Connecting mentors and founders

I get asked all the time, how can i find a great advisor/mentor/angel for my startup?  My friend Fred Wilson wrote a great post the other day about role models. I encourage you all to read it.

I’m a big believer in mentorship driven programs and have put my money where my mouth is as an investor in Techstars and YC companies.

It was nice to see so many local mentors come out and support a new-ish program like TechStars Cambridge. By last count, I think we have over 60 great mentors willing to lend a helping hand, share experiences, make connections, provide candid feedback and if nothing else become a friend to the founder.

We had a number of other folks that wanted to become mentors but at some point the team running the program at techstars had to stop taking mentors on because each year, Techstars only backs about 10 startups per year per city (boulder, seattle, cambridge).

But the fact that many others would like to mentor young startups shouldn’t go unnoticed. Plus Techstar [+ City] only lasts a few months each year. And not every startup gets accepted into these programs (less than 10% of the applicants).

How do we bottle up those mentors (as well the others) that want to mentor and match them with young founders on an ongoing basis?

Running ongoing events is one way to do this. But events (to date) haven’t been nearly as effective as mentorship programs like techstars, YC or seedcamp. Maybe a service like Kickstarter could add a way for mentors to donate “time” as well as money (both are extremely valuable).

Or maybe a new non-profit web site could emerge to match mentors with founders in a given city.

If you are interested in this topic then please let me know. Let’s make it happen.

Thoughts after getting my new phone number

I’ve been playing around with Google Voice for some time now.

It’s not perfect by any means and it certainly isn’t perfect on my iPhone (which I had to jailbreak to support GV Mobile)

But it’s good enough for my needs and as a result I changed my number yesterday.

The next step was to communicate my new number to my family, friends and business associates. So, I went through my entire address book, selected each person that should have my new number and added them to the bcc line. Then, I sent out an email with my new number. This was painful on my end. Even worse, i’m sure it wasn’t a great experience for the folks on the receiving end of that email broadcast.

First, there is a reasonable chance that my email ended up in their junk folder because they are on the bcc line in a mass mailing. And if it shows up in their inbox it’s just yet another email in that sea of noise.  Finally, it then requires the recipient to copy that number into their address book manually.

(I did make the change to my facebook profile but I keep my friend list quite small on that service).

There has to be a better way.

I vented my frustration yesterday and my friend Rich Miner (cofounder of Wildfire & Android) replied:

@bijan phone numbers should be as necessary for day2day comms as IP addresses. lets work on that.

Rich is so right. I like thinking about phone numbers as IP addresses which are in the background. Others can reach me on my computer in various ways without knowing my IP address. My Mac can communicate on any network and gets a new IP address to do that. My Mac doesn’t care, apps don’t care and neither do I.

Phone numbers don’t work like that. They are limited to one device and one network and just two apps (voice & txt). And apps have to explicitly know the phone number or they don’t work.

Getting rid of phone numbers means that we can just connect with someone by a unique ID. And that ID should be able to float on top of various networks, applications & services and protocols.

Google Voice is clearly working on this and they are off to an interesting start. But it’s still tied to a phone number at the end of the day. It will be fun to watch what comes next.

Music startups are showing the way

It’s always fun watching startups taking on big companies. It’s particularly true in the music industry.

The labels have banded together with YouTube and created Vevo. In a short period of time, Vevo has attracted a huge US audience (thanks to YouTube) but I don’t sense any community powering the service. Since their launch I haven’t found myself clicking over. Same thing with other music services powered by large companies. I just don’t use them.

Instead I use music services built by startups.

We Are Hunted is a wonderful service. They tune into blogs, twitter, message boards, p2p networks and facebook and pick 99 top emerging songs. The user interface is a delight. There is also a Boxee app as well which I love.

TheSixtyOne is stunning. You have to try it to believe how good it is. They changed their user interface and dropped a few things that I hope they add back (e.g. embeds). But overall i love the new UI and this service.

The Hype Machine is my daily radio. I listen everyday come rain or shine. If you are new to the Hype Machine then sign up today and start with their 2009 Music Blog Zeitgeist.

This isn’t meant to be a complete list. Just a quick post to get the point across. Startups show the way and it’s particularly true in the music world. I wish labels would embrace them.

My Body Is A Cage – Peter Gabriel

Next week Peter Gabriel is releasing an album called “Scratch My Back”. This song (original by Arcade Fire) and the entire record are covers of his favorite songs. The bands he covers will also record their favorite Peter Gabriel tunes too. How cool is that.

The most interesting thing about the Kindle

Yesterday, Amazon made two announcements with regards to the Kindle.

First, they are going to open up the Kindle to 3rd party developers and a SDK is now available. It will be interesting to what apps come from this effort. My guess is that it wont be a meaningful number but it will make the Kindle a two way device at least.

The second thing is a new revenue share with authors. I like Albert’s post about the lack of creativity when it comes to their pricing model for books & content.

On the other hand, Amazon was incredibly innovative with the pricing of cellular bandwidth to the Kindle. Every device I own that has a 3g network attached (blackberry, iphone, MiFi) comes along with a unique monthly subscription service & contract. So for these three devices, I pay >$100/month just for data. That doesn’t scale because i want dozens of my devices to have a connection to the 3g network.

The Kindle on the other hand doesn’t have a monthly bandwidth service fee or contract. In fact, the user don’t even think about how content shows up on the device. It just works.

It’s pretty clear that Amazon was able to get this type of arrangement from Sprint & ATT because they are wholesaling data minutes and making some minimum guarantees themsleves to the carriers. And I bet that deal didn’t happen overnight. But they made it happen and I’d like to see that model work at scale vs just a one-off.

It should work for the smallest startups to the largest of companies.