Thursday, May 15, 2014

High tech networking for a low tech guru

This week I had the opportunity to attend several events for Boulder Startup Week. I chose a few events I thought would be of interest and be relevant for the survival school or my business education in general. Here are my thoughts:

Wednesday, May 14th:

A Better Boulder through Sustainable Urbanism: This event looked interesting because Boulder is likely to be where we acquire a large portion of our students. If Boulder fails to sustain its growth and adequately plan its development in a responsible manner our potential customer base will evaporate.

The three presenters painted a very good picture of the challenges facing the Boulder community as a whole (startups can only grow so much in Downtown Boulder before they are forced to move outside the greenbelt), outlined the specific challenges of transportation infrastructure (providing adequate transportation between the two major retail areas, 29th St. Mall and Pearl St. Mall), as well as their plan for meeting these complex challenges.

Of the three events I attended on Wednesday, I thought this one was going to be the most political. I was pleasantly suprised when it turned out to be a straightforward discussion about "this is what we're doing and why".

Jane Miller Interviewed by Brad Feld: Half of the people involved with the survival school are women. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not learn at least something of what it is like to be a woman in business.

Jane Miller's new book, Sleep Your Way To The Top describes her rise to the top of several food industry companies (I haven't read the book yet, but I don't think sleeping with people was a major factor in her career progression).

Brad Feld is (among other things) a Managing Director at the Foundry Group. Yes, I'm biased, but I think Brad did a good job here. The initial focus was on the book, with Brad asking questions based on some of the chapter titles and Jane giving us (most of) the details. Some of the highlights included Jane talking about the importance of both networking and mentoring. At the end of the interview there was a Q&A portion with Jane fielding questions from the audience. Overall it was an insightful experience for me and Jane's book is now rather high on my reading list.

Boulder "Keynote": It says keynote but in reality it was two half hour free form talks with Brad Feld, Andrew Hyde, Founder and organizer of BSW, and David Cohen, Founder, Managing Partner and CEO of TechStars. 

 The first half hour David and Brad took turns talking about a wide array of subjects ranging from the early days of the Boulder startup scene to the many industries represented in the area today and the importance of open communication of ideas.

For the second half hour, Andrew took over for Brad and the conversation turned to the importance of networking and not underestimating the importance of your ideas. A large portion of the last half hour was devoted to audience Q&A.

 Thursday, May 15th:

Controversy of Diversity: Hosted by Tara Calihman, Social Media Marketing Director at VictorOps, Inc. and Julie Penner, Program Manager for Techstars Boulder. With very good presentations by Ingrid Alongi, CEO of Quick Left, and Dr. Wendy DuBow, a research scientist at NCWIT. 

I had a good time at this event while learning a bunch. The hosts and presenters all knew their stuff and I love that there are now actual workable solutions to the lack of diversity in tech jobs. I did a rough count about halfway through the event and almost half the audience were women. Now if we can all simply advocate for them, partner with them, and mentor them, it will be problem solved. The best comment I heard was "girls aren't all playing with pink barbie dolls anymore", glad to hear it!

Friday, May 16th:

Breakfast with Rep. Polis (D-CO): Ending warrantless digital surveillance: What? the government is spying on us? Hosted and (wonderful) food and beverages provided by SendGrid. P.S. The lobby will look great when it's done!

Rep. Jared Polis (-CO) briefly outlined the problem (Current law allows warrantless search and collection of electronic communications such as emails, text messages, and private messages on social networking sites six months after they are sent) and the bills currently making their way through congress designed to prevent this (should be) illegal gathering of personal information by the government. He opened it up for questions from the audience rather quickly, answering questions well past the end of the scheduled event. I was very impressed with the Congressman and his staff's subject matter knowledge. I was also impressed by his willingness to stay after the scheduled event to talk with people. Another well done event to round out BSW!

Overall I have had a very insightful and thought provoking week at BSW. Very Motivating as well! I tried to attend as many relevant events as I could, some were full before I knew about them. Hopefully someone posts video of the ones I missed. I can't wait for next year's events! With a little luck and some hard work, I hope to be ready with some summer survival classes by then!

Forgive my lack of tech savvy, after growing up in the Silicon Valley I spent 20 years in the army which ruined me. Now I get to learn it all over again. What's a tweet?


Sunday, March 16, 2014

What's wrong with you people?

I woke up this morning to a changed world.

24 hours ago there was a restraining order protecting a California business from the unlawful seizure of their property by the federal government. Today I was reminded that a restraining order is just a piece of paper. 

Also in California, a friend of mine went to bed last night secure in the belief that his truck was safely parked in his driveway. This morning he reported his truck stolen.

I have a hard time even writing about this one. A friend woke from a nap yesterday and drove to our house for a party. As she drove through the parking lot here she came "close-ish" to a man walking across the driveway. As she parked and got out with a growler of beer for the party the man made comments to the effect that she had tried to run him over. She addressed the man in a dismissive tone and basically told him to f-off. The man pursued her and despite her efforts to retreat he cornered her against a garage door. She, realizing she would need both hands to defend herself, set the growler on the ground, grabbed her phone and attempted to dial 911. The man knocked her phone away ( somehow it dialed my number because when I picked up I could hear her yelling for help), picked up the growler and proceeded to assault her. She (smartly) yelled FIRE! and someone actually pulled the fire alarm just before myself and several guests from our party arrived. A crowd had gathered by this time and the man was still very out of control and belligerent. I got between him and my friend and lit him up with the strobe function on my flashlight and ordered him to back off. He still had the growler in his hand as he approached my girlfriend. She took a step back and drew her weapon (no, she had not been drinking). I wonder this morning if this man realizes how lucky he is to be alive today. Had he taken another step he would be in the morgue right now. Lucky for him he backed off. The police arrived and took him into custody for 2nd degree assault, felony menacing, and interfering with telecommunications. Our friend got a ticket for disorderly conduct (she swore at the man from 15 feet away which provoked him....?) which should be dropped.

Until yesterday my girlfriend had never had to draw her weapon to defend herself. Until yesterday my friend believed the police were there to protect us. Today the world is different.... and I am a bit more cynical.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 though your life depends on it.

How often is this really true anymore? How often does your life actually depend on a decision you make or an action you take? I'm not talking about not eating a donut because 20 years from now you might have a heart attack, I'm talking about immediate consequences of your actions. Is someone going to die if I make the wrong decision here or if I don't work hard enough today? I'm not talking about financial ruin or becoming homeless, I'm talking about the immediate end of your life.

Most of the examples I can think of don't hold up to analysis. Ironically it's the simpler more mundane decisions that have the potential to be catastrophic (should I change lanes now? Should I take the elevator?). In truth, in the U.S our very lives no longer depend on our everyday decisions.

If you choose not to work and earn a living there are charities and government programs that will provide you with a place to sleep and several nutritious meals every day. Provided you have the will to live and a basic sense of self preservation your life no longer depends on how hard you work.

I tried to find other examples of things we might do "as though our lives depended on it". Running from a burning building? Fighting off an attacker? These incidents are so rare most people aren't affected by them their entire lives.

Again, the examples I could find that meet the criteria are mundane decisions and actions. Hardly the types of things people would say they are doing "as though their lives depend on it".