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While watching </scorpion> last night, Amy made the comment that we are the bridge generation. I asked her what she meant and she responded that we are the generation that will have gone from punch cards to implants. I thought this was profound.
BTW – </scorpion> was pretty good, although it’s getting crappy reviews according to Wikipedia. It’s not lost on me that the name of the show appears to be “end scorpion” so either someone in Hollywood is being too cute for their own good or they are clueless about HTML.
The first program I wrote was in 1977 in APL on an IBM mainframe (probably a S/360) in the basement of a Frito-Lay data center in downtown Dallas. My uncle Charlie sat me down in a chair in front of a terminal, gave me a copy of Kevin Iverson’s A Programming Language, and left me alone for a while. He checked on me a few times, showed me the OCR system he’d helped create, and gave me some punch cards which I promptly folded, spindled, and mutilated.
My second program was on a computer at Richland College shortly thereafter. My parents got me into a community college course on programming and I was the precocious 12 year old in the class. I remember writing a high-low game, but I don’t remember the type of computer it was on. My guess is that it was a DEC PDP-something – maybe a PDP-8.
Shortly after I was introduced to a TRS-80 and then got an Apple II (the original one – not an Apple IIe – I even needed an Integer Card) for my bar mitzvah and was off to the races.
Almost 40 years later I’m still at it, but now investing rather than programming. When I think of what interests me right now, it’s all stuff that is in the “implant” spectrum – not quite there yet, but starting to march toward it with a steady pace. I believe in our AI future, think the Cylons are a pretty good representation of where things are going, am deeply intrigued with Hawking drives and the Shrike, and am ready to upload my consciousness “whenever.”
Assuming I live another 30+ years, I’ll definitely have experienced the bridge from punch cards to implants. And I think that’s pretty cool.
UP Global just released a great new white paper titled Fostering a Startup and Innovation Ecosystem. As you might know, I’m on the board of UP Global and think they are doing amazing things for startup communities around the world.
Our friends at Google for Entrepreneurs helped with this and I’m doing a hangout with Mary Grove (Director, Google for Entrepreneurs) and Marc Nager (UP Global CEO) on Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 11am PDT for 40 minutes.
Join us as we discuss thriving startup communities and creating alignment and not just density in your community.
Enjoy the white paper and join us for the hangout.
I got to spend a lot of time with my close friend Rand Fishkin the past few days. The first was at Denver Startup Week, where we did a panel discussion with Ben Huh and Bart Lorang where we discussed the pact between CEO and Board, the pact between Founder and Investor, and how to be transparent and direct.
The next day, Rand led a full day offsite for a number of CEOs in our portfolio.
In between, he wrote an epic blog post titled A Long, Ugly Year of Depression That’s Finally Fading. Go read it now – I’ll wait.
I love Rand – not in that surface “I love you man” kind of way. Ever since I met him and his wife Geraldine, I’ve adored them as a couple and each as individuals. I often develop deep personal relationships with the people I work with which can be challenging when businesses struggle and difficult decisions have to be made. I’ve had a few friendships fail as a result of the pressure, stress, and intensity of working through certain situations, but far more have strengthened as a result. It’s a risk I decided to take a long time ago and I’ll continue to do it, even when I have to cope with my own anxiety, emotional struggles, and even depression, as a result.
We invested in Moz in April 2012. Rand wrote so extensively about it in his post Moz’s $18 Million Venture Financing: Our Story, Metrics and Future that almost all of the major tech blogs declined to write about it “because all the news was covered in the post.” Whatever.
The first nine months were great – the business grew as planned as I started to get to know everyone and how things worked at Moz. The company was working on a major rebrand (from SEOMoz to Moz) as well as a huge software expansion which was started before I invested. But by mid-year 2013 things were not going as planned. Rand has written extensively about it, but when he and Geraldine visited us in Boulder for a few days around that time both Amy and I thought Rand was depressed.
By the winter time, Rand had decided to hand the CEO roles to his longtime partner and COO Sarah Bird. Shortly after, he acknowledged his depression in his post at the end of 2013 when he wrote Can’t Sleep; Caught in The Loop. Regardless of his struggle, he continued to work incredibly hard, but we started having a different conversation, this time as friends rather than investor / board member and CEO / founder. I was more concerned about Rand’s mental health than his activity at Moz, and our conversations were generally around this. At the same time, Sarah grabbed the CEO reins firmly and has done an outstanding job, which I knew would ultimately be helpful to Rand.
Rand looked better in the past few days than I’ve felt he looked in several years. I was thrilled to see his post come out between our rambling Denver Startup Week discussion and the full day of the CEO offsite.
Most of all, I’m delighted that my friend Rand’s depression is finally starting to fade. Rand – you are amazing – and loved by me and many. Carry that with you all the time.
This week is Denver Startup Week 2014. Seth, Ryan, and I are spending all day Thursday in Denver doing startup week stuff.
If you are looking for me, I’ll be hanging out all day at Basecamp, which is sponsored by Chase.
Following are the events I’m participating in.
8:00 – 9:00: Building Great Entrepreneurial Communities
1:00 – 2:00: Feld and Friends
2:00 – 4:00: Mentor Hours (special Foundry/Galvanize/Techstars Edition). People can sign up here (sorry – they don’t have this organized by day, just by mentor).
4:00 – 5:30: Practice Pitch with Techstars
5:30 – 7:30: Beers at Basecamp, Foundry/Galvanize/Techstars edition (Seth and Ryan only – I’ll be doing a talk at Condit about creating innovation spaces.)
I hope to see you sometime during the day.
I love origin stories. Yesterday at the kickoff of Techstars FounderCon, I stood on stage with David Cohen and David Brown as we went through the origin story of Techstars, followed by a build up of what has happened over the past seven amazing years. As the 50+ people working for Techstars stood on the stage at the end, I got chills. Afterwards I got feedback from a number of the 500 people in the audience that it was extremely useful context for them, many of whom joined the extended Techstars network in the past two years.
A few weeks ago, FG Press released the first book in its Techstars series titled No Vision All Drive: Memoirs of an Entrepreneur. It’s written by David Brown and is the origin story of David Brown and David Cohen’s first company Pinpoint Technologies.
If you recognize David Cohen’s name, but not David Brown’s, you have a new David in your world. Brown was one of the four co-founders of Techstars (with Cohen, me, and Jared Polis). A little over a year ago, he joined Techstars full time as one of the three managing partners – the other two being David Cohen and Mark Solon. Brown runs the organization day to day and Solon manages all the fund and capital formation activity.
While I’ve known Brown for seven years, Cohen and Brown have worked together for 25 years. Pinpoint was a self-funded company that was their first entrepreneurial endeavor. Like many other startups, it had many ups and downs but the David’s created a very successful, profitable business that was acquired by ZOLL (a Boston-based public company) in 1999. Brown stayed at ZOLL for a while, left, and then came back and ran ZOLL Data (the division based on Pinpoint) until last year when he finally left for good.
When I read the first draft of No Vision All Drive I immediately realized this was a powerful origin story. It shows the personal and professional development of Brown and Cohen as they grew from two guys trying to figure out how to start their business to leaders of a real company. Brown’s reflections on the experience are detailed and demonstrates his incredible talents as an operator. If you know Cohen, after reading this book, you understand why they are perfect partners and have worked so well together over the past 25 years.
It’s a delight to get to work with both of these guys. No Vision All Drive gave me deep insight into Brown and how to be effective working with him, as well as what to expect in the context of his leadership and management style. And it made me even more optimistic about the future of Techstars.
Our goal with the Techstars Series is to get out a series of books applicable to all entrepreneurs at an affordable price. So, instead of doing the default Kindle $9.99 price, or tying the Kindle price to the hardcover price, we are charging $4.95 for the Kindle version. We know there is no marginal cost to each incremental e-book so we want to provide it at a price that entrepreneurs won’t think twice about, which we pegged at the equivalent of a Starbucks Venti Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino .
If you are interested in origin stories or just want to better understand the guys behind Techstars, I encourage you to grab a copy of No Vision All Drive: Memoirs of an Entrepreneur.