What I Learned – The Bird Scooter

For weeks now, I’ve read articles blaming The Bird Scooter for everything from congested sidewalks to world hunger.

But last weekend I was down in San Diego where hundreds of thse things can be found along the Boardwalk in Pacific and Mission Beach.

Source: Thomas Melville, SDNews.com

The concept behind the scooter is simple. Like Car2Go, you download an app and look for a nearby scooter. When you see a scooter close to you, you walk to it, then “Unlock it” using a QR code. Then you ride it where you need and “Lock it” so someone else can use it. Locked scooters are almost impossible to roll anywhere and make a beeping noise that alerts that someone is trying to steal it.

The boardwalk along Pacific Beach and Mission Beach is pretty long. It could take you 40 minutes or more to walk from a bar to your hotel. But with The Bird, you just hop on, and cruise at a nice safe 8-12 MPH, cutting your time by about 66-75%. It costs $1.00 to start it and $0.15 a minute. So it’s roughly the cost of a short Uber ride, but way more fun.

After using it for a weekend, I think the haters in San Francisco are ridiculous. I was able to navigate the scooter through pedestrians, bikers, unicyclists, skateboarders, roller bladers, and other scooter riders. My only near accident was caused by a 5 year old on his non-motorized scooter who decided to come at me head on while in my lane. But it was easy for me to stop the scooter and dodge the kid at the last minute.

Source: Thomas Melville, SDNews.com

Also, you can ride remarkably slow and still keep your balance. In fact, you can literally slow to walking speed if you see someone you know and want to travel at their pace, or see a group of pedestrians going 5-wide and blocking the entire path.

The downside: Even on a small hill, I was pretty uncomfortable, and my repressed teenage memory of crashing into a tree while trying to ride a skateboard down a hill in Bellevue suddenly re-surfaced. So, I don’t know if I’d come down from 6th to 2nd downtown. But for getting around Wallingford, Greenlake or Capitol Hill, these things would be great.

Bikers will yell and scream that you should just ride a bike instead. But really, if you are going out to dinner, do you want to get sweaty riding a bike? No, a scooter is effortless. And a bike is actually much larger than The Bird. You take up way more room on a road or bike lane.

So, what I learned is that the scooter is an effective form of short-form travel in flat areas. I’d like to see it become more prevalent up here. Ignore what the haters in San Francisco say. If they are so worried about being a pedestrian and getting hit by a scooter, then they should jump on a scooter.

What We Are Going to Do in 5 Years With All Those Non-Driverless Cars?

I’m not really a car guy. I like when other people have really nice cars, and I could certainly afford to have a nice car, but for some reason I’m wired to be perfectly happy driving the same Acura for the last 16 years. But 16 years is a long time and the reality is that my car will die someday. So I have started looking around for my next automobile.

However, my research hit a snag almost the moment I started. You see, everything I read is that driverless cars are somewhere between 5 and 10 years away. Which begs the question? Why on earth would I buy a regular car today, if no one will want to buy it when the driverless versions start coming out?

And the bigger meta-question is, what the heck will happen to the millions and millions of regular automobiles out there? Here are some options.

  1. Some really smart people are going to figure out how to transform regular cars into driverless ones. Or, I suspect the GM, Ford, Acura, Toyota, etc… will all figure out a way to do it.
  2.  In 3 to 5 years, leasing becomes such an attractive option that there’s just no reason to buy a new car. You’ll have one last regular car for 3-5 years and in your next lease you’ll get a driverless one.
  3. There will be an amazing glut of really nice 5 year old cars on the market.  In 2022, the supply of 2019 BMW’s will so outpace the demand that people who don’t choose a driverless option will be able to get a car that’s nicer than anything they ever thought they could afford.

But the crux of the issue is this. What do I do? Do I just wait until my car dies? Or do I hope it lasts 5 more years and be the first kid on the block with a driverless car? Thoughts?

A Visit to MakerBot

Everyone has different ways to enjoy time visiting a foreign city. Some people love trying restaurants. Some like museums and sightseeing. I like going to cool companies I have heard about and talking with the people who work there.

I think 3D Printing is one of the next big things and will eventually have a huge effect on the global supply chain and how we produce and purchase everyday materials. Sure, it’s still in its infancy today, but the potential opportunities are limitless.

Makerbot Screenshot

So when I was in New York and found out an old colleague of mine worked at Makerbot, a leader in 3D printing, it was like someone else hearing they could get a private tour of the Louvre.

Makerbot Prototype

I was under NDA when I was there, but I think I’m allowed to say that there are now more than 600 Makerbot employees (and they’re hiring a ton more.)

Makerbot 3D Printer

I think I’m also allowed to say that people are doing more than just printing little toys. People are designing and printing their own iPhone cases at home, theatre companies are printing custom masks, architects are printing full scale models and industries across the board are coming up with their own ideas.

Makerbot Spool

So if you are a doubter in the technology, I’d ask you think about 3D printing the way people looked at cell phones in 1980. Back then it may have been big, slow and only apply to a few people. But look at how the world has changed now that everyone in the world can have a mobile broadcasting and computing device in their pocket.

Makerbot Large Machine

Thanks for the tour of the office. Lots of cool stuff is coming from them soon.

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.

That’s Billion, With a B

Facebook just agreed to buy WhatsApp for $16 Billion. That’s one billion, this many times:

Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion

When you add the other Billion Billion Billion for current What’s App employees, it comes to $19 Billion.

Just for fun, let’s look back at some previous tech acquisitions you may have remembered:

  • Amazon buys Zappos. Sale Price: $1.2 Billion. Year: 2009
  • AOL buys Netscape. Sale Price: $4.2 Billion. Year: 1998
  • eBay buys PayPal. Sale Price: $1.5 Billion. Year: 2002
  • eBay buys Skype. Sale Price: $2.6 Billion. Year: 2005
  • Yahoo buys Geo Cities. Sale Price: $3.6 Billion. Year: 1999
  • Yahoo buys Broadcast.com. Sale Price: $5.7 Billion. Year: 2001
  • Microsoft buys aQuantive. Sale Price: $6 Billion. Year: 2007
  • Oracle buys Peoplesoft. Sale Price: $10.3 Billion. Year: 2004
  • Facebook buys Instagram. Sale Price: $1 Billion. Year: 2013
  • Google buys YouTube. Sale Price: $1.65 Billion. Year: 2006
  • Google buys Double Click. Sale Price: $3.1 Billion. Year: 2008
  • Google buys Nest. Sale Price: $3.2 Billion. Year: 2014
  • Google buys Waze. Sale Price: $.96 Billion. Year: 2013
  • Google buys Wildfire. Sale Price: $.45 Billion. Year: 2013
  • Google buys Motorola Mobility. Sale Price: $12.5 Billion. Year: 2011

For one thing, it’s fun to look at what deals happened right before bubbles. It’s also fun to see that some of these deals look like bargains now, while some were just busts.

So give or take a billion or so, Google ended up with Nest, Waze, Wildfire and Motorola Mobility for the same price Facebook got Instagram and WhatsApp. Time will tell where the money was better spent.

Another way to analyze the deal is on a cost per user basis. From what I have read, WhatsApp has 450 Million Monthly Active Users (MAU). So at $19 Billion, that’s roughly $42 per user. Obviously Facebook thinks the lifetime value of each user is more than $42, which certainly seems reasonable. So from that angle, disregarding all other benefits of the deal (synergies, defensive play, talent, etc…) it could make sense.

So what about Snapchat? We all scoffed when Snapchat turned down $3 Billion from Facebook, wondering how they could think they were 3x as valuable as Instagram. Well, I can’t tell what this means for them. Certainly they are worth more than 16% of WhatsApp, aren’t they? Or is there enough overlap between WhatsApp and Snapchat users that they just saw their entire market value dry up? Again, only time will tell.

But $16 Billion is a lot of money no matter what. I think we are all on bubble watch now.

Guest Post: GoDaddy Domains Threatened Because of SOPA Support

Michael Neu posted this article on our company blog.  I think it’s a good summary and am re-posting it here.

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Techcrunch posted an article today called “Cheezburger’s Ben Huh: If GoDaddy Supports SOPA, We’re Taking Our 1000+ Domains Elsewhere”. The story is in reference to GoDaddy’s support of SOPA the (Stop-Online-Piracy-Act). Although the bill sounds like a good thing many people are worried that the bill goes WAY too far. If SOPA passes it would makes it really easy for copyright holders to censor content and shut sites down that they think are offensive. The censorship issues go far beyond that as well.

Ben Huh, The CEO of The Cheezburger Network, has decided to pull his names from GoDaddy because of their support of the bill. Many other big media companies support the passing of the bill as well.

This is very hot topic right now #SOPA and many sites have spoken out against the bill including Google, Yahoo and others.


I completely agree with Ben’s stance and think he is giving GoDaddy a chance to make it right before he moves his domains. However, as the article stated it GoDaddy is used to taking some heat, and it will probably take a lot more for them to change. There seems to be a push to transfer domains away from GoDaddy because of their support of this bill so we will how GoDaddy reacts if that trends gains any more momentum.

People need to familiarize themselves with what is happening with the SOPA bill, and how poorly it was written. It truly is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and needs to be stopped before it passes by a completely technologically uneducated group of political representatives.

I strongly urge you to familiarize yourself with what is going on and take action like Ben did.

What are you doing to stop this bill from passing?

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.

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.

Two Fun New Projects Enter Alpha

As we enter Q4, the team over at Social3i is happy to release two new products into a private alpha stage.

Relaborate is a tool for helping professionals with Blogging. We’ll debut publicly at NWEN’s First Look Forum.
Animakast is a project we’re doing with our friends at FlyingSpot. It’s the simplest, easiest and cheapest way to turn new or existing audio content into compelling animated video.

We love the prospects of both these little start-ups. Let me know if you would like to join our private alpha program for either.

Drugstore CEO Talks Technology

From TechFlash.comI’ve always raved that some of the most dynamic, powerful, inspiring bosses that I’ve worked for during my years as a technology marketer have been women.  I guess “growing up” in an environment like RealNetworks, where everyone was pretty dang smart, you just didn’t see much labeling of team members by gender.

However, it’s easy to look around the web sites of technology companies and notice there are far more pictures of men in the “Executive Team” pages.  So, I was really interested to hear the perspective of Dawn LePore, the CEO and Chairman of Drugstore.com, at the recent TechFlash Women in Technology event.

3 thrings stuck with me from Dawn’s conversation.

  1. The crowd was 30-40% men.  I think these kinds of event are more powerful when both genders are in the room.  We have lots ot learn from each other, so I was really excited so many men in the audience.
  2. Dawn’s main advice was pertinent to both men and women.  She spoke a lot about her career path, and it’s clear that she wasn’t promoted out of luck or chance.  She made a real decision at some point in her career that she was going to be an executive.  So instead of just executing upon the tasks given to her, she sought out mentors who get help get her to the next level.  She understood that merely doing her current job well wasn’t going to get her keys to her own corner office.  He was going to have to be trusted to to the job of the people abover her if she wanted promotion.  I think too many people do their job well and expect to be moved up, rather than seeking out help on how they can attain the next level.
  3. It was also clear that she had to make difficult family choices, but her and her family made them unapologetically and without regret.  She made the conscious choice to forego a family until she had risen to the top level.  Her husband made the choice to stay at home and be a house husband to help her attain her goals.  These are hard choices, but when you are shooting for the stratosphere, hard choices need to be made.

 

One final thing resonated throughout the Q+A.  Women from both large and small tech companies grabbed the microphone and asked Lepore how she adapted to a world where she was such the minority.  I think it’s aninteresting point for men – and women – to keep top of mind.  That even in organizations that handle workplace gender differences with the utmost care, there is still usually a disparity between the number of men and women in the halls. It’s something to keep in mind, that no matter how hard you try to level the field, there will still be a majority / minority dynamic at play.

Finally, I think Lepore glossed over something we all should at least think about a litlle.  One reason there are fewer women in technology excecutive positions, is that fewer women are entering the technology workplace in the first place.  We need to figure out why so many of our bright and talented women students aren’t considering careers in math and science.  I would have liked to hear her talk more about this.