Flare 2014-06-19 01-34-11 2014-06-19 01-34-15

Highlights from Startup School NYC 2014

I recently attended Y Combinator’s first Startup School in New York City. It was held at the Best Buy Theater near Times Square and was MC’ed by Alexis Ohanian (who told us there were in fact 28 YC co’s in NYC now!), featured talks by great founders and investors, live office hours with Sam Altman and Garry Tan, and a good turn out of several hundred tech-oriented people.

I remember sneaking into my first Startup School at Berkeley way back in 2009.

My friend (and later roommate-turned-cofounder) Kalvin couldn’t make it and I tried to claim I was him. I’m not sure the person at the door fully bought it, but she let me in anyway. It was an eye opening experience as I had just started working at my first startup gig at isocket. I don’t remember anything about the talks but I do remember feeling a general sense of inspiration and excitement about doing a startup.

Of course, I went on to do a Y Combinator startup and learned many of the lessons those founders shared first-hand. But I think if I was a newbie all over again, Startup School NYC would have delivered that same feeling.

I wrote about the most memorable parts of Startup School 2012 at Stanford and thought I’d again try to share the experience of this event.

I did a lot of live-tweeting so I’m going to try embedding them in the blog post. Let me know what y’all think. Continue reading…

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How Has Your Perspective Changed? (My 28th Birthday Question Giveaway)

A few years ago, I started a birthday tradition on this blog, where I ask readers to respond to a question, and give away a sweet prize.

When I turned 26, I asked “What’s one thing you wish you knew when you were 26?” When I turned 27, I asked readers to tell me about an important decision they had made.

Last week I turned 28, and it’s time for a new birthday question giveaway!

One random commenter will win a hardcover or Kindle copy of Think Like a Freak, a really rad book by writer/economist duo Stephen Dubner and Steven J. Leavitt (authors of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics). I’m about halfway through and really loving it.

This year’s question is:

What’s something you’ve changed your perspective on as you’ve gotten older?

So to be fair, here’s my answer to the question:

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the need to “play the game” [1]. Continue reading…

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How Startup Ideas Can Be Modeled Like Chemical Reactions

I’m sometimes envious of people who studied subjects in college that correspond to their actual careers. Finance majors who become bankers. Computer Science majors who become software engineers. Must be nice to actually *use* the knowledge you spent four or more years studying. As a guy with two biology degrees, a career in marketing and (non biotech), startups is a fairly orthogonal direction.

However, I have discovered a few ideas from my academic studies that come in handy when thinking about startups. One of them is how a chemical reaction is a great model for a startup idea. But let’s first take a step back.

The Four Key Points Needed to Discuss a Startup Idea

I was recently in a conversation with a coworker about some of her startup ideas. She had one idea around revitalizing musicals that, while not her main startup idea, got me thinking about the best way intelligently discuss these types of ideas. [1] It boils down to four major questions / answers. Continue reading…

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Four Total Body Workouts When You’re Short on Time

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and this is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You know the drill: attempt these workouts at your own risk.

Finding time to work out when you’re working a demanding job is tough. Add a big commute, errands, family responsibilities, and exercise time gets lost to the ether. And yet we know that physical activity is so critical to our physical, mental, emotional, and social performance and quality of life.

No matter how busy you are, skipping exercise is almost always a big mistake. Yes, being active takes time, but you can get a solid workout in a short amount of time if you’re willing to haul ass. Here are four workouts that will give you a great full-body workout in less than 15 minutes, and three of them don’t require any special equipment.

Are you ready to give up your best excuse for not exercising?

On High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

The idea behind all of these workouts is that they have periods of intense work, and periods of rest. The rest periods are short by design. This type of training has been shown to burn fat efficient, develop aerobic and strength benefits and boost your metabolism for 48-72 hours after the workout. Continue reading…

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24 Ideas From Scott Berkun About Tech, Leadership, and the Future of Work

One of the few people who can match Paul Graham as writer is Scott Berkun. They have both succeeded as technologists, Graham in Viaweb + YC, and Berkun in Microsoft and Automattic. They both write thoughtful essays on a wide range of topics, like the Cities and Ambition or Street Smarts vs Book Smarts. If anything, Berkun is a bit more personable and relatable as a writer, he’ll refer to himself a bit more than Graham and use more culturally relevant examples.

I recently finished Berkun’s book, A Year Without Pants, about his experience as something like a product manager for Team Social at Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com. The title of the book refers to the fact that the company is fully distributed and so you don’t have to wear pants to work if you don’t want to. I’ve written previously about 37 Signal’s book Remote, but this book is different because it doesn’t focus so intensely on the “remote” part. In fact, large swaths of the book are about times where Team Social were working together at an in person gathering.

Berkun primarily uses his experience at Automattic as a platform to offer a variety of other interesting and unconventional ideas about work. Here are 24 of my favorite quotes from the book (which you should read) and my comments. Continue reading…