Woodridge Farm — Sherborn, Massachusetts. July 2014.

A lovely day at the barn with Ellie. The horses are so graceful and majestic. And watching my daughter enjoying her passion is something that gets me every time.

It’s interesting comparing this roll of film from the Mamiya 7ii with the photographs I shared yesterday taken with the Hasselblad. Feels like the Mamiya is sharper but there is something different and appealing about how the Zeiss lens draws with the old Hassy.

(Mamiya 7ii | 80mm f/4 | Kodak Portra 400)

I spent all day in New York City yesterday. Caught the 6am shuttle and took the 1am return (11pm return was delayed 2hrs. Oy!). It was hot, humid and one of those intense summer days in Manhatten.

But it was pretty great as well. Got some work done and caught up with friends for photowalk and a beer.

Our new investment — Trello

One of the best things about making software for consumers is the complete lack of gatekeeper risk (unless of course you consider net neutrality issues but let’s leave that aside for time being. You already know how i feel about that )

Make great software and the end user can decide if they want it or not. The decision maker and the end user is the same person.

We take this for granted but as many folks know this hasn’t been the case in companies (enterprise), or education or finance and other such markets. In these markets we have typically seen a decision maker who is different than the end user.

This creates a number of issues that impact the design, care and distribution of the product. It also gives rise to a natural gatekeeper.

Back in the day you would hear things like “I can’t use that product because our IT team won’t support it”.

A number of products have been introduced that have enabled their employees to go rogue in effect. And that is a good thing.

End users at companies are basically are making their own decisions. They bought iPhones and brought them to the office. They signed up for dropbox and brought it to the office. 

I did that with gmail shortly after we started Spark. We began with MS Exchange and after a year or so I went rogue and moved myself to gmail. Shortly after the rest of the team moved as well.

Trello is a mighty fine example of this. Trello is the best way for anyone to work together on a project. Any project. It’s beautiful, fast and simple. Oh, it’s free too.

I signed up for Trello on my own. I didn’t have to take a “webinar” or ask a sales person to demo it to me. I didn’t have to ask someone to install it and I didn’t need anyone’s permission. Others at Spark made their own decision and suddenly we had Trello boards for all sorts of projects like our annual limited partner meeting, candidates we are recruiting, investments we are considering, marketing initiatives and more.

I also have boards are also linked to folks outside of Spark. And Trello works mighty fine in single player mode as I keep a few Trello boards that I keep just for me. 

Trello was built by our friends at Fog Creek. The same place that created and spun out Stack Exchange.

We are proud investors in Stack and when we saw Trello we became inspired to get involved. A product aimed at end users in any environment without gatekeepers, with natural network effects and one we love using everyday.

But one of my most important criteria is whether I would want to work at this company if I wasn’t a VC.

I would.

It’s such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with cofounders Michael Pryor and Joel Spolsky again along with Neil Rimer at Index who co-led this Series A with Spark. It’s an awesome team and I’m delighted to be part of it.

Go try out Trello for iOS, Android or your good old desktop browser. You’ll love it.

* * * 

Update: Read Joel’s post about the Trello backstory here, Michael has a post and the WSJ wrote about the new funding as well.  

Intention and the choices we make every day

A few weeks back we had a bunch of friends over for an outdoor dinner. The weather forecast said: perfect. 

I’m the DJ in our house (although I feel my title is under attack these days).

Option 1: fire up songza on the sonos, choose the “right” activity, hit play and be done. 

Option 2: create a playlist that the folks attending our party would particularly enjoy like a song from our college days sprinkled in with tunes our kids love and some songs that we all love to sing out loud. 

The first choice is crazy simple and would work fine but I picked option 2.

I heard a few of the guests singing along to a few tunes which made me smile inside — but it’s likely the playlist spoon fed by Songza would have done the trick as well, right? But creating something was far more rewarding. 

Thinking through all the goodies that Google has in store for us (n.b. Google acquired Songza) there is an ambitios emphasis on making life easier. Nest thermostats control your temperature beautifully and automatically. Google maps means you are never lost again. Google’s autonomous cars means we don’t even need to touch the steering wheel anymore. Google Now means I don’t have to check my phone. It will tell me what’s important and when it’s important. Google robots will likely do a number of things in my house for me. 

I’m not just picking on Google. Honest. 

There are plenty of other examples where our intention and choices are being challenged.

Take even the venture capital business. Series B meetings all over the planet are being over run by data. Is the company breaking out, what is the churn rate, what is the DAU/MAU, downloads per day, sessions per day, did the clear their Kickstarter campaign, revenue per day, and the beat goes on. 

What about instinct, team quality, vision, ambition, aspiration? Where do those fit in? 

There are alternatives to the algorithmic/programmatic/automatic Google approach. Tumblr is a useful contrast. One of favorite things about Tumblr is I decide almost everything.

I choose my theme or I can make it from scratch. I decide who I’m following (vs an algorithm or an editor). I decide to express myself with my own content or reblog (share) something that inspires me. I decide to tap the heart icon and let the creator know that I love it (vs showing up in a google analytics or mixpanel dashboard). Tumblr is a reflection of my own intentions and choices. 

To be clear I’m not against the advancement of technology. In fact it is one of the reasons I get up every morning. But I’m drawn to places where technology enables intention, creativity and choice. 

(ps: besides getting lost once in awhile isn’t the worst thing in the world :)