A New Chapter


I quit my job this week.

I’ve been working at Vital Source Technologies for the majority of my working life…13 out of 20 years. This is a testament to what kind of place it is, that I spent so much time there. I was there from the beginning, from the time when there were 0 users, up to today, when there are millions.

But the time has come to move on.

Over the past decade, I’ve been actively cultivating the developer scene in Austin, particularly through Austin on Rails and Cafe Bedouins. Four years ago, my interest in entrepreneurship led me to establish Austin Open Coffee Club (we meet bi-monthly in Houndstooth Frost) and to become a mentor for Longhorn Startup, a program which encourages student entrepreneurs. When Techstars came to Austin, I was very excited to join them as a mentor, as I believe you should give before you get, and I live my life that way. I helped launch FounderDating (an online network for co-founders) in the Austin area, by serving as Managing Director from 2012-2014.

At the beginning of 2015, I posted this video on my blog. It captured perfectly what I needed to hear at a time when I was considering taking the plunge. The only way out is through.

So what’s next? I’ll be doing software development contracting, joining my friend Brian Dainton working on a special project at Spredfast, and will be spending more time on personal projects. I have a new side project called InvestorSheets which has been gaining some traction lately. Please sign up here if you need to find investors or advisors for your startup. The tool builds target lists of investors in startup hub cities. I love it when technology can save time and help people connect.  Human connection is what I’m most interested in and as I look to create more value in the world, the emphasis will be on that.

I will continue advising startups such as MakerSquare, Beek, and HapBack.

Thanks so much to the long list of people who met with me over the past several months (you know who you are). Your support and advice was very helpful.

Here’s to a creative future!

There is Greatness in You


This video is just incredible.

(Featuring Les Brown, T.D. Jakes, and Tony Robbins)

There is nothing as powerful as a changed mind…

You can change your hair…your clothing…your address

your spouse…your residence…

but if you don’t change your mind…

the same experience will perpetuate itself over and over again…

because everything outwardly changed, but nothing inwardly changed.

If you want something out of life

if you want to change yourself

if you want to acquire something

if there’s some goal that you want to reach

changing your behaviors…overcoming negative habits…

it’s challenging. it’s hard.

most people go through life never discovering what their talents are

most people never develop their talents

The only thing that’s going to make you happy my friend

in this year, or any other…

is to step up

it’s to raise the standard

it’s to discover what you’re capable of

and feel that incredible power of pushing through whatever is holding you back

and get to the other side of more of your true self

that’s what this game’s all about

When you step into your fears and continue to push yourself to go on

something happens for you

if you look at somebody who’s really successful,

and you think, wow…I mean they’re so amazing, they’re such a genius

you gotta dig underneath, and you gotta remember something

people are rewarded in public for what they’ve practiced for years in private

If you don’t develop the courage, to do that which has been given you to do

and you spend a lot of time going around trying to convince other people, and trying to get their approval

what will happen is…that you will lose your nerve

and other people will convince you that what you are doing doesn’t have any value, and you’ll give up on your dream

how much time do you have left?

how much time do you have left?

when you start thinking about that, we don’t know!

most of us don’t use the stuff that we have brought into the Universe

stop wasting valuable time

if you want something, you have got to be RELENTLESS

you’ve got to learn how to become resourceful

you’ve got to learn how to become creative

the power to hold on in spite of everything, the power to endure

this is the WINNER’s quality

the hunger, the ability to face defeat again and again, without giving up!

this is a WINNER’s quality

what this POWER is, I cannot say

All i know is that it exists…and it becomes available only when a man or woman is in that STATE OF MIND in which he or she knows exactly what he or she wants

and is fully DETERMINED not to quit(!) until they find it…


and you’ve got to learn how to tune out the critics outside and the CRITIC INSIDE

I’m gonna harness my WILL

And I’m not gonna let ANYTHING stop me

I deserve this…

Most people give up on themselves easily


There’s nothing this powerful…it’s hard to kill the human spirit


Live your life with PASSION…with some DRIVE!

Most of us go through life with our BRAKES ON, holding back

Decide that you’re going to push yourself

You’ve got to focus on YOU

and as you convince YOU…as you sell yourself


You will begin to see a difference in the things that you’re doing

Selling yourself on your ability to perform a job, to achieve a certain objective

Telling yourself every day…”Here I go again”

And I’ve got what it takes.

This is MY DAY and NOTHING out here is going to stop me.

Steve Jobs’ Thoughts About Life

From the Silicon Valley Historical Association Steve Jobs (1994 interview), there’s a clip from Steve’s early years where he explains an important realization that he’s had about life:

When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your…your life is just to live your life inside the world…try not to bash into the walls too much…try to have a nice family life…have fun…save a little money…

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact…and that is…everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you…and you can change it…you can influence it, you can…you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something’ll…you know if you push in, something’ll pop out the other side…that you can change it, you can mold it. that’s maybe the most important thing.

Bob Metcalfe on Good Public Speaking

Bob Metcalfe (co-inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com) offers his tips to UT students on how to speak well when giving a talk:

    Our daughter Julia just got promoted at Facebook and asked me for advice on giving talks. I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m sharing my advice with you. Listening is my real specialty, with writing in second place, but here is stuff that works in speaking; note that I have written it down: Speak on what you know. Prepare by collecting and organizing your thoughts in writing, say on 3X5 cards for small groups, 5X7 index cards for larger audiences (that’s humor), or Powerpoint. Start preparation by asking who your audience is and why they will be listening to you. Show respect by over-dressing your audience. Smile and say thank you. Summarize what you are going to say, say it, then summarize what you said. Speak slowly and clearly, pausing now and then at carefully chosen places, to let people process what you’ve said. If at all possible, take questions from the start and continuously through your talk. After promising at the start to end on time, end on time. End on time. Early is better.

    Keep in mind that generally your audience wants you to succeed — they are rooting for you. Bless their hearts, but audiences generally do not realize that you can see them, so for impact make some eye contact and smile. Be funny, especially if the topic isn’t. Look at your audience when speaking to them — pick out friendly faces in the audience here and there, move your eyes from one to the other. If people start to tune out, notice, stop talking and ask if they are still interested or have questions, you do not want to waste their time.

    When you make lists, three items is best. Start a list with your second strongest item, end with your strongest. When someone seems to want to ask a question, stop talking immediately, invite them, and reward them by listening carefully to their question, asking for clarification if needed. If someone asks a question you cannot answer, say the words “I don’t know” and make a big show of writing it down and promising to get back on that. If an audience member misbehaves, walk toward them and that usually quiets them down. Be sure to have fun speaking; audiences can smell fear. Get good at it by practicing — get gigs regularly. If someone makes a video of your talk, watch it twice and take notes on how to improve. Speaking is the most fun you can have standing up.

Good stuff.

Austin BBQ Finder

Update! Austin Eats: BBQ for iPhone 1.0 is now available in the app store!

Austin Eats: BBQ

A little over a month ago, I decided to write a Austin BBQ application.  Specifically, I had all of the hungry visitors of SXSW in mind as I did, but I thought even beyond the conference it was be something generally useful.  With the help of some friends, I put together a dataset of BBQ joints (sourced from Yelp, Foursquare, and Gowalla), a mobile-friendly site, and an iPhone client.  Unfortunately, as I write this, the app is still pending review, but I expect (hope?) it will be generally available soon.


I sourced the original BBQ places list manually and then built the rest of the data using the Yelp, Gowalla, and Foursquare APIs.  The data that those services are incorporating are getting richer all the time.  I also ran an informal BBQ survey here in Austin over the past month to get an idea about people’s favorite places to get BBQ brisket, ribs, turkey, chicken, and sausage.  And yes, some definitely argued that if it’s not meat, it’s not BBQ.  🙂  Regardless, special designation were given to places which folks said had the best of a particular item.


The scoring system is based on a combination of Yelp, Gowalla, Foursquare, and survey data.

There’s an Austin BBQ mobile site that you can use to pull up the data and an iPhone app (when Apple gets around to approving it) which is even nicer for browsing the absolute BBQ mecca which surrounds us here in Austin.

Let’s Chow Down

I hope you that the data and the apps are useful to you and you eat some fantastic BBQ while in Austin.   It’s worth noting that Franklin, which scores particularly well, just opened their new location at 900 East 11th on Saturday.  It’s a bit of a walk from the Austin Convention Center, but it is worth it.

Please let me know if you have any feedback.


Open Coffee Austin, Rebooted

Back in August, I started an Open Coffee for entrepreneurs and the like just to encourage stronger connections amongst those in the Austin entrepreneurial community. The attendance was mixed…very strong the first day (we had 30 attendees) and weaker on subsequent months. The last time attendance was so low, most likely due to cold weather and the holiday period being extra busy. I personally have missed 2 of the 5 events due to work commitments so the timing of it has actually been really poor for me. This is too bad because I really look forward to the event and building into something great.

I think there are a few reasons why the event has struggled to build a more consistent following and I have a few proposals to fix these issues. Everything we do is a bit of an experiment anyway, now isn’t it. Let’s see if we can learn and adapt here to make things mo’ better.

The 2010 meetup:

  1. began at the ungodly hour of 7:30am
  2. was on a Wednesday, directly after many Tuesday night events
  3. was always held in the downtown area

The event started at 7:30am to try to give folks a chance to stop by before work in case they needed to go in to an office by 8 or 8:30. Given the fact that many of the crowd are software developers and entrepreneurs on their own schedule, asking this was quite a stretch.

Many of us attend tech events on Tuesdays such as Refresh Austin, WordPress Austin Meetup, Austin on Rails, or Cafe Bedouins. To ask people who stayed out late the night before hitting some tech event to show up way early the next day only allowed for the insanely dedicated to make the morning event.

Finally, the reason why it was set in the downtown area is that I personally do not spend much time downtown and I wanted to meet more of the crowd who lives/works/hangs out in the downtown area. It’s also a logical “city center” for everyone to gather. The reality is, though, especially very early in the morning, that it takes considerable effort to get downtown if you live way South or way North (as I do). Some even drove in from as far away as Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Buda. I think downtown is a perfect place to have open coffee discussions, but I’m also open to the idea that we should spread the love around. As I’ve learned running Cafe Bedouins, different geographic areas draw out different crowds. Changing the location of an informal coffee meetup can radically alter who attends the event, and sometimes dramatically increase it!

Given all this, I’d like to make a proposal for Open Coffee Austin going forward:

  1. We alter the time to 8:30-10:30am
  2. We shift the day from Wednesday to Thursday
  3. We alternate Open Coffee locations weekly bi-weekly

I believe that these changes will allow more people to connect and reduce some of the stressors that plagued the prior event setup.

The first three Open Coffees of the new and improved 2011 schedule are now set up on Facebook:

Are you interested in this kind of thing? Do these changes make you more or less likely to attend?

Let me know what’s what.

UPDATE: The turnout was extremely light for the North one (and sadly, Sodade coffee shop closed), so I’m going to cancel it for now.  We’ll meet up bi-weekly, alternating between Downtown and Central Austin.

Brad Feld on Building Entrepreneurial Communities Like Austin

At Tahoe Tech Talk 2010, a question came up during Q&A about building up entrepreneurial communities outside of Silicon Valley. Brad Feld, a well-known venture capitalist in Boulder was asked to come up on stage to share a few of his thoughts.

(video clip shared with Brad’s permission)

Brad essentially made three main points:

  1. Don’t try to be Silicon Valley.
  2. You need at least half a dozen leaders to stay consistent over a period of 20 years.
  3. Engage the entire entrepreneurial community. This includes students, first timers, serial entrepreneurs, etc.

Join us this Wednesday morning downtown at Jo’s Coffee for Open Coffee Austin. We meet up for good coffee, making connections, and conversation centered around building businesses in Austin. We meet on the First Wednesday of each month.

Idea #39: Avatar Favorites

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could sit for hours and pit one Twitter avatar against another, marking your favorites along the way?

For example, this is no contest.

@kastner @damon

If you see an avatar you particularly like, you should be able to favorite.  If I had this feature right now, I would definitely favorite @kastner‘s.  You could keep a copy of people’s past avatars and if they OAuth in, they could easily set their avatar back to a previous one they’d used.  So at that point, it’s more useful than just a fun game, it’s a simple avatar management app.

I like the name Favatar.com.  The .com is taken, but presently blank.  There are plenty of other Favatar-based domain options currently, however.

If you wanted to go crazy, you could do the same thing for Facebook profile pics and allow those to be saved and set as well.  Setting your avatar across many social services at once would be a value add, as it’s something that a lot of people want to do occasionally.

Is anyone doing any part of this now?
Known Implementations: