250 Members and Beyond

One month and one week into existence, Founders LIVE has officially hit the 250 member mark.

This is a great milestone (one of many to come) and all of us should be proud of the initial growth thus far given it was a soft launch with zero media or marketing. Thanks for all the help in taking action, you guys rock!

If you would allow me a few minutes, I will expand on what I have learned in the short time launching Founders LIVE and what I envision for the next phase of growth.

You may recall when I announced the launch of Founders LIVE I was opening it up for free registration for a limited time – the first 100 members, then it became first 200 members to join would get Founders LIVE memberships free for life – and then turn on paid subscriptions as we built it out. That is still true today, and it’s still free to register as of this publishing so go tell that friend you’ve been thinking would love Founders LIVE right now (maybe even use the share buttons at the bottom of this post!).

Paid subscriptions are indeed on their way. The current functionality is not where I’d like it and I am awaiting a technical update to take effect so the registration and payment process is a seamless as possible. It should be implemented within the next month so until then, share away and let your friends know this thing is open for free just for a limited time more.

Launching Founders LIVE has been an incredible experience for me. The biggest thing I have learned during this first month is how much people actually crave community. This might be elementary to some of you but for me I am quite surprised how much we as humans desire to belong and be a part of something larger than us. It’s just human nature to want to belong and connect with others; to explore and meet new people; to learn new uplifting and positive things each day. A community. A group of like minded people. A collective that talks the same language and is heading in the same direction for the same reasons. That’s what we are building here on Founders LIVE and the feedback thus far has been centered on how cool it is we together are forming this unique virtual community around the entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the other things I learned has to do with the word “Founder.”  The word has numerous connotations and meanings. Some of you may not directly identify with being a “founder” or call yourself one when talking with others. You might even say “oh, I’m not a founder…” as if to be hesitant to self identify with the word. I don’t fully understand that position given what I do – and given I started this platform called Founders LIVE – but regardless it is a feeling some have and I respect it.

Yet I don’t believe it. I actually DO think you are a founder. I think most – if not all – people are founders in their own ways. Yes Founders are people who start companies but they are also much more than that. Founders are creators. Founders are starters. Founders are dedicated people working on things that bring value to the world. Founders are leaders who influence others and bring out the best in people.

Any of those sound like you? Being a founder is a way of thinking and a way of life, not just a title on LinkedIn because you started a company.

It seems to me the word Founder is a little scary due to people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and other highly successful, famous and wealthy people who are leaders of very large organizations. Many of us simply cannot see ourselves in a similar light as those individuals because the media has warped what it means to be a founder. The “myth of the founder” – wiry haired (usually young white male) who is working 20 hours a day in their garage – has also played into influencing how we view ourselves as founders or not. If you don’t fit that stereotype, it’s easy to think to yourself you are not a founder.

I’d like to urge you to drop the assumption you are not a founder – or that founder is something to not be embraced. If you have joined this platform already, you have self selected as a founder. If you are hungry everyday for wise and helpful information you can use to move yourself forward, you are a founder. And if you are one of the millions, no billions, of people creating things in this world – be it a painting, a song, a technology, a company, a non-profit, a family – you are a founder.

Welcome home. And in the end if you really don’t feel you are a founder, sticking around and getting to know the founders on here will give you better insights on how we think, act and work.

(Not on Founders LIVE yet. SIGN UP HERE.)

My vision for what’s ahead is as ambitious as it is exciting. And I think is well within reach. I believe Founders LIVE will be the new destination for entrepreneurial education, entertainment and encouragement.

I started Founders LIVE as an effort to create a new approach to content creation and community engagement. The realization came when I noticed blogging was really just one->many and not much of a social experience. Also, that experience was really just about me and my work. Not others.. I quickly realized there’s a better model. I determined to create a platform for creatives, entrepreneurs and go-getters to connect with like minded people and if desired, be provided a channel to display their talents – be it crafting pithy nuggets of wisdom, writing blog posts, conducting interviews, distributing podcasts or creating fascinating videos, art or music. More importantly, I wanted to create a central channel for others (outside the network) to find this type of valuable content and in the process maybe become better people. And to open a space where all of us creatives can see and be seen, to read and be read, and to hear and be heard. I believe everyone has a unique set of talents. Founders LIVE allows you to share yours, and discover other talented people and enjoy what they have to offer.

The 3-5 year horizon I envision for Founders LIVE is to become a thriving media property specifically created around entrepreneurship and creativity. Replacing the current lean-back entertainment of TV shows, Founders LIVE will embrace new forms of participation media such as live mobile streaming, live events, blogging and writing, commenting, messaging, sharing, content curation and social interaction. All this in one channel specific to founders and the greater entrepreneurial population around the world.

Within this property, Founders/entrepreneurs – as well as others that simply want to learn and be entertained – will be delivered hyper relevant content around aspects of starting companies, creating products, art, music and anything that tugs at the creator’s soul urging to be brought to society. I envision this channel to be truly authentic, built for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs, with content generated and crowdsourced by the community as well as curated by the Founders LIVE team so as to retain a high level of quality aimed to add value to the people subscribing to it.

Also, Founders LIVE will become the default “social network” (if we can even still use that term) for any would be/existing entrepreneurs, a must have platform to be active on if you want to move forward. LinkedIn has become too corporate-y, professional, recruit-y and spammy, and really only serves as your new resume. And now owned by Microsoft! Founders LIVE should serve as both one’s channel to display their talent/work as well as the most authentic, safe and enjoyable space for creatives to connect with others who see the world as they themselves do.

For the near term, I’ll be starting the new live streaming experience shortly with a new monthly event specific to this community. I won’t dive into too many details soon but rest assured it’s going to be cool, fun, entertaining and most of all uniquely ours.

I am excited for what lies ahead. Honestly – and I am not just saying this – you should also be as honored and as excited as I am to see something like this form right in front of your eyes, because you will gain just as much value, connections and experience from this platform as I will.

Here’s to 250 and beyond!

Not on Founders LIVE yet. SIGN UP HERE.

Earth To USA Today and JP Morgan – There Are More Startups Today Than Ever Before

A recent column in the U.S.A Today makes the bold claim that there are less startups today than compared to the 1980’s, during the Carter administration.

The rationale:

At any rate, the latest data indicate that start-ups are becoming rarer, not more common. A new report from JPMorgan economist Mike Feroli indicates that employment in start-ups is plunging. New jobs in the economy tend to come from new businesses, but we’re getting fewer new businesses. 

I am going to guess Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a professor and the author of the post, is not an entrepreneur and has never been one.  If he was one he would know basing innovation metrics and the quantity of “startups” solely on the amount of people they employ is an incredibly flawed argument.

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 8.00.44 PM

Diving deeper into the JP Morgan study, they lay claim to a few reasons on why we are seeing an apparent slow down in startups:

Hudson’s possible suspects for the slowdown: a) higher business taxes, b) Obamacare, c) an IRS crackdown on US employers that hire U.S. workers as independent contractors rather than employees, and d) a steady barrier erected to entrepreneurs at the local policy level.

But whatever the cause of the entrepreneurial decline, two possible impacts: 1) A less productive and innovative economy, and 2) higher profits for big business thanks to fewer upstart competitors on the horizon.

Here are a few observations on why I feel this assessment is off the mark:

1) Assuming Obamacare is a factor completely misses the point, since Obama wasn’t even in office when the decline in jobs started (see chart above).

2) Although a local policy issue may influence certain industries – since we’re talking the entire nation here it’s irrelevant to include local policies because they vary state to state.  I, for one, can tell you it’s quite easy to get going in your own new venture.

3) The IPO market really cooled off over the last decade, suggesting a rise in mergers and acquisitions.  Simply stated, startups are being bought by bigger companies before they beef up their workforce, which also will affect overall startup employment numbers.

4)  If anything, they miss the most obvious reason why people would choose employment at a larger corporation rather than a startup: job security and dependable paycheck in a shaky economy.   Although this also doesn’t apply since the economy didn’t tank until late 2008 and beyond, so again, not a very high correlation.

5) The largest omission in this report can be seen by evaluating technological progress and the resulting drop in computing costs.  Comparing the chart from the JP Morgan article and a graph of Moore’s Law (which is exponential) you now realize using a simple number like the number of employees of startups is probably the wrong approach when determining the current status of innovation.  Moore’s Law states the computing power is increasing at the same time the cost is dropping.  So, it is easier to start a business than ever before. The cost of computing, virtual work environments, AWS, instant and free communication tools, and the proliferation of the web have coalesced to create a startup nirvana.  Looking at two charts from the same timeframe you will notice the stark drop in jobs at the same time a drastic increase in computing power?  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

So am I missing something here?

Maybe if they simply stated “startups are employing less people” I wouldn’t have a problem with the report.  But they didn’t.  They claim (in fact lead with) the idea that there are less startups and innovation than in the 80’s and 90’s, which I feel is wrong – or at least how they came to that conclusion is currently flawed.  They go on to make a few solid points regarding higher taxes and government regulation and how those influence an early venture hiring but lack any real depth for their argument.  Maybe they should have consulted an entrepreneur or two who could help them sift through the chaff a bit further.

Moore's Law of Computing Power

Moore’s Law of Computing Power

My take: it takes less people to achieve more today.  What once took a team of 10 to accomplish now only takes 2 or 3 people and a wifi connection.  So I am claiming the exact opposite of the USA Today and JP Morgan.  We are seeing more products, apps, and startups created today than ever before.  Ask any VC or startup founder and I guarantee they will say the same thing.

Hell, Instagram and their entire team of 12 employees was sold for almost $1 billion to Facebook in 2012.  So whatever you do, do not believe there is a lack of innovation and startups out there.  If anything, there’s more innovation and startups created each day than ever before because we can do more with less.

One just needs to look closer and use the right measuring stick.

It Just Got Even Easier To Find Talent At SURF Incubator

logo_104x60One of the most common challenges for early stage startups is finding talented and willing people to join your startup.   In the early stages, finding the right developer can be the difference between success and failure for a young startup.

Today, SURF Incubator announced how they are addressing the recruiting challenges of its tenant companies by partnering with local recruiting agency Capability IT.  With an intellectual partner like Capability IT, startup entrepreneurs are empowered with intellectual resources and a robust network to find culturally and technically capable employees, enabling them to more quickly secure talent and get back to work.

Although the Puget Sound region has proved itself to be home to a world-class high-tech workforce over the last few years, with several companies either opening Seattle engineering offices or expanding their engineering departments, it still remains a tough hiring environment for early stage startups.  Especially since the competition can promise an immediately rewarding salary with large signing bonuses, full benefits and various amenities like a famous executive chef at Google.  But through a partnership with Capability IT, SURF startups will receive greater access to a network of developers and potential growth opportunities, making their lives a bit more pleasant in the process.

Over the past year, Capability IT has made solid traction in the tech community, by adding superior talent to a number of Seattle based startups.  Not only does Capability IT provide more access to developers, they can also help startup entrepreneurs identify and secure contract assignments. It is quite common for entrepreneurs to take on technical consulting projects while their startup gains traction, enabling entrepreneurs better cash flow and sometimes even finance their startup. Because Capability IT works with companies ranging from early-stage startups to publicly traded companies, they are able to efficiently source opportunities for fledging entrepreneurs.

Being a SURF tenant startup founder myself, I can validate how important this move is for all the startups within the SURF Incubator community.  During the early prefunding stage of a startup, founders have little more than their dream to pitch to prospective early talent.   We also have limited time and energy to somehow go and find this talent., which requires scouring online profile databases, attending local meetups and events, searching through our own networks or simply asking around.

At times those can work, but where I see Capability IT really helping is farther up the funnel, providing founders with a larger pool of applicants/names to sort through.  Even though we might still be looking for a needle in a haystack, Capability IT will give early stage startups more haystacks to look through and in the end helping us find better talent to join our teams.  In this way, Capability IT’s partnership with SURF Incubator is just one part of SURF’s mission to be a community-supported space for digital startups.

SURF will be celebrating this announcement with a happy hour event, including beer and wine as well as a few startup pitches from resident companies.  Everyone is welcome to attend, if you are interested – RSVP here.

Launch Event – When & Where

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 from 5:00 – 8:00pm PST

Exchange Building – 821 2nd Ave, Suite 800

5:00 – 6:00pm          Hosted wine and beer

6:00 – 6:15pm          Partnership announcement

6:15 – 7:00pm          Startup demos

7:00 – 8:00pm          Entrepreneur conversations


This Slide Shows Exactly Why It’s An Incredible Time To Start A Mobile Company

This is truly an amazing time.  This one slide from a recent Business Insider presentation is the main reason why I started Seconds.  We are seeing a revolution around mobile devices and every industry will experience immense changes, whether they like it or not.  Payments are no exception and it’s going to be a wild ride baby!

Holy Crap! One Year Ago Today My Life Was Completely Different

One year ago today – May 1st 2011 – I officially walked away from my previous career and made the leap into entrepreneurship.  These last 365 days have been some of the most exciting, rewarding and scary times of my life.  Back then, I was sitting at a desk in a fitness facility at the Boeing Company, working as a physiologist.  Today, I sit here as the CEO of a tech company making waves in the mobile payments space, talking to investors and multi-billion dollar companies.  Oh, how things can change in a year…

Some experiences of the past year:

  • Quit my full-time job and gave up a steady paycheck
  • Had no idea how I was going to pay my bills…
  • Watched the gig I thought I was transitioning to disappear
  • Launched this blog and started reaching people around the world
  • Started contributing the BusinessInsider.com
  • Was basically a free agent over the summer, just focusing on writing on here
  • Had no idea how I was going to pay my bills…
  • Was one-day away from taking a COO role at a startup in New York, when…
  • My soon to be co-founder reached out to me through a random email in August
  • I sat down and over coffee determined we should start a company
  • We formed Seconds in early September
  • We released our beta product late fall, early winter
  • At first, we focused on text messaging between customers and local merchants
  • At the beginning of January we started gaining attention and media
  • Ran out of money
  • Had no idea how I was going to pay my bills…
  • Through February and March we kept expanding our vision and writing about it
  • We made the change to focus on mobile payments driven through text messages
  • We now field inquiries and interest from around the world and look to expand Seconds
  • I now write guest posts on the most popular tech blogs around
  • and people now look at me as a though leader and actually listen to what I have to say

So much more happened over the course of the last year but I will stop there.  I want to make something very clear: your life is what you make of it.  I have completely transformed my life in the last 365 days and I sit here today in awe of what I have been able to do.  We are (close) to being finalists in national recognition for being one of the top innovative companies of 2012.  I could’t have dreamed of this just one short year ago.  This transition has not been easy – actually the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life – but it’s not impossible.

You can do anything you set your mind to, never forget that.