Monday, July 25, 2011

Mashable Op-Ed (OPINION): Location-based Games as the Next Killer App

In his Op-Ed piece for Mashable, Greg Steen writes:

Capture the flag. Hide and seek. Marco Polo. These location-based games brought hours of fun to many of us as children. Then video games came along and suddenly the only location you played in was the living room. Now this shift is coming full circle as innovative mobile games are using geo-location, image recognition and augmented reality technologies to combine the real and virtual worlds.

Location-Based Games Are Already Starting to Emerge


Read more:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

iPad Apps I Use All the Time

At some point, I may get around to explaining why each of these apps is important to me. In the meantime, I want to provide at least a basic list of the apps I use on a regular basis. I have installed and used more than 300 apps over the past year, and the majority of them have been a good experience. A few have been great, and I've listed them below:

  1. Instapaper (lets you store reading content from numerous sources - incuding Flipboard and SkyGrid) 
  2. Boxcar (push notifications from email and apps - almost turns your iPad into a Blackberry)  
  3. Evernote (syncs notes, web clippings, etc. with phone, Mac computer, etc.)
  4. Flipboard (like having a fully stocked magazine rack for the iPad that includes content from your Facebook friends, Twitter follows, Google Reader, TechCrunch, Hacker News, Harvard Business Review, you name it - go into settings and add the Instapaper / Read Later integration - a huge plus!)
  5. Kindle (the Kindle app for the iPad)
  6. SkyGrid (news from many sources - based on your search terms; automatically integrated with Instapaper)
  7. Wikipanion
  8. Netflix
  9. Rdio (music player - not free, but worth every penny of the monthly subscription; the music discovery resources here are amazing - including new releases, top charts, recommendations, and recent activity)
  10. Dropbox (syncs all kinds of files among iPad, phone, computer and lets you share them with others)
  11. Goodreader (best app for reading / storing and annotating PDFs; at this point nearly every user manual I ever expect to need is stored here; works for presentations as well)
  12. MyNetDiary HD (tracks food, exercise, blood pressure, etc.)
  13. Eywitness ("best of" collection of photos from the Guardian) 
  14. Google Maps

Let me know what you think!


"Your Idea Is Worthless." (And other bullshit.)

Don't you love memes? You know, those ideas or bits that seem to spring from nowhere and suddengly appear every-frigging-where. 

They're great, because they often convey some surprising notion. Maybe they characterize something in a fresh way, and wake you up to possibilities. Or problems. Or they just make you smile. 

Sometimes these ideas or bits that the crowd seems to get so excited about have the ring of Truth. Someone says something that seems downright profound, and it's so interesting and so surprising that it grabs you by your sensitive parts and captures your attention. And you become a believer. 

"Your idea is worthless." 

This is one of those things people started to say that has the ring of Truth. Some of my best friends say it. And they are smart people. But this statement is stupid. Of course it's usually followed by some equally mornonic statement (again, uttered by otherwise smart people) that goes something like this:

"Execution is everything."

Sure it is. If you're executing on an idea, a model a plan that's worth the investment of your time and other resources. Because the real truth here is this: if your idea is worthless, your execution on that idea is also worthless. The truth is, there are terrible ideas, good ideas and great ideas. And whether your idea is terrible, good or great . . .  well, that matters quite a lot. 

So why do smart people make these mornonic statements. Mostly I think they do it to get your attention. And to get you to realize that by holding your ideas or concept too closely - too secretivley  - you stop gathering the input you really need to do anything meaningful with the idea. You think your idea is so precious that you're afraid someone will "steal" it. So you do everything you can to protect it. And the result? It dies. it dies because it doesn't have the air it needs to breath. It doesn't get any water, and it starts to dry up. So instead of using your idea to grow your business, you deprive it of the very things it needs to flourish.

So your idea (or concept or model) isn't (necessarily) worthless. But it's also not a company yet. It's (just) an idea. If you want it to become more than just an idea, you're going to have to gather input. Talk about it. Test it. Work it. And bring it to life. When you do that, your good idea and your great execution deliver value. 

But the next time you hear someone say "your idea is worthless," take that statement with a grain or two of salt.  


Nobody thinks.

"Nobody thinks. People just use the arguments and ideas they hear or read from others."


I heard this from another entrepreneur friend just the other day. 

So what's the difference between saying smart things and being smart? I have an answer for that question, but you'll have to wait for it just a little bit longer. 

Entrepreneurs work to deliver value by building or creating something new and useful. It's new in the sense that it hasn't been done before, or it hasn't been done this way before. And it's useful in the sense that it provides value to someone and that value will allow the entrepreneur and her investors to generate revenue and, ultimately, become profitable. 

As a general rule it is harder to create something new and useful if you don't know what's out there. If you planned to build a new search engine, you'd spend significant time developing an understanding about what had been created previously. Conversely, if an entrepreneur approached you to make an investment in his new search engine, but professed to know nothing about Google, you'd have nothing to do with him. 

All good entrepreneurs start by doing their homework. An entrepreneur's homework or "work" in the early stages of any company is very much about developing a deep understanding of the technology, the market, the opportunity, the risks, the competition and anything else that will be meaningful in bringing the product and the company to life. 

The difference between saying smart things and being smart . . . is "work." It takes work to learn about things. It takes even more work to understand them. 


Friday, April 29, 2011

No One Knows Anything (Part 2)

"No one knows anything."

A friend of mine, an entrepreneur, shared the statement above as a pivotal insight he'd gleaned after talking to a number of people in his industry. It captured my attention becuase it is so very much on the money and is very much consistent with my own experience. But here's why it seemed to be true in his case: he and his team had spent an enormous amount of time thinking about and working on their particular product. They had managed to focus on something and pour over the details of something so thoroughly that they came to understand it in an entirely different way. 

Now I should point out here that my friend and his team actually failed in their initial attempts at creating a company. But they came back from this failure to create something particularly powerful. And by the time they had begun to deliver their offering to the market, they'd heard the same customer questions hundreds of times. Not only that. They also gathered information from far more sources than most. So the reason no one knew anything is pretty straightforward: my friend and his team had become the experts. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

BoulderBeta 2.0 - April 14 from 6-9 pm (MT)

From Tim Falls himself . . . 

A quick update & reminder:

We're just 6 days away from BoulderBeta 2.0

Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011 from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM (MT)
Absinthe House
1109 Walnut St
Boulder 80302

The important stuff:

  • You do not need to print and bring your paper ticket - just tell us your name at the door!
  • First 300 people through the door will get a free drink ticket
  • First 50 people through the door will get a coupon for a free greeting card from CardGnome (Mother's Day is coming up!)
  • Softlayer and Google will have lots of swag to give away
  • Technical Integrity is giving away suite tickets to the Denver Roller Dolls
  • Absinthe House is offering a BoulderBeta special: buy one appetizer, get a second for free: just ask for the BoulderBeta app discount
  • And a few other delicious treats are in the works! 

Bottom line: this is gonna rock! So, be sure to tell your friends to sign up:

Looking forward to seeing everyone next Thursday!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ignighter, a Dating Site, Finds Love in India

I love these guys! I was fortunate enough to be a TechStars mentor to them two years ago and to become an angel investor in their initial round. Congratulations Adam, Dan and Kevin! And congratulations, too to the TechStars Boulder program!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No One Knows Anything

At a recent gathering I asked a friend, the CEO of a Boulder-based startup, whether anything he had learned recently had surprised him. His quick answer: "No one knows anything." He explained that he'd been meeting with companies and executives who can point to significant histories, track records, brand equity, funding, revenue, and experience. And the common denominator has been this: 

No one knows anything. 

And the funny thing is this: they are uncomfortable. They don't want to be ignorant. They all want to know more than they do. 

If someone would just tell them where to buy a clue, they'd queue up in the clue queue. And pay. 

Survey suggests local businesses checking in to Facebook Places

Facebook Places, the feature that allows users to check in and share their location, may be winning the hearts and dollars of local businesses, according to a MerchantCircle quarterly report of more than 8,000 U.S. local businesses.

First reported by The Financial Times, Facebook Places is getting a larger percent of businesses using the service compared to location-based competitors Foursquare and Gowalla. The survey suggests that 32 percent of businesses are promoting their services through Facebook Places, while 12 percent plan to over the coming months. Just 9 percent of businesses are currently using Foursquare and Gowalla comes in at around 3 percent, both also have businesses planning to use their services in the near future, though small percentages.

While one might think that Facebook would naturally have an advantage over these startups because businesses are already creating business Pages, the Places check in feature is relatively new, launching in August of 2010. Foursquare and Gowalla were both launched in 2009 and, while first to the scene, it appears that Facebook’s already established presence among businesses is paying off in the space. This may be because there is an easier transition for businesses to go from using Pages to promote themselves to Places.

The survey also noted that 72 percent of local businesses only plan on spending less than $5,000 a year with 34 percent of that number spending less than $1,000. With so much competition for these dollars, it makes one wonder if these startups have alternative business models in mind.

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No One Knows Anything

At a recent gathering I asked a friend, the CEO of a Boulder-based startup, whether anything he had learned recently had surprised him. His quick answer: "No one knows anything." He explained that he'd been meeting with companies and executives who can point to significant histories, track records, brand equity, funding, revenue, and experience. And the common denominator has been this: 

No one knows anything. 

And the funny thing is this: they are uncomfortable. They don't want to be ignorant. They all want to know more than they do. 

If someone would just tell them where to buy a clue, they'd queue up in the clue queue. And pay. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

TechStars Launches National Startup Accelerator Network as part of StartUP America Program

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TechStars Launches National Startup Accelerator Network

As Part of White House StartUP America Program


As some of you know, for the past four years, I have been serving as a mentor to TechStars companies. The companies I have been connected with - as mentor and/or as angel investor - have included, among others, socialthing! (acquired by AOL), ignighter, Devver, Next Big Sound and Omniar. And the experience has been incredible. Now some of the energy and learning that has been part of the program is finding a much wider distribution as part of the White House StartUP America Program. 


As President Obama said in his State of the Union Speech:



Check out the press release and quote below . . . 


Mentorship-Driven Entrepreneur Support Initiative Part of Long-term Strategy to

Create 25,000 New Economy Jobs by 2015


BOULDER, Colo. – January 31, 2011 – TechStars, the leading startup

accelerator program in the United States, has launched the TechStars Network,

an alliance of independently owned and operated startup accelerator programs

from dozens of cities across the United States and around the world. Based upon

the mentorship-driven model pioneered by TechStars, these programs provide

seed funding and mentorship to innovative entrepreneurs. The TechStars

Network connects these organizations and provides best practices, professional

development, networking opportunities and ongoing support for member



"Over the next 3 years, the TechStars Network will ensure that 5,000 successful and experienced entrepreneurs and investors will mentor and support 6,000 promising young entrepreneurs, increasing their success rate tenfold and creating 25,000 new jobs by 2015 and a sustained engine for growing these figures over time."

David Cohen

Founder and CEO, TechStars

The TechStars Network will be part of The StartUP America Partnership,

launched earlier today by President Obama. In partnership with the White House,

the goal of the TechStars Network is to become an engine for job growth by

ensuring that over the next four years, 5,000 experienced business leaders and

investors will mentor and support 6,000 promising young entrepreneurs. The aim

is to increase the success rate and sustainability of each program, and to

ultimately create 25,000 new economy jobs by 2015.


“We’ve been flattered by more than one hundred organizations who have

contacted us hoping to learn from our experiences at TechStars. We’ve always

tried to be responsive and have helped many get started,” said David Cohen,

founder and CEO of TechStars. “The TechStars Network signals and formalizes

our support for other credible mentorship-driven programs. We believe the

proliferation of the mentorship-driven accelerator model is healthy for

entrepreneurs. Through this network of independent organizations, we can help

increase their impact dramatically and make entrepreneurial communities the

real winners.”


"At Tech Wildcatters, we believe collaboration across boundaries builds stronger

communities. The TechStars Network will be the catalyst for a nationwide startup

ecosystem, something our country desperately needs. With TechStars Network's

rich set of strategic resources, we will build stronger companies faster that are

better able to compete globally,” said Gabriella Draney, co-founder of Tech

Wildcatters, a TechStars Network member based in Dallas, Texas.

Currently there are 16 invitation-only TechStars Network member organizations

in major cities across the United States and around the world. Today the network

is open to all entrepreneurial thought leaders and organizations interested in

building or enhancing mentorship-driven startup accelerator programs.


About the TechStars Network

The TechStars Network is a membership organization that ensures the sharing of

resources and best practices between independently owned and operated

mentorship-driven seed acceleration programs across the globe. Currently, the

TechStars Network includes charter members in dozens of cities, including

AlphaLab, Pittsburgh, PA; Arizona State University Edson Student Entrepreneur

Initiative, Scottsdale, AZ; Betaspring, Providence, RI; Blueprint Health, New York,

NY; BoomStartup, Salt Lake City, UT; Excelerate Labs, Chicago, IL; Founders

Co-op, Seattle, WA; Incubate Miami, Miami, FL; Joyful Frog Digital Incubator;

Singapore; Jumpstart Foundry, Nashville, TN; LaunchPad Ignition, New Orleans,

LA; Ryan Academy Propeller Seed Accelerator Program, Dublin, Ireland;

Startupbootcamp, Copenhagen, Denmark and Madrid, Spain; TechStars Boston,

MA, New York, NY, Boulder, CO and Seattle, WA; Tech Wildcatters, Dallas, TX;

The Brandery, Cincinnati, OH; The Elevator, Tel Aviv, Israel. The TechStars

Network is quickly expanding its membership. For more information,


Contact: John Metzger,, 303-641-1062.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Today's birthday walk with Nan

Route: New Route
Activity: Walk
Google Maps URL:
Shortened Google Maps URL:
Started: Jan 29, 2011 2:36:40 PM
Walk Time: 1:03:38
Stopped Time: 0:00
Distance: 3.99 miles
Average: 15:58 /mile
Fastest Pace: 13:15 /mile
Climb: 340 feet
Calories: 376
Official Route: No


Friday, January 14, 2011

Music - All You can Eat: "Your Eyes are Bigger Than Your Stomach."

Back in June, The Daily Swarm asked a simple question: Is Rdio The Next Spotify, Mog, Rhapsody, Blah-Blah (Cloud-Based Music Industry Panacea That Never Really Takes-Off)?

I've been using Rdio for the past six months and Spotify for the past two years. I still buy music via iTunes / Amazon from time-to-time, but increasingly I prefer to use subscription-based "all you can eat" services like Spotify and Rdio. It changes everything - sometimes for the good, sometimes not so much. Any artist, any song, any album, and increasingly any playlist I can imagine is available. There are few exceptions. Moreover, these things are now available in virtually unlimited supply. If I'm in the mood, I can add Brazilian music (Jobim, Gilberto, Gil, Elias, Samba Enredo, and much more), classical (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven . . . played by Uchida, Gould, Horowitz, or in the case of concertos, by the orchestra of choice), popular, rock, indie - from Thievery Corporation, and Outkast, to Cake . . . [as I write this, I'm listening on Rdio to Federal Funding on Cake's "Showroom of Compassion"] and much, much more,

But as my father often said when we were kids: "You're eyes are bigger than your stomach." A comment often heard at the dinner table when we'd helped ourselves to portions that were, um, aspirational. He knew we'd never be able to eat all we'd dished up.

The same thing happens today with subscription based "all you can eat" music services. I don't know how many hours it would take to listen to all the tracks I have in my Rdio and Spotify collections, but it's entirely possible the total time would exceed my life expectancy by a number of years. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But it very definitely changes the calculus. I no longer have to try to determine whether I'll like Cake's album. I add the album to my collection, and I listen to as much of it as I have time for.

Still, there is a rub. Sometimes the bright shiny object - the latest album release by Artist X - lures me away from something I was already listening to. Musical attention deficit.

On the other hand, I long for a world that would support my sharing a link to music via a blog with a great deal of confidence that anyone who reads it will be able to click on and play the music from beginning to end. Legally. With reasonable portions of the subscription fees going to the artists.

If you're a subscriber to any of these services, I'd like to hear your thoughts. (Spotify isn't generally available in the US yet, though every other day someone publishes a news story indicating that a Spotify US launch is imminent.) If you use them, do you like the services? Have they changed the way you listen to music? Have they changed what you listen to, how you discover, and whether and how you share music with others? Let me know.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Rise of Quora

A few months back, I discovered Quora, a site that was doing many of the things I dreamed of doing with my new company, Pavlov Games. The experience was so compelling and included so many interesting questions and answers from people who knew what they were talking about, I assumed I was late to the party. But a month later, all hell broke lose. Robert Scoble wondered - in writing - whether Quora was the "next big thing." And TechCrunch and Fast Company ran stories that introduced Quora to millions of readers. Not only that, they seemed to discover in Quora a powerful new source of news stories.  

Within the past thirty days, many of my Boulder friends have now discovered Quora. How do I know this? They begin to follow me in Quora, and I'm notified of this via email. 

The basic notion behind Quora is this: Quora lets you follow people, topics and questions. When you follow any of these things, you begin to connect to a stream of content. For example, when I follow Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever, I begin to be notified when he answers questions in Quora. As I write this, Charlie's following 433 topics on Quora, which isn't a huge surprise. 

Following a specific question on Quora is a similar, with slightly different results. For example, I follow this question: "What is the process involved for launching a startup at SXSW?" When I first began to follow the question, the first interesting answer came from Denis Crowley, the CEO and co-founder of Foursquare. Within a short period of time, Twitter's co-founder Evan Williams had chimed in with his own detailed account of Twitter's experience with SXSW. 

And this is what has made Quora so exciting. At least in the tech / startup world, the answers to questions are of incredibly high quality. This has happend for at least three reasons. First, many of the early adopters of Quora are in the tech space, and the questions - naturally enough - tend to be about startups, technology, entrepreneurship, marketing, etc. Second, Quora uses a couple of tools to improve the quality of the answers. It gives users a way to promote the answers that they find most helpful. If I vote up an answer, my name gets added to the list of people who promoted that answer. People like to be associated with quality and with winners, so they try to pick high value responses. Finally, Quora also has "monitors" who keep track of questions and responses. 

There's more. Much more, in fact, but you should check out Quora for yourself. It's a very powerful new service. 

Boulder Beta 1.0 - I bought my ticket


A friend of mine, Tim Falls, has been working hard to promote a new Boulder-based event, Boulder Beta. I've already purchased my ticket, and you should plan to attend too if you're interested in the Boulder startup community. Companies demoing that night include BlipSnips, Deliverss, Forkly, OneTrueFan, Orbotix, Printfection, RainMaker +, Torbit.

Check out Tim's blog about the event

And if you're really interested, you can join me and others who are becoming "co-promoters" of the event, by retweeting about the event:

If you'd like to simply send a RT, then please do so by retweeting this: 

Here's a copy of Tim's message enlisting support for the event. 

Hello - 

I'm sending this email to a number people - all of whom I'm confident won't shun me for spamming them, because its purpose is in the interest of making *our* community more awesome. 

I've been working on organizing a new event to serve the entrepreneurial community in Boulder/Denver. I may or may not have already mentioned this to you. You may or may not have played a role in shaping its format and/or content (if you did, thanks!). 

As of today, things are all ready to go, and I'd like to ask a big favor of you:
Please help me promote Boulder Beta and make it awesome for all. 

 - Here is my blog post explaining the event:

 - Here is the EventBrite page for registration

 - Here is the twitter account associated with the event:

Anything you can do to help spread the word would be much appreciated. 

Thanks for your support...I hope to see you there!

Tim Falls


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Taking the Bus

I hate driving in town. Hate it. I hate parking hassles and costs. I hate getting stuck between point A and B on my way to point C. And I hate not being able to give my attention to work or music or family as I drive. So I've started to take the bus.

Tonight we held the First Thursday Boulder session, and I'm on the bus from downtown to North Boulder. After the meeting I headed with friends to hear the Brazilian music of Ginga Ginga at Laughing Goat. But I cut it short to be at the bus stop by 11:40 pm. That, according to the schedule, was when the bus would arrive. And it did. On the dot! How do they DO that?

Thatcher Wine in the New York Times - Books Revisited

A Boulder friend, Thatcher Wine, is prominently featured in today's New York Times Home & Garden Section, and the article, "Selling a Book by Its Cover" is a very interesting read. After an earlier career as an Internet entrepreneur, Thatcher found something a bit more tangible to scratch his entrepreneurial itch and occupy his time and attention: books. 

You remember books. They're generally (though not always) printed on paper, they're sold at Barnes & Noble and Borders (as well as a handful of local bookstores), and they occupy a prominent space on the bookshelves of the rich and famous. I've recently gone on record as saying that in ten years or less the book - as we know it - will be gone. The rich, of course, will acquire books because they can: for them the escalating cost of paper-based books won't be a critical issue. The poor, on the other hand, will still use books because they won't be able to afford the devices - the Kindles, iPads, Nooks, tablets and other ereaders - that most people use to access their reading materials. Their books, of course, won't have fancy bindings, and they aren't likely to be current editions. They're more likely to be the sorts of books I used to buy as a kid at the local Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul stores at 10-15 cents a pop. 

Just to be clear about this, I love books. Dearly. As Nanette will happily tell you, I own far more of them than is reasonable. Some fill the half dozen bookshelves in our home. Many more are stored in dozens of boxes because there just isn't enough room to keep them on display. I expect that I've even sold and donated at least a library or two over the past ten years. So I'm not happy to see books go. Still . . . 

I've previously written about the demise of the bookstore, something that seemed, even back in 2008, inevitable. Back then, as I came to experience the power of the first generation Kindle, I focused on the vulnerability of local bookstores. Since that time, I've come to see the Borders and Barnes & Nobles as even more fragile, more exposed to the digital threat best represented by the iPad and the Kindle. 

How, then, do I explain the success of Thatcher's business, Juniper Books, which has been focused on delivering made-to-order solutions for those who want to create unique libraries of books? I suppose the answer to this question is that most people don't really want books to go away, and the more unique they become, the more valuable they will become in the eyes of certain people. Juniper Books seems to recognize this. Sometimes Thatcher's work is tailored for high net worth individuals - e.g., the private equity manager referenced in the New York Times article. And sometimes he develops concepts that are more tailored for retail outlets - e.g., Pottery Barn. 


Even a modernist builder like Steve Hermann in Los Angeles, who makes sleek multimillion-dollar houses for buyers like Christina Aguilera, includes acres of shelves in his high-end spec houses. Mr. Hermann designed a glassy Neutra-like house with a 60-by-14-foot shelving system, which has room for 4,000 books, he said.

“But who has 4,000 books?” he said. “I always stage my houses, so it was up to me to fill the shelves.” He ordered 2,000 white-wrapped books from Mr. Wine and deployed them in tidy, horizontal stacks (watch for the white-wrapped book to become this year’s version of the deer head).

Why build such huge shelves?

“I could have hung art,” Mr. Hermann said. “But I like the textural feeling of shelves, and of books on display.”

So did the buyer: the place, books included, sold for $6.4 million to a British man in the fashion business.

Since I know Thatcher has a unique and valuable perspective, I'll see if he's willing to share a few thoughts here. 



Dan Friedlander's Art - Dairy Center for the Arts Opening

My dear friend, the artist and activist Dan Friedlander, has a new show opening this Friday, January 7, at Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts. Per Dan...

just a quick reminder. the opening reception is from 5:00 to 7:00 this friday at the dairy. the artist talk will start at 4:00. i urge you to come at 4:00.

many of you have seen my work before ( at this exhibit for your delight i will be revealing never before seen creations.

if you miss the opening the show is up till february 11.

diane and i hope to see you this friday.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Article: Let's Stay Home Instead... Live Music Sales Decline - hypebot

Let's Stay Home Instead... Live Music Sales Decline - hypebot

“There is a real generational shift with regards to concerts,” Mike Jones wrote. “The older generation who go to these concerts grew up in an age where the concert experience was a part of life.” He worries that the live music business is missing the bigger picture. If teens and twenty-somethings are priced out of the experience early on, they won’t establish concert-ticket buying habits. Then, as they grow older and gain a disposable income, they won’t go and buy a ticket.

A very real, very valid concern.