I’m not looking at social media (although I am still broadcasting.) I’m not looking at news (I figure anything I really need to know will find its way to me) other than my continuous stream of tech news in my a Slack channel. My Sunday New York times habit will be banished until after Labor Day. Podcasts – forget it – for a while.

While I fantasize that I can be in maker mode all the time, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to sustain throughout the year. For some reason, the tempo of the summer makes it easy. Maybe it’s because the days are longer. Or it’s warmer and more people melt away. Or after 40+ years of behaving a certain way, summer is just different for me than the rest of the year.

Maps for Unity: Location Based Games and Mapbox

This morning’s launch of Maps for Unity brings the full stack of location tools to the world’s most popular game development platform and shows that location and maps are the new building blocks for AR and VR games.

We think the maps look amazing and are insanely fast.

Bringing location and maps to game developers is a big deal. Pokemon Go had maps because Niantic, the game’s creators, started as part of Google and the company is run by John Hankey — the former CEO of Google Maps. The maps in Pokemon Go were customized because John secured special access to Google’s proprietary datasets. No one else could have maps like that, until now.

Today’s Mapbox release is not about just maps but is about location and how the gameplay matches the real world around you.

“In this one, the spaceships are different sizes, so we built an API that only lets spaceships in parks where green areas are big enough. Using our traffic endpoint, we see all the walking paths in the park, so when you land the ship, it spins so the door faces the paths where people walk.”

Ryan and I have been trading emails like this with Eric, the CEO of Mapbox, talking strategy around the SDK since last Summer when Pokemon Go launched. Stuff like this just wasn’t possible before — we think game studios are going to go crazy for it.

Unity, with its massive user base and comprehensive tools radically decreased the time to market for game makers. But until today’s release, doing anything with real-world maps in Unity was virtually impossible. The Maps SDK gives Unity developers the kind of ready-to-use tools Mapbox has already brought to mobile and the web.

Looking at the beta demos, we think the games built on this will look amazing. Not only can designers change the look and feel of the map, they can now access open APIs for searching local places like coffee shops and stores, elevation data and satellite imagery, and turn-by-turn directions to guide people through the game and the real world at the same time.

Design is everything for gameplay and in the last year, Unity has radically invested in its core rendering tech to the point where it’s now hard to tell what has been filmed versus rendered in real time.

Eric and the team at Mapbox have built an incredible platform. Mapbox now has more than 750,000 registered developers with maps used by 250 million end users each month — including National Geographic’s city guides, AirBNB’s service in China, and Doordash’s real time directions.

Adding a Unity SDK alongside SDKs for iOS and Android opens up Mapbox to one billion more monthly active users. Game on.

YPO Innovation Week

In March, YPO and Techstars launched a partnership to support high-growth entrepreneurship and innovation. As a kickoff to that, Techstars co-sponsored YPO Innovation Week.

I did a one hour interview with Kate Rogers from CNBC last Friday. It was a fun interview for me and I felt like we covered a lot of good stuff.

Steve Case kicked off YPO Innovation Week with an interview, also with Kate Rogers. I listened to it in advance of my interview and thought it was extremely well done.

The Dissonance of Snow in Boulder in May

Amazingly, I still haven’t conditioned myself to turn my phone horizontally when I take a video. I feel old.

I’m sitting in my condo downtown, drinking coffee, listening to Soundgarden, and contemplating the dissonance of so many things. I just got off a Facetime saying good morning to Amy and talking to Brooks and Cooper.

Both Chris Cornell and Roger Ailes died in the past 24 hours and I saw both alerts within 15 minutes of each other this morning.

I love Soundgarden, but I try not to listen to the lyrics too carefully. Unlike Pink Floyd, where I’ve got most of the albums memorized, I hang on to individual riffs. For me, Like Suicide is a love song, rather than an appeal for help, but it rattles me this morning as the snow comes down. I replace it in my head with all that you touch, all that you taste, all that you feel, all that you love, all that you hate, all you distrust, all you save, all that you give, all that you deal, all that you buy, beg, borrow or steal …

Things are amazing. Things are awful.

Life is complex. Dissonance abounds. And the Dude abides.

Strikes and gutters. Ups and downs.

Mentors 16/18: Provide Specific Actionable Advice

There’s a tenuous balance between telling someone what to do and giving advice. It’s especially difficult as a mentor, especially if you’ve previously been a CEO and are used to being “the decider.”

As a mentor, you aren’t the decider. The CEO you are mentoring is the decider.

This dynamic is also true for many board / CEO relationships, where the board wants the CEO to make the ultimate decision. As I’ve often said, my goal as a VC is only to make one decision about a company – whether or not I support the CEO. If I do, I work for the CEO. If I don’t, it’s my job to do something about the CEO.

While this is nice in theory, it’s difficult in practice. One of my strengths is that I tell a lot of stories. One of my weaknesses is that, according to my wife Amy, my stories go on 20% too long (she is correct.) Here’s an example.

I’m at a board meeting. The CEO, which I love working with, is trying to figure out what to do about a particularly thorny issue. I tell a story. He reacts with a little more data. I tell another story. Another board member asks a question. I tell another story. This one goes on a bit too long.

The CEO looks directly at me and says, very firmly, “Will you just tell me the fucking answer for once?”

I tell him the answer.

He was looking for specific, actionable advice. I was telling him stories. If he spent enough time processing the stories, he might be able to come up with the right answer. Or, since they are stories, he might draw the wrong inference and decide to do something different from where the stories were leading him. This CEO was aware of that and, in real time was having trouble processing the point of the stories in his context.

Fortunately, this CEO was self-aware enough to ask for specific, actionable advice in a moment where he needed it.