Building a city like a startup: Las Vegas

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I’m writing this post from a bright, beautiful condo courtesy of the Downtown Project in Las Vegas, Nevada. You know, sin city? The city that is known for strippers, the Wolfpack, & other cliché characters. I planned my trip here to take the Zappos tour and meet with some of the Startup Weekend community members. I was excited to meet the people but I certainly was not looking forward to the loud sounds of slot machines and tourists wearing fanny packs. Within three hours of stepping foot in Vegas, I realized my preconceived notions were completely wrong.

An Investment in People

On day one, I began with a tour of Downtown Las Vegas. This is not the strip, Elvis doesn’t take your photo, and good luck feeling like a tourist. One of Tony Hsieh’s many ideas, The Downtown Project, is hand crafting a community based on collaboration and creativity. I had read the stories and retweeted the #vegastech related pieces but I had never stepped foot in it until this week. The tour started in Tony’s actual apartment which is seemingly a direct extension of the Zappos office. A representative from the project overwhelmed me with knowledge and ten minutes later, I got it. The excitement in the plans translated into my own system. This is a hugely ambitious project but it’s working. The downtown portion of Las Vegas has been in dispair since the 1950’s. But now, the streets are filled with people eager to change the game of Vegas. Continue reading

Do you really need a receptionist?

KEVINHiring and firing is an often controversial topic. Feelings are involved and you are ultimately reaching into someone’s bank account and saying, “No more money for you!” It is a hard process to process. When interviewing candidates, you are trying not to judge them yet isn’t that exactly what you’re doing? Of course there are state laws and regulations that come with questions you can’t ask. There is a fine line between asking too much and not enough. But before you even shake their hand on that first interview, your company should ask themselves, “do we really need a __________?” Continue reading

How Much Money Do You Make?

spare changeI’m annoyed. I’m annoyed with a question I’ve been asked lately. The question is this, “But do you make money?” Upon hearing that I have started my own business, many friends, family, and strangers ask me the above question. Or my favorite, “But where do you really work?”

Being the aspiring entrepreneur that I am, it’s hard to answer such heavy questions. I have a day job that pays the bills. I work for a mid-size startup based out of Indy called New Ink and I recently started Spontaneous Combustion. I am also in the process of creating a program that teaches entrepreneurship methods to young students.

That is a lot to unload on someone when they ask, “What do you do?” Sometimes, I want to lie and simply answer, “I work in sales.” It’d be so easy. I wouldn’t get that look of confusion because they see what I am doing as crazy or stupid.

Sure, my day job may financially support most of my means. But it is a basic necessity that I must have before my other ventures take off. I am too committed to New Ink, Spontaneous Combustion, & my other projects to just put them on hold until I am financially ready. The fact is, I may never be in a financial position where I can only focus on unique projects. So if I wait until my day job is over for the day, I’ll never see my entrepreneur goals take flight. Or worse, if I stay with my day job forever. Continue reading

Self-Inflicted Humor

PitchItQuick post tonight! I stumbled upon this hilarious fake pitch site, NonStartr. A lot of people in the startup world like to merge existing ideas in order to help others understand it. It’s not wrong but it can sometimes be redundant or in this case, so so funny. Check it out and create your own. I will probably stay up all night generating my own and screen grabbing them to share with everyone.

Startup Weekend Bloomington

Some of you may not think of Indiana when you think of innovation or startups. Maybe you just think of basketball and corn? While we do enjoy a nice serving of corn while watching the Hoosiers, we also have quite the hotbed of entrepreneurs. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. This weekend, Indiana hosted two separate Startup Weekends: South Bend & Bloomington. This wasn’t the first time either. Big things are happening from the northern tip of Indiana, through the center of Indianapolis, all the way down to my hometown of Evansville. The spirit of entrepreneurship is not a new one but it is finally being recognized from the other guys. It’s beautiful.

I was honored to be one of the mentors at Startup Weekend Bloomington on the Indiana University campus this weekend. Thanks Matt & Jess! It was strange to return to the campus since my first visit at the age of 16. At the time, I had high hopes of attending the school but ended up applying elsewhere. Also strange to return to a Startup Weekend as a mentor and not an attendee. It was a karate chop to my old life plan and a nice one too! Continue reading

Startups: Silicon Valley

No, I do not work in a massively funded startup. No, I do not live in Silicon Valley. No, I do not wear Chanel earrings. Therefore, the rest of this may be irrelevant. But, I do not care. I have procrastinated the viewing of Randi Zuckerberg’s Startups: Silicon Valley on the Bravo channel for a few weeks.

I love startups. I am in one. I help people start them and I help people learn about them. However, this show is atrocious. This show is a disrespectful piece of entertainment that’s sole purpose is to create revenue and display the intelligent “women in tech” as dumb and dramatic. Besides the fact that the show clearly focuses on the actors’ social lives, there is little talk about real startups. I believe I watched episode two or three and they perhaps aired about 10 minutes of real work. A few “investor meetings” ended poorly and  alluded to a cute rooftop pool party. Blue swim trunks were involved. Continue reading

The Story of Womp Mobile

Do you find yourself browsing a website on your mobile device that seems to be lacking something? Perhaps it just looks bland and uninspiring? From a user standpoint, it is an immediate turnoff. Womp Mobile is fixing this problem.

I recently  sat down with Womp Mobile Founder, Madison Miner, and talked about how his idea of informing friends about ski reports has turned into something much more. By sat down, I mean he was sitting in Washington and I was sitting in Indiana. But, as we all know Skype knows no distance.

The Womp Mobile Story

In 2005, Madison was toying with the idea of scraping websites for certain chunks of information. He created a program that aggregated weather reports from websites and gave it a home. He found his friends were constantly waking up early in order to scan various sites in order to get their information. Madison watched his idea become quite popular within his community of Bellingham, Washington. Then, he realized this service could be utilized for more than just ski reports based on weather conditions. Continue reading

My Day at Startup Weekend HQ

After nearly sneaking through the back door in downtown Seattle, I had entered the building. I walked up the stairs that were filled with funny Startup Weekend-esque posters, photos, & memorabilia. Then, the open loft style office was there. I almost felt like I shouldn’t be there but hell, Claire said I could! They said hello at different times and I felt at home. The space alone was just so cool. So freaking cool.

They welcomed me like an old friend and said I could talk to whomever and basically do whatever I wanted. Did this mean I could move into the office? I didn’t ask. But, I began talking to the Communications Manager, Claire Topalian. She had originally written small piece about my own Startup Weekend experience on their blog. Her and I chatted for a bit then she showed me around the small but efficient office. Lots of green and lots of quirkiness which means it was fantastic. Continue reading

A Word on Millennials Getting Shit Done…

Some have said that my generation (Generation IDGAF, GenY, or The Millenials) are mindless consumers that run on iPhones.  While some of that logic may be true, I think there is something much greater going on.  Somehow, I think my generation has surprised the world a bit.  Most people who remember the blurry days before the Internet began, were assumed to be slackers by the time we hit our 25th birthdays.  But something happened, we took all the cords, all the apps, and all the ideas and have made them real.

I am seriously proud of what the ladies and gentlemen my age have created.  Sure, some of us may have five small jobs instead of one full time job.  Some work in their pajamas all day yet make more capital than someone clocking in forty hours a week.  Often, we hear the saying, “When one door closes…” I have seen countless examples of Millenials knocking down that damn door before it even closes.  The millenial mantra seems to be “I’ll just do it myself.”  This applies to the workplace more than anything else.  People are no longer waiting around on jobs and running around town with hardcopies of their resumes.  To be frank, we are getting shit done.

I may be sounding very self-aborbed but since I am under thirty, you are probably not surprised.  It is only because I am a keen observer of the shift happening right now.  My generation has become so self-sufficiant that we are not looking for someone to hand us a job.  We’re not looking to be handed anything.  Sure, the job rates are ridiculous but that hasn’t slowed us down.  Often, we are creating jobs for ourselves and for others through innovation ways.  If there is a gap in an industry, we are finding ways to fill it. Continue reading