February 19th

How to feel like a hacker in the movies

  1. Go here.
  2. Furiously mash the keyboard.
  3. Press CAPS LOCK repeatedly.
  4. Press ALT repeatedly.
  5. Occasionally say “oh no you don’t,” and “playing hard to get, huh?”

January 30th

It doesn’t matter how many non-repeated letters, non-consecutive numbers, and unique symbols are in a password that’s new every 6 months and not similar to the previous 10 passwords if attackers have no need to crack it.

January 15th

Nest’s acqusition

I’m not terrified of Google. Maybe I should be, but their actions haven’t set off alarm bells in terms of privacy for me personally.

Their acquisition of Nest is a great move, and the $3bn price tag is justifiable.

While I’m not concerned about Google having access to my Nest data, it’s naive to think Nest’s privacy policy will prevent Google from accessing it. Even Nest’s privacy policy dodges the question:

Will Nest customer data be shared with Google?
Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services.

Okay, so if sharing with Google “improves Nest’s products and services,” the customer data is fair game, according to these terms. I don’t think it’s very difficult for Google to justify why accessing Nest data is beneficial.

Nest is silly for even beating around the bush with this. They should just come out and say “Google owns us now, so it’s no longer Nest vs. Google. Nest is Google.”

Regardless of the semantics of Nest’s policies, has there ever been a company in the history of business that wasn’t allowed to view the information of something it owns outright?

December 13th

The year of desktop Linux, or Rapture, whichever comes first

2003 - “Linux should pass Apple in market share for desktop operating systems on computers.”

2004 - no? Well we just added a bunch of drivers for video and network cards, so surely this is the year. 

2005 - we’re getting sick of everyone saying every year is the year, but THIS year is the year.

2006 - Windows Vista sucks, which means it’s our time now.

2007 - okay ‘07 is a wash, but 2008 is going to be the year for sure.

2008just kidding, Linux has already won and we just missed it!

2009 - it’s a silly argument and let’s stop, ok? Linux is obviously huge.

2010 - the dream is dead, guys. There will be no desktop Linux this year.

2011 - actually, it’s not coming, ever.

2012 - wait… I just realized I read the bones wrong. It’s this year!

2013 - okay, remember how I said last year was the year? Well this time a guy at Intel said it’s this year! So surely!


2014 - we’re only a few days in, but congratulations, guys. 2014 is the year of desktop Linux.

December 4th

The Exit Fallacy

Right now, some investor is asking some technology startup the infamous question, “what’s your exit strategy?” The likely response falls into two categories:

  1. We’re going to go public
  2. We’re going to get acquired

For many just starting up, the idea of mapping a path to IPO is so daunting, so far away, that #2 seems like the more realistic, achievable option. “We’ll just build a great tool, get acquired, and go do the next thing…”

In reality, successful acquisitions are very rare, and mapping the stars that need to align for an acquisition to happen is an exercise in chaos theory.

Here’s a minimum list of requirements that need to be met for a deal to go through:

  • your company has a technology the acquirer wants
  • your company has a team the acquirer wants (usually paired with the above)
  • acquirer is convinced buying you is a better option (read: cheaper and faster) than building it themselves
  • acquirer has the culture and stomach for doing a deal
  • acquirer has an internal sponsor who can convincingly sell upper management on how your company can help them
  • acquirer has upper management that can sell the board on why the deal getting done is critical
  • acquirer is convinced doing a deal now is the right time
  • acquirer has the capital to acquire you
  • acquirer has done an acquisition before
  • the acquisition terms are agreeable for all parties

Shockingly, the most common “exit strategy” in practice isn’t an exit at all: “we’re going to stay private.” Said response is also a great way to have an investor hang up on you.

It’s understandable. Investors need you to exit for their investment to yield any worthwhile return, but why should you care? Investors have convinced entrepreneurs that plateauing at $20mm with 100 employees and healthy margins is a bad thing. It’s not $100mm. It’s not still growing exponentially. It’s not turning into a miniature city.

They’re right, it might not be an amazingly sweet deal for them, but it’s often the best deal for founders.

While you’re mapping the plan to IPO, or acquisition, include a “stay private” plan and work backwards. You might be surprised where you end up.

November 22nd

Get the other people out. When you want to do something creative, the others are not your friends. The world is not rooting for you. They don’t agree. They see you up, they will pull you down.
Iggy Pop

November 12th

What are your top tips or lessons for raising funding?

  • Don’t take it unless you need it
  • You won’t know you need it until you map out how you’re going to spend every single dollar raised.
  • To map out how you’re going to spend every dollar raised, you need to hunker down and, yes, write a business plan. Get friends, mentors, other entrepreneurs to edit it and punch holes in it before you think about approaching an investor.
  • More important than how cool your company is: investors want to know how they’re going to make money from you. Spend the first 25% of your pitch on your company, the rest on how it’s going to generate a solid return for them.
  • If any of these points rub you the wrong way, you’re probably building a lifestyle business, not a venture-backed business.
  • Raising money is a full-time job, and takes at least six months. Don’t sacrifice your company’s growth for the chase.
  • Philosophically treat any funds raised as debt, even if it’s an equity raise. It’ll help reduce impulse buys and focus your spending on customer acquisition.

Tell us a story about how you incorporated fun or celebration into fundraising.

We treated VC calls as “collecting our no’s.” Instead of putting all our eggs in one basket, or treating each VC pitch meeting like Christmas Mass, we focused on the vision, but changed the message in each meeting. Sort of like a comedian tests new material. Ultimately, you land on a very tight, cohesive message, but it never starts that way. It starts with a lot of rooms filled with crickets. By taking each meeting less seriously, it makes the process more fun, and you realize a rejection isn’t an invalidation of your idea.

What are your top tips for managing and keeping in touch with your investors?

Stay as high-level as possible. A monthly email update with five or ten bullet points is all that’s necessary.

Instead of focusing on product/service updates, focus on initiatives you’re working on and the end-result they translate to. Investors care about the long-view, not that you just added Google+ support.

October 15th

Productivity is not a personality trait

There are many examples of well-credentialed experts discussing the best ways to find talent and maximize productivity in a company.

As part of their argument, they slam “psychological assessments” like Myers Briggs, Predictive Index, 360, etc. as terrible methods for finding talent. Instead, the recommended approach is to test work-related tasks and make hiring decisions on those results entirely.

Unfortunately, that’s just replacing one bad idea with another. Both need to be tested to find that great new hire.

Psychological assessments target enthusiasm, team and culture fit. A cohesive team can lead to more productivity as a whole, but the test is a poor indicator of how productive the employee will be per se.

Task-based tests target job competency. A new developer may pass the programming test with flying colors, but if they are poor communicators, they might not mesh well with the team, leading to lower productivity in the long run.

In short, to find new employees, you need to test both, and you need to consider the macro view of the company’s productivity vs. individual employee productivity.

September 26th

On the inner loop of the beltway, from Leesburg Pike to 270 and up 270 and on the beltway through Silver Spring and Bethesda to College Park cars and trucks are driving… on 95 south.

It’s 12 past the top of the hour, 48 minutes to the 12 o’ clock hour, that’s 11:12 or 011 hundred and 12 for you military folks out there, next update at 14 past 11, or 46 minutes from the top of the hour.

Why do traffic guys even exist.