I hate to shave aka the story of how I quit my job

beard Image courtesy of apdk on flickr under cc license

Today was my last day working full-time for someone else’s large corporation, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to tell my story of the past 18 months.

A little background

When I was a kid, I started a variety of ventures that all went lots of nowhere, but I still really loved the idea of organizing people for a common goal and leading them to success that changes their lives. I started a company in the second grade by saving months of allowance and assigning positions and responsibility to a dozen other students. Unfortunately, we never figured out how to make money and I quickly ran out of cash. In the 6th grade, I tried selling Blowpops on the school bus at very competitive rates but was shut down when the driver informed me that selling things on the bus was not allowed.

In what could be a long story, my work experience during college led me to believe that corporate life was for me. One day in the winter of 2009, I was getting ready for work in front of the mirror. It came time to shave, which is something I hate to do. After staring into the mirror for a few minutes, I decided that I needed to make some changes in my life, if for no other reason than so I could put myself in a position to remove shaving from the appearance requirements where I worked.

My 27th year

Over the course of the next six months, I went on a mission of self-discovery. I realized that I was drawn to startups in a very material way, so I started learning. I put up this blog to share some of my deeper thoughts about life and the things I was learning. Most importantly, I immersed myself in ways that I never thought possible. Suddenly I didn’t want to play video games anymore and I was arguing with my wife to cancel the cable TV package. I stopped attending K-State sporting events and started taking vacation time to go on trips to further my side projects. I dove into things that were way over my head, spending lots of time on things like Mashtun, which is now dead. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I should have, but I learned what I did wrong. As they say, my bad judgement has turned to experience.

About two months ago, I realized that things were not going to end well with Mashtun, so I doubled down on simplifying my life. I started getting out of the house more and talking to other people more. I found some problems in the process we went through while trying to sell our house and started rolling some ideas around in my head. Luckily, my agent didn’t like several things about the process as well, and she encouraged me to take my ideas a little bit further. Finally, after talking about it one geek night 7 weeks ago, I got the encouragement I needed to start thinking about it as a business.

What has happened in the last 7 weeks is what people refer to when they say someone is lucky. In the past year, I have increasingly tried to put myself out there and contribute to my local community, my region, and those that ask me for help. It is easy for me to do things for other people because I think it is my responsibility as an engineer to give back, knowing that we all stand on the shoulders of our predecessors.

While I dove into this new project, other things started to fall into place. I found a market that fits my personality very well. My car, which had been up for sale since last September, finally sold for a fair price. Then in a matter of a few nights, some of the big, high-level strategy pieces of this new project started to fall into place. I decided then that I needed to quit my job and pursue this full-time, lest I look back later on in life and feel regret for not trying. Despite the fact that I would have to live off of savings, I was convinced it was the right decision.

A few days ago, karma gave me a big high five in the form of a very fair offer for our house, which had been listed for sale since March. Now, assuming everything goes through well, we will have a positive monthly budget, and I will have even fewer things to worry about besides building a business that helps people live better lives.

While I appreciated my time at Grundfos, the constant pull between exciting side projects and day job that required shaving was a big source of stress in my life. At times it contributed to some serious mood swings because I wear my heart on my sleeve. It was difficult for my friends to deal with, and very tough on Brandi. I wish I could have made it easier and been more like myself. Now I have replaced that stress with pressure. Instead of being anxious and strained all the time, I am focused and ready to perform.

Looking forward

ShownHome is still a big risk, but it is the right thing for me, at the right time. At the age of 27, I made tons of mistakes, I learned how being biased towards action pays dividends, and I put myself in the position to build the future I want. There are still lots of holes, and I have so much more to learn, but I am ready to go. Being 27 was about discovery, expanding my network and my mind, and putting myself in a position to take bigger risks. My 28th year will be about taking action, making some mistakes, learning the hard way, having some success, and doing what I love on my way to becoming a whole person.

Scenes, Communities, Work, and what’s sexy

I recently had several discussions about Think Big KC, one of the bigger events for entrepreneurs in Kansas City. I was encouraging people to attend and lots of my friends and colleagues in our community weren’t sure why I thought it was worth it. This resulted in several side conversations about what really makes a difference to people starting businesses.

First, lets talk about why I believe in Think Big KC. Honestly, I think that Herb, Allison, Sara, Blake, and all of the other people that work to put this event together have their hearts in the right place. I haven’t gotten a single feeling from any of them that they are anything but genuine and that they care deeply about helping to build a stronger entrepreneurial community in Kansas City. That is important to me, because a community is something that takes heart to build. If you do it for the wrong reasons, you end up with a scene.

The problem with a startup scene is that it is too much like a crime scene. There are officials wandering around and everyone is just watching, but hardly anyone is participating. Gossip and news filled with hyperbole end up being more important than doing any actual work. People can be together in a startup scene and not know anything about one another, let alone spend much time trying to help one another. When the noise is over, a scene usually fades into the background and everything returns to normal.

On the other hand, a community is something that takes love and passion. People have to feel an emotional connection with other people in order for a real community to take shape. Individuals in a startup community seek to help one another because they care about each other, which benefits the community by reinforcing the cooperative environment. A community celebrates people who do things, even if they don’t get it quite right. Because the community invests in one another, people usually step up to help people fix things if they miss the mark. Perhaps most importantly, a community lasts as long as there are people that care about the other members and allow new people to find and join the community.

There is another problem with startup scenes. If you are going to live the scenic life, it is natural to want to show everyone how sexy you are. Sexy is what gets you attention on the scene, and we all like a little attention every once in a while. The reason I love Jeff, Dusty, and the rest of my fellow SPN contributors is because they also have their hearts in the right place. They care about community, and this caring pours out at you like an avalanche when you attend Big Omaha. They work tirelessly to bring a good mix of presenters and to make sure we all leave with something useful in addition to inspiration. Even now, Big Omaha has a polish to it that makes it a little bit sexy, which is ok because they focus on the important parts first. Still, sexy is not the goal. Perhaps their biggest challenge in the future will be keeping the event focused on those ideals and avoiding the attractiveness of building a sexy event where people just want to be seen.

When you are building your company, there is what’s sexy, and then there is what works. When those two things meet one another like they do at Big Omaha it is great, but when they don’t, go for what works. Sometimes those of us in technology related fields get caught up in the “tech” way of doing things and we forget that there is an entire world of information on what works waiting for us just outside. I challenge you to go for what works and to not worry about sexy. If you still don’t believe me, think about this:

If you were at Big Omaha, you probably heard Dan Martell share the awesome story of hustle where he was submitting resumes on Dice as a way to drum up business for one of his companies. That’s an awesome hack, and when he tells the story, it sounds sexy! Here is the reality though. I caught up with Dan later and asked him where he got the idea for that awesome hustle, and he said it came from someone he knew that was a sales person for an office supplies company. That is probably one of the least exciting things you could tell someone in our tech communities. Who would spend their time talking to someone in office supplies sales? Well, what this guy would do is follow the delivery trucks of his competitors, find out the schedule, and then try to convert their customers. He told Dan that he needed to find a way to follow the “delivery trucks” in his business. Because Dan cares about what works, he was there to hear some great advice in that moment.

This is what it takes to be good and be different. You have to know what works in your industry, but to get creative ideas, sometimes it takes seeing what works in another industry, perhaps one that isn’t sexy at all. But at the end of the day, what works is what is important. Sexy doesn’t pay the bills. Scenes will waste your time and when they fade, nobody will remember how sexy you were on the startup scene. However, if you invest in your community you will have the chance to change the fortunes and lives of as many people as you want.

Where is Glee for engineers?

Recently, my wife has been subjecting me to the musical stylings of the show Glee.  While I will let some other blog do an analysis of the fragmented and dry dialog, I couldn’t help but think that the show must be doing something to revive interest in the arts in high schools across the country. When was the last time that the arts had such a cool headliner?  It really is fantastic for them and I couldn’t be happier that they are getting some more of the spotlight, and ultimately, mindshare with our young people.

Yesterday evening I was at my wife’s sister’s house for Passover and we were all discussing what one of her kids would be best suited for as a career.  Of course, her daughter is only 5 years old, but the makings of some intelligence are clearly there.  After a few people suggested lawyer, because of her argumentative personality, and other miscellaneous professions, I posited that she is already showing that she has what it takes to handle engineering.  If you ask me, she has the knack.  Never mind that she is always inquiring about the inner workings of things.  I caught a few sideways glances, and then someone gave her some math problems to work out, and without any math training, she was able to complete them all except for one.  After seeing her math ability, I proclaimed that from now on she would only get scientific types of gifts from us and that I was going to do everything in my power to glorify the science, technology, engineering, and math professions for her.  But wouldn’t it be so much easier if I had some help?

If poorly written and highly produced TV can glorify the lifestyles of Glee club members, what about a show for engineering?  We need to make it easier for kids to see the impact that engineers have on society, and it should start by finding a way to enter the collective conscience of TV viewers.  And if you think I am crazy, think about how much we glorify GERMAN engineering in this country, and that is mostly just based on car commercials.  But short of TV, what can we do to make engineering seem more glamorous?  Is it playing on the successes of startup founders?  Tell me what you think in the comments.

A meeting with my future

About a month ago, I ventured down to Austin to SXSW for the first time. Chris McCann told me it was spring break for entrepreneurs. Steven Chau told me I really should go, and he hasn’t been wrong about these kinds of things very often. So I looked into the prices for a pass to the Interactive sessions, and they were obnoxious. Chris assured me that the best way to go was *without* a pass so I could spend all of my time networking and talking to people at the parties. If I was disciplined and persistent, I figured I might even be able to swing a few meetings from some of the crowd that would be in town. So I thought about it some more, and asked my friends from other towns if they were attending, and it turned out most were. But the cost of a place was so high, I wasn’t really ready to commit. I went through my list of people that I want to meet face to face to see if any of them were coming, and it turned out Mark Suster was coming. That sealed it for me; I had to go too.

The backstory here is that I first found Mark’s blog well over a year ago when I was spending lots of time reading about my ADHD and what it meant to me. I started reading his blog regularly and after a while I started to notice that what he was writing seemed to be exactly how I thought about something, and when it was a topic with which I was unfamiliar, his writing still made complete sense. In March of 2010, he wrote an article about Twitter that made things really click for me. I immediately activated my twitter account and started @replying him pretty regularly. From that point on, I was usually asking questions in the comments of his blog, challenging his assertions on twitter, and for the most part trying to find any way I could to dig into his brain without being obnoxious. And for the most part, I guess it worked.

So I told Mark that I wanted to meetup while in Austin and he agreed to do it. He warned me that I would have to stay in touch with him. It felt weird to have someone tell me to pester them, but as an ADHD person, I knew that he meant he would be busy but he didn’t want to forget about me. Once I got into town, I pinged him to see if he wanted to grab lunch, and he did. Honestly, I couldn’t freaking believe I was actually going to sit down and talk to someone whose thought process I could understand so clearly and yet had so much life experience. I was truly ready to learn. We met up for some Texas BBQ, which wasn’t bad in my book, with two guys from a company he had invested in. We didn’t get to talk much directly, but I got my first cool experience of the trip when he invited me to some exclusive party that evening. Score one for the little guy from Kansas! I walked with them towards the convention center, where Jason Calacanis saw Mark on the street and came over to chat. I was really just like a fly on the wall, trying to keep up and process as much as I could about media and advertising and other things that I generally don’t know very much about. Mark said we should try to get together later for some one on one time, which I thought was generous, and we went our separate ways.

Now, that evening at the party, there were plenty of VIP’s, but I really enjoyed meeting lots of polished and aggressive entrepreneurs. Sure, it was cool when I was sitting next to Dave McClure and opening a bottle of beer on the edge of a table for him when he didn’t have a bottle opener. He didn’t say thank you so I thought of course he wouldn’t last 10 minutes in the Midwest. But it was an interesting atmosphere and dynamic to find that the most interesting people to me were mostly people that you wouldn’t know. I would also like to point out that it helps when I am feeling introverted to run into someone I know loosely that is a known extrovert. It makes it so much easier to get going and start more conversations later. Thanks Trevor.

At this point, I started running into people I know from other cities that I primarily met last year at the SO Summit, and it felt great to see people that I think really get it. I personally don’t get enough exposure to that here in KC, but I am trying. Over the next day, I combined a little bit of Twitter stalking with lots of accidental bump-ins on the street to keep up with his schedule, which was naturally very busy. The nice thing about the Twitter stalking was finding that there were usually a couple interesting people also chasing Mark. So even though I didn’t grab his attention at one particular time, I could usually fill it with a side conversation with someone that I could learn from. I tried to get him to come over to the Silicon Prairie News party, but it was now Sunday night and there were other things going on. I would have to wait until Monday, which was my last full day in Austin.

On Monday, I was feeling especially introverted. I didn’t want to go out. My friend Robin invited me to a small lunch thing and I still didn’t really want to go, so I decided to walk a few blocks and think about it, where I naturally ran into Mark. We made plans to catch up after an immediate commitment he had, and that I would pester him to make sure he didn’t forget. He was starting to sound pretty hoarse, and he was a popular person on the street, so I went to find a quiet and obscure place after catching up with Robin. I did my obligatory pestering, and after a while he sent back a message saying he had been roped into lunch. I was starting to feel a little unsure it was going to happen. Score minus one for the little guy from Kansas. Then I got a voicemail from him saying we would definitely do it soon, and he would ping me. The truth here is that if you get someone with ADHD to stop and say this is important and we will do it and I will let you know when, then it is probably going to happen. So I went back to the apartment I had rented, read some news, and was ready to take a nap to freshen up. As I was setting my phone down, in came the message. “Free?” At this point, I figure I was probably 14 blocks from him, so I grabbed my bag, and I started running through downtown Austin to catch him before someone else had the chance. Success.

The conversation that happened over the next 75 minutes was nothing short of pure bliss. I won’t waste your time with the specifics, but it was all advice that I would give myself, and in the end, that is really what I thought was unique about him. I am glad I was right, and of course I am glad he took the time for me. I still can’t believe some of the weird parallels between us, and it really felt like I could be talking to my future self. Perhaps if I play my cards right, I will get there. And that was the story of my first SXSW. I planted seeds long ago, and when an opportunity arose to meet with my future, I took it.

Family and friends newsletter

Since I have started spending all of my free time on useful pursuits, I have noticed that I spend considerably less time talking to my friends and family, especially those that don’t live near me. I am not the kind of person that keeps lots of friends, but I do place lots of value on keeping the ones I have. So, recently I decided that I should take a page out of StartupDigest and start sending an email newsletter to my close friends and family.

My wife and I both spent some time writing up a short history of the past several months in our lives, what is new, what the changes have meant to us, and what we are planning to do next. In the meantime, I judiciously friended everyone on Facebook that I thought might want to get this little newsletter. After getting most of them on a list in my google contacts, I sent it out, and to my surprise, a large number of them responded back with something positive to say. It gave me a chance to find out what everyone else was doing in their lives too, and to connect with people again. Most people were just thankful to hear from us and offered us an encouraging word as we embark on some ambitious life goals.

With that, I encourage you to try something similar if you haven’t been giving your F&F the attention that they deserve. It will make you feel better and most of all, they will probably appreciate hearing about the things happening in your life.

Dreams get dashed all the time

Well, this Friday I had most of my plans for 2011 blow up in my face because of stuff in my personal life.  I thought my dreams were destroyed and that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.  I went to bed early with a good book and got a good nights sleep.

I woke up yesterday and decided my dreams are too good to let go of.  So I came up with a new plan.  And more importantly, I realized that dreams get dashed all of the time.  And plans get disrupted regularly.  I told myself that if I care about what I am doing, I will pick myself up and figure it out.  So I called my family and asked for help.  I sat down with my wife and made a new plan.  And most importantly, I realized I can keep developing and working on my website like nothing ever happened.  Things will be different after it launches, but nothing is stopping me from finishing it up and testing in the wild.

Today, I called a cool guy named Jon and got some pointers on payment processing.  I was lost starting out and he helped get me going in the right direction.  He didn’t know about the crapfest I had been through, but his willingness to help made me feel better about the future.  And last but not least, all of the people that reached out on Twitter with a kind word made a difference.  Trying to change the world is hard enough and I am glad people are there when you need them, even when you don’t ask for their help.

I hope I can repay the favor.  Cheers to you all.

Why you should not use a SBC kernel on your EVO. Full engg details.

This was originally written and posted on xda-developers.

Let me preface this by saying I am a degreed electrical engineer and I specialized in integrated circuit design. I am slightly out of practice, but the fundamentals don’t change much. I am not an expert on batteries, but I understand the basics of their operation. I will absolutely yield to the engineering experience of people that have devoted significant portions of their careers to the field of battery design and applications. However, I don’t think we have many of those people running around here.

This is a long post, as the topic material requires. If you don’t read it all, you won’t understand what is going on.

I started out this adventure reading this thread:

Will this damage my battery?
This charging method doesnt damage the batteries at all. It shouldnt. Because our batteries dont even charge up to 4.2V without the tweak. They charge up to 4.2V the first charge, then drop all the way down to 4.08V or something and then does these weird short burst chargers to 4.1-4.125V. Thats why there’s the rapid drop in the morning. Because your voltage is actually at 4.125V and that’s not 100%. So with this tweak, the charger keeps charging until you’re at 4.2V (or the maximum voltage your battery can get to) and then it trickle chargers while at that voltage. The charger itself never turns off. Thats not a bad thing. Because as you reach your actual voltage, the mA decreases. Which is why our phones will never be damaged. You ever want to know why its really easy to charge from 50-80% but the charge from 90-100% seems to take so long? Its because from 50% the mA going into the phone is in the 600’s. Once it reaches 90%, the mA is around 150 and once it reaches 95% you’re looking at 90mA. The phone when absolutely idle uses anywhere from 60-120mA, even when on the charger. So charging from 90% to 100% takes longer becaus the mA going into the phone isnt always higher than the mA you’re losing. This is the same with charging past 100%. As you leave the phone on the charger with this tweak, you’re mA will decrease from 50mA all the way down to 2mA overnight. But on the charger you’re losing about 30-60mA already, so you’ll never overcharge the battery, in best case scenarios, you’ll just maintain the voltage of 4.2 or around 4.2V.

Quite frankly, this explanation shows a clear lack of understanding of battery fundamentals and perhaps even the basics of electricity. So I read the thread linked in the above post and got a clearer explanation of SBC kernels.

SBC is a type of “trickle” charging. It’s a full, slow, complete charge and it prevents the 10% drop that most users get when pulling the phone off the charger. This kernel performs best with an overnight charge. Some users asked questions on the safety of the SBC charging method. Ms79723 states that it slowly pushes mV into the battery and thus keeps the battery cool. SBC kernels push the battery past their normal 100% charged point, to a TRUE 100% charged battery. These kernels also charge extended batteries to their maximum and show true “on charger” voltages, which would deem these to be more accurate for checking voltages on your battery. There was and still are concerns of the SBC kernels destroying your battery, but to most people now these dont pose much concern anymore.

The issues people were bring up is that the Li-Ion batteries are charged to the point HTC set them to was for safety of the battery. Li-Ion’s can be unstable at times, but Ms79723 programmed safety temperature and voltage “stops” to kill the charging is they get too high. Bad things can start to form, I said can not will, if the temperature gets above 140f and voltage gets to or past 4230mV. If the mV gets to 4230mV it can causes issues. If it gets to 4300 mV it can cause plating. People are also speculating that the SBC kernels are going to kill your battery and or shorten the life. With the price of eBay batteries now days, if the SBC kernels give you drastically ( which has been seen ) more battery life, then why not? The highest seem on the SBC kernels is 4210mV, which is under both values for issues to start.

Now, let me explain what a trickle charger actually does. Basically, at the end of the charging cycle, you change over to a constant current source (CCS) supply. This means in a true trickle charger, IT WILL CHANGE THE VOLTAGE TO (theoretically) ANY VALUE TO MAINTAIN A CONSTANT CURRENT! That is bad for a Li-ion battery because they react poorly to being overcharged (see the end of this post for an explanation of battery charging and voltage). If you increase the supply voltage beyond the battery voltage, you are guaranteed to overcharge the battery. Check it out:

Trickle charge Trickle charging is designed to compensate for the self discharge of the battery. Continuous charge. Long term constant current charging for standby use. The charge rate varies according to the frequency of discharge. Not suitable for some battery chemistries, e.g. NiMH and Lithium, which are susceptible to damage from overcharging. In some applications the charger is designed to switch to trickle charging when the battery is fully charged.

What about the self-discharge of our Li-ion you say? Well, Li-ions have some of the lowest internal resistances out there, so they barely discharge themselves at all.

Well, why does my battery lose about 10% everytime I unplug it using the stock charging kernels? That seems like bad engineering! It isn’t. It is an engineering decision.

Charging Lithium Batteries
Should be charged regularly.
The cell voltage is typically 4.2 Volts
Battery lasts longer with partial charges rather than full charges.
Charging to 4.1 Volts will increase the cycle life but reduces the effective cell capacity by about 10%.
Can not tolerate overcharging and hence should not be trickle charged.
Charging method: Constant Current – Constant Voltage .
Fast chargers typically operate during the constant current charging phase only when the charging current is at a maximum. They switch off at the point when the constant voltage, reducing current phase starts. At this point the battery will only be charged to about 70% of its capacity.

The experience of battery engineers and device designers has shown them that they can ignore the top ~10% of battery capacity and dramatically increase the cycle life of the battery. That means you can charge and discharge the battery many more times before the actual capacity (power) of the battery drops to 80% of its original maximum. For most people, this is a great tradeoff. But it is not bad engineering. At the very least, it is a bad design decision for some people.

Now, you might be asking yourself why it charges so quickly to ~70% then takes forever to get to the ~90% level. The explanation given by MS79723 makes so much sense you say. Let’s debunk it a little bit.

Constant-current Constant-voltage controlled charge system. Used for charging Lithium batteries which are vulnerable to damage if the upper voltage limit is exceeded. Special precautions are needed to ensure the battery is fully charged while at the same time avoiding overcharging. For this reason it is recommended that the charging method switches to constant voltage before the cell voltage reaches its upper limit.
CCCV Charging
The charge voltage rises rapidly to the cell upper voltage limit and is subsequently maintained at that level. As the charge approaches completion the current decreases to a trickle charge. Cut off occurs when a predetermined minimum current point, which indicates a full charge, has been reached. Used for Lithium and SLA batteries. See also Lithium Batteries – Charging and Battery Manufacturing – Formation.
Note: When Fast Charging rates are specified, they usually refer to the constant current period. Depending on the cell chemistry this period could be between 60% and 80% of the time to full charge. These rates should not be extrapolated to estimate the time to fully charge the battery because the charging rate tails off quickly during the constant voltage period.

The reason the charger switches from a constant current source (CCS) to a constant voltage source (CVS) is nestled in a few engineering details. Much like the opposite of a CCS, a CVS will (theoretically) provide any current required to maintain a constant voltage supply. Now, you can approximate the battery as if it were a simple capacitor. This is not true universally, but it works for this explanation. We have already established that Li-Ion batteries respond very poorly to overcharging. Overcharging means putting too many units of charge into the battery, which can be measured by an excessive voltage on the battery. If you have had engineering physics, you know that if you place a constant voltage in series with a capacitor, it is physically not possible for the voltage on that capacitor to ever exceed the voltage of the CVS, but it may take a long time for the capacitor to reach that voltage. So we have built in safety and much more precision, but it takes longer to charge this way. (If you want to know more about this, you should study up on the mobility of electrons and holes in solid state devices.)

By now, you should be starting to see some similarities to things you observe, but the explanations clearly do not match what others have offered. So, I have to propose a couple of conclusions. If someone doesn’t want to sacrifice the last 10% of capacity on each charge cycle to increase their cycle life, they could conceivably modify the kernel to allow charging at the higher ~4.2V as a CVS. Maybe that is what MS79723 is doing, but I really highly doubt it considering how people are going for hours and only using the top 10% of their battery life. That smells like serious overcharging, which is what would occur in a true trickle charge system. So I would like some clarification from the people putting out the SBC kernels. What charging methods are they ACTUALLY using? How are they controlling them? Do they have an appreciation and deep understanding of the above principles? If they don’t have good answers, I would highly recommend you discontinue use of their kernels immediately.

And one more thing folks. There are no panaceas in deployed hardware. Only engineering decisions.

Edit: Here are some additional comments I had after reading around xda a little bit more:

I should point out that based on what the developers have said and the performance people are reporting, it seems likely that they are overcharging the batteries. However, that is all pending us getting some hard answers from the developers.

I would like to further add that no matter the method you use, if you are able to reliably charge your battery to the exact rated voltage (not give up the 10% capacity) then you are much more likely operating it safely. It is something I would personally be comfortable with, pending the input of an actual battery applications engineer. HOWEVER, I AM NOT A PE and I DO NOT HAVE A STAMP. I AM NOT YOUR EE DESIGN CONSULTANT AND IF YOU DO THAT AND IT STILL BLOWS UP, IT IS NOT MY FAULT. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN BE ASSURED THAT YOU ARE SAFELY CHARGING YOUR BATTERY IS IF YOU DO SO EXACTLY AS SPECIFIED BY THE DEVICE MANUFACTURER.

Of course, the most accurate and reliable way to charge to that level would be using the scheme used in the stock kernel, but raising the maximum voltage to the rated voltage of the battery.

May the hustle be with you

I was busy working on my web app tonight and came to a brutal realization. I suck as a hacker. As I have been cramming to get this application built so I can move on to the mashtunbeer.com site, I have had to put aside some of my engineering tendencies. I haven’t been into anything that falls under the hacker umbrella for at least a decade. I studied engineering, and I was a bad student because I put all of my time and energy into understanding how everything worked.

Now, as I sit here with a looming self-imposed deadline, I keep finding myself wandering out into the documentation to find out why some little thing works the way it does. That is engineering, not hacking. I shouldn’t care why it works, because it already works. I should move on and try to understand something that isn’t working already. So I guess hacking is something I will have to work at. If I don’t want to suck, I am going to have to learn to operate differently.

This should be an important lesson someday when I am trying to work with, find, or hire either a hacker or an engineer. If I want someone that will just build it, but won’t be able to tell me much about why it works or dissect the finer points of different options, hacker all the way. If I want someone that understands every piece of code, moving or static, then that is an engineer.

So, does some complementary spectrum exist in the realm of hustlers? Thankfully, I am much more naturally a hustler, but I still bring some of my engineering baggage with me. I don’t typically want to jump into something and start getting busy without some sort of plan or vision for what I am trying to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be very complicated. Hell, most of the time it is just back of the napkin. That leads me to two points. First, I realize how valuable hustling is to me. So in 2011, the year of years, I hope the hustle is with you as it has been with me. If you want to accomplish something, start hustling. Use your brain, but get busy. If you are smart about it, you will find yourself making progress towards your goals. Second, what do you think about the comparison? If hacker is to engineer, hustler is to what?


Time to start recruiting

Try as you will, you can’t escape the startup roller-coaster.  September was an awesome month, bringing new connections to other entrepreneurs and some positive and negative feedback about the business from brewers.  It started in Bloomington, IN where I was blown away by the amazing people in the startup community, hit a speed bump when I got into a car accident in Denver, and then concluded with a paradigm shifting experience right here in KC.  However, right around the corner, October was preparing to test my dedication to Mashtun.  I had a trip for my day job that left me feeling more underwhelmed than ever about my future in the company followed by news no founder wants to hear.  My co-founder and friend of many years has decided to part ways with Mashtun before we take the next step.  It left me with lots of mixed emotions.  I am glad that I know him well enough and that we are both strong enough people that he wouldn’t lead me on knowing he won’t be able to ramp up as I continue to dedicate more and more of my life to the future of this venture.  However, I am obviously upset that I am losing a top quality individual and someone that knows how to beat me in a debate.  I think it is valuable to have someone that can disarm you, especially when you like to debate and argue like me.
That said, I have done a little bit of soul searching and decided that I still want to do this.  I still believe in the mission.  It is an important challenge and has many high obstacles, but there are many rewards if we are able to find a way to liberate craft beer consumers and grant them the freedom to choose their products without restriction.  I have taken to describing myself as 75% hustler and 25% hacker (100% crazy), and I am prepared to take up some slack in the hacking department to try and build the product.  However, I have a very acute appreciation for the fact that I will run into severe time constraints and need someone else before long.  To that end, I am beginning my search for a new technical co-founder now so that I have plenty of time to get to know them and vice versa.  I don’t want to be in the position later where I don’t know someone well enough but I am forced to take someone because of the situation.
So, if you know someone that might be interested in joining up, I would appreciate the introduction.  I strongly believe in finding good balance in all teams, so I am listing some things about myself that you might not know.

  • ADHD
  • I am the 75% guy.  I need people that are better at following things through.
  • I am vision builder and tend to be abstract, but my engineering discipline taught me how to handle details.
  • I encourage alternate opinions, but I argue hard for my position when I feel enough information has been presented to make a conclusion.
  • I hate passive aggressive people.
  • I love beer (duh?)
  • I am passionate about building the right culture.
  • If I don’t know enough about a subject, I will research it until I can speak and act with confidence.
  • I am intense.  I wear my heart on my sleeve.
  • This is an evenings and weekend gig for me at the moment.
  • I am an open person.  If you ask me a question, chances are I will answer it.  I don’t believe in half-truths or white lies.

In a perfect world, I would prefer to spend a little bit of time chatting with people.  At some point, I might ask them to make some small contributions or demonstrations of their ability, and I would expect that they would ask the same of me.  Over the course of the next several months, this will hopefully present the person to work with next.

SO Summit Thoughts

Just over a week ago, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the first Startup Organizers Summit in Kansas City.  It was fortunate because my travel budget is completely destroyed and I didn’t have to travel to make it.  Also, as Steven Chau likes to say, we have only talked about organizing the KC Startup Community so far.  We haven’t done much.  By contrast, the summit attendees were largely people that had already done plenty for their respective communities.

A place to call home

It has been years since I felt so fulfilled by simply being a part of a community.  This gathering made me feel like I belong.  Despite the fact that we are still getting some of our efforts for the KC community spun up, it was clear that these were my kind of people.  By Saturday morning, I was wishing that there was enough time to spend an hour talking to every single person in attendance.  Obviously, there was not enough time to do talk to everyone, but I made lots of meaningful connections, especially with people that can act as resources for us in the future.  The future in KC is looking brighter and brighter by the day.

What we learned

When you feel like you are trying to build something impossible, it is good to know that there are others that have been successful doing something similar.  In my conversations with other organizers, it was apparent that we are not on this road by ourselves.  From Madrid to the Midwest, there are people volunteering their time to improve the outlook for the next entrepreneur.  We plan to keep up with this support network and ask for help when it becomes necessary.

I also spent a significant amount of time talking to the various curators for StartupDigest University Editions.  We have a pretty good vision for how to direct KC through the next phase of growth, but we will obviously need help from our regional universities at some point.  Matylda, Ryan, and Zach were all tremendously helpful.  They clearly understand some of the reasons they are able to engage their engineering students so well.  They will be great resources for us in the future.

What’s next?

The hallmark of any good conference is the action that comes from it and SO Summit scores high marks in this department.  I am pleased to announce that we agreed to start the KC edition of StartupDigest during the conference.  The first edition will be published in the coming weeks.  You can sign up to receive it here.

However, StartupDigest focuses on doing one thing well, and that is telling you what events are taking place that are relevant to startups.  However, KC is in need of much more.  When I was just getting started with Mashtun, I found it nearly impossible to find good local resources that met my needs.  I spent three weeks reading everything I could find in KC.  After all of that work, I found just one really useful group.  We need to make it easier to connect with our community and for people starting their very first company to find resources that are relevant to them.  It is my goal that the next set of entrepreneurs in our area will have a much easier time finding someone to talk to.  We will be announcing some things in this area soon.

Many thanks

Before I go, I want to say thanks to everyone that organized the event, and especially Adam Coomes and Steven Chau for inviting me.  Thanks to everyone that was so welcoming.  It created an amazing atmosphere that has left me with feelings of withdrawal (I miss the people I met).  Thanks to everyone that traveled from around the world to come together, share, and grow the startup communities that we all care for so dearly.  We plan to put your knowledge to good use for the benefit of KC startups.