I’m optimistic and delighted every time I open up Twitter on my browser, while Facebook is something I only click on once or twice a day and always with a small sense of dread. This week I sat down to think about why that is.
Earlier this year, towards the end of spring, I found myself in a bit of a funk.
I wasn’t taking good care of myself. I was working like mad. I was eating badly and not connecting very well to the things and people I cared about most. I was gaining weight and focused on the wrong things.
About the same time, I had lunch with Jason Goldman in NYC. Jason was part of the original team at Twitter as the head of product and was also on the board of directors with me. Today he is a cofounder at Obvious Corporation with Twitter’s cofounders Evan Williams and Biz Stone.
Jason told me about Lift and the founders Tony and Jon and how much Lift has helped his wellness turnaround. Obvious partnered with the company very early on. He introduced me and on my next trip to SF I stopped by Obvious HQ and was able to spend time with Tony. I also signed up for the private beta and got going with their iPhone app.
Then I started to pay attention. I set up habits that I was naturally doing anyway and I also set up some actions that I wanted to turn into daily or weekly habits. Things like
-Be grateful for something or someone
-Spend time outside
-Dinner with the kids
-Low carb lunch
With Lift, I check into each habit every time I complete the activity on my phone. The app lets my friends know of my progress and I can watch their progress as well. I can give them “props” and/or leave a comment. It also serves as a diary and I can watch my progress each week of each month. It’s simple, positive, social support and I got hooked.
Back in August, Biz wrote this wonderful post about Lift. Well worth reading if you missed it the first time. I particularly liked this part:
Lift compliments any device or technique you might already use for health and that’s just the start. We have beta users who are committed to forming new habits such as “talk to at least one stranger,” and “call mom.” Whatever it is you want to achieve, Lift can get you there. Like an elevator, Lift is a mechanism for bringing you where you want to go. We all start at the lobby, sometimes we’re going to the same place, and it’s fun to press the button—a tiny win when I was a kid.
It was about that time we were invited to invest in the company. By then, we had gotten to know the team and grew connected with their vision of improving people’s lives.
Today, the company has announced on their blog this new round of founding. We led the round along with Obvious, SV Angel, RRE, Tony Robbins, David Allen and Greg Yaitanes. It’s a thrill to to work with Tony, Jon and the Lift team. I’m also delighted to work again with Biz, Jason and Ev.
I’ll end this post with a screen grab of my check-ins for one of my favorite Lift habits. It serves as a daily reminder of some good advice this smart fellow once said.
The enterprise products we use and the things they have in common
At our firm, Spark Capital, we use a variety of enterprise web services for internal use.
We use Dropbox to share documents within the partnership. We share things like portfolio board presentations, financials, legal documents, investment history within the partnership. (we are testing Box.net as a way to share information with our Limited Partners).
We use 37Signals’ Highrise to keep track of all deal flow across the partnership.
Several years back we ditched Microsoft Exchange and Share point, and happily use Google Docs, Gmail and Drive.
We use Skype to video conference between our NYC and Boston office and with founders all over the planet.
(We have started to experiment with Yammer. I don’t think it’s gonna stick for us but we’ll see)
All of these enterprise products have several things in common.
1. We didn’t need to hire anyone to install or manage this for us. We made the decision as end users first.
2. We didn’t need to speak to a salesperson to get started.
3. They have great mobile experiences
4. Strong network effects.
Enterprise software has come a long way over the past 15 years or so.
We have made a number of investments in the enterprise space and will likely continue to do so. But within the enterprise space, we tend to favor those that have some, if not all, of the characteristics listed above. They are powerful characteristics and we celebrate how they have impacted us as users inside of the enterprise.
A few weeks ago, Dennis Crowley and I were hanging at ITP. Dennis was kind enough to show me around. I saw students creating and building some really interesting things including a foosball table dennis hacked to a display and student id card scanner so players could keep track of scoring and games. Very cool stuff.
For those of you that aren’t familiar, before co-founding Foursquare, Dennis created Dodgeball along with Alex Rainert while students at ITP.
While we were in George Agudow’s office at ITP, Dennis told me that he essentially built Dogeball with ~1200 if-then-else commands. He was completely self taught and here’s some random Dodgeball code that Dennis sent me. I love the comments the best.
The Dodgeball story & code is a perfect example of what Paul Graham was getting at in his recent post, “How To Get Startup Ideas”.
Knowing how to hack also means that when you have ideas, you’ll be able to implement them. That’s not absolutely necessary (Jeff Bezos couldn’t) but it’s an advantage. It’s a big advantage, when you’re considering an idea like putting a college facebook online, if instead of merely thinking “That’s an interesting idea,” you can think instead “That’s an interesting idea. I’ll try building an initial version tonight.” It’s even better when you’re both a programmer and the target user, because then the cycle of generating new versions and testing them on users can happen inside one head.
Scratching your own itch by building your own stuff is ideal. We saw it with David at Tumblr. Jack/Ev/Biz at Twitter. Dennis at Foursquare. Joel/Jeff at Stack Overflow. Charles at OMGPOP. Brian at Admeld. And many others that I’ve left off this incomplete list.
It’s not possible for every founder but we continue to see more of this and I believe it’s the best way to get going.
"Our engineering team can only spend 80hours a week on that problem and those guys [big company xyz] can spend 800hours on the same problem"
That was something I heard at a mtg last week by an engineering exec at a startup. He was reflecting on how hard it is to build stuff when they will always be at a disadvantage from a staffing and resource point of view.
Here’s the thing that startups can’t lose sight of: you will always be understaffed and under resourced as a startup.
That’s just the deal. It’s a constraint.
But it’s a feature not a bug.
The unique weapons each startup holds is the natural ability to focus, the ability to recruit the best people and speed.
Big companies are stuck in meeting hell, politics and worse.
If your startup starts to lose or ignore the weapons that come with the joy of a startup, well, then you are tying one arm behind your back.
Don’t obsess about your lack of resources. Embrace it.
Use it as a way to focus on the most important things. Build stuff to take our breath away. And know that the big company wishes they could move with your raw speed and creativity.
Yesterday we took the kids to the Justin Bieber concert.
My kids are big fans and they had an absolute blast.
I usually have either my Leica M9P at my side but it has one achilles heel which is low light. Also, I didn’t think I would be able to follow the action with a manual focus camera. And I didn’t want to carry my heavy DSLR either.
So I ended up borrowing my brother @aminsabet’s Sony RX100
I took about 100 photos during the night and got a feel for the camera. Here’s my quick review.
• It’s very small. I don’t wear skinny jeans or baggy jeans. just normal cut jeans and the camera fit easily in my front pocket. made it very convenient.
• Concerts are typically pretty hard because you are either dealing with darkness and shadows or intense lighting which can blow out photos. The Sony RX100
took much better photos than the iPhone5 I also had with me. Wide open is f/1.8 which made low light possible and it was nice having a zoom as well and w.
I’m sure I could have taken better photos with my Nikon or Olympus em5. But both of those are substantially bigger than the Sony.
• The RX100 serves as both a basic point & shoot camera as well as offering full manual controls. It was quick & simple to change the aperture and exposure compensation during the night.
• The shutter is very fast & deadly quiet. The latter didn’t matter much in a concert setting but in a different environment it would make a positive difference.
• I like that you can charge the battery by just plugging into a standard mini USB cable. Much easier than yet another proprietary camera charger pack.
I’ll end this post with a few photos of the evening. I’m a big fan of this camera as a DSLR companion or if your primary camera is a mobile phone and you want something more capable.
“And the only thing people regret is that they did’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”—Ted Hughes in Letters of Ted Hughes