I totally get Kickstarter now thanks to the Poppy guys

poppy3d.comThe Poppy guys have done a great job running their Kickstarter campaign — they met their goals early, they’ve hit a bunch of stretch goals, it has been super positive, they have a bunch of great supporters. I think they were super thoughtful about the whole process, and I’m excited to see the product, I am of course a backer.

And it has become clear to me what Kickstarter is really for. It is not about raising money. These guys raised a modest amount, they could have funded this easily themselves or from friends. But they have built a great community of early adopters and backers, who feel like part of the team, who are going to help evangelize the product, who are influentials. And that is what Kickstarter really seems to be about (for tech products, I am clueless about movies or other domains) — it is in some sense a marketing expense, it is the way you reach out to the influentials and early adopters and get them on board and pulling for you, which is a HUGELY valuable asset for a young company. It is certainly not about the cash — the $147K these guys raised, less the Kickstarter and AMZN fees, is nothing compared to the funding needs of the business.

Nice afternoon at Firwood Farms — alpacas are very engaging animals

alpacas 1

alpacas 2

We had a very nice visit at Firwood Farms today, this place is an unassuming little gem. Way off the beaten path, and not very commercial, but a hugely nice and good couple who own the place and make a home for rescue alpacas (as well as some of their own). And the alpacas are so engaging, very interested in meeting us (we did have food in our hands), and not shy a bit, tho a little cautious. Their eyes are stunning. This place is about 1000x more meaningful and touching than any zoo. Worth a side trip.

Inside the light rail tunnel — highlight of my week!

Looking down the tunnel from the UW campus — thanks so much to folks at UW College of Engineering for arranging, and for “Traylor”:http://www.traylor.com/ for hosting. If Traylor hadn’t been so darn good at their job, completing this link early, we would have actually seen the borer in operation. But fascinating to see all the infrastructure to support the boring operation — the trains, material delivery systems, etc etc.

Decent article in Seattle Times about maker resources

Good “article in PNW mag”:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw/2017740454_pacificpnerds25.html?cmpid=2628 yesterday about maker resources here in the Seattle area. The particular things I noted:

* “Ignite Seattle”:http://www.igniteseattle.com/ — regular talks about projects, tho next event postponed, hope this is still active
* “Dorkbot Seattle”:http://dorkbotsea.org/ — also on hiatus this month but seems like my kind of thing (apparently lots of electricity involved)
* “Nerdnite”:http://seattle.nerdnite.com/ — more talks and sharing
* “Metrix create space”:http://metrixcreatespace.com/ — parts, workshop, courses, community
* “ALTSpace”:http://www.airlighttimespace.org/ — another maker space
* “Jigsaw Renaissance”:http://www.jigsawrenaissance.org/ — and another
* “Seattle Maker Faire”:http://www.makerfaireseattle.com/ — annual event showcasing projects
* “make Seattle”:http://www.makeseattle.net/
* “Geekwire”:http://www.geekwire.com/events/ — really more startup focused but leaking into maker space a little

As an aside, it is so odd that in 2012, the Seattle Times would go to the trouble to research, write, and distribute this article, but then in the web-published version, not link to any of the resources mentioned in it, leaving it to people like me to scrounge together all the links. The web version of the article seems like the afterthought, and the Times misses the opportunity to create the web-based page of record for “Seattle Maker”. I would have thought by now the web version of the article would be paramount, and the print version would be a derivative of that page. But obviously I don’t get it.

In general I don’t get the whole Seattle Times web strategy — and in 2012 that means I don’t get their overall business strategy. Why do they continue to hide their brand under the nwsource domain? It clearly seems like they just don’t care about the web. No other media company of substance behaves this way. Strange.

Ignition news roundup — Symplified, Whiptail

First off, we are surving the 2012 Snowpocalypse. Office traffic is light but folks are here.

On the business front, it was “announced that we led a round”:http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/18/ignition-leads-20m-round-in-cloud-security-and-identity-company-symplified/ in “Symplified”:http://www.symplified.com/. Great company building some pretty essential tools to manage employee identity and engagement across the web, can’t imagine how companies manage their voice and presence without this.

We also “joined the investor group”:http://www.geekwire.com/2012/ignition-bankrolls-flash-storage-startup-whiptail behind “Whiptail”:http://www.whiptail.com/, who build high-scale SSD arrays to replace spinning disks. Spinning disks — seems like we will look back at these in 100 years and laugh, or at least class them as a steampunk kind of gadget.

Excited to work with both companies.

Feels like the Seattle economy is on the cusp of an expansion

I had a great week last week that left me feeling incredibly optimistic about the Seattle economy.

First, Techstars Seattle Demo Day. What a super event, “lots of coverage of it”:http://www.geekwire.com/2011/favorite-pitches-techstars-demo-day-red. Great young companies, enthusiasm, great pitches, good progress in fundraising. Big audience with great energy. Super job by @andysack and everyone involved, a model for everyone else in the Seattle community who wants to nurture startups. We need more of these events, not just in cloud/web. I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurship events at UW and they are constrained by mentoring, hiring, seed financing — exactly what the techstars guys are providing. One of the companies, “Romotive”:http://romotive.com/, has also done a great job leveraging Kickstarter and have generated a lot of early revenue — the rise of crowd-sourced pre-sales/funding is a fascinating and positive evolution.

Everyone was hiring at the event. As an indicator of how desperate people are to hire, I had two guys try to hire me. If you think I am the answer to your problem, you are pretty desperate.

Then I spent the better part of a day in a meeting with the “UW College of Engineering Visiting Committee”:http://www.engr.washington.edu/mycoe/committees/visit.html. Some great data on the College of Engineering — most programs are massively oversubscribed, turning away students in bunches, doing a great job placing students. Great evolution in programs, great facilities, great staffing. The College could probably push out many more engineers and is constrained by state economic policies; with tweaks to tuition and governance, it seems like the pipeline could open much more broadly. And we also had a chance to listen to President Young speak who seems to have a very open attitude about IP licensing, he seems to recognize that getting IP out of the university and to work is important.

I left the two days feeling like a lot of piece parts are coming together fast. Seed funding. Crowd sourcing. Mentoring. Training/Education. And with iteration and tweaking, we could see an explosion of economic growth in the Seattle area. Exciting times.