I’ve Become One of “Those” People, and You Guys Can’t Drive

I like to think that at my advanced age, I have the ability to shift opinions. To change my mind. To “evolve,” as it were.

For years, I did not understand the concept of riding a bike to work. I found it non-sensical. Foolish and childish even.

But then about 3-4 weeks ago my doctor explained some things that were going to happen to me in the coming years if I did not lose a fairly significant amount of weight. And he wasn’t saying things like, “Wow you are going to feel great!”

So I left his office, went to the bike store, and bought myself a new way to commute to the office. I’m now one of “those people” who are in the way when you are driving to work.

What I’ve learned

Now I’m in no way an expert yet. I’ve maybe done the Wallingford to Downtown Cannonball Run about 8-10 times. But here are some initial impressions.

1) You people can’t drive. I never noticed it before, but there really is no consistency from one driver to another. You make crazy left turns out of nowhere, pull over in bike lanes (it doesn’t matter if your hazards are on, I still can’t jump over you), block interceptions at red lights, and nose your car out into the middle of the road. Bring on the driverless cars.
2) Texting and driving is seriously dangerous. There aren’t a lot of things a biker finds scarier than seeing someone in a car with their face buried in their cell phone. We have no idea where you are headed, if you see us, or what you are going to do.
3) We need more bike lanes. On my way in, I zip down Stone to 34th to Dexter to Bell to 2nd and it’s a breeze. On my way out of town, inexplicably you can’t head back UP 2nd very far. So I have to weave through buses, cars and/or pedestrians on 3rd and Blanchard to get back to a safe path.
4) Some bikers are really decent humans. Contrary to my previous belief about bikers being traffic-causing, egotistical, stubborn jerks, a lot of bikers are pretty nice. We usually end up in a nice little pack around stop lights. There’s safety in numbers and we’re all more visible when we’re traveling in a flock. Usually everyone is following traffic rules, being courteous to drivers, and being safe.
5) Some bikers are total jerks. Nothing is more frustrating to a rookie biker like me than seeing some yahoo zipping through traffic, slinging between lanes, ignoring street signs and signals, and generally creating chaos. For the record, I’m the guy following every rule, doing everything like you’d expect the guy on the bike to do. Bikers who flaunt the fact that they are on a bike scare me because they make you unpredictable.
6) The time is comparable. On an average day at rush hour, driving 6 miles downtown plus parking takes me about 25-30 minutes door to desk. On a bike, 30-35.

Ok, I’m a cheater
So here’s the thing. I’m not in good enough shape to get up Stone Way. And I don’t like the idea of being stuck at 8mph in traffic. So I bought an electric bike. I’m an absolute believer in these things.

The electric bike is great because you really only use it up hills, or if you need to maintain a consistent speed of 15-20 mph. You can shut it off if you’re by yourself and can go at your own pace. And maybe one day when I’m in better shape I’ll be able to keep it off altogether. But if you are considering becoming a bike commuter, look into the electric bike. It will help get you off the fence.

So there you go
So I’m a convert, at least when I can be. It’s still totally impractical for anyone who needs to wear a suit or pick up the kids after work. But there might be a good number of you who could pull it off.

And try that electric bike.

Geek Stars Shine Bright at Annual Geekwire Awards

There was more Polo than Prada. More Ralph than Lauren. And Levi’s outnumbered Louboutin’s about 5 to 1. But there was enough revelry, camaraderie and fun at Geekwire’s “Oscars of Seattle Startups” last night at EMP that you expected Ellen to organize a group selfie.

You can get the full results of the 13 Geek Awards over at Geekwire.com. But maybe more importantly than the awards themselves is the annual chance to catch up with what every startup in town is up to.

The startup world is a fluid one. Some people who were 100% confident in one project last year have a new passion this year. And some folks working out of their garage a year ago now have a staff of 26. But thanks to Geekwire, we get this annual opportunity to check in with one another.

It’s hard to know where this community would be without Geekwire’s involvement the last few years. Would the Seattle Times and Puget Sound Business Journal have been able to whip 800 entrepreneurial and tech enthusiasts into a kind of extended family who cooperate more than compete with each other? Would we all know the brand names of a few companies poised to be the next Zulily? I think not.

And in an industry still made up of more men than women, it was fantastic to see Julie Sandler and Jane Park given two of the top individual awards – for Geek of the Year and CEO of the Year respectively. In addition to her day job at Madrona, Julie has pushed tirelessly to encourage more young girls to pursue tech careers. And Jane is running one of the fastest growing non-tech businesses in the region.

I don’t think any more people could fit into EMP, and I don’t know how long you’d have to make the event in order to chat with everyone you know there. But it’s nice that in an environment that delivers more struggles than solutions, you know there’s a community rooting for each other. And that’s really what the Geekwire Awards are all about – a place to recognize the ones who made it, and be inspired to follow them on stage next year.

The Importance of Your Talents vs Your Resume

I’ve been doing more thinking recently about the role a resume (or LinkedIn Profile) plays in your job search. What is the perfect blend of connections, qualifications, overall talent and past experience?

Coincidentally, today Forbes released its annual 30 under 30 lists. Highlighted in the Marketing list is Seattle’s own Andrew Dumont.  This inclusion did not surprise me in the least.  It’s a great honor and well deserved.

Andrew_Dumont_ForbesIt reminded me of the time I first met Andrew. I was a Principal at another social media agency at the time, and no less than 3 members of the team said, “You have to meet this guy. Super bright.” I was curious why his resume never made it to my desk despite everyone having such great things to say about him, so I inquired.

Our Office Manager was the gate keeper for incoming resumes. This person had certain skills and an ability to color inside the lines, but little ability to do any creative or lateral thinking, and sometimes even struggled if forced to make a decision on which crayon to choose. It turns out a hard and fast mandate had been implemented, “No college degree, no interview.” So despite Andrew’s entrepreneurial successes and social media prowess, our gate keeper would not allow us to talk to him.

But too many people told me I had to meet Andrew, so I chose a day when the gate keeper was on a holiday and invited the 20 year old in.  It became clear within 30 seconds that we couldn’t hire him – we’d just never be able to afford him.  I knew what we paid our junior team members and he was worth 2-3x that. I knew we’d never be able to make the numbers work, but I was really glad my colleagues had made the introduction.

Years later, I’m an old guy who pays attention to Andrew’s successes and tries to learn from him. It doesn’t matter if I have more experience – he’s the one wearing X-ray glasses that cut through the clutter and can see the future. But not only that, he makes time to support the Seattle start-up community. I’ve been able to interview him for a couple of panels, and he’s supported my class at the UW whenever I’ve asked.

So tying this back to the original topic: Talents vs Resume.  A good HR person is recruiting talent that can add value to the future of company. And the easiest scorecard or scouting report to read is a resume. But a resume is usually just a recap of the past. It is not necessarily a predictor of future events. The HR person wants to see what your talents are, and if those talents translate into something their team needs. So you had a job at big company X. That’s great. It shows you can get a job. But what talent did you bring to the team? How much did the team win? What else did you learn while you were there?

Some people have outstanding talents that have never been showcased in a professional environment for whatever reason – bad managers, shrinking industry, crisis management, etc… Some great strategists spend their early careers putting out fires instead of planning the company’s future. But you have a ton of non-resume opportunities to showcase the talents you can bring to a company. Writing, volunteering, starting side projects, mentoring, being mentored, etc…

In a nutshell… When I met Andrew he was clearly talented, and we had an Office Manager that discriminated against him for not having the right resume. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones. But then there were other companies that evaluated his potential, not his past. And now he’s in Forbes as a 30 under 30 winner.

Moral of the story: Managers – Look for the talent, not the resume. Job seekers – Showcase your talents and don’t let a resume hold you back. This equation adds up to the right HR people hiring the right young talent. And companies full of talent and potential are the ones you end up seeing on CNBC.

Lessons From Launching New Products

We started toying around with the idea of Relaborate a little more than a year ago, in late 2011. In the beginning, we weren’t really sure what was going to happen with it, but everybody we talked to seemed to think it was a really cool idea.

These last months have been a great education in learning the differences between a “really cool idea” and “something that I immediately want to invest money in.”

There are a lot of hurdles to jump through to raise money. It’s not about the idea. It’s about being able to quantify an addressable market, convincing people your team is solid from top to bottom, and showing enough of the product that they can see the potential without criticizing the present MVP version.

It’s been a long and funny road, and I’m sure like any entrepreneurial organization, we’ve made some missteps along the way. But here we are in April 2013, with a brand new release of the product that we really think is starting to live up to the expectations we had when we first conceived it. And other people are saying nice things too.

So I guess my moral for this personal blog post is that it’s never just about the idea. Ideas are easy. People invest in execution. So if you have something that you’re sure will be a success, keep plugging away at it. Don’t expect to be rewarded for simply having an idea. The real effort is in taking that idea and making it something somebody else will understand and use.

They say there’s a very thin line between being an entrepreneur and simply being insane, and we probably straddled that line a few times in the recent months. After all, to start a new company you have to build something that no one else thinks is worth building, or they’d be doing it themselves. There’s something a little inherently nuts in that.

So if your reader of this blog, I expect you to run over to Relaborate.com and sign up for the trial of our new product. Read this blog and if you know me, I’m sure you’ll end up getting a discount (if you ask). Let your marketing people test it out, and if you end up bringing it in your organization, you know I’ll be the first one by you a round of drinks.

Relaborate Photo Search

Tossing 15 Things a Day

My friend Liz told me that she has a pact with herself. She throws away 15 things a day. It could be 15 pieces of paper, 15 paper clips or 5 shirts and 10 paper towels. It doesn’t matter. 15 things go into the trash (or charity bin).

She said it’s not that hard to do, and less painful than a whole day of spring cleaning.

By the end of the week, she’s tossed 105 things.
By the end of the month, 450.
By the end of the year, 5400.

Maybe I can’t do 15, maybe I can only start with 10. But I am going to start to do that today.

Congrats to a Few Biz Plan Competitors

Since I graduated from the UW’s MBA Program back in 2006, I’ve been proud that I continue to have the opportunity to be a judge in the annual Business Plan Competition.  It’s truly inspiring to me to see what comes out of the minds of young entrepreneurs, especially those whose excitement has not yet been polluted.

This year is especially exciting though.  For the 1st time, I knew a little about three of the companies that made it through to the round of 32 before they received their Golden ticket.  (No, I was not allowed to judge these companies.)

So, before they prepare for their Investment Round battle in a few weeks, I want to congratulate the three teams that I’ve been able to get to know a little bit.

  1. Flash Volunteer offers a set of mobile and social tools to create, discover, track and easily share volunteer service events via a variety of integrated channels.
  2. GroBox aims to make it super easy to grow your own fruits and vegetables in a small amount of space.
  3. Splitpen is a creative online outlet for ordinary people of all abilities to come together and co-write stories with multiple plot lines, sub-plots and endings.

Good luck to all three teams (and the other 29 of course), and we’ll see you in a few weeks.

Recapping NWEN’s First Look Forum 2011

I always enjoy attending business plan events such as NWEN’s First Look Forum, the UW Biz Plan Competition, Startup Riot, etc… I tend not to call them competitions, and lean towards words like “showcases.” Sure the teams may be competing for a prize, but what they are really doing is showing the public the amount of work they’ve done on taking an idea from imagination to execution.

The real inspiring part of days like this is to see people striving to reach or exceed what is generally concluded as their “potential.” For every 100 people sitting in Westlake Park complaining that the world is unfair and out to get them, there was 1 person in the NWEN First Look Forum pitching an idea that they believed would create jobs and money. If I had my way, that would be the 1% / 99% ratio we should be trying to change.

This was the first year I was involved with a team (Relaborate) that made it through the process, even succeeding down to the final 5 companies. And now I’l use the term “competitor” because from the team’s viewpoint, making it from 37 to 20 to 12 to 5 really is a gauntlet, and you do feel a measure of success each time your name is called to advance.

But when you look at the other 11 companies, you can’t call it a competition, because I don’t know how any consumer would ever be making a choice between any of our products.

  • BAM Testing, What’s your athletic potential.
  • FanZappy, “Social-to-Store” service attracts social fans to local businesses and further converts fans to repeat in-store customer via our mobile app.
  • Glacier Peak, Nature does nothing uselessly.
  • Green Simian, Renewable Mobile Power.
  • Grid Mobility, Connecting Power to People.
  • Lacuna Systems, Expert Web Performance Management.
  • MotoVolta, Inc., High Performance Electric Motorcycles.
  • Mountain Logic, Halves heating and cooling costs for 100 million homeowners with central forced air by only conditioning occupied rooms.
  • Phytelligence, Smarter plants.
  • ProtoSec, Creating the next wave of Internet and Web vulnerability detection giving enterprise customers novel and low-cost vulnerability information about their applications, helping them meet compliance and security requirements.
  • Radiate, The Future of Internet Radio.
  • Relaborate, Blogging Made Easy.
But no matter what, here are 12 people – from an original list of 37 – who are attempting to build and create jobs, not protest that no one is creating jobs for them.  Maybe not all of these will turn a “profit” some day, but if you are looking for ways to stimulate an economy, I think these are the kinds of events and people you should be investing in.  They may not all show a return, but at least there’s a chance.

Man vs Plumbing, or, The Great Kitchen Sink Adventure

It all started innocently enough.

It was a Friday morning that looked like any other Friday morning.  Except this time, as I headed through the kitchen on my way to work, I noticed the sink was backed up.  I’m not very handy, so these kind of things fill me with dread.  So, I walked over and followed the process adhered to by every man who suffers from my lack of home improvement ability.

  1. Look at sink and say to self, “(Sigh) This doesn’t look good.”
  2. Turn on garbage disposal, and think, “I’m a genius” as the water goes away.  However, as soon as the disposal was turned off, the water returned.
  3. Stare at garbage disposal and try to figure out what law of physics caused Step 2.
  4. Grab plunger, plunge, and watch water spray out of the silly useless little release valve on top of the sink that I had never noticed before.  Plunge more, and notice how all the water from one side of the sink was being pushed into the other side of the sink.  Stop plunging, and watch the water return to its original home.
  5. Look under the sink.  I’m not sure why we do this.  It’s like we’re expecting to see a little elf with his hand stuck up the pipe, and a sly mischievous grin saying, “Ha, you caught me.”
  6. Look at sink again and say, “Well maybe it will magically fix itself while I’m at work.”

I successfully made it through all 6 steps, and headed to work.  And to my surprise and delight, when I returned home, the sink was clear.  Sure, there was residue, but no more clog.  Life was good.  I was a home repair genius for not panicking.

Now just to be safe, I called for a moratorium on kitchen sink usage.  I wanted to make sure we were safe.  No dishwasher, no washing machine, no sink.  And so when I looked that evening at a messy (but not smelly) kitchen sink with dirty water backed up, I had to scratch my head.  Where did that water come from?  I decided to worry about that later.

Attempt 2: The solution seemed easy enough.  If it was a clogged kitchen sink pipe, all I needed to do was undo the pipes, find the clog,  replace pipes. Piece of cake.  So, I emptied the sink out the kitchen window, pulled out the pipes and…..found no clog. (Sigh).  Now I had an empty sink, but one that wasn’t connected to the pipe system.

Attempt 3: After careful consideration, it was now my expert plumbing opinion that there was a clog somewhere below the second floor.  So I grabbed about a gallon of Drano, and dumped it down the kitchen wall pipes.  Surely, a gallon of Drano would do the trick.  Environment be damned.  It was with a certain amount of displeasure that I watched the Drano come back out of the wall pipe, and into the bucket below the pipes.   Side effect – Child was starting to find this quite funny, and I was becoming a trending topic in her text world.

Attempt 4: It was clear I needed some professional help here, so I consulted the place that all amateur home repairmen go – the Internet.  And the Web provided a genius solution – the baking soda and vinegar bomb.  Child was particularly excited to find out how this would play out, as my battle with the pipes was achieving Movie of the Week status, and her frequent updates were giving her unemployed friends something to focus on.  So the next day, I carefully mixed a few boxes of baking soda with water and salt, and poured them down the pipes.  Then I dumped a bottle of white vinegar down the pipes.  I could hear the compound getting ready to fizzle back up, so I shoved a sock in the pipe to force the mixture in the right direction.  In my head, I imagined a gigantic, organic explosion, blasting its way through my invisible clog, like a supernova soaring through space……In reality, I have no idea what happened, but the clog seemed unfazed.  All I had were pipes with baking soda in them.

Now, somewhere along this time we had a discovery.  Remember, I still never figured out how that sink filled with water again a few days back.  However, suddenly upstairs I heard a toilet flush, and watched with horror as water came from the pipes and filled my bucket.  Our problem was somehow related to the pipes associated with the toilet upstairs.  Not a happy discovery. The upside was that now we had introduced a new set of drama into Child’s broadcasts, and ratings were up.

Attempt 5: It was time to do some real man’s work on this thing, so the next day, I commandeered a 25′ snake from a friend, and shoved it down the pipe.  I went down 25′ without issue.  No blockage.  I thought maybe I had saved the day, and confidently went back upstairs to flush a clean toilet just to test and confirm my successful snaking effort.  Alas….I once again had a full bucket.  At least the water was clean.

Attempt 6: It was time for some real professional macho man work on this thing, so I did what us men do when we want to release our inner caveman.  We head to Home Depot and rent big tools.  Tools so big, they get their own room in the back corner of the store, back where women refuse to wander. In this case, I got the big ol’ 100′ mechanical snake to run through the clean out valve.  It was dirty, heavy and nasty, and I prepped myself for the mess that would come from opening the clean out valve.  Except….. I couldn’t get the clean out valve open.  It was glued shut.  Now, I could have forced it open, but I took a moment to pause and reflect.  Whoever had built my house had gone through a lot of work to stop a yahoo like me from successfully acting upon the thought that it would be a good idea to open the pipe.  He obviously knew something I didn’t, and I trusted that opinion.  The clean out valve would stay closed, and I would return the super snake.  Child had mixed emotions on this.  She was anxious for some real open pipe drama – though admittedly less so when she realized the clean out valve was in her room.

So now we’re close to a week without sink, laundry, dish washer or upstairs toilet, and the natives are getting restless.  But I’ve invested enough hours into this process that stubbornness trumps practicality.  It’s been kind of the theme for the month anyway, dealing with some toxic people and situations, so what’s one more.

Attempt 7: There seems to be one solution left, and if I had known what I know now, it would have been Attempt #1, not #7.  It’s time to remove the toilet, and go in through the pipe.  I’ve never removed a toilet before.  It certainly doesn’t look hard on YouTube, so what the heck.  I get another mechanical snake, this time a slightly smaller 75′ version.  And I go to work on it.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to use this machinery without either getting my hand or shirt stuck in the wire and almost getting flipped upside down.  I mean, there was a pretty good chunk of time where that snake was beating the heck out of anything in the bathroom that it wanted to.   But for the grace of god did I make it through that “training period” with all my fingers and not winding the power cord into the spinny thing.  But I eventually settled into a nice rhythm, and only had to jump out of the way and hit the emergency stop button every 10-15 minutes or so.

And then suddenly, success!  There was a silence down the hole, as whatever the snake had been banging on for 30 minutes finally gave way.  I recoiled the snake, and the size of the clog I brought back up made me pretty sure I’d solved the problem.

I was riding a pretty high level of confidence, and thus the re-assembly of the sinks and toilets were accomplished at a speed normally reserved for someone who knows what they are doing, not me.  It was a pretty crowning achievement in my home repair merit badge list.  I felt like Foursquare should have a check-in for “I fixed my plumbing” and give me 100 points.

Anyway that’s my story.  9 days, 3 snakes, 4 trips to Home Depot, 2 trips to hardware stores, a gallon of Drano, a few boxes and bottles of Baking Soda and Vinegar, and about $80 in supplies.  But in this episode of Man vs Plumbing…..Man wins.

Unbelievable 3D Street Art

So 3,000+ people have already liked this blog post on Facebook, so it makes me think this has been around awhile.  But it’s the first time I saw it, so who knows, maybe my faithful readers will view this kind of street art with the same kind of amazement.  Warning – make sure your jaw isn’t too close to a hard surface.

https://plus.google.com/photos/106526452034734966566/albums/5626567803379889857

 

Now, if you can’t view that because you aren’t in Google Plus, this link is pretty good too.

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/absolutely-stunning-3d-street-art-paintings/

Here’s a teaser:

A Suggestion for Your Friday Night

Our friend Jason Reid and the rest of the crew from Sonicsgate will be screening their second movie this weekend.  Man Zou is the documentary the 4 filmmakers shot a few years back.  The group landed in Beijing, bought some bikes, and rode down to Shanghai, filming everything they did on the way. 

They will be screening it this Friday at REI, and I personally think it’s a way better “date night” event than your standard dinner and a movie outing.  Here’s the info they sent via email:

Man Zou at REI Seattle – This Friday 2/18
Special event sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club, Q&A to follow       

If you haven’t had a chance to see Man Zou yet, I encourage you to come out this Friday, 2/18 to the Seattle R.E.I. (222 Yale Ave. North) at 7pm and see it how it was intended to be viewed, on the big screen. The Cascade Bicycle Club is sponsoring the event and recently wrote a blog post about it if you’re interested reading more.  Here’s all the specific info:

Friday, Feb. 18 @7:00 p.m.
Seattle R.E.I (222 Yale Ave. North)
Presented by the Cascade Bicycle Club
Tickets are $7 ($5 for Cascade members)
Official event website 
Purchase advance tickets here