Just Finish It

An exec at a company I’m an investor in sent this to me this morning. Does this feel like your life at your company?

I’m an enormous fan of Eric Ries and The Lean Startup. His, and Steve Blank’s, thinking and writing changed how we approach startups. However, the bright shiny object syndrome is alive and well in StartupLand and, when conflated with MVPs and fail fast, often results in misery.

Finishing a product and shipping is extremely challenging. It’s different for hardware, as there is a physical instantiation of a product that you have to put in the proverbial box and send out the door. With software, you can ship a buggy piece of shit and keep updating it daily (or continuously) to improve it. But when the product includes some hardware, once it’s out the door you’ve got to live with it.

But, for both hardware and software, the lack of focus on finishing is toxic. When you read Jeff Bezos’ annual letter and internalize “customer obsession” you realize that if you view the world from the perspective of the customer, everything in your business hinges on getting your product into their hands, and then totally delighting them.

At my first company, we did releases of software for multiple clients each week (we were a custom software company.) In some ways, this process has the same characteristics as a weekly sprint, except for it was the early 1990s, and we often had to ship floppy disks by Fedex to our clients. I knew the exact time I had to walk out the door of my office to walk to South Station (in Boston) to get in a cab to go to the Fedex depot at Logan Airport to make the FedEx cutoff. Whenever I did that, I always had a euphoric feeling when I got back in the cab, sat back, and headed home for the night. We’ve come a long way from that dynamic in the last 25 years, but the awesome feeling of shipping hasn’t changed.

This may sound simple and trite but think about it for a second. If you are a CEO or a founder, are you creating an illusion of shipping, but creating a cycle of bright shiny object syndrome?

And with that, this post is shipped …

Support Startups for Net Neutrality

The new leader of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Ajit Pai, has said he wants to roll back existing net neutrality rules that prevent big cable companies from discriminating against online companies and services. Congress is lining up behind him.

Engine Advocacy , Y Combinator, and Techstars are organizing a letter opposing these actions, signed by startups, investors, accelerators, incubators, and entrepreneurs.

Ten zillion words have been written about Net Neutrality. In 2015, the FCC put in place light touch net neutrality rules that not only prohibit certain harmful practices, but also allow the Commission to develop and enforce rules to address new forms of discrimination. It is rumored that Chairman Pai is planning to replace this system with a set of minimum voluntary commitments, which would give a green light for Internet access providers to discriminate in unforeseen ways.

Help us send a message from startups and entrepreneurs that his rumored action to undermine net neutrality is not ok.

 

Bezos Annual Letter

I just sent this note out to our CEO list. I was going to write a different post today about The Founder Wellness Pact: How Accelerators are Addressing Depression Among Founders but I’m going to save it for next week. After sending this note out, I decided it was the clearest thing I could add to your world today going into the weekend. 

Jeff Bezos’ annual letter is now up there with Warren Buffett’s annual letter as must reads for me. However, it is a lot shorter (5 minutes vs. 20 minutes).

You’ve probably seen lots of techy news, tweets, and medium posts about this. Don’t read them. Just read the letter. It won’t take long, and if you think about it while you are reading it, it will mean something that sticks.

Ask yourself several questions when you are finished:

1. Do you have a customer-obsessed culture?

2. Do you make decisions with 70% of the information?

3. Do you have a “disagree but commit” culture (especially when it’s you that is disagreeing)?

Colorado Global EIR 2017 Applications

The 2017 applications for the Colorado Global EIR are now open through April 15, 2017.

The Colorado Global EIR program is a way for experienced international entrepreneurs to receive an H-1B visa, allowing them to work in Boulder. They must commit to working 20 hours per week at CU Boulder (supporting cross-campus entrepreneurial activities), and of course, will be paid for doing so.

In their spare time, we encourage GEiR (Global Entrepreneurs in Residence) to either establish their existing company, create and launch a new company, co-found a new company or join a local startup here in Boulder. This will allow them to retain their H-1B status and thus remain in the U.S.

Any entrepreneur with a college or graduate school degree, and with a track record (or a very strong interest) in entrepreneurship, technology commercialization, and leadership is a good candidate You will work part-time on the CU Boulder campus for 20 hours per week, supporting the CU Boulder entrepreneurship and commercialization efforts, including the New Venture Challenge, a range of teaching and extracurricular activities, and Catalyze CU.

You also get to start and grow a new company in the supportive, collaborative, and dynamic entrepreneurial community of Boulder, Colorado.

GEiR terms will begin September 2017 (or once visas are approved) on a one-year basis, with a potential opportunity for renewal up to two additional years.

You can apply for the Colorado Global EIR 2017 or email [email protected]

Life Is The Bucket

I’m sitting up in Amy’s office on a beautiful Tuesday morning listening to the Liz Wright station Pandora. Amy is downstairs doing something with the dogs.

I just cried for a few minutes after reading Ted Rheingold’s post As I Lay DyingWhen I got to the final section, which he calls “Now,” I read it three times.

“I’ve gained some powerful emotional powers (super powers) in what I’ve been calling my second life. Most all my deep-set hangups died with my first life. A number (but not all) of my grudges, entitled expectations, self-assumed responsibilities, judgements are simply gone. I have no FOMO. There isn’t an event I’ve heard of since I’ve recovered that I wish I would have been at. I’m simply content to be alive and living my life. I have no bucket list. Life is the bucket.”

If you don’t know Ted, he now describes himself as “Beating stage 4 carcinoma thanks to amazing researchers oncologists and immunology. Passion for making the Internet do exciting and wonderful things.” I know him from an angel investment in Dogster, a company he founded and ran from 2003 to 2011 when he sold it to SAY Media. Jeff Clavier introduced us, and I think it was the first investment Jeff and I did together.

I haven’t kept up with Ted other than a periodic email. But whenever I see his name, I think of him fondly. While Dogster was an ok outcome (I think I got a modest return – maybe 2x), Ted worked his butt off, valued his early investors, and was a delight to engage with him. But that doesn’t matter, as it’s not what is important about this thing we call life.

Ted touched me profoundly today with this post. His clarity around his second life is intensely powerful. The statement, “I’m simply content to be alive and living my life.” is something that vibrates in my brain.

Ted is getting a phone call from me to say thank you for putting this out there. And to send him a hug over the phone lines. Ted – thank you for saying “Life IS the bucket …”