Want a break from tech?
Take a journey with me as I learn to take insanely great pictures.
Are you a founder who likes to travel?
Check out FoundersCard to get airfare discounts on VirginAtlantic, JetBlue, British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Cathay & lots of other perks.
UPDATE: I've posted lots of updates since I originally wrote this blog 2 years ago. If you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole, check out this post comparing Betterment vs. Wealthfront ETFs and this one on Peer to Peer lending.
My wife Sue and I have been mulling over how to most effectively deploy cash in the current economic climate to generate decent returns without taking outsize risks. We've honed in on six main strategies, which I outline below in descending order of risk.
Since everyone has a varying amount of cash to invest, I'm going to specifically call out ways to deploy small amounts of cash in some of these strategies, as I want this post to be really actionable for anyone. The most important part is to just get started, and the biggest barrier to doing that is you thinking "I don't have any money to invest." So get yourself out of that mindset and jump into the world of being an investor, even if it's just with $25 (yes it's possible, below), $100, or $1,000 or $10,000, or whatever. I also recommend putting money aside every month to invest; that's a great way to get started.
Riskiest: Angel Investing
As was reported in TechCrunch today, we've just signed a deal to sell our startup Socialize to ShareThis. Although having a successful exit is a dream for many entrepreneurs, I find myself feeling a wide range of emotions and thoughts. I'd like to share some of them in this blog to provide an honest assessment of what it's like to work tirelessly on a startup and then sell it.
The first thing I want to say is that often upon a sale, you'll hear everyone involved talk about how "pumped" or "excited" they are. The truth of the matter is that it's much more complex than that. There is absolutely a sense of excitement. But I've asked for, and gotten, permission from ShareThis to speak honestly about the wide range of feelings and to speak to the complexity of it all so I can provide a more thoughtful and honest assessment than one typically sees in these situations. Think of it as a peek under the covers of an acquisition.
I've broken this blog up into several parts:
I'll start with the really positive aspects: We're selling Socialize to the absolute best buyer I can imagine. ShareThis is a very fast-growing company with a strong team. As Forbes recently reported, ShareThis is #35 on its America’s Most Promising Companies list. Forbes pegged 2012 revenue at $30MM, and it’s on a rocketship-like growth trajectory. ShareThis didn't just buy us for our talent, but also because its beliefs around the value of social are closely aligned with our own, and because mobile is becoming a big part of its business (see this related blog post with my warning to Fortune 1000 CEOs about the sudden growth of mobile). ShareThis wanted to gain an immediate leadership position in social via the mobile channel, and with Socialize it's achieved that. And Socialize has gotten an incredible platform from which to further develop our social infrastructure for mobile devices. The fit just couldn't be better. Often when I would describe Socialize to people, they would say "so it's like ShareThis, but for mobile, right?" Exactly. So I'm very confident that together, the value of the two companies will be greater than their respective parts, and I'm very pleased that ShareThis saw the same benefits (dare I say, "synergies"). A lot of the credit here goes to Nanda, ShareThis' CTO, who called me out of the blue one day and said "we should do this deal; I know it'll be perfect," and to the ShareThis team for backing Nanda's vision.
Back in February, I tweeted this out:
About a month later, Google notified me that I'd been accepted into their Glass Explorers program. Late last week, I picked Glass up. In this post I'll tell you what my first 48 hours with Glass have been like, what's been great about it, and why I don't believe Glass is yet ready for general public use.
Here's a video of me showing up at Google HQ to get Glass:
I just got a preview of a hot new coworking space that's brand new (literally weeks old) in downtown San Francisco. The address is 880 Harrison street. Here's a video I just did of the space.
If you're interested in leasing space here for your startup (or would like to do an event in this space or inquire about the Hacker Hostel), please leave a comment below and I'll introduce you to the people running it.
The space is going to be called "Startup House." It's three levels, with offices on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The lower level is a HUGE open space, where they're going to put co-working desks (and the rumor is, maybe some exotic cars sprinkled around -- you know, for character).
There's also a separate part behind the main building where the owners are considering putting a "Hacker Hostel" for out of town developers (or just those who need a place to crash). The embassy of New Zealand is going to be putting a launch pad space in the building. Thanks to Elias (the guy behind StartupBus) for showing me around the space
I've written before about the importance of playing a computer like an instrument. Employing many small efficiency tips on a laptop will add up to copious amounts of time over the span of a year (let alone the span of your working life in front of a computer!) I've calculated that playing a computer as an instrument can literally create one week (about 40 hours) each year in efficiency gains. So learn these tricks and then take an extra week of vacation!
Now, to quantify a standard against which we can benchmark people's skill at playing a computer like an instrument, I'm challenging anyone to beat me in the F1 GeekSpeed Challenge.
Here's how it works:
2017 Update: I've created a "living document" version of these hacks so you can share your pro-tips, too. Head on over here to see the latest!
Three years ago, I wrote a blog post on being hyper-efficient on a computer -- or to put it another way, being so good on a computer that you play it like a virtuoso on a musical instrument. So much has changed in my daily workflow that I realized it was time for me to update that post.
The first order of business is that you can't improve what you can't measure. So if you're serious about being able to use a computer with the speed and zeal of Dash outrunning a flying saucer, first you need to find out how fast (or slow) you are today. Go over and take my GeekSpeed challenge. See if you can break the 1 minute mark.
If you can't, then here are some of the things to focus on to make the 8+ hours per day you spend in front of your computer much, much more productive:
Being embedded squarely in the middle of the fast-growing mobile revolution, our company has a unique perch which I've wanted to codify into a vision document for some time. I finally found time to do it, and the resulting video is below, along with the slides below that. I'd love your thoughts & comments on what points you agree or disagree with, and why.
Here's the video:
If you want to play the video faster, say at 1.5x speed, you can download it from the vimeo site (here's where you download it from).
Here's the transcript:
The recruiter business is broken -- at least in San Francisco. I get multiple calls each day from recruiters and they're all pitching the same "exceptional candidate" that's perfect for our company's needs. I always politely tell them to take me off their lists, but yesterday I had a recruiter refuse to do so. Then he sent me the email below, extorting me by saying he would take me off his list only if I'd look at his candidate. Below is how I responded to him. I cc'd a manager at his company, and Lowell Isom & Erica Jarmen at the National Association of Executive Recruiters.
If you're a recruiter and you're reading this, you need to re-think your approach. It's not working. And because of bad apples like the guy below, I won't use any recruiter.
If you're an entrepreneur looking to hire top talent, what I do recommend is AngelList's Job board. It's very, very good. And you cut the recruiters out completely, which is a nice bonus.
Here's the extortion letter I received, with my response at the top:
As CEO of my startup, I sometimes have to be in sales mode. (Well, every owner of a company is always in some sort of sales mode, but in this case I mean prospecting for customers of new product offerings).
I recently wrote about what it takes to create an effective sales team. But here I just want to share one pro-tip, and see if I can find a few other interested people to beta-test a new tool with me.
We have a new product that we're piloting, and so I'm in sales mode for a bit testing the waters. I always like to do the initial sales myself, so I can tweak it and figure out what's working and what's not, before I pass it over to a sales team. Plus, hearing the inevitable "no's" from prospects is a great way to get honest feedback about the product so we can iterate on it quickly.
As part of this, I'm sending targeted emails out to CMOs of large brands. I have a very specific methodology I follow to find the CMOs I believe will be most likely to have interest in our product. And I always start at the top of an organization -- even if the CMO isn't the one making the direct buying decision, they almost always control the P&L, and if the CMO sends an email to a direct report to check something out, then it's much more likely to be followed up on (and quickly) than if I targeted that person directly. To learn more about this sales philosophy, read this blog post I wrote many years ago about selling effectively.
Like countless other Verizon MiFi users, I've been having terrible disconnect issues with the MiFi when it's in WiFi mode (it works fine in modem mode, but I hate modem mode - in WiFi mode you can share the connection with 5 users and you don't need to be running the VZ software, so it's much more usable... except for this vexing issue where the MiFi would disconnect & then reconnect from the VZ network every 30 to 90 seconds, basically making it unusable).
I wasn't alone with this problem - thousands (or tens of thousands?) of other MiFi users have been having it. In fact, there are countless posts on the Verizon Message Boards about this issue, like this one, and this one.
An especially good description of the problem was provided by Adam Tow on his personal blog.
I had previously called Verizon tech support, and after a painful escalation process to Tier 2 technical support, I was sent a new piece of MiFi hardware. This did not resolve the issue, and I put up with it for another 6 months.
Finally I got fed up, so I did what I do best: I contacted the CEO of Verizon and told him he had a problem on his hands. But why stop there? While I was at it, I contacted the entire Verizon executive suite. I've written before about how to get ahold of anybody in this blog about an AT&T issue, and this blog about trading up, and this blog about the secret to getting good press, so you should be able to discern from those blogs how I found the email addresses of everyone in the VZ executive suite. Here's the email I sent them:
Like countless other Verizon MiFi users, I've been having terrible disconnect issues with the MiFi when it's in WiFi mode (it works fine in modem mode, but I hate modem mode - in WiFi mode you can share the connection with 5 users and you don't need to be running the VZ software, so it's much more usable... except for this vexing issue where the MiFi would disconnect & then reconnect from the VZ network every 30 to 90 seconds, basically making it unusable). I wasn't alone with this problem - thousands (or tens of thousands?) of other MiFi users have been having it. In fact, there are countless posts on the Verizon Message Boards about this issue, like this one, and this one. An especially good description of the problem was provided by Adam Tow on his personal blog. I had previously called Verizon tech support, and after a painful escalation process to Tier 2 technical support, I was sent a new piece of MiFi hardware. This did not resolve the issue, and I put up with it for another 6 months. Finally I got fed up, so I did what I do best: I contacted the CEO of Verizon and told him he had a problem on his hands. But why stop there? While I was at it, I contacted the entire Verizon executive suite. I've written before about how to get ahold of anybody in this blog about an AT&T issue, and this blog about trading up, and this blog about the secret to getting good press, so you should be able to discern from those blogs how I found the email addresses of everyone in the VZ executive suite. Here's the email I sent them: Daniel, Ajay, Marni, Marquett, Margaret, I'm sure you're all very busy. I hope you can take a moment to handle an issue from a longtime customer. I'm writing you about a HUGE issue with your Verizon MiFi product that many users are having, yet tech support seems to be at a loss about how to fix. The Verizon MiFi constantly disconnects when in WiFi mode. It's unusable. And I'm not the only one with this problem. Adam Tow (a producer of WSJ's All Things Digital) wrote an in-depth blog about this problem: http://www.tow.com/2010/04/30/verizon-mifi-disconnects-constantly-in-wifi-mode/ I'm cc'ing Adam on this email to see if he has any updates. And there are even numerous threads about it on your own discussion boards: http://community.vzw.com/t5/Broadband-Netbook-MiFi-Devices/mifi-constantly-disconnects/m-p/124168 Can you please tell me what you're doing to remedy this problem? I'm about to move to Sprint's 4G network, I'm so frustrated by the performance issues, which have been ongoing over the past 18 months. DROdio _______________________Daniel Ruben Odio-Paez t: @DROdio PS - Can you beat my time of 0:50 in the F1 GeekSpeed Challenge? For good measure, I found Adam Tow's email address, and cc'd him on the email. I had realized he's actually the senior producer for web & multimedia of the All Things D site published by the Wall Street Journal. I don't know if that encouraged the VZ Executive suite to respond to me or not (and in fairness to Adam, he had no idea I was doing this, so he was probably pretty surprised to be cc'd on the email, although he took it in stride and vouched for the fact he too was having the MiFi disconnect issue), but the next day, I had 3 senior Verizon representatives call me to try to help resolve my issue. And the good news is, it was in fact resolved quickly by Verizon, so kudos for their "executive SWAT response team" acting quickly (if anyone at VZ reads this, I just wish your front-line tech support people were able to handle these issues so they didn't have to be escalated). And the solution? Pretty simple, actually - you have to update the MiFi firmware. That can only be done on a PC, according to the VZ rep, so if you only have a Mac, you'll have to find a PC onto which you can update the firmware. It should go from version "135" to version "159" by the time you're done. Here's the exact email from the VZ rep: Mr. Odio-Paez and Mr. Tow, We believe we have isolated your issue. Our technician recommends upgrading the firmware on the MiFi devices. The upgrade will need to be implemented via a PC, and is bundled with the new VZAccess Manager 7.3.11 available at the following link www.vzam.net. Please let me know if you have any issue with upgrading the devices, as I realize the machines are Mac's. If this becomes the case, we can work through another solution. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Now, my MiFi doesn't disconnect constantly, and it's actually usable again. I hope you can find some success with this firmware upgrade as well, and this is also a reminder not to settle - when you have a problem, do whatever you need to do to trade up until you find a solution, even if it means emailing the CEO of Verizon to get what you need.