The Dawn of Reality Education

This Friday marks the end of an experience that started for me April 27th. In early April I was invited to be part of the audience of 10 individuals for a series of HD web broadcasts through educational platform Creative Live in Seattle. The class Make Your Dream Trip a Reality has been led by two fellow Portlanders, Chris Guillebeau and Stephanie Zito, two of the most experienced travelers on the planet. Chris has been to every country in the world, his personal quest completed before he turned 35, while Stephanie has been to 120 countries, mostly doing humanitarian work. We spent 4 full days, April 27th through April 30th in the Creative Live Seattle studio. We broadcast three one hour live shows, one each on April 28, 29 and 30 and additionally recorded 27 segments, each 30 minutes long, that have been aired each weekday since we left Seattle starting May 1, ending this Friday June 5th. There has been a Facebook group of over 1,000 people that have been actively following and discussing the course since the first live broadcast on April 28th. I feel like I might even have some fans ;)

The goal of the class was to learn how to earn and spend airline miles efficiently. The promise was that by the end of 30 days anyone can earn enough miles to take a dream vacation anywhere in the world. What is clear, unlike Bitcoin, airline miles and credit card points convertible into airline miles, represent a very stable and active currency that properly managed can be earned and easily spent to have wonderful experiences all over the world, regularly, not just once in a while.

My participation in the class was pure serendipity because I just happened to see a notification fly by on my Macbook Air screen of an e-mail from Chris' Art of Non-conformity website offering the chance to apply to attend the class as an audience member. It peaked my interest on two levels. First, I wanted to meet Chris ever since the 2013-14 school year at the School of Visual Arts when I used his book on micro-entrepreneurship, The $100 Startup, as a text in my class in the Design for Social Innovation program. I have also been curious the past couple of years about his World Domination Summit in Portland, a gathering of micro-entrepreneurs from all over the world. Second, after one glance at another live show on Creative Live's website I knew I needed to understand it as a novel educational platform. In the words of Chase Jarvis and Craig Swanson, founders of Creative Live, "anyone can watch our live online workshops - for free - and interact with instructors in real time. The future of education is interactive, free and live. Our focus is creativity because it is the new literacy". That is a very powerful mission statement, one that I am still mulling over weeks later. The more I have thought about it, the presence of an in-studio audience receiving targeted personal instruction from teacher(s) coupled with a web audience from around the globe able to participate through text-based chat, is beginning to feel to me like a secret sauce for all five of the "channels" that Creative Live is operating out of their Seattle and San Francisco studios. There are many true "aha moments" where student's eyes light up that are priceless. Think of it as "reality education".

The class was a personal success. Noelle and I will be on our way to Asia on Singapore Airlines starting with a stop in Hong Kong sometime this fall, the "Dream Trip" I worked on in class. The real gift the class gave me was the reawakening of my travel urge which had been mostly dormant for over 10 years, but no more! I used to travel more than I remembered, well over 2 million miles. I started the class thinking at most I had maybe 200,000 miles between AMEX Mileage Rewards and an old British Airways account. As it turned out the class caused me to look deeper into my travel history and I found 400,000 miles / reward points I didn't even know we had. Needless to say we are going to manage our access to airline mile currency more carefully from here on out. Meanwhile the serial entrepreneur in me is keeping a close eye on Creative Live, thinking hard about how it might fit here in a Portland studio with an alternative focus, a different group of channels that can capitalize on our local strengths. I have some ideas.

Thankyou so much Chris, Stephanie, the team at Creative Live, led by the host of our class Kenna Klosterman, and the other 9 members of my audience cohort - the "CL Travel Hackers" - an amazing group of individuals. Feel free to join the conversation on Facebook - I am certain it will extend beyond Friday.

A New Adventure - a return to our roots.....

It was time for a change, a new adventure, when Noelle and I loaded the car and left CT in early December heading west from the banks of Long Island Sound to the west coast, a 3,200 mile journey. We had spent the summer reflecting on our future. With Wyatt and Cooper each off to their own lives, Cooper in Williamsburg Brooklyn and Wyatt in Dallas, we knew it was time for change. We put our Weston, CT home on the market in early September assuming it would take many months to sell. Just three days later we were shocked when we received two solid offers on the same day. We set a closing date in early December hoping to be on the road in time to escape winter but our heads were spinning - where would we go?. 

We had talked about moving but hadn't really decided where to go. Our key criteria for a new place to settle became an interesting city in a "blue" state near a coast without Northeastern weather extremes and the NYC metroplex cost of living. We didn't want the heat and humidity of the southern coast and it didn't take long to conclude that no city / state combination on the eastern seaboard met the test so we decided to make a reconnaissance trip to the west coast. We love parts of the central and southern California coast having met and married in Santa Barbara, but between the exorbitant cost of living up and down the California coast and the extreme drought we decided to look up the coast even further setting our sights on Oregon and Washington in the Pacific Northwest. We started with a flight into Portland and a return flight from Seattle in mid-October so we could touch both cities. We both love Seattle and Puget Sound, each having spent a year there before we met, but Seattle has a traffic pattern that we just can't warm up to, so Portland won! As someone I met recently said, Portland is a city where you are never further than 20 minutes from anything.

Mt Hood in all its glory on a beautiful Portland day in late January while the Northeast was preparing to be pummeled by back to back snow storms.

Mt Hood in all its glory on a beautiful Portland day in late January while the Northeast was preparing to be pummeled by back to back snow storms.

Our second reconnaissance trip was to Portland in early November. Having scouted neighborhoods there on our October trip we had already decided to look for a house in either the Northeast or Northwest section of town. It was then that we realized that we weren't alone in recognizing the attractive features of Portland. The current Portland real estate market is clearly a sellers market with lots of multi-bid sales. The average home in the older neighborhoods of Portland is close to 2,400 square feet, dominated by Craftsman cottages from the 1920s. However, we knew we needed something a little bigger to start so as not to need a commercial storage space and / or to avoid selling or donating too much furniture in CT before the move. We wanted to take our time to determine where we want to settle longer term in Portland and hopefully avoid having to run out and buy furniture. We were very lucky to find a nice size home in the Alberta Arts section in the Northeast quadrant of Portland that we could rent for 16 months to give us time to acclimate and decide on whether or not we would like to purchase it or another home going forward. 

In spite of our resolve to make the change, the act of packing up our home of 17 years, out of the 21 spent in Weston, was a traumatic experience full of laughter, tears and lots of reflection. It was very hard to say good bye no matter how excited we were to move on. Noelle and I made sure that we had a family weekend with together with Wyatt and Cooper in late October to say our last good byes to our home as well as to the towns of Weston, Westport and even Fairfield. We had amazing times in CT as well as on Shelter Island across Long Island Sound at the eastern tip of Long Island. We had said our good byes to Shelter Island two years ago when we sold that house.

It was after that weekend that sorting and packing began in earnest with "archaeological digs" in the various parts of the attic, the finished and unfinished parts of the basement and even some nooks and crannies of our main living spaces. In the end we were overwhelmed, embarrassed, nearly speechless when we fully realized what we had "consumed" over the last two decades. If there was one thing we continued to reflect on as we drove west it was our rampant consumerism. We asked ourselves over and over how we came to accumulate so much stuff in 20+ years, who were we competing with? Even after we made myriad trips to St John's Episcopal Church in Bridgeport, Goodwill in Westport, listed many items on Craigslist, and wore out the road between the Weston landfill and our house we still filled the largest moving van that North American Van Lines had which has taken us weeks to unpack and sort through. In the end we have stored a lot of in the basement here but have start getting to know places in Portland that accept donations of clothes and other assorted items that we could have easily left behind.

We arrived on December 10th, moved in December 11th and then within days jumped back in the car to spend the holidays with my 93 year old mother in central California. Wyatt and Cooper and their girlfriends, Celia and Siena, all flew in and joined us for part of the time we spent with my Mom and her husband Del who she married at the age of 88 when he was 91. At 93 and 96 they still live independently in Morro Bay but maintain the house overlooking the Salinas River where she and my father lived in Atascadero before he died in 1994. It was a wonderful visit. Noelle and I finally headed back to Portland to be home by New Years Eve after dropping Wyatt, Cooper, Celia and Siena at LAX. 

Celia, Wyatt, Angelica, my brother Tim, me, Del Grubbs, Cooper, Julia Gordon Grubbs (Mom) and Noelle at Morro Bay, California

Celia, Wyatt, Angelica, my brother Tim, me, Del Grubbs, Cooper, Julia Gordon Grubbs (Mom) and Noelle at Morro Bay, California

The good news is we are finally settled in here in Portland having finished the unpacking, arranging and rearranging. The networking has begun and we are enjoying Portland with its great location and unique culture, fabulous food, not to mention an incredibly mild winter.

Siena and Cooper at Morro Bay, California with the edge of Morro Rock in the background.

Siena and Cooper at Morro Bay, California with the edge of Morro Rock in the background.

My one regret was not being able to finish the school year at the School of Visual Arts in the MFA in Design for Social Innovation program. I truly enjoyed the 3 semesters I had teaching 2 amazing cohorts of students. I am pleased to say that I am maintaining the relationship with the program as Faculty @ Large at a distance. 

It has been too long since I posted to my blog, not since late last June after a special evening at the Salvage Supper Club in Williamsburg with Josh Treuhaft, my former student at School of Visual Arts, who has been instrumental in some key introductions here in Portland. I am going to post more about our adventure as it continues to unfold.  Stay tuned. Posts should be a lot more frequent now. This post can be considered our New Year / holiday card to those of you on that list.                                                                                                                                     

The Holiday card that might have been.....keeping up the tradition! Cooper and Wyatt in the hills of Highway 46 high above the coast between Morro Bay and Cambria.

The Holiday card that might have been.....keeping up the tradition! Cooper and Wyatt in the hills of Highway 46 high above the coast between Morro Bay and Cambria.

The Salvage Supperclub - Williamsburg Brooklyn

What an amazing evening last night! Noelle and I were part of a group of 20 that were lucky enough to be invited to dinner at the 5th instance of the Salvage Supperclub, this one in Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

The Salvage Supperclub

The aerial view of the Salvage Supperclub taken from an NSA government drone - Josh Treuhaft setting the table that he made earlier in the day along with the benches for seating....

The aerial view of the Salvage Supperclub taken from an NSA government drone - Josh Treuhaft setting the table that he made earlier in the day along with the benches for seating....

The Salvage Supperclub is an outgrowth of the thesis project of Josh Treuhaft a student who received his MFA last month in the Design for Social Innovation (DSI) program at the School of Visual Arts where I teach entrepreneurship to the DSI students in the 2nd year of the program. For last night's version of the Supperclub Josh teamed with Chef Celia Lam of the Natural Gourmet Institute who prepared a menu that was out of this world all from ingredients donated from many food suppliers who otherwise would have thrown them away as unsalable items ("underused food") for their shelves. Dinner was served in a retrofitted "dumpster dining room" that took up 3 parking spaces on South 4th Street near Bedford in the heart of Williamsburg.

Chef Celia Lam explaining one of the AMAZING menu items that she prepared:  Heirloom tomato gazpacho with carrot top & fennel frond pesto on french bread crostini with pickled kale stems.....

Chef Celia Lam explaining one of the AMAZING menu items that she prepared:  Heirloom tomato gazpacho with carrot top & fennel frond pesto on french bread crostini with pickled kale stems.....

Our fellow diners were a very eclectic and interesting group including two other fellow faculty members of the School of Visual Arts DSI program, DK Holland and Archie Coates IV as well as one of Josh's fellow grads from the DSI program Sara Cornish and current 2nd year student Liora Yuklea from Israel who brought her sister Karin with her. It was great fun to meet Mark Reigelman who helped Josh setup the prior Salvage Supperclub and is a very accomplished installation artist. Emily Thomas of Huffington Post, Michal Dayan jewelry designer at Tiffany's, Jacquie Ottman of We Hate to Waste, and Judy Sandford of the Sustainability in Management Program at Columbia were either all at my end of the table or I met at the end of the evening, each interesting in their own right. Unfortunately, there were a few folks that I didn't have the privilege of really getting to know. I won't make that mistake next time.

All proceeds from last night's dinner and a second dinner tonight for another lucky group of 20 will be donated to support Culinary Corps annual "culanthropy" trip to Camp Sunshine in Lake Sebago, Maine where Celia will be one of 10 chefs from all over the USA who competed to be part of this program. Camp Sunshine is a year-round retreat, which provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families through various stages of a child’s illness. Celia is doing this in remembrance of her own sister who was stricken by a deadly disease at too young of an age.

Josh and Celia, thank you so much for such a wonderful evening and introductions to so many new friends!

PS: thank you to the NYPD for making sure that none of us were drinking alcohol in the dumpster. In fact, anticipating there may be a problem we had done all of our drinking in Celia's apartment before convening in the dumpster :)

Alexis Ohanian: Calling all entrepreneurs and startups - we can't let Net Neutrality be stolen!

Alexis Ohanian is calling on the entrepreneurial / tech community to rally against the FCC which is about to kill Net Neutrality - equal rights for all internet traffic - once and for all.


The FCC, apparently bought and paid for like everything and everyone else in DC, is proposing letting Comcast, Verizon and other mega-players become the gatekeepers / toll collectors in cyberspace. The proposed rules would allow them to sell access to the high speed lanes on the web to the highest bidders. If we let them do that, we deserve what we will get, second class citizenship, in cyberspace. The big communication giants will be allowed to openly discriminate and favor big money. 

We cannot let this happen! The web was built on neutrality and needs to stay that way. The FCC hearings on their new rules are on May 15th! 

Contact your congressman and senators and let the voice of the people be heard! 

A Jeffersonian Dinner - Lots of Fun, Great Experience & New Friends

I was one of 13 individuals who were part of a Jeffersonian dinner last week. What is a Jeffersonian dinner you ask? It's an excellent question that I didn't know the answer to until I was invited to one. Suffice it to say it was lots of fun, a truly great experience and the basis of a number of very interesting new acquaintances in my fellow diners. Tammy Tibbets of She's the First one of the organizers wrote her own blog post about it and tells the story better than I can so read her account by clicking on the image of her blog below.


Have Dinner with Strangers by Tammy Tibbets

Have Dinner with Strangers by Tammy Tibbets

Alexis Ohanian at School of Visual Arts - Design for Social Innovation

Making the World Suck Less: An MFA Design for Social Innovation Event with reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian 


Wednesday, April 2, 6:30 - 8:30pm

SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street

Promo code for free admission: leave me your e-mail in a comment on this blog if you are interested and can't afford $5 or just like freebies



Join the MFA Design for Social Innovation students and faculty for a conversation with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of reddit and author of the bestseller Without Their PermissionOhanian will discuss his vision for the future of the Internet and his views on entrepreneurship. This lecture is part of MFA Design for Social Innovation’s Global Guest Lecture Series course and moderated by faculty member Schuyler Brown. Copies of Without Their Permission are available for purchase at the event; the lecture will be followed by a book signing with Ohanian.

Keith Teare on Facebook / Whatsapp and the future of social networks

Keith Teare writing in his blog Opinionated has written a very compelling piece about the Facebook acquisition of Whatsapp for $19 billion. It is well worth a read. If Teare is right Facebook has entered new territory - the mobile web - where Mark Zuckerberg will be forced to continue to play Whack-A-mole which is going to make it very hard to navigate.


Click the image to read the full article

Click the image to read the full article


College or No College....Advice to My Son at 20

College or no college is a big question for any 18 year old who has been on track through the US education system with good grades through high school. It is not a question that comes up that often in suburban communities like the one I live in in CT. There is so much emphasis put on which college, which major, which internships that the thought of no college always gets at least a very perplexed look or worse. That look of "how could you", "what's wrong?" or "I am so sorry to hear that" is almost always part of the equation in a discussion with other parents. The real answer for my youngest son is, he tried a good liberal arts college, Skidmore, for 3 semesters and it didn't fit where his head and heart were. He has taken his own path and one year into it hasn't looked back. 

The question is what advice do we give him at 20? Better yet what advice could we or should we have given him at 18 or even earlier? Here is the best advice I have seen on the subject which comes from Leo Babauta of

Screenshot of ZenHabits by Leo Babuata: Career Advice to an 18 year old on the Career Path Less Traveled. Click image to link to original blog post.

Screenshot of ZenHabits by Leo Babuata: Career Advice to an 18 year old on the Career Path Less Traveled. Click image to link to original blog post.

My wife and I have been very supportive of our son's effort to find his way on a "path less traveled" which I started out referring to as "entrepreneurial leave". His primary focus is on urban street culture, the fashion it inspires as well as the art and music. He follows the lead designers, retailers and artists and knows / can predict the trends. He is networking in his own way and has lots of ideas and things that he is trying including two short internships of his own making. He has run into a few detours so far but is gaining confidence that he will find his own way based on his boundless creativity and energy.  

When I discovered Leo last week through my explorations of "free range humans" I had to share his recent blog post with my son letting him know I wish I had said these words to him at 18. My caveat was that they may be even more appropriate now that he is closing in on 21. Most importantly I told him I admire him for taking the risk and expressing himself - by following his heart!

Goal: Job Creation - Which Form of Entrepreneurship Would Win?

$100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

$100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Free Range Human by Marianne Cantwell

Free Range Human by Marianne Cantwell

I have spent the holidays exploring some topics on the web that to some may be pretty far out of what they consider to be the entrepreneurial mainstream. I had been slowly reading the $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau for a few weeks on my iPad while walking on my treadmill. Having just finished it last week I decided that I wanted to go deeper into the microentrepreneur movement that Chris' book helped catalyze. I kept playing with the terms microentrepreneur and solopreneur trying to figure out which I liked best. Not sure how I got there but somehow I stumbled across a totally new term, "free range human", popularized by Marianne Cantwell in her book Be a Free Range Human attached to her blog efforts dubbed Free Range HumansIn Marianne's own words she helps people figure out "how to make a living without an office or a boss (and how to create your own career when no one 'job' ticks the boxes)." She goes on to say that, "she does not deal with boring job moves". I am still reading her book, doing the exercises and plugging into some of her reference material but needless to say I find it very interesting - hence this blog post.

The Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

The Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

Having been focused on teaching the Lean Startup method the past 2 years, since discovering Steve Blank and Bob Dorf's Lean LaunchPad approach covered in Startup Owner's Manual, my view of entrepreneurship had constricted quite a bit, becoming centered on the "scalable startup". Part of that focus has been a by-product of being a catalyst to the state of CT's efforts to create or improve upon its entrepreneurial ecosystem where the emphasis is on the generation of large numbers of jobs. Partnered with the state in the first year of CTNext, I formed Lean Launch Ventures with Andy Moss, to accelerate entrepreneurs under the by-line "taking the risks out of startups" more recently changed to "improving the odds of innovation success". This is where many microentrepreneurs, solopreneurs and most definitely the "free range human" tribe diverge from the approach I have been using which at the end of the day is very focused on the need for early stage risk capital, not just from personal funds, but from family and friends, angel investors and eventually venture capitalists. 

A common denominator in all of these "movements" is the notion of iterating on your idea, taking feedback from "earlyvangelists" and other market participants as well as your own gut to determine if you have an idea / business proposition that will fly and eventually generate sufficient revenue to exceed your costs of operating individually or in the form of some type of entity. The jury is still out on the 5 teams that Andy and I accelerated in the Spring 2013 cohort of the Lean Launch Ventures accelerator. It looks like they are all still on the runway picking up speed for liftoff but not yet fully airborne. They all have a fair amount of both time and money at risk still hoping to reach liftoff but there are no guarantees. The $100 Startup and "free range human" proponents would not recommend the risk that our teams have taken. The biggest difference is that almost all of the "free range humans" and a lot of the microentrepreneurs and $100 Startup solopreneur folk would say they are not trying to start "businesses" but are rather trying to create personalized "jobs" for themselves - jobs or, in many cases, "portfolios" of efforts that they choose, truly enjoy and get paid for. The real question is if the goal is job creation - expressed as incomes for individuals doing things that they love that are part of the economy - which approach would come out ahead in the long run?

Here is an experiment that could be run. Invest some amount of money in training as many people as can be accommodated over a defined period of time in the basic principles of entrepreneurship as defined by the $100 Startup model or the "free range human" coaches like Marianne Cantwell at their standard rates. Then compare that to the results of the growing crowd of accelerators, many using elements of the Lean Startup method, where the same dollar amount would be invested in a group of hand selected teams. The metric could be overall economic activity but it could be simply jobs created that are feeding X number of people from the income generated. The real question is which approach would generate the most sustainable jobs?

Honestly, I am not sure what the answer would be. I would not count out the "free range humans" or the $100 Startup folk based on my readings to date. I would love to hear anyone else's thoughts.

PS: I have been inspired by a number of Chris Guillebeau's case studies and Maryanne Cantwell's examples of people that are doing quite well as $100 Startup micro-entrepreneurs and/or "free range humans". I intend to do some follow on posts to highlight some of them? Stay tuned.


Startup Valley of Death - Keith Teare via Opinionated - a new Newsletter

Keith Teare Opinionated 1.png

Keith Teare, a very successful serial entrepreneur, currently of Palo Alto incubator / accelerator Archimedes Labs and, was an original co-founder of TechCrunch with Mike Arrington and still writes there. I got to know Keith a few years ago when we were both part of a fido assignment well before he started his most recent startup. He has just published his first posting on Opinionated! a new newsletter format. In Keith's words to a group of 4,000 initial invitees he describes it this way, "I plan on writing periodic longer essays - something too essay-like for a TechCrunch post (or his blog). I have one ready to go. Before I do I want to give you the chance to opt out of receiving them." How could anyone opt out when Keith's first essay is The Startup Valley of Death in which he reflects as a Silicon Valley insider on the current state of early stage funding in the Valley and beyond.

We have all heard of the Valley of Death but not explained by a guy with the experience base that Keith has.  He currently has 13 portfolio companies being incubated or accelerated at Archimedes Labs but has just hit a major bump in the road with his personal baby,, in spite of quickly amassing over 300,000 users for what is described as "the best of texting, email and social networking, all in one place, on a mobile app". I was an original Beta tester of and therefore understand how hard Keith has worked on it. Having just run an accelerator program myself in the past 12 months at Lean Launch Ventures I completely understand where Keith is coming from when he says, "The Valley today is not the Valley I came to join in 1997. It is certainly different, and that is good. But in one regard it is worse, and significantly so. And we will all pay a price if that does not change. This is a manifesto of the need for that change as much as it is an essay."

Keith explains further when he says, "There are many who believe that the Valley is as great a place as it has ever been. That the growth in the sheer number of startups and the number of investors, and the more recent trends to create syndicates of investors, establishes a new and viable means of supporting innovation. Much as I welcome these trends, I beg to differ in just one regard. A major part of the ecosystem needed to support true disruption is absent. This is a new phenomena, and a dangerous one. But more of that later, first a little context on myself for those who don't know me."

From here I would recommend you read Keith's essay The Startup Valley of Death - How to Save Silicon Valley's Unique Ecosystem on Keith's Opinionated! site. If you like it, I strongly recommend that you subscribe. You won't be sorry. Let's engage in a conversation with him on Opinionated! through his comment section.

Seth Godin meet David Byrne .... Art, Innovation, Creativity .... Genius

Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception

Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception

I have immersed myself in Seth Godin's work lately having been drawn in by his focus on art and artists. Seth's definition of art is broad, "art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another".  To Seth art and the artist are not on the fringe but in fact right at the center of the post-industrial economy -- "creating ideas that spread and connecting the disconnected are the two pillars of our new society, and both of them require the posture of an artist".

David Byrne: How Music Works

David Byrne: How Music Works

 On Wednesday night I stumbled across How Music Works, a new book by renowned musical artist David Byrne at the Strand in NYC. It is David's attempt to recount what he has learned from his many years as a musician. In this book he says, "I have.....looked for patterns in how music is written, recorded, distributed, and received - and then asked myself if the forces that fashioned and shaped these patterns have guided my own work.. and maybe those of others as well".  What caught my attention was David's own broad statement about art - "context largely determines what is written, painted, sculpted, sung or performed". In the case of music "context" for David means the characteristics of the venue where it will likely be played starting with the caves of early humans, to the chambers in palaces eventually to opera and symphony halls but not to exclude CBGB or even the digital devices, the private venues, we carry in our pockets today.

Reflecting on my own art which is teaching innovation, the ideas I am sharing with MFA students at the School of Visual Arts in NYC are about the art of entrepreneurship. Seth doesn't focus on entrepreneurship but he often mentions the entrepreneur such as he did in The Icarus Deception in a section entitled "The Artist as an Outsider".  After mentioning the "successful writer" as an outsider he goes on to include "programmers, entrepreneurs, graphic artists and others who make a ruckus", a ruckus being a key characteristic Seth attributes to artists.

A word that gets used or at least gets included in a question that is often asked about art is "genius". In The Icarus Deception Seth says, "art is a leap into the void, a chance to give birth to your genius and to make magic where there was no magic before". David on the other hand qualifies genius in a very interesting way, "genius - the emergence of a truly remarkable and memorable work--seems to appear when a thing is perfectly suited to its context." David goes on, "when something works, it strikes us as not just being a clever adaptation, but as emotionally resonant as well. When the right thing is in the right place, we are moved." 

It is the next thing that David says that to me is a deep insight. "In my experience, the emotionally charged content always lies there, hidden, waiting to be tapped, and although musicians tailor and mold their work to how and where it will be best heard or seen, the agony and the ecstasy can be relied on to fill whatever shape is available." For Steve Jobs, the Apple computer, for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, for Sergey and Larry, Google, all fit perfectly in the emerging contexts of their moments. For myself and my students this question is so important - look around, what is the emerging context you can fill - that will create emotional resonance - as you create your art - your entrepreneurial designs for social innovation?

An Entrepreneur Tackling an Important Issue re: Women's Health

Purse-sized 3 pack tin

Purse-sized 3 pack tin

Tiffany Gaines - Founder of Lovability

Tiffany Gaines - Founder of Lovability

Lovability, a company founded by one of my entrepreneurship students at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC, was profiled today by Denise Restauri who writes for Forbes covering "the emerging voices of girls and women". Her piece entitled The Entrepreneur Making Condoms Chic Enough For Women To Buy tells the story of Tiffany Gaines who is on a mission to empower women to take control of their sexual health. Being completely dependent on male partners to provide the necessary protection is a mistake in this day and age. Tiffany's goal is to combat the stigma that women feel even talking about, much less buying, condoms by making them available in places where women feel comfortable shopping such as boutiques, lingerie, beauty supply and department stores as well as on the web. She believes that condoms in tasteful carrying cases in individual foil topped "butter packs", designed by women for women, belong in a woman's purse along with their lipstick, eye-liner, perfume and other beauty aids. The global market for condoms drives production of 15 billion annually. It is clearly a very large market ripe for change since the focus of the marketing spend has been been almost exclusively targeted to men who only represent half of the population that benefit from the product. Tiffany recognized that the balance has to change. She has taken it upon herself to make sure it does.

I thank Denise Restauri for writing the story so Forbes could publish it. This is an important topic.


Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts about the projects of the students in my entrepreneurship course at SVA. It is half of a course that also includes instruction in collaborative leadership overlaid on the startup efforts by Karen Proctor. The students are earning an MFA in Design for Social Innovation. 20 students have split up into 6 teams to build startups based on the Lean Startup method. As we break for the holidays they are all still in the customer validation phase proving that they have a viable approach to solving a problem or filling a need for an identifiable customer segment. Stay tuned for more posts before graduation in May 2014.


Hour of Code - Now We are Talking!

After my post on the need to rebrand STEM yesterday, today I discovered Hour of Code. What a difference a day makes! I had heard bits and pieces about this back in October but had missed the massive momentum that the movement has gained in a very short time. Not sure how I missed it but very glad I found it. The key is that this effort is reaching students in large numbers and from every indication having an impact not just on kids but on teachers and hopefully decision makers on boards of education all over this country. Even as I sit here writing this blog I have just received e-mail from Codecademy promoting their new iOS app for Hour of Code. This is a very important experiment, let's all support it and see where it takes us!

What's in a Name - Rebranding STEM

The NY Times Editorial Board ran a piece in last Sunday's Review section asking the question "who says math has to be boring?" The premise of the article was that American students are bored by math, science and engineering and even though they buy smartphones and tablets they don't pursue the skills necessary to build them. The high points of the article were that we need: 1. a more flexible curriculum; 2. earlier exposure to numbers; 3. better teacher preparation; 4. experience in the real world. All good thoughts. However, after I read all of it and reflected on it for a while, I finally shook my head and said to myself, "Really?"

I am convinced that STEM and its individual elements, particularly engineering, have a branding problem. Once I began to search the web I realized that isn't a unique conclusion. One of the best articles on the subject was published earlier this year when Angela Maiers, in the Huffington Post, hit the nail on the head with her article, which I missed at the time, Reframing, Rebranding and Reenergizing the STEM Conversation. She led off where my mind went after reading the NY Times piece when she said, "When it comes to encouraging more young women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering), we need to forget the pep talks, the tactics, the reviews and the carrots. Here's the one thing that you're probably not doing -- but need to. REBRAND the Conversation!"

Angela Maiers Rebrand STEM.png

Clearly the conversation isn't gender specific, women just happened to be on Angela's mind. The key is that branding is not just superficial stuff like logos, tag lines, color, typefaces, etc... It is a lot more. In Angela's words, "Real branding is about selecting, cultivating and communicating with stakeholders the mission you want them to be part of." I couldn't agree more. The communication she refers to isn't just press releases and cameos by Barack and others on the subject it is about "story-telling" - letting kids know in language that they can relate to, what's in it for them. Why they should care is the key. My basic premise is that collectively they are informed and knowledgeable consumers of education. They want to care! They just need to understand WHY they should.

Angela ended her article with, "Your brand is not what you say it is...but rather what your stakeholders say it is. So I leave you with this, when our students hear the word "STEM" in a course or classroom, what does it mean to them?"

Answering her own question, "Here's what it should...

STEM is:

● An aspiration to create
● A passion to help humankind
● A strategy and opportunity to effect change
● A means by which you see yourself
● An art of make something useful
● A desire to impact the world
● Imagination amplified
● Hope, beauty, insight made visible
● The human capacity to plan and produce
● Human-driven and heart-fueled
● The change we can/must see in the world

Let's REBRAND the conversation, shall we?"

I agree, STEM and all of its individual pieces need to be rebranded. Glad I found your take on it Angela.

Touch the Future of Video with Touchcast

Last week's NY Tech Meetup introduced Touchcast to the NYC tech community. Can you say paradigm shift? It took a while to understand what I was seeing. You have to experience it to really follow it. Even now I am not certain I completely just feels like the potential is enormous. 


What is a Touchcast? In the words of the founders it is not broadcast which quickly becomes clear. A touchcast means that all kinds of web content can be incorporated into a video such that viewers will be able to interact with that video in ways they never imagined. Video apps or "vapps" as they are called become the basis of being able to interact with the live web on replay. Think of a video, in effect, becoming the browser such that a 5 minute video can become the basis of 15 or 20 minutes of browsing depending on which vapps are employed within it. If nothing else the teaching applications that Touchcast will be able to support will be amazing.

The key is that the original Touchcast app for the iPad effectively allowed a tablet to replace many of the features of a very expensive video production studio including uses of video footage as a background, a green screen effect a sophisticated teleprompter and a lot more. However, the new PC desktop / laptop version announced at the NY Tech Meetup goes further allowing different cameras to be selected on the fly including adding interactive elements such as polls, social media accounts, Google Maps, to videos.

Take a look. My gut says In the long run YouTube may just want Touchcast or all of the Touchcast features for themselves especially now that Touchcast includes a vapp for Youtube which will help sell it to Youtube. 

Art and Artists - Are You an Artist? I finally realize I am!


I just finished reading Linchpin by Seth Godin this morning. I started by rereading his earlier work Tribes in September when Karen Proctor, my co-teacher at School of Visual Arts in our joint entrepreneurship and collaborative leadership class for MFA students in Design for Social Innovation, assigned it as a leadership text.  Rereading Tribes became the starting point for a somewhat random sequence of readings of three of Seth's  other books. It continued with sections of Purple Cow, a book that preceded Tribes, which was then followed by his most recent book, The Icarus Deception, and finally Linchpin, the last two both read in their entirety. Seth has an extraordinary body of writing that has led up to The Icarus Deception where he focuses in tightly on the process of making / doing "art" very broadly defined. Going back to Linchpin after The Icarus Deception one of Seth's final questions was, what art do I want to do, what gift(s) can I offer to others? More on that in a minute.


I had a scare in March when I spent a night in the hospital. I was lucky - I had a lot going on getting ready to run the Lean Launch Ventures accelerator. The pressures of that effort coupled with a few other things caused me to work myself into what turned out to be a bout of self-induced chest pains. However, the incident scared me enough that I decided to undergo a round of deeper diagnostics which turned out to be a blessing. Those tests forced me reflect and finally make some deep commitments as to how I will care for myself, watching both what I eat and how often I exercise as well as how to manage my professional life more effectively. I started by upgrading my commitment to my diet, moving from 4+ years as a vegetarian (no flesh of animals of any kind) to a pure vegan eating plan. I had been exercising regularly before my hospital visit but since March I have upped my commitment by exercising no less than 5 days a week, mostly 6 or 7 days a week at least 35-45 min / day at my target heart rate. My body really needs that, telling me regularly that it doesn't want to go back to me making excuses for skipping a day here and there. It is my commitment on how to manage my professional life that has taken longer to figure out. 

Purple Cow.png

In 2009 I began a journey to promote innovation in the state of CT. In 2012 my early efforts finally helped to catalyze both an innovation space in Stamford and as well as an entrepreneurial ecosystem across the state that launched in October 2012. My Lean Launch Ventures pilot (fall 2012) and accelerator (spring 2013) seemingly brought close to 4 years of work to fruition planting important seeds for the next few years for Lean Launch Ventures. However, the political winds in CT changed direction late this summer and the possibilities to continue to be an integral part of the efforts in CT via Lean Launch Ventures came to an abrupt end. Serendipitously it was almost at that moment that the opportunity to teach entrepreneurship at School of Visual Arts came to me.

Icarus Deception.png

Back to Seth’s question, what art do I want to do, what gift(s) can I offer to others? I had never thought of myself as an “artist" before reading The Icarus Deception and Linchpin. Teaching at the School of Visual Arts has made me feel like I am closer to art and artists both, but until recently I still wouldn’t have described myself as an artist. However, Seth’s gift to me in his writings was to make me realize that I am an artist - my art is teaching and doing entrepreneurship. However, in Linchpin Seth challenged me further, not just to doing my “art” of teaching and doing entrepreneurship, but to up my game, in Seth's words to "ship” more often, find a way to share my art more broadly, more regularly. 

Without their Permission.png

Starting in early 2012 I first experimented with growing a web-based following using, the now defunct tool, to curate content on entrepreneurship, technology, social media and a handful of other subjects that I care about. My Bo.lts were tweeted, posted on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr and surprisingly generated over 50,000 reads which allowed me to measure. When pulled the plug earlier this year for some reason I didn’t look for a new technological solution I just stopped my curation efforts. Based on Seth’s inspiration coupled with a recent dose of inspiration from Alexis Ohanian’s book Without Their Permission, I am committing to "ship" regularly. I don't have a map for the journey but am anxious to keep moving. My goal is to write and publish my own thoughts here 5, preferably 6 or 7, days a week while restarting curation of my readings on entrepreneurship, technology and social media. Who knows, there may be another startup in my future and this may be the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). I welcome feedback. 

More serendipity thanks to @DigitalWoman

Nelly Yusupova @DigitalWoman

Nelly Yusupova @DigitalWoman

It has been over a month since my first ever blog post which was on creating your own serendipity. Well here I go again - more self-made serendipity when I attended Nelly Yusupova's @DigitalWoman Build Your Social Media Footprint workshop at ThoughtWorks in NYC yesterday. As I told my fellow attendees on introducing myself, I was the definition of an outlier as the only male with 30+ women who are part of NYCWebGrrls. Luckily they didn't hold that against me.

As CTO of WebGrrls for many years, Nelly herself is an outlier. She is a very knowledgeable technologist helping other women understand how to survive in a technological jungle, providing a map for not just how to stay out of trouble, but to succeed in building web-based businesses by avoiding classic mistakes which can often be very expensive, if not deadly.

In recent years Nelly realized that beyond technology itself, social media is another confusing landscape that throws a lot of early stage companies, as well as individuals trying to build personal brands, for a loop. I spent a fair amount of time experimenting with social media the past couple of years in different contexts. The first foray for me was inspired by (a creation of the Roche brothers, Matt and Jamie, in SF) which unfortunately ended up in mothballs, at least for now. was a powerful visual curation tool, an early competitor to Pinterest, which left it in the dust. Its one claim to fame was the ability to create independent archival working copies of any webpage, not just providing links to them. This view was rooted in Matt and Jamie's B2B experience, unlike the pure consumer focus of Pinterest which won out. Nonetheless, for close to a year I used to curate and share content on entrepreneurship, startups, technology and a few other subjects. With I could track in detail not just views but the actual reads of the "Bolts" I was posting to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Pinterest. I discovered and used Bufferapp to simplify the actual mechanics of posting. However, in spite of all that experimentation which led to over 50,000 reads in about 9 months, I didn't really develop a clear vision of how to lay out and implement a full fledged social media strategy, much less advise anyone else on how to do it. That is what Nelly took us through yesterday.

After 9 hours with Nelly and the Webgrrls I left with a much deeper understanding of the power of a well planned social media strategy rooted in a careful rethink of my personal brand - a work in progress starting this week with Twitter, a cleanup on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and maybe even Instagram to follow in the coming weeks. Nelly didn't just cover the basics, she went deep and turned us on to some very powerful advanced "hacks" to help build a community of true followers. As I actively contemplate another startup, in the educational space this time, I realize how critically important it is to lay the groundwork of a more clearly articulated personal brand, thanks to Nelly.  

Beyond the serendipity of discovering Nelly through a recent acquaintance, Mary Juetten  of Phoenix-based legal startup Traklight, the icing on the cake yesterday was networking with the Webgrrls. I found lots of overlap with my fellow attendees and am looking forward to followup on a number of fronts. Beyond that I have lots of new information to share with my School of Visual Arts graduate students in the Design for Social Innovation department who are currently building 6 startups. Given my audience yesterday, I took the opportunity to tell the story of one SVA student startup to the WebGrrls. Lovability founded by Tiffany Gaines is focused on women's health and empowerment, attacking the stigma of the purchase of condoms by women. Lovability has created and is distributing a line of condoms designed for women by women sold where women feel comfortable shopping e.g. beauty stores, lingerie shops and other types of boutiques as well as on the web. I was anxious to test Lovability's message with a target audience of women on my own. The feedback was amazingly positive.

Final note: Nelly also has two other workshops coming up under her Tech Speak for Entrepreneurs , her "how to navigate in the tech jungle" workshop. I would highly recommend Nelly to anyone, male or female, on either social media or tech speak! Another way you can make your own serendipity too.





Creating serendipity ....

Jessica, Josh and Julie

Jessica, Josh and Julie

I spent Friday and Saturday this week at a truly amazing conference, the Work Revolution Summit (WRS) at the Center for Social Innovation in NYC.  Jessica Lawrence Executive Director of the NY Tech Meetup (NYTM), Julie Clow and Josh Dykstra of Work Revolution, with lots of help from Andy Saldana, organized the gathering. I am a big believer in creating one's own serendipity. WRS for me was true serendipity.

My last real serendipitous conference discovery was PopTech which I found in 2006 and first attended in 2007. PopTech was a real life changing experience. I built lots of amazing relationships with folks like Andrew Rasiej and Cheryl Heller, just to name 2 whose impact is still very current for me. I have just become a Leadership Circle member at NYTM (Andrew is Board Chair there) and joined the faculty at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) to teach entrepreneurship to master's level design students focused on social innovation (Cheryl's program).  Joining the board of PopTech within months of first attending led to an incredible 5+ years helping to build the PopTech Social Innovation Fellows program, PopTech (virtual) Accelerator for social change organizations, the PopTech Science Fellows program and PopTech Labs. On the board I had the privilege of regularly rubbing elbows with folks like John Maeda, WRS speaker on Saturday. 

As soon as I walked in the door of WRS on Friday, I felt it, I just knew - pure palpable serendipity was on tap.  I feel very privileged that I was able to be part of WRS. I sense serious future involvement starting with the working group I joined with Tony Bacigalupo, Tim Hoover, Ryan Janssen, Christine Kovich, Sehreen Noor Ali, CV Harquail, Nate Cooper, Charlene DeCesare and Martha Denton our dedicated scribe for hours on Saturday. I am really looking forward to being part of this tribe. It could well prove to be another life changer.

More reporting on WRS (and other posts) to follow. I have not been a blogger, but in the words of WRS speaker Seth Godin, seconded by his MBA student and keynote closer of the conference Clay Hebert (we met in the first row), I "just had to put something out there" as part of "dancing with the fear".