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Whenever a company gets acquired or goes public, there is often a fancy closing dinner. It’s usually at a nice restaurant in a private room. The wine is expensive and the toasts are many. The people in the room are the founders of the company, the executives, the board members, other major investors, the lawyers who worked on the deal, and the investment bankers – if any were involved.
I’ve been to more of these than I can remember. They were fun at first, but now they feel strange to me. The group celebrating is often a very small subset of the people who were involved in helping the company reach its success. I can have a exotic, over the top dinner with friends anytime I want, so it often feels like a burden to me to do yet another fancy dinner. If I’ve been deeply involved in a company, I always look around the room and notice at least one key person missing. Enough time has passed that the celebration seems a little stale.
As Boulder Startup Week kicks off today, I woke up thinking about how many people lead, and contribute to, the Boulder Startup Community. This magic of this place is not top down control, a singular leader, or a grand plan. Instead, it’s the organic beauty of a messy network of people, all who are contributing their own talents and energy, in an ongoing, continuous effort around entrepreneurship.
Kind of like how Twitter grows and evolves. Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip is a big deal for Boulder as it brings one of the most interesting and creative companies in the world to our town as Gnip will serve as the foundation for the first Twitter office in Colorado. This is a #BoulderWin.
So, instead of having a closed, inward facing closing dinner for Twitter’s acquisition of Gnip, a bunch of us in the Boulder tech community are throwing a celebration on the evening of June 4 at the Boulder Theater to welcome Twitter to town. We’ll have food, drinks, entertainment, and lots of mingling with folks in the Boulder Startup Community.
Tickets will be available for purchase the week of May 19 with proceeds going to Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. And, as Gnip was a member of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, there will be a special gift that night.
Come celebrate with me the hard work of the 90 people who helped make Gnip a reality.
My friends at Harmonix are running a Kickstarter campaign to bring back Amplitude, one of their classic games. It was originally done in the early 2000′s for the Sony PS2. This campaign will bring it up to date for the Sony PS3 and PS4.
It was all started by an online post from someone named DumpLord420. Watch the Kickstarter video to hear the backstory and see what they are doing. And, if you are a video game, or Harmonix, fan boy (or fan girl), some Harmonix love is just a few Kickstarter clicks away.
Today, Orbotix, the maker of Sphero, has raised a new round of $15.5 million, led by Shea Ventures and including new investor Grishin Robotics. We were the original investors in Orbotix and I joined their board in the fall of 2010 after they went through the Techstars Boulder program.
The first post I wrote about Orbotix included an aspirational phrase for what they were working on.
Orbotix is creating a new game platform that combines common physical objects, smart phones, and a software marketplace. Their first product will “reinvent the ball” through the creation of a robotic ball controlled by a smart phone.
They shipped Sphero 1.0 just before the end of 2011 so their first real year in the market was in 2012. Sphero 2.0 shipped in the fall of 2013 and was praised in reviews like the one in TechCrunch which gushed Sphero 2.0 Is Twice As Fast, Agile, And Awesome.
Connected play is a new category that I’m completely obsessed about. When the iPhone and iTouch came out, there was an incredible shift to mobile devices for games. Suddenly, the toy that kids were playing with was a virtual one – something that was occurring on a sheet of glass they held in their hands. For a kid like me who grew up with video games on an Apple ][, this was pretty awesome. But it felt limiting, especially as I watched kids (and adults) react to Sphero.
As someone who has seen behind the curtain at Orbotix, littleBits, and Modular Robotics, it is amazing what you can do, and where you can go, when you connect physical objects with a smartphone. As an investor in these three companies, I’m psyched to be part of inventing a new category we are calling connected play.
Whenever one of my partners has a significant exit the other partners gives him a gift. These take the form of super creative, often self-referential things that the partner on the receiving end would never buy for himself but the other partners knows he would love.
Last week I got a bust of myself printed on a Makerbot. It was made by Cosmo Wenman, who my partners found at CES last year. This is totally in the show, don’t tell category, so take a look at the 55 second “making of video.”
Cosmo – wow! And Seth, Jason, and Ryan – you rock!
Ever since Orbotix was founded, we’ve been talking about robots and education and how Sphero could play a role. Last week, my friends at Orbotix rolled out a new program called SPRK which stands for Schools, Parents, Robots, and Kids. They’ve already got six lesson plans up with more coming.
To get a feel for the potential of Sphero in education, take five minutes out of your day and watch the video below. At the minimum, it’ll make you smile.