Monthly Archives

January 2014

Is Silicon Valley Really Public Enemy No. 1?

By | Insight, Startups | No Comments

Post copied from my article on Kikai Mining
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Just finished reading an interesting article by @DannyCrichton on TechCrunch.

The article is entitled “Silicon Valley Is Now Public Enemy No. 1, And We Only Have Ourselves To Blame.” Danny points out that public sentiment on startups has begun to sway against them.

Oh great! I switched my career last year to focus solely on building my own startups and helping other startups.

But apparently not all is lost. The reason for this trend appears to be a PR issue for the startup community. Here you have hot-shot, 20-year-olds who are appearing to avoid the trend of working their entire lives to be ‘successful’*, upending entire industries and not really doing much to improve the communities in which they work. So pretty much, don’t be cocky, complement vs. destroy and give back. Good thing it’s simple to solve.

It’s not that easy to solve

Wait? Didn’t I just say it was simple?

It’s not that easy. The rate of change in business has been astounding and naturally there will be some push back. Startups are so focused on Minimum Viable Products, Cost per conversion rates, Business Models, Pitches and Investors that there is very little time to think about the overall impact you might have to society. You’re passionate about your solution and you know it’s better than anything else out there. I’ve been there and I’m living it. I focus so much energy on begin successful (in a business sense) that the other aspects aren’t often considered.

What’s a startup to do?

Here are some initial thoughts that I’ve considered.  I’ll certainly be thinking more about this as I continue with my startup-based career:

  • Give back – mentor, volunteer, donate.  I do all 3 because it helps my community and makes me a better businessman.
  • Can you complement instead of compete? – Your idea might be awesome, but does it necessarily have to compete in the industry?  Reality is that if the industry is big enough you can probably make plenty of money without directly competing.
  • Be humble and thankful – yep, you worked hard to get where you are, but i’m pretty sure you’ve had a lot of help along the way.  I know I have.
  • Sometimes you can’t win – Even if you know the fight is the right thing to do and you’ll prevail, it doesn’t necessary mean anyone wins.

* Success in my mind is not determined by material wealth, but by what you do with the opportunity.

[Read the whole article at TechCrunch]

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

By | Insight | No Comments

Since my wife and I are now both self-employed, we find that nights and weekends are often spent working and building our businesses.

My advice: Take time to enjoy life.

Although we both love the work we do, we realize that it’s important to take time to relax and have fun. Re-energize your spirit and make the time. Schedule if you have to.

A couple ideas:

  • Take advantage of happy hours that start at 4pm. Everyone else is working, so you’ll get great service.
  • Join a sports team. This makes you get out of the house and burn off some steam.
  • Take your lunch break. Schedule lunch meetings with people, head to the gym or hit the forest for a hike.
  • Play a board game. You’re relaxing, challenging your brain in other ways and spending time with those you love. Check out Relic Runners; new game I got for Christmas that is pretty good.

How do you relax as an entrepreneur? Let me know.

Storehouse for iPad – Guest Review

By | Photography, Review, Software | No Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to share pictures in a more meaningful way. I’m now up to 49,911 photos in my Lightroom library. I’ve traditionally shared everything on my Smugmug site (great site by the way) and they’ve done an awesome job of updating their themes to enhance the user experience.

The problem with Smugmug is that it’s essentially just an album. No stories, no context.

Enter Storehouse. I saw this yesterday on the App Store and have yet to try it out, but my brother was quick to download and here are his thoughts:

Pros:

  • Super easy to use. Was able to create and publish a test page within 5 mins.
  • Links to enough social media accounts that it’s reasonable that you could plan ahead and take pics through Instagram, or like you said, just upload pics directly to your iPad Album.
  • Looks great.
  • It’s Free! A huge plus in my book.

Cons:

  • It’s public and there’s no way around that. Therefore, can’t create and share anything intimate or have descriptions that you wouldn’t want to the whole world (which includes your employer) to read.

Thanks Mike for the quick review. I look forward to trying this out.

On a related note, there is another great site out there doing a very similar thing: Exposure. I’ll try to write up my thoughts on this in the future.

My Stress as an Entrepreneur

By | Insight | 2 Comments

Stress comes in many forms and is inherently based on how we cope with adversity. I’d like to share a little bit about my view on stress as an entrepreneur in my first year.

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I took the plunge last year to focus on businesses I run (or help run). My brain still continues to ask daily, “Was that such a good idea?” I respond in-kind to my brain, “Yes. Now leave me alone, I need to get working.”

So what is different now?

I’m not going to say that I don’t have stress now, I do. Probably even more so. The difference now is how that stress affects my overall quality of life.

Before I would ask myself questions like:

  • Am I doing the right thing and reaching my full potential?
  • There has to be more to life than this, right?
  • Is it 5pm yet? It’s only 2?!? Crap.

It really wasn’t a fun way to live my “working” existence that unfortunately took up a majority of my time. I took it home, it ruined my time off and worst of all, I felt purposeless. I tried finding purpose in what I was doing, but really struggled. So I quit.

How is stress different now?

I’m happy to report that I no longer dread Sundays. I get lost in my work because it’s challenging and fun. I am more willing to put myself out there, try things and meet new people.

It was scary at first (and still a bit scary now), but I trust myself. I trust those things I know right now and trust in my ability to learn those things I’ll need.

I work more now than I ever did before, but I don’t mind. The money is much tighter now, which is a newer stress, but it’s one I can handle. It actually energizes me into coming up with strategies to ensure I won’t have to worry about next month. It’s a motivator I enjoy.

I can’t say this would be for everyone, but my soul thanks me for taking this leap.

What about you?

If you’re considering starting a business or leaving your current job to look for something better, I whole heartedly recommend it. Quit listening to your brain and take the chance; eventually it will come around.

I’ll try to share more as time goes on in my life as an entrepreneur.

CampFinder – Beta Launch in Cincinnati

By | Startups, Technology | No Comments

I’ve been working for the past couple of months with my business partner, Brennan Sweeney, to develop CampFinder.co. I’m happy to say that we recently launched our beta site for the Cincinnati Area.

When you search for a flight, a place to eat, a hotel to stay in, or a car to rent, you know where to go on the Internet. However, if you have kids and you want to find a camp for them, there wasn’t really a service to help you out. CampFinder.co does just that. Summer camps, Academic & Enrichment Camps, Adventure Camps, Sports Camps, Religious Camps, you name it, we want to list it.

We’re in the process of adding camp programs daily to ensure we have a complete list. We feel the real value is offering this complete list because without it then you’re not really afforded a complete choice.

Best of all, this service is 100% free to parents.

Right now, parents can search for camps based on information including: Location, Program Type, Camper Age, Program Date, Program Price and Program Rating. Additionally, parents can reach and leave reviews for camp programs to aid in the selection process.

CampFinder Search

We hope to soon be able to offer complete camp program registration, but we do offer camp booking and payment if the camp chooses to use our service. It’s our hope that camps will see the benefit of allowing parents to search, research and register all within a single site.

Please check out CampFinder.co and let us know what you think!

Sony RX100 vs. Sony QX10

By | Photography, Review, Technology | No Comments

Santa was awesome this year and took me by complete surprise and brought me a Sony QX10 camera.  What’s so special about the QX10?  It’s essentially a camera inside a lens that is wirelessly controlled by your smartphone (iPhone or Android).

I took the opportunity today (a brief winter weather break) to head out, test it out and see how the QX10 would fare against my RX100.  This is also a little bit of a review of the QX10.

Trees

Image Quality / Sharpness

I took quite a few pictures today from the same spot with the intention of seeing if I could tell a difference in the shots both in regular view and 100% cropped. Important to note, the RX100 is a 20MP camera while the QX10 is 18MP.  Additionally, the RX100 has a larger sensor than the QX10.

This first image was taken at the Observatory in Cincinnati.  

At first glance the images looked pretty similar.  The colors about the same and generally nice shots.  

Shot3

Then I zoomed in. The RX100 (image on the left) is drastically sharper.  Notice the bricks and grass.

Shot3_zoom

I headed into the Ault Park forest and grabbed this shot of a newly built bridge.  This was in a bit of a darker area to test a lower light situation.  Again, the standard image looks pretty good and is very usable.

SHOT1

Zooming to 100%, you again see the difference in sharpness.

SHOT1_zoom

What does this all mean? All depends on what you’re using your pictures for. Since the QX10 is meant to be an upgrade to your smartphone camera, then I would definitely say this is an upgrade from my iPhone 4S camera. I have not yet tested an iPhone 5 or 5S which may be on par with the QX10. If that’s the case, then the QX10 may not be the best option.

Bokeh

The ability to blur a background to focus on your subject in photography is known as bokeh.

Here is the QX10. Not much bokeh.
RidgeQX10

Here is the QX100. A fair amount of bokeh.
RidgeRX100

Without getting too scientific, the amount of bokeh you can achieve is dependent upon sensor size and aperture size. Larger sensor, larger aperture equals more bokeh. Given that the RX100 has a larger sensor and larger aperture (f/1.8 vs. f/3.3), it’s not a surprise that the RX100 has these better results.

What I love about the QX10

  • Bold innovation
  • Small size (on it’s own)
  • Loads full resolution images onto iPhone for easy sharing
  • Wireless control makes for easy self portraits of yourself and with others
  • Easy to get unique angles
  • Much cheaper than the RX100
  • Tripod mount

What leaves me wanting more

  • Very slow startup process
  • Inconsistent connection quality causes pauses during crucial moments
  • When attached to iPhone (using included bracket), much bigger than RX100
  • Image quality
  • No flash, so won’t really work once the sun goes down
  • Wifi solution is terrible

Closing Thoughts

The QX10 is a nice upgrade from the iPhone 4S camera and has some unique features that I can’t duplicate with any of my other cameras. Images are still good enough for web use and general printing. I know the QX100 version of this camera would solve my image quality issues (and some low-light problems), but it’s increased size would likely be too much for me.

What is keeping me from recommending to anyone (with an iPhone at least), and will likely limit daily use, is the amount of time it takes to take a picture. Anyone who has ever used a camera is used to less than 5 seconds from on to snapping shots. I’d love for Sony to adopt GoPro’s approach of allowing you to keep the Wifi signal on. Yes, this would reduce battery life, but if I knew I was going to be taken pictures fairly often then I could likely have a far better experience.

I have not tried this camera with a NFC-capable device. This is supposed to offer a much better experience that I’ll hopefully be able to have in the future versions of the iPhone.

Santa, if you’re reading this, I still love the gift, but I wanted to share my experience with folks.

How does the QX10 work if it doesn’t have a screen?

Using my iPhone 4, I search for the QX10 Wifi network, connect and then open the Sony PlayMemories app.

This camera can be used to take pictures without using your phone, but you then have to guess how you’re framing the shot.

How well does this work?

Honestly, not that well in practice.

Startup Time: It takes a minimum of about 15 seconds to be able to take a picture (best case). For comparison, the RX100 takes about 2-3 seconds.

Live View: There is often a ‘buffering’ that occurs where the image on the phone’s screen freezes, spinning wheel and wait. Really can’t understand why this happening when my phone is literally touching the camera.

The images in this post were not edited in any way. Both cameras were set to take JPEG files at highest resolution.

DuckDuckGo

By | Software, Technology, Website | No Comments

I recently wrote on Kikai Mining’s blog about the value of search engines in our society and about two of the major players, Google and Bing.  I tried using Bing for a bit and honestly didn’t find any value of using it over Google.

Enter today.  I read about DuckDuckGo on The Next Web using my favorite RSS reader Pulse.  It promises an anonymous and instant search result.  I personally don’t care much about privacy, but it appears with the huge NSA backlash that their marketshare has really begun to tick upward to the tune of 1 billion searches in 2013.

Privacy focused startups should have a solid year in 2014 as more and more people look to shroud themselves from the watchful eye of governments.  I’m pretty sure they don’t care about your searches of dogs wearing pantyhose (which is cruel and very odd), but whatever floats your boat.

Check out DuckDuckGo.

You can read more about why to use the service at http://donttrack.us/