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Monday
Jan272014

Paul Graham fireside at LAUNCH Festival + our judges!

Really excited to announce that Y Combinator founder Paul Graham will be joining me for a fireside chat at the LAUNCH Festival this year. Paul has been one of the greatest supporters of founders and startups in the past decade, with over 500 startups coming out of YC in the past 8+ years. You’ve heard of a couple of them, including Dropbox (which launched in the first year of our event) and Airbnb.

He’s also a great blogger and thinker, and I’ve been waiting seven years to interview him. It’s going to be an awesome discussion.

The LAUNCH Festival runs Feb. 24-26th, with the LAUNCH Hackathon occurring Feb. 21-23 (http://hackathon.launch.co/). The festival takes place at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse.

Over 6,000 folks have registered for the event, and we’re going to close registration at 8,000. You can register today for $49, $495, $1,000 or $5,000 depending on what dinners/events you want to attend (we try to make it available to all levels, from broke founders to flush VCs!):

http://festival.launch.co

We’re thrilled to announce our seven latest judges for the event:

 * Katie Rae, Techstars Boston
 * Dana Settle, Greycroft Partners
 * Kara Swisher, Re/Code
 * Gina Bianchini, Mightybell
 * Sarah Lacy, PandoDaily
 * Aileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures
 * Tina Sharkey, Sherpa Foundry

Finally, we have a second stage this year called the “Startup Stage” where more established companies will do deep dives into their performance and strategy. This stage is based on the demand that investors had to see more mature companies, and from founders who had goals of showcasing their performance to the press – recruiting new team members and updating investors. If you want to do a deep dive into your company you can find out more here: http://events.launch.co/startup-stage/

Special thanks to our new partners that make this event happen:
 * Fertl (http://www.fer.tl/)
 * Ice House (http://icehousecorp.com)
 * North Bridge (http://northbridge.com)
 * Pearson (http://pearson.com)
 * Swell (http://swell.am)
 * Twitter (http://twitter.com)

Wednesday
Jan082014

Mark Cuban to keynote LAUNCH Festival 2014

I’m super excited that Mark Cuban will be sitting down with me for a fireside chat at this year’s LAUNCH Festival.

Entrepreneur, blogger, angel investor, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, the best part of ABC’s Shark Tank – there are a ton of different ways to describe Mark – but our conversations are always great fun and brutally honest. And he always has interesting insights into things.

We’re going to have 8,000+ participants in this year’s Festival, making it the world’s largest startup conference, Feb 24-26 in San Francisco: http://festival.launch.co

If you missed my “gift to the industry”, there’s still time to claim your complimentary pass. However, I expect we’ll be sold-out by next week, so please register now:

UPDATE: "Gift to the industry" tickets are sold out!

Passes can still be purchased here: http://launch.ticketleap.com/launch-festival-2014/dates
Details: http://festival.launch.co

Some other highlights below, I really hope you can make it!

best, @jason

=====

More from LAUNCH Festival:  

Fireside Demos with the founders of some awesome products

 

  • Kanishk Parashar, Coin - the incredibly viral “one credit card to rule them all"
  • Rob Rhinehart, Soylent - the meal replacement sludge of the future
  • Paul Eremenko, Project Ara -  former DARPA, now modular phones at Motorol
  • Christian Sanz, Skycatch - they code drones!
  • Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics - they make personal drones, you can buy
  • Simon Tian, Neptune - they are reinventing the smart watch with Pine
  • Stephane Marceau, OMSignal - bio-sensing clothin
  • Thejo Kote, Automatic - FitBit for your ca
  • Stuart Williams, Cardiovascular Innovation Institute - 3D printed heart!
  • Stacy Stephens, Knightscope - robots that patrol your neighborhood & schools

 

Startup Stage - Brand new stage!

On the Startup Stage, companies will give 20-minute presentations that go in-depth on their products, strategies, staffing, fundraising, and the markets they are pursuing. These are the deep dives that investors typically ask for, where founders will have the opportunity to show their products, detail the markets they're operating within, share their fundraising history and plans, profile their executive team, and explain what positions they have open.

Presenters include:

 

  • Glenn Martin, Martin Jetpack - It’s a jetpack!
  • Kishan Shah, Downsize Fitness - plus-size gyms sweeping the nation!
  • Edouard de La Jonquière, Mention - powerful social notifications
  • Kristoph Matthews, Boxbee - simple urban storage *LAUNCH 2013 Winner*

 

Verticals to include: Enterprise, Sales & CRM, Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency, Hardware, Robotics & Drones, Education, Mobile Gaming, On-Demand, Social, Wearable Tech, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, the Maker Space & DIY, Internet of Things, Parenting & Families, Smart Homes, Art & Design, 3D Printing, Travel, and Green Transportation.

Have a topic or company to suggest? Email team@launch.co

Grand Jury

These folks watch every demo and help us pick the best of the best startups. One or two more additions coming (yes, we have a ton of invites out to women as well – we value diversity and always have it).

 

 

Special thanks to our new partners that make this event happen:

 

 

Also, a quick thank you to our media partners, helping us get out the word: Women Who Code (http://www.meetup.com/Women-Who-Code-SF/), CoFounders Lab (http://www.cofounderslab.com/), Beta Li.st (http://betali.st/), Founder Dating (http://founderdating.com), and many others: http://events.launch.co/festival/#partners

There’s still time to reach the 8,000+ entrepreneurs/developers/startups that are going to be there. Email: partners@launch.co.

Sunday
Jan052014

Techbrats Goldberg, Shih and Gopman Do Not Represent Technology

Image credit: PandoDaily.

In 20 or 30 years, what will we look back on and say “That was the issue of our time?"

I ask hyper-intelligent people this question from time to time, and the answers are frequently similar: environment, equality, employment and wage disparity are common.

I believe employment and wage disparity are the critical issues of our time.

Nowhere can this be seen more clearly and glaringly than in San Francisco. Rents in the city have skyrocketed and social unrest between the haves and have-nots has reached a boiling point. (Most recently, we saw protesters throwing a rock through the window of one of Google’s luxurious private buses.)

It’s hard for people not to hate technologists when faced with the absolute loathsomeness of three now-infamous industry executives: Peter Shih, Greg Gopman and Bryan Goldberg.

In three separate blog posts over the past year, these spoiled techbrats have shown the absolute worst qualities of the elite: a lack of empathy and class, combined with horrible entitlement -- and the absolute inability to write.

Peter Shih, a startup founder, wrote that San Francisco is a city with a “pathetic excuse for a public transportation system,” where 'I pay 80% of my salary to live down the street from crackheads and meth addicts" and which is home to “some of the craziest homeless people I have ever seen in my life” (his solution: “just hand them a handle of vodka and a pack of cigarettes, it'll save everyone some trouble.”)

Link: http://goo.gl/nT5yJC

His bile was followed by Gopman’s post which claimed:

“The difference [between SF and elsewhere] is in other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it's a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests. And that's okay…

You can preach compassion, equality, and be the biggest lover in the world, but there is an area of town for degenerates and an area of town for the working class. There is nothing positive gained from having them so close to us. It's a burden and a liability having them so close to us. Believe me, if they added the smallest iota of value I'd consider thinking different…”

Link: http://goo.gl/kEHAcj

Not to be outdone, millionaire Goldberg -- the most successful of all these executives, having sold the widely-regarded-as-spam site Bleacher Report -- did a ‘satirical piece’ that showed a complete lack of awareness, intelligence or ability to compose satire. Salon dubbed it “rock bottom” in “tech’s culture war.”

Link: http://goo.gl/j18NDq

Where to begin.

First, all three of these executives should be thankful they were born in a time when the ability to write code and understand technology was so absurdly rewarded as compared to the other crucial work of the world. Important things like teaching children to be productive citizens, running into burning buildings, protecting citizens from crime, doing CPR on people in cardiac arrest, and going to war and risking having your legs blown off by an IED.

In another age, say one where the ability to use a sword was the most in demand skill, these specimens wouldn’t have had the resolve to make it out of adolescence alive.

Second, if you are lucky enough to be absurdly rewarded as compared to the rest of society, a solid default position is to shut up and enjoy your epic rewards -- not to taunt and abuse those less fortunate than yourself.

Third, if you have been delightfully rewarded for building websites -- websites!!! -- as opposed to digging ditches 10 hours a day, six days a week, perhaps you should look at those less fortunate than yourself with compassion and -- gasp! -- do something to help them?

Fourth, if your ability to write tops out at the Christmas card level, perhaps it would be wise for you to hone your skills before tackling the most sensitive and pressing issues of our time?

As my Tae Kwon Do teacher told me in me in my developing years, when I was prone to speak first and think second, “an empty can makes the most noise.”

These noisy individuals do not represent the technology industry within which I’ve built my career. No, the technologists of true success and merit develop and execute strategies to make society more just, fair and joyful for all.

Bill Gates gave up three or four delightful decades of working on building one of the great technology empires of all time to do things like eradicate malaria, provide clean drinking water and reinvent the condom so people would use them more often.

Mark Cuban dedicates his time to investing in startups that will never return even a small fraction of his wealth, while silently helping wounded soldiers and the poor (the details of which are largely unreported).

Elon Musk risked his entire fortune -- and pushed himself personally to the brink -- to get us off carbon and he’s still driving himself at an inhuman pace to “back up Earth” on another planet. (I’ve encouraged him to pace himself many times, but it’s just not how he is wired.)

Jeff Skoll has produced media -- at great loss and risk at times -- in order to expand people’s consciousness about important issues. Fast Food Nation, An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc, Darfur Now, and his new TV network, Pivot, which aims to package up serious issues for millennials.

The list of technologists doing great things for humanity is endless, but the media is obsessing over these pathetic, visionless grandstanders-- and I don’t blame them. This level of stupidity and vileness is editorial manna from above. How could the media not focus in on it?

A society can best be judged by how the most privileged regard and treat the most vulnerable and weak.

I have a challenge for these three individuals: invest in HandUp, a wonderful startup trying to actually help the homeless and distraught individuals in San francisco (and eventually beyond, I’m sure). If you each invest $10,000 in Handup I will match each of you. (Note: I’m already an investor, having invested on the spot during my talk with Rose: http://youtu.be/h9PSGHg2Vl0).

more: http://angel.co/handup

[ Sidenote: It’s a B (as in ‘benefit)’ corporation similar to stuff like Tom’s Shoes or Ben & Jerry’s, which aims to build a sustainable business by making a platform to help organizations focused on the homeless and poor. It’s “kickstarter for the homeless” and I say that with pride, not as a joke. Note: any profit I make from this investment I will donate to the homeless. ]

It takes only a cursory amount of reading -- start with the mayor’s offices multiyear study on the cities ~6,000 homeless -- to understand that a large percentage of the homeless are suffering from depression, mental illness, substance abuse and/or the elimination of their jobs.

And keep in mind that the “disruption” that is so lauded in our industry is largely one that removes inefficiencies, frequently defined as a “humans” working in “jobs.”

I’d argue that society’s issues around job loss are largely attributable to the massive change brought on by the technology we are building, and the wealth we are creating for a small subset of society.

This fact is indisputable and I believe it puts the responsibility for the weakest in our society on us -- the technologists and investors -- who not by happenstance are benefiting from this change.

On a strictly pragmatic basis, if you’re rich and privileged in our violently changing society, ask yourself if the last couple of bitcoins or homes you own are worth having a brick thrown through the window of bus you’re riding on.

It is completely possible that in the next 10 years, the streets of San Francisco and Manhattan will be filled with riots and protests by disenfranchised individuals--oh wait, that was the last three years: http://youtu.be/8yXSC0U9M6c

What is the point of this ever expanding “long boom” if we leave so many behind?

What a shallow victory we will have wrought if so many suffer so greatly while we benefit so exorbitantly.

all the best, @jason

http://www.twitter.com/jason

PS - Sorry to have not written the followup piece to #googlewinseverything, but I felt that this piece needed to come now--before another ‘techbro’ decides the world needs to know how stupid and insensitive they are. Second, I’m on deadline for the Jan. 23rd launch of www.inside.com, as well as the LAUNCH Hackathon (Feb 21-23) & LAUNCH Festival on Feb. 24-26th (http://festival.launch.co).

PPS - If I get a moment I’ll follow up on this piece by expanding the final two points--or perhaps someone with the ability to write like @paulcarr, @lons, @jasonpontin, @karaswisher, @hblodget, etc. could take on these two concepts:

a) What responsibility does the Tech Industry specifically have to the people it has made redundant?

b) Wouldn’t it be a better world for everyone if we used just a small portion of the massive profits being made to ensure that everyone had a place to live and eat, so our cities weren’t overrun with poverty, hunger and desperation, making American cities like Los Angeles essentially Third World nations?

Click here to tweet this editorial: http://ctt.ec/e2Juq

Thursday
Jan022014

Wanted: LAUNCH Festival Operations Temp Assistant

We're looking for a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to help with operations for our largest event, the LAUNCH Festival.

This is a temporary full-time position that will last through Friday, February 28. You will work with us in our office located at 6th & Market.

The LAUNCH Festival (San Francisco, February 24-26) is THE best place to launch a technology company and learn about building great startups. Dropbox, Mint, Yammer, Fitbit, Room77 and hundreds of others have debuted on the LAUNCH stage.

For more info on the event: http://festival.launch.co

Responsibilities:

  • Customer Service & Outreach (answering registrant emails, processing tickets) 
  • Coordinating & running a critical part of the conference (Hackathon, Startup Stage, Demo Pit, etc..)
  • Coordinating volunteers
  • Evaluating applicants to the Hackathon
  • Updating our website (Squarespace) & our event app (Bizzabo)
  • Additional ad-hoc projects 

 Requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree (or proof of high fluid intelligence)
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Impeccable organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Passion for tech startups and entrepreneurial culture
  • Desire to work in a team-based, entrepreneurial company
  • Practical knowledge of Excel, Google Spreadsheets, Numbers or similar. 
  • Experience in online publishing platforms and HTML experience a plus 

Compensation: $100 / day

We value diversity in the workplace and are an EOE/AA employer.

To apply please use this form: https://docs.google.com/a/launch.co/spreadsheet/viewform?usp=drive_web&formkey=dEw3RFdJSnc1cmlURkpObEJxSHJjV0E6MA#gid=0

Friday
Dec132013

A gift to the industry (be my guest at LAUNCH Festival) 

 

I’ve been hosting my Launch Festival for six years now, with the goal of making the most supportive and joyful startup event in the world for fellow founders.

We’ve had amazing startups launch, including Yammer, Powerset, Mint, Space Monkey, Dropbox, Docstoc, Brilliant.org, Boxbee, FitBit, RedBeacon, AdStage and Swipe.

In this, our seventh year, I’d like to offer a free pass to the event:

UPDATE: "Gift to the industry" tickets are sold out!

Passes can still be purchased here: http://launch.ticketleap.com/launch-festival-2014/dates

Details: http://festival.launch.co

 

Why?

---------------------------

When I started in the industry in my 20s, I didn’t have a pot to piss in and was a ‘little rough around the edges’ – I was so lucky to have folks like Esther Dyson, Kara Swisher, John Battelle, Tim O'Reilly and (most of all) John Brockman include me in their events.

These events led to me rubbing elbows with Evan Williams, Yossi Vardi, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Ted Leonsis, Steve Case, Mark Cuban and countless other luminaries. Some of them became good friends and/or critical business contacts.

Now I’m trying to pay it forward for the 40+ startups that will launch onstage, the 150 that will be at demo tables, and the thousands of founders and technologists who maybe don’t have the budget yet to come to a world-class conference.

LAUNCH Festival is my legacy and I want as many folks to experience it as possible.

We had 6,000 people sign up last year and this year we hope to have 8,000 (stretch goal FTW!). This makes us the largest startup conference in the world – by far.


How are we able to do this?

---------------------------

First, we have premium tickets for sale that we upsell folks on. Second, we have the massive support of so many friends in the industry who sponsor the $1M+ budget of the event.  

Also, sometimes I lose money on the event.

We couldn’t do these sorts of crazy things without the support of our partners – whom I thank from the bottom of my heart:

* wsgr | SOMA (http://wsgr.com)

* Ludlow Ventures (http://ludlowventures.com)

* DFJ (http://dfj.com)

* MailChimp (http://mailchimp.com)

* Microsoft Ventures (http://microsoftventures.com)

* MicroVentures (http://microventures.com)

* Sequoia (http://sequoiacap.com)

* Yammer (http://yammer.com)

* Autodesk (http://autodesk.com)

* .CO (http://go.co)

* Expedia (http://expedia.com)

* Hotwire PR (http://hotwirepr.com)

* Instaradio (http://instaradio.com)

* Sourcebits (http://sourcebits.com)

* Ticketleap (http://ticketleap.com)

* Traklight (http://traklight.com)

* Zelkova Ventures (http://zelkovavc.com)

 

If you would like to add your name to the growing list of folks supporting the LAUNCH Festival, just email me at jason@launch.co.

We’re 35% of the way to budget, and with the support of the industry we’ll get there together.

It’s going to be an amazing week (three days for the Hackathon, three days for the Festival) - please join me.

 

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