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Stretch Goals Are Important (Or WizzyWig Won $100k in 48 Hours at a Hackathon)

[ Summary: Stretch goals are important, and the ones we set for the first LAUNCH Hackathon this past March resulted in a team of three unknown 20-somethings from Pittsburgh building a killer product in 48 hours, landing over $100k in investment on the spot and later earning a slot at a prestigious accelerator. On November 8-10 we host LAUNCH Hackathon 2 with stretch goals of 1k *actual* developers, $250k in investment prizes and five teams funded or accepted to accelerators. ]   

At some point 10 years ago I overheard the buzzword ‘stretch goals’ and it stuck in my brain.

It might have been from an ex who was at Harvard Business School, or from reading Jack Welch.

Stretch goals, as far as I understand them, are lofty goals that you set even though you have no idea how to reach them at the time.

My Three Stretch Goals

Last year I started setting stretch goals for myself and my kick-ass teams.

Three notable ones at LAUNCH:

a) the largest startup technology conference / hit 5k attendees for the 2013 LAUNCH Festival
b) the largest hackathon with 300 *real* participants
c) the largest hackathon prize ever

Well, we had 6k folks come to the LAUNCH Festival in March, resulting in folks coming to me for the past six months saying, ‘That was amazing! It was huge!’ We blew past the stretch goal by 20%. Wow.

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The Unbearable Wearable: Google Glass is Brilliant, Loathsome and Not Inevitable (or "Take Those off before I Punch You in the Face!") 

@Scobleizer's infamous Google Glass photo, which his wife took at their home.

I’ve run into several friends wearing Google Glass in the past three months, and I have three words of advice for them:

Take. Them. Off.

First, you look like an idiot.

Second, you’re killing the party.

Third, are you recording me right now?!?

First Encounter: “Are You Recording Right Now?”

The first time I ran into these magical devices in the wild was at a conference. A fairly notable person walked up to me wearing them.

I asked, “How do I know if you’re recording me?”  

“You don’t!” he replied before correcting himself. “Well, I wouldn’t do that without telling you.”

“But how do I know? I’m not really comfortable with trusting folks to be recording me or not. I mean, how do we have a real, honest discussion if I don’t know if you’re recording it?” I offered.

“Well, you might be able to see me turn the camera on... See, you have to click to record,” he replied.  

So I’m supposed to just trust every person wearing these that they’re not recording me.

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LAUNCH Education & Kids 2013: Winners, Videos, All Presenting Companies Are Here

[ LAUNCH founder Jason Calacanis's fireside chat with entrepreneur/investor Mitch Kapor before a packed house. Photo by Philip Szeto. ]

We were awed and inspired by the 500+ educators, entrepreneurs and developers who joined us for our 2nd annual LAUNCH Education & Kids event at Microsoft's Mountain View campus June 26-27.

You'll find the startup demos and investor panels on our YouTube channel here.
[ Fireside chats with entrepreneur/investor Mitch Kapor, Lynda Weinman of and Daphne Koller of Coursera coming this summer as episodes of "This Week in Startups." ]

All 20 companies (with contact info) are in this spreadsheet. The 2013 agenda is here.

@Jason announced that the new LAUNCH Fund will seek to invest in three startups from this event (pending due diligence): LocoMotive Labs, STEAM Carnival & Kidaptive.  

The 2013 LAUNCH Education & Kids Winners:
- Best in Show (Overall Winner): Kidaptive  (entertaining and adaptive content that helps children learn)
- Most Impactful: CK-12 Foundation  (free, high-quality open content in the STEM subjects)
- Best Presentation: STEAM Carnival  (re-imagining the carnival with robots, fire and lasers)
- Best Hardware [ tie ]: Roominate (wired dollhouse building kit for girls ages 6+) and Linkbots (modular robotic, brings project from idea to working prototype)
- Best Technology: GuitarBots  (makes guitar learning fun and motivating)
- Best Design: LocoMotive Labs  (apps to empower kids with special needs)
- Audience Favorite: STEAM Carnival

Big thanks to this year's LAUNCH Education & Kids lead sponsor Pearson as well as sponsors Mandrill, StudyMode, LittleBits and UCSF.

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HackADay Looking for a New Home, an awesome maker community, is looking for a new home

tl;dr: HackADay is a passionate community of hackers doing awesome stuff. It deserves more attention than I can give it right now, as I’m ultra-focused on the launch of So, we’re looking for a caring new owner with a stellar track record of not f@#$ing up brands to take it over.   


We created HackADay back in 2004 because one of Engadget’s awesome bloggers, Phil Torrone, wanted to do super-geeky projects every day and the Engadget audience wasn’t exactly into that frequency.

In a phone call with PT I said, “So you want to do a hack a day?”

He was like, “Yeah, a hack a day.”

And I was like, “OK, let’s do”

When we sold Weblogs Inc. to AOL, we took HackADay out of the deal because it was doing stuff that a corporate parent’s legal arm might not feel comfortable with (e.g., hacking cable boxes!).

So, I bought it and kept it safe and warm inside of for the past couple of years. However, since I’m super focused on the launch, I need to find a new home for it.

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WLITF: Private Jets for the Masses -- A Surf Air Review

Surf Air uses the Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12 for its flights [ photo courtesy of Pilatus Aircraft ].

As part of my ‘we live in the future’ series, here’s a review of an unlimited private jet service for everyone.*

*And by jet I mean turboprop, and by everyone I mean upper-middle-class people.

Also, I talk about the 'instant economy' and the concept of 'implied odds' (from poker) as it relates to taking on big challenges like Surf Air is doing (the 'what if it works' section).  

Took a Surf Air flight today (gratis), as I'm considering a membership to the 'all you can fly' service.

It's day 16 of Surf Air's 'beta.' I’m writing this on my Blackberry Q10. Yeah, the new Blackberry with the keyboard. It’s awesome. Not kidding, I love having a keyboard.

Surf Air currently operates between the tiny San Carlos airport in the Bay Area and Burbank in the Los Angeles area. They're going to add a bunch of cities to the membership including Santa Barbara (July 10), San Diego and Lake Tahoe.

It's $1,650 a month for unlimited travel between their cities, plus a $500 one-time initiation fee.

My four to six monthly Southwest flights to the Valley make it almost a 'push' for me, as I pay $199 to $250 each way on average. If I do five flights, 2.5 round trips, I would nearly break even.

Now, as a disclaimer, I don't like small planes. I can handle a small jet, but puddle jumpers and turboprop/regional airlines are not my thing.

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