Pokemon Theme

This is 5-year old Thomas singing the Pokemon theme.  I couldn't help but join him on the 2nd verse -- such a fun song to sing.  I wanted something simple and punchy, but Thomas insisted the guitar harmonies and outro solo.  He also insisted on singing the guitar stabs, which I think is a nice touch.  He's tough to work with, but I can't really question his vision for the music.



Not Your Turn

Thomas and Catherine wanted to make a song about Pokemon. They started fighting over who to got sing more, who got to sing first, etc. So this song is about Pokemon and taking turns.

T & C played the keyboard duet solo in the outro.

This is the first song with my new midi keyboard...and the first rap verse I've written since I was probably 8 years old. :)

2016's Greatest Hits

Here's my favorite blog post of the year.

2007 Edition
2008 Edition
2009 Edition
2010 Edition

2011 Edition
2013 Edition
2014 Edition
2015 Edition

Sycamore Street Studios

I saw a friend on the street in Durham this Fall and stopped to chat for a bit.  He was about to fly to St John USVI for a few weeks of vacation -- he's had a very successful career and his kids are grown, so he has the time and resources for this type of trip.  

The friendly convo drifted into a discussion about time and how we use it, to which I said that when (not if!) I'm in his situation and have time, resources, etc., I plan to write and record a new crappy song every day -- just to have the creative outlet and to have a hobby and a process to share with my kids.

After rethinking the conversation over a few days, I decided that waiting until I was retired to do this would be stupid -- so I fired up GarageBand and started making crappy songs with Thomas:

Beach Time
Twinkle Twinkle
Progressive Metal
Just Be Careful
Fast, Tough, & a Little Bit Mean

Our songs definitely got better with time.  Just Be Careful and Fast, Tough are actually pretty decent -- I'm going to work up some new non-5-year-old-soccer lyrics so the Titans can perform the latter.  

We don't really have an official name for our "band" yet, but we've been calling ourselves Thumb Toe for a while now.  My hunch is it will stick.

My goals for 2017 are to record another ~8 or so decent songs with Thomas (and Catherine) so that we can "release" and "record" and to record a few of my own songs (sans children) that reflect what's knocking around in my head and my heart.

American Titans

My rock band American Titans got way better and played a handful of gigs in 2016.  And they were all soooo much fun.

We had a slowdown over the summer when Barba came along, but had a nice run of shows in Raleigh this fall.  2017 should be a good year for us -- we've got an awfully tight 60+ minute set and a handful of new originals in the works.  And I suspect that we'll record a few songs for an EP at some point.


Favorite Records

My favorites:

All alt-folk / rock / Americana this year.  Don't think I'm getting softer -- still plenty of offensive music in my rotation -- but maybe hitting 36 and 3 kids is making me a bit more mellow.

Fruit Bats -- Absolute Loser -- this was one of those "why haven't I been listening to this band my whole life?" kind of things.  My Sweet Midwest is my favorite chorus of 2016 -- I catch myself singing it to my kids all the time.  

"None of us has seen it all."

Kevin Morby -- Singing Saw -- I think his best record, simple, clean, beautiful.  

"I've got a songbook in my head."

Whitney -- Light Upon the Lake -- this record is a breezy summer afternoon, such a pleasure to listen to start to finish.  Guessing that this one is probably on lots of best of lists for 2016.  Adore the brass, the jangly piano, and the sweet falsetto.  

"I'm not sure I know which way the rising river flows, on the night I lose control.  Oh dear -- don't you let me go."

Hiss Golden Messenger -- Heart Like a Levee -- my new favorite band...and based in Durham, no less.  Phil Cook, Matt McCaughon, and Tift Merrit play on this record.  Lead singer Mike Taylor is around my age, has young kids, and sings the truth:

On the trade-offs of having a wife, kids, and a job that you love:

Do you hate me honey, as much as I hate myself?

On finding joy:

You can't choose your blues, but you might as well own them.

On family:

Take all of the grace
And all of the sorrow
Put it on me
Set it free
For a moment
Just a moment
Can I carry it?

God I love this band so much.

Other faves:

A Giant Dog -- Pile -- pretty sure I found out about these guys via tweet from Merge.  A really fun punk band out of Austin.  Sex & Drugs is great -- "can't even remember being young".  Also -- plus points for naming a song Jizzney.

DBT -- American Band -- as strong as anything they've released, love the anger, the truth, and the protest.  Ramon Casiano is my favorite track...and an unbelievable story.  A perfect record for 2016.

Sturgill Simpson -- A Sailor's Guide to Earth -- I remember listening to this the first time and feeling amazed by the unexpected soul/funk turn on the first track.  Also love the rhyming Japanese cities and the N64 Goldeneye line on Sea Stories.

Run the Jewels -- RTJ3 -- haven't really given this one a good listen to be honest, included it simply because I know I'll bang it like crazy over the coming weeks. :)

Diarrhea Planet -- Turn To Gold -- was more excited about this record than any other in 2016 and it delivered.  Hot Topic and Ain't A Sin To Win are my faves.

SIMO -- Let Love Show the Way -- was home alone and playing this so loud that I didn't hear my phone ring.  It was Kelly saying that Cat had tripped her and she broke her ankle on the curb after Thomas' soccer practice.  She was not very happy about that.  Still -- awesome record!

Live Shows

Planet Creep w/ my sis and bro, the drummer.

Planet Creep w/ my sis and bro, the drummer.

Phil Cook with Kelly...and Barba in utero.

Phil Cook with Kelly...and Barba in utero.

Fruit Bats with Zach.

Fruit Bats with Zach.

Also Diarrhea Planet x2 -- in Durham with Chad, in Chapel Hill with Chris.  

Turns out that newborns and live rock and roll don't really mix.  Hoping for more loud music in 2017...and already have Hiss Golden Messenger and Run the Jewels (!!!) on the calendar.

Happy 2017.

2015's Greatest Hits

More so that recent years, music has been a central part of my life in 2015.  These are my favorite tunes and memories from 2015. 

2007 Edition
2008 Edition
2009 Edition
2010 Edition

2011 Edition
I skipped 2012 for reasons I'll write about one day.
2013 Edition
2014 Edition

Live Shows

I had a goal of at least one live show per month in 2015.  While I didn't get one in each month, I'm pretty sure I saw 12+ shows on the year...which isn't too shabby considering the circumstances -- kids, work, etc.

The best show of the year was Baroness at Local 506 just a few weeks ago.  They're an all time favorite band that I had never seen live.  The house was packed and the energy was unbelievable.  And of course Baroness destroyed it.

A few other standouts are Hiss Golden Messenger (at Haw River Ballroom, an amazing venue), The Sword (great, great show even though the new record wasn't that great), and Diarrhea Planet.

Kelly's favorites had to be Guster -- after which we had drinks and convo with the band, nice guys! -- and Jump, Little Children, her all-time favorite band that did a short reunion tour this year after a 10 year hiatus.

DBTs @ the Cradle

DBTs @ the Cradle

Jump, Little Children @ Visulite in CLT

Jump, Little Children @ Visulite in CLT

Kelly loving Kylesa @ Motorco

Kelly loving Kylesa @ Motorco

DIarrhea Planet @ King's

DIarrhea Planet @ King's

Pusha T @ Hopscotch

Pusha T @ Hopscotch

Chatting up John Dyer Baizley of Baroness @ Locat 506

Chatting up John Dyer Baizley of Baroness @ Locat 506

Jason Isbell with Ponzi @ DPAC

Jason Isbell with Ponzi @ DPAC

Guster with Kelly and Shawna @ Lincoln Theater

Guster with Kelly and Shawna @ Lincoln Theater


Favorite Records

Purple -- Baroness
I'm not sure I've ever looked forward to a record quite like this one...and did it ever deliver.  The band was in an awful bus accident in late 2012 that left every member of the band with very serious injuries.  To recover from something that horrific, re-group the band with new bass and new drums, and then create art this powerful, this epic, this f*cking tight is truly inspirational.  Many of the songs speak to the accident and the recovery process.  I've loved this band for a long time, since Red in 2007 -- seeing them in Chapel Hill in December was definitely the highlight of the musical year for me.

Southland Mission -- Phil Cook
I knew of Phil Cook via Megafaun and Hiss Golden Messenger, but didn't know that he released solo stuff.  This record he put out in the Fall is so, so, sooo good.  Definitely an Americana throwback feel and great songs.

Run the Jewels 2 -- Run the Jewels
I listened to a TON of rap in 2015 -- probably no band more than RTJ, but also Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Future, Pusha T, Chazz French, Action Bronson, J. Cole, and others.  Not really sure why the sudden re-interest in hip hop -- maybe because it is a Durham thing or maybe because it scratches the same itch as metal or maybe because I'm just a badass.  Looking forward to RTJ3 in 2016. :)

Good Graphics -- Rozwell Kid
Much like Diarrhea Planet, these guys are a 90s guitar pop throwback.  Catchy hooks, great harmonies, and clever lyrics.  Not sure if they'll ever be a national act, but I highly recommend this EP and their 2014 record Too Shabby.

Honorable Mention:

  • Benji -- Sun Kil Moon -- super depressing 2014 album that I listened to a TON.
  • American Sharks -- American Sharks -- really tough stoner metal.
  • Beat The Champ -- The Mountain Goats -- John Darnielle never disappoints.
  • To Pimp A Butterfly -- Kendrick Lamar -- obviously.
  • Star Wars -- Wilco -- also obviously.

American Titans

I played in the band for the first time since business school in 2015.  My friend Joe called me, asking if I knew of a bass player interested in jamming.  I replied that I own a bass that I can reasonably play -- so we got together and it all got started.  

The American Titans are a three-piece -- Joe (vox, guitar), Mark (drums), and me (bass, vox) -- that plays high energy guitar pop, punk, rock.  It has been amazingly fun for me to play bass -- which I've never played in a band.  It actually took me a while to stop playing bass like guitar and figure out how to lock in with Mark and actually serve the song.  And it has been incredibly therapeutic to have a once-a-week ~2 hour outlet where I strap on my bass, forget about everything, and just shred.

We've played a couple gigs in 2015.  I'd like to play several more in 2016 and maybe record a few of our songs.  And I'd love to bring a song or two of my own to a rehearsal in 2016.  I've got zero time to put into the process, but I've got plenty of pent up confusion, anger, love, hate, joy that needs to find its way out somewhere -- might as well be a 2 minute explosion of drums, bass, and guitar.  :)

This is a live recording from a rehearsal -- a decent take, not the best quality, no monitor, so the vocals are a bit off.  But you get the idea.  :)

Here's to more great music in 2016.  Happy new year!

A Note on Purpose, Values, and Mission

Obligatory nod to the "climbing the mountain" company mission metaphor.

Obligatory nod to the "climbing the mountain" company mission metaphor.

I've spent a big chunk time the past couple weeks working on big picture RevBoss stuff -- mission, purpose, values, culture, etc.  I think about these things on an ongoing basis, so it has been enjoyable writing everything down and getting the team involved in the process. 

I started a team process with a couple whiteboard sessions and then a professionally moderated workshop in March in which we discussed personal values, career goals, and whatnot. I've been surprised by the organic nature of the process -- the team and I have been very honest with each other vis a vis our expectations from RevBoss and the things that we care about.  I was so surprised by how easily it has started coming together that I began to wonder if I wasn't properly managing this process or thinking about it the wrong way or whatever.

To check myself, this morning I dug up a culture deck that I built while running my last company, Argyle Social.  We did a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong at Argyle, but I think most of my former employees would agree that we did a very good job fostering a great company culture.  So I was surprised to see that the culture deck that Adam and I presented to the team wasn't very good -- full of platitudes, half-baked goals, and blah blah blah.

This lead me to consider a few things:

  • Leadership frames and reflects the culture, but it is really the team that defines it.  Adam and I built an OK deck and started a conversation, but the great people we hired at Argyle actually created the culture.
  • Culture, purpose, values, etc. should map to things that the culture- and value-creators (e.g. your employees and your customers) care about, not your investors or the market or whatever else.  Argyle's purpose was to become the dominant mid-market social media blah blah blah...at which employees stop listening because this stuff doesn't really change their day-to-day life in a meaningful way.  (And Argyle obviously fell far short of this lofty, shitty purpose.)
  • Any attempt to define culture and values should be incredibly honest and personal, not copied from the Netflix Freedom & Responsibility Culture deck.  I think we were mostly honest with ourselves at Argyle...but I also remember not spending very much time on the process, maybe a coffee chat or two.  And the quality of the document we created doesn't reflect much rigor.

So it has been interesting working through this process a 2nd time with a new company at RevBoss.  I'll share what we come up with in a few weeks.

2014's Greatest Hits

These are my favorite tunes from 2014.  And this is the obligatory tip of the hat to Chaz Felix for introducing me to the "annual greatest hits" format many years ago.

2007 Edition
2008 Edition
2009 Edition
2010 Edition

2011 Edition
(Guess I skipped 2012)
2013 Edition

Think I'll make Spotify playlists out of the legacy editions.  Kinda funny to read these to see how much easier it is to share music online these days...

Live Music

Unlike last year, I saw quite a few live shows in 2014.  Here are a few of my favorite pics:

Don't need no coffee, don't need no coal.  This mother f*cker runs on rock and roll.

Don't need no coffee, don't need no coal.  This mother f*cker runs on rock and roll.

Will Hoge.  Snapchat from Kelly.

Will Hoge.  Snapchat from Kelly.

Mastodon at Hopscotch.

Mastodon at Hopscotch.

Straight Teeth at Lincoln Theater.

Straight Teeth at Lincoln Theater.

Weezer worship.

Weezer worship.

Ev living the dream.

Ev living the dream.

So much beer.

So much beer.

Haim.  Another caption from Kelly.

Haim.  Another caption from Kelly.

Valient Himself.

Valient Himself.

DBT in Raleigh with Erin and Evan.

DBT in Raleigh with Erin and Evan.

Tom Petty from box seats.

Tom Petty from box seats.

Basically a mid-30s white people karaoke concert.  So much fun.

Basically a mid-30s white people karaoke concert.  So much fun.

Favorite Records

Here are a few of my favorite new jams from 2014.  Brief notes below the Spotify playlist.

Diarrhea Planet -- Aliens in the Outfield
DP is modern bro rock at is finest -- tough vocals, gratuitous guitar wankery, moments of unexpected musicality, offensive band name, etc.  Spooners is my favorite from this EP.  My #1 concert goal for 2015 is a Diarrhea Planet show.

Sturgill Simpson -- Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Probably my favorite record from 2014.  Turtles All the Way Down offers a complex religious / identity question couched in a golden age country music sound.  A Little Light sounds like a song my grandma might have liked.  Sturgill blew it out as an opener for Jason Isbell at DPAC this fall...and arguably stole the show.  Seeing him at the Lincoln in Raleigh in February -- I'm excited because he's going to be playing very big stages going forward.

Mastodon -- Once More Round the Sun
While this isn't even close to Mastodon's best record, I really like it -- if only based on the strength of the first four songs.  The Motherload is the most mainstream-ready song they've ever done...and it is my favorite from the record.

Hiss Golden Messenger -- Lateness of Dancers
Love MC Taylor's voice and the easy delivery on this record.  They did a great version of Southern Grammar on Letterman a couple months back.  These guys are based in Durham -- hopefully I can buy 'em a beer in 2015.

DBTs -- English Oceans
The strongest DBT effort in several years.  The Cooley songs are especially good.  Shit Shots Count sounds like an Exile On Main Street b-side.

Best Concert of 2014:

Getting Cat started early.

Getting Cat started early.

Here's to lots of good jams in 2015.  Happy new year!

On the Argyle Social Shutdown

Argyle Social emailed its customers this week announcing that it is shutting down at the end of May.  You can read about it here, here, and probably many, many other places.

I've gotten a lot of calls, emails, and texts from friends, family, and customers over the past couple days, so I figured I may as well share some quick thoughts.  There are certainly many perspectives on what went wrong at Argyle.  I'll share some of mine once the dust settles and my kids start sleeping through the night.

For now, I'll say that I'm incredibly proud of what we built and proud that our product helped our customers solve meaningful problems.  And I'm humbled that so many people loved the product, the company, and the brand.   I'm sincerely grateful for all of the people that believed in us along the way -- investors, customers, employees, friends, etc.  And I'm thankful that Adam continued to fight the fight for as long as he did -- I know it wasn't an easy decision for him to pull the plug, but I support him 100%.  

I'm obviously disappointed that things couldn't come to a better resolution.  Building companies is a tough, tough business and markets are completely unforgiving -- but its just business and markets.  After taking many violent blows to the head/ego as the CEO at Argyle, I've learned over time that my work doesn't define who I am.  Work is my sport -- I love to do it, I take it very seriously, and I'm pretty damn good at it.  But it is only one aspect of my identity and it is not even close to being the most important.  So it sucks that Argyle is shutting down, but life goes on. 

In fact, the death of Argyle actually feels like old news to me -- especially considering that I'm well into my next thing at RevBoss.  I've had practically zero involvement in Argyle since I left the company about 18 months ago, but it is a weird feeling to know that something that you started, built, and loved is going to completely disappear.  I wouldn't say that I'm sad -- I processed all of my Argyle emotions and moved on long ago, probably more quickly and easily than you might expect.  But I definitely feel nostalgic.

After helping build Bronto and starting Argyle, I plan/hope to spend the rest of my career building companies.  Even with all of the inevitable heartache and sleepless nights, I can't imagine anything more personally and professionally rewarding than developing the vision for a new product/service, breathing life into a new company, and then building the team to take it to market.  So I'll keep building, learning, failing, and working my guts out.  And I'll keep making friends, helping people, and loving my work along the way. 

I remember pitching an investor during the early days at Argyle.  He asked me about what we plan to do with the company -- flip it immediately, raise a ton of capital, run it forever, etc.  I remember answering very honestly that I would like to let Argyle run its course and then start another company.  And then another.  And then another.  

So for those of you keeping score at home:

1.) Argyle -- not that great financial return, 10X everything else return -- experience, friendships, wisdom, battle scars, hilarious stories, Argyle pants, etc.

2.) RevBoss -- TBD

Soft Landings and the Lack Thereof


One of the more perplexing problems for second and third tier tech start-up communities is the dearth of soft landing options.

I've witnessed this problem in Durham a few times over the past couple years.  Great team, good product, but can't quite get over the hump. These companies either limp along like zombies, slowly fade away, or explode in a blaze of glory with Bon Jovi playing in the background. 

Failure is the default state for start-ups, so none of this is surprising or necessarily even a bad thing.  That said, it's mouse nuts for a large tech incumbent to absorb a small, talented team based in San Francisco / Silicon Valley and to do so for a small sum that gives investors some, if not all, of their money back and maybe even puts a small chunk of change in the founders' pockets.  So what might have been a train wreck turns into an "exit" and a blog post on Techcrunch.

Even if it is remote, the mere possibility of an acquire-hire makes it somewhat less "risky" to start a company in a massive, well-connected ecosystem like San Francisco / Silicon Valley.  If the company goes sideways or can't close a round of financing, a talented team can sometimes find a buyer simply as a function of labor market supply and demand.

It is less common (based on a hunch and absolutely zero empirical research) for a start-up based in a place like Durham, NC or Omaha, NE or Oslo to experience the same kind of outcome.  When you're on opposite coasts or continents, it is challenging to build relationship depth and frequency with acquiring / hiring companies in the Valley.  

And even if your company is well-networked, it is a tough sell to get BigCo to acquire a small team 1000s of miles away from HQ if your company doesn't have an overwhelmingly compelling technology and/or product and/or income statement...in which case you wouldn't be in need of a soft landing.

This creates a number of difficult problems for second and third tier geographies: 

  • Talent is less mobile because of the acquire-hire virtuous cycle. 
  • It is harder to recruit because of the perceived "risk" of being a non-1st tier company. 
  • It is harder to manufacture (even small) exits that keep founders founding.
  • It is harder to generate press for "exits" -- even if it is small, an exit is an exit.

All of this leaves the "go big or go home" start-ups in second and third tier communities with a likely "go home" scenario that is more likely a smoking crater than a soft landing at TechBigCo.

I think that the solution to this problem is a numbers game.  Small communities need more start-ups, which will lead to many more failures but also more wins.

2013's Greatest Hits

These are my favorite tunes from 2013.  And this is the obligatory tip of the hat to Chaz Felix for introducing me to the "annual greatest hits" format many years ago.

2007 Edition
2008 Edition
2009 Edition
2010 Edition

2011 Edition
(I skipped 2012 for some reason)

Live Music

Sadly, I didn't attend any memorable live performances this past year.  I actually bought a ticket to see The Sword in Raleigh back in the Fall but ended up flaking out because I was so damn tired.  This is what happens when you have 2 young children and you're working your guts out to build a new business. 

I did, however, start jamming with some guys a couple months ago and suspect that we might turn into a "band" that plays a "show" at some point.  We're working up some 90s era alternative covers and I'm the lead singer -- it is hilarious and fun.


Here are my 2013 jams.  All the links go to Spotify or YouTube.

Flying Over Water -- Jason Isbell

I've loved Jason Isbell for a long time -- see here for a blurb I wrote about Dress Blues, which I think is the greatest anti-war song ever written.  I'm glad that his 2013 record Southeastern and his new-found sobriety are helping Jason finally the attention he deserves.  He's easily one of the best songwriters in the business today.  Flying Over Water is one of my favorites, though the entire record is more or less perfection. 

No Strings Attached -- Valient Thorr

VT's Our Own Masters record was a strong effort, much better than the band's previous record Strangers.  No Strings Attached is actually quite a bit different than everything else on the record, but I love that it is such a positive and uplifting song.  It is a strong reflection of a great band that has been in the trenches for many years and has developed a hard-core following.

The Wire -- Haim

Not much I can say about Haim that hasn't already been said.  They've got lightning in a bottle.

Me & You & Jackie Mittoo -- Superchunk

I'm not quite old enough to be in the Superchunk demographic, though I remember people talking about them in high school.  I never actually followed up on the recommendation in part because I was too busy trying to learn to play Jimmy Page licks on my Fender Squire at the time.  (It is actually a little embarrassing to publicly admit this considering my personal connections in Durham/Chapel Hill and my shared acquaintances with the members of the band.)  I Hate Music prompted me to listen to the rest of the back catalog, so I'm up to speed now...just several years late.

Daddy's Song -- Harry Nilsson

I can't remember how it happened, but I was addicted to Harry Nilsson for a couple months this year.  I started listening to him in college but never really ventured beyond the greatest hits.  Digging deeper into his catalog is well worth it.

Nimh -- Colossus

I listened to this record a lot driving back and forth from Cary.  I'm pretty sure that this is the only song in history based on The Secret of NIMH.  I only realized after the fact that Colossus is from Raleigh -- they're a great classic metal band.

The Mighty Machines Theme Song

Thomas LOVES Mighty Machines, a CBC show that we let him watch on Netflix.  He sings the hilariously over-the-top theme song all the time.  And he goes bananas when I sing it for him in my best Creed voice with a rousing guitar accompaniment. 

Daughter -- Loudon Wainwright III

My daughter Catherine was born on May 14.  I listened to this song quite a bit before she was born -- its a beautiful song about a father and a daughter.  It moved me to tears more than a few times, including once in a Holiday Inn in Akron, OH when it happened to pipe through the lobby music.  

Did You Write 500 Words Today?

One day this Fall I did the math on how much money I was spending on lunches.  It didn't take long to decide that I just wouldn't eat lunch out any more.  It was a chore at first but became an obsession once I got a decent streak going and didn't want to break the chain of consecutive "brought" lunches.  And now it is a habit.

I've eaten out for lunch at most 5 times over the last 3 months, all of which were business-related and expensed to RevBoss.  As a result, I've saved at least $450 over the past 3 months if you assume ~15 lunches per month @ $10 per lunch.  I've also gained productivity time every day by eating at my desk.  And best of all, I've lost ~7 pounds and get to write this self-congratulatory blog post about the whole thing.

Considering the success I had changing one behavior, I started thinking about other new habits I'd like to develop and decided to set up this nifty app called Commit to help me track my progress.  It is really simple, but should do the trick.  

For example, one of the habits I plan to develop is to write 500 words each day.  Each day I'll get a reminder from the app and I'll see the string of consecutive days accumulate as I go:


I spent some time thinking to ensure that the daily commitment and the metric I'm tracking relate to the specific behavior that I'm trying to develop.  For example, my goal of writing 500 words per day has a dual purpose:

  1. I want to whip my writing muscles back into shape for my own personal pleasure and for the purposes of marketing RevBoss.
  2. I want to consume less and create more.  And in order to have time to create content, I'll have to spend less time consuming it.

Also -- the daily habits I want to build map to my 2014 goals, which are obviously longer term and more difficult to measure each day.  But each day I can know that my daily routine inches me closer to the prize.

So here's to new habits...

Triangle Start-Up Bloggers

The Durham / Raleigh / Chapel Hill start-up culture has grown significantly over the past 3 or 4 years. Many more companies, many more founders, and hopefully many more successes to come. It is still a small town but I keep meeting new, interesting people just about every week, which is pretty exciting.  

A vibrant founder community generally means a vibrant blogger community. So I thought it would be useful to start building a list of Triangle-based entrepreneur bloggers. (Note -- founder/exec/investor personal blogs, not company blogs.)  

Here are some of the Triangle start-up bloggers that I read on a regular basis:

This list seems awfully small. Leave a comment to let me know anyone that I left out and I'll add them to the list. 


How To Introduce Someone When You Can't Remember Their Name

I had a Seinfeldian conversation with a couple colleagues today about the awkward social exchanges that ensue when you can't remember someone's name, especially when you're introducing a friend or significant other at a party. 

We settled on two possible solutions to defuse the awkwardness and avoid the shame of admitting that you can't remember someone's name: 

Your Last Name Method

When introducing Person A to Person B -- and you can't remember Person B's name -- you can simply ask them for their name. 

You:  "Person A, meet my friend...I'm sorry, remind me of your name again?"
Person B:  "John."
You:  "No, sorry, your last name."

This is by far the weaker of the two approaches insofar as you practically admit that you can't remember the person's name.

This is Person A Method:

My go-to move is introducing Person A and Person B as follows: 

You:  "Oh hey there -- it is great to see you!  Allow me to introduce my friend Person A."
Person B:  "Pleased to meet you...my name is John Smith." 

Simply force Person B to state their own name as a part of the interaction.  It is foolproof! 

So there you go. 

On Leaving At 5pm

I was 24 when Bronto started hiring experienced people for senior roles circa 2005.  I felt bitter that the new people left the office at 5pm on the dot every day, especially considering that they were making way more money than me.

Now I'm 32, have two kids, and try to be home by 5:30 most days.  I've come to realize a few things:

  • Work is a piece of cake compared to parenting young children. 

  • Your co-workers with young children are exhausted.

  • Your co-workers that leave at 5pm (probably) work just as hard and care just as much as you. 

  • The 5pm hard stop makes me more productive during normal working hours.

  • Productivity is more important than time spent working, in the office or otherwise.

  • You don't get paid well for being experienced, you get paid well for producing results. 

  • 7am coffee meet ups are just as cool and just as productive as 7pm beers.

  • The secret to maximizing weeknight family time is putting down my phone when I walk in the door.

  • I'm exhausted by 9pm, so I work on easy stuff at night.  I do my heavy lifting in the morning.

What time do you leave the office?  Any hacks that you can share? 

East Coast, West Coast Start-up Stereotypes

Shortly after I left Argyle, I emailed several professional friends and colleagues to share the news and to start having conversations about the next thing.  Most of the recipients were local, east coast friends.  A fair portion were west coast - either San Francisco or Silicon Valley.

The (overly-generalized) responses followed a theme:

East Coast:

  • Are you OK? -Lots of people
  • OMG - I can't imagine Argyle without you.  -CEO of SaaS start-up
  • I'm sure it must be hard to leave your baby.  -VP at SaaS company

West Coast

  • Congrats!  -CEO of marketing software start-up
  • I'm jealous that you get to move on to something new!  -CEO of SaaS start-up
  • Gotcha - call me later!  -CEO of SaaS start-up

The responses illustrated cultural stereotypes that I recently discussed with a west coast friend.  

Valley/San Francisco start-up people are transients - they bounce from thing to thing, companies come and go, people change jobs very frequently, everyone is searching for the big win.  The quick change game is so deeply embedded in the culture that no one is loyal to anything and people often abandon ideas too quickly in search of the next shiny object.

Small-market east cost start-up people - like in Durham, NC - take a more traditional view.  Fewer fundraising options and less experienced, more conservative investors leads to more bootstrapped companies, which leads to more early stage revenue.  So there are more very small successes that somehow manage to limp along or very small successes that never graduate from weekend/part-time hobby.  Entrepreneurs hang on longer, sometimes longer than they should.

These are obviously extreme stereotypes - the vast majority of people in the game fall somewhere in the middle.  But I suspect that you might be able to think of examples of each extreme...

Just Be Like Apple

Tom Webster published a typically brilliant post about business models and the dangers of the "just be like Apple" philosophy.  

I was in business school 2007 - 2009, Google was the undisputed online king and Facebook was just finding its footing.  Apple was on its way back but no where near the juggernaut it is today. 

Google sometimes came up as a teaching case study...and ALWAYS came up in the student commentary - "Well, at Google they do this..." "Google does 20% time..."  - particularly in innovation and entrepreneurship courses.

I certainly piped up with than my fair share of Google praise because I actually understood Google's business, which wasn't the norm in MBA classrooms in 2007.  

Most of my classmates didn't understand Google's business, but didn't let that stop them from jabbering about it.  It was annoying.

One of my profs finally forbade students from discussing Google, essentially pointing out that Google is a once-in-a-generation money-making machine the likes of which the world has never seen and that it is dangerous to think that all organizations should - let alone can - emulate Google's model.

So we stopped talking about Google.  And I was glad.


I was the only person in the Kenan-Flagler MBA Class of 2009 that showed up on campus with a Mac.  No joke.  I wrote a silly, whiny post about it.  

I'll bet you a dollar that there are way more Mac users than PC users in the MBA program today.  In fact, I'll bet you several dollars.

Turns out that the "Just Be Like Apple" strategy works pretty well if you've got Steve Jobs steering the ship.