The third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII went dark and over 100 million viewers watched for 35 minutes as the teams reacted in their own way. I know you’ve been in blackout situations before. And I’m not talking about the kind of blackout that you’d normally expect to witness in New Orleans around Mardis Gras time.
I had a blackout moment last week when my shins met the fender of a Honda Civic as it sped around a corner.
I didn’t lose consciousness. But when I started across that crosswalk, I sure wasn’t expecting to end up laid out on the pavement after sliding across the hood of a speeding car.
As I picked myself up off my bruised hip, the driver rolled down the 2%-tint, passenger-side window. “Whoa. you alright bro?” At least the driver was considerate enough to show some compassion as he continued to roll by.
“Uh, yeah I think so… but you just hit me with your freaking car!” I didn’t know how to react. Mostly, I was just trying to make sure my toes weren’t broken.
You never really expect a blackout moment to hit. I mean, no one ever plans to get struck by a vehicle (and I don’t recommend it).
So, when you get hit with a blackout, what’s your first reaction?
You could take your ball and go home. You could stretch out and stay warm in preparation. You could rest and focus on your mental game. Or you could decide to adapt and play your game in the dusk.
What do you do when your lights go out?
The tall man in the hoodie and sandals sipped his tea before he began. I took out my pen and pad, and then leaned forward.
My mind raced as I sat there in my borrowed suit. And that’s when I heard the story that ultimately led me to moving my life to Indianapolis.
It was my senior year of college, and my experience with an entrepreneurial fellowship had somehow led me to a one-on-one Starbucks meeting with Scott Jones, the inventor of voicemail (who just so happens to have invented the software that powers iTunes, among other things).
In that short conversation, Scott lay out a vision for Indiana as a hub for tech startups. He sold me on the idea that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to build something world-changing on the web. It was something I honestly hadn’t considered and I have to admit that I wasn’t 100% sure it could be done. But there was one thing of which I was certain: Scott knew how to think big.
That one story and that fellowship program led me to build lasting relationships with other early mentors like then-COO of Angie’s List Scott Brenton, and Baker Hill co-founder Mark Hill, who I’ve written about before.
Fast forward three and a half years to today.
Our startup community known as Verge has grown to over 2,000 members, with hubs in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and West Lafayette (and more on the way). Spaces like DeveloperTown, the Speak Easy, SproutBox, and Launch Fishers have launched and thrived in with our growing movement. We’ve had tons of support from sponsors, volunteers, and members.
Verge has always been a place where we’ve sought validation for our businesses and celebrated learning as we tested out new ideas.
There’s no other group out there where I feel more at home. It’s a place where I feel safe to build new things and share the results (good or bad). Our Midwest startup community is packed with people willing to share their honest feedback and support. It’s inspiring and motivating.
That’s why I’m getting back in the startup saddle.
I knew that when I ventured out again to build another business, I would want it to be a big idea.
Re-enter voicemail-inventor Scott Jones…
When Scott and I took the time to sit down over sushi late last year, my goal was to walk away with a commitment for Scott to join me onstage for a fireside chat at a 2013 Verge event. But I walked away with a lot more.
We discussed the opportunities for the Midwest startup community and what needs to get done in order to be able to grow exponentially in the coming years. And we talked about an upstart project that grew out of the the offices of his biggest idea to date, ChaCha, the world’s largest online Q&A service.
When I heard the big idea of the new project, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. There were thousands of ways the business could evolve and create value on a mass scale. And my experience seemed tailored to the challenges that this kind of business might encounter.
That flurry of conversation led to a half-dozen other discussions. And ultimately one of my biggest decisions yet.
It was as though a moment of clarity grabbed me.
Together, Scott and I devised a plan where I could jump aboard full-time to help build this new product while providing Verge leadership (both by example and directly). Which is why I’m announcing today that I’m joining the startup team at Social Reactor as VP of Product to lead the building and marketing of a new platform that can change the web.
Social Reactor is a premium social engagement platform that connects social influencers with brands looking to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. It’s a huge idea, and I look forward to sharing here as I dive in and build more of the vision with our brilliant team.
Scott Jones is one of the people who convinced me to move from Bloomington to Indianapolis after selling my first business and graduating from IU over 3 years ago. I’m excited to collaborate directly with Scott and the innovative team at Social Reactor. The product is a game changer.
As for Verge, our community is a tight-knit group of leaders building innovative businesses on the web. I’m confident in our ability to evolve and grow
I look forward to sharing what I learn in my new role at Social Reactor while bringing resources and opportunity to our startup community.
The future is bright for Verge and I’m excited to keep building it with the group.
I’ll have even more news about some of the massive new partnerships at Verge, as well an announcement about our first full-time team member. But I’ll save that for an upcoming Verge event. Hope to see you there!
What if we were liberated from the fear and hesitation that often slows us down? How much more could we create for the world, and for ourselves?
You probably don’t know it, but you inspire me to pursue the answers to those questions. So, I figured it’s only fair to tell you what it is that you do that fuels me:
You show up every day to produce. You channel your greatest talents through you by doing the things that fill you with the biggest intrinsic rewards. Your work gives back more energy than you put into it.
You prioritize your talent work, but you don’t take yourself so seriously that it prevents you from taking massive action each day. You’re thoroughly amused by life.
Even when things seem like they are their darkest, you find your light and shine it for all to see.
Opportunities for growth continue to present themselves and you don’t flinch. You might catch yourself with that first hint of resistance from time to time. But you consistently throw yourself into the wave with intention and know that, each time you do, you come out exhilarated on the other side.
You free yourself from the social hierarchy and extrinsic validation that so many cling to as their measuring stick. Your track record and massive body of work inspires others to create the life they want to live.
Pursue your vision.
Keep designing your life in a way that embraces clarity and focus.
It might appear effortless to others, but it will never actually be effortless. That’s because you’re intentional about your life. But you’re not one to talk about.
You just do it.
This post was a reflection on the book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. If you haven’t read it yet, grab yourself a copy today. You’ll thank yourself later.
This is a big day for me. After a full-throttle experience building a marketing team with an Inc 500 company, I’m embarking on a new journey. The vision is set and I’ve dropped the safety net.
Here’s why. . .
For me, there’s no greater high, no deeper level of fulfillment, no bigger rush than building something that provides value. And there’s something about building a business with boundless potential that’s both inspiring and gratifying.
To build a startup—or to help build a startup—is the highest-leverage activity in which you could invest your time. Find the right fulcrum, then execute with the right amount of force, and the value you create can be exponential.
But you have to take a chance.
That’s why I’ve decided to take the plunge, and devote my full time and energy to Verge and other entrepreneurial opportunities. For the next 90 days, I’m intensifying efforts and attention to the team at Verge—designing plans, building systems, and executing on the vision. While we move the ball forward with that organization, I’ll also heed the advice from my closest mentors and take some time to truly explore the entrepreneurial landscape. As of today, I’ve broken my low-information diet to dive into books, travel, and relationships in a way that I never have before. And I’m excited!
At the same time, I already miss the energy and excitement of my former role as the Director of Marketing at Slingshot SEO. For the past year, one of my greatest joys has been working with each and every incredible person on the marketing team, most of whom I was fortunate enough to interview and hire myself. I learned so much from them as we took a blank canvas and turned it into something of real, measurable value.
From the three co-founders, who encouraged me to join as a director, to CEO Jay Love and the rest of the leadership team—I’ve never witnessed a more diverse and powerful combination of raw talent at a company. By blazing a trail, and attracting other top talent and partners to join in the adventure, they’ve built an exceptional organization. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with them through their continued support with Verge, the Orr Fellowship, and whatever else may materialize in the future.
I’ve been so, so fortunate to experience the high of building successful businesses—both as a part of a high-powered engine like Slingshot and from the driver’s seat of my own startups. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to take the wheel with both hands and shift into the next gear as I start the next leg of my journey. I look forward to continuing to learn, succeed, fail, and evolve. And I will do a better job of sharing that experience with you here.
Keep bringing your brilliance and enthusiasm to Verge. Let’s keep working together to build a better-connected, execution-driven startup community. It’s time to swing big.
So, what’s your next adventure?
How can I help with what you’re working on?
Indianapolis is home to me. I enjoy my out-of-state weekend adventures and urban exploring at conference visits outside the state, but Indy is my home base.
In the past 18+ months that I’ve lived here, our entrepreneurial community has seen the addition of Indianapolis startup-centric blogs, a weekly newsletter of startup events, and a bunch of hack-a-thons where ideas and talent converge to create new software products. We have awesome startup spaces to work, like Developer Town, and SproutBox, with more on the way in 2011. Our pool of talent and network of developers is quickly evolving, providing plenty of opportunity to fuel startup ideas. Developer-centric events like IndyPy and the Indianapolis Ruby Brigade are fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration among the sharpest programmers in the area.
Indy is on the Verge. The people, the places, the technology, and the timing are right just right for the community to tip the scale. That’s why we rebranded our event (formerly Hackers & Founders, a name borrowed from the West Coast) — to own what we’ve built, and showcase what’s happening.
I started the group with a few friends just over a year ago. We never expected our small group of twelve fresh-faced 20- somethings to grow into a a monthly meetup that would draw crowds of 250+ entrepreneurs, developers, and investors from not just all around Indiana, but other major Midwest cities like Chicago and Cincinnati. It’s inspiring to see.
When I think about what it takes to build a sustainable entrepreneurial environment, I know Indy’s got it: fresh talent, regular startup-centric meetups, and a collaborative community. I’m excited to see how things evolve in 2011 as we continue to grow and create new businesses.
I’m so appreciative of all the people and organizations, both in Indianapolis and around the world, who make our startup community so exceptional. Thank you.
If you haven’t experienced Verge, or Hackers & Founders as it was once called, this video will give you a taste of what it’s all about:
Jeff Ready is the Founder and CEO of SCALE Computing, an Indianapolis based startup that creates innovative server storage devices. I was lucky enough to hear Jeff talk a couple of times over the last few weeks and had the opportunity to take some sketchnotes while soaking up some knowledge. (continued below)
While my notes aren’t necessarily his exact words, I had a few main takeaways:
Jeff has started up multiple companies, but they weren’t all successful. When the dot com bubble burst, Jeff’s company was all but wiped out completely. It took real persistence for him to push past that stumbling block and reach for the next big dream.
Go Where the Money Is
Jeff founded his first companies in Indiana, but eventually moved one of his businesses out to Silicon Valley to secure financing for one of his ventures. This was something important to the investor, and not Jeff, but Ready ultimately was able to find more people willing to put more dollars behind his ideas in the Valley. On thing Jeff said that stuck with me was, “In the Valley, VCs found me.”
Transparency Breeds Integrity
I’ve been to the SCALE Computing headquarters and feel lucky to know a handful of the team members there. There’s something magical about the culture that obviously stems from Jeff’s leadership. The standard of full transparency at SCALE keeps the team on the same page and in the know. Ready’s tell-it-like-it-is attitude sets the tone for the entire company and keeps everyone honest.
Entrepreneurship is a Lifestyle
“It’s like Surfing,” Ready says. Entrepreneurship is a midset and a way of living that perpetuates through every day of your life. The idea of a punch in at 8 and punch out at 6 role, is ludicrous if your goal is to build a company that is truly remarkable. It takes loads of energy and focus, and it had to be something that you love to do.
Model After Success (or Ride on Someone Else’s Coat Tails)
While Jeff didn’t actually say, “Ride on Someone Else’s Coat Tails,” this is largely the strategy he employed by going into the scalable server storage business with SCALE. Ready witnessed the massive success of the virtualization software goliath, VMware, and decided, “I’m going to compete with them.” By entering a market that had already been established by VMware, SCALE Computing had a benchmark for comparison and from which to position their product.
I look forward to seeing SCALE Computing continue to grow as Jeff steers the ship and sells the vision. My guess is that Ready’s foundation of experience and natural leadership ability will propel the company to reach even greater success in the next six months.
We all have different work styles and work ethics. Over the past 7 or 8 years, I’ve read countless books on time-management and productivity, studied the experts who have accomplished remarkable things, and learned from mentors who have inspired my career and work style.
When I spoke at Bloomington Ignite a few months ago, I decided to share some of my thoughts and experience on work flow management and work/work balance. In true Ignite fashioin, I was limited to 5 minutes, with slides that auto-advanced every 15 seconds. I felt like I was fighting the clock trying to get all of my content delivered coherently.
Watch the video below. This is how I work. What do you think? How do you work? Any good lifehacks I should add to my toolkit?
I also wrote a post on the Workshifting blog that elaborates on some of the principles included in this video. You can read that post here.
I love technology. It’s the catalyst for creativity.
I’m sure you feel the same way. This set of tools that technology provides enables us like never before.
I recently gave a talk on a specific kind of technology — cloud computing. Through my work with BlueLock, I’ve learned so much about how this tool is changing not only how we do business, but how we achieve our dreams.
and here are the slides. . .
At this month’s Hackers & Founders, I took the opportunity to pitch my company, Repurify. I took about four minutes minutes to illustrate the pain point in our industry and how we’re going to alleviate it.
Repurify is my passion project that I co-founded a year ago. This online boutique offers some of the safest, most effective non-toxic personal care products and cosmetics. Think natural makeup, organic shampoo, and skin-safe shaving cream.
When presented with all of he information and options, I lean towards the healthier choice. Far from a health “nut,” I don’t count calories or read every blog post on WebMD. But, like you, I understand that the lifestyle we choose today effects more than today (or tomorrow, or the next, for that matter).
Last year, I learned all about the chemicals and potentially toxic ingredients that find their way into our daily-use products and onto store shelves across Big-Box-Store America. The more I learned, the more I was driven to find a reasonable solution. It was the classic entrepreneurial inner voice: “There’s got to be a better way.”
Please watch my Hackers & Founders elevator pitch for Repurify and let me know what you think:
What do you think? What can I improve for next time?
I’m sure I’ll post more about Repurify soon. Stay tuned. . .