Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Venture Money, now and in the near future

One of the things I am doing these days is working with young companies. From Linked In to old friends, to guys who read this blog I routinely get contacted for ideas and advice. I am looking very hard for my next opportunity and one of the the things I am struggling with is should I go start up, or should I go back to my roots in the supply chain world. Be that as it may I am keeping my ear very close to the smart people in the web venture world these days for a variety of different reasons.

Brad Burnham, partner at Union Square Ventures in Manhattan is a really bright guy who is about as dialed in on web now and web future as you are going to get. If you are an entrepreneur or an operator, you should listen to what he has to say. The above interview is about 5 minutes long. I highly recommend it.

No 1 of Consequence

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hope springs from the pools of Beijing

My best man and I fancy ourselves intellectuals. Much of our youth was spent pontificating on the state of the world. Lately our conversations have centered around an apathetic public that has allowed itself to be spoonfed lie after lie, a complicit press corps, and the overall fragmentation fo the attention of the American public.

The basic contention is that there is so much information and distraction available for the population we have collectively lost our ability to focus on what's important. Our economy is in shambles. Despite the most advanced health care system in the world, we prevent those in the greatest need from having access to it. Last but not least we are mired in an ill conceived, fraudulent war that is crippling our ability to defend ourselves and our position on a global stage.

America has lost focus. We are all so busy struggling to survive we stopped caring about each other. We haven't had a thing to come together about in a long time. 9/11 was seven years ago and the aftermath became a twisted heap of collective grief and not something we could all look to as something positive.

Last night I played poker at the Marietta Billiard Club in Marietta, GA. I play there quite often and have marvelled at the odd cross section of humanity that joins me at the tables. From a demographic perspective you cannot find a more diverse group. With a group that diverse you will find a variety of interests and opinions. Last night however, there was a singular focus. That focus was on the far wall where a projector usually shows the Falcons, Braves or NASCAR. Last night the massive picture showed 6'4" half human, half dolphin Michael Fred Phelps and when he and his band of reknown hit the screen everything stopped.

No cards were dealt. No pots were splashed and no one complained of the infamous bad beats you take when you play free poker. The focus was on the 22 year old human fish from Baltimore and his quest for the improbable. The crowd roared when Aaron Piersol hit the water. Piersol's leg was strong and Hansen, who has had a rough Olympics really held his own giving Phelps a real opportunity to pull ahead. Phelps first 50 meters was just ok and for a moment he fell behind the Australian. Then, in the second 50 he surged ahead, each stroke pushing him further and further in front. When the American anchor, Jason Lezak hit the water the crowd's individual chants had morphed into a continuous repetitive cheer. GO! GO! GO! When his outstretched hand touched the wall and Phelps and America were once again champions the crowd erupted as one.

Michael Phelps' excellence unified a bouillabaisse of people last night, bringing their focus to something positive and helping people that have little in common connect. It was beautiful and in a small way gave me hope.

No 1 of Consequence

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What don't I know?

That question might be the most important question you can ask yourself when starting a business venture. Obviously, before starting any enterprise you should have a great understanding of both the industry and marketplace you are getting involved in. You have asked yourself, what is the lifespan of this business? What can I add to the market? What problem am I solving? (Unless of course, you are me, in which case you flush a whole pile of money down a toilet mainly because you didn't ask yourself any of those questions) How is my business different than other businesses trying to solve the same problem? Eventually you will get to questions you don't know the answer to. When you get to those, how you address them will very often be the key to the success or failure of your enterprise.

Fred Wilson over at A VC gave some public kudos to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook. Zuckerberg hired a professional operator to take what was recently a very small company, international. Wilson cites the successes of other similar young executives at suddenly massive companies bringing in top notch operatives to keep things moving forward as the reason Zuckerberg gets a pat on the back. What he doesn't address is why this is an important indicator that Mark Zuckerberg (MZ) is a good bet to lead Facebook for a long time.

It seems that MZ has a genuine lack of arrogance. He understands what he doesn't know. He accepted he needed help at the highest level and acted swiftly and effectively to bring in a serious operator to help him through the unknown waters. So I too, tip my hat to MZ, and hope that this incredibly important business lesson is not lost on me in the future.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hear No Evil

The Supreme Court of the United States of America declined to hear a case the ACLU filed against the NSA. They declined to hear the case without comment.

Why is this important?

The details of the case are simple. The ACLU is challenging the legality of the warrantless wiretapping that is currently going on in this country.

The court will not hear the case.

If the court heard the case they would be forced to rule against the NSA. Warrantless searching in this country is a Constitutional violation.

The 4th Amendement says:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It states unequivocally that the government can't look, listen to or seize anything without a warrant. No warrant can be issued without specific evidence of wrongdoing and the warrant itself must contain specific things to be seized. The language could not be more clear. Written in an age of tyranny, nothing was more important to the framers than personal liberty.

Now, in the name of expediency and fear, our government chooses to use the excuse that they are protecting us by abrogating our freedoms and liberties. Our Supreme Court is silent rather than speak the truth aloud. This simple truth. Ignoring civil liberty under the guise of protection is facism. To be a truly free society our government must take the more difficult path and protect its citizenry without forcing the sacrifice of liberty. Anything else was unacceptable to our founding fathers and should be unacceptable to the American people today.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up essential liberty for temporary safety or security, deserve neither safety or security."

The courts are the last line of defense of the people. They are empowered to stand up and say, "If the United States is governed by the rule of law, this is wrong and MUST cease." If the courts are silent and refuse to act when our organizing principles are ignored then we are no longer a nation governed by laws.

I am frightened for us all.

No 1 of Consequence

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Asking the right questions

I have an idea for a product. How can I get it made?

I can't tell you how many times I see e-mails like this. I was even approached for a consulting gig this week by someone who has a product idea he wants to produce. Is it a good idea? It all depends on whether he asks the right questions before moving forward. Also before I invest my time and energy into someone else's entrepreneurial idea they are going to have to answer some very hard questions from me on the topic of their commitment to the idea.

That's really all it takes to get a product produced. Commitment. It takes a commitment of time and a commitment of money. Time to find the right people to fill the knowledge gap where yours wanes. Time to make sure you know what you want to do with the product once it is produced. Money to pay the people who can fill the knowledge gap and money for the prototype phase and initial production runs of you product. It is as simple as that. Any other challenge you think you will face can be shoved under those two umbrellas, time and money.

Getting it made is the easy part if you identify the knowledge gaps and are willing to pay to have them filled. The hard part is what do you do when you are holding "it" in your hand.

No 1 of Consequence

Friday, February 15, 2008

Social, semantic, 2.0, 3.0, what is the web these days?

The brilliant boys over at Freakonomics put together a group of top minds to debate the benefits and challenges of social networking. Why has social networking exploded?

Some possible reasons:

Reason 1:

Social networking changes the way business is done. I am currently doing some consulting work for a web start-up. They are two young guys with a very interesting idea. How did I meet them? One of them showed up as part of my fraternity networking group on Linked In. I was interested in his company because I am seriously considering leaving mine. However, they have not received funding yet and aren't realy sure how to seek it. I have given them advice and pointed them in the right direction, but at the end of the day they need a veteran to help them through. I am not in a position to lead that charge for them. However, I knew the perfect guy. I used Linked In to introduce them. They've had a very productive meeting and my veteran friend is most likely going to sign on with my young friends in a mentoring-interim CEO capacity to help them through the funding process. Before Linked In was a story like this possible? No, because it is unlikely I ever would have met the young entrepreneur.

Reason 2:

A serious desire to connect with other people in an increasingly hostile world? It is harder and harder to make friends the older you get and I think it is a daunting task at any age once puberty hits. Social networking gives people the ability to reach out there and find people they really have common ground with, allowing them to connect on a different level than normal. Normal being, "I work with this guy and he isn't a complete ass so let me go to lunch with him." Occasionally those relationships turn into real friendship. Most of the time they disappear as soon as one or the other changes jobs.

Are there more reasons? Yeah, without a doubt, but these are two big ones in my opinion. I started to write this post a long time ago about how fragmented society has become and how that is hurting television ratings. What I am starting to realize is social networking is becoming as fragmented as society at large. MySpace rose, and then Facebook, Friendster, Linked In and more and more. It has gotten so crazy someone started a social network search engine called YoName.

Look at all the networks it searches:

26... I am pretty dialed in webwise and I haven't heard of some of those. I am 100% sure that isn't all of them, because one of my favorites is Ning, and Ning is not included on the list.

What does any of this mean? I am really not sure, but when looking at sociological interactions of the human race, social networking is a very interesting twist in the way we touch each other.

No 1 of Consequence

Yes we can

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jericho returns

I haven't written about TV this year. Work has been so busy I have barely had time to watch nay much less write the kind of critique and opinion you expect of me. However, since Jericho returned to the air tonight, I wanted to tell you about it in the hopes you will watch all 7 episodes and keep it going into 2009.

Jericho is a different kind of show. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic America that is trying to put itself back together, two towns in Kansas went to war last season. The last word spoken in the last episode of last season was Skeet Ulrich, captain of the Jericho, KA town militia shouting, "NUTS!" into a field radio to the captain of the evil New Bern, KS town militia who were attacking them.

Then CBS cancelled the show.

The battle would never take place.

New Bern would never receive their due for the evil they perpetrated on beacon of hope Jericho.
Then the fans got involved. The people were sick and tired of imaginative, well written and well acted shows getting decimated before they got a chance to take root. Fan sites sprung up everywhere and CBS was sieged with e-mails and calls demanding Jericho be picked up for a second season. CBS' response, unsurprisingly, was that they appreciated the fans passion, but we could go collectively jump in a lake.

Did the fans of Jericho give up? Nuts to that!!

The fans of Jericho began shipping peanuts in massive quantities to CBS headquarters in New York City. Box after box, pound after pound of peanuts bombed CBS HQ until finally, the programming executives relented and ordered a limited run for 2008. That run premiered tonight and in the opening scene, as one of the Jericho's citizens recovered from the battle in a hospital, he ate shelled peanuts, as an homage to the power of the fans and the power of the internet.

Jericho is the best TV show most of you have never seen. It is uniquely crafted covering the micro and macro views of what America could become following a catastrophe. I highly recommend it.

No 1 of Consequence

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr.

It's a long video. If you have the time watch it. If you've never read King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, please take an hour and read it. It demonstrates a compassion and understanding for humanity that have rarely been seen in this world. This passage moves me every time.

"Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

I encourage my loyal few to embrace that understanding of collective responsibility and let it live on through your hearts and actions.

No 1 of Consequence

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why do many people fail?

I got a call from a recruiter last week who wanted to engage me in a contingency contract to fill open positions I might be recruiting at my current company. I, at the moment, do not have any open positions and even if I did, this particular recruiter does not specialize in representing the kind of candidates I would be evaluating for hire. However, I gave her the go ahead to send me her contact information and invited her to send me an invite on LinkedIN, a business networking site I am involved with.

Did she follow up?


Will she get referred to the person I know hiring exactly the kind of people she reps?


Is this a major failure for her and her company?

You better believe it.

Lack of follow up is a leading cause of failure in business. The worst part about this for me personally is I am as guilty as the next person. There are so many things I really want to be doing, but I am working so hard right now it is very hard to spend the extra energy to follow up and follow through on the things I want for myself. I don't really have it to spend. Of course that is excuse making, no need to point it out to me.

If there is one thing I want to do in 2008, it is to be better, in all things. Now I just need to follow through.

No 1 of Consequence