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A new home for seed accelerator resources

In the summer of 2009, I wrote a paper called “Copying Y Combinator: a framework for developing seed accelerator programmes” and posted it here with links to all the background research and data that I had compiled.

Ever since I’ve received a lot of requests to share various spreadsheets, questions about the paper, and comments from people involved or interested in seed accelerators.  I’ve come to realize that while it was fine having things scattered about on my blog and in various Google Docs, it wasn’t ideal.

Today, I’m happy to announce a few things:

First, I’ve created a “Seed Accelerator knowledge base” site.  Everything I’ve written or compiled on Y Combinator and other seed accelerators can be found there.  It’s very bare-bones right now, but hope to flesh it out in the coming weeks/months.

Second, I’m starting a newsletter on seed accelerators.  (Sign up at the bottom of this post.)  I promise it will be low traffic (about 1 email/month) and high signal/noise ratio.

(I’ve also created a page on this site to make sure visitors can always find their way to anything I’ve done related to seed accelerators)

What the future holds

Eventually I’d like to turn the knowledge base into a webapp of sorts, probably tied into Crunchbase.  This will allow for better analysis of the data over the long-term.  If entrepreneurs and the people that fund them have access to key signals (1st tier – #/value of exits, 2nd tier – # still operating/alive, 3rd tier – #/value fundraised) then everyone will be able to make better choices.

If you have any comments or recommendations, please let me know!

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A new responsive design!

I’m happy to announce that this small, little blog of mine now has a responsive design!

Okay… now what the hell does that mean?  It means that no matter what device you use to come to my blog, it’s always going to be readable and look nice.  If you see this on a desktop browser, it will have multiple columns and full-size images.  If you read it on a mobile browser (aka iPhone/Android), it will just be one column, and the images will have scaled down to fit the screen.  Want a better example?  If you’re reading this on your desktop, slowly change the size of the window (drag the bottom right corner of your screen) until it’s as small as you can make it.  As you do it, you’ll see how the blog’s design changes to fit the way you’re reading it.

I wish I could say I did this myself, but in fact I used the Scherzo theme from Leon Paternoster.  If you’re a design novice like myself and use WordPress, it’s very easy to implement.

It’s hard to state how much of a sea change this is in web design, and it was all started by Ethan Marcotte.  (I’m lucky enough to count him as a brother-in-law.)  If you are a web designer, make sure you buy his book on responsive design.  Read it, and use it!

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Ferran Adria – speaking at Google and his new book

In late September I was lucky enough to be able to hear Ferran Adria speak at Google, and also get a copy of his new cookbook.  Ferran is one of the most famous chefs in the world; though lesser known in the US/UK since he doesn’t speak English and doesn’t have TV shows.  His restaurant (elBulli) was named the best restaurant in the world for four years straight.

What Ferran is really known for is his creativity.  He pioneered “molecular gastronomy”, where chefs do absolutely crazy stuff to create new flavors and textures.  But unlike other chefs, he did this not just with the food but with the entire restaurant!  In order to have the time available to be creative, he shut the restaurant down for half the year.  In order to have time to be creative even when they were open, they shut for lunch.

His talk was all about creativity, and was recorded below.  It’s pretty slow to watch, since he’s speaking Spanish and everything is translated live.  But if you’re interested at all in food, cooking and creativity, he has a thought-provoking perspective on creativity.

I sat next to a woman who practices “visual notetaking” and grabbed her notes from the talk from Flickr.  (Click image to get to the original)  Ferran’s talk is the bottom part of the page, under the dotted line.:

Ferran Adria talking about Creativity @ Authors at Google

The points from her notes are clear.  His definition of creativity is simple: not copying.  Some forms of creativity are more simple, such as new ingredients in an omelette.  Others are more complex, like re-defining what an omelette can be.

Another key perspective is that creativity depends on production.  If you can’t breathe life into your idea (or at least give it a go!), then it’s debatable if you were ever creative at all.

Finally, we all got/bought copies of his newest book, “The Family Meal.”  I heartily recommend it.  The recipes are what the staff at elBulli restaurant would eat before restaurant service.

There are a few awesome things about this book:

  • The recipes are laid out as 31 complete 3-course meals (starter, main, dessert).  One month of meals, with a lot of variety amongst them.
  • Each meal gives you ingredient portions for 2 people (yay! for couple portions), 6 people, 20 people, or 75 people.
  • It’s a picture book; each recipe is on two pages; ~15 photos for each recipe showing what it should look like at each step of preparation
  • Each three-course meal has an outline of when you need to start each major step of preparation (2 hours before, 30 minutes before, night before, etc.
  • Each three-course meal also has a condensed list of ingredients, and what should be bought fresh, what you should fine in the cupboard, and what you should find in the refrigerator.
  • There’s some great advice on different preparation techniques that’s invaluable for home chefs (like me) that don’t have a formal cooking education

Again, I highly recommend his book and the video above; Ferran thinks about creativity on a different level from nearly anyone else.

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Ten years on…

Ten years ago, I was Engineering Duty Officer on the USS Hartford (SSN-768), in port in Groton, Connecticut.  We were due to leave on a six-month deployment, and were doing last-minute maintenance checks.  That day was extraordinary; within hours we had closed out all the maintenance and were effectively ready to go.  (And security on the base changed incredibly quickly.)

For the rest of the week, we didn’t know if would be sent to sea that day, the next day, or on our originally scheduled date.  In the end, we left about a week after 9/11 for our six months at sea.

I have a strange relationship with 9/11 because of all of this.  The Hartford left just after 9/11, and we got back to the US it was the end of March, 2002.  We got very little news during that period, we missed all of the memorial events, the unity of the country, and the invasion into Afghanistan.  (Though we were in the Gulf during the invasion, our boat didn’t directly participate.)  By the time we got back, we saw all the flags on the interstate overpasses, the yellow ribbons everywhere, and all of the other signs.  The country had moved in and done a lot of healing in those six months, and I hadn’t been involved.

I was fortunate enough not to know anyone that was killed in any of the attacks.  And with time, my experiences feel like they’ve gotten closer to everyone else’s.  But a six-month hole between my experiences and the country’s collective consciousness is still a strange gulf to bridge.