Founders RAW is BACK!

After a year long break, I am excited to announce we are back to filming more Founders RAW conversations.  We filled our need for a new film crew with the addition of Shinebox Films and quickly got to work to complete two new conversations.

For the uninitiated, here’s why I started Founders RAW:

“Founders RAW is actually an experiment.  As founders of an early stage startup we quickly realized how difficult starting a company can be.  And being part of the larger startup community in Seattle we discovered we weren’t alone in our crazy, mind-blowing experiences – apparently others have them too.  The idea started to form once we noticed the frequency of finding ourselves 30 minutes deep in truth sharing and wisdom dropping conversations with founder friends.  We wondered if others would be interested in what we have learned, so we figured why not to bring a camera.  I guess we’ll see what happens.

Founders RAW is a video blog with conversation style interviews focused on bringing out raw stories early stage founders experience in their challenging entrepreneurial journeys.  We invite founders to talk openly over a beer or a coffee about the “truth” of how they survive and grow their companies.  We post the full conversations on the blog but really, who has time to watch 45 minutes of video?  So we slice up the conversations and post nuggets each day as well as send out daily videos no more than 3 or 4 minutes long to blog subscribers.    Now we all can receive daily nuggets of the entrepreneurial truth.”

This year’s guest’s will include founders from Ghostruck, Unikrn as well as a prominent Seattle Angel Investor along with others to follow. You will see more on those when we complete the editorial process, but I wanted to highlight a handful of conversations we had over the last few years to get you back in the mood.

Brewster Stanislaw, cofounder of Inside Social

Marc Weiser, Founder of RPM Ventures

Simon Crosby, Founder of Bromium

Adam Lieb, Founder of Duxter

Bubbles And Golden Ages… Continued

The following post is an adaptation from the original one I posted on this topic in May of 2011.

I once watched an interview where Fred Wilson offhandedly noted reading a book which transformed the way he looked at markets and the web in general.  I instantly went to Amazon and ordered it and spent the next week reading it front to back.  Whew… it changed my life as well.  I up and quit my job the next month.  Thanks Fred.

Not a day goes by in 2015 we don’t hear the word bubble in some capacity or another. We are on pace for one of the biggest years in Venture Capital deployment since the dot com bubble of 2000. Massive private funding rounds in excess of $1 billion (Uber, et al) coupled with the sickening obsession of Unicorns have created a market with flu like symptoms. Although I cannot predict the future I tend to agree with others who publicly state it feels like we are in for a correction here very soon. If you are a founder of an early stage company, it would do justice to understand the cycle we are in, where exactly we are in it, and what you should do in your specific situation.

Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital by Carlota Perez is one of the greatest overviews of the incredible economic phenomenon known as the bubble.   What we are currently going though – recessions and expansions, bubbles and bursts, highs and lows, whatever you want to call them – they are inevitable.  In fact, the history of the entire world economy is one big cycle which repeats itself over a period of about 60 years.  I cannot do this entire book justice, just take my word for it, go buy it and read it yourself.  You will publicly thank me later just as I just thanked Fred now.  But I will introduce the general phases a new technology (paradigm) encounters so the “layman” technologist, marketer, social media guru or business person can start to see a clearer economic picture.

I hope I am not being too being blunt, but without grasping this concept you are swimming with your cap over your eyes.  You need to understand what is actually going on in this crazy economic world we live in.


As a new technology is developed and deployed into our society, it will enter a cycle of adoption.  Interestingly, Perez notes new technologies are created during the maturity phase of the last great technology expansion.  So although we are starting with the irruption phase, let us take for granted the specific technology has already been created and diffused through very early adopter communities.  During the irruption phase, we see a slowing or declining of the old industries and an early adoption of a new technology.  Carlota notes:

The very intense activity of the new paradigm carriers contrast more and more with the decline of the old industries.  A techno-economic split takes place from then on, threatening the survival of the obsolete and creating conditions that will force modernization.

Old print media anyone?  Taxing industry vs Uber and other on-demand ride services? This irruption phase is started with a big bang (invention and initial diffusion) and will propagate within a small community of early adopters.  Note the image above, depicting very low diffusion, even to a point the general masses dismissing the technology altogether.  Amazingly it is contained within this tight group of people and industries for some period of time.  That is until a tipping point is hit. Today, most people who have taken an Uber or Lyft ride – if given a choice – will only take uber from here on out.


Frenzy is a period of massive growth for a new technology.  It is a time of new market creation as well as for rejuvenating old industries.  Once a critical mass of consumers have been hit, the diffusion of the paradigm takes center stage.  Individualism rules the land, as does speculation, wealth creation and ultimately resulting in over-investment flooding the market.   

Frenzy is the later phase of the installation period.  It is a time of new millionaires at one end and growing exclusion at the other, as in the 1880’s to 1890’s, the 1920’s and the 1990’s.   In this phase, financial capital takes over; its immediate interests overule the operation of the whole system.

Notice the part about the growing polarization between the rich and the poor.  Sound familiar? Capital investments soar during this time, creating a false sense of wealth creation.  This craze attracts more and more individuals wanting to get a piece of the action; so late frenzy is financial bubble time.

Turning point

At some point, the bubble has to burst.   Things that go up must come back down.  Interestingly, the turning point is neither an event or a phase, rather it is a process of contextual change. 

The turning point has to do with the balance between individual and social interests within capitalism.  It is the swing of the pendulum from the extreme individualism of Frenzy to giving greater attention to collective well being, usually through the regulatory intervention of the state and the active participation of other forms of civil society.

The turning point is a space for social rethinking and reconsidering.  It is, in fact, the time when the mode of growth that will shape the next few decades is defined.  I would argue we have been in this phase for a while, maybe starting 5-8 years ago After picking up the pieces of the crash of the early 2000’s we are now starting to see realignment in almost every industry known to man.  Name an industry that is not currently being touched by the internet and mobile?  Exactly.


This is a time for production.  Since the foundations and infrastructures were laid out during the previous phases, conditions are there for dynamic expansion and economies of scale.   The diffusion of the new paradigm now reaches far and wide, is accepted as standard, and now governs supreme.  It is a time for promise, work and hope.  For many, the future looks bright.   

Synergy is the early half of the deployment period.  This phase can be the true ‘golden age’.  It is likely to be the closest the system ever comes to convergence within the economy of the core countries of the system.

Mary Meeker anyone?  She has identified this expansion phase quite eloquently, particularly in the mobile space.  I would argue we are still at the turning point but on the cusp of this synergy phase.  We should expect to observe massive expansion and economies of scale in almost every industry imaginable for the next few decades.  New industries and markets will emerge.  Old ones will finally die off.  Will it be all golden?  I am not so sure.  But if history is any indication, we shall see an expansion of scale only experienced once every 60 or 70 years.

It was this exact point in the book which urged me finally jump off the fence and into my entrepreneurial pursuits full time.      


Once again, the cycle continues.  Every paradigm has a shelf life and can only survive so long.  As it enters maturity, deep questions are asked about the system and the climate is favorable for politics and ideological confrontation.  Markets are saturating and technologies are maturing.  

Gradually the paradigm is taken to its ultimate consequences until it shows up its limitations... yet all the signs of prosperity are still around.  Those who reaped the full benefits of the ‘golden age’ continue to hold onto their belief in the virtues of the system and to proclaim eternal and unstoppable progress, in a complacent blindness, which could be called the ‘Great Society Syndrome’.

During maturity, the stage is set for the decline of the whole mode of growth and for the next technological revolution.  Since we are entering a synergy phase, I will not spend much time on maturity.  According to Perez, the next maturity phase should not be entered for quite some time and the decline of our current paradigm should not influence ones innovation or investment perspective.  Yet it is always smart to keep an eye on something like this.  Interestingly, it is in this period inventors and innovators are tinkering with what will eventually become the next great paradigm.  This begs the question:  What will supplant the internet?  I would suggest not worrying much about the answer to that question and take advantage of the current conditions.  According to Perez, it should be quite good for years to come.

The lesson I see here is to know that we are in a smaller bubble within a larger economic cycle.  The smaller bubbles grow and pop fairly regularly with the net result of growth throughout the 60-70 year larger cycle.  The key is to make sure you have made the correct decisions to protect yourself and your company from the small bubble gyrations.

The Tales We Tell Ourself About Failure

One thing we humans do really well is self doubt.

In the last week I have had two separate conversations with fellow founders about the grave situations their companies are in, how they are staring “defeat” right in the face and don’t really see any other option than to move on.

Both people are down and out right now.  And rightfully so… They have put years of blood, sweat, tears and money in pursuit of their dreams. They feel troubled with the fact that they didn’t succeed in the way they felt they could, didn’t build a meaningful and growing company. I know what they are going through, I have was there a few years ago and had a hard time knowing when it was time to pull the plug.

My advice to them is this:

It’s okay. You think the company (and you) are a failure because you have to move on and go do something else. You may have put your self worth into the company so much so that as the company faces a failure in operation you are feeling like a failure in life. You might be feeling a bit embarrassed because of all the things you said to your friends, family, coworkers, and industry partners now make you look at best untrustworthy, and at worst fraudulent.

These are all normal fears and feelings. They are all accurate and a normal part of the grieving process of a failed attempt at a startup company. But these are all fairy tales we repeat internally.


The reality is the very fact you set out and tried something unique and different is the success in this story. The very fact that you had the courage to attempt something most people would be afraid to do is the success. The fact that you were looking to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem is the success. Most likely your entrepreneurial decisions inspired at least one other person to jump up and start their own entrepreneurial journey. And further, maybe that person and their project turns out to be a massive success, impacting millions of people around the world, lots of that due to you. You may never know… but it’s a possibility isn’t it?

Many people lean on the stat that something like 75-90% of all startups fail, they don’t reach a point of self sustaining profits. I feel this stat is misleading since it only measures financial outcomes of each entity. Is the company alive, or dead? Red or black? Running or shuttered? Successful or not?

A better measure – albeit much more difficult – is to evaluate the impact each person and their endeavors have on the people around them. I guarantee if we were to measure the impact and success of each founder who ventures out on their own by looking at how they affected, influenced and inspired others we’d be talking about a whole different number. I bet it would possibly be the inverse, which would be quite inspirational. We’d be saying something like “Only 10-15% of startups really fail to impact the world so you must go and do it!”

To all those who are currently struggling with what to do and which decision to make for your company right now, heed this advice. The only failure in your situation would have been not choosing to attempt the impossible, since that is the only reason you are able to sit in the chair you are sitting in right now, reading this on your device you are holding in your hand, sipping the drink you are tasting right now, and driving in the car you just drove in.

Success is simply choosing to attempt the impossible and inspiring others to do the same.

How To Get Out Of A Rut

We all know the feeling of being in a rut: tired, frustrated, challenged, stressed, worried, uninspired, etc.. It’s okay to fall into a rut at times.  But what can you do to get out of it and return to your former self?

I found answer lies in doing that very thing you are not excited to do.  Whether it be a sales call, a coding project, tough conversation with an employee, yard work, workout, or whatever… embracing the pain, leaning in and executing on the one thing you seem to be shying away from is the best way to rid yourself of the rut. Overcoming the issue and achieving something again triggers a dopamine spurt and kickstarts your energy. In The Road to Success is Paved with Discomfort, Leo Polovets describes the same concept as one of his secrets to success. Do what feels uncomfortable:

If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to push through discomfort. If you’re a founder, you’re going to have to fire people, you’re going to have to talk to customers and sometimes hear negative feedback, and you’re going to have to make cold calls. If you’re not willing to do those things — or at least hire someone else to do them — then that’s okay, but your likelihood of succeeding will drop dramatically. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what’s more important: your comfort and your ego, or your success and your company’s success?

So true.  So true.plyazh-bereg-more-okean-volny

Recently I encountered this feeling with my day job, as well as with all my other projects. I wasn’t in a traditional rut, per se. But the great weather of the summer here in Seattle teased me so much I gave in and took it a bit more easy in the months of May through August.  Although I had a lot of fun, that a little voice inside my head was nagging, cursing at me to get with it and get back to work on all the various projects I have going.

Of course, I did what was required and expected of me at work this summer but I knew I had more in the tank.  Yes, I started writing again this summer after taking a number of months off but I could have written much more than I did. Founders RAW was sitting on the back burner for many more months than I wanted it to, purely due to laziness and lack of attention.

I now realized I fell into a comfort zone, and once in that zone I started telling myself all sorts of things to defend my laziness.  I started to shy away from working harder, not driving the company I work for and my projects forward.  I shied away from the discomfort and paid the price for it – falling into a sort of weird rut.

The farther I go along on this journey the more I understand success is really just learning to leverage the ebb and flow of energy similar to the flow of the ocean tide.  Sometimes you are up, driving forward, leaning into discomfort and making things happen.  And sometimes you are leaning back, relaxing, enjoying your take and being lazy in the comfort zone.

The beauty is once you start to identify those ebbs and flows of your energy you can start to time it right, and use it to your advantage. The best way to break from ebb and back into flow is to do the very thing you are not wanting to do, to start the thing you seem to be putting off.  Do it, and you’ll see it wasn’t as hard, scary, difficult or challenging as your mind was telling you it would be.

Summer ebb-ing is fine and I have enjoyed it. Now it’s time to jump back into the flow.

Founders RAW Is Looking For A Seattle Based Videographer

We are gearing up for a new season of Founders RAW and I’m looking for a new videographer.

This individual needs to be local in the Seattle area and familiar with both recording, post production and slicing of longer videos into short clips.  You can get an idea of how we shoot Founder RAW by viewing of our previous videos here, as well as the video below.  If you are interested, or know of someone who might be interested in being a part of a fun team producing great entrepreneurial focused videos, please reach out to me asap.

  • Part time position, estimated 10-20 hours per week
  • Portfolio and previous video production experience strongly recommended
  • Compensation depends on experience as well as project sponsorship status
  • Establish yourself as an experienced video professional within the tech industry
  • Opportunity to meet well established CEO’s and founders of tech startups who possibly have other video needs

Is It Fair That Founders Get The Lions Share of Equity?

Something has bothered me for some time and its just now starting to get talked about.  Below is not a rant, but rather an exercise in thinking about fairness in compensation.

Founders receive huge amounts of equity in the companies they start, yet over time as more and more employees join on and work incredibly hard to help grow the business into a successful enterprise the percentage ownership (cap table) doesn’t reflect adequate compensation.  Why is it that an employee that joined just a few months or a year after the founder receive orders of magnitude less equity – and cash after a liquidity event – than the original founders?

Does it really matter if you were there first and if it was your idea to begin with?  If so, how important and impactful is it?  Millions of dollars?  Billions of dollars worth of difference?

Yes, founders do take inordinate amount of risk in starting a new venture and they should receive compensation to reflect that.  But when we are talking about $billion+ outcomes we then start to talk about income inequality on absurd levels.  The difference between a founder receiving $1 billion or $2 billion is not the same as taking that extra $1 billion and spreading it over 100 or 500 employees – that which makes quite a bit of difference in each of those people’s lives.

The fact is early and middle employees are hugely important to the success of a startup and should be compensated accordingly.  More so, they might even be vital to the company’s success, such as a Director of Sales or VP of Engineering may be in helping a gangly startup grow up into a mature and profitable company.

A recent podcast from Andreessen Horowitz covers this issue, and touches on how founders can think about structuring their equity grants a bit differently so that they can appropriately compensate early and later employees.

Anyway, listen to the podcast as it covers a lot of points in this touchy subject.

The Very First Thing To Do When Opening Your Eyes Each Morning

Close them for another 10 minutes.

The deeper I go in this industry the more I realize success is determined by the quality of my mental fitness.  It was with that realization I recently started the practice of mediation. This new direction might come to some as a surprise, as it does with me. I’m not a very “spiritual” person and have up until recently thought of mediation and other methods of silence with a “not my kind of tea” nonchalance.

What we view as different we tend to be afraid of and to be very honest I was afraid of meditating. It was just foreign to me. Yet that might be why I found myself in a situation where I was desperately needing it!

I realized in my first month of meditation it’s not as weird, shamanic, spiritual, or cult-like as I thought.  In fact, I realize now that it quite possibly could be the secret to a happy and successful life no matter what country you live in or what religion you claim to believe.


With so much stimulation, media distraction and impulsive opportunities today, clarity of thought is our most scarce resource. By not taking the time to center oneself in their purpose before they start their day, one may find each day harder and harder to complete. I felt this overcoming me during the last year or two – the subtle feeling of losing my compass and lacking the fulfilling energy of pursuing a direction that aligns with a purposeful life.


So with a suggestion from my girlfriend – who has been meditating for more than 10 years and glows with its benefits – I jumped in.  Boy do I have a long way to go.  I haven’t established a strongly held habit yet but here’s what I learned in the first month.

1. Calmness.  I found I was becoming more tense as the years went on, and given my laid back nature this was starting to really bug me.  It probably has to do with the nature of our industry and the difficulties of being a founder or working for an early stage company.  As I started the practice of meditation I began to feel the tension ease off a bit.  It’s still there to some extent, but I am now learning how to deal with it and shift the excess energy to a more positive area of my life.

The main reason I feel better is with the consistent nature of meditation you are able to think, ponder, and review; this leading to an adequate evaluation of the difficult things happening over the course of your daily life.  Stress overcomes us not because of something that happens to us, but because we haven’t adequately perceived the reality of the situation and are uncertain of what we are going to do about it.  We lack clarity. My calmness has resulted from taking time each day to let my mind wrap itself around the challenging things developing in my life, and allowing my mind time to determine the next step.

2. Centeredness.  I never really knew what this term meant before starting to meditate, but now I understand the power of allowing your mind to focus on certain aspects of your life, steering away from harmful and negative things while steering towards ones more beneficial. It actually takes effort to think about what you are doing here on earth, what you want to accomplish, how you want to live each day, how you want to treat people each day and the trajectory you want your life to take.  All this becomes clearer when one consistently starts their day in deep thought.  Although just a month in, I am feeling more centered and aligned and I can’t wait to see where the next 6 months or year directs me.

3.  Slowness.  It seems like things are going faster and faster each day.  Computing power speeds up each year, and computers just keep getting smaller and more ingrained into our existence.  Emailing went to text messaging.  Taking pictures with a digital camera and uploading to a website went to snapping a pic and sending a quick Snapchat to a friend. We expect to grab our phone and instantly find a restaurant whenever we are hungry. We also expect a response from someone we communicated with – immediately.  Each day seems to be speeding up and taking our whole society with it. It’s no wonder people are so stressed out.

Meditation has shown me the power of slowness and what it can do in a world where people and ideas are flying by at the speed of light.  Slowness allows for thoughtful consideration of the world around you. It allows for deeper comprehension of all the things happening to you and around you.  There are many things in our world that are simply too complex to fully grasp only after a few seconds or immediately after a meeting.  Not taking the time to allow your mind and body to fully comprehend the world around you is a grave mistake.  Through slowing down and practicing mental clarity each morning I set the tone for a stronger, more agile, more flexible mind which now has a better understanding of when to make quick hasty decisions or to slow down and contemplate all angles of a situation.

Take it from someone who used to shrug off the concept of meditation, you are making a huge mistake by not starting your day with your eyes closed in deep thought about the day you are about to experience.