25 November 2015

Being Not Overwhelmed

If you work in Strategy, or are an Entrepreneur, or are dealing with complicated and compounding challenges (with high risks associated) I have a little mental model for you.

It's been helpful for me. It might prove to be helpful for you.
  1. Never assume something is either possible or impossible without real evaluation and analysis.
  2. The more you want something to be possible the more skeptical your analysis must be.
  3. Don't waste energy working on or regretting the impossible.
As always, this is not a menu. You don't get to pick and choose. It's all or nothing or it doesn't work.

I find that people who are not actually strategists fail on both #1 and #2 more than 90% of the time.
And I find that strategists who have bad leadership fail at #3 nearly 100% of the time.

One final little trick... I find that turning the evaluation into written output reduces the challenges of #3 dramatically.

17 November 2015

What I do

From the responses to my "So... What's next?" post, it's clear that my audience (as tiny as it may be) breaks out into a few different cohorts of a sort. For some of you, the blog post was clear and what I was asking for was understood. And there were, I admit, some of you who clearly decided I'd gone off the reservation entirely. But there were some who made it obvious to me that they didn't understand both the blog post and (perhaps as a result) what I was asking for. For some of you, it's clear that I need to answer the question "What I do" at the very least. And you'd prefer if I also answer "What do I want to do" (and ideally "for what kind of company") as well.

So I'll answer the "What I do" question quickly.

  1. What I do is the result of what I've done and learned. My LinkedIn profile is up to date.
  2. I've written a bunch on this blog over the years about what I do. Here are some examples: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten
  3. "I do Corporate Development, Business Development and Strategy" 
Of the three, I'd argue #3 is the least useful but the closest to what people are asking for. So I've tried to make it more useful... I like to work in the circle in the image below.

I hope this clears things up!

29 October 2015

So.... What's Next?

I've been getting a lot of messages from folks that run along the lines of "did you really leave Mozilla?" and "so what are you doing now?"

Rather than writing the same thing over and over, I thought it would make more sense to write up a blog post with all the likely questions and answers.

Did you really leave Mozilla?

Yes. Mozilla was an amazing experience for me, and I got to work with some of the most incredible people around. But it was time for something else for me.

What are you doing now?

To be honest, so far I've really been focused on rest and relaxation. Only this week have I started to consider what I want to do next. So far I've just started talking to recruiters, hiring managers, my network, etc.

So... What's next?

A bunch of folks have contacted me about consulting opportunities and, while I obviously have done a lot of consulting, I'm really not interested in that angle at this time. I'm looking for an opportunity to do something with an event horizon that's a bit further out than your average consulting gig - and which offers me a chance to really dig into some challenges and opportunities.
As a result, I'm starting to look for a new full time job.

What kind of job are you looking for?

To paraphrase a former boss, I'm looking for a job as a "unicorn brain-on-a-stick."

I have a rather rare combination of skills, experiences, abilities and knowledge. As such, I'm looking for an employer that wants to hire me - rather than an employer that has a role that I might be able to fill.  I'm looking for a job where I can use my unique skill-set and perspective and strengths to help solve problems and pursue opportunities for my employer.

In other words... I'm looking for someone who will say, "holy crap - let's create a job for this guy. He can really help us."

Ummm... Seriously? Why would anyone hire you to do that?

Because I actually kind of am that Unicorn.

I started working on the web in 1994. I tech edited the very first O'Reilly HTML book. I wrote the Developer blog for the Netscape website. I've done four startups (and had four wins). I was a columnist for the NY Times website. I was the Chief Strategy Officer of a publicly traded company. I have worked on seminal web sites and products since 1995. I ran a $325M corporate venture fund. I've run Development, I've run Marketing, I've run Business Development, I've run Client Services. I've been a CEO and a founder as well as a management consultant and a data analyst. I'm considered an expert in Corporate Development, Business Development and Business Strategy. Oh... and in part because I was part of the (four person) deal team on one of the largest deals in tech in 2014 (and the largest deal that Yahoo has done since Marissa Meyer joined).

Well, that's impressive but still. Seriously?


I know it's a strange way to approach a job. But I've been in this business long enough to have realized how few people there are like me in the industry.

And, frankly, my endorsements and references and testimonials support this.

Do you have other criteria and other asks?

Of course I do!
  • I'm not interested in dysfunctional organizations. My days as a turnaround guy are done.
  • I want a steady stream of meaty problems to solve (and an organization that wants me to succeed in solving them).
  • It is important to me that I have flexibility on location and hours. In other words... I need to be able to work remote and on my schedule (within reason of course).
  • I need to work with people who are decent and humane and professional - and who I can learn from.
  • I don't want to be a manager or deal with corporate politics.
Wow... that's a lot to ask for!

Yup... the good news is that I'm willing to make some sacrifices for my asks.

I have a pretty good idea of what kind of title level I could be working at - and I have a very good idea of what kind of compensation would be considered competitive for me. I'm willing to give on both of these to get what I want and need. And given the current hiring market in Tech in general and SF in particular - getting an experienced senior tech exec with my track record for less than you'd be paying for most Sr Directors seems like a fair trade-off (and an acceptable risk to take).

And in the meantime?

I'm going to keep my promises and take the opportunity that this moment of freedom from the tech industry gives me to get healthy.

26 October 2015

Who the Fuck are these People?

I take MUNI a lot. Mostly light rail.

Anyone who does this has probably noticed the massive demographic shift that has taken place in mid-Market and as demonstrated by the passengers boarding and departing at Van Ness Station.

I figured it might be interesting to do a highly non-scientific analysis of who these folks are or at least where and what they identify with. So today I spent a couple of hours walking around the mid-Market neighborhood and looking at cars. In particular, I was looking at bumper stickers and license plate holders as these can indicate a lot. In particular, they are a good signifier for geographic identity.

What I found:
  • 16 SoCal related
  • 11 East Coast Tri-State Area related
  • 9 East Bay related
  • 3 Mid-Atlantic related
  • 3 Marin related
  • 2 Southwest related
  • 1 San Francisco related
I'm not going to draw any conclusions as the data obviously isn't sufficient.

But I suspect it would be worthwhile and interesting to evaluate more seriously.

And at the very least - this would give some credibility to the claims that the newcomers to SF are not emotionally invested in "San Francisco." Especially given that there were 8 times as many indicators of being passionate about dogs as there were about giving a fuck about San Francisco.

10 September 2015

MUNI sucks - and you're making it worse

With an estimated 40,000 new residents since 2010, life in SF is getting more challenging. This is showing in our infrastructure issues and in particular with MUNI.

MUNI was never a well-run or well-funded system, nor was it a complete one. But now MUNI is breaking under the strain.

And you all are not helping.

Let's be honest... MUNI sucks. We all know it.  We all say it, we all live it. But we can make it better. We can make the entire experience better for everyone who rides MUNI light rail, and it's not even difficult or any real sacrifice.

So here, from a 20+ year MUNI light rail rider, are the ways to make MUNI light rail better (for all of us) by simply behaving a little better.

  1. Lines. We're not like the English. We kind of suck at lines. That does not, however, mean that it's a fucking free for all out there. We all know the proper order based on who arrived when. There is a virtual line as a result. When you get all clever and slip around the outside and dart in ahead of everyone else you're not being smarter than the rest of us, nor are the rest of us being chumps. You're being an asshole. Wait your turn, behave like a decent human, and we'll all get on the train and get home and we'll do so without the current level of hatred and simmering conflict.
  2. Boarding. When the train arrives, wait. Let everyone get off before you get on. This is the simplest of rules and the simplest of fixes. This will increase the efficiency of unloading and unloading and will result in MUNI running better throughout the entire system. Once everyone has debarked, you need to go as far into the train as you can. Stopping as soon as you board and grabbing an upright like you're about to drown creates a bottleneck which results in boarding slowing dramatically. If you simply go to the center of the train quickly, everyone will get to board, the train will load more quickly (and thus MUNI will run more quickly overall) and the train will hold more passengers (also resulting in quicker and better operation of the system). 
  3. Seats. If you sit in the outside seat when the inside seat is empty, there is a decent chance no-one will ask to take the inside seat. It's a politeness thing. But, again, doing this is not an indication that you're smarter than everyone else. Not doing it doesn't make you a chump. No... doing this makes you a fucking asshole. If 4 people do this per car, you're talking 16 fewer passengers per double train. During rush hour, this works out to around 320 fewer passengers per hour. So yeah... move to the inside seat.
  4. Backpacks. This one I do not understand at all.  It's fucking obvious. First of all, MUNI at rush hour is like Tetris and if you leave your backpack on, fewer passengers can fit on a train. Secondly, every time you move around in a packed train with your backpack on you're assaulting everyone behind you. I've had coffee spilled on me this way, I've been knocked to the ground this way. Third, when you try to board or exit the train, you're a massive unwieldy object in motion through the crowd. Disasters are predictable. So... a simple and binary rule... Before you get on the train, take off your backpack. You can hold it in your hand between your legs, you can rest it on your feet - but just take it off your fucking back. Mkay?
  5. Arriving. First and foremost... if the train is packed and you're by the doors, and the train stops somewhere that isn't your destination - step off the train so people can get off. If it's super packed and you're a few people in from the door, you too might have to step off the train. Once off the train, wait until everyone gets off, and then re-board (in the reverse order of you you left). If you're on the platform waiting - let the kind people who got off the train board before you get on. Not doing so makes you on par with elevator farters and with luck you will spend hell in an elevator filled with farts. Now... if this is your stop, don't freak out. Calmly work your way towards the door. If there are people blocking your path, politely say "excuse me." And if someone says, "excuse me" because you're blocking their way off the train - get the fuck out the way. 
There we go.
Five simple steps, a handful of simple rules.
If we all start doing this - MUNI will suck demonstrably less. For all of us.

So why the hell would you NOT do this?

04 September 2015

The Worst People (San Francisco, Sept 2015)

10. Sepp Blatter
 9. Trust-fund Wantrepreneurs
 8. Everyone who wears a fucking backpack on MUNI during rush hour
 7. Fake "Seed Investors"
 6. Enterprise Sales People
 5. Fans of Ayn Rand
 4. Code Artists
 3. That guy who keeps tweeting about #gamergate
 2. People who fart in the elevator
 1. Technolibertarians

01 September 2015

A Realization - About SF, Portland and opportunity

Current San Francisco dogma says that there is nowhere in the world that presents more opportunity. This is why everyone wants to move here. This is why you can't find parking, why toast costs $4 and why your rent is going to be more than $4k a month here. Right? Kind of hard to argue against this, yeah?

I just returned from a visit to my old stomping grounds (Portland OR) and I have some new perspective on this topic.

Honestly, I kind of thought I'd be writing about how Bay Area tech is a virus that is destroying its hosts (as illustrated by PDX). And while it was sad and a little disgusting to see that the brogrammer culture has gestated in Portland as well - this isn't what is sticking with me from this trip after all.

While in Portland I realized something important - or at least important to me - about opportunity and definitions.

Portland is incredibly ripe with opportunity and potential. It's all around you and it's inspiring.
There is, however, a huge difference between the opportunity and potential available to you in Portland and in the Bay Area.

In Portland, you have the opportunity to do what you want to do and to be who you want to be.
In the Bay Area, on the other hand, you have the opportunity to become a highly valuable asset and resource.

I'm not saying one is universally better than the other - but rather that you should know this and own your choices.

But frankly it's hard to not be reminded of what SF was like back in the early 90s - when it too was rich with opportunity for self-creation, self-identification and the pursuit of crazy dreams. And it's hard to not worry that the dream of PDX will follow the same path and the destruction of that dream will be yet another loss that Bay Area tech will have to answer for.