Baby Names

Now that Renee and I are within 10 weeks of meeting Baby G, it’s time to get serious about names.  Other than my genetics, this will be one of the few things I give my son that will follow him throughout his entire life.  Man, that’s pressure to not screw this up!  What kind of name should I give my son?  A “strong” name like Thor, Magnus, Adonis, Maximillian, Bruno or Nikolai?  Or maybe a “sensitive” name like Jayden, Tristan, Emanuel or Gaston?  Not that I don’t like these names, just a bit on the fringe for my taste.

Maybe I should focus on the most common names for CEO’s as published by LinkedIn – Howard, Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce or Fred?  Or, it would be kinda cool for him to be a super-star athlete so he can make millions and take care of dear old dad in my old age.  In that case, according to LinkedIn, we should name him Ryan, Matt or Jason.

The most common 2-letter name is Ed.  The most common 10-letter name is Alessandro.

Then there are family names.  Of course, I’m partial to Robert as three generations on my side carry this name.  Renee’s dad is a Robert as well.  Mmmm, maybe a good middle name?

Christopher, Keith, Sonny, Jerry, Daniel are close family names.

Maybe we’ll choose 3 names and meet our son before we decide what name fits best?

Hey parents out there, how did you do it?

On My “To Read” Shelf

Unfortunately, my “to read” shelf is growing faster than I can clear my “currently reading” shelf.  Busy with work and lot’s of travel have encroached on my reading time.  But here are the books on my list, as usual a mix of business, personal interest and self-improvement.

The Presence Process:  A Healing Journey into Present Moment Awareness by Michael Brown.  Recommended by family, always healthy I believe to have a self-awareness read in the queue.

The Big Short:  Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, the author of Liar’s Poker and The Blind Side.  A close friend recommended this read which delves into the macrocosmic tale of greed and fear during the 2007/8 Wall Street crisis.

Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.  A personal journey into understanding ultra-distance running as a way of life, health and contentment among the Mexican Tarahumara tribe.  My running life has become un-fun and too functional, so am looking for a little inspiration.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  This book was written nearly 75 years ago now as a philosophical approach to living life and interacting with our fellowman, conceived through research and personal interviews of leaders of that time – Ford, Edison, Rockefeller, Graham Bell and 500 others.

Little Bets:  How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims (@petersims).  Sims is an entrepreneur, VC and author of True North.  His research contends that many of the most successful companies and individuals did not result from some genius idea, but rather through a masterful approach to experimentation and learning.  Excited to read this one, it has just recently been released.

Do More Faster:  TechStars Lessons to Accelerate your Startup by Brad Feld (@bfeld) and David Cohen (@davidcohen).  TechStars is a successful startup accelerator operating in several U.S. cities co-founded by Feld and Cohen.  I follow both actively through Twitter and their individual blogs and have met Brad recently.

I need to find a way to carve out more reading time before this list gets out of hand!

What’s on your list?

My Favorite Twitter Follows

I wanted to follow up a prior post on my favorite startup blogs with a post on a handful of my favorite Twitter follows.  These are a group of folks, most of whom I only know by reputation, that have something to say or news to share about technology, startups or entertainment.  As I mentioned previously, Twitter has become a go-to source of news and insights for me, an incredibly efficient way to absorb a lot of information quickly.  Enjoy!

News, Technology & Startups

  • @TrueCar – of course.
  • @TechCrunch – the leading startup blog, news feed.  Good iPhone app too.
  • @TEDNews – news source for incredible human innovations
  • @venturehacks – Startup advice
  • @nytimes – Also on my iPhone
  • @cnnbrk – CNN Breaking News
  • @GOOD – An association of “pragmatic idealists” focusing on issues of Good in the world
  • @Oxfam – An international group of 15 organizations across the world developing solutions for poverty & injustice.
  • @bfeld – Brad Feld, VC and prolific blogger, highlighted in a prior post.  Highly active on Twitter.
  • @msuster – Mark Suster, Entrepreneur turned VC, very active blogger and on Twitter.
  • @sacca – Chris Sacca, Entrepreneur and early investor in Twitter.  Highly active.
  • @Bill_Gross – Founder of Idealab and 100 other companies over 30 years
  • @tferriss – Tim Ferriss, author of “4-Hour Work Week” and “4-Hour Body”.  Interesting and unique.
  • @fredwilson – Highly regarded VC and daily blogger.
  • @cdixon – Chris Dixon, entrepreneur founder of Hunch.
  • @davemcclure – Founder of 500startups, a seed fund and startup accelerator.
  • @hnshah – Hiten Shah, Co-Founder of KissMetrics, great insights for entrepreneurs.
  • @bhorowitz – Ben Horowitz, Founder of LoudCloud turned VC.  Phenomenal blog that I inadvertently left off my previous post.

Entertainment & Other

  • @SudsNYC – Sudhir Kandula, a friend and top 3 finalist in “America’s Next Great Restaurant”.
  • @playgrounddad – Connecting modern dads with products/events that help them spend better time with their kids.
  • @StartupJesus – Fake Jesus, runs a startup that is “going to change the world”.  Of course it will.
  • @ConanOBrien – love his humor and his show.
  • @BorowitzReport – Andy Borowitz, hilarious quips on current events.  King of the one-liners.
  • @donttrythis – Adam Savage, host of Mythbusters
  • @TheOnion – America’s finest fake news source
  • @bobsaget – ever since he appeared on Entourage, I can’t get enough of him.
  • @shitmydadsays – Justin who lives with his 74-year old dad.  4-letter word alert, but freakin’ funny.

What are some great Twitter follows that I missed?

Do You Have a Disaster Kit?

I didn’t.  Never really thought emergency preparedness until it came up in a discussion group of media, entertainment and technology executives I’m involved with here in Los Angeles.  And as an expecting father I became particularly interested in this topic (and others).  An irrational and emotional response?  Maybe.

But keep in mind I live in Santa Monica in the greater Los Angeles area, the epicenter for speculation and concern regarding “The Big One” earthquake that will originate on the San Andreas Fault someday.  In fact, the USGS has a downright scary simulation of the 7.8 Big One that originates on the fault line and fans out to the coast and right up my driveway.  To give you perspective, a 7.8 earthquake involves ground movement of 3ft laterally and “shaking” at 1ft/second.  Crazy.

The email discussion thread started out rational enough among the group – if you want to be prepared for a natural disaster, there is lot’s of guidance out there on what to include in your home or auto kits, sources for purchasing supplies, recommendations on what to do when a disaster hits and there’s no road or phone access, etc.

As is typical among this intellectual group, a few of which are experts in statistical modeling for natural disasters, another an entrepreneur that sells disaster kits, a debate ensued that left most folks in 3 distinct camps:

1) Emergency preparedness is based on irrational exuberance, that statistically speaking and from a cost/benefit standpoint, is a waste of time and money, even if you live in Southern California, Southeast Asia, Japan or Florida where adverse natural events tend to occur.  Add up the cost for every human to have a “kit”, then factor in the economic benefit of lives saved and if the number is negative, it is irrational.

2) Basic survival kits for home, auto and “on the go” are no-brainers.  These include food, water, first aid and other survival gear along with a “family plan” of where to meet should roads and phones be inaccessible.

3) “Extreme” (my word) Emergency Preparedness which advocates for all of the items in #2 in addition to retaining firearms in the home and auto in anticipation of possible riots, theft and personal attack by those who were not prepared.  In some cases, underground bunkers are installed and stocked with supplies.

After taking in all the data, I fall squarely in the camp of #2, based primarily on where I live.  I’ve just ordered basic kits for home and auto, but personally I’m not a big fan of having a firearm in the house, just my personal preference.  Renee and I are working out a simple “meet up” plan should we not be able to use our cell phones or our cars.  We’re talking a hundred bucks and a few minutes of time all in here.

Seems like a reasonable cost/benefit to me.

Do you have a disaster kit or plan?  What’s in it?

Tech Bubble, Blubble or Rubble?

I kid you not.  Over the past week, all three of these words have been used to describe what is happening in the tech investment space right now.  Much of the discussion has centered around a comparison of 2011 to the infamous tech bubble of 2000 in which many of us participated, failed and hopefully learned from.  The general consensus is that what is happening right now is quite different, in a good way, than the disaster bubble burst of 2000.  And I agree.  Here are some key messages pulled from a few sources that I think sum up what happened in 2000, what is happening now, and why the optimism and high tech valuations now are justified.

From “We’re in the Middle of a Terrible Blubble!“, Michael Arrington hits the nail on the head when he says,

“A perfectly reasonable 2000 tech startup business decision – spend $10 million on a massive advertising campaign that may bring in $500k in revenue. The “branding” value makes up the difference, and those few new customers will continue to spend money and tell their friends!  Grab territory while it’s there to be grabbed, the thinking went. We’ll figure out the business later. Money was so easy to come by, it made sense to some.”

This is EXACTLY what my company did back in 1999.  We raised $55M in an IPO with an underdeveloped website, zero revenue and a plan – detailed in our prospectus – to spend $15M+ on advertising and branding campaigns.  Insane right?  Didn’t seem so back then when money was being thrown at us.  We blew that money on advertising, didn’t sufficiently monetize the traffic, then had to shrink the team and hunker down to survive the storm of 2000.

Michael’s main point in the article is that back in 2000 the objective was to raise way more money than you need, tens of millions, and spend it all as fast as you can, not to build product but to build brand and awareness.  Now, companies are raising less money, but at valuations that are potentially too high (because of “blubbering” angel investors), in order to hire as many engineers as possible to build a valuable property, then raise a follow-on round after proof of concept to scale and at much higher valuations.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and tech billionaire, makes another interesting point in response to the article above,

“Its a bubble when you are on the elevator and people outside the industry are telling people to buy things they don’t understand. In this market, its about VCs and Angels wanting to be part of the “next big stock”.  Its as if VCs and Brokerage houses think they need to have pretty portfolio companies, so they take on huge risk with enormous valuations for Twitter, FB, Groupon, etc.  Not that they aren’t great companies, but there is so much market , as well as performance risk, the risk profile is through the roof.  This isn’t a bubble, its a Rubble.”

Finally, there’s a well written piece that’s worth reading called “Bubble, What Bubble?” that takes an analytical approach to comparing 2000 with 2011, concluding that certain “bubble criteria” are not being met in today’s market.

All of these perspectives and my own experience leads me to believe that we are not remotely in a bubble similar to 2000.

What do you think?

4D Ultrasound, Wonderful and Creepy

On Monday Renee and I went for our non-medical, baby-in-the-belly-for-entertainment 4D ultrasound.  This procedure is where they use a skin-level view imaging system in combination with the ultrasound to give 3D views of your unborn child plus movement (thus the 4D).  We spent about an hour with the technician poking, prodding and moving Renee into various positions to give us the most non-creepy view possible of our little one.  It was wonderful and creepy at the same time as evidenced by the picture.  Renee’s family will be happy to know that Baby G has her nose and mouth!

Why Most Startups Need a “Business Guy”

I read an intriguing blog post titled “What the Hell Does a “Business Guy” Do? by serial entrepreneur Rob Walling.  The basic premise of his post is that the only compelling reason a “technical founder” should bring on a “business founder” (BF) as a partner is if that BF has “successful marketing experience”.  While I agree that marketing, specifically customer acquisition, is probably the most important and difficult problem to solve in a startup’s early days, I believe there are other important aspects of both building a team and a foundation for scaling the business that technical founders (in my experience) don’t always possess.

Of course I’m biased, because I represent the BF that Rob discusses.  Having been on the ground floor of 3 startups as the lead business and operations person, there are a few consistent areas of value that I’ve seen critical to early stage success, in addition to the marketing/customer acquisition skills Rob mentioned.

I would define these areas of value in the context of what I believe a BF profile must look like.  In my opinion, a credible BF needs to have demonstrated operational success in a startup environment, from early product development through financing, rapid growth and scale, including:

  • has been through multiple early product fails and iterations
  • has a high tolerance for ambiguity, chaos and daily priority changes
  • can contribute immediately in at least one critical business functional role at the outset – Marketing or Biz Dev ideally
  • has navigated a financing from external investors
  • has built a cohesive, uber-talented team that are the best at what they do AND that share similar culture sensibilities and work ethic (this is hard to do)
  • has successfully acquired and scaled customers, partners and revenue
  • has established metrics for tracking business success and a way to reliably measure and adjust
  • has battle scars, fail stories and an ability to articulate why the same fails won’t happen again.

So, this BF is not just a strategist or marketer, but a true partner to the entrepreneur who has a unique ability to take the entrepreneur’s vision and build a real business out of it.  The importance of this experience should not be underestimated.  True visionary entrepreneurs typically have an “anything’s possible” belief system and won’t be deterred.  Balancing that perspective with someone who can implement and tolerate that kind of ambiguity and chaos is paramount.

If the technical co-founder has experience in all these areas, then yes, I agree with Rob that partnering with a non-technical founder may just represent unnecessary equity dilution, but I’d venture there are lot’s of new businesses being created right now by super-developers without these important experiences under their belts.

Some might argue that all of these skills don’t have to be wrapped up in one person and that they don’t have to all be present at the earliest stages of a company’s development.  It ultimately comes down to the skills and experiences of the original founder, but having a BF partner who has been through the “business building” process successfully can ensure the correct sequencing of process, people and technology and let the entrepreneur focus on high value creation – strategy, product and funding.

What do you think?

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