Open Coffee Boston - UnMinutes 6/11/08

June 12th, 2008

Once again… rolling start. I showed up at 9:15am (thanks to the friggn’ Redline and Dan Grabowkus) and Karen was sitting with Victor and some new guy so I joined them.

Eventually about 15 people show up so we moved the meeting downstairs.

Albert Park, new associate at IncTank and therefore self-confessed VC, thought that the Boston area needed better co-ordination for the entrepreneurial scene. He thought the current ladnscape was too fragmented. Jay Neely ( who did yeoman’s work running the schedule grid at BarCampBoston3 with little (ok) absolutley no guidance ) seemed to concur that there seemed to be a need for more “co-ordination.”

We collectively beat up a little bit on Albert by pointing out that there were many recurring meetings in the Boston area that tried to service the needs of budding entreprenuers. Some of the meetings/events include (besides OpenCoffee Boston) Boston Software Startup (started by Shimon Rura and now run by Simon Michael Clay and Ray Deck), WebInnovators ( big mtge almost every other month run by David Beisel ), BarCampBoston (started by Shimon Rura), DevHouseBoston (started be Shimon Rura and now pretty much run by the boys at BetaHouse) and I know that Jay Neely can probably add some more. Dave Thompson was involved in a “Tech Dinner” that met every couple of months and was tres geeky. I personally know of a somewhat secret… invitation only… we just got funded and therefore can afford this very expensive restaurant…. kinda of meeting. On and on.

And there are many more… including the MIT Entreprise Forum, Harvard Law has a regular entrepreneurs mtge, BU used to have a very active group until Michael Rodov quit BU to pay more attention to his startup ( ZepFrog ), Babson has a group, Worcester PolyTech has something… get my point. On and on.

And this doesn’t even mention the cabal that is Paul Graham’s Ycombinator summer program where he actually convinces college age geeks from across the country to come to Cambridge for the summer; code their asses off so they can get angel money by the end of August.

Yes, Albert. You’re probably right. Somebody should at least compile a clickable list of entrepreneurial meetings in the greater Boston area.

The second major theme of the meeting was…. “it’s really tough to do a consumer oriented Web 2.0 startup in Boston because Boston area VC’s are just don’t get it.” Personally, I don’t know anyway to correct this. There are some VC’s in Boston who will do consumer plays. You can count them on one hand. Find out who they are… pitch them, if you can’t convince them… move your operation to the Bay area.

It was a great and fun meeting. It was still going strong when I left around 11:00 am.

Distributed MicroBlogging Discussion at Berkman 06/05/08

June 6th, 2008

Joe Cascio gave a presentation last evening about why the world needs a distributed microblogging protocol. He was originally calling this project “distributed twitter.” There was an interesting mix of long time (and/or old time) Berkman Blogger folks, some twitteratti and some real geeks (coders).

Joe got some interesting push back from the Twitteratti. They acknowledged that Twitter somewhat sucked but not enough that they would be willing to leave Twitter for a new more reliable microblogging platform if it meant leaving their twitter buddies behind.

Someone joked that the Twitteratti were exhibiting something akin to the “Stockholm Syndrome” whereby a person starts to identify with their abuser.

Now here’s an interesting business angle. Establish a service which renders a somewhat acceptable service but that screws up enough (say 5 to 7%) of the time so that customers have something to bitch about. That bitching will allow the company to build an online community to vent their collective spleens about how shitty the service has gotten. Then the company can have one or two customers ” service” people (or bots) trolling the social media networks and have them occasionally quickly jump on and solve a customer service problem. The online community will immediately jump on the story about how… “yes, the company is somewhat screwed up but they are at least cool enough to be using social media to address customer problems.” The story is then picked up by the New York Times and appears as a story in the sunday style section. The same story but slightly rewritten will then appear in the Boston Globe the following week. [[ You laugh folks but trace the "revenge of the stroller moms" stories ]]

No wait a minute. I’ve just decided that I will become the 37th self appointed/ self annointed (drum roll… trumpets blarring…) Social Media Guru. My agency, Stockholm Communications, will be giving workshops next week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference.

I had to leave the meeting around 8:40pm and it was still going strong. I had to start working on my Guru 2.0 image rework. OMG, I just have to rework my avatar, it’s so, so… passporty. And moo cards… I need moo cards. How could I possibly speak at Enterprise 2.0 without moo cards.

OpenCoffee Boston - 06/04/08

June 4th, 2008

Rolling start to the meeting… didn’t really develop a quorum until around 9 am.

Some new folks (or people who haven’t been to an OpenCoffee in a very long timed ) …

Shawn Broderick of TrustPlus which provides reputation management services so individuals can “manage” their online reputations across a range of services they use such as Ebay, Craigslist, etc.

Tom Summit of Genotrope. The premise behind Tom’s new service is that sucessful venture teams tend to replicate themselves across the business ecosystem over space and time. New ventures will be most successful recruiting candidates that have some similar DNA. Most of the serial entrepreneurs at the table agreed with Tom’s argument. Mass High Tech has a nice concise article about Genotrope.

David Thompson runs a Cambridge based software company specializing in information systems for hedge funds and private equity firms. Most of his work has been custom software projects but he is considering productizing some of it.

Albert Park graduates from MIT this week and already is a fairly well known serial entrepreneur around the MIT campus. He recently ran a conference, Underground 2008, for student entrepreneurs. Albert has taken a position as “entrepreneur in residence” at IncTank, a Cambridge seed stage venture capital firm specializing in biotech.

There were a couple of new guys who were somewhat in stealth mode.

Some regulars gave updates on the status of their previously announced projects.

Mark Soper is working on an NLP based service for the job/career market. He hopes to launch by the end of the summer.

Jay Neely, aka, is working on a new community based news service that goes beyond the somewhat simplistic approaches of the Slashdots, Diggs, Reddits, etc.s of the world. He described his approach and a couple of people at the table grokked it immediately. If Jay can implement the concept, he just might be onto something.

Some other regulars at the meeting included Brandon of LoudCity, Erin of, Victor Hong (he is still evolving his startup idea), Bill of Virosity/Betahouse and David of Traackr.

The meeting started to wind down around 11:15 am. There were still some stragglers around 11:30am when I left.


May 30th, 2008

Good crowd. Lot’s of New England ubergeeks.

The talks were consistently interesting… from what little I could hear.

Why? Why? Why does the O’Reilly team continue to use the worst possible venue (Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Sq. ) for this possibly great event.

OpenCoffee Boston 5/28/08

May 29th, 2008

It was a nice mix of some regulars… Nabeel, Victor, myself and some others (who may be in stealth mode). And a handful of new comers including.. David Chancogne of Traackr, Andrew Drane of Cook’s Compass, Shimon Rura most recently of Renesys/Babbledog and some other newbies (who may be in stealth mode).

Got into discussion about getting press for your new venture/project etc. Nabeel rattled off some ideas including…
1. “be outrageous”… reporters/people in general want to hear about world changing projects
2 If you have a target reporter (and you should), research what they have written about before. Reporters will be pretty impressed if you have done your homework.
3. Pictures help. Think though what photos can best represent your product or service.
4. Be patient. The process of “getting press” takes time.

To Nabeel’s list I would add.
1. Become a resource for a reporter. Accept the fact that you will have to help the reporter write 5 or even 10 stories before you will finally get any kind of attribution.
2. Be succinct and pithy. Reporters want the outrageous quote.
3. Accept any press. Yes, you want the full page story about your dog waste removal service.. “,” but you may have to accept a mention in a story about how hard it is for entrepreneurs to find liability insurance.

And finally, the GREEN angle… you may be developing cluster bombs but you have to pitch that your cluster bombs are greener than the other guys.

The first wave of the meeting broke up around 10:15 and the second round of “I’m not really a morning person” type people showed up. The meeting was still going when I left around 10:45.

Caveat/Disclaimer… many other things were discussed at the meeting including… trolling LinkedIn to find jobs and job prospects, the business model of Traackr, finding reliable salary data, the benefits of locating your startup at the Cambridge Innovation Center, and why Nabeel owns a cow… or actually 50% of a cow. No one human can render accurate minutes of an OpenCoffee Meeting because many of the conversations take place simultaneously. There is also a lot of non verbal communication.

WordPress Crash Course

May 28th, 2008

I attended David Tames’ “WordPress Crash Course” last week at the Mass College of Art. This is where I learned to insert photos using the latest version of WordPress.

This is a photo I took of a BostonNow newspaper box right across the street from the Kennedy School at Harvard. BostonNow bit the dust about one year later.

Attending the MIT symposium “Focus on Climate Change” Feb 11-14

February 13th, 2008

Lot’s of great stuff. I’ve already filled three memo books with notes. No time to blog about it. More on the symposium here.

Ethanol does more harm than good… Vinod Khosla is gonna be pissed

February 10th, 2008

Some study out of Princeton says that all things considered the production of ethanol from specially grown crops will actually be bad for global warming. Vinod Khosla (Khosla Ventures) has sunk a lot of money into ventures in and around the ethanol space. Some of his ethanol bets include…

Sugar Fuels:
Altra (Los Angeles, CA).. producing ethanol and biodiesel
Cilion (Goshen, CA).. destination ethanol plants with greenest of corn ethanol
Hawaii Bio (Honolulu, HI).. ethanol plants in Hawaii
Ethos Ethanol (Cambridge, MA).. sugar cane biofuels in South America

Cellulosic Fuels:
Range Fuels (Broomfield, CO).. cellulosic ethanol usirng biomass conversion to syngas using proprietary catalysts
Mascoma (Boston, MA).. biochemical conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol reducing external enzyme demand
Coskata (Warrenville, IL).. a fermentation technology to make fuel grade ethanol from syngas
Verenium (Cambridge, MA).. cellulosic ethanol from biomass and specialty enzyme products

Future Fuels:
LS9 (San Carlos, CA).. petroleum replacements using fermentation
Gevo (Pasadena, CA).. bacterial production of Bio-butanol
Amyris (Emeryville, CA).. fermentation diesel and higher alcohols
Kior (The Netherlands).. biomass catalytic cracking (BCC) to convert biomass into bio-oil usable as crude

According to the Princeton study, sugar cane fuels may be ok. Both Hawaii Bio and Ethos Ethanol are sugar cane plays so they may be able to dodge this negative PR.

Boston Media Makers 6/3/07

June 6th, 2007

This once monthly meeting organized by Steve Garfield is a must if you’re into (or want to get into) the New Media scene.

The group meets at “Sweet Finnish” on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain on the first Sunday of every month. It’s a nice coffee house with decent coffee and pastries (half the price of Starbucks) but most importantly free WiFi and a large meeting room in the back. The first half of the meeting consist of short self introductions. Steve has everyone who wants to give a short (3 minute max) introduction and describe any projects they are working on. Most of the meetings I’ve been to have at least 20 people so these intros usually take an hour.

The second half of the meeting usually consists of short topical presentation followed by a discussion. Sunday’s presentation was by Beth Kanter, a technology consultant who primarily works in the non-profit sector. The topic… using social software and social software tools to promote your projects. It was a great presentation…. actually more of a conversation because Beth really solicited a lot of information from the other people sitting around the table.

As always, I left the meeting with a head full of ideas to implement and a fistful of business cards. Damn good meeting.

IgniteBoston on 5/31/07

June 6th, 2007

I would have to say IgniteBoston fizzled. Yes, they got a lot of Boston area geeks together (probably too many) but the venue sucked. Tommy Doyle’s is a plausible place for a frat party or an overly loud band but little else. The keynoter was a little off key and ran too long. The two short presentations by O’Reilly folks (one on “WiFi in RI” and the one on how OpenSource projects can go terribly wrong) were good or at least what I would have expected. The other presentations just meandered or were thinly veiled sales pitches.

Maybe the second half was better but I had to leave at the half-time break. I simply couldn’t tolerate it anymore.