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8 Thoughts from a Techie on SF vs NYC

We take a quick break from the #WkofBks to bring something a little different for the Your Turn Challenge (Day #5, yes I’m behind). I just spent a week in San Francisco, seeing friends and working out of the Percolate SF offices. While they were fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about my time here. I spent nine years in the Bay Area, and four of them in SF, and none of the things on this list should surprise someone living in the Bay Area. But since I’ve spent the last year in NYC, these things jumped out at me as being noteworthy.

It’s a smaller world.

The magic (and for some, curse) of Silicon Valley is just how connected everyone and everything is. I stayed with my friend and Stanford classmate Bilal, who works at Optimizely. One night at the Caltrain station, I ran into someone else I knew from Stanford, who was also working at Optimizely, who I later saw when I got lunch at the office. While waiting to meet a founder friend for lunch , I ran into a high school friend who had started and sold a company to Comcast, and another high school friend who was getting her PhD at Stanford. The serendipity of encounters is one of my favorite things about Silicon Valley, but I’m sure it can sometimes feel suffocating. In NYC, the tech community is smaller, but somehow people aren’t talking to each other that much, or it’s just taking time to build up the relationships. I still feel like I might meet someone at a tech event and never see them again. Continue reading…

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My Notes on Don’t Call it That: A Naming Workbook

Welcome to Day 3 of my #WkofBooks, part of the Your Turn Challenge. Today I’m sharing the insights I gleaned from a wonderful (and fairly short) book Don’t Call it That: A Naming Workbook.

dontcallitthatThe Book in a Nutshell: Choosing a name for your startup or product is a crucial task because it defines the initial expectations and preconceived notions people will have about your thing. It’s easy to pick a bland name, but really try hard to think up a lot of name options and pick something weird, differentiated, and memorable.

About the Author: Eli Altman is the Creative Director of a naming company called A Hundred Monkeys (good name right?) which has worked with startups and Fortune 50 companies to name products. For example, they helped a wearable tech company called Pulsetracker rebrand to Basis. Continue reading…

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Reading Notes on How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert

These are my reading notes on How to Make Sense of Any Mess, and the second installment of #WkofBks as part of the #YourTurnChallenge!

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The Book in a Nutshell: The human race is creating more information than ever before, in the form of signs, articles, websites, apps, and much more — and the world would be a better place if we could all learn a little bit more about how to structure, present, and discuss that information. Also one of the inspirations for How to Get What You Want.

About the Author: I first encountered Abby Covert via a presentation she did with the same name as part of the Blend 2014 conference. She’s the President of the Information Architecture Institute and teaches IA at the Parsons New School of Design. I loved her story-driven, no-nonsense approach to writing about this field. Continue reading…

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The Best and Worst Parts of Peter Thiel’s New Book: Zero to One

In spring of 2012, Peter Thiel, cofounder of Paypal and Palantir and early investor in Facebook, taught a course at Stanford in the Computer Science department called CS183: Startup. One of the students in the class, a law student named Blake Masters, took meticulous notes that were widely shared across the web (1M+ pg views).

The ideas were intriguing, and ran counter to much of the standard startup wisdom. I had read some of the notes when they came out but they’re pretty lengthy and I didn’t get through them all. Continue reading…

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Insights on the Xerox Story From Bill Gates’s Favorite Business Book

When he met Warren Buffet in 1991, Bill Gates asked what his favorite book was. The legendary investor replied that it was Business Adventures, a collection of twelve business articles written by John Brooks for the New Yorker and originally published in 1969 [1]. Buffet lent his copy to Gates, who promptly read it, and recently declared in The Wall Street Journal that it was also his favorite business book.

The article alone has shot the book, which was previously out-of-print, up to number seven on the Amazon Kindle list (at the time of this printing) after Brooks’s son found a publisher to quickly release an ebook version. Who doesn’t want to glean business insights from a book praised by the two most wealthy men in the world?

Gates gives special praise to an article on Xerox, calling it one that “everyone in the tech industry should study”. Having read it, I found so many similarities between the company’s humble beginnings and disruption of the copier / office products industry as the tech startups of today. So without further ado, here are some of the timeless lessons learned from “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox”, part of Business Adventures by John Brooks. Continue reading…