I drove 800mi round-trip from Phoenix to LA this weekend to help my cousin get real about launching the food truck business he’s been talking about. While I was in LA I learned via a random tweet that my trip coincided with LA Startup Weekend so I dropped in Saturday afternoon and ended up spending most of the day there on Sunday. This was the fourth SW I’ve attended now (the others being an early one in SF and two others in Phoenix) so I have a little perspective on these events. Here’s a quick braindump of my thoughts:
Contributing factors to why it worked so well
The venue for this event was Co-Loft which is a co-work space similar to Gangplank or Co+hoots here in Phoenix. Avesta (@avestar), Cameron (@CameronKashani) & Chris (@chrisdumler) have done a great job creating a fertile environment for supporting startups. I would not at all be surprised to see them take their formula outside LA and franchise on what they’ve done.
The logistics were perfectly handled. With the exception of occasional wi-fi flakiness (which is to be expected when you have 100+ people on the same network) there really wasn’t one glitch the entire weekend. Strangers stepped up and just did whatever needed to be done whether it was cleaning up or setting up. To me seeing that level of volunteering and frictionless participation is a statement of how healthy their community is.
The music was legit. At any given point the air was filled with sounds of Glitch Mob and Darude. At one point they had the Rocky theme song pumping full blast which was hilarious and at the same time genuinely inspiring when you stepped back and looked at all the creation that was going on. You simply cannot underestimate the value of good tunes to support an event. The other thing was the art on the walls. This was one of the pieces made by Cam (words by Og Mandino) and it hugely resonates for anyone is a free-range chicken:
The energy was electric and it never hurts to have a celebrity at the party. Rather than describe it, see for yourself:
The companies that were presented Sunday evening were definitely amongst the best I’ve seen at any of these events. Two or three could very well make it. Zaarly won it but my two favorites were CorkHub and Eventify. GrubKlub is something I would probably do – I’ve always thought someone should make a “meals with likeminded strangers” site. The guy from Hottiespottr needs to be doing stand-up. Crowdstunt is actually a really interesting experiment (put their app on your iPhone and be a pixel in a big mosaic image at a football game). I really enjoyed chatting with the guys behind that one. Which brings me to the primary driver here…
were top-notch and welcoming. Keep an eye on Santa Monica it’s heating up and I would say for a non-Bay Area locale it rivals the startup scene of somewhere like Boulder. Shout-outs to these people I was fortunate enough to meet:
Patrick Vlaskovits is co-author of the eBook at custdev.com and arguably one of the pillars in the whole Lean Startup / Customer Development movement. I had opportunity to have lunch with Patrick on Saturday and got to chat with him more at the event on Sunday. Paleo and Custdev are two of the most life-changing things I’ve learned in the past year and the trip was worth it for these conversations alone. Being introduced to a high-level music contact by Paul as “a custdev warrior” was pretty surreal.
Tyler Koblasa is the founder of Mingly (a company ironically whose genesis was as a former Startup Weekend project). They make a Rapportive-like add-on for gmail that gives you CRM capabilities and helps you unify contacts across different buckets and get back in touch with people to cultivate stagnant relationships. We talked in depth about project management, working with remote teams and the food industry and education. It was pretty cool to discover that Tyler had been using our stuff (JumpBox) for the past 2yrs.
Emerson Taymor was one of the guys behind Crowdstunt and we got to discussing ideas on how they could adapt their thing to make it more viral.
Chris Dumler instructed me on the finer points of Yerba Mate and Matcha teas and convinced me to buy one of these gravity-feed tea strainers for looseleaf tea. Chris also hooked me up with an invite for Namesake, which is something to watch fo. It’s essentially “Quora meets IRC” and when I saw who was in there talking it felt like discovering this secret rave where all the cool kids are hanging out.
Nick Seguin of Kauffman Foundation is one of the dudes directly responsible for getting the grants for Venture Hacks and Startup Weekend. Government would never have the foresight to fund these efforts so it’s great to see non-profits like Kauffman step up.
Imo Udom is improving the job interview process for companies and applicants with Ovia. It’s basically a way for doing aync, proctored virtual job interviews with nothing more than a webcam and a browser. If you’re trying to cut costs on your hiring processes get in touch w/ Imo – they’re onto something big with this.
anyways, there were a ton of people I wanted to mention so just by name only Nicole of Music Boxe, Ryan of CorkHub, Vasily of Mingly, Fernando and Sheryl of the eventify team. You guys all have a place to crash next time you’re in Phoenix.
One takeaway I had from the weekend: I would love to see us establish an “underground railroad” for startups amongst the cities. We’ve talked about this in the past and whether it’s something as unstructured as an email list amongst ambassadors who are the hub for each city or something more formal like a tag or prefix to use on airbnb listings, it would be so powerful to set up sister city relationships amongst the incubators and co-work spaces. Anyone from the LA startup scene is absolutely welcome to come out and I’ll personally chauffeur you around AZDisruptors, Co+Hoots and Gangplank and introduce you to the peeps in our tech scene.
Here’s some pics from flickr as well as some of my own:
And lastly, for anyone who happens to be going to the tribal unification / diaspora that is SXSW, I invite you to be my guest at the launch party we’re hosting opening day of the music portion for a new music collaboration startup we’re unveiling. You’ll hear more about it if you follow the SXSW announcements. Contact me and I’ll get you on the list if you’re out there.
Let me explain this convoluted title. Ignite Phoenix #9 was this past Saturday and it frigging ruled. I just happened to run into the entire Ignite organizing crew at a coffee shop in Scottsdale that actually came about via a talk at the first ever Ignite. Oh and there happened to be one of the Ignite presenters here that I got to randomly chatting with so it was basically a lot of ignition going on.
Anyways the event on Saturday was flawless in every respect (mad props to the organizing committee for continuing to improve on something that was already amazing – I’ve been to 8/9 and they’ve gotten progressively better). My only ounce of negative feedback for Jeff and team was that one of the talks was clearly just a pitch for this lady’s barter business. And hey I get it: you get a captive audience of 800 people and the temptation is to pitch your biz and advance your cause. I understand, but it makes the audience roll their eyes and basically ends up being a buzzkill.
So anyways, here’s a suggestion I want to propose: we need the equivalent of a super-budget, anonymous jury system to shame people out of trying this at future events. And now here’s an even wackier proposal for what that might look like:
What if every member of the audience got a snapple cap upon coming through the door and the moderator explained the protocol that if presenters pull shenanigans and start Amwaying the crowd, the audience is to “cap their ass” with a collective gong of popping their Snapple caps to make that annoying clicking sound?
If you know you’re going to be publicly shamed on stage when you willingly violate the presentation guidelines and slang your own stuff, you’ll either a) steer clear of this practice or b) violate it and provide some serious amusement for the audience. Either way- WIN!
Anyways, I leave this suggestion in Jeff’s capable hands and will pledge to buy a few cases of Snapple to arm the audience if they decide to adopt it. Even if they just gave the front row this duty I think it would work (but it’d be way more impressive to see 800 people capping a presenter that did this). If you’re down with this idea or have feedback on how to improve it, chime in with a comment.
I went paintballing with a group of 11 guys this past weekend in the desert north of Phoenix. It was the third time I had ever been and we all had a blast. It was surprising how many people were up there – probably close to 100 when I was expecting about 10… Anyways, while the experience was killer, there’s a simple tweak they could make to take it to the next level.
This particular operation (or any other savvy paintballing outfit) should add a premium feature to their game play. They should learn from skydiving and offer helmet cams and then sell the footage back to the players. I don’t know what the exact economics would need to be but quick googling shows there are sub-$100 waterproof cameras that could easily be mounted on the players masks. Take it a step further and put a close-circuit TV in the deadman box (place where people accumulate after getting shot) , have the helmet cams transmit wirelessly in real-time and broadcast gameplay live from multiple angles. Affix helmet cams on all referees and make it truly cinematic with the ability to see the final firefight showdown after you’ve been shot.
Once you’re knocked out it’s still fun to come back and debrief with other folks in that area but you know you’re missing a crazy final battle that’s happening out of sight. It would incredibly badass for them to add this real-time window into that action without too much cost or extra effort required. The other benefit is that they’s then capture all that footage to a hard drive daily and have the ability to burn you a DVD at the end for $20 ($50?, $100?).
This paintball place doesn’t need more players – it needs a way of extracting more money from their existing player base and making the game more memorable to drive repeat business.
There is an absolute opportunity here to offer something extra that makes the experience more engaging while simultaneously giving the paintball company a high-margin new product to sell for essentially no cost. And the byproduct is footage they can not only sell on-site, impulse-purchase to the players but also to build up a knowledgebase or have fodder for educational DVD’s, to acquire highlight reel film for their promo collateral or best yet: post it to FB on players’ behalf and offload all their marketing costs to them. All of that drives more repeat business and higher-margin business. We used Groupons for this outing but if this place builds up their organic crowd they can cease the Groupons and keep the full price for themselves…
Anyways below is some point-of-view footage I took from my iPhone on one of the rounds we played if you want a flavor of what it’s like. In 3min I managed to run into a cactus, jam my gun, cap some guy in the head and then take a barrage of cross-fire myself. Good times.
POV of Paintballing in the AZ Desert from Sean Tierney on Vimeo.
It’s been exactly one month to the day since I started the Paleo diet and I wanted to share some factual results as well as some completely subjective observations. If you’ve not heard of the Paleo diet, this is all the rage right now amongst the startup community. It’s very similar to the Atkins diet only as best I can tell it’s more of an overarching philosophy that we should attempt to live more like cavemen. It’s seemingly based on the idea that our bodies evolved over a million years to process the food we’ve had access to in the wild. Since we’ve only gained access to farming, grains, dairy, processed foods, refined sugars, etc in the last 330 generations or so, we’re not evolutionarily equipped to handle those foods. So the gist is we should eat how our bodies are currently evolved to eat.
So first objective results: I’ve hovered around 210-220lbs since I was in college. On January 9th my weight was on the low side of that continuum at 212lbs. I did a bodyfat measurement that same day at my gym using a handheld Bioelectrical Impedance Method scanner and got a reading of 15.1%. This morning (for the first time since high schoo) I weighed in sub-200 at 197lbs on the same scale I used before. I registered 17.4% bodyfat measured on the same BMI device (at roughly the same time in the morning to equate for variables like water weight, food intake, etc). Those measurements are perplexing because I seemingly gained 2lbs of fat and lost a bunch of lean muscle mass.
Here’s the before and after photos taken on Jan 15th and Feb 8th respectively:
I can hear it already: “you’re just sucking it in on the after pic.” Trust me I’m not – a 15lb weight differential remember… so let me say that again for emphasis:
I’ve lost 15lbs in 30 days with only one visit to the gym and by maintaining my regular running schedule of 3-4x per wk.
Now here’s a brain dump of purely anecdotal and factually-unsupported observations:
General affect – I feel fantastic, noticeably more energetic and with more mental alertness than I can remember having felt in… well, forever. I’ve seen comments in various forums that remark on “a positive correlation between the paleo diet and douchebaggery” – lemme say this is not me being douchey. This is me relaying the subjective assessment of feeling more healthy than I’ve felt since high school.
Permanence – I had gone through Bill Phillip’s “Body for Life” program two years ago about this time and achieved decent results. That program however required fairly intense discipline and once finished I gravitated probably 60% back to my former eating & exercise habits. Having done only one month of Paleo I can attest this feels more like a permanent lifestyle change. Fresh foods and free-range meats are just more appealing now, which brings me to a weird observation…
Surreality of the average grocery store – The typical grocery store feels extremely false now. I only travel about 4 of the 30-some aisles when I visit, the rest of them seem… for lack of a better word, fake. Brightly colored boxes & cartons with obnoxious labels masking pseudo-food made mostly of corn products. It’s hard to describe but it’s similar to the foreign feeling I had when I stopped watching TV for a year and eventually came back to it.
Diminished need for sleep – This may not be entirely caused by the dietary change (this period happens to have coincided with an uptick in activity on two startups I’m involved with) but I now sleep about an average of six hours per night where before I required eight in order to feel rested. I have considerably more energy and sleep less.
Substantial weight loss despite no gym activity – The Body For Life program had me in the gym three days per week weight lifting, alternating the other three days running and taking one day off. I’ve continued the running this past year (barefoot style using vibram 5finger shoes – the ones that look like silly gloves for your feet) but gym-wise I only went once during this whole past month. I run approximately 3-4 times each week on avg of about 30min and 3mi each run. This has been a constant though over the past year leading me to draw the conclusion that the weight loss I experienced this past month is almost entirely driven by change in diet.
So as awesome as I feel right now, I also know I feel pretty awesome after drinking a bottle of champagne ;-) This isn’t all roses and my concerns are the following:
- The average life expectancy of cavemen is estimated to have been around 35yrs. To my knowledge there’s been no longitudinal studies conducted that have tracked Paleo vs. control groups over time to compare the effect on life expectancy or prevalence of late-life diseases. Not having dairy was probably fine if you only ever lived to 35 and didn’t have to contend with later-in-life conditions like osteoporosis. I’m extremely interested if anyone has data on a study that speaks to the long-term health effects of this diet (even 5-10yr data for a related diet like Atkins). I’ve asked on Quora but no takers yet.
- Riffing on that question: so how do Paleo folks get enough of key nutrients & minerals like calcium given the absence of dairy from the diet?
- What is the typical impact on one’s cholesterol from being on Paleo? I would think consuming as much meat as this diet advocates would potentially become problematic cholesterol-wise for folks unless maybe the absolute amount is irrelevant given the right HDL/LDL ratio.
- How and where are people finding the grass-fed meat advocated under this diet? I have yet to see it in any major grocery stores. I’m assuming there are butcher shops that specialize in this and that it will be pricy. My friend Bryan introduced me to a concept called “cow pooling” which sounds interesting.
- Lastly, how are folks affording to eat under this program? Holy cow (pun intended) this is expensive livin’ – about twice of what I normally spend on food.
At any rate, all in all it’s been a positive experience thus far and I’m glad my friends talked me into trying it. I have not yet read the Paleo Solution which I understand is sort of the seminal work on this diet. I did go off the rails last Friday for my friend’s birthday and have no less than 5lbs of pizza, some assorted cheeses, 2 slices of chocolate cake and a couple beers – all of which are not on the agenda for Paleo. And consequently I felt like ass the next morning as a result. I think having cheat days actually helps with diet compliance not just because it allows you to satisfy a craving but because it also negative reinforces the behavior you’re exterminating. I’ll share future thoughts as I get further down the road with this program.
If anyone has some decent answers to the above concerns please do chime in and share.