September 16th

What a mess.

What a mess.

September 15th

The revenue development at high-tech companies actually occurs looks more like a staircase than a hockey stick. That is, there is an initial period of rapid revenue growth, representing the development of the early market, followed by a period of slow to no growth (the chasm period), followed by a second phase of rapid growth, representing return on one’s initial mainstream market development. This staircase can continue indefinitely, with the flat periods representing slower growth due to transitioning into broader and broader mainstream segments, and the rapid rises representing the ability to capitalize on those efforts.

All this is well and good. The staircase model is perfectly viable—unless you have mortgaged your stake in the company on making the hockey stick scenario come true. That, unfortunately, is precisely what most high-tech funding plans commit to. And when the hockey stick scenario does not come true, and the mortgage comes due, the founder’s equity gets radically diluted, things fall apart, and the company dies in the chasm.

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.

The book is a bit dated in content and concept, to be sure. But…

The sooner entrepreneurs can commit to not promising 8-figure revenue within the first year of a company’s life, and the sooner investors can stop demanding such growth, the more realistic it will be for tech businesses to take a seat at the table of century-old companies.

September 9th

 WATCH

Once again, Apple makes everyone else look like amateurs. $349 is a great price, too.

Samsung, Motorola, et al, just took their smart phone and shrunk it down to a tiny screen, keyboard and all. A terrible, unusable experience resulted.

Apple is really good at is starting from the experience and building out, throwing away things that don’t work. Finger-typing on the Apple Watch would be pathetic. Apple’s solution, giving the user the ability to draw little images, conveys almost the same level of communication without a single letter. A perfect execution of the concept.

If the Apple Watch were just a second screen for the iPhone, it would fail. It wins because there are things only the Watch can do.

I’m not a fan of the over-dependence on the iPhone (for GPS and the like). That eliminates any consistent fitness tracking for a lot of people. Most don’t phones with them on a run (and shouldn’t need to).

A nice bonus: Apple was clearly influenced by one of my favorite user interfaces of all time, the OP-1 synthesizer’s:

September 4th

#slack: a tool for introverts

You’ve probably heard of Slack, a team communication tool made by the creator of Flickr. Similar to Flickr, it was conceived by accident, during the (unsuccessful) production of a video game.

Slack is a glorified IRC client that allows you to create group chats around different topics. But it really shines in its integrations. Slack can tie into just about every service relevant to your company, creating a unique patchwork of team chats with automated updates from sales, marketing, servers and support.

The end result: everyone is more aware of what’s happening across the entire organization.

For a company largely made up of development talent, Slack is a no-brainer. It’s fun, easy, and information-heavy. For those that need more social interaction though, Slack can make an office feel empty; when seven people are typing out responses to a question, speaking up can feel awkward.

We’ve been using it for just over a month, and here are some of the palpable differences I’ve noticed:

  1. Mass team emails are far less frequent/necessary.
  2. Collaborative discussions have a higher response rate.
  3. Spontaneous ideas are more common across the entire organization.
  4. Inter-departmental awareness is up.
  5. The office is spooky-quiet with moments of chuckling.

The last point is the most interesting; an unfortunate side effect of offloading 90% of communication to a chat window.

Most tech companies are going to be quieter than a trading floor, but it’s a fact that our office had more face-to-face chatter before Slack. As insignificant as it sounds, speaking out loud an important facet that keeps company culture alive. It can’t be lost.

My question: where’s the line between technical efficiency and company culture?

June 19th

You’re Fire(phone)d!

Amazon announced the Fire Phone yesterday. Amazon isn’t a hardware company, and it shows.

When the iPad was first announced, it was largely dismissed as “just a big iPhone” by naysayers. In this case, detractors would be fairly safe calling the Fire Phone “just a small Kindle.”

Bezos’ demonstration of the device covered how to use it to find and buy things on Amazon. In that sense, it’s just what the Kindle does, plus a phone app (which wasn’t demonstrated). How do you actually use it as a phone? Who cares!

The Fire Phone was built around a feature checklist where it would be the only one checked in each row. I can’t imagine how many “Mayday” calls Amazon CSRs will get asking how to turn off the tilt scrolling. And 6 cameras dedicated to a feature that’s nothing more than “neat,” compromising device size and battery life in the process? Jeesh.

The biggest flub was subtle: the ‘cloud’ and ‘device’ tabs in the list of apps. If this device is targeted to Kindle users (grandma), why should she care whether the app is in the cloud or on the device? Shouldn’t it just work?

Apple and Google have already made their intentions clear: it doesn’t matter where the content lives, just as long as you can access it. Amazon has instead adapted the Kindle experience for a smaller device and added a phone app.

Who, exactly, was asking for that?

April 9th

Take my job. Please.


Comedians are rarely universally funny before they turn thirty. The average age of all comedians is 38. Certainly there are exceptions: Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K. et al, but they are few and far between.

Why is this? Most comedians will tell you it’s because comedy comes from life experience, and you just don’t have much experience in life when you’re 18. What would you joke about, how small your dorm is? How gross cafeteria food is? These topics have a limited shelf life, and limited audience reach. When you’re 28, you have perspective. The size of your dorm is now a foreign, insignificant memory, just barely hanging on. When you’re young, it’s hard to connect the dots in a way that’s truly, objectively funny.

The same applies when starting a business. People create startups from life experience. The contrast from comedians is as one grows older, time becomes more scarce, and ambition suffers. And yet, with age comes additional responsibilities. The problems that need solving only seem to grow. Think of times in your life when you’ve been annoyed, and nothing existed that could quickly deal with the issue. Most would acknowledge the problem, but not that they could solve it. “I’m too busy with other things to start a company.” You rarely hear of a 38 year old starting their first business.

In those little “annoyed” spaces is opportunity. And the wisdom, perspective and experience of age can only help, not hurt, the exploration of that opportunity.

How do we foster the entrepreneurial spirit not in college kids, but in folks who are ten years into a career they never wanted?

March 27th

We got to take it to the National Air Show in Washington, DC and put it on display there. That was going to be our last flight.

As we took off from there and came back around for a pass, the right engine exploded. We had to dump gas, and set about thirteen acres of Maryland on fire as we did that. That was kind of interesting, just spewing flaming fuel and titanium pieces around.

The SR-71’s last flight.

March 26th

During a 2009 court trial over Falk’s care, Dr Stephen Read stated that the actor’s condition had deteriorated so badly that Falk could no longer remember playing a character named Columbo, nor could he identify who Columbo was.

- Wiki on Columbo, the detective show from the 70s.

:(. Dementia sucks.

March 24th

If you truly have a vision of who you want to become, you can’t wait to take the next step, because it means you’re one step closer to achieving that vision.

March 7th

thisistheverge:

Designing a timeless smartwatch Gábor Balogh is a freelance designer from Hungary who, like many of us, wants an attractive, watch-like watch that just happens to be smart. The difference between Balogh and the rest of us is he went ahead and designed an interface he believes could enable regular watch designs to include a full bevy of smart features.

This is what Pebble could be if their designs weren’t engineering-driven. Absolutely fantastic concept.

thisistheverge:

Designing a timeless smartwatch
Gábor Balogh is a freelance designer from Hungary who, like many of us, wants an attractive, watch-like watch that just happens to be smart. The difference between Balogh and the rest of us is he went ahead and designed an interface he believes could enable regular watch designs to include a full bevy of smart features.

This is what Pebble could be if their designs weren’t engineering-driven. Absolutely fantastic concept.

(via 9-bits)