All posts filed under “Geeking out

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Your go-to London Olympics form guide

I’m really looking forward to the London 2012 Olympics.  But if you’re like me, you only have half a clue as to who’s been performing well in a couple of sports at best.  And there are over 300 medals being awarded at this years’ Olympic Games.

I recently received a forwarded e-mail from a guy named James Hingston that says this:

Dear all,

Prompted by Richard, and my own desperate fanaticism, I’ve spent the past year putting together a complete form guide for the London 2012. The idea is that for any event… even the really random ones… you can dip in, get a solid idea of the form of athletes and teams coming into the Games, as well as some overviews on developments and changes that have taken place in the sport.

I’ve ended up developing it into a reasonably complete and semi-professional looking document (in for a penny, in for a pound) and so would not only encourage you to use it, but, if you think it’s any good, please distribute it as widely as possible amongst your friends and colleagues.

Many thanks as well (because she’ll kill me if I don’t credit her) to Lindsay for helping proof the document. It’s been designed so that you can dip in and out and use it as a reference guide – you don’t have to read all 184 pages…. She did.


This is the link to the document ( so that you can read/download/print it at your leisure.

(I will say that from the little I do know of various sports his medal predictions are a fair bit off, but the data he compiled is absolutely amazing.)

Get it here:



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MG Siegler proves he doesn’t understand hard tech

Part of me loves reading MG Siegler, part of me hates reading him.  He’s clearly an Apple fanboy (and therefore an Android/Google-hater), but he’s also a very clear, opinionated and distinctive writer.  MG is also a fellow University of Michigan alum.

But then yesterday I read his post titled “Power“.  In it, he talks about the biggest takeaway from SXSW was battery life, and how it’s becoming a bigger and bigger issue with phones, tablets, etc.  This is very true, battery life will determine size and capability of future devices.  But then he writes this:

I want a laptop that lasts for a week on one charge. I want a cellphone that lasts a month. I want to be able to go to SXSW without a Mophie in each pocket. I don’t want to have to be constantly worrying about battery life every single time I leave my house.

Today’s battery technology is holding back several other advances in technology in major ways. And we are about to see just how bad the situation is in the coming months. Maybe wireless power sources that constantly charge and re-charge devices is the ultimate answer. But it just seems like battery technology is really ripe for disruption.

What a idiotic Silicon Valley-centric viewpoint!  The world of battery technology is one that depends on chemistry and material science.  Moore’s Law has worked for transistors, but no other field of hard science works that way.

In software, new technologies and techniques can be conceptualized, built, and deployed industry-wide in a flash.  Google described the MapReduce framework in 2004; in just a few years it was virtually an industry standard for Big Data applications.  This happens all the time, and because of it, Silicon Valley types get used to that rapid clip of innovation.  But this pace of change is the exception, not the norm.

The companies behind batteries and battery technology are fighting tooth-and-nail for every advantage they can get.  Any company that’s successful can build a billion-dollar advantage in the market.  I worked for years with lead-acid, Nickel-Metal-Hydroxide, and Silver-Zinc batteries; each has their own styles of deficiencies.

MG comes across as an Silicon-Valley-centric arrogant jerk saying that “battery technology is really ripe for disruption.”  It implies that all he needs to do is call attention to this problem, and two hackers in a garage will start experimenting and build a battery that’s better than anything else on the market.  The reasons improving battery technology is tough is because the chemistry and material science problems are orthogonal; the work isn’t x*2, it’s x^2.  Even once you’ve solved the key problems, manufacturing at the scale required for specific use cases becomes a third problem, since it forces a re-evaluation (and sometimes a complete re-design) of the original chemistry and material science problems.

So when I read MG’s post, I really lost a lot of respect for him.  Just because a VC wishes he could have a better battery, doesn’t change the laws of nature.

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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!