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Boulder, the World’s Most Creative City: Where I’ll Be Next Week @NewCo

By - November 11, 2015

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Boulder is the world’s most creative city, according to a recent study highlighted in Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class – Revisted, so it makes perfect sense that NewCo Boulder has a plethora of extraordinary companies to visit during NewCo Boulder, coming to town November 18-19.

Boulder is also home to sovrn Holdings, a company I chair (it was spun out of Federated Media last year), so I get to visit regularly – and that’s quite a treat. It’s the home of well known VCs Foundry Group, TechStars, and as you might expect, no shortage of creative cannabis startups.

Choosing is never easy, but here’s where I’ll be during NewCo Boulder:

Wednesday, Nov. 18th

5.00 pm – VIP Kickoff Dinner – Esprit Entrepreneur Awards This year our partners in Boulder are teaming up with the Boulder Chamber to both kick off NewCo and celebrate Boulder’s top innovators. It promises to be a great event!

Thursday, Nov. 19th

8.30 am – Zeal – Food for Enthusiasts. One of the most exciting categories in all NewCo cities is food – and I’m looking forward to hearing about this startups journey to “stability,” as the session description puts it. It’s an early start (they don’t waste daylight in Boulder!), so I’m hoping for some good coffee too! Wish I could have gone: SomaLogic, Google, Foundry Group. 

10.00 am – TechStars. One of the best known names in incubator/accelerators, TechStars is also a major player in the event space, and I’m eager to learn more about their plans to grow beyond their already impressive reach around the world. Wish I could have gone: IdeaForge, Made In Nature, Boulder Public Library. 

11.30 amCanopyBoulder. “The most active investor in the cannabis business.” Enough said, I’m fascinated by the legalization story unfolding in Colorado and elsewhere, and am an investor in the industry myself. So I’ll be looking to learn even more during this session. Wish I could have gone: Rapt, eTown, BlackSquare

1.00 pm – Waste to Energy Partners.  The Colorado “breakout cleantech company of the year” sounds fascinating, and is attacking a huge problem/opportunity in the sustainability ecosystem. Wish I could have gone: Watson University, Pivotal Labs, Surna. 

2.30 pm – Sanitas Brewery. Who doesn’t need a beer at this point in a long NewCo day? This artisanal brewery will include a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting. Yum! Wish I could have gone: Blow Things Up Lab, FlyteDesk, madelife. 

4.00 pm – sovrn. Of course I’ll be at sovrn! sovrn has been a leader in adtech for years, and I’m so proud of the core mission the business holds at its center: To help publishers level the playing field with data. Wish I could have gone: Drizly, Human Design, Anthem

5.30 pm –  After a very full day, it’ll be time for a drink and conversation with my fellow NewCo festival goers. See you there!

Register for NewCo Boulder here!

 

(cross-posted from NewCo site)

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Maker, Soylent, Hyperloop, USC: The Places I’ll Visit In LA Next Month

By - October 22, 2015

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(cross posted from NewCo)

Picking a schedule for a NewCo festival is an art – it takes a lot more time and thought than your average event. But it’s also fun – each session and company description has been highly curated, and I learn a lot simply by reading through the diversity of experiences that are on offer.

This year in LA there are 80+ companies to chose from. The festival runs over two days – the afternoon of Monday Nov 9th through the evening of Tuesday Nov. 10th. It wasn’t easy, but here’s where I’ll be visiting:

Monday, Nov. 9th

1.30 pmMaker Studios. Video is the hottest medium on the Internet, and the model keeps evolving, as the recent YouTube Red news illustrates. Maker is one of the most successful of the original “MCNs” and has grown past its YouTube roots into a powerhouse in all things video. I want to get behind the scenes and learn about video because NewCo will be launching video channels next year, along with its media business. I also want to see the Culver City neighborhood where Maker has its HQ – it’s home to an abundance of LA’s best entertainment startups. Wish I could go: Cross Campus, MomentFeed, Inspire Energy.

3.00 pmHired. Another selfish business reason here: I’m very interested in the recruitment field, both because NewCo is growing, but also because I sense opportunities for what we’re building as well. Hired has been on a tear lately and has a lot of buzz. I’m looking forward to seeing how the sausage is made. Wish I could go: Tradesy, Omaze, Google.

4.30 pm – USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Who knew Oculus Rift came from the lab we’ll be touring during this session? Very cool. Also, my daughter is looking at USC for college (kills me, I went to Cal…) and this is a chance to check out an innovative program at the school. Wish I could go: Factual, Homeboy Industries, NOVICA.

6.00 pm – VIP Kickoff & Reception at Dollar Shave Club Dollar Shave Club Dollar’s headquarters are really cool, and the program – featuring Dollar Shave CEO Michael Dubin and a host of other NewCo CEOs.

Tuesday, Nov. 10th

9.30 am – Hyperloop Technologies If these guys pull off what they are talking about doing, well, it’ll radically redefine long haul transportation. I want to be able to say I was there back when it was just an idea. Plus, I’ll get to meet the CEO and grok the tech behind it. Wish I could go: The LA River Revitalization Corporation, Oblong Industries, dSky.

11.00 am – Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti One of the things I love about NewCo is how the municipal governments get involved, both at the VIP kickoff and by opening their doors and talking about civic innovation. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s new at LA’s city hall.  Wish I could go: Psychic Bunny, CBRE, FEM, Inc. 

1.30 pm – Soylent. This food-replacement drink has been the subject of much derision and celebration. But it’s certainly pushing the envelope of how we think about nutrition and the role of food in society. Wish I could go:  Science, Inc., Funny or Die, Upfront Ventures.

3.00 pm – Surf Air. Another new approach to transportation – one that promises to rethink how we do shorter haul flights. We’ll get to board and tour their airplanes as well! Wish I could go: Parachute, Expert DOJO, VNTANA (another Manatt pick).

4.30 pmFlightly. I’ll admit, Flightly’s location helped me chose it (bc it’s near the meetup afterwards, and traffic is rough in LA in the afternoon!). Then again, I’ve wondered about the company ever since it was announced as Twitter’s only e-commerce integration. I’ve long thought Twitter had a huge e-commerce business lurking inside of it – and now’s my chance to hear about it from the source. Wish I could go: WeWork, onefinestay, Crowdfunder.

6.00 pm – Meetup at Boingo Wireless Boingo Wireless After seeing a dozen companies, it’ll be time for a drink and conversation with my fellow NewCo festival goers. See you there!

Register for NewCo LA here!

The Myth of Valley DoucheBaggery

By - September 09, 2015

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(Warning, loads of unabashed cursing ahead).

Everyone’s definition of what makes a person or a company “douchey” varies, but we all know ’em when we see them. Douchebag behavior is kind of like the Supreme Court definition of pornography: You know it when you see it. The very fact that the HBO series Silicon Valley can confidently parody douchey behavior  is proof we’ve at least found common ground when it comes to extreme douchebaggery.

But I think our industry culture is moving far faster than the writers at Silicon Valley might wish to believe. I think we’re seeing the rise of a new culture, one that rejects arrogance and the founder worship which breeds it. Inevitable outliers aside, the Valley and technology culture I experience every day in my work at NewCo is one of passion, sweat, earnestness, and good intentions. Sure, we all fuck up. And sure, the press (especially, not surprisingly, the press in New York) has a field day when someone does. But by and large, the teams making companies like Slack, LiveRamp, Medium, Earnest, MetroMile, Lyft, Okta, Pinterest, and hundreds more are damn fine people, and they are dedicating their lives to making something that creates positive change – a product or service that makes the world a better place (even if it’s in a small way).

You just can’t do that if you are a douchebag, or if your company culture is one of douchebaggery. The world eventually conspires against you if you’re a consistent asshole. Particularly in the times we live, where the majority of humanity believes we’re running on a climate change shot clock. When you’re facing existential threat, our tolerance for douchebaggery in the name of making more money at any cost, or screwing over others so as to secure your own fame and fortune, well, our cultural tolerance for that kind of shit goes way down. Donald Trump is the last failing breath of a dead culture, IMHO.

This shift in business culture isn’t limited to the Valley, not by a long shot. Imagine a company like McDonald’s declaring that it, as a corporate entity, it believes that climate change is created by humans? No way, right? Because at least half of its customers in the US disagree with that statement. And if those customers decide to eat somewhere else, McDondald’s would lose 20% of their worldwide profits. No way will a douchey, profit-maximizing Fortune 500 company ever make such a statement, right?

Wrong.

The people at the top of Mickey D’s aren’t stupid. They’re paid a lot of money to look into the future and figure out which way the wind blows. And they’ve come to realize that denying climate change has recently crossed the line of corporate douchebaggery.

Walmart, as I’ve written before, has also figured this out. So has Unilever, PepsiCo, and a ton of others. The times are changing: The largest force in our economy are now Millennials, and they have very clear ideas about what they want from brands they buy (they should create net positive good in society) and companies where they work (they should be driven by purpose as well as profit). This cohort will be 40% of the entire workforce in a mere four years. And the good news is twofold: They love business, but they love business on a mission even more.

No more douchey companies, please. We don’t have the time, or the patience, for them anymore.

Want proof the Bay area has amazing companies with heart? Go to NewCo SF and Oakland. 225+ extraordinary companies are opening their doors to you. Get inside and meet these teams. They’re totally not douchey. 

Where I’ll Be During NewCo SF & Oakland Next Month

By - September 08, 2015

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(cross posted from the NewCo blog)

NewCo’s San Francisco & Oakland festivals are less than a month away, and they will be our largest, most diverse events ever. More than 225 Bay area companies will be opening their doors to 3,000+ attendees. Choosing which companies to visit is a daunting task.

I’ve made my picks, but it wasn’t easy. One of the things that separates the NewCo model from many others is the time it requires to choose a schedule – our attendees select from 15+ companies for every time slot – and there are often very difficult choices to make. NewCo creates deep engagement and strong business intent by forcing these choices – it insures the group that shows up in a host company’s offices have actively chosen to be there – they come with a purpose, so to speak.

So here are my choices, with a bit on the intent behind them.

Monday, October 5th

6:00 pm  VIP Kickoff & Reception at WeWork presented by Deloitte WeWork

This is our annual kickoff event, this year featuring the CEOs of six participating NewCos. It’s nearly sold out already, so if you want to join the festivities, sign up quickly!

Tuesday, October 6th

9:30 am AltSchool 

I am a nominal advisor to AltSchool, which aims to do nothing less than revolutionize how children learn. They’ve already set up schools in the Bay area and Brooklyn, but I’ve never been to their offices. Time to change that!

Notables during this time slot: The Climate Corporation (data driven ag); SV Angel (legendary SF investor); Meadow  (medical cannabis).

11:00 am The Battery 

I’m an early member of this somewhat controversial social club; and I’ve heard all the pros and cons about exclusivity, tech bros, and the like. But my experience has been positive so far, and I know the club works hard to source diverse membership. I’m eager to see how the NewCo vibe mixes with The Battery’s zeitgeist.

Notables during this time slot: Metamarkets (big data meets insight);  TechShop San Francisco (super cool tools); Lyft (great offices!).

12:00 pm Lunch Break – Provided by Off the Grid, Sponsored by Wolff Olins 

This lunch is almost sold out, but I’ve been dreaming about an Off the Grid event at NewCo since we started three years ago. Thanks, Wolff Olins!

1:30 pm Compass Family Services/Twitter NeighborNest 

I love how Twitter has integrated direct, local community service into its working environment. I’ve never seen it in action, however, and this is my chance. Compass Family Services has been around for a very long time, and is one of NewCo’s featured community philanthropies this year.

Notables during this time slot: DarkRoom (a fun new way to communicate securely); sf.citi (an important membership org. for tech companies); ODC  (part of our arts track).

3:00 pm San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation

For three years the Mayor’s office has been part of NewCo, but I’ve never had a chance to see inside its hallowed halls. Again, time to correct that!

Notables during this time slot: Twitter (maybe they’ll have a new CEO?!); QB3@953 (premier life science incubator); The Hall (thoughtful SF development).

4:30 pm Slack Technologies 

We live on Slack here at NewCo HQ. I want to see the factory where the magic is made! (I also have a few feature ideas…)

Notables during this time slot: Westfield Labs (cool co-working and retail innovation space); Pinterest (meet Tim Kendall, head of product/ads); Alta Motors (super cool motorbikes).

6:00 pm Meetup at Bespoke 

Bespoke is Westfield’s gorgeous co-working space, in the heart of the Westfield Mall in downtown SF. Come on by for drinks, conversation, and serendipity!

Weds. Oct. 7th

9:30 am Hint Water 

Hint founder Kara Goldin lives in my neighborhood in Marin, but I’ve never seen her offices. Her story is unique and inspiring, and I can’t wait to hear her tell it in her own headquarters.

Notables during this time slot: yerdle (a new way to shop and share); One Medical Group (a new way to doc); SoFi (a new way to do finance).

11:00 am NewCo Platform 

Well I better be at this one, as I’ll be presenting, along with the whole NewCo team. This is our first ever NewCo session, as this is the first year we actually have an office. We’re in the Presidio, which is an entire track of its own as well.

Notables during this time slot: Metromile (rethinking loans); The Representation Project (inspiring films about females in society); Medium (see what Ev and Co. are up to!).

12:00 pm NewCo Lunch @ NewCo Headquarters 

We’re buying folks lunch! You’re welcome!

1:30 pm Google

Google’s SF session (they do sessions with NewCo worldwide) is on the mobile web, which is the most important question the company faces, IMHO.

Notables during this time slot: 826 Valencia (innovative writing studio); Rickshaw Bagworks (great bags, awesome founder); Kiva.org (a new way to lend to the world’s disadvantaged).

3:00 pm Airbnb

I just love the Airbnb offices, and didn’t get enough last time, so I want to go again. If you can possibly see inside this company, I highly recommend it. Super inspiring.

Notables during this time slot: Off the Grid (the folks behind the trucks!); WIRED (20+ years and going strong); Tides (seminal Bay area foundation).

4:30 pm LiveRamp

I’m on the Board of the company that bought LiveRamp, yet I’ve never seen their offices. I know their work well, and it’ll be a treat to finally see inside this industry-changing business.

Notables during this time slot: Applauze (founder Kirin is a treat); Strava (I’m an avid user); LinkedIn (the standard for business networking).

6:00 pm We pivot to Oakland for the VIP Kickoff & Reception at Gensler Oakland 

Come hear the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee and five other Oakland CEOs speak about their NewCo Oakland sessions, which run all day Oct. 8th!

Thursday, October 8th – NewCo Oakland!

9:30 am  Ask.fm 

I’ve always been fascinated by lesser-known but popular social networking services, and Ask.fm is pre-eminent among teenagers. I’m not a teenager, but I’ve got three of them in my household!

Notables during this time slot: Kapor Center for Social Impact (Mitch’s new building in downtown Oakland is ready!); Bolt Threads (sustainable duds!); WeWork Berkeley (I bet the vibe there is awesome).

11:00 am Gracenote

Ever since I first ran into this service, I found it magical. But Gracenote does more than recognize music. They’ve got big plans in many associated fields. I look forward to hearing CTO Ty Robert’s vision.

Notables during this time slot: Schoolzilla (big data for schools); Art.com (art of the future); SkyDeck | Berkeley (UC’s own incubator).

12:00 pm Lunch Break

1:30 pm Blue Bottle Coffee

Founder James Freeeman’s obsession with coffee with be on full display during this session. I’m a Blue Bottle convert, now I get to see where it all happens!

Notables during this time slot: SfunCube (accelerator for all things solar); Mosaic (another solar innovator); Semifreddi’s Bakery (yum!!).

3:00 pm 99designs

I’ve long thought this company’s unique approach to crowd sourced design would eventually be part of how I approached design challenges, now I can learn how to really lean into the platform.

Notables during this time slot: Hack the Hood (it is what it sounds like!); Numi Organic Tea (another Oakland F&B success story); Pandora Media (extraordinary offices).

4:30 pm Sungevity

Oakland is the solar capital of the world, and Sungevity is one of its most important players. I’ve got a big solar installation on my roof, but I don’t know much about the state of the industry. At Sungevity I plan on getting smarter.

Notables during this time slot: Youth Radio (excellent program); Mamacitas Cafe (amazing place); Dictionary.com (fun session!).

6:00 Meetup at The New Parish

After four days of exploring innovation in the Bay area, it’s time for some drinks, fun, and great music! The New Parish is a wonderful new music venue in Oakland’s flourishing entertainment district. Stay tuned for the band (to be named!) – but it’ll be a blast.

NewCo’s SF & Oakland Festivals are filling fast – Register now to get inside your own picks!

This Is How We Pick A NewCo

By - August 31, 2015

Over on the NewCo site, I’ve updated our explanation of how we chose NewCos around the world (1,100 or so so far). Here’s that post for those readers at Searchblog who might be interested. 

Since we launched NewCo’s festivals in late 2012, tens of thousands of people have experienced the unique NewCo model of “getting out to get in.” Thousands of NewCos have opened their doors in cities as varied as London, Austin, San Francisco, Detroit, Palo Alto, New York, Cincinnati and Amsterdam. Upcoming cities include Istanbul, Los Angeles, Portland, Mexico City and Boulder.

A year or so ago we published a “What Makes a NewCo” — our second attempt to qualify what we mean when we call a company a “NewCo.” (Our first version was published 18 months ago). Below is our third pass, and if you read it carefully, you can see what we hope is an evolution toward clarity and a shared point of view on a much larger narrative unfolding across both business and society.

In the coming months, we’ll be expanding our scope beyond festivals and into editorial media. As we do, we will begin to quantify the question of what makes a NewCo, with metrics including employee reviews, social media sentiment, various research partnerships, and more. But for now, we’re eager to hear your feedback on this third version explaining both how we decide which companies are invited onto the NewCo Platform.

A Bit of Background

Driven by capitalism’s central motive of profit, corporations have become one of the most powerful actors on the global stage. In the past century, corporations have amassed more wealth, power, and authority than most governments and all the major religions. But at their core, corporations are just people and processes. And over the past two decades, in parallel with the rise of the Internet, those people have begun a quiet revolution that is redefining what a “corporation” can be, both in terms of its purpose, as well as its processes.

The global economy is transitioning from hierarchies of command and control to more flexible networks of coordination and cooperation. A new kind of organization — one that measures its success by more than profit alone — has emerged. We call these companies “NewCos.” As the networked, information-first economy has taken hold, NewCos are building innovative, purpose-driven ways of doing business. As a result, these corporations are taking a central role in driving societal change — at the exact moment our society requires historic change if it is to remain sustainable.

The people of a NewCo see their work as more than punching a clock or doing a job. They believe work can equate with passion, community, and a force for positive change.

NewCo’s mission is to identify these new engines of economic and social change, and to offer a platform for the stories and communities they foster. But how do we chose a NewCo? A number of core principles guide our selection process:

A NewCo …

Is on a mission to create positive change. Sure, any company can have a mission, but a NewCo sees itself as on a mission to change its chosen market — or even the world — for the better. Most NewCos embrace the profit motive (although nonprofits and civic organizations can be NewCos as well), but they are about more than making money. Often NewCos enter established markets that have “always worked that way” and imagine a better (or entirely new) way of conducting business. Their mission becomes making that better way happen.

Is driven by an idea, and tells a story. NewCos are about a big idea, one that drives their mission and purpose as an organization. The company becomes the storyteller of that idea — the narrative actor making that idea come to life. This core story is what we call “the NewCo Narrative” — it’s what you say after declaring “I visited this fascinating company last week, and they’ve got this amazing…” NewCo people love to tell their company’s story — it’s a deeply felt part of their identity.

…and is driven by its people. At the core of every NewCo are the people who comprise the organization, and the community the organization serves. A NewCo is never a “faceless corporation.” It’s more like a band — a group of people coming together to create something that adds value to the world.NewCos also believe that the more diverse the people who comprise the company, the more robust that company’s culture will become. Moreover, the manner by which these people organize and pursue their work is driven by a new and evolving set of social mores. NewCos are actively involved in renegotiating the social contract of work. NewCos strive to make work a pursuit, rather than just a job.

Loves the work. NewCos are reinventing what work means and how it’s done. NewCos believe work can be joyous — it does not have to suck. NewCos view “work” as a positive expression of identity — they strive to integrate life and work, rather than merely “balance” them. To that end, NewCo workspaces are powerful collective expression of a company’s identity. That’s why NewCos love to open their doors and welcome visitors inside.

Is information first. Old models of corporate command and control were predicated on a scarcity model around physical resources (commodities), physical energy (fuel/power), and human energy (“human resources”). Inasmuch as it mattered, “information” was a tertiary concern, used mainly as a management tool. But as the world becomes information, NewCos organize to optimize or rethink information flows. Hence, Impossible Foods is rethinking food as information flows, Airbnb is rethinking hospitality as information flows, and DocuSign is rethinking the information flows of paper documents.

Critical to this is an appreciation of platform economics. The rise of the Internet economy has hastened a shift to firms acting as platforms for extended networks of customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors. NewCos are either platforms in their own right, and/or they understand how to participate in the platform ecosystem of open collaboration and considered data sharing.

Trusts the open, and is open to trust. The word “open” has many meanings, but for NewCos, “open” has a clear test: When faced with a choice between a closed and controlling approach versus one that requires trusting your partners, employees, or community, a NewCo tilts toward the latter. This applies to much more than technology stacks — it includes approaches to partnerships, transparency, and community as well. Trust is the currency of the NewCo economy.

Is of the City. NewCos revel in the tapestry of cities — their pulse, their diverse communities, and their density of networks, information and humanity. The “tangled bank” of a city has the resources, connectivity, and the infrastructure that naturally build new kinds of companies. The NewCo movement is born of city centers, large and small.

Acts Like a Citizen. NewCos realize their value comes from serving their communities — their customers, sure, but also any community where the NewCo has an impact. NewCos believe you get back what you give to your community. And when you’re truly connected to your communities, no one has the energy to be an asshole. In addition, companies understand that they are being given more and more rights (ie, Citizens United) — but with those rights come deep responsibilities.

If you are interested in learning more about NewCo, sign up for our newsletter here, or attend our upcoming events in San Francisco and/or Oakland!

Spanning SF and Oakland: The First Ever NewCo Bay Bridge Festival Lineup Is Out!

By - August 20, 2015

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While NewCo has been celebrating unique San Francisco companies for three years, 2015 is the first year we’ve produced our hometown festival with a fully staffed and funded team. And it shows: We’re adding Oakland as a companion city to San Francisco this year, and more than 200 companies will be opening their doors for a four-day festival this October 5th through 8th – by far the largest festival we’ve ever produced.

In case you’ve missed our other posts about NewCo festivals, NewCo is a unique, city-based event that turns traditional business conferences inside out. Instead of sitting in a stuffy hotel ballroom and hearing an endless queue of startup CEOs pitching from the stage, NewCo attendees get out into the modern working city, and get inside the headquarters of the city’s most interesting and inspiration companies, hearing from the founders and senior teams in their native environment. Just as Airbnb (an SF NewCo) creates more intimate and distributed travel experiences by taking people out of sterile hotels and into the homes of hosts around the world, NewCo enables its festival goers to experience the “homes” of startups and established companies from a wide array of industries. Each NewCo company is hand selected for its unique mission and the positive change it is creating in its chosen market.

There’s a lot of goodness and new features to this year’s Bay Bridge Festival (the moniker we’ve given the combination of Oakland and San Francisco). First off, of course, is the addition of Oakland to the lineup. Often called the Brooklyn of San Francisco, Oakland has become a major center of innovation in its own right, with its own particular strengths in clean energy, social impact, food & hospitality, and of course tech and Internet. On Thursday October 8th, Oakland will shine. Check out a sampling of Oakland NewCos opening their doors: Kapor Center for Social Impact, SchoolZilla, Ask.fm, Gracenote, City of Oakland, Blue Bottle Coffee, Allotrope Partners, Numi Organic Tea, 99designs, and Sungevity.

We’ll end the Oakland festival with a special meetup at The New Parish, an awesome music venue right in the center of Oakland’s vibrant Uptown entertainment district. Our Oakland VIP kickoff is Oct. 7th at the stunning offices of Gensler – some of the best views in the bay, and given Gensler’s reputation as one of the finest architectural firms in the world, these offices are not to be missed.

NewCo San Francisco will kick off on Oct. 5th with a VIP event at WeWork’s downtown offices. Over the following two days you’ll have a chance to visit some of the most intriguing companies on the planet, including Airbnb, Slack, AltSchool, SV Angel, The Battery, Lyft, PCH, Compass Family Services, San Francisco Mayor’s Office, Twitter, Bloomberg, Leap Motion, Pinterest, One Medical,  Betabrand, Cloudera, Medium, LiveRamp, LinkedIn, Google, Uber, and more than 125 others.

This year we’ve added a lunch hour, a much requested respite, and NewCo itself will provide lunch at our Presidio headquarters on day two (October 7th). We’ve also added a meetup at the end of day one, at the headquarters of Westfield Labs in the center of the Westfield Mall on Market Street. We’ll be adding even more special events as we get closer to the actual dates, so be sure to check the schedule early and often. This one promises to be our best event ever (though to be honest, it’ll be hard to beat what Amsterdam, Austin, and Cincinnati pulled off earlier this year!)

NewCo works like a music festival: There are 10-15 companies “playing” at any given time, so you have to chose which one you want to attend. Most companies fill up quickly, so smart attendees register early and pick their schedules right away, to insure their spot (Google, Pandora, Blue Bottle, Airbnb, and Slack are nearly full!). We’ve got an early bird discount going for the next week or so, and our goal is to have more than 3,000 festival goers celebrating the best companies in San Francisco and Oakland. Register now – I look forward to seeing you out and about two of the best cities in the world!

 

NewCo Cincinnati Is Next Week. Here Are The Companies I’m Getting Inside

By - July 16, 2015

NewCoCincyI know I rave about all the NewCo cities, but once again I am picking my companies from a new festival lineup – and once again, I’m blown away. Next week is NewCo Cincinnati, and wow – what a stellar group of companies to chose from. Our partner Cintrifuse has really killed it – an impressive list of sponsors (P&G, SnapChat, BuzzFeed, Google!) and an even more impressive list of host companies. From arts to private/public partnerships to tech startups to food (and beer!), who knew Cincinnati was such a hub of NewCo innovation? Check out my picks for NewCo Cincy:

Weds, July 22, 6:30 pm: VIP Kickoff – @84.51 – Ill be there with the Mayor and the founders, movers, and shakers behind Cincy’s more than 80 NewCos (as well as the conductor of Cincy’s own symphony!). The program also features Nestle bigwig Pete Blackshaw, who left P&G more than a decade ago to start a company in what was a pretty bad area of town (but is now a hotbed of NewCo activity).

Thursday, July 23

9 am: Tom+Chee These guys had me at the session title: “Happiness Is A Grilled Cheese Donut”. This foodie outfit has a unique franchise model (so does NewCo), so I can’t wait to learn how they do it. Plus, we get to make our own grilled cheese on site! Wish I could go, but….Cintrifuse (our partner!), OTR Chamber of Commerce (advocates for Cincy’s “Over the Rhine” startup neighborhood), Strap (Internet of Things play).

10:30 am: Cincinnati Symphony & Pops Orchestra – This session will be led by conductor John Morris Russell, a local legend. I know almost nothing about symphony orchestras, and I’m curious how they plan to stay relevant in a NewCo world.  Wish I could go, but…Intelemage (innovative health tech), Ahalogy (full already!).

12:00 pm: LOTH, Inc.I’m deeply interested in the future of work as it relates to our more spiritual, purpose driven goals.  LOTH, a workplace design firm, is doing a session on workplace well being, which is a key part of the NewCo narrative. Wish I could have gone: 84.51, Xavier University, Taft Museum, First Batch. 

1:30 pm: Braxton Brewing Company. Look, the session is “The Taproom of the Future.” In! But there are so many other great orgs presenting this hour: The Brandery, Zipscene, and LISNR among them.

3:00 pm: Rockfish. A Cincy stalwart, Rockfish has been a core player in the growth of the city’s technology core. Though I’ve met folks who work there, I’ve never seen their offices, and it’s high time I go. Love that NewCo makes that possible. Wish I could go: REDI Cincinnati, Rivertown Brewing Company, OCEAN Accelerator.  

4:30 pm: Procter & Gamble. I’ve been coming to Cincinnati for ten years, mainly to see P&G. But this will be their first ever NewCo session – titled “Dancing with the Elephant.” I can’t wait! Wish I coulda gone: Skinny Mom, The Garage, Urban Artifact. 

5:30 pm: Festival Meetup @ Christian Moerlein Taproom. There are half a dozen breweries on this NewCo lineup – so it’s fitting the meetup is at one as well! I can’t wait to share stories of what the nearly 1,000 Cincinnati festival goers have learned.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand the Queen City, make your plans to hit NewCo Cincinnati next week. I’ll see you there!

Forget Work Life Balance. It’s All About Work Life Integration

By - June 01, 2015
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Tuning in.

Every so often (though less often than I’d like), I ask one of my team into my band room, a place I created five years ago where the only rules are honest conversations and unbounded agendas. I built it to nurture my budding interest in playing music, but it’s also a great place to pour a drink, erase the white board, and see where the conversation goes. I believe we do far less of this “undirected conversation” than we should. I find band room sessions deeply productive, even if I’m a bit foggy the morning after.

In any case, last week our head of product Abe came over, and we were riffing on the bigger ideas behind NewCo. He’s quite a bit younger than me, a member of that much-debated “millennial” generation. As a group, millennials were born into digital technology, take climate change as a fact, and are now the most dominant force in the global economy (millennials are the largest single demographic in our economy, ever).

Our conversation turned to work styles, and whether his generation viewed work as “work,” or more as a calling. At NewCo, we believe that work can and should be more than a job, it should be a fulfilling expression of a person’s values and connection to community. Companies that enable that approach to work are NewCos, and we celebrate that idea.

In any case, I brought up the concept of “work life balance,” which has been much in the zeitgeist over the past decade or so. The rise of laptops, then of mobile, has meant work had “invaded” people’s personal and home lives, and most of the mainstream press is filled with hand wringing about what this all means.

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A full band room white board.

But that’s not how Abe saw it. Instead he espoused the concept of work-life integration, a relatively new phrase rising concurrent to the entrance of millennials in our workforce. But as he explained his support for the idea, I realized I’ve been working this way my entire life. It’s fundamental to the entrepreneurial lifestyle – Life is simply life, and if you’re passionate about what you do, then work is part of that life. As you plan your time, you prioritize everything in that life, and because work is no longer bound to one office space during one eight-hour period of time, you can mix and mingle all kinds of experiences – some work, some family, some personal – throughout your waking day.

The flip side of this: If you adopt the philosophy of work-life integration, you must also adopt a philosophy of total individual responsibility. That means understanding how to prioritize things like exercise, nutrition, downtime, and family/friends into a demanding work life. It means that you are willing to be judged not on showing up or managing up, but on the work you deliver to your company. And it means you’ve joined a like-minded group who together have created a company that understands how to thrive in this new environment.

At NewCo, all of us simply assume we live in a work-life integrated world. People come into the office when it makes sense to come in, and they stay home when that works better for them. Conflicts are resolved as they might be between friends – openly and with genuine respect. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, we tell them, and figure out how to resolve it (or part ways). And vacation days are taken when they are needed – no one is counting.

It’s not easy to explain this concept of “work life integration,” but you most certainly will feel it when you run into it. While it certainly isn’t a model that the service industry can adopt (yet), it’s without question the best way to run a startup.

Get Out, And Get Into Silicon Valley: SurveyMonkey, Google, GoPro, FlipBoard, & So Many More

By - May 22, 2015
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Brian and I on SurveyMonkey’s rooftop last year.

New York is in the can (what a great event!) and next up, for those of us in the US anyway, is NewCo Silicon Valley. I won’t be able to actually attend NewCo SV, as I’ll be on the road visiting NewCo Amsterdam and NewCo Istanbul. But If I could go to Silicon Valley, these are the companies I’d pick to attend:

Day 1 – Monday June 8th

 5:00 pm – VIP Kickoff At SurveyMonkey – This is a bittersweet choice, in that our kickoff speaker was to have been Dave Goldberg, who suddenly passed away while on vacation earlier this month. It’s a terrible loss for all of us in the Valley community, and of course we reached out to his family at SurveyMonkey and offered to cancel or move our kickoff so that the company could mourn. But in an expression of what makes Dave such a beloved person, the folks at SurveyMonkey insisted on keeping the kickoff event on their amazing rooftop deck. Dave was extremely proud of the LEED certified building he designed in the heart of Palo Alto, and this kickoff, hosted by my partner and NewCo Board Director Brian Monahan, will be a very special event indeed.

Day 2 – Tuesday June 9th

10:00 am – GoPro. Zander Lurie, a good friend of Dave’s, was to speak, but is now interim CEO at SurveyMonkey. No matter, whoever speaks, I’d want to hear the story of Go Pro, which is truly one of the most inspiring new kinds of companies in the Valley. If there were two (or more) of me, I’d also want to hit Survey Monkey and LinkedIn (almost full).

12:00 pm – Google. Google is doing two sessions this year at NewCo SV, and this one on the future of search and apps promises to be a deep dive on Google’s mobile plans. You must prequalify to attend this session, as it’s intended for developers (I’m not sure they’d let me come!). Other great sessions include Silicon Valley Innovation Center and Quixey.

2:00 pm – Tesla. C’mon, you have to go to a factory tour if you can! This is another qualified session – they are looking for senior level attendees and it looks to be sold out already. That can change if the company opens up more slots, or folks drop out, but if you can’t make Tesla, there are a lot of other great options: Institute for the Future, CourseTalk, and CareLinx would be in the running for me.

4:00 pm – HighFive. Slick and affordable video conferencing for the other 95%? Sign me up. I’d love to check this out – as much as I love Google Hangouts, truth is it’s not very reliable. But I can’t afford a high end solution. Enter High Five. Not into videoconferencing? Check out StartX, Intel, or Cask.

Day 3 – Weds. June 10th

10:00 am – HealthTap. I’m fascinated by the intersection of the NewCo economy and healthcare, and HealthTap plays squarely in the middle of it. Though I’ll admit it’s hard to miss Walmart, Polyvore, and BetterWorks, which would be my runners up.

12:00 pm – Matternet. An Internet in the sky for drone-based delivery? Yes please! And if not Matternet, then check out HealthLoop (I’m an investor so I’m very familiar with the company) or Flipboard.

2:00 pm – Mozilla. I’m in the tank for Mozilla’s open web philosophy, and Mozilla’s storied founder is speaking. But if you’re looking for something else, check out Singularity University or Cloudera. Both are Diamond Pass only at this point, but worth the upgrade price IMHO.

4:00 pm – Unshackled. Fascinating NewCo story here, focused on empowering entrepreneurs on work visas. If that’s not your thing, check out Scanadu or Acxiom (I’m on the Board).

6:00 pm – Meetup at Location TBD. Well, I know where the meetup is…but we can’t announce it quite yet. Trust me though, it’ll be a lot of fun!

If reading my picks whetted your appetite to spend a couple days getting out of your daily routine and into the most fascinating companies in the Valley, register here and get to picking your schedule! Many companies are already sold out, but there are plenty of open sessions left. I’m sorry to miss it this year, but I’ll be reporting from Istanbul and Amsterdam instead. Not a bad trade!

 

Uber, The Rashomon.

By - April 26, 2015

Uber Women Promo

Our industry loves a rashomon, and in the past year or two, our collective subject of debate has been Uber. Perhaps the fastest growing company in history (its numbers aren’t public, but we’ll get to some estimates shortly), Uber has become a vector for some of the most wide-ranging arguments I’ve ever had regarding the tech industry’s impact on society at large.

It’s not that Google, Facebook, Apple, or Microsoft didn’t evoke great debate, but all those companies came of age in an era where tech was still relegated to a sideshow in the broader cultural conversation. Microsoft was taking over the computer industry in the 1990s, Google the Internet in the early 2000s, Facebook and Apple the mobile and social world in the late 2000s. But Uber? Uber is about a very real and entirely new approach to our economy, a stand in for the wealth divide festering in the US and beyond, an existential rorschach testing your values around the role of government, the social contract, and the kind of society we want to become.

When an Uber glides to its appointed pickup point, what do we see? Do we see an innovator hastening the inexorable shift to a new information-based economy? Or an arrogant bully using cheap capital, greed, and a dangerous, misogynist culture of convenience to consolidate a trillion dollar market?

Or do we see both?

Yes — that’s a cop out, but it’s also an honest answer. I know people who work at Uber, and I know some of Uber’s investors as well. They are in general a well intentioned group — and many of them have reservations about Uber’s unbridled success and its mixed reputation.

Uber’s success is breathtaking. Consider: Uber’s most recent round valued the company at over $41 billion — $15 billion more than Google’s initial public market cap of $26.4 billion. At a conference I attended last month, an Uber executive mentioned the company was clocking more than one million rides each and every day. If you (conservatively) estimate each ride at $10, that’d be gross revenue of $10mm a day, or $3.65 billion a year. Uber takes roughly a quarter of that revenue (20% is the widely reported number, but when I ask drivers, they tell me it’s 25–28%), or just under a billion dollars. And their costs are….well, assume about 2,000 employees (I’ve heard estimates of 1200 to 2500), for $250mm or so in labor costs. I’m pretty sure they’re not spending another $750mm on marketing and platform costs. So the company is most likely quite profitable already.

And my figures are conservative. Business Insider claims the company is on track to do $10 billion in gross revenue this year, and CEO Travis Kalanick last year claimed revenue is doubling every six months. In five years, Uber has expanded to 57 countries. So, yes, this company is astonishingly successful.

And yet…I’ve not met a single person in this industry who doesn’t express reservations about Uber. Certainly the company stepped in it terribly with the whole Lacy debacle, but the ambivalence goes deeper still. I’m sure pure Uber defenders exist, but the truth is, most of us are worried about the sheer expression of capitalistic force that the company represents. Privately, many are heartened by the regulatory counterforces that are stemming the company’s march through worldwide markets — Germany, Holland, India, Korea, Canada, Spain, France, New Zealand, and many other countries have banned Uber’s services either nationally, or through local city regulations.

Uber is the poster child for our global conversation about the role of work in our society, and about the kind of company we want to create, work at, and celebrate. And that conversation is deeply political and cultural in nature. On the one hand, the “1099 Economy” is providing hundreds of thousands of flexible, living wage jobs for those who might otherwise be marginalized or underpaid. On the other, it represents the systemic dismantling of our labor laws by rapacious, profit seeking monopolists.

If you want to hear an unalloyed economic takedown of Uber, head over to Robert Reich’s blog. And if you want to hear a reasoned defense of the company as an innovator, read what Suster has to say. But anyone who read Sarah Lacy’s passionate story has to wonder — if we didn’t have Uber now, wouldn’t the Valley just end up creating it? Certainly that’s Lacy’s conclusion — Uber is the collective creation of the Valley’s deep arrogance, its heartless celebration of high valuations and killer exits, and its male-dominated, aggressive philosophy of “breaking things fast” and “asking for forgiveness rather than permission.”

Put another way, Uber feels inevitable — a uniquely of-the-moment company, a mirror held up to the Valley’s aggregate psyche. And as we all look into that mirror, we are both fascinated and appalled.

All of this was at front of mind a month ago when an email from a site called FounderDating popped into my inbox. FounderDating is a LinkedIn-like service that connects entrepreneurs, and it sports a lively Quora-like Q&A forum. When interesting new threads emerge, the service notifies you. “Is Uber A Social Impact company?” was the question of the day, and it immediately sparked a strong debate, as you might expect. Lydia Eager, the thread’s originator, opened with this:

A lot of people love to hate uber because of their aggressive tactics, but the fact of the matter is that they are creating 20K new driver jobs/month and the median uberX driver income in NYC is $90K/year. Feels to me like they do way more good than harm and I’d consider them a social impact company. They are having a much bigger impact than say a non-profit trying to create jobs.

Do you have to have set out to have a major social mission to be considered a social impact company?

From there a diverse group of folks, myself included, chimed in with 50 or so thoughtful replies, touching on the importance of purpose- and mission-driven business, the role Uber plays in destroying living-wage jobs in the taxi and livery businesses, the actual economics of driving for Uber and similar businesses, the positive impact Uber has on carbon emissions, congestion, and drunk driving, the inevitable future where driverless cars and automation make workers irrelevant, the positive competitive response Uber has created in the taxi business (better customer service, competing apps, etc), stories of questionable competitive business practices, stories of rape and kidnapping (on both sides — taxies and Uber), debate over the meaning of “social impact” at its core, debate over the role of local and national regulation, debate over consolidation of power and money in markets and society, debate over libertarian political philosophy, and much, much more.

I hear these questions debated every time Uber comes up at a party, an industry event, or just between friends shooting the breeze. Back in 2013, when we were starting NewCo, we had the same debate when we were considering which companies to invite to our first full-fledged NewCo festival in San Francisco. We asked ourselves whether Uber was really a NewCo — an engine of positive change in our society. We couldn’t make up our mind and ended up kicking the can down the road. This year, we have to once again tackle the question. And I’m still not sure where we’ll land.

Like it or not, Uber is now our rashomon for understanding the impact technology is having on our culture. The company is showing signs of “growing up” — as all fast-growing tech companies do over time (you have to love Facebook shifting its motto from “Move fast and break things” to “Move fast …with stable infrastructure”). Uber’s stance to local regulators has shifted from a siege mentality to one of engagement (necessarily, I’m sure). Its CEO (and the offending exec) apologized, sort of, to Lacy, and has shifted its public voice to highlight its positive impact on the world — the first image on its site today is of a woman, with the headline “Her Turn to Earn — Creating 1,000,000 jobs for women by 2020.”

Is this all just calculated PR spin, or might it represent a real shift in the company’s culture? I think I know where Lacy stands on this one — she was personally targeted by a senior Uber executive, and she’s in no mood to give the company a second chance. But for most of the rest of us, the ambivalence — and the broader debate — continues. I personally believe that companies can change over time — Walmart, Unilever, and many others are now champions of sustainability — yet one could reasonably argue they played huge roles in creating the unsustainable world in which we currently live. But does that mean we shouldn’t celebrate and encourage their corporate change of heart?

If we dismiss these glimmerings of change as mere greenwashing, we are handing corporations an excuse to continue past practices. Instead, we should hold them accountable. For Uber — and all of us — that journey has just begun.