Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Soup

I'm going to try a new feature for Sunday's where I throw out a few cool links. Not a lot of commentary, just something I thought you would like. Kind of a cross between Alex's Favorites and Paul Kedrosky's Weekend Reading

  • Amazing Garage Band Composition (via Papilicious)
  • Quote: "Creativity is not a gift, it’s a get." (via JC's Blog)
  • All Economics are Local (via Seth's Blog)
  • Eddie Vedder on Giving the Ukulele A Turn in the Spotlight (via NPR) - "I'm just encouraging people to turn off the TV and play these songs if you want. Some of them are really depressing. But have fun with it."
  • How Much Money Should I be Saving? – It Starts with Good Compost (via Kathryn's Conversations)

New Wooden Birds

Thanks to Beth Stevens for the heads up on the new Wooden Birds album streaming at Hype Machine. I love these guys. Good, mellow tunes, perfect for a Sunday morning.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tweedy's Remember the Mountain Bed

My man Bob Snodgrass from the Ben's Friends crew left a comment a comment about Arlo Guthrie on my Eddie Vedder post yesterday. It reminded me of Wilco's Mermaid Avenue where they took a bunch of Woody Guthrie poems and set them to music. The poems had been lost to the world but his daughter found them and dialed up Wilco & Billy Bragg to see if they were interested. Jeff Tweedy writes terrific lyrics but many of these songs are my favorite Wilco lyrics. I guess they share the byline with Woody.

This song, Remember the Mountain Bed, is one of my favorites, and it's on the second  Mermaid Avenue album.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Bonus Music

Thanks to a heads up by Joel Hopman, we have the new Eddie Vedder album to enjoy on this beautiful holiday weekend. Enjoy.

Friday Chill Music - May 27, 2011

Bryan Kenna put together an excellent playlist this week so I'm stealing it. :)

Thanks BK. There is a widget embedded below and here is a link to the Grooveshark page if you cant't see it or click through to BK's page.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Ideas Are Never Lonely

I'm really enjoying Andrew Razeghi's new blog. He's one of my favorite professors from Kellogg. One of the top five things I remember from Kellogg is his phrase, "Good ideas are never lonely." What he means is that having the idea is one thing, but executing is what set's you apart. I talk to a lot of people with great ideas and then they say something like, "but XYZ company is already doing it...oh well." That's when I bust out his phrase. Razeghi writes an excellent post on the subject here.

You shouldn't be deterred if someone else is doing what you are doing. Odds are you have a different way of executing on it and if you're right, you'll be successful. When we started Ben's Friends, there were at least 5 companies doing what we planned. However we soon found two huge advantages, 1) Those people had to make money to pay the bills, and 2) We could activate an army of volunteers.

The first issue may seem counter-intuitive but my logic was that I didn't think there was a sustainable revenue model in support networks for rare diseases. But if you are a venture backed company with a high burn rate, you have to find that revenue somewhere. Your investors will push for it and it's the agreement you made when you took their money. That means you have 12 months or so to figure out a revenue model and show some traction. That's a short fuse. Because Ben's Friends is our side project, we didn't need to ring the register. Time was on our side because as all those others bang their head against the wall, we just keep growing organically, with a tiny cost structure.

Of course, we've grown so much that we had to figure out another trick and that is where #2 comes in. Turns out people were so inspired by what we were doing, they volunteered their time and money. We have over 60 volunteer moderators now that administer the sites and countless other people who help out in less official ways. People also volunteer their money. We've been fortunate to receive over $10k in donations to date. Along with Ben and my contributions, this pays for our expenses and allows us to exist. If we were venture funded or looking to make a profit, the dynamic would be different and I don't think we could get this level of help.

It's a magical thing to build something that people use and love. Don't let, "XYZ is already doing it" deter you. There are always ways around funding restrictions and better ways to execute. Sometimes constraints help. Do it anyways and you and the world will be better for it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Obama Drinks the Guinness

Hegarty told me this was going to be a big deal in Ireland - whether Obama drank a pint of Guinness or not. Apparently the Queen of England was too good (or old, god bless her) for the Guinness and passed.

Good to see the Prez representing America abroad. :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gilt-II: Jon and Bill's Disrupt Hack

This is one of the most brilliant hacks I've ever seen. 

Every day at noon Gilt releases daily price cuts on luxury goods. Due to high demand, many of these sale items become unavailable almost immediately. However, Gilt gives buyers up to ten minutes to decide whether they will pull the trigger and complete the purchase. It is at this point that our hack, a bookmarklet called "Gilt-ii", allows those who have the items in their carts to transform into risk-free auctioneers, selling items to the unlucky people who now gaze upon a "Sold Out - Item in Members' Carts" message. 
When a user running "Gilt-ii" opens their shopping cart, their items are automatically registered for auction and displayed to out of luck buyers in the "Gilt-ii Auctions" box right into the item details page.
From the auctions box, buyers submit bids on their desired items. As bids are made, they are displayed to the auctioneers right inside their shopping cart — if they see a price that they like, they can accept the bid and Gilt-ii will automatically handle the money transfer between users and change the shipping information at check out to that of the bidder. Auctioneers spend nothing until someone agrees to purchase the item from them. 
A bookmarklet implementation with tight Gilt integration was chosen to enable faster prototype development, but we see this as more of a platform than a site-specific offering. Some places we're thinking about tackling next are OpenTable for restaurant reservations and sites like Ticketmaster for event sales.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pet Bucket List | What pets want to do before they die…

Pet Bucket List | What pets want to do before they die…

This is ingenious and started by my buddy Greg. He threw up the site in a week so give him some time to add features, but I love the idea. We all have bucket lists, even our pets. :)

"Before I die, explain to me in terms I can understand what exactly my tail is. None of this, “That’s where the angels carried you” bull crap."

Friday Chill Music - May 20, 2011

Bon Iver announced their new album and released their first single, Calgary, from it. Love the song. It's good to have them back. I found some cool covers of Bon Iver's songs for this week's Friday Chill Music. I added a few songs that Bon Iver covered from other artists too. :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Seth's Blog: Easy and certain

Wise words...
Seth's Blog: Easy and certain: "Easy and certain

The lottery is great, because it's easy. Not certain, but easy. If you win, the belief goes, you're done.

Medical school is great because it's certain. Not easy, but certain. If you graduate, the belief goes, you're done.

Most people are searching for a path to success that is both easy and certain.

Most paths are neither."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some Tips on Dry Creek Road in Sonoma

I was writing a scouting report to a friend coming to the Bay Area from out of state. He's organizing an anniversary trip for him and his wife. My tips to him are below and it occurred to me that others would be interested, so I'm posting the scouting report here.

http://www.garyfarrellwines.com/ - incredible Pinot Noir and a sweet view from on top of the hill where the tasting room is. Probably my favorite.

http://www.yoakimbridge.com/ - you tasted their wine already. Virginia and her husband run it. She’s a little nutty in a good way. They also make a really good meatball sauce using their wine as an ingredient. Family owned.

http://www.kunde.com/ - I just discovered these guys last year. Really good Zinfandel and white wines. They have a strand of vines that are something like 100 years old. Still producing wine. Pretty neat. You can walk up on the hill and do a tour too.

A big splurge for a hotel would be the Solage: http://www.solagecalistoga.com/ - beautiful pool, really nice place. My friend got married there.

If you go off any of these reccomendations, drop me a line and let me know if you liked them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ANDREW RAZEGHI BLOGS » Blog Archive » What Do We Really Want?

Really enjoyed this post by my Kellogg Professor, Andrew Razeghi. He is the New Products - Marketing professor and was a major influence on me at Kellogg and beyond.

ANDREW RAZEGHI BLOGS » Blog Archive » What Do We Really Want?
If you want to understand people, what people really want, know what they read. We [humans] are not as complicated as we make ourselves out to be. The top 10 best-selling books of all-time tell a simple tale:

believe (The Bible @ over 6B copies sold)
and if you don’t believe, at least act like it (Mao’s mandatory Little Red Book)
spell correctly (Webster’s American Spelling)
and if you can’t spell, do something memorable (The Guinness Book of Records)
oh, you say, you don’t know how to read? (McGuffey’ Readers)
be loyal (A Message to Garcia)
especially to your kids (The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care)
know where you’re going (World Almanac)
and have fun when you get there (The Valley of the Dolls)
if you’re having trouble, see #1 (What Would Jesus Do?)"

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Bon Iver - Calgary

Thanks Haley!

25th Street Properties - Sacramento Property Management

I'm excited for my sister-in-law Effie because she just started her own business. Effie's 25th Street Properties is a Property Management company in Sacramento. Effie has been managing a couple properties over the last few years and is looking for new clients. :)

The New Yorker on Pixar

"The story starts telling you what it wants to become."

- Brian Larsen, Pixar storyboard artist (The Fun Factory - The New Yorker via my iPad)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anniversary Dinner at Frances

The C Team

Interesting blog called the Last Psychiatrist. Fascinating post today on people living vicariously through their kids. Her writing style is really unique. 

"The only thing left for him was to become father of.  "My daughter is a soccer star, " he wouldn't have to say, everyone would just know it about them.  And he'd sit at the practices and give her advice and then afterwards a quick snack and off to violin, because she had the potential to get to Julliard if she practiced, and, crazy passing daydream, one dayPeople would do a story about him.

But it wasn't going like he had imagined it would.  Somewhere in his brain he had thought that maybe his daughter's success would keep him from getting old.  He had never been able to get off C Team, and the last thing left that he might be excel at, fatherhood, he was proving to be as mediocre as in everything else."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

GrouponNow - Best New Product Video I've Seen

Alex Bain highlighted the new GrouponNow product introduction video. It's the best new product video I've ever seen. It perfectly articulates the situation you would use the product in and the benefit to both sides of the transaction so it appeals to the Merchant & Consumer.

I wish FourSquare would incorporate this offer technology too.

Justified on FX

Justified on FX is my new must watch show. I picked up on it in the middle of this season (2) and was riveted. It has elements of Deadwood and The Wire and I don't make those comparison lightly. Tim Goodman put it best:
"Justified had the kind of season where viewers will want to go back and rewatch scenes just to bask in the dialogue, which combined the verbal gymnastics of Deadwood with the kind of subtle humor a ton of comedies should take notice of."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The Sophie Choice « StevenLevy.com

"It was brave of Google’s founders to resist this kind of advertising in the early days of the company. But now Google clearly believes that to connect with the masses on Chrome, it makes sense to hew to more traditional means of promotion. And the positive reaction “Dear Sophie” has garnered is an indication that this was the right choice."

Interesting analysis of Google's Dear Sophie commercial. I didn't know Google had a resistance to TV commercials internally. My friend Meredith is one of the people who runs Chrome and was involved in the ad. When it aired I congratulated her because it's so well done.

In my work at Lighthouse, I've learned that startups can use TV very effectively to drive adoption. If you watch cable tv, on any given night you'll see a commercial for one of the three companies I work with that advertise heavily. It really works.

Knowing this, I was very happy to see Google's ad because almost every day I answer a tech support issue on Ben's Friends Patient Networks related to an out of date Microsoft Internet Browser. Unless you're in this line of work, you have no idea how many people still use an outdated version of Explorer that slows down sites or even makes them unusable. Selfishly, I hope this ad drives serious adoption because it's going to make my life a lot simpler.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Possibilian - New Yorker

Terrific article in the New Yorker on our brain's sense of time. Really enjoyed it, especially the part about the drummers and how good their sense of timing in. Here's a snippet.

“I was working with Larry Mullen, Jr., on one of the U2 albums,” Eno told me. “ ‘All That You Don’t Leave Behind,’ or whatever it’s called.” Mullen was playing drums over a recording of the band and a click track—a computer-generated beat that was meant to keep all the overdubbed parts in synch. In this case, however, Mullen thought that the click track was slightly off: it was a fraction of a beat behind the rest of the band. “I said, ‘No, that can’t be so, Larry,’ ” Eno recalled. “ ‘We’ve all worked to that track, so it must be right.’ But he said, ‘Sorry, I just can’t play to it.’ ”
Eno eventually adjusted the click to Mullen’s satisfaction, but he was just humoring him. It was only later, after the drummer had left, that Eno checked the original track again and realized that Mullen was right: the click was off by six milliseconds. “The thing is,” Eno told me, “when we were adjusting it I once had it two milliseconds to the wrong side of the beat, and he said, ‘No, you’ve got to come back a bit.’ Which I think is absolutely staggering.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day

I thought this was cute. Love you Mom!

What is The ROI of Your Mom?

by Dan Martell on Apr 27, 2011