Helping To End The Stigma Around Mental Health By Talking About It

I’m super lucky. I get to work with many incredibly brave and insightful people. One of them is Chris Heivly who is now working at Techstars with me and a few others on a new set of products around the concept of startup communities.

May is mental health month. Jenny Lawton, Techstars COO, led off Techstars commitment to engaging with the post Let’s End the Stigma Around Mental Health. Her call to action, before she goes on to talk about her experience with mental health issues, follows:

“May is Mental Health Awareness month and Techstars is driving to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Let’s open up the conversation around it and what it means to our community and industry.” 

Today, Chris went public with his story in the post That Time I Could Not Break My Depression. If you’ve never met Chris, he’s a gregarious, energetic, fully engaged entrepreneur who has had multiple successes. But, he has struggled with depression, as he says in the lead off of his story.

“None of that prior success prepared me for a moment in 2015 where the evil thoughts in my head had overtaken the rational startup brain.”

As I read his story, I was incredibly proud of him for being able to talk about it and provide leadership for others. Then I read Lance Powers (founder at Sigmend – Techstars Class 68) post The Vital Role of Community in Mental Health Support where he talks about his bipolar disorder.

“If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be writing a post discussing my Bipolar disorder for my friends, coworkers, and entire community to see, I wouldn’t have believed you. Thanks to the hard work of my local community in Boulder and Denver, I am not only comfortable writing this post, I am proud.”

Lance has two statements that encapsulate what I believe.

  1. “The problem is less about the disorder and more about the way we handle it.”
  2. “The one thing I know to be absolutely true is that a supportive community is vital to recovery.”

Lance points to Dave Mayer for paving the way for him to speak openly with the Mental Health in the Startup Realm panel Dave led at Boulder Startup Week 2016.

On Saturday, Amy and I participated in the annual BCH Foundation Gala which this year was in support of the BCH Foundation Mental Health Endowment. As part of it, we announced a lead gift for the new BCH Della Cava Family Medical Pavilion which will be used primarily for behavioral and mental health issues.

While more is coming on the work Amy and I are doing with BCH, for now, I’m going to end with the simple statement. I am incredibly appreciative and proud for all the insights, support, and bravery of all my colleagues and friends, around the issues of depression and mental health in general. Thank you.

Sonos + Alexa Strategy

We all know that Sonos is finally working on an Alexa integration. As I sit here listening to Atom Heart Mother on my Alexa (via “Alexa, play Pink Floyd’s album Atom Heart Mother”), I so badly want it to play throughout my house on our Sonos, rather than just on my desk via Alexa.

As more hardware companies start paying attention to revenue attach, following the lead of companies like Dropbox, Ring, and Peloton, there’s an obvious place for Sonos to do this. I hope they are thinking hard about it, rather than fearing being disintermediated by Alexa.

I’m very invested in both Sonos and Alexa, as I’ve got them installed in multiple places. Alexa is my desktop music system; Sonos is my house-wide music system. I pay subscriptions to a number of music services, including Amazon, Apple, Pandora, and Spotify. I’ve got them all integrated into Alexa, and most of them (except Amazon) integrated into Sonos.

I’d happily pay Sonos $5 – $10 / month for “advanced features” like Alexa integration. Right now I don’t pay Sonos anything, so $60 – $120 / year (and – a hint to my friends at Sonos – I’d prepay a year if you gave it to me for $50 – $100 with auto-renew) is easy to part with given how much value I get from my Sonos.

Now, I’d want to be part of “Sonos Life”, versus just paying for additional features. As a member of Sonos Life, I’d get all kinds of special happiness via Sonos on a monthly basis. Sonos doesn’t have to look very hard to figure out what to do since they – well – are central to music and have integrated many subscription services. Give me a free month of a service I haven’t yet activated. Or maybe special access to curated channels. Or live music that is syndicated from a different partner. Early access to new products. Fun promotions that all music lovers thrive on. Geez – maybe even a Sonos magazine (well – not really …)

Rather than being afraid of Alexa and integration, I wish Sonos would go all in before Amazon comes out with a connected speaker that causes me to consider ripping out all my Sonos systems and replacing them with Alexa’s …

Boulder Screening of For Here or To Go

Amy and I are executive producers of the movie “For Here or To Go?” We’ve decided to fund the screening of it in Boulder. It will be showing at

It will be showing at The Boedecker Theater at The Dairy Center for the Arts on May 28th at 4:30pm. Tickets are only $11 and are limited. They’ll sell out quickly so sign up now. We will be there – we hope to see you also!

The overview of the movie follows:

Set against the backdrop of the 2008 recession, For Here or To Go? is a comedy drama about the many personal battles faced by immigrants living in America. Young Silicon Valley software professional Vivek Pandit is poised to become a key hire at a promising healthcare startup, but when they realize his work visa has less than a year remaining, the offer disappears. Having learned the hard way about the flaws in his “it’s just paperwork” mentality, Vivek battles forces beyond his control to get his visa extended, whether at his existing company or a new job. Just as the prospect of returning home to India starts to look tempting, Vivek meets a girl worth the fight to keep the life he has built in America. Along the way, his eyes are opened to the similar struggles of his own roommates – other immigrants equally seen as “temporary workers” in the United States, who drive nice cars but avoid investing in furniture for fear of having to leave it all behind. American in mind and Indian at heart, this is a contemporary story of ambition and ambivalence fueled by one’s immigration status that characterizes the dilemma of modern cultural displacement. (Rucha Humnabadkar, 2017, USA/India, 1:45, NR)

Monthly Match: Planned Parenthood: #istandwithPP

Amy and I have been supporting Planned Parenthood every year since we became a couple in 1990. Today, the House is going to vote on a bill that, among other things, defunds Planned Parenthood. I’m long past my surprise by any of what is coming out of Washington, so instead of being shocked, I’m just continuing to take action on things that are important to me.

So, your Monthly Match team (Fred Wilson, Joanne WilsonAmy Batchelor, Susan Danziger, Albert Wenger and me) is launching this month’s match for Planned Parenthood.

As I read Joanne’s post on this, I thought she said it well.

“Our Government, that is right, our Government that is for the people, is holding a vote today on the American Health Care Act (Obamacare) with the hopes to defund Planned Parenthood (and much more). For those who can not afford healthcare for basic needs such as proactive check-ups, prenatal care, pap smears and more is that the cost to care for those who find themselves ill (or their children) is a bigger drain on our economy than funding organizations like Planned Parenthood. It is wrong not to fund Planned Parenthood and it is shortsighted. I will never understand those who do not believe in being socially responsible for their fellow person.”

At this point, I’m not going to argue with those who disagree with me. Instead, I’m going to encourage those of you who agree with me (and Fred, Joanne, Amy, Susan, and Albert) to join us in our monthly match and help raise at least $60k for Planned Parenthood.

Here is how the monthly match works

  1. Go to our match offer page and click the big Donate button
  2. Select any amount (min is $10) and click the big Donate button again
  3. Enter your payment credentials and click the big Donate button again
  4. Click the big Tweet Your Donation button
  5. Once you have done all of that your donation will automatically be matched
  6. If you don’t have Twitter, forward your email receipt to [email protected]

I hope you will join us in supporting Planned Parenthood on this difficult day for all who care about women’s reproductive health and women’s health more broadly.

FullContact Connect – The Future of Customer Intelligence

FullContact is one of our silent killers. Unless you are a customer or partner, you don’t hear much about a silent killer until it’s suddenly everywhere, leading the market it is in, and functioning extremely well at scale. One of the hints of these silent killers is their inaugural user or partner conference. An example of this from our past was the 2013 Big Boulder Conference that Gnip (now part of Twitter) put on.

Connect ‘17 is FullContact’s inaugural conference exploring social and customer intelligence, to help companies reimagine the customer journey. The goal of the conference is to get together professionals in marketing, media, customer intelligence, and other roles which focus on knowing and serving their customers better.

While this is not a new idea, we are at another inflection point in the development of tools, technology, products, and processes around this. As an industry, we’ve learned a lot about this over the past decade since web 2.0 started to emerge. Today, the components are there to once again completely redefine the customer journey and the business of personalized marketing.

In addition to speakers from large media companies like Joe Pindell (Pitney Bowes), Tod Szewczyk, (Leo Burnett), and Doug Kaczmarek, (Wiland), you’ll get to engage with:

  • Falon Fatemi, CEO Node, Google’s youngest ever employee
  • Chris Voss, CEO The Black Swan Group, former FBI hostage negotiator
  • Ryan Leslie, Founder Disruptive Multimedia, former hip hop recording artist/producer, accepted to Harvard at age 14

And yes, I’ll be there the morning of May 11th hanging out and participating on a panel.

The conference is from May 10th through 12th at the Curtis Hotel in Denver, Colorado. While they are close to selling out, I got them to give me some discount registration codes. If you want to join us, use the code HalfOff on the registration page.

I love silent killers.