Learn To Duck

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

Page 4

Build Awesome

I was born here. Not physically, that was in Fort Collins, CO, but as an entrepreneur. And not when I started my first business at the age of nine, but before that, perhaps at two when my mother and I moved to California, or maybe at three when my mother met my father.

My father, Rich, moved to East Palo Alto and across from my mother’s and my apartment from Michigan. My mom, who was dating Rich’s roommate, finally came to her senses, and dated the right guy.

At the time, Rich worked for the City of Mountain View pouring concrete. My mom, a secretary was always proud of the fact that a $525 a month, she made more than my father. And Rich was proud of the fact that most of what we had, he built himself.

That’s when I was born as an entrepreneur. And, my parents were the perfect founding team. A Hacker and a Hustler. My mom taking big chances and my dad fixing problems. The Silicon...

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Hackers and Hustlers, Part II

Back in July, I wrote the post below entitled Hackers and Hustlers. Since then, there has been a lot of discussions about the dynamic, and if it was complete. I decided to add some thought beneath it. (the post is presented unedited.)

Every year when people start applying to Techstars (now in 5 cities!), I get emails and phone calls asking for my advice.

I always ask the same question, “Do you have a Hacker and a Hustler?”
Sometimes, I get the response, “Im both.”

To which I suggest that they rethink their application. Its nearly impossible for a single founder to have much success building his startup, let alone getting through a program like Techstars (or Y-Combinator or any of the dozens of others). One person can not do it all. Its really that simple.

What do I mean by a Hacker and a Hustler?

A Hacker is more than a code monkey, who can quickly build software and find...

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Planes Are Falling Out of the Sky!

My friend Dennis Crowley (re)posts his take on 9-11 every year. In that vein, here is my take from the 10 year anniversary.

This morning, I woke up in San Mateo, CA. Doesnt mean much on any other day. But today, being the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I began to read memories written by so many of my friends.

Ten years ago, I woke up in Oakland, CA. Did mean much on any other day. But on that day, planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and changed so much of the American fabric.

I thought about that day in Rockridge this morning. It has a unique significance because just a few months after 9/11, I left California for Colorado for what I expected to be a summer, and ended up being nearly 10 years.

That morning ten years ago, I was busying building a startup in my bedroom in a really nice house I shared with three others. As all us startup folks do, I worked late and woke...

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Are Accelerators Misunderstood?

I was having dinner with a friend a week ago or so, and we were talking about (“shocking”) the startup ecosystem.

As some point, I don’t really remember when, he said “You know, I just don’t know if accelerators are helping the ecosystem.”

My gut reaction, being such a huge supporter of Techstars, 500startups, Y-Combinator, UpWest Labs and the like, was “Whaaaaaaat you talkin’ about Willis?”

For our younger readers, that is a reference to the seminal television show Diff'rent Strokes, staring Todd Bridges as Willis, Gary Coleman as Arnold, and Dana Plato as Kimberly. The catch phrase, as shown above, was usually uttered by an exasperated Arnold to his older brother Willis. As a side note, Todd Bridges ended up in jail, Dana Plato in porn, and Gary Coleman is dead. Oh the wonderful ‘80s.

Are accelerators really harmful? No, but I do believe they are mis-understood. The larger ones...

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Input vs. Output

One of the conversations that seems to be coming up more and more with first time founders is around the management of teams.

As we invest in, and see more less experienced founders, they are continually thrown into situations where there is an expectation–of what I can only assume is natural talent–to be a solid tactical leader.

Most founders are not naturally gifted at tactical decision making or leadership. Inspire investors to give you money? People to work for you? easy. Managing a team of people that are fundamentally different? hard.

In a standard decision-making paradigm, we default to what we know and how we would react to the requested action. Our perceptions are colored by our own needs and desires, and projected onto our team, leading to the level of value placed on an individual member of our team to be directly related to how a task is completed, rather than the what...

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The Importance of Silence

There is little that I love to do more than listen to my own voice.

(And, yes, I am a pathological narcissist. Diagnosed and everything. And, yes, I am watching many of you nod your heads and say “that makes so much sense,” right now.)

I enjoy discourse and given my brain is constantly processing ideas and thoughts, verbalizing those thoughts often helps me work through them. So silence is something that for most of my life was non-productive.

Always had music playing. Or the TV, or sat in a noisy coffee shop. Never much sat at my desk, constantly chatted with others, was extremely vocal in meetings. Silence was something that I abhorred and avoided.

Then a couple of years ago, I decided to see how long I could be quiet. After all, if I am good at making noise, I should be amazing at not making any at all. For thirty hours, I said nothing. Of course, this was after watching a TED...

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Thinkers vs. Doers

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Adam from True Ventures asked me to speak to their Fellows about what its like to work at a startup. The TEC program is amazing–they place high performing college students with portfolio companies for the summer. With folks from the best schools from around the country, I was excited to hear about how their summer has been going.

They were gathered around a large table in the South Park True Ventures office, and as an ice breaker the 15 or so Fellows were asked to mention their favorite snack available in the True offices.

“Twix! Fruit (somethings)! cookies!” It went on and on. and on. Man, the cornucopia of snack selection really humbled me, given in the Graphicly offices I think we have a dust covered, half-eaten Fig Newton in a drawer somewhere.

I began by asking one question: “Who here is an entrepreneur?”

For those that read this blog, or have...

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Fuck you. Fuck surrendering. Surrender is failure and fuck failure. I’m a winner.

A buck says that is the most common reaction to the word “surrender.” Surrender is what other people do.

Steve Jobs never surrendered. He looked at music world and told them there was one way to win, the Apple Way.

Mark Zuckerberg never surrendered. He looked at the world and poked it. (The world then poked him back, and now their poke battle has lasted for about 3 years. Not like Zuck is going to surrender, dammit. Although, he may remove the feature.)

Surrendering is just not something that is done. Failure comes because you went down fighting. Entrepreneurs, dammit, just don’t surrender.

It is this mentality that has caused me such difficulty in my professional and personal life.

It is not that I know everything or I don’t listen, its that figuring it out against all odds is paramount.


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I Think; I Believe; I Don’t; I Can’t

One of the most famous quotes of all time is:

No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda.

It’s funny how little words can mean so much to our ability to be successful.

Over the past ten years, I have spent a lot of time trying to understand how certain words used in certain situations can fundamentally change not only the outcome, but how we view ourselves in terms of that outcome.

Can it be that simple? A simple addition or subtraction of a single word or phrase can be the difference between success and failure?


The words we utter are heard first by us. Whether we think deeply about word selection or blurt them out without an apparent thought, we are the first people to hear – and react – to those words. Our emotional attachment to those words is the basis for their power over our psyche.

I Believe or I Think

I Believe or I Think are the worst two words that a CEO...

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I used to believe that I was a great public speaker. I prided myself on my ability to stand in front of a group of people and express an idea. I even was pretty sure that I was a solid story teller. I believed that with humor and interesting details, that I could take important concepts and wrap them inside of compelling details and that as I walked off the stage the applause I heard wasn’t polite, it was appreciative. Oh pride and the ease at which it whispers in our ears.

A few years ago, my friend Jeffrey Kalmikoff convinced Jeff Slobotski of Big Omaha to let me speak at the conference. It felt great to be included with folks like Jeffrey, Jason Fried, Ben Rattay and Gary Vaynerchuk, among others. As I have told before, the night before the conference, Jeffrey, Jason, Gary and I hung out in Gary’s room until late – really late, like 4 or 5 am – and talked about everything...

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