Month: December 2015

Dec 31 2015

Books I Read On Sabbatical 2015

Amy and I take an annual one month sabbatical completely off the grid. This is something that each of my partners and their families also do – we rotate throughout the year and the other partners completely cover for whomever is on sabbatical. Based on the experience of the past two years, this has had a dramatic positive impact on our lives, our relationship with our families, our mental health, and our longevity in our business. It also is a powerful reinforcing dynamic in our partnership – we talk regularly about how we all work on everything together, but when one person is gone for a month and the other three have to cover everything he’s working on, there’s nowhere to hide and the trust dynamic that evolves is remarkably deep.

We went to Rancho Valencia and played tennis at least five days a week and I used this trip to completely reboot my tennis game. When I was a kid, I played junior tennis in Texas from age 10 – 14. I was good but not great – I could consistently get to the quarter finals in tournaments and every now and then make it to the semifinals. I stopped playing around age 14 when I discovered girls and computers. Today, after having zero consistency on the court for 35 years I’m a solid 4.0 but with some effort and consistency I expect I could play 4.5 tennis. That’s kind of a fun thought for the next 20 years.

One of the other things Amy and I do on sabbatical is read every day. We are both fast readers and I generally can read a book in a day or two, depending on the type and size of the book. Last year I was on a biography kick in Bora Bora and that’s what I posted about. This year I decided to do a LIFO approach on my Kindle so you’ll just get the whole list (in order read) along with my quick thoughts. This includes books I decided to buy while on sabbatical as they jumped to the front of the LIFO line.

If you want my full reading list mildly categorized going back several years, take a look at my Goodreads account.

How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written: Amy and I ended up addicted to Archer and I think it’s now my favorite TV cartoon. The book is fun, but the TV show (now through six seasons) is a riot. Archer Vice is an especially fun year (Season 5).

Rogue Lawyer: I stopped reading John Grisham books many years ago (I loved his first few and then got bored). For some reason I picked this one up and thought it was great fun.

Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies: This one was a little chewy, but fortunately not that long. I don’t remember why I bought it or who had recommended it to me. It didn’t stick with me thought – I’m not sure I remember anything insightful from it.

How We’ll Live on Mars (TED Books): Given the move The Martian and all the recent Elon Musk talk about Mars, I decided to learn a little more. This was another winner – easy to read and very accessible, yet with plenty of stuff that was new to me.

The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor: Yeah, well, Howard Marks is an investment genius. I should have read this book when it first came out. If you are in any kind of investment business (including Venture Capital) you should read this book right now.

Startup Wealth: How the Best Angel Investors Make Money in Startups: Josh interviewed a bunch of angel investors, including me. This is a very timely and relevant book for any angel investor. It’s heavily interview style and could have benefited from a stronger edit pass, but it has tons of useful (and often contradictory) feedback from lots of different angel perspectives.

The Term Sheet: A Startup Thriller Novel: I’m a big fan of the Startup Fiction genre. This was a quick, fun read.

@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex: This was an important book that crushed my soul. We are at the very beginning of something that is so complex that it will make traditional / historical war look like child’s play. Sure – the ancient Romans and the Greeks created a lot of war strategies that are still in use today, but they never envisioned this.

Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy: I’m reading a lot about robotics and AI these days. I bet you aren’t surprised. This was a solid book – I learned a few things and it made me think a little deeper about others.

Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals: I needed something fun, light, and absurd to read as I been consuming too much serious stuff. This book, written by the guy who created the hilarious GSElevator twitter account, nailed it. As a bonus, if you are either voyeuristic or cynical (or both) about investment bankers, this book is for you.

The Investment Answer: I was given this book with a note that it’s a clear, basic book on personal finances and investing. It’s that, but very basic. If you don’t feel like you have a handle on your personal investing approach, even if you don’t have a lot of money, this is a good starting place.

America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve: With all the discussion about the Fed starting to raise interest rates, I felt I owed it to myself to understand the history of the creation of the Federal Reserve. I knew under 3% of what actually had happened, and I didn’t understand any of the competing forces. In addition to the mechanics and philosophy of what and why the Fed was created, the politics behind it were fascinating. Like a lot of history, it was a little too much blow by blow, but overall really good and context generating.

The Last of the President’s Men: This was the best book of the trip. Wow, wow, wow. I’m a huge Woodward fan so I’ve read a lot of his books. This is a capstone to a very long career of writing about Nixon. It’s totally crazytown what still is surfacing from the Nixon White House era.

Girl in the Woods: A Memoir: I’ve got a fantasy that in a parallel universe I thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. While I’m not going to do it in this particular lifetime, I love reading stories about people who do it. This one, like The Wild, is a coming of age story that is incredibly powerful and well written. While there are plenty of stressful, emotionally painful, and some cringeworthly parts, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book.

Wishful Drinking: Star Wars 7 is coming. Amy and I are in the midst of watching Episodes 1 through 6. So – it’s time for some Carrie Fisher. Well – ok – one is enough.

Wired: The Short Life & Fast Times of John Belushi: Reading some Carrie Fisher led me to reading Bob Woodward’s biography of John Belushi. It also prompted us to download the best of Belushi on SNL and watch it, although we managed to restrain ourselves from watching Neighbors. As a childhood Belushi fan, this book made me incredibly sad and I think I actually moped around for a few days after reading it.

A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought series Book 1): Time for some science fiction. I hadn’t read Vinge’s Zone of Thought series so I decided to start it. Like most Vinge, it’s a lot of book with tons of ideas that hold well today, in this case about what is going on 25,000 years in the future. I’ve got the next one on my Kindle and will read it when I need another break from current reality.

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns: Amy and I aren’t public market investors – neither of us are interested in it and I simply don’t have time or the emotional energy to add it into the mix of what I do. However, we own plenty of public equity through the various mutual funds (managed and index) that we own. I’d never read the book by Bogel (the founder of Vanguard) and it has been recommended to me by several people I trust. It’s extremely well done and very clear – worthwhile to read if you struggle with the best way to invest in the public markets over the very long term.

Beatlebone: The only physical newspaper I read these days is the Sunday New York Times. And, I don’t read all of it – only the front section, business, Book Review, and the Magazine (Amy reads – and savors – the whole paper.) This was highly recommended in the Book Review and John Lennon is my favorite Beatle. It took me almost a week to read it – it was hard to get into and then easy to bounce out of. Or, it’s possible I was just pretty “read out” by this point.

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance: It seemed appropriate to end seven weeks of tennis with one of the classics about tennis. Awesome book.

As 2015 comes to an end, it was a good year. Here’s looking forward to 2016. And – happy reading.

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Dec 28 2015

Progress Out Of Digital Photo Organizing Hell

From the comments, tweets, and emails I got on yesterday’s post My Travels In Digital Photo Organizing Hell it appears I have a common problem. Basically, the existing photo approaches – in general – have created a massive mess. Apple and Google have just made this worse by continuously changing their underlying tools and approaches.

Buried deep in the comments was one from Darla DeMorrow. And it’s a gem.

“Hey, Brad. You’ve got a better handle on this situation than the average bear, but it’s still tricky, no matter what platform you use. And guaranteed it will change tomorrow, which makes us all crazy. But I’ve found a solution that I can recommend to my clients, who depend on www.APPO.org professionals like me to keep them sane. Check out www.Mylio.com. It’s a cloud-enabled service (not cloud-based) that allows you to organize in your own space, sync across devices, and only store in their cloud if you want to. It’s platform independent, sort of like the Evernote of photo organizing. You can throw stuff in the photo pile (making you happy), and it will automatically organize, to a point, making Amy happy. I’m happy to talk with you if you want to know more. You can find me online.”

I’ve been playing with Mylio for about 90 minutes on my Mac and iPhone. So far it is amazing – basically what I was looking for when I started this journey.

All my photos are still in Dropbox. I can access them, move them around, edit them, do whatever I want from a beautiful UX. Amy will be able to run this app on her Mac independently but see the same photo store and do whatever she wants. There are numerous backup options that preserve the directory structure and do NOT force me to use the cloud. I can sync with all my devices seamlessly. It knows how to import stuff like my Facebook photos, Aperture, and iPhoto. It works with Lightroom. It’s extremely fast.

It’s not free but I’m happy to pay for something that actually works. Thanks Darla!

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Dec 27 2015

My Travels In Digital Photo Organizing Hell

I’m three days into trying to figure out the best way to deal with our large collection of digital photos that have accumulated since 2000.

When I started (on Christmas Day – I figured it was a one day project) Picasa said we had around 35,000 photos. After several different clean up approaches, we now have about 15,000. That’s the power of Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro which has been probably the cleanest and most straightforward part of this whole exercise.

But – let’s start from the beginning. Several years ago I created a shared Dropbox folder for me and Amy and moved all of our many folders of photos into one folder in Dropbox. I didn’t try to organize anything then – just get them all in one place. I then installed Picasa on each computer, spent a little while with Amy figuring it out, and let time pass from there.

Amy spent a lot of time over the past few years cleaning up photos, arranging them in folders, and copying things from place to place from within Picasa. We had various applications, like Dropbox and iTunes, set up iPhone sync directories. We avoided iPhoto, but every now and then it opened up somewhere and did something. Amy would sync her digital SLR photos with Picasa and then move them around. A bunch of other stuff probably happened in the background as we connected Picasa to the web, installed various Google apps on our machines, and I had a brief foray into using an Android phone.

However, I mostly ignored the problem. Every few months Amy would get frustrated looking for a photo and ask if I was ever going to clean everything up. We constantly talked about getting our iPhones set up to share stuff in a useful way. I bought Amy a new camera (the Sony A7) and decided as part of it I was going to clean up the mess that I’d help create over the years.

I vaguely remembered installing a Google Photo uploader thing on my desktop at work several months ago and letting it run for a few days while it uploaded the mess of photos we had. I looked at https://photos.google.com/ and scrolled through a huge photo collection. Yup – it uploaded them, although preserved none of the folder hierarchy Amy had painstakingly created. And then I started noticing lots and lots of duplicates. That’s weird – I wonder how that happened. After poking around for a way to have Google just automatically eliminate them, I discovered no such feature existed. Ok – I can delete a bunch of duplicates – let’s just share all with Amy. Oops – no way to do that.

Well, that would have been too easy. So, I spent most of Christmas Day afternoon using Picasa to clean up all the folder hierarchies, move photos from the hundreds of randomly named (usually with a date) folders, or the folders named “Move These Later 7.” I started as a Picasa novice and now have mastered it, with all of its quirks.

And then I realized there we had nested folders of duplicates spread out all over the place. Aha – now I knew why Google had duplicates everywhere. After a few searches, I found Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro and, after making a backup of the gigantic photo folder (via the web – so there was no web to desktop to web traffic), I quickly reduced our photo collection by over 50%.

I went to bed and let Dropbox and Picasa do their thing as everything synchronized on my painfully slow home Internet connection (there’s nothing like seeing a “10 hours left” message to decide to call it quits for the night.)

When I woke up yesterday, Dropbox looked fine but Picasa wasn’t synchronized. After messing around with Picasa for a while, I decided to just unlink the scanned folder (which was just the high level photos folder) and let it reindex. That worked. I messed around with the Dropbox hierarchy some more to try to clean things up. I noticed that Picasa again got out of sync. After doing this a few times, I started reading about Picasa on the web and my soul was crushed. I had a fantasy that the long term solution for everything could be something that lived on top of Dropbox, but as I realized that Picasa was getting old and stale (it shows in the UI) and there was a pretty clear path for Google toward everything being entirely web, Android, and Google+ (or – well – Google Photos) based. In other words, Picasa isn’t likely a long term solution.

Deep breath. At this point I checked with my partner Ryan who has 10 zillion photos and he quickly responded Apple Photo plus iCloud Photo Library (iPL) with a backup on Google Photos.

So I spent the rest of yesterday getting my mind around Apple Photos including a multi-machine and user struggle to understand the implications of what Apple thinks a family is and what can be shared between family members. Of course, the relic of the Apple iPhoto library didn’t help, as it introduced a new wave of duplicates which Duplicate Photos Fixer Pro figured out. Eventually I realized I had about 20 remnant Picasa temp files, each which were getting indexed in Apple Photos, so I hunted down and expunged them all. I started a bunch of folders uploading (I was trying to create some semblance of an Album structure). I was getting the hang out it, but it was dinner time so I was done until the morning.

When I woke up this morning, iPL told me that it has 11,781 files left to upload. Amy and I went out to breakfast. When I got back 90 minutes later, iPL now only had 11,721 files left to upload. Well – that’s not going to work.

I gave up, deleted all the photos from my instance of Apple Photos that was uploading, and read a draft of Eliot Peper‘s newest book Cumulus, which was awesome. I did a few other things, had dinner, and am still waiting for Photos/iCloud to figure out what it’s doing several hours later.

For now, I’m taking a break as I ponder my next move. Suggestions welcome.

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Dec 26 2015

Book: The Inner Game of Tennis

When I played tennis as a teenager, I remember reading The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance by Tim Gallwey. Near the end of my recent sabbatical + birthday vacation, after almost seven weeks of tennis where I played at least five days a week, I decided to read it again.

It held up. Written in 1974, Gallwey uses the concept of Self 1 (the thinking part) and Self 2 (the feeling / doing part). Self 1 is constantly critiquing, analyzing, and telling Self 2 what to do. Self 2 – when it ignores Self 1 – just does. This leads to the idea of the inner and outer game, which is beautifully summarized in the Wikipedia article about Tim Gallwey.

“In every human endeavor there are two arenas of engagement: the outer and the inner. The outer game is played on an external arena to overcome external obstacles to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within the mind of the player and is played against such obstacles as fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions. The inner game is played to overcome the self-imposed obstacles that prevent an individual or team from accessing their full potential.” (Morgan, Ted, Oz in the Astrodom, New York Times, December 9, 1973, p.96)

For the first two weeks, I decided to try to learn to play tennis left handed. I grew up playing right handed, even though I write and throw a ball left handed. I used beginner mind and was doing pretty good when I hurt my left wrist while running during the third week when I was almost hit by a car leaving a parking lot and used my left hand to hop over the hood of it.

So, for a week I played right handed as my left wrist healed. I enjoyed it so much I just stayed with it.

By the fifth week, I was hitting great. I was moving reasonably well on the court and my fitness level and comfort with playing points had gone up a level. During one of my morning lessons, I lucked out and got Arturo, a masterful teacher who Amy and I referred to during our time at Rancho Valencia as “the philosopher.” At some point during my lesson, Arturo said simply, “Stop thinking and hit the ball.”

I carried that thought around with me for the next two weeks. I literally stopped thinking about the mechanics of any of my strokes. I visualized my movements when I was getting ready for a drill, or after I’d hit a number of balls, but I stopped criticizing myself, actually bent my knees (instead of shouting to myself “bend your knees” when I didn’t and missed a shot), and just played.

I hadn’t read The Inner Game of Tennis yet, but I downloaded it on my Kindle. And then just hit the ball for the last few days of our trip. I felt as good on the court as I ever have, even at the top of my game at age 14.

As I read the book on our couch in Boulder yesterday, I smiled. It reinforced the simple message that Arturo tossed out in the middle of a lesson. It made me think of many conversations I’ve had with Jerry Colonna at Reboot. And then, I poked around the web and saw that this book, and Gallwey in general, is often referred to as the founder of the business coaching movement.

If you play tennis, do yourself a favor and read this book. Your Self 1 will thank you and your Self 2 will be left alone a little more in the future to do its thing.

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Dec 25 2015

Christmas Morning with The Velveteen Rabbit

Velveteen Rabbit on Christmas MorningIt’s a beautiful almost snowy morning in Boulder. Crisp and cold, but subdued. Amy is on the phone with a cousin, Brooks is asleep on the floor, and Cooper is whining a little every now and then but generally happy to be on his tether chilling out after running around the yard like a maniac puppy for 30 minutes.

For many years, Christmas time was difficult for me. With the help of my amazing wife, I adjusted my attitude about five years ago and in 2012 wrote a long post about it titled Christmas Isn’t Awesome For Everyone. Christmas still isn’t awesome for me, but I now have a mellow, relaxed time for the last two weeks of the year.

Amy and I celebrated Jewish Christmas by going to see The Force Awakens followed by a quick dinner at Tasty Asia in Longmont. We then came home and finished movie night by watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Perfect.

Yesterday, Danielle Morrill, the CEO of Mattermark who, with her husband Kevin, have become good friends over the past year Slacked me with:

“Not sure if you ever read this book, but my parents gave it to me as a kid and it is something I like to read out loud with them on Christmas https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/williams/rabbit/rabbit.html

I vaguely remember reading The Velveteen Rabbit as a kid 45 or so years ago. I knew the story was about a boy and his toy rabbit, but I didn’t remember anything else. I just finished reading it and it brought tears of happiness to the corners of my eyes. It’s a wonderful childrens story that the inner child in any person can enjoy.

If you’ve got young kids, consider trying what Danielle and her parents now do every Christmas and read The Velveteen Rabbit out loud together.

And – Danielle and Kevin – thanks for being part of my life in 2015. It’s been a joy working and becoming friends with the two of you.

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Dec 24 2015

Enchantress of Number and The Concept of Universal Computation

When I think of geniuses who inspire me, Stephen Wolfram is near the top of the list. I’ve never met him but have followed him from a distance since I was introduced to Mathematica in grad school in the late 1980s.

Backchannel just published a a long, detailed exploration of the life of Ada Lovelace and her work with Charles Babbage that Wolfram wrote a few weeks ago. It’s awesome. By going through a lot of original source material, Wolfram formed his own view and discovered a number of things, including that the common reference to Ada Lovelace as “Enchantress of Numbers” is incorrect – Babbage actually referred her as the “Enchantress of Number” (9/9/1843 – letter from Babbage to Lovelace.)

In his article, Wolfram uses the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine as the focal point to undercover and explain what Ada Lovelace actually accomplished. He pieces together Lovelace and Babbage’s history and relationship to each other. He extrapolates their work and places it in clear historical context. And he states his conclusions about who made which contributions.

His writing is magnificent. I’ve read some of it in the past and tried one summer in Alaska to get through his epic book A New Kind of Science (with very little success, although I read a bunch of science fiction and all the Barry Eisler John Rain books that summer.)

Buried deep in the article are a number of gems. One that jumped out at me was:

“Ada seems to have understood with some clarity the traditional view of programming: that we engineer programs to do things we know how to do. But she also notes that in actually putting “the truths and the formulae of analysis” into a form amenable to the engine, “the nature of many subjects in that science are necessarily thrown into new lights, and more profoundly investigated.” In other words — as I often point out — actually programming something inevitably lets one do more exploration of it.”

followed quickly by:

“representing mathematical truths in a computable form is likely to help one understand those truths themselves better.”

There’s a lot more like this. I encourage you to read the whole article slowly and thoughtfully as it’s a delight. But, if you want the punch line:

“Today, with computers and software all around us, the notion of universal computation seems almost obvious: of course we can use software to compute anything we want. But in the abstract, things might not be that way. And I think one can fairly say that Ada Lovelace was the first person ever to glimpse with any clarity what has become a defining phenomenon of our technology and even our civilization: the notion of universal computation.”

Last November, I read a number of biographies on my sabbatical including Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital AgeHere’s what I wrote about it then:

“I’ve read lots of articles on Ada Lovelace, but I’ve never read a comprehensive biography. The story was fascinating, especially when pondering what life much have been like in Victorian-era England and how much of any uphill cultural battle Ada Lovelace had. While we’ve got lots of challenges around gender still in our society, we’ve definitely made read progress in the last 150 years. This linkages to Lord Byron, Lady Byron, and Charles Babbage were fascinating and, in many ways, disheartening. Ada Lovelace was clearly a genius – I can’t even begin to imagine the amazing stuff she could have done if she was born in 1990 instead of 1815.”

Wolfram’s summary of what Lovelace might have accomplished if she hadn’t died so young (36 years old in 1852) was much more detailed and eloquent, but seems very consistent to what I have accumulated in my head. And I loved his conclusion.

“But the challenge is to be enough of an Ada to grasp what’s there — or at least to find an Ada who does. But at least now I think I have an idea of what the original Ada born 200 years ago today was like: a fitting personality on the road to universal computation and the present and future achievements of computational thinking.”

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Dec 21 2015

Why I Don’t Have To Follow VC Blogs Anymore

Two words: Mattermark Daily

When I started blogging in 2004 I think I was the third VC blogger after David Hornik* and Fred Wilson (if you were, or know, of another pre-2004 VC blogger, please tell me so I can update my historical recollection.)

I remember lots of people asking me why I was doing it. I heard plenty of trash talk from other VCs, especially second hand, such as “He doesn’t have enough to do”, “He’s not spending his time doing his job”, or “What a waste of time.” I didn’t care, as I was doing it – like Fred often said – to help me think out loud in public, learn about different things, and get a conversation going around topics I was interested in. In retrospect, it was also helping me “practice writing” and without all the practice, it’s unlikely I would have ever gotten in the rhythm of writing a book a year.

Today, hundreds of VCs blog. Some are focused on using content marketing strategies to build their brand and reach. Some seem to have a full time person on the team generating content for them. Some do it under their name; other’s do it on their firm’s web site. Even more have tried and never got past a dozen posts.

Regardless of one’s success, it’s become extremely hard to track all the new content coming out and sort the good from the bad. My somewhat up-to-date VC People Feedly collection has 139 feeds in it. But I stopped being rigorous about adding new people about a year ago and rarely added feeds that were directly on firm websites, so I expect there are probably closer to 500 active VC bloggers now. And, this doesn’t include the guest articles that regularly show up on various sites like TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and Business Insider.

Rather than struggle to keep up, I’m just defaulted to relying on Mattermark Daily to tell me what to read each day. And, I always remember what I tell entrepreneurs: “It’s just data – and it’s often wrong.” Read a lot, but always apply your own critical thinking.

*Update: Naval Ravikant told me that he, Kevin Laws, and Andrew Anker were also part of VentureBlog (dating back to 3/2003). It now appears to be Hornik’s blog.

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Dec 20 2015

What To Do When Google Chrome Helper Eats Your Mac’s Battery Life

A few days ago, I noticed that my MacBook Air fully charged battery life had suddenly gone from around seven hours to under two hours and the fan was going full speed.

This has happened in the past and I couldn’t remember what I did to fix it. I blew it off for a few days until I got tired of having to plug my computer in every few hours. A quick look at Mac Activity Monitor showed me that Google Chrome Helper was eating up all my CPU (often at 100%) and subsequently crushing the battery life.

A search on Google didn’t turn up anything terribly satisfying. I found lots of complaints, a few suggestions to turn of automatic plug-in loading, and lots of “hey Google, fix this” dating back to 2011. Buried somewhere in one of the threads was a note to try clearing my browser cache.

Clear Google Browser Cache

Of course, there is no “clear browser cache” option any more, but there is now a “hamburger menu: More Tools: Clear Browsing Data” option.

That solved it. I saw over seven hours of battery life today. No fan. Simple, but buried.

Some day all this shit will just work. Well – maybe not.

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Dec 16 2015

Scaling Techstars Horizontally

There are two common ways to scale a system – horizontally or vertically. If you are a software engineer, you probably get this instinctively. If you don’t know what this is, let’s work with the simple Wikipedia definition which is pretty good.

  • Scale Vertically (or “scale up”): Add resources to a single node in a system, typically involving the addition of CPUs or memory to a single computer.
  • Scale Horizontally (or “scale out”): Add more nodes to a system, such as adding a new computer to a distributed software application.

Think of vertical scaling as building a bigger monolithic machine and horizontal scaling as add more machines to the system. Or, if you want a business construct, vertically scaling would be adding more people in one location while horizontal scaling would be creating a bunch of new locations, optimally with a similar footprint to the previous locations.

These two concepts are not mutually exclusive. You can scale vertically and horizontally at the same time. But while many contemporary technology approaches embrace scale horizontally, many business approaches are limited to primarily scaling vertically.

If you’ve spent any time with me, you know that scaling horizontally is a huge part of how I think. My entire world functions as a large and wide distributed network. However, for the past eight years, my partners and I at Foundry Group haven’t once scaled vertically (we haven’t added any partners since 2007 when we started) until we added Lindel Eakman as part of Foundry Group Next.

Our reach, network, visibility, and impact has grown significantly since 2007. As part of this, we’ve done many things to scale horizontally. Co-founding and helping build Techstars is an example of that. In addition, embedded in the Techstars growth model is a horizontal scaling strategy.

If you reflect on one part of Techstars – the accelerator programs – we’ve added the following new programs in 2015.

  • Techstars Mobility (Detroit)
  • Techstars Berlin (Berlin)
  • Techstars METRO (Berlin)
  • Techstars IoT (NYC)
  • Barclays (New York, South Africa and Israel)
  • Techstars Healthcare, in partnership with Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles)
  • Techstars Retail, in partnership with Target (Minneapolis)
  • Virgin Media Accelerator (London)
  • Techstars Atlanta, in partnership with Cox Enterprises (Atlanta)

Each of these accelerators is based on the same model that we use to run all of the Techstars accelerator programs. We feel that we have mastery over an approach to a mentor-driven accelerator, run by a small team, in any geography around the world, that is another node on the ever expanding horizontal network that is Techstars. These programs don’t run in isolation – rather they are part of a horizontal scaling strategy based on a premise that you can build startups, and a startup community, anywhere in the world.

When you ponder Techstars’ acquisition of UP Global, especially if you think about how horizontal scaling and geography intersect, you get a glimpse of another layer of functionality that we just added to the horizontal scaling model. In addition to adding a bunch of new nodes, we also added new functionality to each node.

Remember that horizontal and vertical scaling are not mutually independent. Techstars growth from 55 employees at the end of 2014 to 131 employees as of today is happening on both horizontal and vertical dimensions. But the horizontal leverage that we’ve created, and figured out how to replicate, is as powerful as anything I’ve ever encountered in business.

I’m looking forward to 2016 on both dimensions.

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Dec 15 2015

Walking The Dog

When I sat down at breakfast, I told Amy that the title of today’s blog post would be “A Steaming Pile of Dog Poop.” She suggested I come up with a different title.

Brooks at Rancho

That’s Brooks the Wonder Dog. For the past six weeks, I’ve been walking him at least once a day. Typically I take him for an afternoon walk and an evening walk and Amy usually takes him for a morning walk. Today I did the morning walk also.

Our 1,500 step walk (about 0.75 miles) is a big loop around the place we have been staying. After about 500 steps, we get to his poop field and we do a mini-loop around the field. He’s got a rhythm – if he’s got to go, he sniffs around the edges for about 270 degrees of the mini-loop, scrunches his back legs up to his front, squats, and generates a steaming poop that reflects the digestive system of a healthy 80 pound eight year old golden retriever.

I used to hate picking up his shit. But now it’s a special moment on our walks together, for which I developed expertise walking him around in Boulder’s Central Park a few summers ago. I’ve got a one handed bag technique that’s quick and efficient. The bags are eco-friendly and lavender scented, so it’s gross for only one second. We then loop to the poop trash and continue on our way.

For the rest of our journey, Brooks grabs his leash and walks himself. He loves every human on the planet so there is much tail wagging and happy human voices. We have a fun game at the end, as he knows exactly where our condo is and which stairs are ours. He runs to the edge of where I can see him, turns a corner, stops, and then waits for me. It’s delightful.

For the last six weeks, I’ve had at least 30 minutes a day to do nothing other than walk, talk to my dog, reflect, and pick up a dog deposit. This morning, as the rising sun was shining was shining in my face and Brooks was prancing alongside me, I took a deep breath and smiled.

I like this planet.

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