Underdogs are not popular because we are underdogs. Underdogs have to fight for everything. Underdogs have to fight to be heard, to be seen, to be respected. Of course we don’t want to think that we’re them. We want to think we’re winners, that we sit at the special table (you can’t sit with us), that we’re better than everyone else, but what are you winning? What did you win? Sh*t, what are you even playing, dog?
December 26th 2013, this Kickstarter campaign limped towards a looming deadline to reach their goald of $125,000. They failed and that campaign was never funded.
Fast forward 8 months.
The same product, with the same name, by the same inventor, with an eerily similar promotional video has become the most successful project in Kickstarter history.
So what changed?
Did people suddenly want a cooler/blender/flashlight/picnic basket/bottle opener/iphone charger/boombox/cuttingboard? Did running the campaign in summer change people’s perceived need for the product v. running it in the depths of winter? Does bright orange sell better than matte black? 
Honestly, I have no idea.
But, I do know what didn’t change?
Ryan Gepper’s belief in his vision for the Coolest Cooler.
He never gave up, even in the face of a very public failure.
And that’s pretty Cool.

December 26th 2013, this Kickstarter campaign limped towards a looming deadline to reach their goald of $125,000. They failed and that campaign was never funded.

Fast forward 8 months.

The same product, with the same name, by the same inventor, with an eerily similar promotional video has become the most successful project in Kickstarter history.

So what changed?

Did people suddenly want a cooler/blender/flashlight/picnic basket/bottle opener/iphone charger/boombox/cuttingboard? Did running the campaign in summer change people’s perceived need for the product v. running it in the depths of winter? Does bright orange sell better than matte black? 

Honestly, I have no idea.

But, I do know what didn’t change?

Ryan Gepper’s belief in his vision for the Coolest Cooler.

He never gave up, even in the face of a very public failure.

And that’s pretty Cool.

Routines and Rituals

Last week I slept in my own bed for seven days straight.

That’s the first time I’ve done so in months.

Over that time there was lots of planned and unplanned, work and fun, related travel.

And as much as I’d like to think nothing slipped through the cracks, I know some did.

Despite closing rounds for old companies and leading rounds for new ones, I’m sure there were opportunities to help the old and meet the new that were missed without the structure of a daily routine.

I have a love/hate relationship with routine.

On one hand, I love being at a place in life professionally and personally that affords me so many possibilities for how to manage my time, energy and location. 

At the same time, the promise of connectedness doesn’t often deliver the immediacy and accessibility it whispers to us before setting out. The road often turns distractions into obligations and obligations into distractions. The lack of routine dedicated time for dedicated tasks cloud what would otherwise be clear commitments.

There’s something familiar, even comfortable, with routine. Go to the office at this time, sit in this chair, stand at this desk, block out time to meet, to think, to write, to reply. Dinner is at 5:30. Start putting kids to bed at 7:30. A nice cadence starts to develop. The next day it starts again. 

It begins to get predictably comfortable.

And that’s the rub for me.

Routine. Rote time, rote schedule repeated daily just starts be numbing after a time. For me that limit is about 2 weeks. And then I need to start moving again.

What my recent spate of movement taught me is that despite shifting time zones, schedules and locales, I need more structure during my travels. If not a full routine, as least a set of daily constants, call them portable rituals, that I can incorporate into each day regardless of where it takes me. 

I see friends who are really good at this- be it daily posting of links or songs, meditating, yoga, walking, reading, inbox clearing. I imagine those rituals provide a reliable touchstone for day. 

As for me, I think my portable rituals would involve some form of exercise, some spiritual introspection (silent prayer or scripture study), conscious family interaction and  some form of creativity.

I don’t know how many portable rituals are realistic or practical to maintain at once. But I have 2 weeks before I hit the road again, and I plan to do so armed with a few rituals that I can hold as constants until I can slip back into my routines when I return.

My hope is to relearn the practice of daily blogging, which used to be the most effortless thing in the world for me but now feels terrifying.

Lock

Experiencing this feeling all too acutely.

One of my rules of thumb is that whenever everyone agrees on something, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong, but it almost certainly means that nobody’s thought about it.
Peter Thiel

Looking Beyond the Mark

This week marks the 2 year anniversary of the Roberts family moving back home to Salt Lake City, from the Bay Area. 

It has been a great move for us. We pinch ourselves nearly every day that we get to live in a place we love so much. It is home to us in every sense of the word. And inspite of the frequent travel it incites, there’s nowhere else anywhere we’d rather plant our roots.

In the time that I’ve been home, I’ve had the chance to meet with a bunch of local founders of all types. Some in tech, some not. Some younger, some, um, not. At some point in these meetings, the person I’m speaking to tends to frustratingly say something along the lines of “we need a startup community here in Utah” or “why don’t we have more of a startup community here in Utah”?

Given I’ve been hearing it a lot over the last few weeks it’s been marinating a bit more in my mind.

Is there really a lack of community here? If so, why? If so, what can we do about it? If not, does it really matter?

Mark Suster had a post recently which detailed what goes into making a successful startup community. His checklist included:

  • Events
  • Co-working spaces
  • Angels/Recycled Capital
  • Venture Capital
  • Mavens & Marketers

I think that’s a good list and if you’ve read Brad’s book or the many blog posts written on this subject you’ll see a similar list of startup community attributes. Mix and match to suit your taste and geography. 

Funny thing about Utah today is that it has very few of these ingredients. We host very few startup events. Those that are organized are lightly attended. Coworking spaces are just now coming online. Local angel networks have a troubled history that just now seems to be getting sorted out. There are few active local VC firms than at anytime I’ve lived here. And the marketing message of the state seems to be a tire “Silicon Slopes” approach to attaching our image to that of Silicon Valley, Alley or Beach.

Yet never, in the 15 years that I’ve been participating in the Utah startup community I have never seen so much momentum. Companies are raising massive rounds of growth equity. Talent is flocking to the state of a caliber, and at a rate, I’ve never seen before. And several private companies have crossed over into Unicorn territory.

Inspite of this, the refrain remains the same- “Where’s the Community”.

As I sat listening to the founders of Weave recently tell their story about struggling, for 3 years, to raise money from local Utah angels and VCs, then getting accepted into YC, soon followed by a successful (and wildly competitive) $5M Series A raise they said something that struck me.

When asked why they decided to move back to Utah after YC instead of staying in Bay Area, their answer came with no hesitation- they didn’t just want to build a great company, they wanted to build a great company in Utah.

This is not the first time I’ve heard that sentiment from other local founders- many of whom could compete anywhere but chose to grow their companies here. They want build something enduring and impactful with the people here, for the people here. To forge their own paths on their own terms. And do so in a place so many of us love at the base of these mountains.

If you look at the broader meaning of community, it’s defined not as a lengthy list of attributes but simply as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

Taken in this light, I’d say we’ve been looking beyond the mark of what a startup community means here, in these hills, with these people who are making things happen. We may not have loads of local capital, we may not have an event happening every night. But you better believe we have a shared goal of building world class companies here in Utah.

And if that’s the only bond that ties all the efforts and energy of our community together, I’ll take that over a meetup or a co-working space every single time.

This week the White House hosted their first ever Maker Faire. 

You didn’t read about it on Techcrunch. Or Mashable. 

But make no mistake, this was an historic event. 

 I recall running into Dale Daugherty, founder and CEO of Maker Media and spiritual leader of the maker movement shortly after President Obama’s 2009 inaugural speech. 

Dale giddily asked “did you hear it? I knew exactly what he was referring to. In that speech the president stated: 

"Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less.  It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.  Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things"

There it was. 

We are Makers. A nation of them. 

At that time, the Maker movement was still very much in its infancy, still deep within the realm of hobbyists and hackers. 

This week the President welcomed these makers of things to the most prominent address in the world. To set up shop. To display their work. To remind a nation of their history and call them to action. He said:

“Our parents and our grandparents created the world’s largest economy and strongest middle class not by buying stuff, but by building stuff — by making stuff, by tinkering and inventing and building.”


I ran into Dale again last night. With eyes still a bit starry he tried to convey what this week meant to him and to the Maker movement. The words didn’t come easily, but there was a clear sense that this was a meaningful moment. 

What began as a group of misunderstood hackers, artists and outcasts has transformed into the promise of a nation. And stands as a beacon signaling that real, tangible innovation is taking root on our soil once again. 

Tho the halls of the White House have been cleared of any signs of this weeks Maker Faire, those halls have clearly left a lasting mark on this community which left Dale, understandably, a bit speechless.

This week the White House hosted their first ever Maker Faire.

You didn’t read about it on Techcrunch. Or Mashable.

But make no mistake, this was an historic event.

I recall running into Dale Daugherty, founder and CEO of Maker Media and spiritual leader of the maker movement shortly after President Obama’s 2009 inaugural speech. Dale giddily asked “did you hear it? I knew exactly what he was referring to. In that speech the president stated:

"Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things"

There it was.

We are Makers. A nation of them.

At that time, the Maker movement was still very much in its infancy, still deep within the realm of hobbyists and hackers.

This week the President welcomed these makers of things to the most prominent address in the world. To set up shop. To display their work. To remind a nation of their history and call them to action. He said:

“Our parents and our grandparents created the world’s largest economy and strongest middle class not by buying stuff, but by building stuff — by making stuff, by tinkering and inventing and building.”


I ran into Dale again last night. With eyes still a bit starry he tried to convey what this week meant to him and to the Maker movement. The words didn’t come easily, but there was a clear sense that this was a meaningful moment.

What began as a group of misunderstood hackers, artists and outcasts has transformed into the promise of a nation. And stands as a beacon signaling that real, tangible innovation is taking root on our soil once again. Tho the halls of the White House have been cleared of any signs of this weeks Maker Faire, those halls have clearly left a lasting mark on this community which left Dale, understandably, a bit speechless.

The most indicative metric of a community’s health is the cross-pollination of stakeholders. Etsy sellers buy from other Etsy sellers, Kickstarter creators back other Kickstarter creators, and Meetup attendees start new Meetups.

Shots on Goal

I’m not a hockey fan. I can count the number of hockey games I’ve ever watched on one hand.

But last night, I turned on my TV and the channel was set to the Kings/Rangers game. It was the 3rd period and the Rangers we leading 2-1.

Soon a stat popped up on the screen and I knew, despite the score, who was going to win the game.

The stat?

Shots on goal.

At the point I tuned into the game the Kings had nearly 2x the number of shots on the Rangers’ goal as the Rangers had on the Kings’. By the time the game was over, the Kings outshot the Rangers 42 to 24.

I don’t know how decisive shots on goal tends to be in hockey, but in life it makes all the difference. 

How do you increase your probability of closing sales, increasing your network or finding investors for you business- shots on goal. 

As was true in the game last night, all shots are not created equal. Some bounce off the post, some get batted down and some fly wildly off target. In fact, of the 66 shots on goal taken last night, only 5 actually hit the back of the net.

And that was an important reminder for me last night.

Despite how discouraging it can be to hear so many “Nos” and face so much rejection and frustration while starting and building a company, the key to ultimately winning is to keep taking as many shots on goal as possible.

Eventually, one will hit the back of the net. 

A baby boomer covets a car.

A teen only needs transportation.

A baby boomer needs to own.

A teen only needs access.

Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist.

-Mike Rowe

Some of the best career advice I’ve seen lately for people getting started.

Try out a bunch of different places. Try Berlin, try London, try New York, try San Francisco. You may not be able to stay in a given place because of visa issues but just the exposure that will give you, the context, it will give you the mindset it will give you will be invaluable.
Fascinating read on the rise of mobile addiction from the Flurry team.

Fascinating read on the rise of mobile addiction from the Flurry team.