All posts tagged foodtree

Where I’ve Been & Where I Am

A big thanks to everyone who still finds me invading their inbox or RSS reader.

I’m going to be writing a lot more going forward, but things will change a bit. It’s like that time you told your dog she was going to the park and really you were taking her to the vet.

(Your intentions were great, by the way.)

I’ve always written extensively about my relationships on this blog in the past, and I’m not sure that will go away. I can’t really write without including the deeply personal stuff.

But…I am sure that I’m a different person than I was when this blog started. I’ve gotten into the frame of mind that nearly anything is possible if you dive in head first, learn as much as you can as fast as you can, and stay close to amazing people.

The last few years have been transformative, and I’m passionate about the role that technology plays in our lives. I need to explore that with you, and I hope that while I do that it will benefit you (no matter how much you think about tech).

As to the title of this post, I’ve been through the amazing process of being a first time startup founder. To all the people out there who’ve started businesses or hope to start one some day, I’m going to do my best to share my experience (finally).

Today, I’m working on another startup that two friends founded, hell bent on helping them turn their already measurable success into a true game changer. It’s brought me back to San Francisco, a city I adore on every level and a community I’m deeply excited to be a part of.

Going forward; moar writing.

Defining “Community Building”

I’m incredibly fortunate to be a member of a small Facebook group of thought leading “Community Builders“.

In my opinion, that term deserves quotation marks simply because it’s widely thrown around, and at this point it’s largely undefined.

I actually hate Facebook less because of this group of “Community Builders“.

It’s a group that basically comprises thoughts and questions about being a “Community Builder” or “Manager”.

It’s a discussion about managing people’s expectations, loyalty and happiness as a day job, in the context of the transparency and access that the web provides. It’s a group that’s small and intimate by design, and it’s fortunate to include people managing some of the internet’s largest communities. I would namedrop if it was appropriate but obviously it’s not.

Anyway, the subject of Community Building came up a short while ago and I wanted to repost it because it’s interestingly literal; at it’s core is a question about “Communities”…from someone who I know and respect in his approach to and respect for the “space” (another word that simply deserves quotations because it’s so awful). He’s an unsung hero of Community.

This was his question to the group:

When you’re first starting off building your community (literally a handful of people), how do you demonstrate the value you envision the community eventually creating for members?

How do you community build?

The first response was from Ryan Paugh, who embodies the undefined concept of “Community Builder” better than any written definition I’ve ever seen:

I think that trust is most important. After that, passion. After that, it’s all about fulfilling your promise so people keep coming back for more.

Which got me thinking and keeps me thinking, but this was my response:

I agree with Ryan on passion; if you’re an early member of something you’re passionate about, show it. But…there is no value to defend. A community doesn’t have value until the community decides so. That’s the misperception of community building…it’s not sales. It’s bringing people together and figuring out what they are together, and where the value is as a result of the community they appear to be building. In an early community you’re just a community member…you’re not orchestrating. You’re listening, and celebrating. As a member, you’re sharing your vision of the value that’s happening, but you’re doing that to inspire input, because in the end you don’t own the community.

What do you think?

Because I’m thinking there isn’t an answer right now.

How do you do community building?

I think my answer is that doing community building is building something new for people.

You think they’ll like it.

What’s important to the field and tools and people working at it is how you do that successfully.

Being successful and delivering incredible value for the people you’ve brought together (on and offline) is about listening to them, and letting them be who they want to be. Letting them show you what makes them happy…and then working hard to keep making them happy.

The best people I see working in “Community” are incredibly humble and dedicated to the delight and inspiration of others.

A number of them are in quiet, thankless early stages of their communities. A growing number are at the top, well known, and deliberating trying to define what it means to be great at being responsible for communities. Deliberately trying to raise the bar on the role someone plays when they’re fortunate enough to become responsible for a great community.

The best people I see working in “Community” are still debating how to do “Community”.

I like that.

I like that because I think that means that the best minds in “Community” realize that it’s not about them.

*all emphasis is mine

Teams Make It Great

I’ve had my head down lately for a few reasons, but the main one was that I’ve been beyond the point of managing the things I’m involved with alone, especially as we grow Foodtree and its community. I spend most of my time on Foodtree lately, and one of the things I wanted to avoid this year was letting 20 Something Bloggers suffer because I needed to focus my time.

This has already been an exciting year for Foodtree. We’ve just released a souped up website, signed a number of new customers, and opened an investment round. Our community of eaters, food producers, organizations and investors are all really excited about what we’re building and the collaborations we have planned are going to mean we can continue pushing forward as the world’s food map and database. Things are getting more and more exciting every day:)

There are some incredible things happening for 20 Something Bloggers. We’ve just announced our latest blogger awards, contested by hundreds of bloggers who were nominated by their peers, and voted on by hundreds more.

I’ve spoken with a lot of the leaders of communities that make the world a better place for young digital adults, including Brazen Careerist, BlogFrog, GenPink, SocialMediaClub, and numerous others which should foster exciting collaborations and continued thought leadership around improving our community. We’ll announce details on an exciting event later this year made by and made for our community members…I am so, so excited.

The thing is…my excitement as of late is mostly about the teams of people who’ve joined me to make all this great stuff work. They are an amazing group of people…everyone involved in both Foodtree and 20 Something Bloggers is involved because they believe in an idea, and they want to be a contributor to the communities we exist for.

I would be completely lost without these people.

My gratitude for everyone involved with these projects is deeper than I might wish to express in a blog post. I hope you all know how righteous I think you are.

The Foodtree Team

Maryam, Jonny and Ida have put in an incredible amount of effort these past few weeks as we executed on our vision and evolved our website. They’ve sprinted development, informed design decisions, and actively engaged our community. Their ownership of the product, company, and community is exciting validation for us founders.

You guys crack me up, put up with my rants on blogging, and always seem to have snacks. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The 20SB Team

I’ve got a five awesome teams working on 20SB. These are them, and why they rock.

The Community Team

These guys have already shown incredible dedication to making new members feel welcome and keeping their eyes and ears open around the community. They’re managing our forums, which see hundreds of posts a day. They’ve demonstrated commitment to our Social Contract and it’s wonderfully clear that they care that 20SB is the best place for bloggers to hang out.

The Events Team

One of my biggest issues in the past was organizing and launching events in our community, and these guys have already taken the reigns from me, planning upcoming events and coordinating some of the great things we do every month, like our Featured Bloggers and Staff Picks. They’ll be an integral part of this year’s offline events too, which will put our previous meetups to shame.

The Social Media Team

In a matter of days these guys had all of our social media outlets organized and got started with reaching out. They’re like a bomb exploded in our social media toolkit, and you can already see the impact. Our engagement metrics are up two-fold and every day they’re surfacing great content and conversations from within the community.  I haven’t seen initiative like this since Charlie Sheen decided he wanted to BE the story.

The Blog Editors

With particular recognition to our new Chief Editor, the blog is now in the hands of a team of insightful editors, with a deliberate mission to make Twenty Twenty, our official blog, a killer resource for young personal bloggers. I’ve always hoped for this, but been unable to get much published beyond important community announcements. Alongside expanding coverage of things like our featured members and events, they’ll be publishing guest posts from community members and resources and tips for bloggers and our wider audience.

The Biz Dev Team

The partnerships and sponsorships we get to do as a community is a testament to how great it is, and these guys make all of that work. Thinking constantly about collaborations and the various opportunities we might bring to members of 20SB is a lot easier than making those things happen, and if I didn’t have these guys working their butts off to push us forward, we’d miss out on most of the great stuff we’re going to do this year.

Founders & the Tech Guru

Special thanks always goes to Tony & Lisa, who are invested in these projects at the founding level. Neither would exist without you, and you both know that.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank Nico for his undying tech support across my digital web…to say this stuff wouldn’t exist without you is as simple as saying you’ve save my servers, and as complicated as trying to describe how incredibly selfless you are.

 

I know this seems a little like a roll call, and it says nothing of the people around these projects who cheer them on and, in many cases, support me personally.  But people give me a lot of credit for various aspects of these projects, and even more often they ask me how I ‘do‘ everything that I ‘do‘ (hint: part of it is that I don’t sleep or eat enough)…but in the end it’s that these people make these awesome things a reality, not me.

If I deserve any credit it’s that I’ve convinced these people to collaborate with me.

The greatness of a project is the greatness of its team.

Thank you all. Sincerely.

Naturally, My Blog Would Crash This Week

There’s at least a few reasons that this week my blog would crash, and all of them are related to the fact that one of my closest friends growing ups carries the last name Murphy and I am subject to his Law.

Not only am I writing posts for REVERB10 but let’s just say that this week isn’t the week I needed to be dealing with moving this site and all my other sites to new servers because MediaTemple is run by a bunch of raccoons. Hell, even Tumblr spent a good day or two out of commission, which made hipsters everywhere extremely nervous about their self-identities.

That’s my passive aggressive way of saying that I’m annoyed that I haven’t had a blog this week, and that it doesn’t mean I wasn’t writing, and it doesn’t mean I will post everything I wrote, as you can probably tell I’m in a bit of an unbalanced place at the moment and have a love/hate relationship with some of what I wrote.

Either way, I’ve got things back up, and you’ll notice some dust is settling, so forgive that. Or don’t, Scrooge. You may also notice the site’s a lot faster than it’s been in the past. I hired cheetahs to replace the raccoons I had to let go.

Also, if you’re a blogger, join the Blog Swap.

If you’re an eater, check out Foodtree.

If you’re in Chicago, I’m headed your way.

How Are Things Going?

“I’d love to make new friends, but who does that after they’re 30?”

I got that text from a friend I left behind in Chicago, a person I probably miss more than I even realize sometimes. Giving up the world I had in Chicago was a conscious (and consciously painful) decision I needed to make to give dream chasing a real shot.

Sounds all fuzzy and exciting and what everyone should do but that’s when you don’t analyze the real meat and potatoes of what makes life worth living, which is the people you spend it with.

Sometimes you can’t control the way people enter and leave your life, and sometimes they leave in drastic and painful ways, but when you’re wholly responsible for deciding to uproot yourself you carry around that weight a bit, no matter the reason you did it or what the result was.

My situation’s a bit unique, having left home to start a company. I’m in a new city (and country, eh?) and the reality is that lifelong friends are simply not something you can go out and pick up easily. Do people make new friends at 30 years old? Sure. Is it quite a lot harder than at 18, 23, 25?

Fuck yes.

I love what I do every day. I love working on a problem that’s got absolutely no roadmap.

Every single day is a mystery, every accomplishment that much richer because it’s like you’ve birthed it. The conversations you have are almost all based around your little company and ambitions. You learn so much…about yourself and other people and markets and technologies and you look around at the people doing the same thing and you learn from their accomplishments, ideas, and mistakes.

It’s thrilling.

It makes answering the ‘how are things going?‘ question a very difficult one to answer, because until things are decidedly doing so well you’re almost surprised by it all, you’re really just surviving. Things are going well because you get to be inside of your project and the world revolves around your ideas.

Things are also terribly frustrating and scary, because you have no cushion and you have no guarantees and you have no social life and you experience the thrills and rewards of a life you’ve chosen right next to the uncertainties and very real stress of building a company.

People here are amazing, which I think I’ve said, but probably not enough. People like Mac, Maura, Tony, Sonia, Tina, Jodi, Daniel, NoahBoris and Danny (and on and on, really) have literally shaped my experiences here, and have done so in only the way really open, friendly, giving, supportive people can.

You know how sometimes people have their circles and can’t find room for outsiders? These aren’t those people.

These are people full of life and friendship. People full of ideas and ambition and a drive to welcome people into their circles. People who matter because they care about other people.

My kind of people.

So, things are good. And tough. And exciting and invigorating and alive. The heart is still beating and every day’s a new day.

And yeah, I’m still crushing like a fool on this girl. More on that later, I’m sure.

How about you?

How are things going?

This Monday As A Monday

Sleep at two am because I still can’t breath 100% and sleeping when you’re breathing out of a straw isn’t even really sleeping and it definitely doesn’t come easy.

Wake up at seven in a deep sweat and almost no idea what day it might be or what time it is or what that goddamn blaring, oh…my alarm. Time for today.  Feeling robbed of some post-sickness sleeping.

Strategy meeting first thing, maybe push it back…got a pitch prep session at nine thirty…every day this week.

No time for a shower, out the door hoping I’d get a minute at some point to sneak up to the fitness center I joined for the winter. I rounded corner to a bus pulling away. Oddly another rolled up a minute later and I sat in the back where this woman carefully applied her makeup as we rolled into downtown and for a moment I remember thinking I was pretty happy to not be worried about some things.

As I write it’s around eight pm and I’m headed to North Vancouver in an hour to pick up a generously donated dresser from Maura and Danny.

Home by ten or so?

Yeah no workout.

Investor pitches coming together alongside a day full of annoying delays on a video I needed done today and literally just finished. Early afternoon conference call about a nationwide social media campaign we got involved in through the end of the year. Explained the value of twitter, outlined strategies.  Missed lunch.

Every spare moment in the office is about tomorrow and our company and its people and its impact and its dream.

Took a walk around the block mid afternoon so I wouldn’t throw my laptop through a window, wouldn’t overanalyze things, wouldn’t starve…wouldn’t someday look back on this day and this time and wonder where the hell it all went.

Wishing I’d showered at the moment, honestly.

How was your day?

Tell me good things.

Sun For Five Minutes

What up folks!

Exciting times around here…here being a city in Western Canada rife with leaves and mountains, sunshine and activists.

Vancouver does summer just like you’d expect. It’s a place of smiles and laziness, with nearly everyone a bit uncomfortable with the idea of being inside for too long.

Working on a startup, it’s easy to forget that a door to the building is all that separates you from nature’s glory.

Working on a startup also makes going outside less of a priority.

I just got back from Chicago where I watched Chalise marry the man of her dreams and I really can’t imagine what kind of blog post it would take to express how deeply meaningful and heartwarming and significant it was to witness. I know I’ll watch my sisters get married and I now have a glimpse of what that will feel like.

At the wedding, I was standing by the bar (surprisingly?) when Graffiti6’s “Stare Into The Sun” came on and I turned to see Cha coming at me in her gorgeous wedding dress with a fat smile ear to ear and it felt like getting a wedding gift at someone else’s wedding. And I don’t think that’s a feeling many people have at weddings which don’t involve siblings or their own kids. I nearly cried.

We skinned the dance floor together.

My last memories will include that one.

Foodtree is a company now, which is to say it’s something different than it was when I arrived in Vancouver.

It’s exciting, as I said above…

…it’s incredibly exciting.

I wake up every morning wishing I had five more minutes to make Foodtree better.

That’s a great feeling.

What’s up with you?

Work On Something Cool

You find yourself in the middle of a day that’s a month after the one you last remember.

You want to have written every minute of it, but instead you look around and wonder what you might do to further the cause you’ve jumped on board with.

That’s the best part of working on something you care about.  It’s also bad for your personal blog.

No, that isn’t an apology.

I spent a lot of time in the years after I graduated from college wondering what real people did with their lives.  I looked at the routes society mandates as advisable and found most of them completely foreign to the way I operate.

So I tried a few things.

I tried working for a lawyer doing deals in Hollywood and pondered the potential of a life as an intellectual property attorney.  Flights to LA for movie set duty and daily check ups on the industry news in Variety.

I took the LSAT twice and that second time I killed it like oil killed the Gulf of Mexico.

Before I got my scores back I heard the sing song everyone in the industry offered as advice: we hate this work.  I worked for people I saw gripping smoke and coffee breaks like their day would explode without them.  I saw the promise that going postal would provide wickedly smart people locked up in the depression afforded to the unfortunate and well-meaning people who settle for the restrictions of a typical career in a typical industry that pay a typically great salary for being typical.

Out I went, chasing the promise of an entrepreneurial environment in an identically typical industry.

Where I learned the hardest lesson I’ve learned: working for yourself isn’t the promised land.

Working for yourself isn’t the same as working on something you love working on.

So I failed at a long term and scalable business effort in a field that didn’t make me happy.

Big surprise there.

Today I’m in the office at the heart of a truly gorgeous city pretty damn late on a Friday night, and I feel like working.

I feel like working.

Hours and hours after I’d ever have imagined working on anything remotely related to work at any point in the years that came before 2010.

It ain’t easy.  I’ve told a lot of you that.

Take it from me though; life’s work and work’s life.  You are both.

Make ’em jive.

Work on something cool. Do it in the morning or night or lunchbreaks or whatever.  Just do it.

Then tell everyone about it.

What are you doing that’s cool?  I truly want to know.

I’m A Founder, I’m At Bootup

Today, one of the guys I met as a fellow cohort founder when I arrived at Bootup Labs wrote a blog post that has started a wider conversation on some of the developments recently here at the accelerator.  I won’t recount that; you can find the story at Techcrunch, gigaOM, ReadWriteWeb, and others.  You can read the Bootup Labs piece here.

Jamie was one of the co-founders at a company called Status.ly and one of the accelerator cohort members I definitely got along with best.  Jamie and Daniel from Zedmo were two people I considered among my first friends here, and both remain friends following some of the unfortunate realities that blew through here recently.

Some of the original Bootup cohort members are no longer with us here, leaving behind Compass Engine, Summify, and my team at Foodtree.  The details around that unfortunate development are intimately tied to the difficulties present in today’s early round investment community, and I think if you poke through those articles and specifically the Bootup Labs official blog post, they’re pretty well covered.

In the process of closing a funding round, some concessions were made and the roster had to be shortened.  Those of us who remain are in office, and trying to make use of the resources we have here.

I suppose I’m writing to to share a bit of the perspective I have as someone who was a part of this process, and yet remains in Bootup Labs.  This is my personal blog, and not our company’s official blog, mind you.

I think it’s important to note that everyone involved, both founders and Bootup, did their best to deal with the challenges that presented themselves and lead to what happened.  We were all frustrated when it looked as if the funding round was in jeopardy; having worked in finance and investments I wasn’t surprised that things like that could change quickly, but nevertheless I made the same sacrifices that Jamie made.

I sold my stuff.  I emptied my bank account. I came here with very little in my pocket and I have spent my bank account dry more than once since January.  I flew to Vancouver with two bags, and I am living out of them.

I did that knowing full well that the financing was contingent. That was a risk I was willing to take.

All of that aside, I had no expectations of an easy road, and I quickly dispelled any expectation of seed investment from Bootup.  Our team had (high) hopes that we’d be able to avoid Bootup’s capital component, the details of which have been a bit misconstrued around the web, but don’t add a whole lot to the discussion.  Even when Bootup’s capital line became our most attractive potential source of capital (after we already knew the funding round was in jeopardy), we worked under the assumption that chickens aren’t counted before they hatch.

I don’t mean to suggest that Jamie counted chickens, and I sure as heck don’t intend to undermine any of Jamie’s thoughts or opinions.  I mean, I moved here knowing three people, and the people I met at Bootup were my social circle; losing those four teams was painful.  It was devastating for all the companies – and the companies no longer here are dealing with the resulting challenges.  I don’t wish that on people I consider friends and have a huge amount of respect for.

The companies who are still here have our own challenges.  We’re all working day and night to build exciting products and traction.  We are learning more every day and we’re mindful of the experiences we’ve had so far.  Nothing is guaranteed.  We are fully responsible for making this work.

And there aren’t hard feelings around here…as I write this post there are members of Zedmo and Blastramp in our offices, plugging in and getting sh*t done.  I keep in touch with Jamie and hope to see him again.

If anyone out there has questions about this situation or even what it’s been like to launch a startup in a world that throws you curve balls, please feel free to reach out.  Comment here, hit me up on Twitter, or shoot me an email.  Speculation doesn’t carry any real value these days…I’m a firm believer that transparency is paramount.

Startup Social Life, Missing

When you make a decision to leave the world you’ve been in for any significant amount of time, you’re making a whole slew of decisions at once.

The purely locational decision is one.

Assuming there’s a professional component, that’s another.

The hardest one is realized in retrospect, when you find yourself at the tail end of all the large and little stuff that needs to happen to get you to your new location and your new life and new responsbilities.

That one’s the social one.

If you’ve been in the town you’re sitting in for a while, I’m talking to you from the other side.  I’m offering some feedback from the other side where the grass might be greener.

The friends you have are more than their roles as players in the experience you have every day.  They are more than who showed up at the bar or house party and who didn’t.  They are more than their love life drama and obvious shortcomings when it comes to showing up on time or really listening when you bitch about your boss.

They are more than the shared meals and concerts and shoulder to cry on…they’re more than the good and the bad stuff all added up.

They are the driving force in the web of life that’s making you who you are, where you are.

Those people are everything that goes into your sense of support and well-being, and their role is as integral to your happiness as the things you think you do for yourself which might be reproduced no matter where in the world you found yourself.

Your solo bike rides and Saturday morning coffee and dedicated Sex In The City rerun marathons all happen in the context of the access you have to the people who make up your immediate world, which quite frankly does not include anyone who isn’t there.

Proximity is an amazing thing because we tend to underweight it as motivated worldly citizens who want as much out of life as we can wrap our head and hearts around.  I’m not here telling you that I regret moving to Vancouver and I’m certainly not telling you to forgo your dreams, but I am telling you that before you go you should notice something; the proximity you have right now to your people is inherent to the pace at which your heart beats.

I left my home, and I did so to recognize something I decided to trust; my potential was closely linked to the person I am around people who are smarter than me and in situations that make me slightly uncomfortable.  Having felt underutilized and headed towards a mediocre version of myself, I followed an opportunity that I knew would put me in those two circumstances.

That’s a longer conversation, but it’s hugely based on my perception of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.  Each one was a decision to play with better players for stakes I didn’t consider easily attainable.

To uproot a life on those merits inherently under-weights the role your heartfelt relationships deserve in most of your major decisions.  I was an hour from my parents and a walk from my best friends. I was awash in a sea of wonderful people doing incredible things…make no mistake.  Some of the smartest people I know were the ones I spent my free time with each weekend in Chicago.

But my shot at big things happened a different way, and it forced me to sacrifice something dear to the person I think everyone reading this probably knows (or can tell) that I am.

And all I can offer is that it’s very, very hard sometimes.

It’s something you should look around and appreciate, because you have so much more than you realize.

Even when you’re alone.