Monday, January 6, 2014

A Brainteaser

Jackson had been playing football the previous three days and he always left his football in the same part of the yard, in the grass where he could find it.  This morning, he woke up to find his father making a fire in the fireplace.  He opened the local newspaper and his eyes darted to the headline, “All schools closed!”  Well Jackson screamed in delight!  No school!  Oh boy!  He ran outside to get his ball and exclaimed in disappointment, “Oh no!” As he realized that he would not find his ball. Why could Jackson not find his ball?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

This is what happens when people decide to divert water supply from natural resources in the name of money.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ol' Man on A Mountain - Heartfelt, Beautiful and Touching

My father recently published Ol' Man on a Mountain, a memoir about his experiences on a new farm with my mother, Jan.  I am so proud - I would be proud no matter what, because my dad is my dad.

But, this really is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.  And, the critics agree also, now with 25 Amazon reviews all five stars.  I highly recommend this book to anyone.  It is touching and will have you laughing and crying from the first page to the last, literally.

If you are looking for an emotional and touching true story of love, kindness, and what it means to be a human being, I highly recommend this memoir.  It really is one of the best books I've ever read and happens to written by my dad.

Check it out here:

This is about sharing and investing in kindness. How we CAN eat our landscapes?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Learning to welcome difficulty in the interest of growth

I grew up with little training on the benefits of difficulty and failure.

I was a very good basketball player as a young child.  In fact, I was the proud winner of the Most Valuable Player Award at the Rollins College Basketball Clinic at age 10 in Winter Park, FL, my home town.   When it came time to try out for the Junior High Basketball Team, I was cut in the first round of tryouts.  I cannot overstate how difficult of a moment and period this was for me at the time.  This was a devastating blow to me, and I would not touch a basketball for at least 10 years.  Even now, at age 44, as I rarely pick up a basketball, I am forced to remember an astonished despondency of being cut from that team.  As a 12 year old, I was crushed and embarrassed by this important event in my life - and I remember the intricate details of it so clearly today 32 years later.  Yet, I learned nothing from it at the time, did not try out again, did not work harder.  I just quit.

A few successes and many failures have come and gone since then, and over the years, I have learned that those difficulties are actually the gifts which allow us to learn.  When we are confronted with a difficult moment, by confronting it head on, with a humble disposition and a focused mind, we are able to move through the difficult moment with renewed accomplishment.  This has been an important lesson for me - albeit one that has taken three decades to learn.

Sometimes, the difficult moments are presented in different forms - confusion, lack of clarity of direction, question of purpose, and other forms.  This usually is followed by a spark of idea, clear direction and understanding.  The difficulty, or confusion, is simply a precept to prepare one self for answers, knowledge and growth.

The difficult moments will always be in front of us - so, by welcoming them openly, we are able to grow, develop and learn in an optimal way.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Being Smart

After a couple glasses of wine, and a wonderful conversation with my colleagues Kevin and Alex at TI, I feel compelled to write a five minute post on "Being Smart", before sitting down with my lovely wife, son, and daughter who turns 6 tonight. She's anxious to open her presents and hasn't seen mommy for 2 weeks. Mom has been outside the country, as she's been mourning the passing of her father. I anticipate writing a lot more on this subject as time goes on, but want to get a brief tidbit out.

You see, so much is made, on Being Smart, especially in circles surrounding technology. It's great to be smart, brilliant, quicker and faster than the "regular" bear. If we've come this far, we've all got some wires that are firing upstairs, some that are firing quicker than others. But, when you're working on a small team, surrounded by each other 12+ hours of the day, would you prefer to be around the brilliant prick, or the pretty smart, good guy, who you can hang with, have a beer, and talk with about his family, friends, trials and tribulations?

I'll take a few guys on a team, with whom I can speak my mind, with whom I can hang, work hard, and play and live fully and happily. Yeah, I'll take that every day 'til the end, over the other guy who is constantly assessing his own level of intelligence over those in the room around him.

No-brainer there.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bryce Roberts - Why I deleted my Angel List account

Great Read on the State of Angel Investing (and tones of why early-stage actually does have some bubble echoes)

Why I Deleted My AngelList Account by

Yesterday I deleted my AngelList account. Doing so generated a lot of questions on Twitter, in email and from the press so I want to explain myself.

Its a decision I’ve been wrestling with for the last few months as I’ve found the service increasingly not matching my investment philosophy. That’s not to say the service isn’t a valuable one for entrepreneurs or even certain kinds of investors. I believe that it can be. Its just not a fit for me.

For those not familiar, AngelList’s promise is an interesting one- connect entrepreneurs to an increasingly large base of angel and venture investors while simultaneously exposing those investors to a stream of dealflow that’s been vetted by the AngelList team. That was a promise I could get behind, so I joined the service about a year ago and have been seeing 3 to 5 companies a week ever since.

Its not the emails, the companies or the filtering AngelList does that isn’t a fit for me it’s the investment style they espouse that finally pushed me to press delete on my account.

Though there may be more depth to it, I thought this quote from Naval sums up their investment style pretty well:

Making an investment is like throwing darts in the dark.
Now, they’ve provided a presentation that goes into more depth on specifics but his statement captures a very real vibe I get from the service. At the earliest stages, its nearly impossible to pick the next Google so throw a lot of darts in the dark and hope you hit it. That high velocity, light touch style is certainly a viable approach to investing. Its just not my style.

I tend towards a more concentrated approach to seed investing where we make fewer, larger, investments and take an active role in working with the companies we fund. Frankly, I just don’t buy the notion that making an investment is akin to throwing a dart in the dark. Worse, I think its a dangerous idea to promote. The best angel and venture investors are consistently good. Think Mike Moritz, John Doerr, Jim Breyer, Fred WIlson, Peter Fenton, Danny Rimer, Reid Hoffman and the like are just exceptionally good at throwing darts in the dark? I don’t.

The way AngelList deals with this uncertainty around being unable to clearly spot winners early on is the second place the service and I diverge. Given that most companies seeking funding at this stage have little to no revenue, low user numbers and light usage data AngeList puts a tremendous amount of weight on something they call “social proof”. Nearly every email they send includes names of people or firms who’ve committed to invest. They put that information right in the Subject line. Its reenforced in the first paragraph or two of the email as well. On the surface this seems like one reasonable data point, among many, to weigh when making an investment decision but its AngelList’s way of pushing social proof that bothers me. Scoble summed up the vibe I get from the service pretty well when he said:

Investors tend to be pack animals and tend to want to get in on “hot deals.” AngelList makes the hot deals happen fast.
Maybe I have too thin of skin, but getting called a pack animal bugs me. Unfortunately, that’s the vibe I’ve had from most of the AngelList emails I’ve received. Over the past year I’ve been able to tune it out, but I’ve noticed a distinct change in the tone of the overall market in recent months. “Social proof” is turning to a form or peer pressure where angels feel compelled to invest for fear of missing the boat everyone else is getting on. No one wants to be left on the dock when the next Google leaves port. Relying on other smart investors to make a decision, then jumping on their coattails, is definitely one way to invest it’s just not one I agree with.

The last line of the quote above touches on the final reason I decided to delete my account.

Real or perceived, organic or manufactured AngelList is in the business of generating heat. As I’ve said here and elsewhere, I tend to be interested in ideas and companies that most investors aren’t, so heat is generally a false signal for me. But heat does sway many investors.

Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing AngelList increasingly use their ability to create heat to push other types of deals on their members than just angel investments. In the last few months I’ve seen a couple venture funds raising money on AngelList as well as a number of later stage rounds of financing. Subtle inclusions for sure, but a very different kind of investment product than AngelList members are tuned to evaluate. Generating heat for Series B companies or for venture funds isn’t the kind of investing the AngelList crowd has been trained for. More to the point, it feels like when those kinds of opportunities pass through, AngelList becomes the greater fool’s list.

As I said right up front, I think AngelList is a great service for entrepreneurs, even a good service for certain kinds of investors. Just not me. And that’s why I deleted my account.