Category Archives: Startups

Denver Startup Culture

tl; dr;

Is Broken, but fixable.

the long form:

I got into a Facebook fight with a CEO the other day. He was mad i said a blog post on his site was click bait (which it was, but the popular term is content marketing). I was mad because it doled out praise for “making Denver Startup Week happen” to a group of people that certainly did participate in the week, but only 1 was a member of our actual team that drives the event, AKA “Making it happen”. As a member of the team that makes it happen i was a bit insulted. Not that i was not included, but that my work was being ascribed to others. Coincidentally in an effort to quantify my time, I track it (not 100% well, yet), this year i spent approximately 160 hours on Denver Startup week. Had I billed for that time it’d be over $10,000. That’s not a small investment on my part, it’s larger than several sponsorship levels in fact. I don’t say that as a “I do more than you” just as a statement of what i  do, and it’s relative value.

The next day (i kid you not) i see a blog post by builtin Colorado that says there’s no coworking in LoDo. When in fact I helped launch Uncubed, which started in RiNo but has been in LoDo (15th and Blake) for mmm 3 years now, and has existed longer than built in Colorado. Several other places were mentioned as “nearby options”, all are commonly written about in Builtin and/or Tech crunch because they raise money (which to be clear is totally fine).

That’s the crux of what I think is broken in our community. A focus on money raised. On exits. Not on who’s building and running businesses. 

I think raising money is fine, I think selling your company for tons of money is fine, i think talking about those things is fine. They’re obviously economic drivers, they creates jobs, etc. They’re sexy and attract attention.

But.

We’re making our focus around the “Denver startup community” solely about who’s raised how much, how much did the company sell for. We talk about how much VC money flooded Denver in a given time period, but we’re ignoring those companies that form, and continue to exist that don’t take VC money. Uncubed Started with no money from anyone but the three founders. 360|Conferences, started with nothing at all. Last year we had revenue of about $250,000.

We’re not talking about companies that have been around years, are profitable, are doing things. Sure they’re less ‘sexy’ and often (but not always) employee fewer people, but they’re contributing to the Denver community just as much (and I feel more) as the latest well funded Tech Crunch darling, that may or may not even exist next year.

So, all that said, I think that’s now the goal for my blogging efforts. I don’t know if that will be here on my blog or if I’ll spin up something new. I’d like to get a few folks to help me cover things. There’s more to the story of Denver’s amazing startup scene than is being talked about, and I think it’s time we fixed that.

Want to know more, stay tuned. Want to help, let me know.

So I think I’m close to done with Fitbit

Not because I don’t like it, I like my fitbit, a lot! I’ve had one since the money clip looking one (Ultra? One?), which i eventually lost and got a replacement for in the form of the new model, which i got $50 off courtesy of Fitbit support, which is a really cool thing they do.

I’ve got many family members using Fitbit, lots of friends, even my dog has one (how they haven’t made a dog specific one yet is beyond me).

So why leave?

Silo’s. I hate ’em. Mostly though I hate multiple silos (and am well and truly at the bottom of the Apple one), more so when they don’t play together, even a little. Like ’em, or hate ’em Apple is getting a better and better stack, and their silo, while a silo, is shiny and pretty awesome. My Mac and my iPhone talk to each other, my Watch talks to my iPhone. While not perfect, the nice outweighs the not so nice.

And then there’s my fitbit, which for no clear reason, still won’t talk to Apple.

I just got my Apple watch and I’ve been comparing it’s health features to my fitbit, namely step tracking. Right this moment my fitbit shows 11,549 steps for the day, my Apple Watch shows 11,706. Which is actually a bit odd, the other day it was about 100 less than my Fitbit. Point being they’re close. Close enough as to make not a big difference in my step tracking goals.

Each morning i get up and work out (weekdays) and after that I weigh myself. Normally i do this in the fitbit app. I used to have another app that read fitbit data, and then shared it among other apps (It wasn’t the sync bridge thing, just an app that could read/write both Apple and Fitbit info), and also shared with Apple Health, i don’t use that app so i uninstalled it, so now there’s a gap. I have to enter my body fat % and weight manually in to two apps. Not the end of the world for sure, but why? If Fitbit had a legitimate reason, I might be ok with it. Other things read and/or write to Apple Health, fitbit (still) doesn’t, and hasn’t provided any good reason. Protecting their silo?

I haven’t chucked the fitbit yet, and likely won’t for a few more weeks at least (mostly out of liking to compete with friends and family), but I’d be happy to keep on fitbit’in (is that a term?) if they’d un-silo their data. Heck don’t read in Apple Health data, just share yours. It’s not that hard, and I can’t imagine how you justify not doing it. It costs you nothing to let HealthKit read steps, calories, etc.

We’ll see. I’ve become attached to my Fitbit but double entry is the pits, and Fitbit doesn’t have much to push me it’s way, when ALL other data is in Apple Health.

Drawing a line in the sand is cool if you have a legitimate reason to, but “just because” isn’t a good reason.

Good Conference Wifi

A friend of mine in the industry posted this this other day. On reading it I was a bit insulted. Nothing is ever cut and dry and conference tech certainly isn’t.

At 360|iDev this year the wireless was I’ll admit, craptastic. I had outsourced the wifi because the hotel wanted nearly $20,000 for what they called the mid level (Non streaming, non VPN or something like that level). Thats not including the rest of the AV quote.

Eric says there’s two factors in good conference wifi; the desire to deliver a great experience (which I’d also argue in the scope of things wifi is not a major part of that), and the desire to spend the money to make it happen.

There’s a third factor, budget. 360|iDev is about $300-500 less than his event. It’s also in Downtown Denver, where hotel lunches run at a minimum $50/person. My AV and internet options came down to $47,000 or $13,000. One was in my budget (previous years events came in around $11,000, so that’s what i planned around), the other not even remotely. Not just ‘not in budget’ but would have put 360|iDev 2014 firmly in the negative. Since my sole source of income is my conferences, taking losses is something i shy away from.

Was i bummed the wireless was crappy at 360|iDev, hell ya I was. Will i strive to be better next year, damn right, I’m even planning to spend considerably more than I’ve ever spent on it. Do i think a conference is less awesome because of the wifi? It’s never entered my mind. When I’m at a conference I’m there for the sessions, yes it’s inconvenient, but I’ve never left thinking “I’ll never be back, i couldn’t tweet during that session.” Also, the few times I’ve really wanted wifi at a conference were because the content was lame, I’d rather solve that problem. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not diminishing the value of wifi, and like I said, I’ll be working harder to make next year’s better than this. But when I’m thinking of attending an event (something I plan to do more of this coming year) whether their wifi was awesome or not, is about as important to me as the color of the hotel carpet. Ok, maybe a bit more important than that, but not much.

My point here isn’t actually about wifi, it’s about claiming something is universally easy and those that don’t do what you do, are doing it wrong. I could easily argue that if you’re sessions aren’t technically deep and sending attendees home with usable new skills, you’re doing it wrong. Or any other biased, “the way I do it” assertions.

Events are easy

until they’re not.

They’re easy when it’s someone elses money you’re working with, or when there’s no real money on the line to begin with. Or when your name and reputation aren’t attached to it.

They’re very much not easy when it’s your money and/or reputation on the line.

Last Friday afternoon i made one of the hardest business decisions I’ve ever had to make, whether to cancel an event.

I cancelled the event. 360|intersect 2014, that was to take place in Seattle next week, isn’t happening. Ticket sales were way too low. I had kept hoping the flood gates would open in the last two weeks, as often is the case with events, but finally had to admit defeat, no one was coming. Well not no one, but not enough, by a long shot.

I’ve never had to cancel an event before, I’ve been in spots where i probably should have, but didn’t. This was the first time i made the call. I spent the weekend calling the speakers and talking to them about it, thankfully each one has been awesome and supportive of the decision.

Today I’ve been emailing sponsors, the venue, the hotel, refunding attendees, etc. Working out the details of unwinding an event.

I’m losing money, but I’m losing less than had i gone through with it, in terms of money but also my reputation and the reputation of the event.

 

Events are easy, except when they’re not.

Would you like to mentor teams Competing in GoCode CO?

UnknownIf you didn’t know, i’m helping organize events for the GoCode CO campaign. It’s a pretty cool thing that the Secretary of State is organizing. It starts with hackathons taking place all over CO. Actually there’s a kick off event, but the fun starts with the hackathons.

I’m running the Fort Collins event (feel free to sign up!!) but there’s going to be events in Boulder, Durango, Grand Junction, and Colorado Springs as well.

The hackathons are the weekend of the 21st. Teams will compete around building apps around state data. Solving problems that exist now.

Here’s where you come in. We need mentors for a check in event that follows the hackathons. April 5th at the awesome Convercent office we’ll be bringing the winning teams from each city together to spend the day talking to mentors from all corners of startup’ness.

We’ve got a sign up form, here. We need about a dozen or so more mentors than we have at the moment. We want to make sure each team has the opportunity to talk to lawyers, business people, sales people, tech people, etc.

Unlike other hackathons, the winners don’t go home at the end of Sunday, done. With money and possible State contracts up for grabs, the teams that win the hackathons are just starting a journey that ends May 9th.

To make sure the teams are as supported as possible, this mentor checkin day is a big deal. If you have something you can share with aspiring new startups, please sign up, there’ll be snacks and coffee, I promise :)

If you’ve got any questions, just let me know.

THANK YOU

We did! I really do mean ‘we’. I couldn’t have gotten the votes with out everyone’s support. It means a lot to me! To Nicole and to the company!

The process isn’t super clear, but we’re now officially in the running. Step one, get 250 votes. By The Way, you can still vote, i don’t honestly know what it means to get more than 250, but safe to assume it reflects well on us, so by all means if you haven’t voted, or haven’t shared, I wouldn’t be mad if you did.

Step 2 starts mid November. The “panel Deliberation” phase. Not sure they contact those in the running or just review the applications and decide. That step lasts until January, then they announce the 12 winners.

 

Thank you to everyone who voted. I have no idea what our chances are, but just getting the votes was a big hurdle, and we appreciate it. Fingers crossed 2014 is a HUGE year for 360|Conferences.

Two things I’m very proud of

The other day I had the opportunity to take part in something super awesome. I’m almost embarrassed it took me this long to get involved.

HouseOfGeniusLogo-smaller

House of Genius, is to be blunt, awesome. I had the opportunity to present at the last gathering/meeting/whatever it’s called. I like Assemblage of awesome myself.

Anyhow, the basic idea is a small group of people, all anonymous beyond just a first name. Those selected to present their idea have 5 minutes to present it. There’s some Q&A, then some “Sit and listen to what we say without responding” and at the end of the presentations, (usually only 2-3 I think) there’s the “reveal” where everyone introduces themselves; who they are, what they do, etc.

It’s really awesome. I presented something I’m working on and got tons of feedback and introductions. It was very valuable. If they’ll have me, I’ll be happy to be back, it was that awesome of an experience.

 

vis_1The other thing I’m currently really proud of is 360|intersect. It’s an event I’m organizing that’s 100% different than I’ve ever done before. It’s not a technical event, not a hackathon, or summit. They easiest way to describe it, is TED minus the Douche baggery. It’s a group of awesome speakers, from across the events I’ve done and beyond, talking about what they’re passionate about, what makes them awesome technologists.

It’s coming up the end of this month, if you’re in Seattle or just want to spend a weekend being inspired, riding WWII Amphibious vehicles and nerding out with folks from all different technical circles, use “johnsblog” to save 20% when you register.

I can’t wait. Seattle is awesome in the spring, I’ve got lots of friends there, and we’ll be right downtown at an awesome venue, nerding out indoors and out.

 

Hope you can make it! It’s gonna be fun.