Ode To Colorado

For Purple Mountain Majesties
Above the fruited plane

– America The Beautiful

It’s been about a month since I left Colorado and I wanted to reflect on the things that I miss the most about Colorado and Boulder in particular. It is one of the most beautiful and amazing places that I’ve ever been, it was home for longer than nearly every place besides the city in which I grew up. So without further ado, let’s get into a top ten 15 list:

1 – People – After traveling for years, being in one place showed me the power of really deep relationships. I’ve formed friendships that will last the rest of my life with people who I can be myself with and who inspire happiness. You know who you are.

2 – Access to the backcountry – It’s no secret that the outdoors is my main jam, it’s my haven away from the intensity with which I live. The stress just melts away, and no where else has quite the same backcountry access (while still maintaining an awesome city life) as Boulder. Having a bad day, it’s about as easy to get away as it is to get to Brooklyn from Manhattan. Maybe easier.

3 – Cool mornings & evenings – Mmmmm, so nice to wake up to cool mountain air.

4 – Sunny days – All 300+ of them per year.

5 – The 2 main emotions of mountain biking (terrified and exhausted) – Actually, you can say that about a lot of the sports that I like, and Colorado boasts.

6 – Small mountain towns – There is something intoxicating about the atmosphere of a Colorado mountain town that is hard to explain. It’s not just the pot.

7 – Learning to love Blue Grass music

8 – Good food – I’m not just talking about how it tastes

9 – Commuting by bike without true existential fear of dying in a horrible motor vehicle accident

10 – Competitive nature of people – Only in Boulder can you be pushing yourself to run up a mountain at your top speed only to be passed by a 13yr old girl or a 75yr old guy.

11 – I usually hate homogenous communities, but Boulder’s self selects for my human personality Kryptonite (adventurous, smart, successful)

12 – Hike meetings –

13 – Hike dates

14 – Nearly every moment is photogenic – Thanks to Instagram I relive the beauty, and foster jealousy, everyday.

15 – Being able to work outside in the middle of town (not even close to possible in NYC) – Ah conference room park 🙂

There are more reasons, but my nostalgia has been satisfied, for now.

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Ode To Colorado

Who Makes The Money in 3D Printing

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

– Sun Tzu (Art of War)

In my vision of the future, the world of manufacturing is optimized for geography rather than labor cost. In addition to in-home systems, there will also be a network of local manufacturing facilities (think Kinkos) with high end machines and trained staff. Manufacturing is one of the world’s largest industries and this shift will be seismic, disrupting traditional supply chains and opening up new business opportunities.

The question for the entrepreneurs is what part of the industry to be in and which will take the lionshare of the profits. It’s a complex question which I’m still working out in my own head. Here are some of the different models and my thoughts on each:

  1. Equipment manufacturers – How do the patent portfolios of the established players inhibit the market for new entrants? Are there new technologies that emerge that surpass the capabilities of patented technologies?
  2. Raw material suppliers – How will demand for new raw materials shift the market and distribution for commodities. Will it create new commodities?
  3. Equipment repair services – Service contracts for independent manufacturing facilities and home systems. This would likely look a lot like the classic service contracts that GE Aviation and Energy sell as add-ons to their systems. GE Energy and Aviation built their businesses by selling the machines at cost and profiting on long-term service contracts and financing deals. Will today’s equipment manufacturers monopolize this market or will there be space for 3rd parties to provide services?
  4. Equipment financiers – Will the current manufacturers offer in-house financing or be content letting a 3rd party lender (or many lenders) into the space. Personally I think they’ll create preferential partners in order to remain focused on their core competency in a fast moving space.
  5. Outsourced manufacturers (distributed versions of Foxconn) – Margins are razor thin for contract manufacturers already, will that change in the 3D printed era? If this is a game of sheer volume and efficiency you’ll need to get into the game before an Amazon (Shapeways?) monopolizes it and their efficiencies of scale are insurmountable.
  6. Real estate holdings – Will there be a resurgence in prices for industrial zoned property?
  7. Workflow software – Software packages that run the manufacturing facilities workflow that is optimized for large runs of unique products going to unique places.
  8. Glue – There will be a software layer that sits between product companies and makers and the facilities that produce their items. There is no use in a digital supply chain if the communication process is still manual!

With the market in its infancy and growing 12x over the next decade, it’s the right time to entrepreneur’s to be thinking about these different models. Some of these businesses aren’t executable until the market is more developed, so the real question is how do you build something now that is profitable and be in the right place to profit as the market evolves. Feel free to reach out to me if you have some thoughts or want to talk about these ideas.

Who Makes The Money in 3D Printing

Mentorship Isn’t Just For Accelerators

Here’s a thou’ (Jay-Z)
A G? I ride with you for free
I want the long-term riches (Memphis Bleek)

Jay-Z & Memphis Bleek (Coming of Age)

If you follow no other advice about startups, follow the advice about finding mentors. It is the single most important thing you can do for your company’s success, your own personal growth and most importantly for your mental health. The minute you start a company your signing up for a ride on Space Mountain, a roller coaster that is in complete darkness. As tough as you are, as smart as you are, dealing with this level of stress and uncertainty is not natural and you need support. The kind of support you’ll want comes from those that have been through the startup grinder before and have come out on the other end intact.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have some truly amazing individuals helping us through the ups and downs. They give selflessly simply to give back to the community that has given to them. I wanted to briefly thank a few of them now:

Tom Higley – You have been through seemingly every situation a startup can go through. Your thoughtfulness, strategic thinking and kindness never ceases to amaze me. Thank you.

David Mandell – We literally would not have been able to create a brand without you. Your creativity, eloquence and understanding of what drives decision making is truly special. Thank you. P.S. I’m so incredibly excited for Pivot Desk!

Holly Hamann – You helped us understand “what women want” and taught us what influencer marketing is all about. Thank you.

Jake Nickel – At the very beginning you told us “it’s all about the community”. The company’s entire model is based on that. Just like your website says, you are one of the “coolest guys on earth”. Thank you.

Mentorship Isn’t Just For Accelerators

What’s Entrepreneurial Resilience?

What’s beef? Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep
Beef is when your moms ain’t safe up in the streets
What’s beef? Beef is when you make your enemies start your Jeep

– Notorious BIG (What’s Beef)

They say that all learning and growth comes from “the struggle” but the the vast majority of things I read are about seemingly overnight successes. Over the last few years I’ve come across so many stories of resilience, struggle and growth in my entrepreneurial friends and I wanted to share a few of them. This is for all of you out there, waist deep in shit, trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents and looking for some inspiration.

What’s resilience? Resilience is keeping your business running after your partner, and close friend, steals all of your company’s investment money.

What’s resilience? Resilience is being forced out of your company because the sale you proposed to the board wasn’t enough of a return for the investors. Resilience is watching the company go bankrupt and still starting 5 more companies.

What’s resilience? Resilience is your corporate job offer being rescinded after a short pre-job vacation. Resilience is starting and selling your own company 4 years later.

What’s resilience? Resilience is being turned down by 45 Venture Capital firms and other investors only to watch another team replicate your product idea and sell for >$100M.

What’s resilience? Resilience is watching one of your companies sell for far less than the initial investment, being sued by your business partner and starting yet another company.

Share other short stories of resilience in the comments and then go kick some ass.

What’s Entrepreneurial Resilience?

Does the CO tech explosion resemble the GoldRush?

This weekend I saw a sign from the Goldrush era in Colorado. The language extolling the virtues of buying land for “profitable exploration” instantly resembled the sales copy I’ve come to recognize on websites.  I wondered if we [tech startups] were living the modern day version. I set out to research and determine what, if any, were the similarities and differences between 1859 and 2009.

Gold Rush Mining
Prospecting for Gold

Let’s start with some facts. The Colorado Gold Rush was set-off in 1859 by the discovery of gold in what is today Denver’s Confluence Park. The news, coming out roughly 10 years after the California Gold Rush, set off a stampede of prospective miners from across the plains. The towns of Boulder, Golden and Denver sprung up to serve the booming mining operations across the front range. In total, 21 million ounces of gold were mined from Colorado between 1859 and 1861, more than the combined total of both the California and Alaska rushes earlier in the century. In addition to making individual prospectors rich, it provided lucrative jobs for those who didn’t want to risk it on their own and lead to the development of significant infrastructure investments. This included rail links, highways, farming operations and a booming tourism business.

In the common conscience, including mine, a Goldrush is an irrational search for a quick fortune. Not a laudable endeavor. The result, however, is that a single 2 year period in Colorado transformed a largely uninhabited part of the country into a well connected economic hub and set it up for a century of rapid population growth.  Us Boulderites love our town, and it wouldn’t exist as it is if it weren’t for the Gold Rush.

The reasons people have moved to Colorado to start technology companies are very different. The most frequent reason people give for moving here is lifestyle. Starting a business is hard work, but is also fun and engages people’s passions.  The startup community consists of passionate people living their life to the fullest.  The type of startups moving to Boulder during what I want to call the Startup Explosion are not the Gold Rush people blindly seeking wealth.  They are smart, confident, adventurous and looking for a community where they belong and that can help them accumulate wealth and a reputation.  These are people who can have, and largely already have had, top-notch jobs elsewhere.

Clearly the human factors aren’t the same as the Gold Rush.  The outcomes, however, are exactly the same.  The influx of new companies has led to a large service and infrastructure expansion.  200 years ago it was the creation of railroads, highways and cities. Today its VC firms, incubators, law resources and potentially Google Fiber *cross my fingers*.

So does the tech explosion resemble the GoldRush?  Kinda.  It has the same influx of resources and expansion of infrastructure, but it lacks the irrational underpinnings of the Gold Diggers.  While people left their homes for fortune during the Gold Rush, more than 150 years later people are moving for the startup infrastructure, mentors and lifestyle.

Does the CO tech explosion resemble the GoldRush?

The 7 rap rhymes that every entrepreneur should know.

I love listening to rap and hip-hop. The beats are great and the lyrics, while crude, often speak to the entrepreneurial “make something of yourself” story line that I admire. Clearly this isn’t true about all rap artists, and I actually have a problem with a lot of newer mainstream work, but this is certainly true about my old favorites like the Notorious B.I.G and 2Pac.  Yesterday was the anniversary of 2Pac’s death, so it seems like a good time to pull out some insights from a few of my favorite rap lyrics.

1. Mo money, mo problems (Notorious B.I.G.) – The idea that money equals success is very ingrained in the American psyche. Biggie understood, and spoke often, about the differences he felt between his impoverished upbringing and more recent wealth. It is clear that issues of loneliness, trust of others and freedom of movement were among the downsides of having money.  He is not saying greed isn’t good, but he is cautioning about allowing success to change the person that you are and that got you that success in the first place. Listen to this line

2. I don’t mean to sound sleazy, but tease me, I don’t want it if it’s that easy (2Pac) – For many of us, the feeling of accomplishment comes from stretching ourselves. This is as true when doing an alpine ascent as it is when building a business. Being an entrepreneur, or hustler in rap parlance, means that nothing is handed to to you on a silver platter. It does take hard work, risk and resilience to succeed but that is what makes the ultimate success so sweet. Listen to this line

3. Now I can let these dream killers kill my self esteem-or use my arrogance as steam to power my dreams (Kanye West) – There is nothing that puts me in overdrive like someone telling me that I can’t do something. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, and being confident enough to take the big swings when it feels right is important. Listen to this line

4. No man alive has ever witnessed struggles I survived (2pac) – This one has special meaning to me. Whenever I hear this line, I think of my grandparents who both survived Auschwitz. If they can make it through that hell, rebuild their lives and raise two successful children, what everyday obstacles can’t I get through? The thought of my grandfather’s smiling face is quite literally the image I concentrate on when I’m trying to overcome large obstacles like a mountain peak or calm down before an important presentation. Listen to this line

5. Will Smith don’t got to cuss in his raps to sell records – well I do, so f*** him and f*** you too (Eminem) – It sounds crude, but it has a good point. Every brand has its own target market. It’s better to be true to your core fans and personality than try to be everything to everybody. Listen to this line

6. Don’t speak to fools, they scorn the wisdom of your words (NAS) – I include this lyric because I actually think NAS is wrong. The fact is that smart people are the ones who are listening. Even “fools” have valuable information to share; you just need to listen hard enough.

7. Stay far from timid, only make moves when your heart’s in it, and live the phrase “the sky’s the limit” (Notorious B.I.G) – How many people never take a risk to achieve their dreams? The best entrepreneurs, like the best poker players, understand when to put all the chips on the table. Listen to this line

The rappers that I’ve mentioned above are entrepreneurs and their stories of overcoming adversity, believing in themselves and taking big swings are lessons many of us can learn from.  While they grew up under different conditions, the concepts, the motivations, and the passions are the same. Do you have any favorite lines?  Use the comment box to share them with us.

The 7 rap rhymes that every entrepreneur should know.