Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two Great Entrepreneurship Quotes

From a post by Mark Suster: “9 women can't make a baby in a month” Also, attributed to Bruce Dunlevie of Benchmark Capital: “Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment”

Links for Later

  1. Econophysical effects: light speed limits to the worldwide trading network result in optimal sites for trading, spaced across the surface of the Earth

  2. Jim Messina is a bad, bad man

  3. Robert Lowell, "Waking in the Blue"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Links for Later

  1. EBook pricing power undermined by perceived value
  2. Scenes from the Tea Party caucus meeting
  3. Michael Fay's drawings of soldiers
  4. Related: idealized vs. realistic portraiture over time
  5. Startup weekend
  6. Top 10 signs Silicon Valley is on tilt again. #10 really is the kicker


In this interview with Lee Carter at Hint Magazine, Nicola Formichetti talks about how (and why) he got Rick Genest (Zombie Boy) to be the face of Mugler.
You changed the whole collection?
Well, I added more, by taking stuff from him, making it a bit darker and gothicy. So basically I Facebooked him and was like, "You know, I'm doing this thing in Paris and I would love you to be there in two weeks." He emailed me back straightaway and he was like, "Yeah, sure, I would love to, but I don’t have a passport." And then I start thinking how the fuck is he going to get a passport in time?

I mean, it's unusual to have a tattoo on your face, but is it a crime? What did you do?
I had no idea what to do. I was calling my lawyers, saying we have to get this guy to Paris. But then I thought, maybe he doesn’t need to be there physically. Maybe I can do a film or a picture. So I told him I would go to him in two days. I called my friend Mariano [Vivanco, photographer] and my manager. We got together the first week after the holidays as I was about to leave for Paris to work on the last bit of the collection. I remember thinking I have to do this, I just have a gut feeling, I have to work with this guy. Everyone said he's a freak, why would I want to do that to a luxury brand? Anyway, I didn’t listen to anyone and just went. I brought some clothes, a couple of suits, and I actually made lots of clothes the night before I left New York. I had pieces sent from Paris and was just making stuff in my house, and then took everything to Montreal and we did a photo shoot and video. The photos are the ones we just launched as a visual campaign.

(via tr)

The Lonely Forest

"Turn Off This Song And Go Outside"

Turn Off This Song and Go Outside

The Seven Sects Speech

Brad DeLong conducts a magisterial smackdown of macroeconomic errors in this multipart lecture series. (Part I, II)
Let me briefly review the right explanation for our Great Recession: the explanation that I been pushing in the past several weeks of the course, since we finished the "economic growth" section of the course. The right explanation of our Great Recession is that the downturn had three sources. First comes irrational exuberance in housing markets. Irrational exuberance in housing markets led to a substantial number of mortgage loans being made that should not have been made. These loans would not have been a problem if you had had capital market arrangements like we had in the late 1990s during the dot-com boom. The dot-com boom also saw irrational exuberance, much more irrational exuberance, in fact, than we saw in the subprime mortgage bubble.

But irrational exuberance in the dot-com boom was not accompanied by overleverage. The venture capital firms that created and issued the securities of the dot-com boom sold them off to unleveraged primary investors, rather than leveraging up and holding on to them by financing their positions with borrowed money. When the dot-com crash came, high-net-worth individuals lost their wealth. But there were no large money-center banks whose solvency was thrown into doubt by the crash.

Bruce Sterling SXSW Keynote 2011

I still miss the parties he used to throw, back when SXSW was tiny, even though I never got to go to any of them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Links for Later

1. The role of public sector jobs in maintaining the middle class in Gallipolis, OH
2. Alexa Sinclair's mythical royal potraits: kings, queens (a dozen of each)
3. Growing up with seven adults as a child in a big Hudson River house sounds like the premise of a great American novel

House Porn 20: The House that Blues Clues Bought

Steve Burns (Steve of Blues' Clues, and also a sometime rock god) had Eric Lifkin of Mesh Architects refurbish a former woodworking shop into a cool Brooklyn modern residence, featuring something called TheSpecialWall.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Links for Later

1. How to be a good cavalry officer
2. Aerotropolis: a pair of conversations between BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh and Greg Lindsey & John Kasarda, authors of Aerotropolis.
3. The Conversation
4. John Kasich's dismal poll numbers, thanks to the anti-union bill and similar nonsense

Sunday, March 13, 2011

RIP Owsley "Bear" Stanley

LSD chemist and meat eater Owsley Stanley died in a car crash in Australia today.

More: 2007 Rolling Stone Profile, NYT Obit

Links for Later

1. Bruce Sterling and others discuss JG Ballard
2. How to write a book? Start by not writing a book
3. William Hertlings' SXSW Notes on Tim Ferriss' keynote on the 4 Hour Body and Notes on Jim Coudal, John Gruber & Michael Lopp's talks (mostly on successful writing)
4. Maxim founder Felix Dennis on big ideas: excellent execution is more important than having them in the first place. More from Dennis
5. Bruce Chatwin's notebooks

Jack Dorsey

David Kirkpatrick profiles Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and CEO of Square (which sound like titles of nobility, don't they?) in Vanity Fair. In between doing the programming for a number of key tech companies over the past two decades, he's studied botanical drawing, fashion design and massage therapy, and wants to be mayor of New York City because he's energized by public transit and urban planning.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Startup Stacks

Startup Stacks

Building startups quickly and effectively depends on using prebuilt operational components, just like rapid web development uses technology stacks

Download this whitepaper at the Windcastle Venture Consulting site.

Capital requirements for startups (at least in the technology industry) have been falling steadily. One major reason for this is the existence of stacks: technology stacks, strategy stacks and marketing stacks. Stacks are a set of preexisting components that can be snapped together, quickly reconfigured and dynamically repurposed depending on the particular challenges of the moment.

An example of a technology stack is the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP or Perl) commonly used for web applications. These components provide a prebuilt and commonly used operating system, HTTP server, database and scripting language, respectively. Together, these and similar stacks for Windows and OSX operating systems form the basis for many web applications.

Know where the money is going

At the bottom level, the strategy stack is so noncontroversial and universal that it’s almost invisible. This first layer is the double entry accounting method in use since the Middle Ages. It’s applicable to any type or size of business—although modern GAAP has a number of features better suited to atoms than bits—and is widely understood. The figures and metrics generated by this system provide an invaluable resource to the founders and managers. I’m not going to talk about good accounting here, except to say that if it’s done well, it gets a lot of trouble out of the way, freeing up efforts elsewhere in the startup—so get a copy of Quickbooks or Peachtree and someone who knows how to use them, and learn how to read a financial statement yourself so you can tell what’s going on with the business.

Wasted time is worse than wasted money

Lean Thinking provides a strong, middle layer. Adapted from Toyota’s production management model, lean thinking focuses on reducing wasted time, work or money. Again, this is a suite of tools, methodologies and mindsets adopted from traditional manufacturing, but eminently suited for the technology startup.

The need for lean stems from the scarcity of capital and the high discount rate for any capital that is available. In the context of DCF/NPV valuations: For a normal, stable business with full access to open debt and equity markets, a dollar delivered in a year might be worth spending $.90-.95 today. For a privately financed startup in an industry with a 30-50% annual failure rate, next year’s dollar is worth perhaps $.50 today. The non-zero chance of failure results in a situation where it is more important in many ways to save time than to save money.

At the same time, Lean Thinking and Lean Management are extremely congenial to startup culture, which has made a strength out of mobility, flexibility and bootstrapping. Every startup in history has started without a history, meaning that it’s got a lot less baggage to lose. It can pivot faster, and run faster in a new direction than a company with more resources (which are also more firmly dedicated toward minding the existing business). YCombinator’s funding model, Eric Ries’ Minimum Viable Product concept, prototyping, virtual company models and agile programming methodologies are all built on top of a lean mindset.

Discover the Market Fit

The choices for the next component are somewhat more broadly varied. Steven Gary Blank’s Customer Development model seems to be quite popular at the moment for consumer, mobile and web apps in particular. A few years ago, Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm was the similarly big hit for enterprise marketing and sales technologies (among others).

The basic issue of entering a market with a new product or service is this: how do I efficiently find enough of a customer base for my product for my company to survive and grow? Finding the answer to this question often consumes as much time, cash and effort as actually doing the coding for a software project, and involves finding the right product/market fit. Both target customers and products go through a number of rapid iterations until a match is found—some products will never actually exist (vaporware, Escher products), and some will never find a real buyer (phantom customers, zero marginal value markets). Some products do poorly because they’ve found the wrong prototypical customer (nonrepeatable sales) or because the market is obscure (unfindable sales) and cannot be accurately targeted.

This is actually quite rare. With the possible exception of defense/aerospace products, if there’s one findable customer, there will almost always be many findable customers. A more common problem is that the first customer is so idiosyncratic in their requirements that an overspecialized product emerges. That means that a sale to your mom doesn’t count. A sale to the world’s largest widget maker doesn’t count. Your prototypical sale should be to a complete stranger, or the eighth largest widget maker—someone who doesn’t have a motive to make you feel good, or more market power than anyone else is exactly who you want as a first customer. Get the exceptional customers as you get everyone else.

Maps and Models

At the top of the stack, it’s important to have a strategic view of the startup. Not a fussy, detailed one, but one that lays out the important assumptions, capabilities, attitudes and moving parts that go into your idea of how things are going to come out. This enables you to test your own thinking cheaply, and to have a feeling that you’ve got options in any situation.

A lot of good ideas are only good while they’re in your head, and getting them outside of your head in some form or other is going to let you find out which are really viable, which are viable only with optimism, and which ones shouldn’t really be tried at all.

Third, it gives you the ability to see where problems may arise, and what might be done about them as they do. This gives you a full range of responses and a greater degree of robustness for the business than you would otherwise have.

The Chicago Entrepreneurship faculty have come up with a lot of useful tools in this area: Steven Kaplan’s OUTSIDE/IMPACTS model for investable ideas, Scott Meadow’s Unit Model, and Jim Schrager’s New Venture Strategy provide excellent tools for building strategy maps.

The concept of the “business model” as commonly discussed in Web 2.0 circles is a less attractive variant. Too often, business models as described are actually elaborate work-arounds that arrive at the solutions of “somebody else is going to pay” or “somebody else is going to do the work”, when they should really be saying, “I’m going to make something that my potential customers will value enough to pay cash for. Here’s how.”

The “Here’s how” component.

This one is up to you. There are a lot of books and experts that can tell you better ways to and how. They can’t really tell you how to in the first place—otherwise, why are you involved at all?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Links for Later

  1. Novelists talking on the Internet (via Wired)

  2. Errol Morris on "The Ashtray", a five part essay. Genius.

Fregoli Delusion

A rare neurological condition in which the patient believes that several other people are, in fact, the same person in disguise, or all look like the same person. Part of a larger group of delusional misidentification disorders, in which the patient experiences a disjunction between the actual identity of persons, places or things, and their perceived identity. Capgras syndrome, in which loved ones are believed to have been replaced by impostors, is another member of this group of disorders.

From Wikipedia:

[This group of disorders] is usually considered to include four main variants:
  • The Capgras delusion is the belief that (usually) a close relative or spouse has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor.
  • The Fregoli delusion is the belief that various people the believer meets are actually the same person in disguise.
  • Intermetamorphosis is the belief that people in the environment swap identities with each other whilst maintaining the same appearance.
  • Subjective doubles,... in which a person believes there is a doppelgänger or double of him or herself carrying out independent actions.
However, similar delusional beliefs, often singularly or more rarely reported, are sometimes also considered to be part of the delusional misidentification syndrome. For example:

  • Mirrored self-misidentification is the belief that one's reflection in a mirror is some other person.
  • Reduplicative paramnesia is the belief that a familiar person, place, object or body part has been duplicated. For example, a person may believe that they are in fact not in the hospital to which they were admitted, but an identical-looking hospital in a different part of the country, despite this being obviously false.
  • Syndrome of delusional companions is the belief that objects (such as soft toys) are sentient beings.
  • Clonal pluralization of the self, where a person believes there are multiple copies of him or herself, identical both physically and psychologically.

Anti-Union Bill Shoved Through Conference Committee

Video from last night's intense, possibly illegal conference committee meeting in Wisconsin.

Marco Brambilla - Cathedral (2007)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Chocolate eclair recipe from Raymond Blanc.

The Shock Doctrine Hits Michigan

Wow, just wow. From Rachel Maddow and AmericaBlog:

The Teabag-enabled plan in Michigan: Use the budget to starve cities and towns, then put in an "emergency town manager" who could (1) kill any contract the town entered into AND (2) dismiss elected officials AND (3) "disincorporate" the town itself. Oh, and the emergency manager can be a corporation. (Imagine the bribing for that contract!)

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

House Porn 19: The Industrial Loft

A 3,200 sq ft home built into a 300,000 sq ft complex outside of Cologne by Tilman Paas, with the help of a foundry and woodshop built into the factory's smokestack.
Click through for more.

Emotional Synesthesia

Whenever Francesca closes her eyes and touches a particular texture, she experiences a vivid emotion: Denim, extreme sadness. Silk, peace and calm. Orange peel, shock. Wax, embarassment. She sometimes feels subtle nuances of emotions. Grade 60 sandpaper produces guit, and grade 120 evokes "the feeling of telling a white lie".

-The Tell Tale Brain p.75
VS Ramachamndran

Autotune your Sheen

Epic Winning!

Time, I Think, for a Bit of Billy Bragg

It Says Here

Links for Later

  1. Richard Freeman on unions & labor economics (via marginal revolution)
  2. Cute video of the day: A Slow Loris with a Tiny Umbrella
  3. Walter Kirn: "The Uses of Charlie Sheen: A Wittgensteinian Investigation" (via John Crowley)
  4. Philosophical cage match (Ayn Rand vs. Carl Jung)
  5. VS Ramachandran interview
  6. Meet the Baers: CIA Agents in Love
  7. How Thomas Jefferson Prepared for Meetings (Clue: Plan beats no plan. Big plan beats good plan.) (via Ben Casnocha)
  8. Also good, from the same blog: St. Augustine, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and evolution
  9. 37Signals' Jason Fried on 6 ways to practice making money (via kottke)

Monday, March 07, 2011

REM ÜBerlin

Single from their forthcoming album, featuring the footwork of Aaron Johnson of Kick Ass fame.

Quote of the Day

Do something, and then do something to that, and then do something to that.

-Jasper Johns

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Greedy Teachers

I've been hearing a lot about how much teachers are overpaid, and I'm here to say it's true.

Always remember that there's no surer or faster way to wealth, fame and fortune than to become a teacher. Many of my friends are leaving their jobs at Goldman Sachs because there's no way for private institutions to match the financial incentives of teaching Kindergarten in a public school.

Links for Later

1. Are things better now than in 1973? An economic analysis by a leading Kurdish-Swedish economist at the University of Chicago.

2. The Renaissance Man of Oman

3. Vitamin B2 / Cryptochrome involved in photoreception in Drosophila

Successful eBook Business Models

Author Amanda Hocking sold over 100,000 books last month, made vastly more doing "that writing thing" than most authors with major publishers, and did most of it by selling eBooks at a few dollars a pop. Here's her advice on how she did it. Here's Joe Konrath's blog on indie self publishing, which she recommends in her FAQ.

Clearly, it helps to be in the right place at the right time, but it also helps to just do it. Showing up isn't half the game, it's the only way there's a game at all. So get that book out of the drawer & pop it on the Interwebs, people.

Oh, yeah, and edit the heck out of your writing:
My biggest word of advice to any new/future writers thinking about diving into Kindle: Edit. I don't care what you think, you didn't edit enough. Some people won't care that there's errors, its true, but enough of them will. And they paid for it, so they have a right to. So edit more. And then again. Really.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Ohio Union Rally

Photos from today's rally against Senate Bill 5 in Ohio at the Statehouse in Columbus. Somewhere between 8,000-20,000 people were there at any given time, depending on whose figures you'd like to use. My sense from talking to people at the rally is that this is only going to get bigger as time goes on--it's already about 50% larger than last week's rally, and it still feels like it's just getting started.

Photos of the Week

Photo: Nevver

Startup emotional curve
Diagram: Jason Baptiste

Union Thug
Photo: Dave Weigel

Quote of the Day

I don’t know if I’m the right person to be doing jokes about religion; in the past few months, I’ve become religious, I’ve started to believe in god, creationism and intelligent design, and the reason that I now believe in god and creationism and intelligent design is because of Professor Richard Dawkins. Because when I look at something as complex and intricate and beautiful as Professor Richard Dawkins, I don’t think that just could’ve evolved by chance! Professor Richard Dawkins was put there by god to test us, like fossils. And facts.