As of an hour ago, I am 30 years old.
I haven’t had any major epiphanies yet, but when I do, I’ll write them here.
I do have one request for my birthday though, and that’s for you to consider a donation to my Charity: Water campaign, through which I’m hoping to raise $3000 to help bring clean drinking water to those in need.
We’re almost there. $690 to go. We’ve got a couple weeks left, but wouldn’t it be cool to crush that goal today? Yes. Yes it would.
Please donate and/or spread the word!
I saw this video a few weeks ago and it really stuck with me, in particular, this quote that sums up Neil’s point:
“We’ve learned in the last 50 years that of course, not only do we exist in this universe… it is the universe itself that exists within us.”
In watching this, I can’t help but be reminded of JFK’s famous passage, “I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”
I’ve always felt that attachment to the sea, and in general, to our universe. How about you?
I’ve been on Tumblr for a long time. I like it here. It’s not too noisy. It’s my own personal little space where I follow a few interesting people and create my own special spot on the web (this blog).**
I even remember a little Tumblr party 2-3 years ago at a small bar in the West Village that was part of some internet/social media week. I got to meet some of the people I follow on Tumblr in person, and it all felt so personal. I loved it.
Fast forward to today, and I get this email from Tumblr.
Despite the fact that I am an actively engaged user, not to mention creator on the platform, Tumblr opted to send me an email to go follow more people (seen below).
Listen Tumblr, I get it. You want people to follow more blogs. You want users to engage with more of the brands you’re featuring in Spotlight. I know I can follow more stuff. I don’t want to. Just let me…
Wait what?! More? I have to follow more stuff? God. I know how to use you Tumblr, just let me get back in to my Dashboa…
Hovering tool tips!? Don’t you know that I posted twice already this week. I know how to create a post! Just get out of the way and let me enjoy this insanely creepy photo Jared shared.
And this is just one instance of my Tumblr frustration (Tumbstration?). The new creation tools suck. Opening a saved draft always requires a refresh to see what’s (hopefully) still there. There’s a pagination bug that doesn’t let me scroll through my dashboard easily. Videos are finally bigger, but the “TV like fuzz” makes me nauseous. It’s a video. I get it. There’s a giant play icon. Chill out.
Thing is, I wouldn’t be so frustrated with you, Tumblr, if I didn’t love the platform so much. If you were just some other social network, I’d say “Do whatever you want. I don’t care. Your only value is your scale.”
But that’s not you, so don’t treat me like some number. You know I’m active. You know I’m a creator more than a reblogger. Treat me that way and show me some added benefit, rather than just trying to get more mindless engagement out of me.
**Chances are pretty good you’re reading this in your Tumblr dashboard, rather than at reecepacheco.com. That’s because Tumblr is doing everything it can to keep traffic and engagement in the dashboard. Business value? Yes. User value? Thhhhpppp.
One of my favorite things about March, and my birthday on the 20th, is that I can use it to give back to the world and rally all my friends to support a single cause in which I am a passionate believer.
That cause is bringing clean drinking water to the billion people in the world who don’t have access.
In the developing world, regular access to safe drinking water means healthier children, less disease, hours saved trekking to rivers and streams, and more time spent in school and growing communities.
So for my 30th birthday I’m asking you to donate to my campaign to bring clean drinking water to those in need. Not presents. Not beers. Just a simple donation to a cause that means a ton to me and that I’ve been supporting for over three years.
Since it’s the big 3-0, I’m going big with a goal of raising $3000. This will bring clean drinking water to 150 people!
It’s a big goal, but I know we can do it. I’m suggesting $30 donations, but any amount is welcome, and please, spread the word!
Let’s give others the essential gift of water.
With all my heart, thank you.
***** Charity: Water Guarantee of Awesome - The team at Charity: Water is amazing. They make certain that 100% of every dollar you donate to my birthday campaign will be used to build clean water projects in developing countries. Thank you Scott, Paull, Denny, and all of the awesome team! *****
I talk a lot about “team.” Teams are fascinating and I absolutely love seeing well-oiled teams executing efficiently toward a common goal. Specifically, I’m talking about our team here at Shelby, but I examine teams in action wherever I see them, whether it’s at a startup, at a restaurant, or on the athletic field.
It is easy to pooh-pooh team dynamics in athletics, as it all seems so simple - “You’re on the same team. You all want to win. Just play.” but it is anything but that, particularly in the pros where big contracts and egos come into play.
One such team (that I’ve discussed before) is the New England Patriots. Sure, I’m from MA, so yes, I like the Patriots… but that’s not the only reason why. The more fascinating reason for me is the organization that Bill Belichick has built. Team first. No ego.
The most powerful example of that is today’s news about Tom Brady’s contract extension, in which he is accepting an offer for FAR less than he’s worth in order to free up cash to build a better, more competitive team for the long haul. (P.S. It’s the second time he’s done this).
In 2005, after his third Super Bowl title, Brady agreed to a six-year, $60 million deal, which at the time was dwarfed by Peyton Manning’s contract, which averaged $14.2 million a year. This year, clearly, he is doing exactly the same thing — in fact, giving the team even more of a hometown discount — with one goal in mind: to keep the Patriots competitive for the rest of his career. He’s putting his money where his mouth is. He knows it’s easy for him to make millions in endorsements. One teammate once said about Brady he would be such a sore loser he’d do whatever it took to never lose. At a time when the growing market for quarterbacks pegs the average per year at about $20 million — Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are there, and it’s likely Super Bowl champ Joe Flacco will be there soon — Brady’s average over the next six years will be consistently about 30 percent lower.
It’s a jaw-dropping move and I can’t help but relate it to startups when hiring. The analogy is simple. The “salary cap” is your runway and you only have so much wiggle room. Startup lore dictates that you must only hire “A” players and get them at any cost, thus blowing through your salary cap. The other option is to spread that cash out across a couple hires in the hopes that the sum of the parts is greater than the individuals.
The latter is what the Patriots have done. They pick up no-name players and groom them into the best team they can possibly be. (Hell, even Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick). Further, their individual stars believe in the organization, its mission and their future legacy so much, that they’re willing to take less cash for the betterment of the team and the potential for true greatness.
I’m obviously impressed by this and commend Brady for it. Of course, it’s easy to do when the difference in cash still leaves you a multi-millionaire with three Super Bowl rings and a supermodel wife, versus a Ramen-eating startup junkie, but still.
h/t to Alex Rainert for sharing the link.
Last night at the NYTM, Dan, Henry, and I got on stage to launch some cool products that demonstrate how we envision the future of video, both of which put individuals in control of their experience.
When we first told Fred about Shelby.tv, he immediately asked if someday he could have FredWilson.tv. So we are really excited to finally launch FredWilson.tv. His .tv is a public URL for anyone to see, it’s powered by Shelby, and it pulls all the video he shares on AVC.com, as well as shares to Tumblr and Twitter, into one leanback “TV” experience. If you want to learn about entrepreneurship, venture capital, or startups in general, FredWilson.tv is a great channel to watch.
Fred wrote more about it on his blog this morning which I encourage you to read as well. Thanks Fred. Psyched to finally deliver FredWilson.tv!
Once we started working on .tv’s, we realized we had the ability to create a TV experience out of any webpage with video.** So Henry built a great proof of concept at Shelby.tv/experience. Here are a couple great examples.
The Periodic Table of Videos is a great blog full of video, but the viewing experience is crap. See it for yourself here: http://periodicvideos.blogspot.com/ Now, go to Experience and hit “Launch” to see how Shelby gives you a “TV” experience for all that great content.
Here’s another example, this time from the awesome community at Reddit. Here, a bunch of Redditors are sharing favorite videos from Hulu. It looks like this.
Throw that into Shelby.tv/Experience and you’ve got a seamless, lean-back channel of great video.
This is just a proof of concept, but Shelby.tv/Experience is a great demonstration of how we think about video and where we’re going with Shelby. Try out http://Shelby.tv/experience and http://fredwilson.tv and let us know what you think.
**Technical disclaimer: “Experience” currently only works with static pages, not dynamically loaded pages like YouTube.
So excited about FredWilson.tv. Hit me up if you want your own .tv!
“If you never want to be criticized, for goodness sake don’t do anything new.” —Jeff Bezos, at re: Invent Conference. November, 2012
Inventing something new isn’t easy. Be it a company, a product, or even just a theory, getting the idea right… designing it, building it, testing it, iterating, repeating. It’s a tiresome process, and that’s just what you have to do to deliver it to a market (or audience).
Once your ideas is ‘there,’ you subject yourself to endless criticism from haters and fans alike. Everyone, it seems, has $.02 for you. Some have $2. Others… well, you get the idea.
It can wear you down. You build and build and build and you put so much energy into this one thing and then someone tells you “It’s ugly.” Others say, “I don’t get it.” They’re the nice ones. Some will just say “That will never work.”
But a funny thing happens on your path to creating something new… you stop listening. Err… you’re listening, but you’re not hearing. The criticism becomes background noise. It’s just there. It doesn’t affect your vision. It doesn’t make you consider radical changes. You just process it, pick out the constructive feedback from the haters hating, and keep moving forward. Forward toward the creation of something different. Something radical. Something special.
Eventually, your idea, your invention, your product - finds the audience that sees the world the way you do… from this slightly strange perspective that becomes more and more feasible the more you stare.
Seems to be working for Jeff Bezos, anyway. Full interview below.
On Wednesday, Dan and I drove up to Cornell University for their annual Startup Career Fair. Our intern Ian, who is in school at Cornell now, also joined us and together we pitched the Shelby vision. We had a great turnout and spoke to many bright young engineers, some of whom could really be great a great fit on our team.
But how, in a quick conversation at a career fair are we able to tell if someone can hack it at Shelby where everyone’s equally as sharp with their wit as they are with C++?
Firstly, let’s establish the scene. There are hundreds of students, all with resumes in hand, many with very similar academic tracks, and little to no work experience. Who stands out?
Well, it is not the student with the wordiest resume or the highest GPA. For us, it’s the candidate who says they prefer programming languages that are hard, not easy. It’s the student who challenges our product vision against the competition. It’s the candidate without the resume, who can clearly and simply demonstrate who they are and how they think.
When asked what we look for in a team member, we usually sum it up as “passion and intelligence.” The right blend of these qualities is such a powerful combo, but given that passion isn’t quantifiable and our traditional methods of testing intelligence are generally lame, it’s tough to spot.
This is why it’s crucial for all recruiting to go through the founders in an early stage startup (and as long as possible into the company’s life cycle). So when a friend was shocked that Dan and I made an 8+ hour roundtrip to recruit at Cornell, all I had to say was “Recruiting a great team and maintaing cultural fit is too important. That’s our job.” and they understood. No one knows cultural fit like the founders.
The final piece of the puzzle that sticks out is the risk-taking, lean forward, go for it hustle that we love to see. When I got an email from a candidate pitching why they’re perfect for Shelby - before we even left town - all I could do is smile. That’s the kind of hustle I love to see, and that’s why we hustled up to Cornell, stood up all day and greeted every candidate with the same passion we’ve had since we started.
Today, I’m headed to Harvard for their Startup Career Fair. Let’s see if they stack up.
Yesterday, I tweeted out the following and I wanted to take a minute to expand on the impact of our written values on cultural fit when hiring, as well as the value mentioned, “Be human.”
pro tip: when hiring, having clear core values allows you to quickly assess inbound candidates for cultural fit. @shelby #1 = “Be Human”
Our core values - there are eight of them - help define the way we work and live. If you hung out with us for a little while, you’d probably overhear us saying things like “JFBI” or “Be human.” Those are just the sticky little idioms we use day to day, but behind each one is more depth and understanding of a particular value.
They help us stick to our beliefs. They act as guiding lights when making tough decisions. They make it easy to assess potential partners, or in this case, a potential teammates.
My tweet yesterday, referred to any of the numerous inbound emails I get from job-seekers who are just spraying and praying with their resume. You know what they look like: “To whom it may concern” “Dear hiring manager” “Hey!”… They take no time to get to know or demonstrate knowledge of the person they’re emailing (me), nor our company. This approach essentially begins the relationship as a transaction, and Shelby’s the ATM. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for people who view their career as a “job” or worse, “just a paycheck.”
The best candidates, the people who stand out from the crowd, the people who belong on this team, are the ones who naturally embrace “being human.” Here’s how we define “Be human” at Shelby:
We are all people, with real lives, real passions, and real needs. We are not just “employees” and our users are not just “eyeballs.” So, trust and empathy shine in everything we do - be it the way we listen, the way we pitch, or the way we build.
It sounds so silly sometimes - “You guys need to write down a note to act like a human being?” - but think about how many interactions you have in a given day that are completely inhuman - the lifeless retail transactions, shooting the messenger at customer service, the animalistic race of a commute by car or subway…
By writing it down like this, it cements a human approach in the company culture so that we constantly remember it and hopefully never stray from it as so many companies do with growth. And since growth is what’s expected of us - accelerated growth in particular - it is powerful for us to have a belief system in place through which we can make decisions about who else will join us in building this great and lasting company.
Just wrote this for the Shelby blog.
Companies are not people. But they are comprised of people. And the people side of the business is harder and way more complicated than building a product is. You have to start with culture, values, and a committment to creating a fantastic workplace. You can’t fake these things. They have to come from the top. They are not bullshit. They are everything. There will be things that happen in the course of building a business that will challenge the belief in the leadership and the future of the company. If everyone is a mercenary and there is no shared culture and values, the team will blow apart. But if there is a meaningful culture that the entire team buys into, the team will stick together, double down, and get through those challenging situations.
At our #ShelbySummit a few weeks ago, we revisited our core values that we wrote as a team in July 2012. Since then, I have taken the team’s feedback and rewritten the values to really establish who we are and what we believe in as a company.
It made me think of Fred’s post which resonated with me a year ago(!), as I share the view that a company is a product unto itself. And while we have had our successes and failures so far, it is our team and culture that have gotten us through each of them.
We’re still putting the finishing touches on our values, but I look forward to sharing them here soon.