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startup’ing, month 8: thinking inside the box

Posted by andreaitis on February 26, 2009

i call this our macgyver period.

it all started with a not-so-little office drama.  we had a funny feeling about our nice digs in union square (yes, one floor below fred wilson!).   we were subletting, had carved out the space in the back right corner as our own…but noticed that, uhhh, the rest of the place was getting emptier and emptier.  so we huddled and quickly decided we needed a new place.  and then our landlord decided he wouldn’t continue renting the union square office at all.  since you can’t sublet if there’s no one to sublet from, the building decided to pleasantly evict us.  of course, all of this coincided with our alpha release #4.

within 48 hours our fearless leader announced it was done:  a new office that was bigger, cheaper and had seven windows, available march 1st.  unfortunately, it was january 27th.  we had another product release coming up, and a board meeting, and no place to work.   enter: the box.  we took a temp office in the helmsley building.  sounds nice, right?  join me for the trip to the box:

it was, in essence, an alice in wonderland office.  or something out of being john malkovich.  i actually didn’t mind it at first…until the connectivity problems.  and the loud day-traders next door.   and the game of musical chairs that meant the last person who arrived had to use a small file cabinet as a desk.   and the loose electrical outlet that sparked and sizzled.  and the lack of any windows which, ultimately, made it feel like we were working at a casino.  and the random electrical shocks from just, y’know, sitting down and touching a laptop.  pretty sure our cto got some free electro-shock therapy.

but, now that it’s my last day in the box… i might actually miss it a little.   it was cramped and crazy, but while we were there we released alpha #5 on time, and made it through another energetic board meeting.

oh!  i was also reblogged by fred wilson.  that’s like a rite of passage, isn’t it?  a blog mitzvah?  it was paul westerberg singing Waitress in the Sky.  after westerberg’s hit by a beer bottle in the middle of the song, he smoooothly slips in some improv lyrics without missing a beat.

i guess that’s kind of what we did in t/s month 8…improv.   minus the flying beer bottle.

improv-ing-ly yours –
andrea

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the return of egg-phobia

Posted by andreaitis on February 21, 2009

quail eggs with bacon

quail eggs with bacon. might as well yell 'fire' or 'shark' or 'marilyn manson.'

i’ve been meaning to post this picture.  actually, i’ve been meaning to update this blog.   but i suppose if i had lots of time to post pictures and update the blog then the startup thing would maybe not be doing so well.

so, here i am, insomniac’d after finishing a draft of the board mtg deck…finally, finally posting this picture.  it’s from december, when we had our first official true/slant festivus lunch.  there were 9 of us, total: 4 on staff, the new guy who was just about to start, and 4 contractors.  in case you want to play along, here’s the invite i sent out:

on thursday, 12/18 please come and dine
at 12:45 — we should be on time
we’ll have tapas and maybe…maybe some wine
(i’m not really sure since we’re on a tight dime)
at Boqueria we’ll be festive and fine
don’t worry, we won’t be speaking in rhyme
but we will celebrate how our lives intertwine
and toast to all things true/slant divine

so off we went to Boqueria for tapas and wine in the afternoon.  of course, we had a surprise quick visit from one of our investors just before the lunch.  that’s always good.  not only are we cutting out in the afternoon, but we’re going to have a pseudo-holiday party.  excellent timing.  we got to show the investors just how we’re managing the startup schedule and the funding.   high5.

anyway, back to the picture.  i don’t like eggs.  not in the i-don’t-mind-them kind of way.  i reaallly do not like them.  so much so that a friend once put a nekked hard-boiled egg on my computer keyboard as a “joke.”   funny it was not.  i still remember the quaking shock and fear when i walked in and saw that slippery slimy smelly shiny e-g-g casually resting on my keyboard.  i’d say i’m exaggerating but i’m not so much.  gloved removal and disinfectant was involved.

so when the quail eggs with bacon were served, we had to capture the moment.  i was very brave and allowed them on the table near me.  and i’m pretty sure the yolks followed my every move.  but i survived.  because that’s what it takes to make it in the startup world.

egg-free updates to come:  union square office one day, the (shoe)box office the next…

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The 24-minute news cycle

Posted by andreaitis on January 19, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009 by Dave Winer.

I woke up early this morning, about 4AM. Permalink to this paragraph

Went downstairs, turned on the radio to KQED-FM. They’re interviewing Newt Gingrich, talking about the 24-hour news cycle, a major innovation they’re adjusting to in DC. Permalink to this paragraph

I went upstairs with my coffee, did a few hours work, came downstairs for a break, turned on the radio, exactly the same bit is playing. Gingrich talking about the 24-hour news cycle. Permalink to this paragraph

Then I thought back to a moment, on Wednesday, when Twitter was carrying the instant news of Steve Jobs’s leave of absence. At the exact same moment, came news of the death of Ricardo Montalban. I should have taken a screen shot, because there were constant tweets from people saying Did you hear about Steve Jobs. Did you hear about Ricardo Montalban. Permalink to this paragraph

I thought at the time, forget about the 24-hour news cycle, we have a new concept — a news cycle measured in minutes. What made me think of it was in the midst of all this I saw a lonely tweet from a company I know announcing a contest for developers. I thought “too bad, no one’s going to notice that.” Permalink to this paragraph

This is what we’re all working on — have been for a couple of years — how to make sense of news that flashes by at such a rapid rate that it pushes the envelope on human ability to notice things. Permalink to this paragraph

We may be lining up to eat at soup kitchens in 2009, but we’ll have the fastest news cycle ever to keep us informed. Permalink to this paragraph

The 24-minute news cycle (Scripting News).

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panel’ing

Posted by andreaitis on January 16, 2009

i participated in a panel this past week on the future of news and information.   it was my first public outing as a true/slant’r, and i have to admit i was a bit rusty.  all those high school theater performances and still, i get nervous.  a good warmup, though, for what’s to come.   david berkowitz has a  roundup of my  session.

mostly, i thought we barely covered the tip of the tech iceberg.  no one talked about twitter or google reader or iphones or other non-traditional methods for consuming news.    there’s a news generation gap: the people who get up in the cold, dark morning and pad down to the cold, dark front porch to bring in the newspaper … and the people who roll over, reach for the mobile phone and scroll through the news  while under the still- warm covers.   how do we close that gap?  that would have been an interesting discussion.

public speaking in this day and age is practically a contact sport  you are instantly analyzed, judged,  pummeled and (if lucky) applauded, all at the whim of wifi and mobile devices.  it makes it that much more challenging.   so next time, i’m definitely bringing my notes with me to calm my nerves.  and maybe a  small flask.  ;-j

i did wander through the harvard club after the panel.  prittee, prittee good.  and i was accosted by a man in the coat check area who was looking for a female ceo for his relationship-fixer-upper startup.  at first i thought he was waiting to meet someone in particular.  but no, it seems he was hanging out in the harvard club just hoping to meet a woman who might want to be  ceo of an alleged startup.  i guess all you need on your resume is estrogen.  any takers?

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board meeting day: a brief debrief

Posted by andreaitis on December 12, 2008

it was raining.   which might not be a big deal for you, but for me it always leaves the possibility of unhappy  hair expansion.  so much so  that sarah palin could probably see my hair all the way from her house.   in alaska.

but the day is off to a good start.  i and my umbrella step onto the sidewalk, turn to look for a taxi and one pulls up right in front of me.  must be a good sign, i think.  until he goes the wrong way… twice… makes an illegal u-turn in the middle of irving place… and is on his mobile phone the entire time, completely ignoring me.  and, by the way, are ALL taxi drivers constantly on their phones these days?  is that some common code to drive passengers crazy??

but i digress…

at the office, we are printing the final three copies of the board deck when the printer decides to take a breather right in the middle.   and then it starts  printing the deck all over again from the beginning without finishing the first copy.   and then, yes, it stops again.  but i quickly step in, assess the situation and magically fix the persnickety printer:   i, um, realize it needs more paper.

so, decks printed.  projector tested.  water provided.   no muffins or snacks – we’re a startup in tough economicl times; they should applaud our food frugality.  we hope.

our ceo is doing a final check in the conference room.  we’re in the back  discussing the whereabouts of burt reynolds and his hairpiece and the merits of smokey and the bandit.   y’know, important and relevant pre-board-meeting conversation.  when suddenly our ceo strolls back with one of our investors,  tim forbes (from, yes, forbes).    and very nicely he tells us he’s  pleased with what he’s seen so far.   this, before the board meeting even begins!   we immediately forget burt reynolds (where is he, anyway?).    after the board meeting, tim’s comment is echoed by one of our other investors,  jon miller (formerly of aol and currently of velocity interactive group).  which is a long way of saying the meeting went very well.  the powerpoint performed as expected, and the conversation was good.  i’m sure we’ll have tough meetings at some point, but it feels pretty good to have two solid ones behind us.

but here’s the strange part…
after the meeting, when we were debriefing, there was some excitement… and relief… but it was tempered.  i thought we would feel light, buoyant,  but that wasn’t the case.  we were all quietly absorbing what had happened.  why, i wondered, after such a positive board meeting do we not feel exuberant?  and i think it’s this:  we’re setting expectations, big ones.  not intentionally, really.  we try to stay focused and we hold ourselves to a high standard, but it’s different when you know the board is now also holding you to that standard.  expecting it.   more pressure on us to push forward harder and faster.

which isn’t a problem since we’ll do that anyway.  but i know the board will walk into the next meeting and expect everything to be at a certain level, from our progress to our powerpoint.  so while part of my brain is excited and happy the meeting went as well as it did, the other part of my brain is thinking about whether  i should present the next update as an interpretive dance…

at least i’ll have a couple of months to stress about it.

startup’ingly yours –
andrea

ps:  burt reynolds is here.

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startup’ing, the second trimester

Posted by andreaitis on December 9, 2008

there is a rhythm to the startup cycle, at least for us.  the first three months or so were the dreamy times: everything fresh and new, imagining what we might build and how it might work, all 3…then 4 of us conspiring together in gleeful anticipation.

then, in the fourth month, there was a noticeable shift.   just as we were launching our first bits of functionality, the mood changed.  personalities became…sharper.  not in a bad way, it just suddenly became simultaneously apparent that this is all real.  big, and real.  seeing some working parts pushed us along, and we each became intensely focused on our particular role, what we had to bring to the project.  for the guys, that meant they were grumpy at times.   i, of course, was a ray of sunshine.  as always.  ;-p

we’ve continued to launch other bits and pieces in a closed alpha, and that initial burst of intensity has eased into a good, constant buzz.  we’ve got a name, a tagline and a logo.  we’re working on site design now, and prepping for our second board meeting.  and, still, seeing signs along the way.   when we were at the jeff jarvis news summit a few weeks ago i happened to notice a display in the hallway: the new york herald tribune.   our tagline — “News is more than what happens” — is a quote from jock whitney, publisher of the new york herald tribune.  there’s more to that story for another time, but here’s a look at the display…

we’re finishing up our second trimester in a good place.  more after the board meeting…

buzzingly yours –
andrea

ps:  oh!!!  i saw fred wilson TWICE last week.  once in the elevator, and once when i went with our New Guy to the sandwich place around the corner.  i think i was a little less dorky, but fred wilson would have to confirm that.  of course, he doesn’t really know my usual level of dorkiness so it might be hard for him to judge…

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