Collision Hours

About this time last year I found myself, a bit unexpectedly, in a large ball room in Santa Monica. On stage, was Tony Hsieh, of Zappos fame, recounting his story of building Zappos, his new book and his much publicized Downtown Project. Like most in the audience, I’d heard plenty about each; however, as he neared the end of his presentation on what he’s trying to build in Vegas, he struck on a principle that I’ve not been able to shake since.

The idea was a simple one. So simple, in fact, that many of us who live in or have spent time tech hubs like San Francisco, Palo Alto or New York City often take this idea for granted. 

The idea is called “collision hours” and Tony posits that the success of the downtown project hangs on creating spaces to maximize “collisionable” hours.

What is a collision you may be asking? It’s simply colliding with new people and ideas. Sharing your own and being open to others. It’s unfiltered serendipity. Stepping onto the street, or into the cafe, or into the conference and making an effort to collide with as many people and ideas in a designated timeframe. And being open to the possibilities and changes of course that collisions often enact.

These collisions have become so central to the project that Tony and his team have a formula around which decisions for downtown Vegas are based. From Gizmodo:

So the Downtown Project is instead looking at residents, employees, and regular visitors (they call them “subscribers”) to contribute 1000 annual “collisionable hours:” three to four hours per day of a person walking around/eating at a cafe/drinking at a bar, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year (3 x 7 x 52 = 1092 hours). This can help the area achieve its goal of 100,000 collisionable hours per acre per year, or, as Schaefer broke it down further, 2.3 collisionable hours per square foot per year.

They measure possible collision hours by the foot!

Given the centrality of collision hours to the thesis of the downtown project, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I open myself up to possible collisions and recognizing them more when they occur.  

I’ve noticed that when I’m traveling in the bay area, London or NYC, they’re happening in both coordinated and unintended ways. Walking through Soho or SOMA, it’s very natural to bump into 3 or 4 people I haven’t see in a while. Last week in SF, I arrived early to my dinner at Alta and bumped into 3 people I hadn’t seen in ages at the bar. On the walk back to my hotel that night, I ran into an old friend on the street and we caught up for 15-20 min on our latest projects. These were collision hours and they happen more naturally in certain cities than others. 

The cities that these collisions happen more naturally in are also the cities that are thriving in the midst of global downturn. 

Starting to see why Tony views them as so central to the success of his project?

In my office in SLC, collisions don’t happen as freely. So, I have a reminder on a whiteboard hanging in front of my desk with a space for me to write the names of 5 people. Each day that I’m working out of my SLC office I realize that I can’t collide on the street, but I can make collisions with new people or contacts that aren’t part of my daily work flow. Often these collisions can happen with a simple email. But, occasionally they come via a phone call, text message or skype chat. 

Whether in person, or online, the idea of collisions and creating collisionable hours throughout the day, month or year is a powerful concept and one that I’m trying to embody more and more.

When I look back on my career there are a series of key collisions that have opened door to entrepreneurial opportunities and future investments. I’e always seen them as such, but didn’t have a term that captured what they meant to me and how to quantify them until I was sitting in that ballroom listening to Tony that day.

Now, I can’t shake the concept and I’m creating more space for collisions to occur. Great careers and communities can be boiled down to collisions. It’s worth creating the hours to see where some of them might take you.

Investors are like step parents: they care about you but you are not related to them.
Saw this shortly after seeing a tweet from Pincus:

My rule of thumb for entrepreneurs. Your Instincts are right 95% of the time, your ideas 25%. Fall in love with instincts. Kill ideas often.

Saw this shortly after seeing a tweet from Pincus:

My rule of thumb for entrepreneurs. Your Instincts are right 95% of the time, your ideas 25%. Fall in love with instincts. Kill ideas often.

This would be one answer to why Apple’s recent hires of ‘wearables experts’ sound a bit like a team for a hospital device rather than a watch, measuring various quite technical things - because Apple plans to enable such devices, not try to pack every single one into its own device. That is, the straightforward sensors should live in the phone (like the pedometer that’s already in the iPhone 5S) and the complex and demanding ones should be enabled by an Apple platform, not become part of an Apple device.
I like the way Benedict is connecting the dots here.
We leverage the billions of dollars spent on the consumer mobile phone business for most of our parts. Nothing here was prequalified to be in space. We bought most of our parts online.

From a NYT profile of the team at Planet Labs.

This. This is why we’re seeing surging breatkthroughs in new devices and hardware enabled applications.

The “Watch” and the “Phone”

The buzz has been building for months, but seems to be reaching a crecendo across the pond at mobile world congress this week. The message: THE SMART WATCH IS COMING!

Some are showing. Some are telling. But all the of heavies from Apple and Google to Samsung and Motorola are touting a fresh take on, of all things, a wristwatch.

Check email. From your wrist.
Get Text Messages. From your wrist.
Tweet. From your wrist.
Check the time. From…

Some are beautiful. Some less so. But all seem to have the same take. That the act of pulling out ones phone is too heavy a burden when a flick of the wrist ought to suffice.

Which is fine.

Pushing functionality from a phone to a wrist is a clever trick and maybe there is demand for it. But, my guess is this move by the heavies is less about market demand and more about market saturation.

This rush to the wrist was kicked off last year when rumors began circulating about an iWatch from Apple. I’ve not seen the company confirm the existence of an iWatch. But, if the market’s reaction to this speculation is any indication, we could be in the midst of the greatest troll of all time.

To date, all attempts to beat the iWatch to market have been met with an actual watch. Some with cameras. Some with a new sensor. All with displays for creating or consuming content from the wrist. But all in the general shape, size and characteristics of watches.

This seems to be shaping up just like the “smart phone” market before the iPhone.

At the time the iPhone launched, it looked nothing like any phone prior. It did and enabled things no phone prior to it had.

If you’ve been paying attention to who Apple has been hiring and what job reqs they have open, it’s pretty clear that they’re on the cusp of making a “watch” in the same way they made a “phone”.

From MacRumors:

Apple has now hired employees with expertise in pulse oximetry, vasculature visualization (vein finding), non-invasive glucose monitoring, blood chemistry monitoring via microneedle, heart/breath rate monitoring, and fitness. Notably, several hires have also had experience with low-profile, non-invasive biosensor devices. 

I don’t have any inside knowledge of what Apple is building, but it most certainly is not a “watch”.

My hope is that it will have the same effect on wearables that the iPhone had on other handset manufacturers. Even more importantly, my hope is that it will be a device, or set of sensors, that collects data to enable a whole new generation of app developers that move us beyond Flappy, or Angry, or whatever kinds of birds.

I’ve long felt we’re in the 56k modem stage of the march towards wearables with external pedometers,  heart rate straps and sleep trackers as our detached dial tones.

If Apple does for “watches” what they did for the “phone”, we might see wearables hitting the broadband era.

Foursquare is on a full 23 percent of homescreens. I know traditional marketing people will argue this sample is small, and skewed to early adopters, but in doing so they miss a fundamental aspect of networks. The most active users are the most densely connected members of networks and their participation and data isn’t merely an early indicator of success; it’s an unfair advantage. As Foursquare moves into passive recommendations and passive data collection it has the potential to become a very important data set and its presence on a quarter of homescreens speaks to the fact that for local information, for this sample, its brand dominates.
Series A crunch

Series A crunch

Sessions @ The Leonardo with Ann Miura-Ko

On February 19th, from 6-8pm, we’ll be hosting our 5th installment of Sessions @ The Leonardo with Anne Miura-Ko, Co-Founding Partner at FLOODGATE.

From the first time I met Ann it was clear why Forbes dubbed her “The Most Powerful Woman in Startups.” She has a great sense for founders and markets with a wicked sense of humor to boot. It’s no wonder she’s so sought after by such a wide range of entrepreneurs. Since founding FLOODGATE in 2010 she has racked up hit after hit with investments in companies like Lyft, Modcloth, Refinery29 and Wanelo, just to name a few. 

In addition to her work at FLOODGATE, Ann was a student of, and early collaborator with, Steve Blank who’s work went on to help to shape the thinking behind what has become know as the Lean Startup methodology.

In addition to all of her academic and professional accolades, Ann is a mom to 3 kids and understands the challenges of trying to balance ambitions for her career with her ambitions for her home.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her to SLC and introduce her to all of you. I think you’ll find her insights on work, startups, life and family applicable to whatever it is you’re working on. I can’t wait for you all to meet her.

Be sure to RSVP for the event here.

Special thanks to our friends at USTAR and Utah Capital Investment for sponsoring this Session.

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Josh

6 years ago I met this guy. More accurately, I met this kid who had started blogging as a college student then soon dropped out to work with some of the companies who’d started following his blog at joshspear.com

At the time we met he was running around a large studio space in Tribeca coordinating a team of consultants and brand strategists working with some of the largest companies on the planet.

Back then, he was the kid companies called to understand the quickly combining cultures of youth and technology. In addition to his big name clients, he’d taken to advising and investing in a number of nascent startups. Early work with Behance, Quirky and OMGPOP then angel investments in Uber, Cover, Percolate and Warby Parker (among many others) had led him to take a more explicit interest in developing as investor.

We hit it off in that first meeting. And have continued to develop a friendship over the years. As time has passed, the kid has matured into an astute investor and observer of technology trends that are reshaping and influencing culture broadly.

Tho we’ve had the chance to collaborate with each other here and there over the years, an opportunity opened up to make it something more formal earlier this year.

So today, I get to welcome my friend to our team and introduce him as a special partner at OATV.

Josh’s role will include advising some select existing investments and working with us to identify new companies we can back out of our newest fund.

It’s a part time gig for him. And he will continue to invest as an angel in companies that aren’t a fit for what we’re looking for at OATV.

We’re all excited to see where this partnership goes and what Josh’s experience and perspective can add to what we’re building here.

"Much as your mind is screaming, “Go for it!” it is definitely not okay to have a strategy session with Chloë. Even if she is standing there looking all cute in front of a dry-erase board reassuring you there are no bad ideas."

love this
via (@cdixon)

love this

via (@cdixon)

It’s surprisingly powerful to dump your heart into a blank box.
Me at the end of a post I’ll never publish.

8 Years Ago Today

A few weeks ago I was in a board meeting and shared a couple stories from the founding of OATV. I related some of these experiences to the current challenges the CEO of this company was facing. As I concluded, a silence fell over the meeting.

That silence was soon broken by a collective “Nahhhuh! No Way! Starting a venture fund is NOTHING like starting a company!”

We had a few laughs, then continued with the meeting.

8 years ago today, we held the first close of our first fund. That didn’t mean we were done raising the fund, but it meant we could start paying ourselves a meager salary, hire our first employees and, most importantly, start investing.

OATV was then, and is today, my startup. Tho I’d been a part of getting companies and products off the ground before, this is the one that most directly reflects me. It’s the one I’ve risked the most for. The one that keeps me up at night. The one that burned my savings. The one I hate. The one I love. The one I can’t see myself doing anything other than.

Our firm is the product I’m most proud of. From our portfolio of companies to our small and scrappy team I burst with pride when I think about what we’re building together.

Like any founder, I’m all too keenly aware of our warts. And there are many things about OATV I incessantly want to fix, improve, tweak.

8 years is the longest I’ve ever stayed at the same job.

But, I guess, this is more than a job. It’s more than a firm, or people or portfolio.

It’s my life.

And, maybe, that’s how other founders feel too.

To 8 years, and many more to come.