Archive for the 'Startups' Category

Seattle Startup Drinks Recap

Last night was another successful Seattle Startup Drinks event.  About 20 people showed up at the People’s Pub in Ballard for beer and tech talk.  Of note to me personally was that this was the first time I’d showed off Crowdify on the iPhone, and it worked reasonably well as a demo platform.

Interestingly, the founder of i-booze.com, Karim Varela, was in attendance. Karim got blasted a couple months ago on the Seattle Tech Startups mailing list.  I give him credit for taking his virtual lumps and coming out to support the community! Funny note: his business card has a little liquor bottle running around on wheels with a lit cigarette sticking out of its ass.  No, no, no, Karim: the cigarettes go in the mouth, not the ass!

I also got to meet tweep Danielle Morrill last night for the first time in person.  She’s been a very public online presence for Whrrl, which is one of my current favorite Seattle startups.

Continued mad props to Cassie Wallender for putting in the time to organize the Seattle Startup Drinks events.  You rock Cassie!

Portland Infects Seattle With Hoppy Goodness

Dave Schappell, founder & CEO of Seattle-based TeachStreet, has launched a new startup drinking game called Hops and Chops — a chance for Seattle startup types to cure Wednesday’s hangover with a Thursday cocktail.

He says it was inspired by Beer and Blog, a Portland gathering which I’ve seen Rick Turoczy tweet about time and again – proof that in some essential alcohol- and startup-related respects, Portland is further advanced than Seattle!

Dave has asked that we spread the word – full text of his invite is quoted below.

Key influencers are already (pardon the pun) hopping on board!

Please help us spread the word about a new recurring happy hour/networking/meet-someone-new event.

Idea is that you can add this to your calendar and always know that folks will be there — grab dinner, have a beer, and head home/back to the computer!

Website for it — http://www.hopsandchops.com
Twitter for it — http://www.twitter.com/hopsandchops

* Where? – Linda’s Tavern (Capitol Hill) – 707 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
* When? – 6:30pm, every Thursday (starting 9/25/08)
* Who/What? – Startup junkies, networkers, folks interested in learning new things and meeting new people, activists, and fun people!
* Why? – Here’s the gist:
o We were inspired by a fantastic recurring Portland happy hour event called Beer and Blog semi-coordinated by Silicon Florist & others.
o We liked that it’s recurring and in a set-location — you can just put it on your calendar, and there’ll always be a few folks to catch up with.
o Folks who start companies are frequently inundated with “let’s have coffee/lunch” requests — this gives you a way to aggregate them and make intros/network in real-time.
* Other? – Idea is that maybe we’ll bring in speakers from time to time… maybe tech-related, or maybe just cool/fun to help you learn something new/meet someone new. We aren’t stressing over it… we’ll figure it out as we go.
* Notifications? – Sign up for our Hops and Chops Twitter or follow the Hops and Chops RSS feed.

Rating Development Stacks for Startups

On the Seattle Tech Startups mailing list, there’s been a discussion recently about the pros and cons of various development platforms.  Eventually it devolved, as many of these discussions do, into a general throwing up of hands and a recommendation by several people to avoid development stack debates, because it inevitably leads nowhere.

I’m not so sure I agree with the proscription.

It seems to me that there are few things in play:

  1. Very few developers know more than a few stacks well enough to assess whether or not they are REALLY better or worse for certain tasks.  For example, I don’t have enough Python or Ruby experience to be able to pass on anything other than secondhand knowledge (and my own guesses) about their true capabilities relative to, say, .NET.
  2. There are intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can be evaluated for each stack.  Intrinsic factors are things like readability, breadth and depth of built-in libraries, expressiveness, flexibility, etc.  Extrinsic factors are things like cost, availability of developers, vendor support, etc.
  3. The notion that each common stack is as good as the other is bunk, in my opinion.  Maybe it’s my latent objectivist streak, but just as C# is objectively more productive than assembler for web development, you could pit any two languages, and – given perfect information – come up with a rank-ordered list for any required scenario.

Someone on the STS list asked the reasonable question: “where do I go to get information about the various choices?”  I agree with the commenter who thought listservs like STS are a great place to go in theory.  It’s mostly working professionals, in or near the startup experience, and refreshing lacks the anonymous yahoos that flame away on Google Groups tech lists.

Key Takeaways from Six Hour Startup

Last night I went to the Six Hour Startup event held at the Collins Pub in Seattle.  The premise behind 6HS is: start something up and get it launched in 6 hours, using the combined talents of a group of startup folks.

It was my first time attending a 6HS event, and I’ll definitely be back for more.  My key takeaways:

Don’t be afraid to come if your expertise is not in Python or Django.  What better way to learn than to start coding with experts sitting right across the table from you to help you get through the inevitable setup and configuration hurdles?  I’d never done any Python or Django before but was able to get up and running with very little pain, and I learned a ton.  Thanks, Brian, Justin, and Anders!

You don’t need to be a hardcore nerd to attend.  We had quite a few business/legal/marketing/PR folks attending last night, and everyone contributed.

You’ll learn more than you thought.  I was able to get the Yelp API calls working last night, after never having touched them before.

Community matters.   It’s so much better to do these types of things with other motivated people in the startup community than alone, or only with people you already know well.  Take a chance and stretch those social muscles a bit!

The side talks are very valuable.  Last night Wes Maldonado showed me the beta version of a new product that Pivotal Labs is working on called Pivotal Tracker, which is a very sexy-looking web based XP project planning system.  I feel like Pivotal Tracker may be just the thing I need to push Crowdify to the next level.

Roslyn Brewing Company makes a damned fine beer.

And, surprisingly, the Deschutes Black Butte XX is amazing as well.  I say surprisingly because I’m not normally a fan of dark beers.  This one was yummy.  Thanks Marina!

All in all – a great evening, and one I hope to repeat many times in the future.

Listening To Success

I have never quite understood the attraction of “real-life” crime dramas like CSI, Law and Order, etc. My main issue is that these TV shows deal in the underbelly of human existence – death, injury, crime, pain, loss, hopelessness, and all the rest.

I guess I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with positive things, and moreover, thinking positive thoughts. I guess that’s why my wife occasionally calls me “Pollyanna.”

What touched off the introductory thoughts? I just finished listening to a short MP3 of serial entrepreneur Matt Cassidy speaking at SXSW. It occurs to me that I don’t spend enough time listening to podcasts of successful entrepreneurs. There’s a lot of material out there to listen to. And, at some level, conscious or otherwise, listening to that material has to have a positive impact on my own entrepreneurial efforts.

Think of Stuart Smalley and his daily affirmations, but add in real actionable information, unique insights, and best practices, experience, and much more. I’d love to hear an audio series in the same vein as the interviews in the book Founders at Work.

My June goal: listen to more successful people. If you know of any great audio, please link to it in the comments.

Starting Your Startup Video At TechStars

I just finished watching a video presentation from TechStars called “Starting your Startup” with a panel composed of Todd Vernon, Brad Feld, and David Cohen.  Great stuff.  For those of you who need the Cliff’s Notes version of the video, here’s the shorter version, although I really recommend you watch the video:

  1. Figure out what you can be the best in the world at.
  2. Don’t worry too much about competitors at the beginning.
  3. Mentorship is important and often undervalued.
  4. Focus.
  5. There’s a fine line between being true to your focus and being responsive to customers.
  6. Aim for intellectual honesty, check your reality, and recalibrate often.
  7. Listen more than you talk.

(h/t Andrew Hyde)

Start, Then Continue

Two nice thoughts today on the business of iterating your startup idea: First, from my friend Carolynn Duncan, this comment (via Twitter):

re: that entrepreneur link– starting the race isn’t the difficult part, it’s running the damn marathon.

Next, a blog post from Seth Godin about “grand openings”:

Make a list of successful products in your industry. Most of them didn’t start big. Not the Honda Accord or Facebook, not Aetna Insurance, not JetBlue or that church down the street. Most overnight successes take a decade (okay, four years online).

I might have a little quibble with Carolynn over the semantics of what it means to “start the race”: launching Crowdify this past weekend was hard. Damned hard. All the typical procrastination/perfectionist/fear of failure/fear of criticism bugaboos exposed their fangs at numerous points along the way. Yet, I didn’t feel like I’d “started” until I actually released something. Before, I was the talker. Now, I actually have something out there. I’ve put my stake in the ground.

I think a lot of people are like I was in the beginning: they think (secretly hope?) that “starting” means “I have an idea that I’m tinkering with.” That way lies the slow death of unfulfilled promise.

Here’s some feedback from my friend Craig on his review of Crowdify:

Good first release, now the real work starts….

So true.



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