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.

Irruption

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

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.



Synergy

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.      

Maturity

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.

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Finally Emerging From A Founder Depression

At times we can be our own worst enemy.  The challenge is to minimize those times.

We often hear choosing to become an entrepreneur – and the life that accompanies it – is not for the faint of heart.  This is absolutely true.  But for the longest time I didn’t really understand what it meant.  Or moreover, I didn’t fully respect the ramifications of the simple choice of taking my entrepreneurial leap.

Yet now being on the other side of this experience, I understand on a deeper level what entrepreneurship all about, and how to best navigate through it the rest of my life.  As I describe some of my thoughts and observations, I hope they might resonate with you as well and help you through whatever your situation you might be in currently.

Entrepreneurs, by default, are high performers.  And high performers, by default, are hard on themselves when times get tough.  Combine those two and you could get a deadly combination.

Entrepreneurs hold themselves to higher standards than others and often are disappointed when things don’t necessarily end up as great as they had thought when they initially set out.  But you know what?   Entrepreneurship never ends up like you initially thought.  It’s messier than anyone ever imagines and more extreme than anyone ever describes.

After I experienced a failed startup I dropped into what I now can identify as a depression.  I was not – and am not – depressed as in the clinical sense, but it was more like what you would think when people refer to the last economic depression we recently survived.  It was temporary and externally triggered.  Things weren’t right and I was responding to them certainly in a negative and self deprecating way.

It was painful.  It felt troubling.  It sucked because I wasn’t supposed to be there.  Or so I thought.

What I discovered was I denied myself some truths I should have admitted at the time.  I wasn’t admitting things like: 1) I really didn’t know what I was doing, and neither does anyone else.  2) The business was not working the way we had positioned it.  2) Startups actually do fail!  3) It’s okay to walk away rather than being so committed to a project you drive yourself into the ground.  4) Your personal value is more than just your company’s success.

I did not admit those things and the result was just that – nose dive right into the ground.  Being a friend or family member you probably wouldn’t have known it by being around me.  I am a damn good actor.  I do a great job of burying the issue and grabbing another beer to selflessly talk about your challenges and issues.

Yet deep down inside was some of the worst self talk anyone could imagine.  I was not my biggest cheerleader, supporter, believer and best friend.  If you are wondering, negative self talk is not the path to success.

It took a few years to pull myself out of it.  It took me accepting the fact that although I knew I could be a great founder at some point in my life, now was not the time.  It took me putting my ego aside and accepting positions with other startups and companies where I could add value and learn more about building companies.

It seems elementary now, but letting go of the founder dream and using my skills in an another company was the farthest thing from my mind at the time.  It took me admitting I did not know it all and I need to place myself somewhere to both earn a living and learn more about the world of technology and growing a business around it.

This type of wisdom and perspective is almost impossible when you think you are worthless.  And that is exactly what people think when their startup fails.  They think since they could not make their own company work – one where they pretty much put every ounce of effort they possibly could into making it work – what’s their value anywhere else?  This and other similar thinking is obviously incorrect and ill applied.  Yet, I am telling you this is exactly what I and other founders find themselves thinking.

I have since pulled myself back together, landed a great position with another company here in Seattle and on the path to learning and earning!

The resulting mental and emotional clarity is refreshing. It has allowed me to stabilize my life and opened up space for other projects like Founders RAW, Coinme, and getting back to writing.  It has allowed me to establish myself as a mentor and advisor to other entrepreneurs, here and elsewhere in the world. It has allowed me to embrace and fully enjoy a meaningful relationship for the first time in a long time.

The lesson here is not that you can do things to avoid the founder depression.  More than likely it’s inevitable for you, me and every other entrepreneur.  The lesson is in identifying the oncoming founder depression, quickly observing its symptoms, and then finding mitigation strategies you can deploy to keep you afloat – and happy.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart.  But it is for the wise and honest.

Okay Founders, Stand Up And Take 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.

Taking The Bumpy Road

“Clank-Clank…. Clank-Clank.” 

The keys were hitting the ignition so hard I thought they were going to fly straight out of the car, as it was rocking back and forth so fast it was spilling my cup of water all over my lap.

Dude, where we going again?” one of my friends asks as he grabs another hand of chips from the bag.  He finishes his bite and quips “man, what the hell are we doing? This road sucks.

“Trust me, it’s awesome!” I reassured him.

What he didn’t know was we were about to ascend on one of the most beautiful views one can find in the Pacific Northwest.  Of course, to get there we had to do a little off-roading first.

30 minutes later, Clank-Clank…. Clank-Clank” ….the keys shouted again.….. Clank-Clank…. Clank-Clank” even louder this time.

After a treacherous 45 minute drive and almost popping both front tires on the demanding bumpy mountain road, we finally reached the top of the mountain to see this…

Blanchard Hill

I often think back to those college days when I would venture up to Blanchard Hill for a weekend of camping with friends.  It took a toll both on the car and our stomachs as we gained elevation on the logging roads in our cheap little sedan.  Back then – even if we were just looking for a cool spot to drink beer and roast marshmallows on a campfire – we unintentionally grasped something very important about life.

You don’t get anywhere amazing by taking the road normally traveled.  It’s the roads less traveled which provide the largest payoff.

Of course you couldn’t reach this amazing view on smooth, straight, and well traveled roads.  It’s too normal and too commonplace.   It’s flat.  It’s boring.  They take you from point A to point B.  Too many people travel along those roads to experience such an amazing and unique payoff.

I am reminiscing about this because I find myself on the bumpy road right now.

My “keys” are clanking so loud right now, so loud it’s deafening.  I sometimes wonder why I am sacrificing other parts of my life and my earning potential in the prime of my life to do something different than others.  Why am I not on the same road as so many of my friends?  They “seem” to be driving so smoothly, smiling and enjoying the fruits of the road most traveled.  The road I am on is extremely bumpy and very deserted, with so many potholes I am pulling the wheel back and forth, weaving left and right to simply keep the tires full of air.

But you know what?

I have realized it’s not specifically about the road you are on but the destination where you will end up.   You must choose between enjoying the road or enjoying the destination where that road leads you.  Most of the time those are opposing forces and I have learned you have to do a little off-roading to building anything extraordinary today.

Exiting the highway and ascending the bumpy mountain road is what is required of a successful entrepreneur.  Some come a little more prepared, with their 4×4 trucks and their lifted chassis so they miss most of the rocks.  And some – who may be thought of as a little bit crazy – just start climbing the road with whatever vehicle they might be in at the time.  Yet it is these people, who may not have the luxury of a large 4×4, who learn to become the greatest navigators of the bumpy roads.

But in the end, it really doesn’t matter what vehicle you took to get to the top.  Getting to the top, reaching your destination, is the only thing that matters.  The view is worth the work and trouble of it all.  The satisfaction of choosing the bumpy road – doing something most people don’t  – overrides all the pain and challenge one experiences through it all.

Which road are you choosing?

The Road Ahead

I have often said being an entrepreneur feels like you are a circus clown on a unicycle, riding on a tightrope and juggling 5 different things at the same time.

Yep, that’s pretty much what I am doing right about now and it feels a bit crazy.  My hope is that it settles down a bit as we get these things in motion.

Below is a glimpse into the road(s) I am looking down right now and if all goes as planned it will be most of my career focus.  They might be general – on purpose – but they are the trends of the next 20 years and industries I am both interested in and feel are at inflection points historically.

Payments – mobile and otherwise

road

Most of you know I have been in the mobile payment space for a few years now.  Our first try with Seconds payments didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped.  BUT, we learned something really valuable – remote mobile payment/billing is going to be huge.

We learned this from realizing the act of forcing someone to make a payment with their mobile device while standing in line at a coffee shop/target/local market/etc actually takes more time and is more complicated than giving cash or card.  The end solution just has to save all parties valuable time.  It will be years before this becomes commonplace and who knows how much it will take (billions invested) to make it happen.

But, you know all those letters you received (or still receive) from utility companies, munipalities and other entities basically telling you 1) here’s the total you owe and 2) here’s where you send the check or 3) log in at this url to pay?  Well, we can save people a lot of time and hassle with a new direct mobile billing experience.  That can all be achieved by a simple notification on your mobile device informing you of a balance due, should you opt into receiving it.  And with your payment credentials already in the system all you need to do is simply respond with “pay” and it’s all taken care of.   Business gets paid, consumers account is cleared, no re-entering payment credentials… Simple.

Yep, we got that in the pipeline.

Cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin

Since I am in the payment/financial space I have been watching the rise of Bitcoin for some time now.  It’s very interesting to say the least and everyone has an opinion.

Here’s mine: the world needs a new mechanism for payments to flow around the world and Bitcoin feels like it’s the one.  As both a currency and a technology, it will not only transform money as we know it is but also its place within this new digital/mobile/worldwide economy.  As a speculative commodity, no one knows if the value will hold ($500), massively increase ($100k) or completely tank ($1).  We’ll have to see, but my guess is that its value will not be the greatest impact Bitcoin will have on our world.  As for regulation, the government will have to figure out how to play nice and guide it towards positive impact on our country and world.  I don’t see it completely taking the role of the U.S. dollar so I think that argument is flawed and used politically to take a side, similar to the silly spat between Republicans and Democrats in this country.

So please remember today’s incarnation of Bitcoin will not be tomorrow’s…  merely turning your head and shushing the noise is the wrong answer.  Just as there were many naysayers in 1994 and 1995 about the web, we are seeing something truly transformative take shape and I don’t want to look back in 10-20 years and kick myself for not getting involved in the movement.

That being said, yep…. the road also includes some things around Bitcoin.  It should be an interesting year.

Internet of Things – API’s of life

Another interesting phenomenon starting to take shape is the so-called Internet of Things.  I am not sure I like that term but we’ll agree it means a world where everything is “smart” and “connected” to everything else via the web and sensors.  Just imagine what can be automated or programmed when devices and objects – previously “dumb” and non-economic actors in our world (tables, chairs, driveways, houses, bikes, cars, etc…) are brought online and provided an identity.  Then include an economic identity (hhmm like using something like bitcoin…. now are you are starting to get it?) and allow humans to communicate with and pay and be paid by machines.  The possibilities are endless.

Even more basic is the ability to start automating things in your life.  If you have heard of IFTTT (If This, Than That) you know what I am talking about.  Basically, it means you can set triggers in the world, that when activated, will result in an action you previously determined.   These triggers are offered by various web based components in the form of API’s (Application Programming Interface) which allows you to tap into and easily integrate with other technologies.  For example, if I leave the house (known because my GPS on my mobile) then lower the temperature in my house by 5 degrees.   If Bitcoin falls below a certain price ($300), purchase X more for me.  You get the picture.

Yep, something like that’s in the works as well.

Health Technology – Wearable devices

An amazing area for innovation using connected and wearable technologies is health care.  We are wondering what is possible once people wear something(s) that are able to monitor and collect up to the second data regarding our vital heath?

Given my background in health I am immensely interested in the future of preventative health tracking, and we are in the process of laying out our first attempt at it.  Imagine wearing a small device that, when it senses a certain vital sign has fallen out of the standard deviation for this specific individual, sends a notification to family and medial team with actionable instructions?  Imagine how many heart attacks could be prevented if we knew the second someone was “about to go there”?  Now, I know this vision could collide with the scary notion of Big Brother NSA, but I have a feeling the pendulum will swing back toward a better equilibrium of personal safety and information security.

Yes, although it might be a bit on the horizon this is down the road for me as well.

Content Creation – Founders RAW

The last one is video.  We are starting to see more online video created and watched each day, month and year.   And it’s easier than ever to create and distribute video, especially through social media.  I intent on continuing my work on Founders RAW and experimenting with online media.   Founders RAW is a great playground, since it falls inline with entrepreneurship and founding of technology companies.  My goal is to continue to talk to founders and put out high quality content for all of us to enjoy and benefit from.  It will be interesting to see how content and video grows from here, how we all can take part in it.

So there you have it.

If you are tired from simply reading it, how do you think I feel?  My mind is spinning with all these possibilities and opportunities.  While it may seem like I have some random form of ADD (might be true) it’s more like all these opportunities came to me in the last few months.  Some are being built as we speak.  Some are on their way.  Some are in brainstorming and prototyping stages.  Some might not make it into production, but all are well thought out and well positioned to become something great in the future.  I hope to be a part of them all.

It’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.

Image by Flickr user oatsy40.

Making Entrepreneurship An Infectious Cultural Disease

You have no idea how bad I want you to catch this disease.

We usually have a negative connotation to the word disease, but not in this instance. I believe entrepreneurship is a disease – albeit a good one – that can positively affect entire societies.

I recently ran across this statement on PandoDaily and it sums up how I feel about entrepreneurship:

cells

I believe the key to creating a new Silicon Valley is to make entrepreneurship a cultural and societal norm for the region you’re trying to affect. Once it becomes a norm, it spreads like an infectious disease. If you believe entrepreneurship is what’s expected of you, it’s highly probable you’ll go after it regardless of how many VCs are nearby or whether or not there’s a local tech happy hour.


More and more often I am reading articles touching on a new norm in our society – college grads and people looking for jobs should prepare for a life of ‘temporary jobs” “part-time positions” and “a lifetime of ever changing job markets.”

Sounds promising, huh?

If you are a life long employee this is not good news. The traditional employee mentality will not cut it anymore.

But if you are an entrepreneur, or someone who views the world as a multitude of opportunities just waiting to be jumped on, you are embracing the times like there’s no tomorrow. You know that like it or not, your future is 100% dependent on you and you alone. The world is now your oyster and it requires you to think more like an entrepreneur than ever before.

So how do we spread the entrepreneurship mentality like a disease?

1) Education

There was a time when jobs were secured and a lifetime in one profession or trade was the societal norm. Times have changed, yet we are still educating our children with the assumption they will have one job when we should be preparing them for a life of uncertainty. We need to adequately educate them on how to evaluate markets, find problems, build solutions and market services to the masses. We also need to prepare them for failure, and how to appropriately navigate around it when it inevitably hits.

Formal education such as Entrepreneurship courses and qualified majors are starting to pop up at universities around the country. This is a great first step but not at all good enough. I am encouraged with the movement of accelerators and incubators in the technology space, such as Founders Institute (which I experienced in 2011) as well as YCombinator, TechStars, 500 Startups and many others. Although great organizations, the challenge with these is the fact that they put the cart before the horse at the expense of many would be founders. One must enter pitching their product/service idea, already have a highly talented team, and previous successful experience in-so-much that they can pass the admittance interview. Unfortunately, it’s easier to get into Harvard than it is to get into YCombinator.

What about those who are too early in the process to gain acceptance to these elite programs? I believe entrepreneurship needs to bleed deeper into our society, influencing our youth at an earlier age. Hopefully, junior high and high schools will start to focus on entrepreneurship just as we previously focused on wood shop and auto shop. Also, more media attention and resources can help permeate the spread of the disease. This is where resources like Founders RAW (selfish plug), Under30CEO, Coursera, Udacity, entrepreneur.com and others must continue to focus on educating the early stage founder on a daily basis and in an easy to access virtual environment.

2) Publicity

The stories need to be told. People need to be able to learn about other founders and realize these successful people are no different than the rest of us. Yet, I see a disturbing problem creating an unfortunately negative influence on our society. The stories of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg have become folklore to the point where they are unrelatable to the common man. The story of a Harvard dropout becoming a billionaire doesn’t help most people who are just trying to get to the next level in their newly started company.

The reason is we tend to compare ourselves to the other people, so stories about a billionaire doesn’t necessarily help a college grad taking their first step in creating their own startup. They need to hear realistic and relatable stories from people closer to their viewpoint of society. We need to do a better job of showcasing and publicizing early stage founders stories. We need to celebrate smaller wins, rather than wait till a founders sells their company for hundreds of millions of dollars. Again, this is one of the primary reasons we are starting Founders RAW, to share the truth about entrepreneurship and illustrate how founders can be relatable to others wanting to start their own business.

3) Events

Startup events like meetups, sponsored events and weekend gatherings are paramount to community engagement. We need more! The already established startup community needs to be able to open their arms to newbes who are shy or unwilling to open up in new environments.

Why? These are the places where people can get acquainted with their local startup communities, where they can meet other founders face to face, and possibly even meet their next co-founders. Also, events like Hackathons are a great way to grease the wheels of creativity, sometimes these are seminal events where an individual hatches first project. More events create more connections, which create more opportunities for innovation.

Encouraging entrepreneurship is great, but simple encouragement misses the point. We need to infect our family, friends and neighbors with the “go getta” disease if we are to survive the next century in the U.S.

Have We Lost Our Humanity By Using Technology?

Below is a snippet from my new book The Agony and Ecstasy of Entrepreneurship, available now on Amazon and HyperInk.

Agony and Ecstacy of EntrepreneurshipA few recent experiences have spurred my thinking on the subject of humanity vs technology. Some of this will seem inevitable and some of it will seem common sense to you. Some of it might even go against the grain of what you are currently working on right now. My purpose is to get you thinking about how you go about your life using technology—by yourself and around others.

I am not sure if it’s just me, but I feel we are starting the upswing on what will be viewed as the turning point in our society. We will never have a “slower” life than we do today. Cell phones allowing us to talk to and message anyone in the world was just the beginning of this movement. Now, we have really powerful mobile computers in our pockets that basically bring the entire world to us—instantly—with a touch of a finger. In a not so distant future we will be wearing these computers on our wrists (I hope not) or our faces with such innovations like Google Glass. Will brain implants one day do away with any device or hardware required to access all the worlds information?

Fashion faux pas aside, I think these technical advancements are inevitable yet at the same time very scary.

What seems to bother me is what will happen to our humanity as all these technical advancements come into our lives. We already deal with the quick “phone, text and email check” at the dinner table or during a conversation with someone else.

Is it lost on our society that this action is actually quite rude to the other person you are sitting with? I know I am guilty of frequently swiping my iPhone and seeing what I missed over the last five or ten minutes. In reality, it simply says to the other person, “you are not very important to me and I am wondering what other bits of information I can quickly scan to keep my attention.”

What will happen when we wear a pair of glasses with a screen ever-present right in front of us?

I am afraid we, as a society, are not prepared for this use of technology. Sociologically, we are trained to observe people and gauge them via non-verbal cues as to how we are connecting with them. Are they threatened, scared, turned on, tuned out, distracted, interested, etc. The human eyes/mind/body instantly calculates these millions of inputs and tells us what is going on within this specific human interaction. We live our lives on non-verbal human cues.

Want to read more?  Buy the ebook today >