August 3, 2011
Land of the free and the home of the Brave.

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Life just got a little easier for we non-American entrepreneurs (the brave) to join the ranks of the America’s best minds (the free).

Long story short, yesterday’s news is like a lungful of fresh air wrapped in a warm blanket:

  • We can now attain an H1-B visa through a company we are a beneficiary in so long as we can be fired (n.b. those with co-founders). [post-script: apparently this is extremely expensive]
  • We can attain a Green Card through our own company so long as we can prove we are exceptional and of benefit to the United States’ interests. (n.b. solo pros)

What was once a gray-area has now been clarified so on behalf of non-American entrepreneurs everywhere - and myself especially - thank you.

[N.B. I am no visa lawyer and the above is my interpretation of events, for more information see here and here. Also, Geoff McQueen has written a useful blog post on the E3 visa process]

July 17, 2011
The Starting Line…

With my first product launch imminent, I gaze out the Caltrain window and reflect upon the journey thus far.

Five months ago I arrived in San Francisco with little more than a laptop, a camera and a pile of sketchbooks; the assorted remnants of a few years’ worth ideas that I had happened to remember to archive on any particular day. It was these and a fascination with the internet that had led to my arriving in San Francisco on that particular day - a measure of blind optimism certainly helped.

My network of the time was zero; a circular, though not particularly useful number. My formal experience: also zero, although I had been exposed to the vicissitudes of product development through a good friend and many nights spent imagineering over beer.

The number zero thus became a concept and a challenge. The concept of being disconnected from the startup world - the source of tomorrow’s ideas - and the challenge to rectify this predicament, not through small incremental steps, but in a manner that reflected the timeline under which I was operating: December 20, Judgement Day Visa Expiration Day (VE day?).

With little funds and a distain for spending them, I leveraged the most valuable tool I had: a Canon 7D, a beautiful camera the size of which carries sufficient gravitas to say "I’m a professional, I belong here”. And so off I went, exchanging my services for entry at events, conferences and parties; all good occasions for finding large numbers of like-minded people with one primary objective: to network.

For experience, I sought environments with the greatest learning curve. Recruiters, habitually prioritizing master’s theses over life experience, were a foregone surrender - that left competition. So I hustled my way onto The Startup Bus (scholarships from Capgemini’s Accelerated Solutions Environment & the ANU School of Business helped defray the costs of competition & SxSW entry, respectively), launched headlong into a Startup Weekend (special mention, it is here that I found my current team) and stumbled across The Lean Startup Machine (builds your customer development chops). Each event with different challenges and benefits and all sharing a common theme: actors who thrive under pressure.

They are a special breed, these startuppers. They crave the long hours, shitty pay and high levels of uncertainty - all for a shot a making it their own way and the allure of a “non-linear progression curve”. The culture in the startup world is not a normal one: security is sacrificed for self-sufficiency, obsession is encouraged and long hours are almost a competition in itself - especially with the perennial deadline approaching (death). 

After some time of being embedded within startup culture, interaction with “regular” folk is often interjected with outbursts of “what the f*#k is wrong with you?!!” and “this is fun how??”. But the reality is that it IS fun, at least for the right kind of person -my personal motto being move or explode. In fact, if I weren’t doing this I would most likely be miserable or dissatisfied at the very least. I am a firm believer that we make our own destiny and opportunity comes to those who seek it. Hard work is just preparedness for the luck we may find along the way.

A special mention goes out to the United States Government, whose immigration policies consist of a myriad of obstacles designed to thwart even the most conscientious entrepreneur, whose only crime was a desire to create a viable business which in turn would create jobs. You are my greatest stress factor and my biggest motivator, so in the most perverse sense of the word: thanks.

So here I am, at the edge of the abyss. My camera sold for stickers (3000. Vinyl. Die-cut: the best that my money can buy) and what little reputation I have is on the line. 4 days until launch. 4 days to make an impression, validate hypothese, get sign-ups, prove traction, refine monetization strategy.

I have bootstrapped my way to the starting line.

p.s. To the friends and family who helped me get this far, thank you. Your continuing encouragement means more than you know.

—-

[See our product at picture.ly, network with us at facebook.com/picturely and tweet us @seepicturely. The Picturely team consists of myself, Hadiyah Mujhid, a stellar engineer and Bosco So, who is coding away from his hotel room in Bali as I type. A special mention also goes out to Chris Bennett who was with us for the beginning at Startup Weekend SF but has since withdrawn to focus on running his startup, Centrally, and Black Founders]

[If you would like to see our original Startup Weekend project go to imaiku.me]

March 27, 2011
A colored love story - by Eoin McMillan

Color, a social networking and photosharing app, launched this week to intense media scrutiny, most of which focused on seed funding ($41mm), valuation (+$100mm) and doubts over the viability of social data as a monetization strategy.

That an unproven concept was able to secure such a juicy seed funding round has fueled chatter that The Valley is once again in a bubble. But the general vibe of “what the hell were they thinking!!?” has downplayed the formidable leadership at the helm of Color (Bill Nguyen and Peter Pham) and has entirely missed the point of their imaginative product:

It’s FUN!

[postscript: Color is best thought of as a networking and technology company. Photography is just one mechanism through which to achieve a larger goal: revolutionize mobile networking - akin to Facebook’s impact upon the Web]

June 26, 2010
"Porque no las dos?" Clique Hunting and Clique Busting in Information Ecologies

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Appendix:

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