Allen Nance

Tech Square Labs in Atlanta : Your Questions Answered

Tech Square Labs in Atlanta : Your Questions Answered? (OK, the SEO part is done, lol) I can know refer to it as TechSquare Labs.  You’ve got questions, and I hope to answer most of them, but the real answers will only come over the next decade.

Tech_Square_Labs_LOGO_negative

What is TechSquare Labs?

Everyone immediately wants to put it into a box, why, that is how our brains work, and honestly, that is part of the entire problem.  Stop comparing it to everything in Atlanta that you know because that is what makes you feel comfortable, there is an entire world out there.  If you need an analogy because it makes you feel more comfortable, then look at FireSpotter or BetaWorks.  TechSquare Labs is a “company-building studio”, why those words, because it is “not” about money, or a desk, or free-lunch fridays, all those things are great, I like money, I need a desk of some kind, and although I have enough experience to know there is “no, free-lunch”, I will keep sponsoring Startup Chowdown at Atlanta Tech Village (why), because its the right thing to do.  Think of TechSquare Labs simply as this “a place that is focused on fewer things, that have a core technology at the center, that believes in “technical founders” leading their companies, and we would rather fail big going big than stay in business”.

Why TechSquare Labs?

I’ve been studying the scaling of businesses for some time.  I keep asking myself, over and over, why are all the industry leading technology companies started in other cities, why not Atlanta?  Why is Atlanta the place that creates really good little(ish) businesses that other people buy?  I looked in the mirror, I looked at the businesses I’ve invested in, and I started meeting with every single person I could who had scaled a large enterprise, think “Billion Dollar + Exits” (again, please don’t list the three people in Atlanta you can think of, yes I’ve met with them, but also think outside of that).  I would ask them simply, walk me through the process, what did you do?  Bottom line, investing in general is difficult, investing in venture(ish) deals is scary, and investing in early stage deals is almost impossible.  However, every single person said the same things: “invest in core technology that is defensible, invest in brilliant people, invest in huge markets, and be ready to raise money to scale quickly and take a leadership position in the market”.  I then looked at myself, and my early stage investments and asked, how can I invest like that?

Where is TechSquare Labs and Why?

Do you seriously not know where Technology Square is?  The real question I guess is why there, I live in Buckhead, why not just roll over to Atlanta Tech Village and invest?  It is because of what I said before, my primary interest is investing to create a technology pillar, a market leader, a company that other companies build businesses around.  If the primary goal is to invest in core technology that is defensible, I just believe that is far more likely to come out of Georgia Tech than Buckhead, could it come out of Buckhead, of course, but be honest, it is simply “more” likely to be down on campus.  I love breakfast at WhiteHouse, or OK Cafe, etc, but honestly that is not what I am looking to invest in, some powerpoint (or if they are really hip, Keynote) that someone walks me through.  I know what you are thinking, that is exactly how I started my first business, but hold on, that is my entire point,  I didn’t start my business to be a big, meaningful, valuable company (that would transform an entire market).  I should have, but I didn’t.  (Let’s be clear, I love Atlanta Tech Village, every time I go over there, I tell David I would love to work there some day, but this is not about that, it is about what is it going to take to invest in, and seed a transformative technology pillar.)

What is TechSquare Labs focused on?

TechSquare Labs is focused on “Working with Technical Founders to Create Something from Nothing”.  Please take this statement literally and don’t turn it into incubator, co-working, ATDC, Atlanta Technology Village, Hypepotamus, or whatever other thing someone opens or starts.  I like all those things, places, people, etc.  Here is the wonderful thing about being an entrepreneur – go work on what you want to work on, and what you are passionate about.  I’ve become completely obsessed with how Facebook won, Twitter pivoted, Uber happened, Square wasn’t started in Atlanta, and I could keep going on and on – but these are all fairly recent (this same story has played out 2 or 3 other times over the last 50 years).  TechSquare Labs is going to work with “technical founders, developers, coders, engineers, and stone cold hackers”.  Please don’t take that as we hate your business idea if you have a powerpoint slide, there are lots of places you can take that.  We truly believe in “builders leading and building their businesses”.  If you want to meet with TechSquare Labs you’ve got to be a hacker and be ready we want “you” to build your business.

How the “f” did you get Paul to partner with you?

OK, admit it, you skipped down to this question.  I pursued Paul, I chased him like a giddy school boy.  I am not ashamed to say that.  You didn’t! That is your problem.  I studied the market, this was no accident.  I asked myself a simple question, who do I know that is “a stone cold hacker, has scaled a business, raised money, had both success and failure, and is a natural born leader” – Dr. Paul Judge.  Another interesting thing lead me to Paul, I am sitting having drinks with Adam Ghetti (yes, we drink often together), and I start asking him what he thinks.  Adam is completely honest with me, “Allen, people love you, BUT, (ok I thought, here it comes) these stone cold hackers won’t follow you, they just won’t”.  Adam and I have that kind of friendship, dude will straight drop a mic on my head.  My first reaction, are you crazy, then about two seconds later, I thought, how many truly brilliant technical founders have approached me, then I bust out laughing (not many).  Joe Reger immediately popped to mind at Springbot, but that relationship was built over a decade.  So I committed to doing two things: 1.  Teach myself to code.  2.  Find a Partner that was Technical.

More importantly, seriously, how “f” did you get the @TechSquare handle?

Are you nuts, I am not telling you.  But come on, the name is “banging” admit it!  Go follow the twitter handle, I know you can’t wait: @TechSquare.

Summary:

I have blogged about, spoken about, and complained about “going big”.  #GoBig.  Investing is not something new for Paul or I, neither is betting on great leaders, trying to help, picking up the phone and making an introduction, or sharing an idea over breakfast, none of this new.  We’ve been doing it.  This is really a more focused, deliberate, organized vehicle to do it.  I am thrilled that people are interested, I would simply ask that  you not try to make TechSquare Labs what you want it to be to fit your idea that you are working on, well, I guess you can, but it won’t work.  Lastly, if you are interested in showing something to TechSquare Labs, visit the website: www.techsquare.co, fill out the form and schedule a time (but) be ready, be a stone cold hacker, and show something!

Surfing as a Metaphor for Life

Surfing as a metaphor for life?  What do you think?  If you are expecting that perfect photo of me up on a surf board this must be the first time you have read my blog (welcome, and thank you).  For the rest of you, please find attached a photo of me completely busting, wiping out, and almost drowning.  My new obsession with surfing will serve as today’s Monday Motivation.  Don’t laugh, I had a zen(ish) experience while surfing.

Allen Falling

It got me thinking, is surfing a good metaphor for life?  Like life, surfing is extremely difficult.  Like life, it is frustrating, but, the water feels amazing.  Like life, there is a pecking order, don’t get mad, there is a pecking order, if you don’t realize that you need to read this blog more often.  Like life, it requires unbelievable balance.  And lastly, and most importantly, like life, the more risk you take, the greater the reward.

What I noticed about surfing:

- Just like in life and/or business, if you stay by the shore anyone can surf.

- Just like in life and/or business, everyone can see the wave that has already broken.

- Just like in life and/or business, who doesn’t want the great photo (even if it requires a little photoshopping).

- Just like in life and/or business, those that venture out into deep water gain the respect of those that went before them.

Surfing is one of the hardest things I have ever worked at learning.  Day one, was a breeze, you are by the shore (hell my feet touched the ground), I got on the board the second time I tried.  As I spent the day riding waves that had already broken, I started watching the other surfers.  What I realized was that there was an order to the waves.  Near the shore, the tourists (yes, I was one of them).  Just a bit further out, a group of people who could actually surf, but they couldn’t see a wave coming.  Then out beyond the initial curls, where the water was actually flat, the real surfers.

So day two, the instructor asks me “want to go out there”.  I knew exactly what he was asking, and what I learned is absolutely a metaphor for life.  First things first, at various times we all get asked “want to go out there”, only a few say yes.  Secondly, just paddling out to deep water is hard, you’ve got to be in good shape and have the right technique.  Thirdly, when you are in deep water, you better listen and pay attention.  Lastly, you will fall, and fall hard, but there is a catch, there is less people in deep water, those out there respect that you are trying, if you listen, and pay attention, you can succeed.  What do I think about surfing as a metaphor for life?  Just about perfection.  Sure the shore line is safer.  Paddling out into deep waters should be hard.  I love that there is less people out there.  Just like in life (or business) I love seeing the wave before it breaks.  I’m completely fine with falling, falling hard, and paddling back out.

Funny Friday: What is Culture? Really.

What is Culture? Really.  TGIF not because the weekend is here, but because I am flying home from a road trip and decided to write a Funny Friday blog post.  Its been a long week, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, back to Atlanta.  Somehow I keep thinking that the West Coast is 3 hours away, it isn’t.  (this is an inside joke).  This week’s trip was both tiring and energizing (if you don’t understand that, I am sorry, I can’t explain it to you, just close your browser).

company-culture-cartoon

I keep hearing, “Your workplace is your ecosystem, if you get the culture right, everything else falls into place”. 

- Make sure your team members wear headphones (expensive ones) and don’t talk to each other.

- Interrupt people and ask them about “washing machines”.

- Get bean-bag chairs, ping pong tables, and in-house massages.

- Pay people to quit.  $10 Starbucks gift cards seems a bit much.

- Challenge assumptions and think about deeper goals.  Why do we wash our clothes?

- Only hire people with humble shoes.

I had a great opportunity to meet two new team members in the WhatCounts seattle office this week, I can’t wait to ask them about their washing machines, and give them their Starbucks gift card (the good thing is the office is directly ontop of a Starbucks).  I can confirm they both had on humble shoes, they did into the club, and I am a bouncer.

Parenting Wisdom for Dudes

Parenting wisdom for dudes?  Get ready.  Today is Wisdom Wednesday.  Quick aside, I am really enjoying this new format, sure it is only day three, but funny how when I follow my own advice of a content calendar it is more enjoyable and productive (stop laughing).  Wednesdays are all about exploring and sharing tidbits of wisdom.  I like the word wisdom, why, it confuses people.  To me wisdom is simple: it is knowledge grounded on experience (don’t look for that in Wikipedia).

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 8.29.00 PM

I found a year’s worth of parenting wisdom for dudes: 

- You will be a different parent every morning to a child who will also be different, sometimes changing in just hours, or minutes, or before your eyes.

- Children are drawn to the things we parents fear: high places, water, wandering far away, dangerous sharp tools.

- Every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and … it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.

- A little bit of control goes a long way toward feeling happy. Let your kids choose their outfits. Allow them to choose the dinner menu one night per week. Ask them what classes they want to take. Give them the opportunity to make some decisions and watch them smile in return.

- If you pay attention, kids will teach you how to laugh loudly, how to love deeply and how to live fully. They will also ruin all your stuff.

I will stop there, take a look through the rest of the list, there are some really good reminders in there.  For those that “really” know me, you know, I have two cool ass kids, they go to the boxing gym with me, they come to boring speaking engagements with me,  and as of tonight, I learned, one of them reads my blog.  The reason I decided to share this tidbit of parenting wisdom (specifically with the dudes) is that tonight my oldest daughter read my blog and made a comment on it, when the comment popped through on my email, I promise you, my head exploded.  I was mentally, physically, and emotionally blown away.  I was quickly reminded that “she is paying attention to what I do, what I say, and how I act, and clearly what I write”.  So a final bit of wisdom for dudes out there, “your daughter needs you as a role model for how she should be treated by boys and men”.  

2014 the Year of Snapchats

2014 the Year of Snapchats?  It’s Trend Tuesday, so let’s talk about a big trend that everyone is predicting for 2014.  For the last decade millions (maybe billions) of people have shared almost anything about themselves online.  That bad photo, that drunk photo, that half clothed photo, and maybe the crazy 140 character rant.  Sure some people have gotten fired, a bunch of you haven’t gotten a job offer and didn’t know why (check your Facebook – the company did) but, we keep posting, we keep sharing, seriously some people called 2013 the Year of the Selfie.

27LETTERS-articleLarge

What is Anonymity worth?  Uh.  Say, $2 Billion, maybe $4 Billion!

- Behaviors around “sharing” anything on social networks is changing (fast)

- High profile data breaches (such as Target) scare people, make them think

- Initial social media users are maturing into working (young) adults

So, the Tuesday Trend, anonymity on the Internet will take hold driven by millions of people changing their sharing behaviors, millions more monitoring and deleting online profiles due to concerns over data breaches, and yes, the “first social generation” is growing up.  Why do you think insurance magically gets cheaper at 25 years of age (because) people magically get smarter!  Do you have a Snapchat account?  If not, don’t worry, this idea of disappearing content (anonymity) will become a feature.

Facebook 10 Year Anniversary

Facebook 10 Year Anniversary – crazy right.  I know.  So it is Monday and the theme is Motivation.  I started thinking about where I was 10 years ago and when I first heard of Facebook and created an account.  I love stories like Facebook for several reasons.  First and foremost, say what you want, but Facebook has changed the world and become a household name (brand).  Secondly, they were not first, there is no reason why everyone isn’t saying, “yo, hit me on Myspace”.  Lastly, they created thousands and thousands of jobs while doing it.

zuckerberg

Let’s take a quick summary look at Facebook:

- October 2003 a few Harvard students launch Facemash

- February 2004 Mark Zuckerberg launches www.thefacebook.com

- October 2005 Facebook allows users to upload and store unlimited “photos”

- September 2006 Facebook opens up and allows anyone to join

- September 2006 Facebook turns down a $1 Billion dollar offer from Yahoo

- September 2006 Facebook moves beyond just profiles and launches the News Feed

- May 2007 Facebook opens up its Platform to developers

- December 2009 Facebook turns a profit on over $700 Million in revenue

- May 2012 Facebook goes public

- October 2012 Facebook hits 1 Billion users

Have you ever heard the saying, “ten year over night success”.  As an entreprenuer I find it funny that so many people focus on the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is a billionaire, why do I find that funny, well, he is a billionaire because he changed the world, made tough decisions, created thousands of jobs, hundreds of millionaires, several other billionaires, and his company grew 68% over the last twelve months.  Are you motivated?  It is possible.  Someone recently asked Mark in an interview, “why did Facebook work”, his answer, “we just cared more”.

Relaunch Your Blog with a Super Bowl Ad

Relaunch your blog with a super bowl ad?  How cool would that be…admit it, you thought for a quick second that I was running a super bowl ad.  Well, not exactly but I have been humbled by all the inquires as to “where is your blog?”  Great question.  When I launched this blog in June of last year I was fully committed to being unique, authentic, and not sucking.  I took a long hard look at not only other blogs in Atlanta, but other well written blogs and measured myself against them.

Im-not-a-player-I-just-blog-a-lot

I quickly realized that without a content calendar, thematic, and direction, my writing started moving in a circle.  Every 4-5 blog posts I would find myself back at the same place.  I am not happy with that.  My goal for this blog is to deliver a unique perspective, that is 100% authentic, and doesn’t suck (ever).  So I gave myself a month to do research, develop a content strategy, and a clear direction.

I decided on a Monday – Friday schedule following these broad areas of focus:

Monday is Motivation

Motivation is an inner drive to behave or act in a certain manner. “It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day.”  These inner conditions such as wishes, desires and goals, activate to move in a particular direction in behavior.

Tuesday is Technology

Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.  The human species’ use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools.

Wednesday is Wisdom

Wisdom implies a possession or seeking of knowledge of the given circumstances. This involves an understanding of people, things, events and situations, and the willingness and the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with an understanding of what is the correct course of actions.

Thursday is Trends

The general direction in which something tends to move.   A general tendency or inclination.  Current style; vogue.

Friday is Funny

People of all ages and cultures respond to humor. The majority of people are able to experience humor, i.e., to be amused, to laugh or smile at something funny, and thus they are considered to have a sense of humor. The hypothetical person lacking a sense of humor would likely find the behavior induced by humor to be inexplicable, strange, or even irrational.

I would love your feedback on my content framework: Motivation, Technology, Wisdom, Trends, and Funny.  I ended up on these five words thinking to myself, if this blog could motivate, explore technology, share a bit of wisdom, identify a trend, and make someone laugh, that clearly would not suck.  I look forward to delivering this content, receiving your feedback, and trying as hard as I can to become a better blogger.

Unemployable Entrepreneur 2013 Year in Review

Unemployable Entrepreneur is a blog that I launched on June 7th, 2013 with my very first post “Where Are you Riding Your Bike?”.  When I decided to launch a blog six months ago I was fully committed to being different, totally candid, and real, yes real.  I continue to focus on writing about things that interest me, sharing lessons, but most importantly just “keeping it real”.  The best compliments I have received this year as it relates to this blog “Unemployable Entrepreneur” is when people say “you are just like your blog”, of course I see it the other way around, “my blog is just like me, because it is real”.

iamentrepreneur-image-copy

A quick summary of 2013:

- The blog received 14,326 AUV (Absolute Unique Visitors)

- The average person visited 1.43 pages and spent 1:38 on the blog

- 63% of my visitors were new

- The most visited portion of the blog was “About”

I am actually not sure if these numbers are good, bad, or indifferent; however at least I have benchmarks for 2014.  I was a little surprised that the most visited page of the blog was the “About”; however I think it was new and people were curious, “who is this guy dropping craziness”.  I would expect this page to fall out of favor in 2014 and I hope the writing leads the way.  As far as blog posts, my five most popular posts of 2013:

1.  Atlanta Startup Community – Big Ideas Only!

2.  Did You Just Call me an Ambivert?

3.  Atlanta Why No Early Stage Venture Capital?

4.  Is Risk Tolerance Genetic?

5.  What is the Allbound Truth of the B2BCamp Keynote?

Now lets take a look into that mirror and ask, “Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the..different, candid, real, of them all?”  I am actually very proud of this blog’s first six months, but as I have always stated, greatness only comes from a willingness to be critical.  Are the numbers good, again, not sure, but I will ping a few people and ask.  Was I different, tough to answer, my initial reaction after reviewing the Top 5 posts is “not really”.  I would say 2/5 are truly different from what others are writing.  Was I candid?  Yes, I believe I removed the filter, stuck to my rule of “no real editing”, just write and publish.  Was I real?  Yes, I think this is what I am most proud of.  Putting yourself out there writing is not easy, you are exposing yourself, it is completely natural to put on a mask, filter it, and not be real – I believe that Unemployable Entrepreneur is “real” and I am proud of that.  So looking back, good job, looking forward, not good enough to be great.  So what to change?  I have to find more “unique, different” topics.  I am going to explore deeper into the motivations, fears, and skill sets of the entrepreneur.  I am done writing about startup events, and fundraising, I am committed to going beyond that in 2014.  To all who have read it, I say, thank you and I hope 2014 is amazing for you, for all those non-readers, I say…

This is How I Work

This is how I work – alright – I will participate – but – with a full disclaimer: I am actually laughing extremely hard at our lameness.  We have now started “blogging at each other” (admit it, that is funny).  I am actually thinking through who I want to ask, won’t be the usual suspects, count on it…now, read this, then I will tell you who I want to know, and see if the Atlanta community can pressure the person into responding:

YUNO_READ_MY_BLOG-570x427

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Doesn’t have to be tech.

I am simple, and minimalist in the truest definition of the word.  I use a browser of course (Chrome), I use Google Apps (all of it), Email, Calendar, Drive, Sites, Chat, Hangouts, hell I even use that translator feature.  I basically start and finish my day by simply opening up my browser which is defaulted to open my Google Apps.  The only other software I use is Evernote — and of course WordPress to power my blog that no one reads.

(Bonus) What apps are on your phone home screen right now?
In order on my iThingy, this one actually is kinda interesting, it speaks to what someone does: Messages, Calendar, Photos, Delta App, Camera, Spotify, Echofon, Uber, Facetime, Google Maps, Ness, Weather, Evernote, LinkedIN, Trunk Club, and lastly AirBnB.  Ha.  So basically I message people, manage my travel schedule, listen to music, don’t drive, eat out, take notes, connect with people, order clothes, and stay in strange people’s homes.

What’s your workspace like?
OK, this one is easy.  I don’t really have one.  It is basically my computer.  I travel so much.  I had the big fancy office in Atlanta, many of you have visited me in it, well, WhatCounts grew, so that fancy office is now a fun/hangout/meeting room – the view is still rocking.  I do have a home office with a standup desk, but mainly my workspace is simple, clean, only digital.  I don’t keep paper, at all.  It is my laptop and my backpack.  My laptop is a Macbook Air, my backpack is old, I need a new one — “Whatup Santa”.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Time-saving trick(s).  I manage my email like a to-do-list.  Think Inbox Zero, but mainly I work my inbox.  I use ScheduleOnce to manage meeting requests, this one is a big time saver.  I’ve even found that clients enjoy it.  Lastly, each month I audit my schedule and ask myself “should I have been in that meeting”, if the answer is no, I go back to the meeting organizer and discuss it with them.  After years of doing this, basically I am in a morning checkin, product, client, and prospect meetings.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I use my inbox to manage my daily activities, if I think of something I need to do, I actually email myself.  I use Evernote to run the morning check-in.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I’m not really a gadget person.  It is just another thing I will lose.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I love how everyone is being humble on this one.  I will straight up say, I can explain something that doesn’t exist using words that paints a picture that everyone can see.  I use words to bring vision to life better that anyone (or at least most).

What do you listen to while at work?
Finally a serious question: I listen to music non-stop, while walking, ubering, and yes working.  Mostly I listen to old school rap.

What are you currently reading?
I don’t read a lot of books.  I mostly read the Internet, Whitepapers, and Blogs.  I do read daily, but I’ve never been a big book reader.  Right now I am reading a whitepaper on rebranding best practices.

Are you an introvert or an extravert?
I’ve blog about this.  I am an ambivert.  Let’s be clear, this question is about energy flow, not about “are you outgoing?”.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Strange.  I either don’t sleep or I sleep 14 hours.  Seriously, here is the deal, I travel and work so much that I’ve always believed I can sleep later.  My pattern seems to be I get 4-6 hours regularly and then every week or two I will sleep 10 hours + one night.  Last night I went to sleep around 10 pm and woke up around 9 am.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Let’s go with Tom Noonan!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Real leaders are not super stars, they create super stars.

Is there anything else you want to add?
I made fun of us blogging at each other, but I love that we work in a community of “sharers”.  How cool is that.

Mobile Phones on Planes : Good or Bad?

Mobile phones on planes – good or bad?  Today’s post is really more of a question for my every growing “bloggaratzi” (ha, please laugh, I spent 10 minutes figuring out how I wanted to spell that).  What do you think, you are sitting on a plane, would it bother you if I was on a conference call sitting right next to you that was not going well, and I was trying to control a meeting via teleconference at 30,000 feet.  Generally speaking almost everything I have read seems to point to the fact that the general consumer hates this idea.  Of course the various companies that stand to gain (make money) believe this is an amazing idea.

cell-phone-airplane-etiquette1

Do we end up with a “Calling Class”, a section of the plane that allows you to be on your phone.  The only real example I can point to is the “train ride from Washington DC up to NYC”. they have a “quite car”, and let me tell you, if you are not quite, you will get your a** kicked.

Here is a good overview of the situation:

The F.C.C. has been exploring the idea of letting people use cellphones on planes for many years. In 2007, the agency held an internal review to discuss overturning the rule, but with a lack of funding to test the safety aspects of the change, the exploration was shelved.

Technically, how does this even work? I lose cell signals on my phone above 10,000 feet.

The airlines would fit a device called a picocell to the bottom of a plane. The device acts like a giant booster for cellular signals. Picocells are essentially tiny cellular base stations, much like your Wi-Fi hotspot at home, which typically cover relatively small areas, like an airplane.

I am on a plane right now, writing this blog, and I freely admit I am completely addicted to my iThingy – BUT –  I am still not in favor of 200 people in a tube flying moving 400 miles per hour at 30,000 feet talking on the phone.  What do you think?

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.