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tobiaspeggs:

When i was at University in the early 90s, i ran every night. The technology i used was… a Sony Walkman. I’d shove in a well worn tape cassette of New Order’s “Technique”, put the headphones on, hit play and start running. That album is just shy of 40 minutes. I’d run… get half way through……

Tobias nails it once again. It is not just fitness data that matters, your motion throughout the day, nutrition, etc are also key pieces of the puzzle. Will take time for all of these to tie together in a cohesive way, but is is all coming. Once they do, there are some incredibly exciting possibilities in terms of correlations and making meaning of the data.  Such an exciting time to be innovating in this category.

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New Year’s Resolutions Are…

Our attempt at a viral marketing campaign to make light of the fact that the success rate on New Year’s resolutions is so low. With some simple tweaks to the model, the success rate gets MUCH higher.

Also our secret attempt to turn Larry into a cult phenom like the Old Spice guy. I think we still have some work to do :)

runkeeper:

See what Larry has to say about New Year’s Resolutions, and go here to see if you can make a worthy one. 

(Source: runkeeper)

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"There are a bunch of aggressive, ivy-league-educated, high IQ people working in Bentonville whose careers are going nowhere because they never learned how to connect with other people."

— Lee Scott, (now former) CEO of Walmart, circa 2008

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This is my shot.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any blogging.  Between trying to scale a company and adjusting to being a new dad, the past few months have been the craziest of my life so far.  When I read Dave McClure’s blog post today about being a late bloomer, I couldn’t resist taking a quick break from real work to crank out a post of my own.

Dave’s post resonated with me on several levels.  I too am a late bloomer, and I too feel like I haven’t proven shit (and to be clear, I have proven way less than Dave has).  I remember in first grade when my teacher used to call me gifted due the scores I got on some stupid standardized test.  I was the fifth grader who went door-to-door to every local business selling sponsorships for our local hockey tournament.  The kid who organized the other neighborhood kids into a snow shoveling business.  The kid who was so proud of the job he got at the local sporting goods store when he was 15, especially because he got it all on his own.

But somewhere along the way, I started caring less about achievement and more about partying and having fun.  I started skipping classes, not doing my homework, and gliding through school with as little effort as possible. I went to a good college, but only because the hockey coach said he could get me in.  I was actually pretty sure before I went there that I wouldn’t like it, and sure enough, that was pretty much the case.  I took the easiest classes I could find, and barely applied myself at all for 4 years straight.

Then I got into the real world.  While I worked hard in every job I had, in 10 years of working I never spent more than 2 years at the same company.  I would follow a similar pattern at every job… get in, be thrilled about drinking from a fire hose and bust my hump working non-stop for the first year or so.  At about the year mark, I’d start to feel like I wasn’t drinking from a fire hose as much, and I’d start to get the itch to do something different.  And 3-6 months later, I usually did.

The entire time I was going through this journey, all I wanted was to ‘find my thing’.  I was hugely impatient, and when I couldn’t find it, it frustrated the hell out of me.  It got to the point where I wasn’t sure if I truly hadn’t found the right thing, or if maybe there was no right thing and I was just destined to be a slacker that never did anything exceptional in his career.

Then, at 31 years old, I finally found something I cared about deeply enough to set out and build a company around.  When I did, I just knew it was the right thing for me, and from that moment forward I set out aggressively to make my dream a reality.  Just like every other new journey I had set out on in the past, I came out of the gates drinking from a fire hose and working around the clock.  But this time was different.  It wasn’t practice before the big game any longer, the big game was finally here.  4.5 years have gone by and I am still drinking from a fire hose each and every day.  Each new milestone that the company gets through brings a whole new set of challenges, and continuing to take it through new milestones in the future is about the most exciting and rewarding thing I could ever imagine doing.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I feel very fortunate to have finally ‘found my thing’.  It has all of the ingredients that should hold my interest over a long, long period of time, and honestly, I don’t know if there is anything else out there that could do the same.  While there may be, why would I ever chance it?  This is my shot.

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brycedotvc:

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I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

—Michael Jordan

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How Boston Can Step Up Our Game (hint: we are so close!)

It wasn’t too long ago that the Boston startup scene seemed to be panicking a bit.  Lots of discussions started to form around how to step up our game and get our groove back.  There were talks of rebranding, convincing newly-minted college graduates to stay in the area, and about the sting we felt every time another young company headed out to the west coast to follow their dreams.

It seems we have come a long way since those days, and they weren’t that long ago. TechStars is booming.  Amazing programs like Founder Mentors and DartBoston have been established to support young entrepreneurs in their quest to build companies.  And it doesn’t stop there, Dogpatch Labs emerged, Microsoft NERD stepped up to host/sponsor all kinds of great events, and most importantly, there is a heck of a lot of new startup activity here in Boston.  Not that I have been around for THAT long, but I am seeing far more activity than I’ve ever seen before.

Increasing startup activity and the framework to nurture these startups is a big piece of the puzzle.  Not all of them will be successful, but more and more are emerging with strong founders, seed funding, great products, real user traction, solid revenue models, and some good hype and media attention around them.  This just wasn’t the case when I quit my job to start RunKeeper in 2008, and we should feel really good about the strides that we’ve taken.

While this is all amazing progress, we are still missing a critical piece of the puzzle.  The first step may be to get these vibrant startups with real momentum off the ground, but at some point, large corporate acquirers start knocking.  If you keep executing, they keep knocking and the knocks start getting louder.  At a certain point, without much invested capital in the business, it may be tempting to sell. While the outcomes in these instances may not be ‘home runs’, in many cases, selling the company at this point is not the wrong move.  Some wealth is created, the founders get a ‘win’ under their belts, and they can move on to the next one.  Only next time, they can swing for the fences with a proven team, an established track record, and without having to worry as much about how to put food on the table along the way.

The problem is that most of these large acquirers are based out west.  The implication is that, in many cases, the founding team moves to the west coast as part of the deal.  Lock-up is maybe a year, then they’re itching to break free and go do it again, this time going even bigger.  In most cases, when they do head out for the next one, they stay out west and don’t return to Boston.  The most notable recent example of this is Quattro Wireless - A terrific founding team, a great exit to Apple, and a CEO that relocated out west as part of the deal.  He stays for a time at the acquiring company, quits to go do the next big thing, and then  joins Highland Capital Partners (which has a big Boston office), but will be working out of Menlo Park.  Ouch!  I am not close to that situation at all, and by no means mean to single Andy out.  His decision may be for reasons that have nothing to do with any of this.  But it seems that our promising young companies getting acquired by companies in other regions is a primary cause for the continued talent drain of some of the brightest entrepreneurs from Boston into other parts of the country.  Until we stop the bleeding, Boston will continue to stunt it’s own growth.

What Boston needs is for more of these promising young companies to break out and grow into the kinds of large scale Internet powerhouses that become acquirers themselves.  This will give the people that are along for the ride a phenomenal education and skillset, and the resources and network to go out on their own when the time is right (think PayPal mafia, or Xooglers).  It also means that when these promising young companies get acquired for ‘base hits’, the acquirers will be other Boston companies that will keep this talent in Boston. 

There are some local companies poised to go in that direction, such as Hubspot and Gemvara.  And I would be lying if I said that RunKeeper doesn’t have similar aspirations and ambitions.  But getting more of these emerging startups over the hump and on the path to build the next Amazon, Salesforce.com, or Facebook is the missing link to shift the pendulum dramatically in Boston’s favor.  Not only would it stop the bleeding, but it would quickly turn the tide so that Boston can begin acquiring companies (and therefore talent) from other regions as well, thus dramatically shifting momentum as this plays out over a longer period of time.

The exciting part is that we have all of the pieces we need to make this happen!  We have tons of large military/defense contractors and financial institutions stifling and underemploying a generation of ambitious, impatient, highly capable young engineers.  We have more resources, both formal and informal, to provide mentorship and guidance than ever before.  We have deep pocketed institutional investors that are terrified of letting the next Google or Facebook emerge out of Boston and head west.  We have what we need, now we just need to go and do it.

We are in an age where everything is accelerating and nothing is immune to the seeds of disruption and change.  It is happening with individual company growth (i.e. Zynga, Groupon, etc.), and it is happening with the shifting balance of power between countries at the macro level.  There is no reason why it can’t happen in terms of regional technology hubs, and no reason why Boston can’t emerge as the next major technology mecca.  Let’s make it happen!

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Recruiting as a Strategic Weapon

Many people talk about the importance of recruiting in building a startup. What most people mean by that is that attracting and retaining key talent is incredibly valuable.  Here at RunKeeper, we agree.  But our recruiting process is important to us for another reason beyond who we end up hiring – the actual process we go through to identify key hires is as valuable as the end result.

I’ll give you an example.  Now that we launched the Health Graph API, we are currently searching for a head of platform evangelism.  This is a key hire for the company, as building out the Health Graph ecosystem is a cornerstone of our future direction and success.  We need to make sure that we get the right person to come in and be the face of the company to the developer community.

When we started looking for this person, the first step was to calibrate internally on a job description.  The next step was to start socializing it with thought leaders in the industry.  This includes platform evangelists, people who have built teams of platform evangelists, product managers and heads of business development from web platform companies who have worked closely with platform evangelists, and so on. 

This socializing process does few things. First, it enables us to get feedback on how we are thinking about the role from people who have been doing it for a long time.  This helps us refine the profile of the person we are looking for, and get a better sense of how we want to go about building out the developer community.  It also enables us to start building up a rolodex and credibility in the platform evangelism world.  The more platform evangelists that know about our efforts and think highly of what we are doing, the easier it will be to establish credibility once we identify the person we ultimately want to hire. 

 As we start to cover more ground, word starts to spread and when these platform evangelists come across others in their peer group who may be thinking about making a career change, we will be top-of-mind and the first person they put that person in touch with.  Before long, interesting candidates start bubbling up.  And when they do, we have a clearer idea of what we are after from the discussions we have had with other platform evangelists along the way.  We then narrow the process down to a short-list of candidates who we like and feel good about, check references, and from there, hopefully choose the one that is the best fit and move forward with a shiny new head of platform evangelism!  The process we use to narrow down the candidates probably merits a separate post altogether, so I won’t even try.

Along the way, all of the seeds we have planted with other thought leaders from the industry are not wasted effort.  These then serve as the foundation for a rolodex we can leverage as we then seek to hire product managers, heads of business development, and other key hires as we grow.  These conversations and relationships can also lead to additional unintended benefits, such as partnership opportunities, introductions to key investors/advisors, and general buzz/excitement around our company and the market opportunity that is in front of us.

So as you can see, while our main objective is to hire a star, we get a lot of additional benefits out of the recruiting process beyond the person we end up hiring.  I have been meaning to write this post for a while, in order to share some of the tips and best practices that we try to follow when building out our team.  I would love to hear from others about the approaches you have found success with, as I am sure that we can learn a lot from what all of you are doing as well.

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I was just thinking about this the other day, how the social web provides so much more context about people that when you meet them in person, you feel like you already know them.  And yes, Bryce (who is now one of our investors) and I really did meet through doing RunKeeper customer support via twitter!
brycedotvc:

This is David. He lives in Berlin. He’s the community manager at SoundCloud. We share a similar taste in music and before I moved to California a few months back, a similarly hectic travel schedule. We’ve known each other for a couple years but we’ve never met.
Let me back up. A few years ago I noticed my friends reblogging some of the music that David was posting on Tumblr. Shortly after I noticed that David was liking and reblogging some of my posts as well. So I followed him back. I got to know David through his posts. We had a a lot in common and liked each other’s style. A few weeks ago we bumped into each other at Tumblr HQ and made plans to meet up on his trip upcoming trip to San Francisco. Tuesday we ate at my favorite lunch spot, Fog City Diner, and talked like we were old friends. Because we were.
I struck up a similar relationship on Twitter two years ago. I was using an iPhone app called Runkeeper and posted a question about it to Twitter. The RunKeeper account on Twitter replied with the answer. I posted another question a few days later with the same results. I gave @runkeeper a follow. I was really impressed with how they managed their community on Twitter by encouraging existing users to answer the questions of new users. I liked how they operated so when the founder reached out for advice, well, the rest is history.
Services like Twitter and Tumblr are brimming with a wide range of interesting people saying interesting, funny or provacative things. If I’m intrigued by what they have to say, I follow them. If I lose interest or find their signal too weak to overcome their noise, I unfollow them. Mitch Kapor, once described this shared behavior of following and unfollowing people on Twitter as tuning his information drip. I like that. 
These tools, that some dismiss as as waste of time, have proven to be a great resource for exposing us to ideas that we’re interested in. They amplify trends we’re tracking and markets as they move. But, most importantly, they give us rich context for the people behind them.
Over the last month or so I’ve had more and more experiences of meeting people IRL that I follow across these services. Each time, we have a deep well of context to draw our conversations from. They’re rich and meaningful interactions. If I follow you on Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare or Instagram you have an open invitation for lunch at the Fog City Diner anytime you’re in town.

I was just thinking about this the other day, how the social web provides so much more context about people that when you meet them in person, you feel like you already know them.  And yes, Bryce (who is now one of our investors) and I really did meet through doing RunKeeper customer support via twitter!

brycedotvc:

This is David. He lives in Berlin. He’s the community manager at SoundCloud. We share a similar taste in music and before I moved to California a few months back, a similarly hectic travel schedule. We’ve known each other for a couple years but we’ve never met.

Let me back up. A few years ago I noticed my friends reblogging some of the music that David was posting on Tumblr. Shortly after I noticed that David was liking and reblogging some of my posts as well. So I followed him back. I got to know David through his posts. We had a a lot in common and liked each other’s style. A few weeks ago we bumped into each other at Tumblr HQ and made plans to meet up on his trip upcoming trip to San Francisco. Tuesday we ate at my favorite lunch spot, Fog City Diner, and talked like we were old friends. Because we were.

I struck up a similar relationship on Twitter two years ago. I was using an iPhone app called Runkeeper and posted a question about it to Twitter. The RunKeeper account on Twitter replied with the answer. I posted another question a few days later with the same results. I gave @runkeeper a follow. I was really impressed with how they managed their community on Twitter by encouraging existing users to answer the questions of new users. I liked how they operated so when the founder reached out for advice, well, the rest is history.

Services like Twitter and Tumblr are brimming with a wide range of interesting people saying interesting, funny or provacative things. If I’m intrigued by what they have to say, I follow them. If I lose interest or find their signal too weak to overcome their noise, I unfollow them. Mitch Kapor, once described this shared behavior of following and unfollowing people on Twitter as tuning his information drip. I like that. 

These tools, that some dismiss as as waste of time, have proven to be a great resource for exposing us to ideas that we’re interested in. They amplify trends we’re tracking and markets as they move. But, most importantly, they give us rich context for the people behind them.

Over the last month or so I’ve had more and more experiences of meeting people IRL that I follow across these services. Each time, we have a deep well of context to draw our conversations from. They’re rich and meaningful interactions. If I follow you on Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare or Instagram you have an open invitation for lunch at the Fog City Diner anytime you’re in town.

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Stop Raising Money and Build Your Business

If you are a first-time startup founder, then like mine was, your instinct when starting out may be to try to go out and raise money right away.  After all, it is scary starting a company that is funded entirely out of your own pocket.  You want desperately to find a team to build your product, and paying salaries feels like a distant dream.  You see clearly how much needs to be done, and can’t wait to head down the path even faster.  Plus, funded companies seem to get so much more visibility and exposure.  What better way to accomplish all of these things than to go out and raise your very own round of funding, right?  WRONG!

The last thing that a startup should be thinking about in the earliest phases of development is raising money.  The further you can get a business without outside capital, the more value you are creating along the way.  While it may seem like building relationships with investors early on “for the future” is strategic, in reality, your time is much better spent building product, buidling a team, talking to potential customers and thought leaders from your target market, and getting mentorship from serial entrepreneurs with relevant startup experience.  What will get investors most excited is the team you assemble, a real product with real users and real traction/momentum,  and clear direction on how the product and model will evolve over time.  None of these aspects can be furthered by having early discussions with investors, and the only thing those discussions will accomplish is to distract you from doing the things that will ultimately make your company an attractive investment.

Even if you are able to raise money successfully early on, I would argue that you still may not want it.  Operating a startup without capital may be the most stressful phase of the business, but it is also the most fun.  You have no one to answer to other than your co-founders.  You can take your time to tune the model, experiment in fun and important ways, and really push the envelope in terms of the product and business decisions that you make.  It isn’t that you can’t still do these things once you get the right investors involved, but getting those investors will take a lot of time that could have been better spent building the business.  Plus the longer you wait and the more value you create in the meantime, the more efficient your fundraising process will be, the higher the caliber of the investor group you will assemble, and the less of your company you will need to give up in the process.

I’m not saying that there aren’t times/places in a company’s lifecycle where it makes sense to raise outside capital - there absolutely are, and at those points, not raising capital may be the wrong move.  But many first-time entrepreneurs seem to fall into the trap of thinking the time to raise capital has come well before it should.