• Daily Life,  Referly,  Startups

    Saying No

    I love saying yes.  I love helping people, and being generous with my time whenever I can.  I love being a mentor.  I love the brain dump, having my brain picked and picking others, coffee, chats, happy hour, walks around SOMA, lunch, drinks, late night drives and all the other social activities that I’ve used over the years to build relationships, dispense advice, and make memories and connections.

    I love my friends, our regular spots to eat out, drink, brunch, lunch, gossip, bitch, support each other, and hang out.

    I love my family, our regular 4th of July drunkeness around their pool, riding the horses, fireworks on the Indian reservation across the street, driving the truck to the dump and smoking a cigar with Dad, the driving range, the “golden hour” and sitting by the burn barrel appreciating the light, walking around the yard in my PJs clipping flowers for the morning table, handmade Irish soda scones.


    Guess what?  I’m not going to be doing any of this for awhile – at least for the summer while Referly is in Y Combinator and probably slowly phasing these things back into my life slowly in the next 6 to 12 months after that ends.

    I’m going to be saying no to answering long emails, writing long comments on personal blog posts, taking intros to people who want help with developer marketing and developer evangelism, giving career and startup advice, and hundreds of other things.  I’m not going to do inbox zero.  If it doesn’t relate directly to the metrics I’m driving for the company, I’m not interested.

    We both know its nothing personal.  I’ll try not to be terse about it.  Thanks for understanding.

    We’re moving to a house in Mountain View this week, and the team will be living together and cranking for the next 6 months – I’ll miss you SF but its for the best!

    (Yes, I am still advising all the companies on my AngelList profile — I have carved out dedicated time for them each month.  If you are on that list, do not fear.)

  • Playlist,  Posts

    “Faking the Books” by Lali Puna

    We’ve been done before
    And now we try to forge ourselves
    We’ve been done before
    And now we try to forge ourselves

    I’ll be true again
    But until then i fake the books
    ‘cause everybody knows
    This ain’t heaven
    Until everybody knows

    We’ve been wrong before
    There is a lot that we survived
    We’ve been wrong before
    There is a lot that we survived

    I’ll be true again
    But until then i fake the books
    ‘cause everybody knows
    This ain’t heaven
    Until everybody knows

  • Posts

    SaaS, Supply Chain, PASCAL and Past Professional Lives

    I don’t know why, but I rarely write about my “past lives” professionally, even though I think about my experiences all the time and draw on them to help me make decisions. I remember, for example, hearing the term “SaaS” for the first time over four years ago when I was working for Expeditors International. Expeditors is an amazingly successful non-asset based common carrier – in layman’s terms: a shipping company that doesn’t own any planes, trains, ships, trucks, etc. Sound familiar? Like a software company that doesn’t own any computers. They created multi-tenancy for shippers, and I decided to work there because the model is brilliant. How funny that now I find myself in the cloud computing space.

    SaaS came up because I was sitting in a meeting with 50 other people in this Fortune 500 company, listening to the newly appointed CTO speak about the changes we would be making to our technical infrastructure over the next five years. We would transition away from Cobal, SmallTalk, and all the other languages and technologies we were using to Java. There wouldn’t be any more layoffs (half of the 2,000 IT employees had already been let go), the remaining staff would have 1 year to learn Java. The company would be moving to the cloud, because it was just too expense to run an international company the way we were doing it. We were still using the same systems which, though revolutionary when created, were becoming outdated.

    In my day-to-day, I wrote scripts in PASCAL to automate business processes. I wish I could go back to Expeditors now with the Twilio API – oh my god, we’d have saved even more time. I created elaborate scripting within the windows OS that worked with our electronic filing system, home grown CRM / accounting tool, and Excel to automate entire jobs. It was like crack, saving time and money and freeing people from mundane tasks. I didn’t know anyone else in the Business Process Management world, I thought I was entirely alone – and it was fun!

    Of course I didn’t get hired into this job, instead I started out as an intern and then customer service rep on a team that was losing money each month. Due to the nature of the particular product this team supported margins were small but each customer generated at least twice the work as they would on other products. We were doing all sorts of painfully manual things, and it was a waste. Morale on the team sucked, and at first I thought I was doomed to become sad and jaded with work at just 19 years old. Fortunately, it didn’t turn out that way at all. With the help of better processes, a new manager (and then another even better one), and pulling together as a team we got profitable and I got promoted.

    So… you’re probably wondering why I left? When I joined the company, I just wanted to work – but after being there almost three years and seeing what kind of impact I could have, I wanted to build new things, not just fix broken processes and eliminate inefficiency. The company’s migration to Java was on a 5 year plan, so a lot of the projects I was planning with the VP of Business Processes were going to be sitting on hold for quite awhile. I was becoming frustrated with the pace, and since I was 22 and about to get married I decided it was as good a time as any to take a leap and join a company that would build things, or start one.

    In hindsight, I gave up a sweet job – although it didn’t pay well at all, it was really rewarding to help people. But MAKING things, instead of fixing broken things that are inherently wrong in their design, is its own drug. I admit I was starstruck by “startups” and joined one without taking a deep enough look at whether or not it solved a really impactful problem, but I never forgot how I felt about Expeditors and so when Twilio presented itself 2 years late I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to change the way people do business.

    There, a little piece of my past life out there – it feels good to capture memories, and I’m so glad I worked for Expeditors. Better investment than any startup I’ve worked for (so far) – 20% of my income went to purchasing stock, woo!

  • Posts

    Is Landmark Forum a Cult? Part 2

    I am consistently surprised by just how much of my web traffic is driven to my original post from over a year ago, “Is Landmark Forum a Cult?” Since I continue to cross paths with Landmark influenced people in my life, I think it is worthwhile to continue talking about my observations.  The friend I mentioned in the previous post stills lives in our house, and recently I had the chance to participate in a very small introduction at home.  I had told her I would eventually do one of these, but I wasn’t willing to make much effort to drive anywhere for it – so eventually she brought it to us.

    What Happens at a Landmark Introduction?

    The woman scheduled to lead the group was late, so I’m glad we were at my house.  It was interesting to note when she described her background that she was recently remarried, and to someone who had been doing Landmark since it was created.  I tried hard not to think of her like the guy who converts to Judaism to marry his wife (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), or Catholicism, or being vegetarian, whatever.

    We were asked to provide our contact information on a card (I didn’t volunteer much) and began working on a simple workbook where we were to list things that were going well, and things that could go better in our lives.  Once that was done, we had the chance to read our lists to the group.  Then, we were asked to focus in on one area in the “not doing so well” column for the remainder of the exercise.

    I could describe this to you in detail, but there wasn’t anything “cultish” that went on.  We introspected, we discussed, and we came up with a vision for how we would “be” if we were able to take actions to improve this part of our lives.  We spent a total of 3 hours in the course of the evening focusing on a single problem in each of our lives – something which most of us probably hadn’t carved out the time to do in quite awhile.  At the end came the inevitible sell, which was pretty light because the leader had already been warned (she asked and we answered honestly) that I wasn’t interested in spending any money on the Landmark Forum.  They’ve reduced prices 20% in the face of the crappy economy (I’d love some stats on the percentage of people attending who are unemployed) and I have a sense that there are ways to go for even cheaper, if they think you are going to help them spread the word.

    Closing Thoughts & Observations

    Apparently, the people who give these introductions are not paid and they’re not technically employees.  The legality of that is questionable, and for such a big organization I would imagine this state of not-employed-but-getting-paid-in-education status might be questionable — although it is very similar to what churches do with their staff.

    Whether its a cult or not isn’t that important – if you can get brainwashed by these people, you can get brainwashed by anyone.  It’s more a group discussion, I won’t even say “therapy” because I don’t think any of these people are actually professional therapists.  That doesn’t mean it’s not therapeutic, but it does mean that you’re tools are limited to what you and the other participants are bringing – and since this is a group of people trying to transform their lives, it might be a bit self-selecting both in benefits and limitations.

    Sales tactics – I didn’t get the hard sell here, although my friend has asked me again if I’d be interested in the course (I said no).  I have gotten the hard sell from another group in San Francisco called Beyond Education who provide the Pleasure Course (think group awareness for your sexuality) and have some similarities to and ties to the Landmark people.  In both cases, the price of the course was the LAST thing anyone told me — in fact, in both cases I had to ask.  And in both cases, when I said it was too expensive I was given the “but don’t you want to improve your marriage/self/career/(insert thing here)”.

    The Danger of Devotion – Watch V

    I recently started watching the new show V, which talks about a visitnig alien race who walk among humans on Earth and are doing good with ulterior motivations.

    One commenter in the previous post said, “I don’t see how something that helps people improve their lives could be considered so negatively” and I think it is important to note that one should always make sure good is achieved without having a cost to others.  I think there is danger in not knowing what the ultimate motivation is for the organization.  Landmark is a for-profit business, not a non-profit organization, so it is important to understand who is benefiting from the time and money being paid.

    One common complaint I’ve heard about Landmark is that they help you work through major problems, but once you’ve got your life mostly sorted out their model breaks down unless they can find another way to suck you back in.  So either they make you think you’ve still got more issues than you actually do, or something else… and that’s what I’d like to find out more about.  How do you keep people engaged who had used Landmark to improve their lives, and might not need it anymore?

  • Posts

    Yep, It’s Porn – StreamHer.com Takes 2nd Place at Entepreneur Idol

    Ask anyone, I love to pitch.  It’s exciting, you get immediate feedback, and an adrenaline rush – what’s not to love?

    Last night at NWEN‘s Entrepreneur Idol, I pitched an idea which my husband and I have been discussing over the past couple weeks: live streaming adult content, like Ustream — but for porn (which is against Ustream’s TOS).  It all started when I complained on Twitter that Lovers Package is like going to WalMart to purchase erotic toys and video.

    First of all, I should probably point out that this product is in the concept stage and no development work has gone into it at this point.  I could easily cobble together existing software to create a prototype site with a couple models, but I’m enjoying marketing the idea and talking to a lot of people right now – particularly women.

    What About Zivity? They’re Featured on TechCrunch A Lot

    I checked out Zivity (link is NSFW), hadn’t heard of them until last night (might be a failure of their marketing since I think I am their target market – or at least my husband is), and the site has black background… which sent warning bells ringing immediately for me… bleagh, but I digress. More disappointing that some of the aesthtics (although they are devoid of ads, which is nice) according to Compete.com the site’s traffic is pretty flat, and not doing that much better than Seattle 2.0:

    I hear they are founded by a woman, it would be great to figure out what is (or isn’t) working for them.  Compare this to forthegirls.com (NSFW) which is targeted directly at women

    I’ve Heard the Porn Industry is HUGE

    Yep, you heard right.  Huge and losing money like any other media industry, due to the proliferation of free amateur content on the web.  According to an article in yesterday’s Austin Chronicle (Austin is a hotbed for sex workers, if you didn’t know), “The porn industry, according to the best estimates, makes four times what Hollywood makes”.  That’s a lot of money, I’m not even sure how much. Wikipedia says:

    The sex industry earns as much as $13 billion a year in the United States and has been credited with driving technological advances in popular media , such as home video and DVD, pay-per-view, live streaming video and video on demand

    For a startup, a big market is actually a big problem.  How do you approach it?  Where do you start?  How do you get enough attention to your site and cut through the noise?  I figure if I pursue this, it would be great to start with a market that is under-served, and familiar to me, women.

    Imagine a site that has content similar to what you might read in Cosmo’s “70 Ways to Excite Your Man” or “10 Positions to Try Tonight”, except that you have video content, an anonymous persona, and you can see live demonstrations of the positions, preferences, or toys suggested – and you can ask questions.  Of course, experts in various niches would emerge and could become well-paid affiliates for specific products.

    What Motivates Me

    Personally, I’m excited about developing the business model and providing an awesome content distribution platform. I’ve spoken with several women who either run in home pleasure parties (like Tupperware for sex toys) or write online reviews (or create educational content) and they’re making good money, but have plenty of complaints about the technology and ability to re-use what they’ve created to generate as much revenue as possible.  One thing that I am learning as I talk to more women is just how many different preferences there are, and how many different needs can be served (definitely a topic for another post).  It’s not even about being wild and crazy, it’s mostly about feeling confident and sexy with their partners – or even by themselves.

    I’ve been asked if I’ll be producing video of my own, or if I already have an online persona in the porn world, and the answer is no to both question.  I won’t say that I’ll never do it, but frankly I think there are so many talented and ambitious models and actresses out there looking to reach a greater audience, that I’ll leave that to them for now.  Will I watch?  Sure!

    What’s Next?  When Can I Watch?

    I’ve got a honey-do list for Kevin to get started on while I get back to work on what I actually do for a living, which has nothing to do with this.  If you’ve signed up for the beta list you’ll receive an email from me once and awhile about our progress and invitations to test out features as they are released.  Be patient with us, it could be awhile.

  • Posts

    What I Want From Location Based Apps? Facebook.

    It’s been awhile since I did any writing or thinking about what I want out of location based app, but back when I worked on Whrrl as their community manager, this was on my mind all the time.  After I left the company, I kept using the product for awhile until someone asked me if I would still use it if I hadn’t been involved in its creation.  So I decided to take a break from it, and see if I actually needed Whrrl in my life… and to find out what about it would draw me back in.  Recently I downloaded Whrrl onto my iPhone (now version 2.2 I think) to try out some of the new features and here’s why:

    • It organizes my pictures in a particular place/time (story) into a single album in Facebook
    • It allows me to quickly share to Facebook and Twitter in realtime, and Whrrl stories tend to generate a lot of comments compared to my other content

    There are also a lot of features I don’t care about, like how big my audience is or what my friends are doing.  Yeah, I said it – I don’t use Whrrl to find out what my friends are doing — just to publish what I’m doing.  That’s actually pretty weird, entirely the reverse of how consumer products are normally used (people would rather be voyeurs than contributors, except for a small % of users).

    Whrrl is like many other apps in the space which fundamentally do the same things, although they’re packaged up into storytelling (Whrrl), friend-finding (Loopt), local blogging (Brightkite), games (Foursquare), and the list goes on and on.  Each ones tries to claim they’re different, but to me its about picking one of these and fully investing in it because I don’t want the experience of showing up at one location, and checking into 4 different apps.  Truly, if there was an app that would check me into all the other services I’d use that one — but all of these guys are trying to hang on tight to location information and most don’t offer open APIs that would allow for collaborative checkins.  The problem is that all the value goes to the service where you actually provide the checkin, the portal service.  Really this just seems like something Facebook will eventualy offer… and then all these guys could be eliminated.


    Because Whrrl, Loopt, Brightkite, and Foursquare are products (and in some case just an amalgamation of features) — not companies.  They would make great Facebook apps for adding value to LBS checking on the Facebook iPhone app… and my guess is that the feature is coming soon.  Each of them would love to cash in on the rich “foot-streaming” data that checkins provide, creating complex recommendations algorithms for telling me what i should do, say, buy, etc. in a certain context.  But to do that you need a huge base of users and data, and if you’re not openly integrable into a larger platform then the chances of getting that big on a single unique feature (the ability to check in at a location, and then do a bunch of things you can already do on Facebook).

  • Posts

    Are You the Next Entrepreneur Idol?

    Cross posted from Seattle 2.0

    NWEN’s Entrepreneur University on Thursday is going to be fun!  Why?  Because in addition to speakers, panels, and mentorship sessions, there will be Entrepreneur Idol to wrap things up.  Tweet your startup tagline to #EUidol and the presenters will be chosen on Monday 11/2.  For many of you reading, that’s today – so get on it!  Even if you aren’t serious about starting your business, getting some practice pitching ideas can’t hurt.  If you are serious, there will be VCs, angels, and press present to make the most of your 60 seconds.  Here’s are some tips from a non-expert.

    Tips for a 60 Second Pitch

    • Be memorable, whatever that means for your personality or product/company
    • Don’t write a 5 minute pitch and then try to read it in 60 seconds, no one will process the it
    • No demo, because it will either a) not work b) not finish in time c) just not work
    • Answer how you’ll make money ASAP, because someone is bound to ask anyway
    • If you have a working prototype say so and use 15 seconds to make sure people know where it is
    • If you’re serious, give business cards to the panelists and ask people to raise hands if they want your card at the end (don’t tell then to find you, they won’t)

    Contestants, Meet Your Judges

    The judges are local media reps from Xconomy (Gregory Huang), TechFlash (John Cook), and Seattle 2.0 (Marcelo) but don’t go thinking that just because they’re the media they don’t know about business and tech.

    Gregory Huang (Xconomy)

    In addition to being a much-loved local tech beat journalist, Gregory has a Master’s and Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, and a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  He is published in 20 scientific journals and did research at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab.  He also co-authored “Guanxi” – a book about Microsoft in China and the global competition for talent and technology.

    What to pitch him on: Augmented reality, micro-finance, sustainable power, enterprise 2.0

    John Cook (TechFlash)

    I think John might know a thing or two about running a business of his own, considering he took the bull by the horns almost a year ago to leave his job at the Seattle PI and co-found TechFlash (a subsidiary of Puget Sound Business Journal).  John reminds me of many startup geeks I know, who work like crazy and occasionally come out of the proverbial cave to socialize.  According to his bio, John has been a journalist since high school where he compiled obituary and election info.  Sounds like the same single-minded focus entrepreneurs are encouraged to have.

    What to pitch him on: iPhone apps, software-as-a-service, games,  Gov 2.0

    Marcelo Calbucci (Seattle 2.0)

    By now you’ve probably read about Seattle 2.0’s fearless leader and his experience with failed startup Sampa, which he co-founded.  Fortunately, Marcelo also founded Seattle 2.0 and its going pretty well.  He is also the creator of TweepML and codes on a regular basis.  He’s an ex-Microsoft guy too, so he has a healthy appreciation for making money.  Read his blog for a candid account of pretty much everything.

    What to pitch him on: community-driven products, social media, travel, video

    Upping the Stakes – Win Some Cash!

    Before you start talking about how meaningless it is to have an Entrepreneur Idol contest in the comments, keep in mind that it is going to be fun and that practicing pitching is a great way for fledgling entrepreneurs to gain confidence.  Let’s be the kind of community that can support this exercise, and we might even be surprised by the quality of pitches.

    You can score a discount when you register, by using the promo code “Danielle” and I’ll get a 20% commission on any tickets sold with this promo code.  Tickets are $150 for NWEN members, and $275 for non-members (and you get a 1 year membership for that price).

    Wait, You’re Getting Cash to Write This Post?  I’m Calling the SEC!

    Call off the regulators.  I’m going to take the commission and give it to the person whose pitch seems most likely to become a revenue generating business.  Not the funniest pitch, most creative gimmick, or best personality — just the pitch that represents an opportunity to MAKE MONEY.  I’ll give the money with no terms, other than that the person let me interview them for a Seattle 2.0 blog post.  This should be fun!
  • Posts

    This Year’s Homemade Zombie Costume

    After discovering that Bing is ranking me #2 for the terms “homemade zombie costume” I am very proud!  Back in 2006 I was a zombie, and I’m bring it back this year with another Value Village creation.  This one is a 90s dress that I slashed up, put some fake blood on, and gave myself a lovely head wound.  More pics on Flickr.

    Perfecting my Zombie Walk at the Bar

    Good and Undead

    Looking Good and Dead at the Taco Bell Drive Thru

    They didn’t bat an eye!

    What’s a Little Head Wound?

  • Posts

    Reflecting on Women 2.0 Startup Weekend

    Two weekends back I joined over 100 people for my 4th Startup Weekend, this time in San Francisco at the newly launched coworking space cubeSF

    It was awesome,  I was (as usual) feeling like I should be working but I dragged myself there for the panel on Friday night and once I began talking to people I was able to shed my work-related stress and focus on the ideas people wanted to make a reality.  As the Women 2.0 blog summarizes:

    Kicking off Friday night, Tina Seelig (author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 and Executive Director of Stanford Technology Ventures Program) moderated a discussion between an expert panel about how they would build a company over a weekend. Jessica Livingston (author of Founders at Work and Founding Partner of Y Combinator), Xochi Birch (co-founder of Bebo – sold to AOL in 2008), Shanna Tellerman (founder and CEO of Sim Ops Studios), Danielle Morrill (Marketing Director of Twilio), and Dan Martell (angel investor) shared their opinions about how to best utilize the short 54 hour time period to build a startup, how to utilize the strengths of each individual, and drew from their experiences to advise the audience on how to build a successful startup.

    That’s right – I was on a panel with those fantastic people and it was so fun watching them think of their feet for the panel – where we had to basically go through the process of coming up with an idea, making plans, and answering some tough questions from the audience.

    What did we do?  How did we do?

    I posted over at Seattle 2.0 about how to get the most out of Startup Weekend, and decided to test three things:

    • Could I successfully run a Startup Weekend team based on these principles?
    • Could I be a little less nice, and get a little more done?  (I put a sign on our table that said “If you’re not on my team, don’t talk to me — or anyone else on my team. kthxbai”)
    • Could I build the entire front end (HTML/CSS) – my first time being a technical contributor on a SW team?

    To see what we came up with check out EscapeMyDate – warning though that it is currently broken because our Twitter account was suspended yesterday in that whole Gov 2.0 expo debacle.

    AND WE GOT TEH MOST VOTES – effectively “wining” and getting free office space from Plug and Play in Palo Alto for one month!  Yipee

    More posts on the event:

    What happened at sw20sf