Learn To Duck

by Micah Baldwin

Sometimes the best way to learn to duck is to get punched in the face

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Silent But Deadly

When I was a little kid, my dad would go to the junk yard. He would often come back with various things in various states of disrepair, which would drive my mom into various states of annoyance.

Every once in awhile, he would fill the back of his truck with random broken things, and let me join him on a trip to the junk yard. For me, the junk yard was an amazing place filled not with broken discarded items, but items that blinded their previous owners to their potential magic.

To this day, when I drive by Zanker Road in Alviso, CA, I think back to the time my dad and I went hunting for Discardia, the Land of Discarded Toys, only to find a brown box with a couple of switches and dials, and the word Pong written across the front of it.

Last Saturday, I was sitting with my friend Drew talking about everything and nothing, when he asked me about Graphicly. “Hows the comics biz?” Drew said...

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Entrepreneurial Energy

I was asked the other day why I spend so much time mentoring and advising startups.

“It’s the energy.” I replied.

There is something special about companies when they are in the early stage and everything is in front of them. The numbers are big, the potential is awesome and the effort, while massive is done with joy.

As companies grow, the responsibilities and needs of the organization change, and the energy changes. The needs are more specific, and the road is clearer. It’s not bad, just different.

Over the past year or so, I have spent time with UpWest Labs which is unique in that its focus is on Israeli startups and giving them the opportunity to meet and integrate into Silicon Valley.

And, its not all wide eyes and puppy dogs. These are seriously interesting startups with founders that have hard core technical skills that are attacking real problems, big problems in markets that...

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Cheaper, Better, Faster or Just Different.

The time was six in the afternoon. I remember it, because it was always about then that my friend Rahul and I would walk over the Emeryville BART station from the MyPersonal offices in an old submarine factory.

It was late 2000, and we had just gone through a few rounds of lay offs. The entire Bay Area seemed to get silent overnight, and a crowded coffee shop that was constantly buzzing with energy, dreams and techies, was closed.

“Let’s go hang out on the grass.” Rahul and I went to a grassy hill and as I imagined so many of our friends were doing, started to discuss what we were going to do next.

“Cheaper, better, faster. That’s the answer.” Rahul started. “So many of the startups that are dying are none of those. They are just different.”

Since then, I have always kept that mantra in my thoughts as I review and mentor startups. Are you really, cheaper, better, faster, or just...

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Work/Life Balance? Please …

As a fat man, I’ve decided I want to be a skinny man, and so I diet and exercise. The hardest part is not knowing what to eat or what not to eat, but not getting whiplashed by all the information that is out there.

“Eat within 30min of waking up.”

“Workout before you eat.”

“Eat a bit of protein before you workout.”

Huh?

The discussion around work/life balance is similar.

“If you have passion, it’s not work”

“If you don’t balance your life, you will fail.”

“It’s okay to take time for yourself in order to be more effective.”

“I leave work everyday at 5pm. Work/Life balance, man.”

Huh?

I honestly don’t get the hubbub behind the discussion around work/life balance. It seems such a simple concept:

Make sure you are not overdoing any one thing, you will burn yourself out, and just not enjoy living.

But, for some unknown reason, it has evolved into:

Stop working so much, asshole....

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Don’t Tell; Do Ask

Every morning, I spend a bit of time reflecting on a person and how they have impacted my life. For me, it’s an important exercise in remembering two things:

1) It is impossible to achieve without support. Even haters need someone to create something to hate.

2) We learn more by how we are influenced than by what we are taught. The general rule is that we “forget” (transfer easily accessed information from short-term memory to difficult to access long-term memory) 70% of what we are taught. But lessons and influence stay with us, since they shape our very outlook.

In the late summer of 2007, I remember being about 6 months post-acquistion of Current Wisdom, sitting in a $1,500 desk chair looking at a $10,000 painting. I was on track to hit my 24 month revenue goal in 9 months (which meant my earn-out would be accelerated to 12 months), and I was so under-stimulated that I just sat...

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The Future of Story Starts With The Book

I’ve shied away from writing about my company, Graphicly, here on this blog very often. Not sure why. Probably because I obsess about the place of technology in publishing, and how the rapid advancement in ebooks has created a new and exciting place in the content ecosystem for creators.

Publishing hasn’t really changed since the Gutenberg Press. Someone writes a story, someone prints a ton of books, and someone or some store sells that book.

With the adoption of digital books, one would expect the publishing industry to buck against the trend, much like music and movies did.

But, they haven’t. Instead, they have turned towards digital and ran into its waiting arms. All indications are that Random House, the largest publisher in the world will see almost 25% of it’s revenue come from digital. eBooks sales have doubled each year, and are looking to double again. Barnes and Noble is...

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Just Fucking Sell: Part 2

I wrote this a few months back, and thought it would be worth the repost. The funding environment shifted to favor “revenue friendly” companies, and we have gone all in on this philosophy at Graphicly, continuing to grow by subtraction. We have killed more products and features in the past few months than I ever though possible. We’ve added staff, and reorganized the rest. We are truly the embodiment of “build, sell or leave” and the results have been strikingly positive in terms of revenue and user growth. I even grumble less.

Original post below:

Well that title removes any chance that Business Week, Inc, Forbes, etc will pick it up, and that other than Brad Feld and Mark Suster, no one will reblog/retweet/etc, so we can speak plainly.

Fuck yes.

(Just making sure…)

The past few weeks have been really interesting at Graphicly. We have achieved product/market fit, our new product...

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Consistency

If there is anything about you that is consistent, is that you love consistency.

About a week ago I was at a local dive bar with Drew Olanoff and his fiancee (who after I had some choice words about his usage of ‘fuck’ in a Techcrunch article decided to refer to me only as “that fucking dude, fucking micah, fucker.” It made our conversation a bit longer than I expected, but much more heart warming.).

I was telling Drew about how a couple of friends met every Saturday morning at a local donut shop. About how I loved the fact that if you tried, you couldn’t spend more than five dollars on great donuts and bad coffee. That by eliminating everything interesting–other than the people–we had a ton of fun that seemed to be missing from the larger, flashier meetups in the Bay Area.

“You should come,” I said. “It’s totally mellow. Every Saturday at 10am. No pressure. Come, don’t come, doesn’...

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Community is Spelled With Three P’s

I find the concept of a “community manager” or “expert” interesting. For those that truly understand how communities work, neither management or expertise works. There is no such thing as a “community hacker.”

And that’s a good thing.

Communities can’t be built. They don’t appear out of thin air. it’s impossible to code your way to a community, and frankly, most everyone poorly defines what a community is in the first place.

Most companies define a community as a group of people that will sell their product or service to other people, for free.

After all, what value does a community for a company have other than to sell its product?

Before doing any effort around community building, you have to answer that question. (hint: for a business, the answer is actually none. A company exists to make money, and all the activity, effort and resource expended have to drive to that conclusion.)...

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The Do Over

I don’t often have a weekend like I did this past couple of days.

One day filed with friends and errands; and one day filled with quiet and solitude.

Late Saturday afternoon I was shooting hoops with my friend Arin Sarkissian–of Well.io–at a middle school near his house. As we often do, we chat about our startups, yet this time we also seemed to dive into our pasts and the subject came to the selling of my last company as well as my sobriety, which happened around the same time.

“It was weird,” I said, “experiencing something that humbling was the only way I could have a do over.”

(BTW, Eric Clapton’s Cocaine just came on Spotify. For those that don’t believe that Steve Jobs put some secret alien intelligence into OS X, explain that.)

For the past twenty-four hours or so, I have been thinking about the concept of a do over.

Initially, I contained the thought to myself. If I had a real...

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