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    Building Your Life is the Creative Thing You’re Doing Right Now

    I caught up with a long-time friend this week, someone who has known me since I was 19, since before I was “in tech”, since before I had my first job worthy of going on my LinkedIn profile. He’s a writer and a filmmaker now, and I love to talk to him about ideas I have for stories and hear about his parallel world to software — he’s creating movies, commercials, storyboards, and other artifacts while I’m creating software, specs, spreadsheets, and so on.

    But this week, I described my writing as “not real writing” because I’m not publishing much of it. In fact, I’m slowly and regularly erasing my tweets, which used to be such a fun outlet for self expression, when they get older than one week. I’ve considered making all these blog posts private, or just removing this website from the Internet, but talked myself out of it. In life, I’ve folded myself into a little cocoon to let something new germinate. I’m not sure what that is yet.

    “I’m not really doing anything creative,” I told him. “I’ve become a reader, not a writer. A consumer of tech, not a producer.” But he wouldn’t let me diminish myself like that and said so. “Why do you think it isn’t ‘real writing’? What’s wrong with being a reader, or a consumer?”

    It’s hard to be confident as I slowly emerge from my cocoon. I feel so raw, so vulnerable and soft, so easily reached right to my core. Whatever I was using to protect myself, to keep myself above reproach, isn’t there anymore.

    I also feel like the work I’m doing right now, building software, somehow doesn’t “count” as creative because it isn’t something I’ve founded (even though it is remarkably similar to past projects like UnicornDB and GitSheet, which is why I chose to join the team even before my sabbatical was officially over). I know this isn’t true, and not even rational, but it’s part of my inner monologue that I’m working through.


    Sitting in the couch with my dogs this morning, reading The Paris Review and sipping my coffee, I was suddenly reminded of a CEO coaching session where I admitted my compulsive need to make things… even on the weekend. When I was still CEO, this often took the form of cooking elaborate meals, but I also have a long string of projects including paintings, short stories, poetry, journal entries, all sorts of investment analysis and theory backtesting that came from this compulsion. When I compare my creative productivity now to what it was then, I would say the person I am today is super lazy! It’s intentional, but sometimes I still judge myself harshly.

    After selling the company and moving to Denver, I have been working on a lot of personal projects but with a more long-range and less manic and compulsive nature. A major part of my journey has been learning to sit still, to waste time, to make a little room to be with my inner voice and not just jump as the first “you should” it throws out to me. You should cook. You should clean. You should take the car to the car wash. You should start a startup. You should take piano lessons. Should… should… should.

    It’s not that these aren’t good ideas. In fact, I’d like to do all those things. But there’s an issue of motive that I didn’t examine for a long time. Why should I? What drives me to choose to spend time this way versus that, and will that motivation sustain me long enough to see it through? In part I wonder this because of how tired I got at the end of Mattermark. Partly that’s because M&A is a brutal process that is far less about building new things than selling what you’ve already created. But partly I did get tired, and from April 2013 to April 2017 is only 4 years… which makes me question my endurance. I know startups take longer than that, I knew it going in, and yet I just could not find the motivation to take it further.


    “Your life is the creative thing you’re building now, your beautiful house you just bought, training your young dogs, the year of the burger, your personal project to read the Western canon of literature… it sounds like like you’ve gone from CEO to philosopher.”

    I smiled at this, and tried not to think about how much less epic it seemed than building a billion dollar company. Where did I pick up this need for the epic anyway, was it a borrowed belief that didn’t get much consideration or something actually important to me now?

    But then this morning I woke up and checked my sleep quality with my new Oura Ring, plus the AutoSleep app, plus Gyroscope… all to plan how active I’ll be today, what I’ll need to eat and what kind of workout I’ll do. It sounds so trivial, but stringing together days of good sleep, good diet, and good exercise is one of the things I’m finally taking care of in life. And this is something that millions of people (billions, though most don’t have the privilege of these tools yet) struggle with every day.

    And for the first time I’m starting to think about maybe all these people building all these products are building them for me. The founders of these products/companies may have varying aspirations, but I am the **user** now instead of the system (to borrow from Tron) and these things that are being to sold me to make my life better are pretty incredible. Some of them are crap, or at least a waste of money for what they deliver, but I’m not really interested in spending time complaining about them on my blog.

    I’ve become heavily invested in understanding how to use these tools to construct the modern Good Life. I’ve also taken the time to survey a lot of the timelessly good things, like books and travel destinations, and made an intentional plan (curriculum?) for incorporating them into my life.

    I’m writing this down mostly to capture it for myself, for when I forget and want to start another startup simply to gratify my ego or silence my anxiety. I remember how meaningful my life felt as I worked on my startup and look forward to feeling that degree of meaning again, from daily life.

  • Posts

    I Will Be Mentoring at TechStars Denver This Summer

    Super excited to share that I will be a mentor for the @techstars Sustainability Program in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (@nature_org) in Denver this summer! Excited to work with Managing Director Zach Nies (former CTO of Rally Software) and Program Director @Hannah Davis.

    I am deeply interested in water rights, and looking forward to using this opportunity to learning about other categories of conservancy as a business through my involvement in the program.

  • Posts

    Deciding to Be Child Free

    This post was originally a tweetstorm from June 20th, 2019. I delete and archive my tweets older than 7 days (using an app called Jumbo), and want to retain thoughts shared below. These tweets have sparked a widespread discussion, with more than 1.8K likes, hundreds of retweets and comments, and about 400K total impressions. It has been lightly edited for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

    I finally decided to be child free, after nearly 12 years of marriage. Would it help anyone out there for me to share my long and thoughtful process?

    A few people said yes, so I guess I’ll just share here. For starters, I got married at 22, so there was zero time pressure to have kids then. Ended up getting pregnant and having an abortion in the first year of marriage, which woke me up to reality of this choice.

    Super grateful to Planned Parenthood, and I am a donor and customer (for my birth control) to this very day.

    So then my career took off, and it was easy to put off thinking about kids. And then San Francisco was astronomically expensive, and then I was a founder and it seemed impossible to imagine… so I put it off, I had an IUD, no period, so no reminder.

    So I was just kind of happily 20-something and then 30. Btw the pressure from my parents was non-existent, after some gently questions in my first couple years being married. I realize now how lucky I’ve been, after reading r/childfree on Reddit for 5 minutes.

    Then my younger sister had her first son just over a year ago, and I realized the time to think through this and start working on a more conscious decision had come. So I started reading parenting books, so so SO many parenting books.

    And I also began processing a lot of my own experiences as a child, my issues with my parents (most of us have some) and then… we sold Mattermark. I was totally free to write whatever new chapter of my life.

    Which was scary af but also awesome in the true meaning of the world. Full of awe. But also a void of meaning… and this is where it was so tempting to have a kid, to give my life meaning in the face of this yawning void of an unknown future.

    So I didn’t, because that seemed like a really unfair reason to make a new human.

    But that scared me because I started to wonder if everyone was secretly doing this whole due diligence process, not talking about it, and coming to some conclusion that I just could not figure out.

    So I started something different, taking an inventory of the things I liked and didn’t like about my life, my self, my relationships, and anything else I could come up with. And I started to map out the underlying things that enable and hinder those things.

    And I realized that I have a lot of things that I haven’t given enough time to over the past 10 years (like making art, writing fiction, traveling in non-Western culture) that I want to prioritize now.

    I also got really into the American Time Use Study (I’m a data nerd) ans camr to the conclusion that I would not be able to maintain the time allocations to reading 100+ books per year, working out 3-5 times a week, cooking most of my own meals and meditating 20-50 minutes per day.

    And I know this is probably where some people will mention I’m selfish. But I am starting to think that is okay, that I can chose anything. If I didn’t write this, you’d never know or care about my choice and my little life over here. And that got me thinking…

    Self help books make people think there is “one right way” to do X. Parent, exercise, eat, date, fuck. But the reality is that you only have to care about that if you’re caught up on being “good”. I’m so tired of performing the good role. I’m going to chose something different.

    I don’t know what to call it. “Happy” seems like what the Instagram quotes would say… but that’s not quite the right word

    So this is the amazing thing, to me at least. At the end I just am choosing the risk of missing out on one experience, in favor of the other experience I am having now. When we are kids we can pick endless choose your own adventure options, but eventually doors start to close

    Can i still have kids at 40, 50, 60? Yes. The technologies are incredible from drugs to surrogacy (remember I read like 50 books!) but also adoption. That’s not the point. For me, I needed to come to an answer so I could plan the next phase of my life.

    I never felt super angsty about this choice, but I realize now I have had the immense privilege of a mostly secular family without much judgment, and wonderful friends who have never acted like “oh you must not like kids” and they never kept theirs away from me.

    So yeah, that’s my story of my choice. I enjoy nurturing many people (mostly adults, a few kiddos) and a couple dogs, and those who know me in that role know it is a passion of mine. I hope this helps a few other people feel more seen. Btw, child free is a choice men face too.

    So if you read this and it got you thinking, thank you!

    P.S. some of you asked about my husbands role in this, and he was supportive of the exploration but put zero pressure on me to have kids. This was more about my inner journey to peace with my choice, and he helped me imagine how life together would be good either way.

    I also want to acknowledge my friends with kids who have heard me think this through and been so real and loving with me, the respect you showed my process is so incredible and I am so grateful.

  • Posts

    564 Pacific Ave.

    Whenever I go back to San Francisco, I like to walk by all the old startup office spaces I’ve worked in. Pier 38, 501 Folsom St, 425 1st St, 425 Folsom, 3130 20th St, etc. All these spaces have the energy (and sometimes even the curtains) we left behind, combined with the energy of many other startups before and after. But nothing is quite like visiting the space where we spent the most time, where we held our most important meetings.

    Walking Emo this morning, I noticed the lyrics of this sound by MUNA really captures what it’s like letting go of Mattermark. The idea in these lyrics that it’s like driving by an old lover’s house, and realizing no one else can ever know how this physical space means so much to me and “something massive happened here”. And then the part where you realize life has moved on, and that despite something being as beloved and sacred as a “holy rite”, time has passed and “I no longer revolve around you”.

    All the feels.

    “Around U” by MUNA

    I would swear I’d never plan again
    But I can see the irony
    I’m humbled by the passing of time
    I am brought down onto my knees
    An Arizona half and half
    A half a pack of cigarettes
    A vacant lot, my tangled thoughts
    Suburbia give me my God again

    All senses say, nothing has changed
    The soft lines from the streetlights fall the same on my face

    But something massive happened here
    I can feel it in the atmosphere
    Something false that once was true
    I no longer revolve around you
    I no longer revolve around you

    And the house still stands where it was built
    I know ’cause I drove by tonight
    A candle in the bedroom
    Where I once performed a holy rite
    And I did stop to hang my head
    Just for a moment at the light
    ‘Cause now the altar is a bed
    And now you’re just a friend that once was mine

    Oh civilian, idling along
    How can you understand that there’s a whole world gone wrong?

    But something massive happened here
    Can you feel it in the atmosphere?
    Something false that once was true
    I no longer revolve around you
    I no longer revolve around you

    How can I try to be civilized
    When inside there is a shift in paradigm
    And everything we built, we built on our love
    Everything spinning on one assumption
    How can I try to say sorry
    When my words don’t carry the same gravity
    And everything I say, I say it knowing
    Full well you still don’t want to believe

    Something massive happened here
    But you can feel it in the atmosphere
    Something false that once was true
    I no longer revolve around you

    Something massive happened here
    But you can feel it in the atmosphere
    Something false that once was true
    I no longer revolve around you
    I no longer revolve around you

    Songwriters: Catherine Gavin / Naomi Mcpherson / Josette Maskin

    Around U lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

  • Posts

    What I Read: January 2019

    Each year, I set goals for many books I read as well as adding new themes. This year, the goal is 100 books and the theme is “Acts of Love”. Previous themes, which you’ll still see in my selections, include “Time Travel” and “Me and My Brain”. I also work to read more by female authors and authors of color, and to stay on top of award winners and the new cannon.

    The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss by Jason Fung — A diabetes doctor explores the possibility that obesity could be a hormonal disorder, using research to support his theory that a diet and lifestyle regime that stabilizes insulin is the key to obesity reduction. I noticed a lot of similarities to the diet recommended in Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body.Thank you to Ashley Mayer for the recommendation.

    Becoming by Michelle Obama — the much loved former First Lady shares her life story, reflecting on navigating the many layers of privilege and class she saw as a young black girl trying to figure herself out. I especially appreciated her thoughts on marriage counseling and the struggle to balance her ambitions with those of her husband.

    The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli — This author has been referred to as “the new Stephen Hawking” for his poetic writing style and work on a potential “theory of everything” In this book, he explains time from the perspective of a theoretical physicist who is integrating general relativity with quantum mechanics, and has dedicated his life to exploration of a theory of loop quantum gravity.

    Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (re-read) — Guilty pleasure alert! I loved this book so much that I had to read it again, because I love the delicious sweaty sexy coming of age in a world of amazing food stories. After I finished reading this, I booked a trip to New York City to eat (and I’m waiting for my delayed flight as I write this)!

    The Help by Kathryn Stockett — An inside look at the beginning of the civil rights movement through the lense of a community of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi and the families they serve. I’ve reflected on what Aibileen constantly reminds her young charge, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” — crucial words for any child to hear daily. I can’t wait to see the movie!

    Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke — A near-future science fiction story that asked: what will humans do when they discover they’re not the center of the universe? Hauntingly beautiful writing. Thank you to Andy Sparks for the recommendation.

    All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks — I started asking around for female POC intellectuals, and bell hooks came highly recommended. She notes that although women are stereotyped as being much more obsessed with romantic love, most of the intellectual writing on it is from men’s perspectives.

    The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz — Explore Toltec wisdom and what it really means to be free in a society that can rob us of our wildness, if we let it. Thank you to Maran Nelson for the recommendation.

    Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff — A gutting tangling of two life stories. Dramatizing the loss of glossy youth, the struggle to create truly unique art, and the complexity of a life lived all the way through to the end. I needed a hug after finishing this one.

    Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Schuzman — You’ve probably read by now that couples who effectively split household chores, or pay someone else to do them, have more sex. While I’ve certainly seen this play out as true in my own life, this book digs into the economic principles behind why this is so and unlocks what is at play behind many other interesting relationship dynamics.

    Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman — Always love when a soon-to-be-newlywed recommends me a newlywed murder mystery. This isn’t a genre I read often, so it was a fun diversion while on vacation in Hawaii. Thank you to Ashley Mayer for the recommendation.


    Last year, I set a goal to finish read 100 books and blew it out of the water. After realizing that there are more worthwhile books than I’ll ever be able to finish in my lifetime, I decided to allow myself to stop reading anything that I’m not enjoying guilt free, and my completion rate is about 50%. This means to reach 100 books per year I need to have roughly 200 in progress at any time. Fortunately, I’m currently at 190 total!

  • Posts

    Winter Beaches

    I attended a life changing CEO retreat in Tuscany a couple years ago, and the passing of poet Mary Oliver yesterday has me reflecting on what turned out to be an auspicious moment. This was not my first time attending an event lead by Reboot, so when I was invited to pick a koan (or short quote) that spoke to me I knew it would be something I read aloud to the group.

    As I wandered around the room I glanced at this poem, passed over it for being “too sad for me” but then, as time ran out I, returned to it. Holding the paper in my hand and reading it over and over, I felt it was powerful and also like I was turning over words in another language. It spoke to me, but at first I hardly understood what it was saying:

    (Excerpted from Mary Oliver’s poem Lead)

    The next morning
    this loon, speckled
    and iridescent and with a plan
    to fly home
    to some hidden lake,
    was dead on the shore.
    I tell you this
    to break your heart,
    by which I mean only
    that it break open and never close again
    to the rest of the world.


    At her passing, I can’t help but imagine Mary Oliver herself as this beautiful bird. I am so grateful to her for bringing me this lesson, which I have both learned and am still learning.

    In October, I went home to where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and visited some of my favorite beaches. On a solo hike out onto Dungeness Spit in the rain no one was around, and the mist hung all the way down to the water so you could only see 20 feet out from shore. There were flocks of arctic diving ducks harvesting snacks from seaweed and a lone seal, probably a pretty young one, swam along following me from a distance as I walked. I was feeling a bit melancholy, lost in memories and dreams, and I recited this poem for him.

    Beach Structures

    Dungeness Spit Hike

    Fort Worden

  • Posts

    Recapping 2018 and Setting Intentions for 2019

    I’m feeling ready to get back in the swing of blogging, and generally dialoguing with people around the world about ideas, products, and (eventually) another startup. In order to do that, I feel like a little recap of 2018 is in order. Overall, it’s hard to simplify it down to an “awesome” or “challenging” year because it was both, and much more. We moved to Denver in December 2017 coinciding with the sale of Mattermark to FullContact and spent Q1 just settling in and working a lot. After 10 years of apartment life in which we moved 8 times we didn’t have much stuff, and in our new 3-story 3-bedroom townhouse we were awash in empty square footage. Our puppy loved it!

    Initially I thought I would take it a bit easier on myself after the M&A slog, and we had even discussed 3 months off before stepping into the full-time gig, but my role ended up being much more central to the company operations as I stepped into the shoes of a departed VP Product. Despite how it was reported in the news, Mattermark was very much operating and there was a long integration checklist to complete.  set myself back into the rhythm of endurance, Navigating a couple legacy product shutdowns, GDPR, and shoring up process around roadmap and requirements writing was beyond a full-time gig but thanks to the incredible PM team and the relationships we formed, it happened and for the first time since early 2012 I was back on the exec team of a startup rather than running it, and had hit all my OKRs. That felt great.

    At the end of Q1 I also started to work through my list of neglected relationships with a trip to Disneyland with Kevin’s family, including my two adorable nephews and spunky niece, and then headed to Austin to visit my sister and meet her newborn baby son (my 3rd nephew!) for the first time.

    As Q2 began, I prioritized re-connecting with the women in my life, friendships that have been incredibly durable and sustaining the face of my crazy founder life. In early April I hosted the first partner meeting for XFactor Venures at my house in Denver and then headed out on a two-week birthday trip, planned over 6 months in advance, to cook in Julia Child’s home in the South of France and explore romantic spots on the French Riviera with my husband (and former cofounder/CTO). When I returned to Colorado I was tan, relaxed, and ready to make the leap into the unknown. My last day at FullContact was May 4th, and we enjoyed some Frozen themed cupcakes to say goodbye to the working world for awhile.

    After ~20 years of uninterrupted work (with over 10 of those years in startups), I embraced the freedom to do whatever and be whoever I wanted with enthusiasm. I pierced my belly button, I got hair extensions and dyed them various shades of pink and rainbow, I spent 2-3 hours a day working out and walking my dog, I (gasp!) didn’t worry about who was looking at my social media posts of concerts, clubs, trips, and other fun. I also got a marriage counselor we love, bought myself a nice car, got a Peloton, lost 20 pounds, had more sex, slept like a baby, and lost track of time. For Kevin’s 40th birthday in May about 20 of our friends came to Vegas and we saw David Guetta perform an incredible set, honoring Avicii, from the best table in the club. We saw the final show in Paramore’s tour at the beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater and watched Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco float above our heads playing a white baby grand piano for his stadium show at the Pepsi Center. I spent all of my 20s married, working hard, happily being a nerd… and I’d just turned 33. It was time to live a little, so I decided to live a LOT.

    I addition to playing hard, I also worked quite a bit on my inner life and personal projects. I read over 100 books in 2018 spanning science fiction, popular fiction, philosophy, relationships, business, biographies, history, and many more titles that were queued up in the backlog. I took a significant step back from posting on Twitter and Facebook, and archived and deleted my entire history of tweets (I’ve since started tweeting again, but far far less). I outlined a handful of book ideas (2 fiction, 4 non) and began playing around more seriously with the personal CRM startup idea as well as a recruiting one, and also worked with my husband to curate a new newsletter of startup links called BuriedReads. I re-watched every single episode of Star Trek – The Next Generation with Kevin. I made a few angel investments and lead my 3rd deal for XFactor (not yet announced) and continued to deepen my interest and knowledge in aerospace and space exploration investing.

    Also, life just kept happening… which meant weddings, visiting family in the Pacific Northwest, visits to Denver from friends (thank you so much, you helped with my homesickness immensely!), helping my sister with her family’s move back to our home town, health issues, managing day-to-day chores which I had pretty much forgotten how to do for myself while working (we had 2x-week help as married cofounders to eliminate any risk of tension, now we’re back down to every other week). The “errand paralysis” Anne Helen Petersen writes about in “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” began to ease up, just a little bit, as I started to build my days out of a series of more simple tasks like hanging the outdoor lights or assembling a piece of furniture (I still don’t have a Colorado driver’s license though).

    While all this was going on, I was also quietly scouting around for things I might do next. A handful of venture capital firms had reached out immediately upon the sale of the company with partnership openings, and I explored those leads but the timing wasn’t right. A non-profit I’ve long wanted to improve reached out about an executive role on their team. Several of my angel portfolio companies let me know I’d be welcome to get more involved in day-to-day operations. Long-time friends who had started new companies offered challenging and deeply interesting roles. But I kept saying no, not yet, because nothing felt quite right…

    Right now the life of an employee is still not something I yearn for. I’m a creator, an artist in my own way, and a maker of things and ideas. So far, this is what I have planned for 2019:

    Happy New Year!

  • Posts

    Newsletter With No Name #4

    We are so excited to have the fourth issue of our new independent newsletter live, and you can subscribe here. If you’d like to recommend a piece of content, suggest a job post, or sponsor the newsletter please get in touch with us at editor@daniellemorril.com

    This is Kevin here writing this week. Danielle and I are back from Hawaii and adjusting to the Fall temperatures in Colorado. While we’re both taking time off between startups, it’s been noticeable how work pulls you back in even though you know you need a break. It’s been mostly me writing the past 2 weeks, so let me know if we’re doing a good job of keeping the quality bar high and the writing on point.

    Engineering Newsletter Update: last week we previewed an upcoming newsletter focused on engineering content. Several of you are interested, and I’m working on v1, but want to make sure we can keep the quality high. Right now I’m culling together a list of 100+ feeds to pull the best content from, but we may need even more since great engineers tend to write infrequently. If you have anyone you know who’s written great posts in either startups or engineering, just reply to this email and let us know.


    From the Operators

    Justin Jackson of Transistor.fm takes a sobering look at how long it will take to grow from $781 MRR to a living salary, and questions whether venture scale critics like Jason Fried of 37signals have misled bootstrapped founders in “Bootstrapper’s paradox”

    Ammon Bartram and Harj Taggar of Triplebyte recently guided CTOs through the recruiting journey that is ahead of them. They took a comprehensive look at the recruiting ecosystem without overly selling their own service. You can learn from their hard earned lessons in “Building an Engineering Team”

    Rand Fishkin of SparkToro points out that highly trafficked sites like Google, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram have become insular and shouldn’t be blindly relied upon to send you traffic in “The Powerhouses of the Internet Are Turning Hostile to Websites”

    Amjad Masad of Repl.it gets a last minute YC interview, even after Rick Rolling the entire partnership in “Rejected Then Recruited: Our Journey into Y Combinator”


    From the Investors

    Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures celebrates 15 years of publishing his blog this week. He also sat down with Chris Dixon from a16z for a far reaching conversation on AI, crypto, and where we are in the history of the software industry. Easily one of the more thought provoking podcasts I listened to this week.

    Hunter Walk of Homebrew cautions founders seeking bridge financing to expect the possibility of a flat round in “Second Seeds: The New Normal But Know This…”

    Joanne Wilson of Gotham Gal Ventures recounts the an early career story of standing up to a bad manager in “Be Tough but Be Yourself”

    Barry Eggers of Lightspeed Venture Partners shares his recipe for fund construction, sparing many first time VCs from mistakes that will come to haunt them when they raise fund II, in “VC Firms — How to Build an LP Base for the Long-term.”

    Martin Casado of Andreessen Horowitz urges founders who are raising to preemptively calibrate their phase of growth for investors in “Aligning Startup Metrics with Stage of Maturity (Beyond Labels for Fundraising Rounds)”

    Sammy Abdullah of Blossom Street Ventures outlines how to hire an investment banker for M&A, something too few founders proactively learn about, in “Negotiating with your investment banker”


    This Week’s Picks

    Last week I recommended the Internet History Podcast, but I could tell from the click through count and my own hasty writing I didn’t do a good job describing it. When I first discovered this great work by Brian McCullough, I was glued to my earphones for days catching up on old episodes. It is an incredible trip down memory lane if you grew up in the 90s, and often gives you an “aha” moment as you see what was really going on behind the curtains. I hope you give it a listen if you haven’t already.

    Connections by James Burke – anyone that works in tech and hasn’t read this book is in for a surprise. Each chapter of the book starts out at the dawn of civilization and follows a chain of an invention taking you all the way up to modern day by the end of the chapter. For example, the Jacquard loom of 1804 was an inspiration to Charles Babbage who built one of the first mechanical computers in 1822. American inventor Herman Hollerith came across Babbage’s difference engine later that century, and build a machine for tabulating the 1890 census. His company would be acquired by a conglomerate that would become IBM. The in depth story in series of inventions is more interesting than anything I can summarize here.


    Thank you so much for reading our newsletter. We still have a lot to figure out, including the name, sections, business model(s), and more. Your feedback is welcome, and will reach both of us when by emailing editor@daniellemorrill.com

    Much Love, Danielle & Kevin

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    Keeping the Streak Alive!

    What a week! Kevin and I are starting to get the hand of co-editing, though I think we might have pushed the editorial tasks to the end of the week a bit too aggressively. We have more technology helping us with the reading process now, thanks to Kevin’s coding and an awesome startup called Retool (also one of our angel investments) that made it super easy to build the UI. We are able to go through ~50 posts per day in the course of just 1-2 hours and quickly score them as on topic and graded the quality of the content. We’re following ~430 feeds right now, and looking to identify more.

    At week’s end we take the top scoring content and whittle it down further based on our editorial perspective on what’s most relevant to readers. Someone has suggested we could turn this into a newsletter-as-a-service business but we are a little early for that… this is still a mostly manual process. However, we are toying around with the idea of starting a second newsletter focused on software development tools, hiring, and practices. Is there another topic you’d love to see us focus on? Hit up the comments!

    If you’d like to recommend a piece of content, suggest a job post, or sponsor the newsletter please get in touch with us at editor@daniellemorril.com


    Danielle & Kevin’s Newsletter With No Name #2

    This newsletter is curated by hand with love from Denver, Colorado by Kevin Morrill and Danielle Morrill. You can reply to editor@daniellemorrill.com with any feedback. If you love what you read today, please consider forwarding it so others can subscribe. Thank you

    Woo hoo! It’s week #2 of our newsletter that still needs a name (read the 1st issue here). Thank you to everyone who has forwarded this newsletter on to friends and colleagues. If you have open jobs at your startup, just wrote a blog post you’d like us to consider, or have a cool “Request for Startup” idea for the new section we are going to start running please drop us a note with a short blurb no more than 30 words and a link. We can’t promise to include everything, but we’d love to hear from you! 

    The Best Thing We Found This Week

    Peter Thiel is one of the most interesting vocal personalities in the technology ecosystem, and this interview brings together thoughts on his investing strategy, experiences serving on the board at Facebook for the entirity of its existence (14 years), and our personal favorite: a lot more detail around the founding story of Paypal. “Peter Thiel on Trump, Gawker, and Leaving Silicon Valley”

    The headline of the interview is salacious with mentions of our current Cheeto in Chief, a blockbuster celebrity lawsuit, and his move to Los Angeles — but we think the other tidbits we mentioned are the real meat of the conversation.   

    From the Operators

    Carl Tashian of Nerd Coach digs into startup postmortems, finding founder communication and underlying passion deserve more attention in “What Really Kills Most Startups”

    Rand Fishkin of SparkToro reminds us that great marketing doesn’t start with optimizing ad campaigns, but rather understanding what the people you want to reach pay attention to in “You’ve Got Product/Market Fit… What About Marketing/Market Fit?”

    Mathilde Collin of Front emphasizes the value of building relationships before you raise in in “Fireside Chat with Founder and CEO of Front, Mathilde Collin”

    Patricia Aas of TurtleSec lists “Survival Tips For Women In Tech” (isn’t it sobering that such a list is even necessary?) and Knut Melvaer of Sanity follows on with 23 tips we can all do to help make tech better for women in “Making tech survivable: What Can Men Do”

    Russell Smith of Rainforest doesn’t think your startups tech stack needs to be a special snowlake in “5 Foolish Reasons You’re Not Using Heroku”

    From the Investors

    Congratulations to Austin Clements on his promotion to Principal at TenOneTen Ventures

    Kyle Poyar of OpenView lays bare the metrics you need to hit to raise a Series A all the way up to Series D in “What Does It Take To Raise Your Next Round In 2018?”  The full report is also available.

    David Beisel of NextView Ventures shows early stage companies how they’re being compared to their peers in “Seed Stage Startups Are Now Graded on a Curve” Founder mental health is on the radar this week

    Mahendra Ramsinghani of Secure Octane is now cowriting a book with Brad Feld on Depression, and shares his early observations in “Investors are waking up to the emotional struggle of startup founders”

    Felicis has decided to carve out 1% of all checks for exec coaching and therapy

    Michael Seibel of Y Combinator details “How to Email Early Stage Investors” and maybe the era of signaling prestige by getting a warm intro is finally over, at least at the angel stage

    Diego Rey of Y Combinator claims that “over the last two years, YC has made more seed investments in bio companies than any other investor in the world.” More over, “the percentage of bio companies in each batch has been increasing linearly since 2011.” in “There Are Now 141 Bio Companies Funded by YC”    Are these bio companies getting financing downstream? LifeSci VC breaks down the stats in “Biotech Venture Deal Terms Are More Startup Friendly Than Ever”

    Ali Hamed of CoVenture challenges the investing advice of Warrent Buffett and LPs should take notice in “Investing on an 0–2 Count”

    Working at a Startup? It’s Time to Learn About Equity Compensation

    Our dear friend and Mattermark cofounder Andy Sparks is working on a new startup, Holloway, building tech to help people find, consume, and improve tactical knowledge. Their first guide came out a few weeks ago, offering a comprehensive overview of stock option compensation.   To learn more, check out “The Holloway Guide to Equity Compensation”

    This Week’s Book Pick

    “The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood”by James Gleick

    Do you know the surprising story of how the Information Age got underway? The Information tells the story from early African tribes and their own form of Morse code, to how England’s need to dominate the seas led tinkerer Charles Babbage on a journey to build the forerunner to ENIAC as early as the 1800s, to information theory pioneer Claude Shannon. After 20 years in software industry, Kevin was surprised to finish the book wondering, “How did I come this far knowing so little about what got our industry going?!”

  • Posts

    Book Review — Scale: The Universal Laws of Life, Growth, and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies

    In last week’s newsletter we featured Scale: The Universal Laws of Life, Growth, and Death in Organisms, Cities, and Companies by Geoffrey West as our book recommendation of the week.

    TL;DR 

    Ready to geek out on power laws, fractals, and connections between the natural world and the man-made? This book took our curiosity soaring several times and is a relevant read for those navigating the growing pains of a startup going from a two person team to 200, or VC firm going from 2 partners and $25M to a second or third fund 10x that size.

    While building Mattermark I spent the past 5 years studying how companies grow, and exploring how we might detect this growth and describe it using data exhaust that is publicly available online. This cross-disciplinary study, embarked on by theoretical physist West, connected some new dots for when it comes to what growing companies have in common with other scaled up entities. From our thousands of sales conversations, we knew ancedotally that of all the signals we were tracking at Mattermark the most significant (and hardest to get) was employee count. Seeing how the size of a company changes over time is a leading indicator of it’s ability to metabolize capital into revenue. But what can the 8 person version of a startup tell us about the 80 person, or 800-person, version of the future?

    This is one of many questions explored in “Scale”

    I also loved West’s observation that there is far less written on the death process than on the origins of life and growth (read Ernest Becker’s “The Denial of Death” for one theory on why this is), which reminds me how much less we know about how companies die (or exit). Crunchbase works harder than most data-driven private company platforms to update their “Deadpool” of companies and it’s still incredibly difficult. The knowledge of how to sell companies is also tribal and hard to find, though I am currently reading “The Magic Box Paradigm” by Ezra Roizen and hoping it will become a go-to recommendation for me when founders ask about this in the future. I’ll report back in a future review!

    Reading Notes: This book was fantastic as an audiobook on Audible, read at 1.5X speed at is about ~13 hours of listening.

    Further Reading: “On Growth and Form” by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson — West gushes about this book as beautifully written, and it only comes in paper/hardback. It just arrived, and it is loooong. Perfect for the cold Denver winter just around the corner.