Archive for January, 2015

Poems on Startups

January 30th, 2015

I was asked to write a short submission for a Yale entrepreneurship book. Curious if you think this would be interesting or too silly? I can write more like these.

Outlook (a haiku)

Within a startup
Team have future optimism
pessimism re: now

For Want of a Customer

Grow users! More cashflow! ‘s my creed.
And to get it, a product I need.
Employees want salary, to build.
To pay, I must woo VC guild.
But investors seek traction indeed!

The Benefit of Co-Founders

With a cofounder,
highs and low in startup land
hit each off cycle.

Begin Now

A startup like a
sailboat can only rightly
steer when moving. Start!

Launching a Podcast on High Growth High Values

January 22nd, 2015
I’m launching a new regular podcast.  No, it is not going to be as thrilling as investigating a murder or the location of (perhaps nonexistent) pay-phones, but I do hope you’ll enjoy it.

There is plenty of good content available on high-growth entrepreneurship.  Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is a classic.  Or a newer and more hands-on podcast would be Sam Altman’s How to Start a Startup.  Many VCs, incubators or accelerators have good blogs or podcasts about the dynamics of high-growth for-profit entrepreneurship.

Separately, there is plenty of content on social entrepreneurship (although not always of the high-growth kind), impact investing, socially responsible investing or creating a mission or purpose-driven organization.  People like to talk about blended value or social finance.  When they talk about these things, they aren’t always thinking in a high-growth, high scale way.

I think the intersection of these two worlds is fascinating and does not get enough attention.  These are the are the high-growth, high-value ventures.  They are scalable, financially sustainable, often for-profit mission-driven ventures.  For example, take a look at the B Corp movement with VC-backed companies like:
  • Etsy
  • Warby Parker
  • Rally Software (NYSE:RALY and the B Corp IPO perhaps?)
  • The Honest Company
  • Method Products
  • Altschool
  • Revolution Foods
And there are organizations that pursue a large vision, high-growth mindset with some earned revenue that may or may not choose to be for profit:
  • One Acre Fund
  • Venture for America
  • Namaste Solar
  • Bridge International Academies
Now, I agree, not everything one does needs to be high-growth.  Hey, some things that grow fast are weeds.  And I am not on a high horse (get it?) about every venture being high values.  That said, I do think there is much to be learned and celebrated here.

The podcast will be primarily an interview format with those in this high-growth, high-values world.  They will include entrepreneurs, investors, executives, thinkers and doers.  I’ve got my first few interviews scheduled and just have to get my whole publishing system set-up and then we’ll be off to the races!

Subscribe to the email list to get further updates and a launch notification.  Current working title is High Growth High Values.   (If you have any ideas on names, I’m all ears.)

I look forward to hearing any feedback or ideas and to sharing the first episodes with you.

Yale SOM Class Management of Software Development

January 5th, 2015

Starting in just a few short days, we will be officially kicking off what I think is a first at Yale University: a class on managing software development.

While MGT 656 is housed at the Yale School of Management (the business school), it is open to students from across the university.
Kyle pointed me to the a NY Times article about business schools embracing and teaching technology skills.  While not mentioned, we hope our course is very much in this trend.
The course is designed in a “flipped” model.  That means that students watch video lectures and do reading between classes.  They also complete a short quiz online and summit questions.  In our class, since Kyle developed the software for it, each student gets the opportunity to vote up or down each question submitted by their piers.  During class time, us as instructors address the highest ranked questions and engage in a live dialogue with students about the material.  Significant class time is devoted to activities and what would traditionally be called “homework” where the students work in teams to build software.  The TAs and professors are there to lead these activities and help with the hands on projects.
One of the exciting things about structuring the Q&A process this way is that it gives a measurable way to grade class participation and allows for an unbiased/anonymized interaction between students and instructor.  Rather than have only certain people ask questions or be called on in class based on social dynamics, the online system allows everyone to be comfortable participating in asking questions.  The thoughtful ones will be uprooted and addressed by us as instructors.
If you’re curious for a bit more about the flipped model and the academic research about its benefits, please check out this article.
I welcome your thoughts or reactions to the class format or content.  You can review much of the content online at the course website (some is still in draft as not totally complete).  Each module/class contains links to the reading and the video lectures.  The website is also used to submit homework and to ask questions.  Some of the material is still in draft form (and is marked as such) so please do continue to check back.
We have 40 business school students already enrolled in the course and will have ~30 students join from other schools.  I’m really pumped to work with and learn from the students who have expressed excitement and been in contact already.  Kyle makes great co-instructor as he has the technical skills and experience that compliment my own in this subject area.  I’m grateful to be working with him and have learned a lot already!

SMART Recovery in New Haven

January 2nd, 2015
It’s that time of year that many people are thinking about making changes and improvements in their lives.  And for too many of us, learning to overcome addictive behaviors are one of the most important improvements we wish we could make.

I know many people who have benefited from the 12-step programs.  If something works to help you change your life in such a profound way, that should be respected.

That said, some scientific research has called into question the population-level effectiveness of 12-step systems.  But in too many places there was not a secular alternative available. If you’re ready to make a change in your addictive behavior but not interested in connecting with or accepting a “higher power”, then SMART Recovery may be right for you.

The SMART Recovery program is a proven system designed with scientific principles that has been used by 1000s of people for decades.  A trained facilitator leads groups through their own recovery process to identify and change the negative habits being addressed. While alcohol addiction is one of the most common behaviors addressed, the program works for other drugs or things like overeating.

I am proud that Yale Humanist Community has been hosting (one of?) Connecticut’s first SMART Recovery chapters.  If you’re interested in seeing that it is like in action, you can join every Monday at 6:30pm.  More information on the YHC website.