Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

A Steve Jobs Approach to Product Development

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Today I was reading a post from one of my favorite VC bloggers, Brad Feld, in which he included a really inspiring video (embedded below). In this video Steve Jobs is responding a pretty caustic question from the audience. Turns out that the question doesn’t really matter, but Steve Jobs offers a fascinating insight into the idea of developing with the customer in mind first as opposed to seeing how a technology can benefit the customer.

I love ideas like this that provide a new lens for looking at a business. I am quite sure that as I talk about ideas for businesses with people I’m now going to regularly ask them about the customer experience they want to achieve. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure a number of the responses to that question will go something like, “Umm…Yeah…Ummm…That’s a good question. I just really love this simple technology that’s able to do XYZ function.” Helping them understand the customer focused approach will be a challenge.

I hope others hold me accountable for it too.

2011 Tech Nevada Honors – #vegastech

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

TechNevada Honors is an annual event to celebrate those individuals and companies that have greatly enhanced the growth and prestige of the technology community in Nevada. Considering many of the great things happening with Vegas Tech and particularly this great list of Las Vegas Startups, I hope that we see a bunch of those startup companies featured at the Tech Nevada Honors event.

Qualifications for the awards are outlined on the nomination form (PDF). Nominations must be made in the following categories:
CIO/CTO of the Year
Tech Company of the Year
Tech Entrepreneur of the Year
Tech Transplant of the Year
Tech Educator of the Year
Tech Start Up of the Year
Tech Star in the Public Sector
Technology Hall of Fame
Green Company of the Year

Tech Nevada Honors is hosted by Technology Business Alliance of Nevada (TBAN). The Awards Banquet will be held on the evening of October 19, 2011, at the Springs Preserve, 333 South Valley View Boulevard – Las Vegas, NV 89107. Limited seating & Sponsorship (PDF) are still available if your company is interested in sponsoring this event.

Startup Weekend Las Vegas Thoughts

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

As I posted a couple months ago, I was part of the organizing committee that brought the Startup Weekend event to Las Vegas. By all accounts, it was a huge success. The sold out event was completely packed and full of great startup energy. It makes me wonder how many more people would have come if we hadn’t sold out.

We even got a ton of great media coverage over the course of the weekend. The RJ did a great article on Startup Weekend Las Vegas before the event and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, talked about it on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face (which I embedded below).

Then, during and after the event we had news coverage from the RJ, ABC Channel 13, Fox, CBS Channel 8, and I’m sure I missed some others. It was really great to have all this coverage of tech startups in Las Vegas.

However, more important than all that coverage was the buzz that happened within the tech and startup community in Las Vegas. The connections that happened thanks to Startup Weekend is what I really wanted to have happen because of Startup Weekend. I wanted startup companies and internet startup minded people to have a chance to meet and come together. That happened in spades during startup weekend.

Whether any of the ideas that were started this weekend at Startup Weekend will continue after the event really doesn’t matter to me. What I do know is that many of the relationships and connections that were made at the event will endure for many many years to come. This is why I call Startup Weekend a raging success.

I was also really excited by the caliber of judges that we had on the Startup Weekend judging panel. I think it was best summarized by a tweet from @JonMumm:

No doubt, it was an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs in Las Vegas to be able to present and interact with the likes of Tony Hsieh, Kevin Rose, Tom Anderson, Josh Reich, and Ryan Carson. Not bad to have founders and investors from a number of billion dollar companies on the judging panel.

I think the weekend is nicely summed up in a quote of mine the RJ published:

“We learned that Las Vegas has enough tech companies to actually have a tech scene, but none of us knew about each other,” said John Lynn owner of Crashutah.com, a website creation and marketing business in Las Vegas. “This event was the start of bringing those companies together so Las Vegas can begin to build its tech scene.”

Certainly this was the start of something and not the end. The question is, Where will we take it from here?

There’s no one individual that’s going to make it happen. Instead it’s going to take a little bit of effort from a whole lot of people to continue to grow the Las Vegas startup community. I’m committed to continue doing my part to grow the community. I hope everyone will do the same.

I love the quote that says, “Many hands make light work.” That’s definitely applicable to growing the tech startup community in Las Vegas. Let’s all help grow the community.

One Trick I Use to Remember to Be Thankful

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

I’m not going to go into a long rant about why it’s so important and valuable to show gratitude and be thankful in this life. Suffice it to say that I’m a big believer in the idea of gratitude and being grateful for the things, people and even the challenges that life brings. It not only enriches your life to be thankful, but it also enriches the life of those around you.

I’m certainly not perfect at this, but I generally appreciate the life I have and have many things to be grateful for even if sometimes I forget.

I think it was about 6 years ago when I moved to Las Vegas that I started doing something that helps me to remember to be thankful. It’s a small, subtle thing, but pretty much every email I’m provided a reminder to be thankful.

The trick happens with the signature that I include in my emails. Thankfully, a while back Gmail figured out how to do email signatures properly (on a per email address basis) and so I’ve really leveraged the benefit of their email signature. Not only does it put some nice links to my various websites and phone number (when desired), but the signature helps me to know that I’m sending the email from the right account. I use Gmail’s awesome feature which lets me send as if from dozens of domains all from one email account.

When using the signature feature though, I deliberately set it up to not put “Thanks,” before my signature. Sure, I could include it in the signature and save me a few seconds by not having to type it. However, that’s why I actually leave it off. I want to take a few seconds every email to think about being thankful. In fact, every once in a while, I consider whether I should include thanks in an email or not. However, dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of times each day I take a few seconds to write “Thanks,” in my emails.

Sure, sometimes even typing it so often I forget to be really thankful. However, many times a day I do think about being grateful when I type it. It’s certainly a small and subtle thing, but it’s a small thing which I think makes a huge difference.

If you want to be more thankful, try it out and let me know how it goes.

Startup Weekend Comes to Las Vegas

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I’m really excited to tell you about Startup Weekend finally coming to Las Vegas. I’ve wanted to participate in Startup Weekend for quite a while. In fact, I was friends with one of the first people involved in Startup Weekend and I can’t say I wasn’t a little bit envious of him being part of it. Well, now it’s coming to Las Vegas.

If you don’t know what Startup Weekend is, it’s an intense 54 hour weekend of working on some cool project. You start with an idea and finish with a launched product. The basis for a potential business. Plus, we’ve already landed Zappos as a Startup Weekend Las Vegas sponsor and Kevin Rose (of Digg fame) as a judge. Plus, more announcements on the way.

Registration for Startup Weekend Las Vegas is open and only $75 for the Early Bird registration through May 25, 2011. It’s going to be a fun weekend, so go register now.

Ok, if you’re still not convinced, here’s the rest of the details about how the event works and a great video which captures the essence of Startup Weekend quite well.

| About SW |
Startup Weekend is a 501(c)3 non-profit that brings together the entrepreneurial, web development and design communities for one weekend with one goal: Going from idea to launch! Here’s a quick video of the recent events in Philly: watch. I believe it captures the essence of the Startup Weekend, a launchpad that we’re truly excited to bring to Vegas!

The weekend is easily broken down into PitchBuildPresentFriday is pitch night when anyone with an idea gets one minute to pitch to the crowd. The crowd votes on the top 8-10 ideas and we start to form teams and build. We build all day Saturday until around 4:00 on Sunday (with some awesome meals mixed in). Finally, Sunday is launch day where teams will have the opportunity to present their ideas to investors, industry leaders. A few awesome ideas and their entrepreneurs have even gone on to receive funding.

| Judges | Sunday (6/26) – 5 PM – 8:30 PM
There are so many ideas that come out of Startup Weekends. Some of them are wacky and a lot set out to rule the world. Judges are encouraged to give valuable advice/feedback in addition to just asking questions. We have a list of 5 basic criteria for the winners circle:
1. Execution (what teams have actually accomplished over the weekend; i.e. deliverable)
2. Presentation (self-explanatory)
3. Viability (financially speaking)
4. Innovation (is the concept unique? disruptive?)
5. Breakthrough Potential (maybe it’s popular among first adopters, but can it be scaled to a larger market?)

| Speakers |
Friday (6/24) 7PM – 7:45PM
We’re going to have two speakers and a local startup do a demo before we begin pitching. Speakers will have 10 minutes of full on attention to speak on topics like: bootstrapping vs. raising funds, the local investment ecosystem and team dynamics and the importance of picking the right people and communicating effectively. The audience will then have 5 minutes of Q&A. Slides are ok but not required.

| Mentors |
Generally speaking, mentors spend about two hours on Saturday and/or Sunday meeting with teams or individuals. We plan on having some awesome ideas launched in Vegas, so we understand if you want to stay longer.

Saturday – 10AM to 6 PM and/or
Sunday – 10AM to 5PM

| Help Spread the word |
– Checkout startupweekend.org and lasvegas.startupweekend.org
– Follow us: @SWVegas
– Send anyone you feel would be interested in attending, sponsoring or judging our way at:lasvegas@startupweekend.org.

Friday:
6:00pm – Registration starts (pizza served)
7:00pm – Kickoff & Speakers
7:30pm – Pitches Begin – (60 seconds per person)
9:00pm – Attendees vote for the top ideas
9:15pm – Teams start forming and discussing ideas
10:00pm – 1:00am – Teams begin to work

[Recharge on Fremont E]

[Yoga]
Saturday:
9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
9:30am – Teams continue working. Mentors arrive and begin working with teams.
12:00pm – Lunch
6:30pm – Dinner
7:30pm – Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
12:00 midnight – Finished for the day. Stay and work as late as the venue will allow.

[Recharge on Fremont E]

[Yoga]
Sunday:
9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
11:00pm – Lunch
12:30pm – Mentors arrive…
3:00pm – Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
4:00pm – Dinner
5:00pm – FINAL PRESENTATIONS
7:30pm – Judging & awards
8:30pm – Wrap-up
9:00pm – Wrap Party

Power of the Droid

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

I’m currently traveling to q conference right now. As I go from airport to airport, I usually bust out the laptop to check my email, maybe write a blog post, etc.

This is the first time I’ve traveled since getting my Droid and there’s honestly no reason for me to get out my laptop. I will when I get to my hotel, but I have a feeling that I’ll be constantly opting for the phone over pulling out the laptop.

The only thing that might deter it is a bad connection. Although, with wifi my phone will haave as good a connection as my laptop would.

We’ve always known that one day our cell phones would be our computers. I just didn’t realize how close we already were.

Side Note: Of course, I even opted to write this blog post on my Droid as well.

I’m Such a Minimalist

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

As I think about my use of various technologies I realize that I’m really a minimalist. I’m all about finding the easiest way to do something. For example, when I first started with Firefox plugins, I was installing things left and right. Quickly I realized that I didn’t want to have all those plugins installed. Plus, when it was time to upgrade Firefox, I was always afraid to upgrade since I wasn’t sure what impact that would have on all the plugins I’d installed. I quickly removed a whole bunch of plugins which sounded like a good idea and just left the ones that I used regularly.

When I started WordPress, it was a similar story. There were a ton of plugins to do all sorts of cool things with WordPress. I added one after another and loved a lot of the extra features. Then, it was time to update WordPress. Unfortunately, in the open source world not all the plugins get updated for the new version of WordPress like they should. So, this would mean that I would have to go through and test to make sure that when I upgraded WordPress, that my plugins would all still be working.

Yep, you can imagine that I quickly started removing the WordPress plugins that weren’t really adding any value to my life. Not to mention I moved to a number of more mainstream plugins which I was certain would be upgraded as WordPress released new software (ie. plugins from WordPress in many cases or plugins with enormous install bases). However, I still wanted as few plugins as possible. It was all about value.

This really goes on and on in my life. For example, as much as I love automation, I’d rather have a car that didn’t have all the bells and whistles. The more features it has, the more places it could break. When something breaks it takes me away from doing what I really want to be doing. Some people like fixing broken things (and there is some satisfaction doing so), but I prefer to create things.

This is why in so many aspects of my life I look at ways to minimize and simplify how I do things. Take a look at my blogs and you’ll see that their designs follow the same sort of pattern. It’s all about minimizing and simplifying.

Free Screen Sharing Application for Bootstrapped Internet Startups – Join.me

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Today I finally came across a great screen sharing application. I’ve used A LOT of different screen sharing applications, desktop streaming applications, remote desktop applications, etc etc etc and they have their niche, but this one is by far the easiest desktop streaming application that I’ve found (and it’s free).

The application is called Join.me. It’s done by the people behind the LogMeIn suite of products (which are good in their own right for more advanced users). However, Join.me is fantastic for those desktop streams that you want to do with people whose desktop you don’t control. There’s almost NOTHING to install. It uses Flash for the user viewing your desktop and a really simple exe download for the person looking to share.

I plan on using this for demos I’m doing for Giving Sports fundraising. It’s the perfect way to do a sales presentation. You send them a link, they click on it and they get access to your desktop computer. That means you can show them a powerpoint, a web browser, etc etc etc. Anything you run on your desktop you can show them and they don’t have to install anything. They can just click on the link.

I’m also planning on using this for helping my mom. Just yesterday I wished that I had a way to connect to my mom’s computer. It was too much to ask her to create an account and install LogMeIn. Plus, then she’d keep getting these update notices to update the software and it would confuse her. With Join.me she just does the one click download of the exe and then tells me the number. Awesome! Plus, after one use, you just tell her to install the app and it will put a shortcut on her desktop that she can use the next time she needs help.

Oh yes, did I say that it allows remote control of the desktop as well? That’s right, my mom can give me control of her desktop so I can just fix the stuff myself. So, I can not only see her desktop, but I can also fix it. Very nice!

There’s also a conference call number you can provide to people so a whole group could be on the same call. It’s not an 800 number, but that’s not a big deal for me at all. Most people have a cell phone or unlimited long distance.

The only problem I ran into is that it didn’t like my default screen resolution. I submitted a report to Join.me about it and so we’ll see if they respond. I just changed my screen resolution and it worked fine.

Anyway, as you can tell I’m excited. I’d wanted something like this for a while. It’s the perfect addition to a bootstrapped internet startup’s tool box!

Disqus New Analytics Features and the Future of Connected Communities Needs Fast Profile Switching

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I’m still pondering this post done by Fred Wilson (a VC I read) about some new Disqus features. The post includes an interesting feature which shows you the sites that users of your site also visit. I must admit that it’s a really interesting feature and as a data loving blogger, I think that’s really interesting.

The challenge I have comes in the next part where Fred talks about his view forward with this type of technology. Basically, it’s the idea of connecting communities where the audience is similar. He uses the simple example of a hot topic on Suster’s blog (another VC I read) being promoted on Fred’s blog. Sure, this sounds great, and I imagine many would opt in to a feature like this. I would like to know about other good VC and internet startup related posts on other blogs.

The problem is when this feature goes bad and creates a poor user experience. What if Techcrunch adds it to the site and its readers are also commenting over on some porn site? Ok, maybe that’s a good experience for many of your readers since they’re visiting that site anyway. However, that could definitely turn off the other portion of your readers who don’t like that site that really isn’t related to the topic at hand. Plus, as a blogger, I don’t want to know that all my readers are visiting that type of site and I certainly wouldn’t want to promote it.

You could look at a simpler example. What if ESPN news started showing up on your tech blog just because a lot of tech people have been visiting ESPN? That’s not terrible, but it’s not the best user experience and I bet many bloggers wouldn’t like it.

The point here is that we all have different online profiles. Here’s a simple sample of my online profiles that I might want to use across the internet:
-Internet Startup Profile
-Electronic Medical Record Profile
-TV Blog Profile
-Sports Fundraising Profile
-Organization Fundraising Profile
-Personal and Family Profile
-BYU Sports Profile
-Other Sports Profile
-My Technology profile

I could keep going. The point is that just because we’re commenting on a website doesn’t mean that Disqus knows which profile I’m using to comment on that site. Of course, this is why I’ve argued that Disqus needs to create a fast profile switching feature. I never log in to Disqus when I comment, because I’d just have to log out the next time I comment and log back in as a different profile. It’s just easier for me to stay logged out and write in all the data myself (which is a pain).

Fast profile switching by Disqus would help me maintain my various internet profiles and then the data that they provide to sites wouldn’t be tainted with my other profiles. Even Google’s come around on the fact of supporting multiple profiles. Disqus and other online sites (I’m looking at you WordPress.com) should too!

Various Website Hosting Options

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

On an IT forum that I participate on, someone asked what type of hosting was best. The following is my response about the various hosting options.

Obviously, the response is that it depends on the project you’re doing. The key question to ask is how much control do you need over the server? Although, even now the managed hosts are providing pretty robust customization these days. Of course, there’s also the discussion of shared host versus the various flavors of VPS hosting out there.

I use a shared host for all but 2 of my websites. I’ve done 50k+ pageviews in a day on a shared host plan (optimized WordPress site) and that was only one of the 5-10 domains I had on that plan. I use Bluehost’s shared hosting and it still amazes me how many domains and how much traffic I can do for only $7/month. The real limitation with the shared host is CPU. Everything else is a non-issue from my experience. However, the CPU usage of your database could be an issue depending on your website. The good thing about Bluehost is their software that throttles CPU usage. Some might hate this idea, but on a shared host with 20 other domains, it’s a great feature since then other crappily implemented websites don’t kill yours. Now if your website is the one that eats everyone else’s CPU, you might not like this feature.

For one project, I needed more CPU and more flexibility with things like configuring my SSL certificate (another issue with shared hosting). So, I got a VPS package from: http://www.wiredtree.com/ It has all the CPanel functionality that I’m use to having, but it also gives me access to all the CPanel management functions that usually only the shared host people have access to. It’s been a great experience. Although at $50 a month is quite a bit more than the shared hosting plan.

If you want the beauty of not having to host your server, but ALL the flexibility of having your own server, I know a lot of people that love: http://www.slicehost.com/ From what I hear it’s basically your own virtual server that you can do whatever you want on. People who like to do their own Apache Installs, etc love this type of hosting.

I’m all about simplifying the server admin experience. I’ve done all the server install stuff and it’s a fun experience and cool to make stuff work. However, at the end of the day with all the above options I’m not sure I’ll buy another server again. So, I guess I’m an all web application kind of guy.