Monday, June 28, 2010


I lived for in England from 1982-1989. Formative years, where I fell in love with English football, the teams, tradition, and national team.

My boys - 10 and 8 - wear EPL jerseys most days to school and Sunday nights are reserved for the EPL game of the week and top highlights. The backyard holds two goals and a daily game where the boys pretend to be Rooney, Lampard, or Gerrard.

Imagine then the shock and confusion when their EPL idols went out not like the 3 Lions but rather like the 3 lambs.

Tears were spilled as they processed the 4-1 pasting by the Germans and the humiliation that was England's World Cup.

All sports fans live vicariously through their teams, but this World Cup is allowing me to see the depth to which children believe in their idols and the real pain the children feel when their heroes fail to live up to expectations.

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Good luck with the end of Q2!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Instructions for Life from the Dalai Lama

I found this list today in my office - no idea where it came from, but I like it.

  1. Take into account that great love and achievements involve great risk
  2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson
  3. Follow the three R's
    1. Respect for self
    2. Respect for others
    3. Responsibility for all your actions
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly
  6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great relationship
  7. When you realize you have made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it
  8. Spend some time alone every day
  9. Open arms to change, but do not let go of your values
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you will be able to enjoy it a second time
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Do not bring up the past
  14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality
  15. Be gentle with the Earth
  16. Once a year, go someplace you have never been before
  17. Remember that the best relationship is the one with  yourself
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon

Friday, June 11, 2010

Iteration and the Start-up Path

Mark Gainey, the founder of KANA, once told me that the hardest part of the entrepreneurial journey is the first step. But that once begun, the journey takes on a life of its own.

The journey opens up into an endless series of forks in the road, where each fork taken provides new context, learnings, and guidance.  Each fork provides both a new direction and momentum with which to carry the company and team on wards. If you listen to experience start-up people, they emit a wisdom and authenticity that comes from that journey - for it is a humbling one full of challenge and challenges overcome by tenacity, hard work, and a healthy dose of luck.

Since, I have been at Widgetbox, we have evolved into a market focus and set of product offerings that I could have never predicted on my first day on the job. What began as a widget platform, is now powering ad units for the world's largest brands and publishers. In addition, HTML5 has opened up an entirely new market opportunity for our widgetserver runtime and platform.  The ability to pivot, to make decisions based on the market's guidance, and the insights that come from iteration are fundamental.

Great ideas are a function of context - white boards do not allow for great ideas, rather great ideas and insights require a gestation period of months and develop over a series of small moments - rejection, minor tweaks, and finally clarity and insight emerge as the product evolves to fit the market need.  Importantly, the particular nature of a start-ups journey makes it hard for others to follow and gives rise to the myth of overnight success when all of a sudden the company meets the market need far ahead of the competition.

While a certain direction needs to be set a priori - the strawman is simply that - an early hypothesis that brings resources together - both human and financial capital. Then the market takes over and the process of learning begins.

My journey required an ability, uncomfortable for me, to live with ambiguity - to trust in the team to walk the journey together - not always certain of the final destination but confident that we had the flexibility and determination to orient to a good place over time - one step at a time.

Moreover, the early uncertainty fades as the market opportunity is better characterized and understood and the early conviction becomes steeled by a certainty that the company is right and onto something great!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Comments on Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

This animated video of Dan Plink's RSA talk is extremely interesting.

Key argument: after a certain level of income, we are no longer motivated by purely financial gain. He argues that financial incentives work best for piece meal work - ie bonus tied to how many widgets are made per time period.

But for knowledge workers, science shows that financial incentives alone do not lead to higher performance.

What does?

  1. Autonomy - self directed work
  2. Mastery - challenge and the desire to master a domain
  3. Purpose - making a contribution to a transcendant goal

Fascinating food for thought and given that the tech industry is comprised of knowledge workers - very instructive with respect to organizational behavior.