Jason's Blog

Aug 28

“Working with him isn’t a comfortable experience, he is never satisfied with himself so he is never really satisfied with anyone around him. He pushes himself harder and harder and he pushes others around him the exact same way. The challenge is that he is a machine and the rest of us aren’t. So if you work for Elon you have to accept the discomfort. But in that discomfort is the kind of growth you can’t get anywhere else, and worth every ounce of blood and sweat.” —

Dolly Singh, 5-year SpaceX employee, on what it is like to work with Elon Musk.  Fascinating glimpse into what it takes to be great and how to lead/inspire people to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-it-like-to-work-with-Elon-Musk/answer/Dolly-Singh-8

Jul 10

“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.” — Michael Johnson

Jul 05

Services like Zipcar are game changers for urban dwellers who want to share more and own less. But having to lug a 25 lb car seat to and from the Zipcar every time you use it is enough to make even the most well-intentioned urban dweller cave and buy a car. Still some kinks to be worked out of the sharing economy.

Services like Zipcar are game changers for urban dwellers who want to share more and own less. But having to lug a 25 lb car seat to and from the Zipcar every time you use it is enough to make even the most well-intentioned urban dweller cave and buy a car. Still some kinks to be worked out of the sharing economy.

Jun 24

This is a pic I just found of me (sunglasses on head in middle of screen) camped out overnight outside the Apple Store in 2008 the night before the iPhone 3G and App Store launched.  We needed to get our hands on a testing device before we could ship RunKeeper for the first time! 

This is a pic I just found of me (sunglasses on head in middle of screen) camped out overnight outside the Apple Store in 2008 the night before the iPhone 3G and App Store launched.  We needed to get our hands on a testing device before we could ship RunKeeper for the first time! 

Jun 18

after keeping us up all night (from 2:30am on), he decided to take his own pants off and zonk out 5 minutes before it was time to go to work

after keeping us up all night (from 2:30am on), he decided to take his own pants off and zonk out 5 minutes before it was time to go to work

May 19

Ditch the safety net, you slacker.

I was a slacker growing up.  In fact, I prided myself on it.  

Great standardized test scores and shitty grades? That must mean only one thing (I thought) - I was a genius who chose not to apply himself. Imagine how good my grades would be if I tried.

Didn’t study, but solid SAT scores? Imagine (I thought) if I had only studied, my scores would be off the charts.

Out partying the night before a big hockey game and still played a decent game?  Imagine (I thought) how amazing I would be if I only got a good night sleep like everyone else.

At the time, I legitimately believed this bullshit. I thought I was some wonderkid, as I measured my success not based on what I was able to achieve, but on what I was able to achieve without applying myself.

In hindsight (and I suspect, I knew deep down at the time, as well), I knew this was bullshit.  Did I really know for sure that I would be amazing if I applied myself?  Certainly not. Was I terrified about what would happen if I applied myself and was not exceptional?  You bet.  I was afraid to fail, and used my slacking off as a built-in excuse and safety net - if I failed, I could always blame it on the fact that I didn’t try.

This is an awful trap.  Somewhere along the way I thankfully broke out of this, and started measuring myself on absolute success, versus “success based on minimal effort”.  It is essential to do so if you want to achieve great things.  And I’ve been infinitely better off for it.  Every once in a while I fall into the trap yet again - like with my Boston Marathon training this year.  But I’ve got a much better pulse on it, and am watching it constantly.   

I know I’m not the smartest in the room, or the most talented.  But I try to make sure I outwork anyone else out there - hard work is my superpower.  Now I’ve got the opposite problem, which is that nothing I ever achieve is good enough.  But I’ll save that post for another day.

Apr 20

The Rise of the Invisible App

This post initially ran in Fast Company April 19, 2013

Our phones have become an extension of ourselves, so much that we get anxiety when we leave them at home. Nearly 84% of people worldwide said they couldn’t go a single day without their phone, according to Time. But fewer of us consciously think about the potential for our phones to get to know us, just by virtue of being on us all the time.

Now, wearable technologies like Pebble and Google Glass are changing the way we interact with our phones and how our phones interact with us. With these innovations come big opportunities to transform how we go about our lives. But in order for phones and wearables to be truly transformative, the apps that run on them will need to become invisible.

Wave one of the app revolution has been a great first step. Now you can keep track of your daily calorie intake, your personal spending against budget, find driving directions to your destination, and many other functions that help make our lives easier. But each of these apps still requires a fair bit of work, and as a result, many people aren’t sticking with them over time. This problem is compounded as more apps proliferate, and as people’s overburdened schedules continue to get crazier. A shining example is email. It is engrained in our business culture as an efficiency-driver, but increasingly bogs people down with more and more required actions that disrupt the flow of their workday. Lots of companies are out trying to tackle the email challenge and make the technology more invisible, before people declare email bankruptcy and throw in the towel altogether.

The second wave of the app revolution will be the quest for invisibility. Invisible apps run passively in the background, meaning they are always on collecting data, with no action needed to enable them. The information that they surface is proactive and timely, without you, the consumer, needing to look for it. They leverage many data sources, including other apps, and the more they know about you, the smarter they become. As the technology fades into the background and these apps get better at solving everyday problems effectively, they will become indispensable across more and more aspects of our lives. 

This quest for invisibility is already in progress. Google Now, for instance, not only prompts you when it is time to leave for your next meeting, but it tells you which route to take given current traffic patterns—without you having to ask. Uber doesn’t just let you book a taxi from your phone, it shows where the car is in real-time as it approaches, how many minutes away it is, and prompts you as it is arriving so you can head outside just in time. Square doesn’t just enable merchants to accept credit cards via their phones, but also lets you place an order just by saying your name while inside the store. 

While these examples may seem like magic, it’s only the beginning. As your phone has more sensors in it, and more access to integrated external sensors, it will continue to know more about you and your surroundings. As this occurs, the friction involved in using apps will continue to decrease, and the proactive insight and value that these apps provide will increase exponentially over time.

I’m not claiming the robots will take over quite yet, but as apps become more invisible, we can start to live more productively and get closer to reaching our fullest potential.

Apr 07

How scaling a company is like riding a motorcycle

When I was younger, I had a motorcycle. In fact, I LOVED that motorcycle (see pic below).  Learning how to ride it was interesting, to say the least. I have quite a few embarrassing stories I could share that I’ll save for another day.

One of the most non-intuitive things about learning how to ride a motorcycle is how to handle turning.  When you are going around a turn, in order to turn left, you need to countersteer and turn the front wheel to the right. And if you are turning right, vice versa. This is the opposite of what you would intuitively expect, as on a bicycle (for example), it works in the reverse.

Even when you think you get the hang of this on a motorcycle, it is put to the test the first time you don’t lean quite hard enough into a turn and realize you aren’t going to make it.  Instinctively, you want to hit the brakes and stop leaning so hard, but doing so will only make the situation worse and pretty much guarantee you won’t make it. The best approach is rather to stay off the brakes, push the front wheel harder in the direction it is already going, and lean harder into the turn.  This is not initially intuitive, but it becomes second nature as you get more comfortable on the bike.  

There is a similar phenomenon that occurs when scaling high-growth companies.  In the early days, everyday issues get resolved by rolling up your sleeves and addressing them directly.  This is the intuitive way to solve problems.  But the larger your company gets, the more you need to get yourself out of the weeds of everyday issues and trust/empower your team to address them effectively on your behalf.

You’ll think you’ve got this down as you navigate different issues, until a tough one comes out of nowhere and you need to think fast on your feet.  You will intuitively want to revert to addressing tactical issues yourself, but it is important to resist this tendency.  Like turning while on a motorcycle, the best way to make it is to stay off the brakes, lean harder into your team, and trust that they will come through for you.  While this may not be intuitive at first, it becomes second nature as you get more comfortable on the bike.

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Apr 01

RunKeeper: Introducing: the next revolution in running -

runkeeper:

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We’re always trying to do more to make running and getting in shape easier and more intuitive.

In the process, we’ve discovered that for many of our users, the phone screen is just too small to get all that important real-time fitness information into one convenient place.

So we’re…

So proud of the team for stepping up on this…. well done! 

(Source: runkeeper)

Feb 04

Training for Boston - here we go again! -

I’ve been busy the last several weeks training for my 3rd Boston Marathon!  This one is more daunting, as with a 10 month old son at home, I am far from in “game shape”.  

Thrilled to be running as part of Team CampInteractive, which is a year-round program that introduces inner-city, at-risk youth to the creative power of technology.  There are 4 of us on the squad, and combined, we are on the hook for raising $20K for CampInteractive (gulp)!  2 sponsors, Spark Capital (our lead investor) and Gunderson Dettmer (our law firm), have also committed to matching what we raise dollar-for-dollar up to an additional $20K donation (thanks guys!).  

In addition to the challenge of training, the fundraising is going to be a huge challenge as well!  Hoping through the commitment we’re making to train for this grueling race, the terrific cause that we are running on behalf of, and the power of social media, we can bang out this fundraising goal in no time!  

Any help would be appreciated, both by me and the team at CampInteractive!  And most importantly, by the kids that go through their programs.  Our team fundraising page is here….

http://www.crowdrise.com/TeamInteractiveBostonMarathon/

Thanks everyone!

Jason