Seven Lessons from a 2-Year Old Startup

Been a minute since my last post. For the past couple of years I’ve been heads-down building KITE from pre-seed to viable business. Today is our second-anniversarytwo from incorporating, so I thought it might be helpful to share some learnings for fellow entrepreneurs and those pursuing innovation in their businesses. Continue reading

Impressions from TechCrunch SF Hackathon Part 2

TechCrunch hosted a hackathon before the 2012 TechCrunch Disrupt in SF this weekend.  Part one of this post deals with Hackathon logistics and presentations; Part 2 will be some quick thoughts on some of the ideas presented. Here are some of the overall impressions followed by tweet-length reactions to the 60-second presentations. You can see all the demos here and the top winners with videos and pics are available here. Continue reading

Impressions from TechCrunch SF 2012 Hackathon Part 1

TechCrunch hosted a hackathon before the 2012 TechCrunch Disrupt in SF this weekend. Wanted to push out some quick impressions for both the companies that demo at Hackathons as those looking to host/participate in future hacks. Part one of this post deals with Hackathon logistics and presentations; Part 2 will be some quick thoughts on some of the ideas presented.

Some basic rules/tactics to cover off at a minimum:

  • If you have 60-seconds on stage do ALL the boring stuff before you get on stage—that means set up monitor for mirroring. Clear cache, have everything demo-ready
  • Limit to 2-people per hack to minimize congestion; and really for 60-seconds you should only have one presenter unless you’ve got a role for each of the other folks on stage
  • Make an impression–Display stickers so #is visible in video/pics w/Name for judging b/c sometimes names get confused, presentations jump out of order & stuff happens
  • Make a lasting impression–don’t hack until you get on stage; leave at least an hour to run through and refine your main talking points, places for humor or impact and repetition of your name/solution/problem you’re solving
  • Demo your app first 
  • List apis/technologies used quickly at the beginning or in the end w/credits to thank the amazing resources that helped you get there, but don’t sell them as a differentiator or key feature. It shouldn’t be last thing people hear/remember, but please give credit where credit’s due; plus you’re more likely to win API-specific prizes if you give the shout-out
  • Have your presentation flow tightly choreographed between screens, server-calls, etc. Know which ones take longest and which will cut out if WiFi isn’t working (which is likely b/c everyone’s on it or blocking good signals w/their mifi networks). Consider cut/paste options and other shortcuts if involved input is required.


  • Don’t trust the tech–we’re still in a “can you hear me now” world even at the best-prepared/run events
  • Don’t get lost in the features and forget to share the idea (tough b/c you’ve just spent 24 sleepless hours in feature analysis/focus land)
  • If fast pitching, consider having 2-3 podiums vs 1 table. Understand it means you need more Elmos, etc. to make that work. Would allow pitch bug delays to be minimized and feature the work
  • Focus on pitch, not on the screen—distractions lead to disjointed delivery
  • It’s a marathon & you win by getting it past the finish line–many of the presenters acted like just being on stage was the finish line; it’s not. You need to close FTW
  • Keep going until they kick you off
  • Sponsor apps get more time to present/fail
  • Native language presenters aren’t necessarily the best presenters—go with the most entertaining b/c even if the demo sucks they’ll still remember you—but if you can have both, it’s better b/c you’re usually trying to convey some complex thoughts into a simple story
  • If you’re on a team, don’t lean over and tell the presenter they only have 20-seconds left—distracting & it’s conf organizer’s job to manage anyway—like a coach; your job is done when they go on the field.

And, if you’d like to see a well-run Hackathon recap, enjoy the Big Brand Hackathon we hosted earlier this year with Kraft Foods and The Home Depot:

Rant: Responsive Design vs. Mobile First

Not only are people behaving differently on mobiles than desktops, they’re also expecting different responses. eMarketer’s July 2012 Mobile Roundup notes that “the shift toward immediate ‘just in time’ information access means that marketers and content providers must meet demands for mobile-optimized content.”  Responsive design has been the answer so far to multimodal users seeking immediately relevant, actionable, utilizable content.

It’s considered by many as a great achievement in website development but if you want my take, responsive design is most often the euphemism for stretching production so that, at best, the website won’t look broken or just ugly on smartphones and other devices. I’d argue that when you don’t develop specifically for mobile, that is, when you try to take web and artifact it into mobile rather than the other way around, you fail to fully leverage the platform. In short, you fail to win. I expect a lot of TL:DR at this point, but stick with me to follow the argument. Continue reading

Weekly Roundup 8/7/12

Last week’s focus turned an eye to finding your tech-soul and investing in others as they find theirs:

Next week’s round up will include impressions from the 2012 Mobile Media Summit and Un$exy conferences in Chicago and Silicon Valley respectively this week.  Check out the hashtags at #mobilemediasummit and #unsexy in the meantime. Note–the #unsexy hashtag may include an interesting NSFW mix so review at your own risk. 🙂

Weekly Roundup July 23-27, 2012

Let the games begin. A look at the Olympics consumption in the era of social and mobile:

  • A breakdown of NBC’s complete social and digital Olympic coverage
  • NBC & Facebook second-screen partnership: data from Facebook Talk Meter reflected in broadcast 
  • NBC partners with Twitter with Olympic Twitter Tracker with tracking done via official Olympic page launch, aggregating content on the #Olympics event page from Olympians, @NBCOlympics, @Olympics (IOC), @USOlympic (USOC)
  • GE sponsors Olympic Twitter Tracker on and creates #healthyshare to focus human and athlete health insights
  • Despite extensive on and offline coverage, NBC still requires proof of subscription to access livestreams. Here’s how unplugged users adapt with crowd-sourced answers.
  • As we see NBC’s strategy to drive viewership and interest, here’s a recap of SocialTV on SlideShare, and voice over below:

Continue reading

SocialTV and Emerging Platforms Overview

SocialTV-the return of the family room?I was invited to speak to Hollywood marketing executives on June 26, 2012 at the iMedia Entertainment Summit by Brad Berens and Nancy Galanty of DMG Events. The initial request was for an overview of up and coming along with more established companies in the SocialTV space. I’m far more interested in emerging platforms than the individual companies, although I admire and enjoy the entrepreneurship, vision and camaraderie of their leaders. As an angel investor or strategic partner I might invest capital or resources in the individual company, but in my agency role I’m infinitely more interested in the convergence of technologies and consumer trends that launch new behaviors and platforms into popular culture. As a result, I framed the presentation this way:

  • Overview/Intro/Definition
  • Underlying influences and market dynamics that make SocialTV compelling
  • Proposed a spectrum of engagement models for nascent, volatile and emerging platforms like SocialTV
Some key take aways:
  • SocialTV may become the new normal for consuming video versus a discrete space–the term “SocialTV” may go away
  • Almost 90% Tablet & Smartphone Owners Use Devices While Watching TVAccording to Nielsen’s Q1 2012 report almost 90% of Smartphone and Tablet owners use their devices while watching TV; about 40% do so daily and over 60% do so several times a week. Conclusion: you can’t talk about SocialTV without the context of mobile which is where the greatest innovation will happen outside of the box
  • SocialTV is currently comprised of content discovery and companion apps–think a better remote control or check-in and chatter–as well as analytics applied around TV content
  • There are dozens if not hundreds of companies chipping away at pieces of this space but only a few are top-of-mind brands–Miso, Get Glue, IntoNow, Viggle, TrendRR, Bluefin and a few network offerings were like USA Chatter and HBOGo–mentioned at the conference of Hollywood insiders and Execs
  • There’s a lot of interest in this space as it represents massive potential shifts in consumer and advertising revenues for Hollywood, marketers, SocialMedia companies along with emerging players able to capitalize on the expanding ecosystem
  • For consumers, the opportunity to engage with families, friends and networks may unlock the social aspects of SocialTV and usher in the return from our Entertainment or TV room to the Family Room
Below is the slideware prepared for the presentation, followed by the video which has much more nuance and information with some reference links to close this post:

Slides with voiceover:

Curated links in preparation for the presentation:

Special thanks to Nielsen along with Adam Broitman, Adam Burg, Mark Ghuneim, Jeff Minsky and Lori Schwartz for their input and advice informing the presentation.

Big Brand Panel for Social-Loco Conference

I had the honor of moderating the Big Brand Panel at Social-Loco Conference in San Francisco June 18, 2012 featuring: Michael Hammer, Director of Venture Capital Strategy for PepsiCo; Jon Paluga, Vice President Marketing for Armored AutoGroup; Fred Neil, Vice President of CRM for The Home Depot. The panel covered a range of topics from: SoLoMo and regional brand engagements that sit under big brand programs; Big Brand Hackathons; Acquisitions for big brands of tech companies and more. Transcript via follows the video:

Continue reading

Ron Conway, Another Reason Why The Valley Rocks

I love discovering these moments in time preserved on YouTube: here’s All Things D‘s Kara Swisher interviewing legendary Valley Angel, Ron Conway in 2008. At that time Facebook had a whopping 22 million users–about the number of people they acquire each quarter now by conservative estimates.

Kara: What’s hot?

Ron: Social Networking.

Kara: Not just a hyped trend?

Ron: Absolutely not.

Ron’s been right about a lot of things, including his steadfast belief in the value and wealth creation of the internet, in entrepreneurs and the intersection of Tech, Popular Culture and media. Here’s a great article about Ron in Fortune Magazine where Twitter’s Biz Stone coins the term “Rontourage” for the circle of influential people following him on valley tours.

I remember a different kind of Rontourage when I was young. As an altar boy in 7th & 8th grade at Nativity Church in Menlo Park, I recall services where Ron and his dozen brothers, sisters and other family members spilled out of the last row. Ron and a few of his brothers would stand behind a full Conway pew, hand on their mother’s shoulder. It was clear the importance family, community and faith held for each of them.

If I sound like a fan, I’m being clear. I’ve know entrepreneurs that will attest to the spirit of the Fortune article and are fans as well. Ron’s an example of what makes the Valley great. He’s another reason why no where else has replicated the success of the Valley in infrastructure, performance and value creation.

Inspired by Steve Jobs

Everyone who had the good fortune to work at or around Apple has a “Steve Jobs Story.” After Steve resigned as Apple’s CEO on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 there was a flood of “Steve Jobs Stories.” Some really good ones; I encourage you to search and find them. At that time I wondered if his eulogy was already written in those days following his resignation.

His eulogy hadn’t been written–that reaction to his resignation was the tip of the iceberg. Even more stories with an outpouring of support, grief, love and admiration poured out online and in the mainstream news as we all learned of Steve passing on Wednesday, October 5th. Personally, I got choked up explaining to my children what he meant to me personally and to us as region, country and world. More than anything, he is and will probably always be the closest human representation of what I preach to them daily: The Power of an Idea. Carl Jung liked to quote the Chinese Master saying “a man thinking rightly alone in a room can be heard thousands of miles away.” Steve Jobs made those thoughts reality to our greater benefit.

Here’s one “Steve Jobs Story” I’ve paraphrased and likely mangled in translation that came to me from a friend. I found it inspiring and a little insightful:

My friend was going to present internal communications programs to Steve Jobs—you know, the kind of stuff you see by the elevators and in the cafeteria for large corporate campuses. He previously had success with an employee referral program that was well received, captured the culture and delivered the message. And, of course, it was beautiful. The VP, concerned they needed to convey scope in their preparation and thinking, asked for 10 different campaigns in addition to the one in place. You know the drill: panic, long-hours, ideation, preparation. Then the big day. As nearly a dozen full-designed campaigns circled the room, Steve Jobs entered the room in classic black mock tee and jeans with blown-out knees. He had a friend in tow. Without missing a beat with a dismissive sweeping arm gesture Jobs declared:


He then sat down, carried on a conversation for nearly 30-minutes with his friend about what made great culture and internal communications. At some point, Jobs mentioned something that caught his eye from past work. My friend pointed to his original campaign and Jobs nodded his approval, stood and exited the room.

What was “uninspired?” The work or the presentation format? Or too much of the same—you know how some ideas are too thin or simply deserve to die? Or a lack of conviction to narrow the selection and lead with a strong perspective? Your guess is as good as anyone’s–pls add to comments below.

So here’s to inspired work. To inspiring others. To changing the way people think when they see and interact with your work. To thinking different. To the confidence to live it. To joining in bringing a culture that inspires. Be Great.

Or as Steve quoted from Whole Earth Catalog in his now-famous Stanford commencement speech:  “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”