List of New Haven Area Startups

August 29th, 2014 View Comments »

After talking to a few folks, I was not able to easily find a list of startups in the New Haven area.  So, I decided to create one.  With the help of Derek Koch, John Seiffer and a few other Twitter folks (thanks!), I got a draft put together.

The definition of startup is intentionally vague as is the definition of “New Haven area”.  Startup to me means that the company is high growth or hopes to be.  I personally tend to lean more towards tech ventures.  So, those are the ones I am likely to know about of the top of my head.  Done my best to add other industries, too, as I want all industries here.

Here is the list of New Haven Area Startups that can be edited by anyone.  Add your startup, update or generally, please help keep this current.

Yale Embraces Entrepreneurship

August 28th, 2014 View Comments »

Yale continues to take concrete steps forward in embracing entrepreneurship.  Now, with even more academic classes and staff dedicated to the cause.

Yes, some Yalie’s were involved in kicking off the oil industry in the US, but for a period in the 20th century it was definitely believed that entrepreneurship had no place at a university.  In 1999, when we started the (still) student-run Yale Entrepreneurial Society, we hoped to have an impact on the culture by creating networking and educational opportunities.  I think YES has contributed to bringing visablity and bringing together some successful entrepreneurs.  (Of course, many were already or were going to be successful on their own.)

Things definitely had sifted by the time the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute was established (in 2008?).  I like to think the move had something to do with prompting by folks like me who advocated for it.  The university at that point dedicated full-time staff and a budget to supporting real-world entrepreneurial experiences for students.  Although at first it was focused on the summer, it grew to year-round programs and worked to be relevant at more stages of a student’s journey.

There was enough community and activity, that in 2013, YEI published an official handbook on entrepreneurship at Yale to help people navigate the landscape.  With the President of Yale talking about encouraging entrepreneurship and the Provost saying things like “Entrepreneurship is a big part of Yale’s agenda.”  There definitely is support from the academic leadership.  (Don’t forget Pres. Levin and VP Bruce Alexander were supports all along.)

Then in the past few months, the business school has an bigger official commitment to its entrepreneurship program that builds on the work by David Cromwell, Maureen Burke and others.  What we’re talking about is a doubling or tripling of staff, a multiple million dollar war chest, an explosion of courses, a physical space, and scholarships for students and loan deferrals for graduating entrepreneurs.

To further the excitement, the Yale Daily News wrote yesterday about the new Computer Science class that is Yale’s answer to Harvard’s CS50. Prof. Daniel Abadi and Prof. Kyle Jensen, both successful tech entrepreneurs in their own right, are teaching the class. With a practical focus on building Android applications for those with no previous coding experience, combined with lessons on entrepreneurship including a virtual stock market for student ventures, the course sounds amazing!

I am so pleased to see this flourishing of student excitement, co-curricular and for credit entrepreneurship at Yale.  What’s next?

I am Teaching at Yale School of Management

August 27th, 2014 View Comments »

Big news!  I’m co-teaching a class in January at the Yale School of Management on the Management of Software Development.  For those not familiar with it, SOM is Yale’s business school.  They have created a new entrepreneurship center and putting a lot more funding and emphasis in this area.  More on that later.  For now, more about the class.

Here is the official course description:
Mgt 656 Management of Software Development

Software is a ubiquitous component of the increasingly technology-driven economy: “Software is eating the world” in the words of John Hermann. Students in this course will learn 1) management of the software development lifecycle and 2) basic technology skills for creating modern mobile web applications. The management techniques will include hiring technical teams as well as planning, implementing, and maintaining software projects. We will focus on agile methods for software implementation including extreme programming (XP), scrum, and others. Students will use these techniques to develop a mobile web application in teams. The application will require an understanding of Linux, OS virtualization, networking, version control, databases, and programming (HTML, JavaScript, & CSS). No familiarity with these technologies is assumed, but would benefit the student. The course is most appropriate for students planning to found new ventures or work in leadership roles in the technology sector.

The class is open to Yale College students, as well.  So, if you’re interested, please join.

Kyle Jensen is co-teaching with me, thankfully.  (And since he is the one with a PhD, he is probably the official “professor” for the course.  Not sure the official designations for such things.)  Kyle is a serial entrepreneur with multiple scientific journal articles and patents to his name.  Locally, he is also known for creating newhaven.io which is the developer group with weekly meetings.

While I have a CS major and do speak geek, it has been a while since I have been hands on with production code.  Kyle will be leading the technical parts of the course and I will be speaking much more to the management side of things.  We do want students to get some hands on experience with tech and process to have a more visceral understanding of the topics.  There is nothing like checking-in code and deploying to production to give you a sense of what a technical team “does all day.”

As we plan the syllabus, we are realizing even more that there is a lot of material to cover in 8 weeks.  That said, I’d love to have your ideas and pointers on examples, case studies, exercises or guest speakers.  Can’t wait to share more with you when we’re ready.

Biofeedback

January 31st, 2014 View Comments »

Ever tried biofeedback? Technically it is defined as “the use of electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function in order to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function” Or as I think about use of sensors and displays to create a an explicit and external feedback loop in order to learn and train internal body or mind function.

Yes, you could say that in some sense using an online class is a form of biofeedback, although learning is not one the bodily functions people normally mean. I’m not sure if wearing a heart-rate monitor while you exercise is considered biofeedback? Definitely changes the way you exercise.

I have exposure to a few biofeedback devices and curious to learn about other useful ones.

Resperate
A machine to help you meditate.

With Resperate you place a strap around your belly and earphones in your ears. After a period of monitoring your breathing, it then begins to play music and tones to guide your breathing and gradually slow it down. It is not just about slowing your breaths, I believe, but also about being conscious of your breaths that provides the benefit.

I’m a little embarrassed to be using a machine to help me meditate. In some sense meditation should be the most cheap free and easy to start but hard to do well system available. But, using this helps me meditate more often and for longer. There are many documented benefits to mindfulness and even without those I feel better when i take the time to stop the constant forward motion to take a pause. So, that’s how I justify it.

Resperate is the only device approved by US FDA to lower blood pressure. It is over the counter so you don’t have to have that issue to use it.

It is expensive, although cheaper than the alternative of unmanaged stress. The first time I did it I felt a sense of relaxation equivalent to a hot tub and glass of wine.

Galvanic Skin Response
Galvanic Skin Response monitoring device like the GSR2, is another way to measure and manage stress. Someone I know swears by using this simple device while engaged in otherwise routine activities. It can remind you how small triggers during your daily life can get your stress response going. This can help you be more mindful during other parts of your day when you are not using the device.

HeartMath
I have not used one yet, although I have a friend who is a fan of the HeartMath system. It monitors pulse (only?) and provides biofeedback that can be combined with computer display or not. If you know much more about this system, please let me know.

Neurofeedback
I’ve done neurofeedback a few times although hard to say exactly what it accomplished. I went into a lab where they had the equipment to measure my brainwaves during the session. The screen in front of me displayed a PAC-MAN like interface. If I could get the right Alpha-Theta(?) brainwave balance, then the character on the screen would move forward. If you ever wondered then the character would stop. In theory this helps enhance the ability to focus. I had trouble noticing the effects after the sessions although thought I could sense some different state of being when I was able to get the PAC-MAN character to move.

For Benefit Enterprise in New Haven?

January 27th, 2014 View Comments »

I grew up in San Francisco and remember buying our Christmas trees from Delancey Street lots. As a child, I was more focused on the sights, smells and fun of running through the trees. As I grew older, it was less about the trees and more about my fascinated with that type of social enterprise.

Delancey Street describes themselves as “a community where people with nowhere to turn, turn their lives around. [They are] the country’s leading residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom.” And a key part of it are the businesses they run to provide jobs and generate revenue.

Over the past year or so, I have been thinking more about these types of social enterprises (aka for benefit companies) that are focused on job creation for those that may not otherwise easily find employment. It seems there may be a group in Bridgeport that is doing similar work although not enough of this type of thing in the New Haven.

A few like-minded entrepreneurs and I have been giving it some more thought and are getting closer to deciding to start such an enterprise in New Haven. To me, food service is a natural choice for industry although we have thought about some others.

If you’re still not sure what I mean, here are a few of the more famous examples. I’m looking for other examples of successful social enterprises that are multiple-bottmline and are centered around hiring those that might may have challenges with traditional employment. If you have suggestions or other thoughts in this area, please let me know.

St Vincent de Paul of Lane County
St. Vincent de Paul is an internationally recognized leader in developing recycling-based businesses. These businesses have a quadruple bottom line: they responsibly reuse and recycle products; provide quality goods and services to the community; provide jobs and job training; and generate revenue to fund our charitable activities.”

Here’s a great video that tells their story well.

Delancey Street Foundation
Delancey Street Foundation as mentioned above.
Enter with a history. Leave with a future.

Greyston Bakery
Greyston Bakery is famous for the saying: “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” More formally, they believe that “employment is the gateway out of poverty and towards self-sufficiency.” And created the bakery to give “the hard-to-employ a new chance at life.”

Homeboy Industries
Homeboy Industries serves high-risk, formerly gang-involved men and women with a continuum of free services and programs, and operates seven social enterprises that serve as job-training sites.”

If you are interested in their story in more depth, check out the book Tattoos on the Heart.

What’s on Your Podcast List?

January 4th, 2014 View Comments »

Part of my 2014 learning journey is listening to fascinating podcasts.  And I mean good ones packed with information and thoughts that really get the gears turning. And with the exception of This American Life, I really do listen to almost everything at 1.5 or 2 times speed. (BTW, if you know a good way to listen to podcasts on iOS faster, please let me know.)

Here is what is on my podcast subscription list:

  • Freakonomics – I enjoyed the first book about the “hidden side of everything” through the lens of economics.  Then the second book.  So, why not listen to the podcast?  The recent episodes on studying direct transfers as a anti-poverty strategy have been fascinating.  (And Yale and IPA’s own Prof. Dean Karlan was featured recently, too.)
  • Long Now’s Seminar About Long Term Thinking -What if we take a long long term view of our planet, selves and challenges?  What do we learn or come to understand? Amazing speakers that often explore a topic in a totally new way or push my thinking forward in an important way.  One of my favorites was Ed Lu’s talk on B612.
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore HistoryA rotating deep dive on various historical topics with an emphasis on grand events, wars, struggles or other “hardcore” items.  I have learned a lot here.  (While he can be a bit verbose, it is great at x2 speed!)
  • EconTalkWhile I don’t agree with all the guests or opinions expressed on this show, this is the most intellectual of this list and really enjoy the level of discourse.  You probably figured out from the title that this podcast is focused do economics.
  • Planet MoneyA much lighter take on economics and finance and how it touches our everyday lives.  Won’t challenge you although may provide some concrete examples of things you only know about in theory.  Or my favorite is when they take you behind the scenes at a mint or similar.
  • This American LifeAs they say, hard to describe, but here is how they try: “There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always.”And no, this podcast does not have much to do with economics.  But you should give it a try if you have not already.

Also, I think I listened to (almost) every episode of the amazing podcast The History of Rome. Definitely an interesting tour through Roman history told very well.

I will occasionally listen to the Humanist Hour (depends on the topic/guest).

I used to listen to NPR’s On the Media and Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (from Stanford) very regularly. For some reason, I have been listening a bit less frequently.  I really enjoyed Venture Voice which was stories from entrepreneurs, but I think they stopped publishing new ones.  If you know of something like that or can start it up yourself, I’ll be a fan.  I’m sure there are a few others I listen to here and there although these are the ones that are top of mind.

What am I missing?  What would you recommend?

My 2014

January 3rd, 2014 View Comments »

It is a new year. And I’m turning over a new leaf.

It was bittersweet coming to the decision that it is time to step back from running Higher One full-time. I’ve spent ~14 years building the company and am passionate about the people, products and mission. That said, it is the right time for the company and for me. Starting mid-January I’m going to be part-time, Chairman of the Board, and involved in various initiatives.

So, what else will I be doing with my time?

First and foremost, I’m focused on a successful transition at Higher One. Next, on shifting gears and taking some time to relax, hang out and travel with my growing family.

There is a so much I want to learn and do in my life. When your head is down growing a business, there is less time for learning things that are not directly relevant. I plan to take this year to look around and explore the world (intellectually as well as physically).

Learn

100 Books: While not yet firm, I am intrigued by the idea of setting a goal to read 100 books in 2014. I made a list, piled up the ones I already own, and tallied pages; at last count I’m up to 30,898. Is that too many? Would it sound better if I told you some of these books I plan to skim rather than truly savor every word?

Book Pile for 100 Book Challenge

Some of the books I'm considering reading this year

Online Classes: I want to take at least one online class both for the content as well as understanding the process. I have my eye on one regarding statistical programming and another on genetic engineering. Any other ideas for me?

Boards

In addition to my work on the boards of Yale New Haven Hospital, SeeClickFix, Higher One, the Yale Humanist Community and advisory board of Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, I may join one or two more.

One board I’m excited to be joining is AltSchool. I’ve long wanted to be involved in starting a school and now I’m getting the chance. A friend from high school and college has embarked on creating a child-centered primary education company. We are already up and running in San Francisco and hope to expand to other cities, too. Check it out.

Possible Projects

Here are a few other projects that have been rattling around in my head. I’m not fully committed to any or all of these although definitely building excitement and would like to hear your feedback and thoughts.

Digital Fabrication: One technology trend that continues to build momentum is digital fabrication. The ability to design objects, transmit them digitally and manufacture them in small batches and on-demand is truly revolutionary. The impact on rapid prototyping and customization is profound not to mention what it means for distribution networks and just-in-time manufacturing. I want to learn more about the tools, players and techniques. Perhaps New Haven could use a Fab Lab or Fab Academy-type set up where people can get certified in these techniques? Could it be a partnership with Yale, Gateway CC and/or MakeHaven?

For Benefit Business: I’m intrigued by operations like St Vincent de Paul and Greyston Bakery who focus on job creation while running a revenue-generating enterprise. I’d like to help instigate a similar business for New Haven. (Do we have one already?) One option is to run a business plan contest. Another is to support an existing organization in expanding in this way.

Impossible Festival: I like to dream bigger. I think it would be fun to celebrate the declaration of intent to accomplish impossible things and then embrace the success of those that succeed. I think New Haven could have an annual gathering for those tackling the impossible writ large and small. A place one could come to announce the creation of synthetic life, the colonization of Mars, and the secret to losing those stubborn 10 pounds. Or how to learn to juggle. Perhaps this starts as part of Arts & Ideas Festival?

Art: It was very gratifying to see the Inside Out NHV project come to life. Now it is time for more art! We’ve got another mural project starting and I’m thinking of making a short movie with a friend. Maybe more?

Money in Politics: As I have learned more about our political system, I’m increasingly passionate about changing the role of money in politics. If for no other reason than to restore some of America’s trust in our government. One group that I have been getting involved with is Fund for the Republic and I look forward to finding other ways to contribute.

New Haven Startup Scene: I hope to continue to support the New Haven startup community. For example, I want to help Grid New Haven be successful, to encourage New Haven Tech Bits to keep going, and attend InnoHaven events whenever possible.

The Next Dream?: I’m sure there are other things we can dream up together so please drop me a line.

Angel 101

October 20th, 2013 View Comments »

Excited to be one of the mentors and speakers at the upcoming Angel 101 event.  Elon Boms of Launch Capital and Katie Rae of TechStars and others are teaming to bring together angels.  The idea as I understand it is to make investing in startups more accessible to those that may have the money and interest although are not yet active.  Will be training and networking combined for the afternoon.  If you have ever thought you might want to be an investor, or have dabbled and are hoping to learn more, this is the place to start.

Come join in the fun!

THE GROVE (760 Chapel Street New Haven, CT)

October 30, 2013

1 to 5:00 PM

YHC Kick Off Event: Susan Jacoby

August 31st, 2013 View Comments »

If you are in New Haven, I hope you can join for this event.  Alas, I will miss it although have been working to help organize.  Grateful that Susan Jacoby agreed to come speak.

On Tuesday, September 10th at 7:00 PM, the Yale Humanist Community will host Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Susan Jacoby (FreethinkersThe Great Agnostic) for a lecture on how secular ethics bear on public policy and everyday life.Jacoby will lecture in K207 in Kirtland Hall, the Psychology Department, at 2 Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, CT. Following her talk, Jacoby will take questions and sign copies of her books, some of which will be available for purchase from the Yale Bookstore. There will also be a small reception to follow, with food and drink available for guests.

This event will be the first for the recently established Yale Humanist Community (YHC), an organization dedicated to developing, supporting, and growing a diverse community of Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and the nonreligious at Yale and beyond. Information about future YHC events and affiliated Yale student clubs will be available to attendees, as will members of our Board of Directors and our staff members Chris Stedman (Coordinator of Humanist Life) and Paul Chiariello (Director of Operations). This event is free and open to the public, and all are welcome. We hope to see you there!

The Overhead Myth

August 21st, 2013 View Comments »

I was pleased to see that arguments like Dan Pallotta‘s are having an impact.  One of his key points is that he makes is that judging a charity mainly or only by “overhead percentage” or “amount of my money that goes to the cause” is dangerous, incorrect and damaging.

Just in the past few months, three of the most respected charity “watchdogs” or third-party evaluators have endorsed this concept, too.  They have launched a website and a campaign to spread the word.  They call it the Overhead Myth.  In their words:

In a historic move, the leaders of the country’s three leading sources of information on nonprofits – GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance – penned an open letter to the donors of America denouncing the “overhead ratio” as a valid indicator of nonprofit performance.

The letter, signed by all three organization’s CEOs, marks the beginning of a campaign to correct the common misconception that the percentage of charity’s expenses that go to administrative and fundraising costs—commonly referred to as “overhead”—is, on its own, an appropriate metric to evaluate when assessing a charity’s worthiness and efficiency. The nonprofit sector, which all three organizations provide information to and about, has too often erroneously focused on overhead over the past few decades, which has starved nonprofits from investing in themselves as enterprises and created what the Stanford Social Innovation Review calls, “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.”

And it continues in their open letter: Overhead Myth Letter. [PDF]

Please help spread the word.