Below is a podcast conversation between Marc Andreesen and Peter Thiel, where they cover everything from the early days of PayPal, to Peter’s investment strategy to the future of AI. It’s awesome.
After an extended break from writing this summer I now find myself having a hard time getting back in the groove.
Well, for one thing I rolled out a new company called Coinme, which is in the bitcoin industry. It’s going well but it had most of my attention in the late spring and early summer. I also jumped onboard this summer as Director of Business Development with a new startup called Knotis that is developing really cool tech for the local commerce space (steady paychecks are where it’s at!) Things are going well and I intend to write about Knotis as well.
So I’m a busy guy helping to build a few different companies at the same time.
Also, not to be lost in it all this is the beating my MacBook took this spring. After an event I organized I walked over to my laptop only to discover a beer had been spilled directly onto my machine. When I found it, I picked it up and beer was dripping out of the bottom of it!
Needless to say I was very upset.
The next day all I got was a black screen when I tried to turn it on. Turns out, after letting it dry everything was alright, except the esc, tab and shift keys don’t work. Try typing and capitalizing words (shift key) with your right hand when you have done it with your left your entire life… not fun. And so I stayed away from long form writing because it felt weird and I needed to learn how to do it the other way.
Well, I’m back.
I want to get back into the habit of writing a few times each week. It’s like exercise, we all need it and it does wonders for our health.
So look for new posts as I plan on picking back up on my writing about entrepreneurship, tech, life as a founder, and other things that catch my eye.
This short piece comes from one of my founder friends here in Seattle, Kyle Kersterson of Freak’n Genius. Kyle – one of the most creative and nicest people I know – has been growing his startup for a few years now and from what he has told me of late they are destined for great things.
In this video he talks about Creativity and how anyone can be creative with anything in the world they find around them, all it takes is a little imagination.
“We should be MAKING FUN of everything in the world.”
Take a look….
Well, this is an insta-classic.
U.S. Navy admiral and University of Texas, Austin, alumnus William H. McRaven returned to his alma mater last week to give seniors 10 lessons from basic SEAL training when he spoke at the school’s commencement.
McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command who organized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, stressed the importance of making your bed every morning, taking on obstacles headfirst, and realizing that it’s OK to be a “sugar cookie.”
All of his lessons were supported by personal stories from McRaven’s many years as a Navy SEAL. You need to watch the 20 minute video to grasp the magnitude of his words, but here’s the list of his 10 lessons.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.
If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.
If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.
If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.
If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.
If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
“….But I thought it would be easier than this. It’s really hard. It’s tough and I don’t know what I am doing. What am I supposed to do?”
A long time ago in a far away land an old wise man and an eager young chap were taking a walk and talking about life. The young chap was eager to do great things in the world but seemed to stumble each time he pushed forward. Desperate and in despair, he sought out the wisdom of the old village elder in hopes to find his answer.
“Young chap, I sense you need to understand something very important about this life.”
“Huh, what’s that?” The eager boy snuffed and wiped his head to push his hair out of his face.
“What you don’t realize is your most pressing and worrisome issues are everyone else’s least pressing and worrisome issues. They are yours and yours alone to figure out. No one can tell you what to do, you need to discover the answers yourself.”
“Wait, what do you mean? You don’t care about me and my problems?”
“I didn’t say that, young man, but I do think you need to look deeper.”
Confused, the young boy lowered his head and looked down towards the ground.
“Do you know what I am struggling with right now, just as you have come to me with your hardships?”
“No I don’t, what?” the young chap whispered.
“I have lived a long time, many years more than you have. I fear my time on this earth is coming to an end very quickly, and although I have lived a blessed life I am having a hard time letting go of life. I love my family, my community and all the great experiences I have encountered. Even as you notice me struggling to walk up this path, my heart is as young as yours and desires exactly what your young heart does. I cannot let go of life but will be forced to very soon and this troubles me. And because of that I live each minute as if it is my last – just as this moment is the most important thing to me right now – and I choose to not have a care in the world. I put my entire heart and youthful energy into experiencing everything about this moment so as to take in as much as I can before I go. I turn my biggest fear into my greatest strength. And in that way, I fully live and discover things I would normally have not.”
“I sense you aren’t doing that, are you my young chap?”
A long silence fell over the old wise man and the young chap.
After a while, the young chap responded. “No… ummm, I’m not. I think I’m scared. I think I’m scared of what others would think about me if I lived without any limits or cares as to what they thought. What if I fail? What will they think then?”
The old wise man stopped, turned and looked the young chap in the face with his piercing blue eyes and said “Son, never forget this lesson, it is you who cares the most about if you succeed or not. It is you who is holding yourself back. And if this is true for you it is true for the rest of the world. No one cares but only about themselves. You must go forth and do everything you dare dream of with little worry about what the rest of the world thinks. They are too busy searching for their own village elder to help them figure out why they are struggling… just like you.”
And with that, the wise old man vanished through a small path between two trees and was gone.
Smiling and a bit fazed the young chap scratched his chin, thought about the wise words for a moment and with a renewed look of determination walked the other way.
The months leading up to the announcement of our new company was chock full of lessons learned. We launched Coinme on May 1st at Spitfire in Belltown during a well attended launch party, complete with our first Meetup and an entertaining expert bitcoin panel.
It was the culmination of many long days, phone calls, emails, re-designs, re-brandings, and all sorts of other seemingly frustrating things. Below I have detailed three of which helped me realize a few things – namely the biggest risk of all is not taking a risk.
Setting a deadline is essential
Setting yourself a deadline – be it a launch party, a internal team milepost or some other marker – is the single best thing you can do to push yourself and your team to execute and actually complete what you set out to complete. We set May 1st as our launch party, and determined the machine needed to be there, dressed in its new costume and ready to take live transactions in front of more than an hundred people.
We also – very importantly – needed to get passed through the State of Washington as an officially licensed money transmitter business before this date. You have no idea what was required for all these pieces to come together, and before we began this process I didn’t either. But given we had committed to launch this company, we held ourselves to the deadline and pulled through right at the end.
I have painfully seen it time and time again with other startups in Seattle… they never release their feature or finally launch their company. Crazily, they just keep working on things. In the end, they simply don’t set themselves a deadline to stick to so they just remain in startup purgatory. This is not the right place to be as a startup – trust me.
Being early is both good and bad
One big thing I have learned is it’s very early in the bitcoin world, probably too early for most consumers. Most people still have no idea what it is, why they should purchase it, and why they should use it for payments. Although the answer to those questions will be left for future posts, suffice it to say the entire world is still trying to figure it out. Coinme, as a company, believes in the transformative nature of the technology and feel it can influence not only financial transactions but many more industries. And again, it’s way too early to tell.
But we feel our opportunity to influence such an early industry was/is too great to pass up. We see areas where we can help educate and inform people about the positives, negatives and in-betweens of this new cryptocurreny world. We’d rather be early to the party than too late.
Being early to the market can be good for a startup, but it also can be not so good. If you are too early to the market you risk spending all of your available capital without generating enough revenues (assuming at some point you need to run on revenues, not invested capital) which will ultimately end the business. Successful businesses are able to time the market in a way where they achieve both early mover advantage and customer adoption. One without the other spells doom for any high growth company.
Calculated risk is worth it
I touched on this last post but I feel so strongly about it I think its worth addressing again. Taking a calculated risk – hopefully a number of them – is one of the best things entrepreneurs can do to accel their careers. Doing what no one else is willing or ready to do places a person in a very select group of people, a group where things are created, companies are sold and millionaires are made. Even if the venture ultimately fails, the business (or tech) community will consider the founder a leader, an innovator and a healthy risk taker.
And you know what?
That’s exactly the person investors want to invest in. That’s who others want to follow when they take their next job and join their next company. That’s who the media wants to cover when they write about the next generation of business leaders.
No imagine if you don’t take that risk…
Trust me, what I learned over the last few months is that the biggest risk of all is not taking a risk.
As it turns out, I was indeed part of the group who brought the first bitcoin machine to the State of Washington and the greater Pacific Northwest. We launched Coinme on May 1st at Spitfire in Belltown during a well attended launch party, complete with our first Meetup and an entertaining expert bitcoin panel, including Charles Fitzgerald , (angel investor), Patrick Murck (General Counsel for Bitcoin Foundation) and Will O’brien (CEO of BitGo).
We had a great time and it was an awesome way to ring the new venture.
Interestingly, one of the most asked questions I get now is “So, why bitcoin?” What is it about bitcoin that made you jump at this opportunity?”
My answer may not be what you expect, but if you are a founder – or thinking of becoming one – it’s what you need to hear.
I jumped at this opportunity because I sensed something seismic rattling under my feet, I felt the inevitably of it becoming such a transformative force in our world I knew I would kick myself later if I or Seattle didn’t get involved now. I had this crazy notion that we are now experiencing a tremendous change in the way we relate and interact with money/currency/privacy/data and wanted to be a part of it. I noticed the most common way people were perceiving this new technology was with ignorance and confusion, stating things like “bitcoin is a Ponzi Scheme”, which tells me they just need to be educated. I realized we are watching an industry mature right before our very eyes, growing from a child into a gangly teenager, struggling with growing pains along the way. With a little luck maybe I felt I could guide that teenager in the right direction.
It was a risk I simply couldn’t pass up.
The media likes to cover the “downfalls” and the “catastrophes”, mostly because shock media drives more page views than intelligent and analytical dissection of challenging topics. But along with all the negative press bitcoin has received, there are golden nuggets of wisdom one shouldn’t turn a blind eye towards. Look hard enough (and follow the right people) and you will read bitcoin analysis that will blow your socks off. Please follow Fred Wilson, Marc Andreesen and Naval Ravikant for such nuggets of the wisdom I am referring to.
It’s fascinating. You’ll read things like bitcoin is the new internet of money and will soon power machine to machine (droid to droid?) payments, opening up a whole new part of our daily economy. It has the opportunity to transform many different industries outside of finance, it could become the new domain/identity protocol for online citizens, it will aide in calming identity theft and consumer privacy, allow for more efficient commerce and transactions across the web, maybe even help media outlets collect micro-payments from readers for access to their posts, and many, many other things. Simply put, this ain’t your daddy’s financial system. These and other reasons played into my decision to be a part of Coinme and help grow the crytpocurrency in Seattle.
So with all this crazy “Bitcoin” (air quotes) coverage and other startups making questionable business decisions around the cryptocurrency, why the heck would I decide to start a bitcoin business?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke
I acknowledge the above quote can be quite overused, but in this instance I think it fits perfectly. We started Coinme because we saw an industry taking shape but yearning for more quality leadership from the innovators and executives of those companies. We made a pledge to ourselves to be one of the good men (or women) leading this new industry. The bitcoin economy desperately needs innovators, entrepreneurs, legal advisors, regulators, politicians, consumers and business owners to all work collectively for the advancement of our society. Not just for the advancement of their own selfish interests, but for the betterment of the world.
Who knows, Bitcoin might drop through the floor and Coinme might fall flat on its face as a result. But by taking this risk I will have learned A TON about a new and emerging industry (and myself) at a time when everyone is still trying to figure out what it is. I will have laid the groundwork for my next 10 – 20 years as an entrepreneur and established myself in a small but growing industry. I will have looked uncertainty in the face and chosen to proceed when the path is not exactly clear, teaching me to acknowledge my fear of the unknown but move forward anyway.
And that is what I encourage you with today. Seattle has tremendous leadership in the technology space and is home to many recognizable and industry leading companies, yet, we need more leaders – the future of our local economy depends on it.
You may not be launching a bitcoin startup but you do have an opportunity to be influential and guide your market in the right direction. You have an opportunity to take a risk, to put Seattle on the map – or more aptly allow us to become even more attractive for both entrepreneurs and investors and hopefully put to rest the whole Valley vs. Seattle argument. We hear it all the time from the investment community here in Seattle – Swing Bigger. Well, here’s your chance.
You have right in front of you a choice: take the easy road and solve a derivative of an existing problem, making things just a bit easier for the few that may experience it. Or choose the hard road and take a larger risk to do something no one has ever done before, with a greater reward waiting for all of us at the end.
In speaking for the greater Seattle tech community, I urge you to choose the latter.