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Another Startup Weekend!

We’ve received another special request for designers at startup weekend. If you haven’t gone, you really should. It’s a great change of pace from the normal weekend activity, with no strings attached. From my young designer perspective, it wasn’t just a great place to practice, but rather it helped me gain a better understanding of my value proposition to business and tech people. For me, that has been invaluable as I’ve continued my career. For more information… View full article »

Startup Weekend Health Philadelphia

We recently received an email from a Melissa Morris Iovine, a guest speaker at our Creative/Startups event. Apparently there is a new startup weekend coming in June that is to be focused on health and she has a special request for designers. See below:

Startup Weekend Health Philadelphia ( will be taking place June 1–3, 2012! In case you haven’t heard of Startup Weekend (, the premise is to spend 54 hours working on a team to create and launch a web or mobile application which could, in essence, be a credible business startup, in this particular case healthcare-related. No talk, all action.

It’s an intense and invigorating experience. If you have an idea, you can pitch one and then form a team to work for the weekend. Or you can join an idea that you find interesting. Over 54 hours, you get to see what goes into launching a startup and then the projects get pitched to a panel of judges.

One issue that most Startup Weekends face is a lack of designers, which is hard to believe because it is such a great opportunity. Because there are so few, they are in high demand. You get to brand an entire entity, which is great portfolio work. And the teams that come out on top are usually the ones with some good design behind them. This event is all about learning and collaborating, and you will leave feeling valuable, appreciated, and confident.

For more details regarding the role of design at Startup Weekend, please check out this blog post:

The early bird deadline is May 11th, so sign up soon! For a coupon code to the event, email
Hope to see you there!

Speed-dating Recap and State of the BDQ

I hope everyone had a great time at Startup Weekend these past few days. This post would have included a recap of that great event as well were it not for law school exams, *grumble* but that is neither here nor there. This past week was choked full of great startup events, not least of which was the  first ever Designer-Tech Startup Speed Dating Extravaganza, organized by Venturef0rth, Philly Tech Meetup, and the of course, the BDQ.

If you weren’t able to make it, here’s the recap. The Need: startups need designers on their team, designers need work where they’re valued and can grow professionally. The Product: An event that brings together 25 great Philly-based tech businesses in need of designers and 25 extremely talented designers for 2 hours of intense (but fruitful) speed-dating. The Result: The feedback from the attendees has so far has been very positive. From what we’ve been able to gather, the benefit to the businesses and the designers that attended was significant. We’ve certainly learned from our missteps (sorry to those who took a spill when we turned the lights off), so if you can believe it, the next one will be even better. Special thanks to @JesseMKramer and @elliotmenschik of @venturef0rth for the venue and fridge full of craft beer. Seriously, awesome.

 The event was a big step forward for the BDQ in terms of what community impact. The second collaboration between us, PTM, and Venturef0rth, but the first one that we put a lot of effort into. That being said, in addition to doing a quick recap, I wanted to use it as an opportunity for reflection. Since officially starting in the Fall, the BDQ has a FB Group, Twitter feed, and WP blog (you are reading this on WP right?). The following so far is small (about 40 FB and 30 on Twitter), but dedicated. Dom, Ann, Georgia, and I started the BDQ because we got together and realized that our respective communities (Biz and Design) could each benefit from co-mingling, information sharing, and collaboration. Dreaming big, saw a need for a catalyst for multi-disciplinary team formation and wanted to give it a shot.  What I’ve observed, after being involved with the BDQ for 8 or so months now, is that there are a couple challenges associated with our goal.

1. The 90-9-1 Rule: The BDQ  is dependant upon network effects. That is to say that the more people who are involved and the more diverse the community is, the more valuable the product becomes. Do to lack of consistent posting from us the founders, capture, etc., the community is still too small to really generate momentum. In order to get the information sharing component up to a point where it can grow organically, we need more members.

2. The Capture Issue: Our message resonates with those that already see the value in what we are trying to achieve and many of these individuals are proactive, collaborative, entrepreneurs who probably would be doing what they’re doing regardless of whether the BDQ existed. From an impact standpoint, that means we’re falling short on our mission of generating value to the larger business and design communities. Those that would benefit most from our message aren’t interested / aren’t listening / are  more difficult to get involved as they don’t yet see the value in what we’re providing (and yes, I know that Capture Theory refers to regulation and politics, but I think that the forces are the same). I believe the solution is something akin to implementing a new organizational policy. In order to get real buy-in, there needs to be reinforcement mechanisms. To effectively implement the change, you need visible, organization-wide endorsement. Without reinforcement mechanisms (allignment), you’re not going to get buy-in from anybody who doesn’t already see the value in the new claim. Did you get the memo on the TPS reports?  In fact, you might even fail to get those who see the value in the change, but don’t want to disadvantage themselves by spending time with something that won’t translate tangible value. For the BDQ to grow we need to get support from other sources to reinforce the idea that participation is valuable and worthwhile. Maybe this is talking to teachers at Temple MBA and the U of Arts. Maybe  this is doing a better job of demonstrating the success stories.

3. Facilitating Action is Hard: As any event organizer will tell you, facilitating co-mingling and incentivizing participants to translate the message of the event into action is a real challenge. We’ve punted on this issue at the BDQ in large part because its still a pet project for us. Comparatively, focusing on growing the online community is a much more manageable problem.

Despite the challenges that we face growing the BDQ, the speed dating event on Wednesday reminds me of why we do it. Maybe we don’t have 10,000 followers on Twitter yet, but even our small impact has been a positive one. If you know me personally, you probably know that I love art that doesn’t need popularity to be special. One street artist who does their work in abandoned spaces relayed their motivation for obscurity: it’s better to have an impact one person that have no impact on billions. The BDQ functions for its founders the same way. Of course I’m interested in growing the BDQ because the larger it is, the better it can achieve its goal. But, if we can inform just one person, help them learn something that they wouldn’t otherwise ever know, then our efforts have been worthwhile.


BDQ’s: Best of the Intertubes

Dom took the initiative to start this post that we have been talking about, let’s get the community to sound off and crack a collective egg of knowledge by sharing our favorite resources (feeds, blogs, books, people, movies, bathroom graffiti). To start things off I’ve got 10 of my favs listed below. – Awesome feed, lot’s of great contributors and a surprising amount of great infographics
Continuations – Like a lot of my feeds I got into this one through a venture capital recommendation. Very techy, but very well written and informative. Tech Tuesdays are killer.
A Smart Bear – Fantastic posts, especially the marketing advice. I’m pretty sure I’m going to write some lengthier posts on James’ internet pricing posts.
Chris Dixon – Startup guy turned VC, Chris is a wealth of knowledge and a great mentor over at TechStars NY.
Instigator Blog – One of the very first VC blogs I started reading is written by one of the founders of an awesome Montreal-based accelerator. Candid, genuine, informative.
Startup Lessons Learned – Probably now on every startups radar, Eric Reis, author of The Lean Startup, has become a religious guru of sorts for startups.
Steve Blank – In the same vein as Eric Reis, Professor Blank has some serious cred in the startup world. Keeping an ear peeled for his posts is definitely worth your while.
Both Sides of the Table – I’m throwing in only two VC feeds although I usually read quite a few. The first coveted spot goes to Mark Suster. No BS. Great advice. Love this guy
Ask the VC – The other goes to Ask the VC. Run by the Foundry Group guys in Boulder, they distill the great info into their feed. I’ve several of my favs through them.
Concurring Opinions – Had to put just one legal blog in here. CO’s is a great place to get the scoop on current legal issues (and my main man, super-prof Dave Hoffman is a regular contributor).
Check it and share your own favorites.


Looking to exercise your creative chops and create impact in the business world? Looking for a designer to help you create compelling products and experiences that customers adore? Look no further.

This first-of-its-kind event will bring together businesses serious about hiring designers, and creatives serious about finding a foothold in the world of tech startups and emerging growth companies. Attendees from selected companies will have the opportunity to spend 3 minutes with each of 25 selected designers including a view of their portfolios and a high-level view of where their skills can be applied.

Applications will be open to any interested designers and companies. Attendees will be selected based on their commitment to hiring/joining and making the most of the capacity-limited event.

Businesses Apply Here

Designers Apply Here


Where: Venturef0rth, 417 North 8th Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia PA 19123

When: Wednesday, 4/18, 6-8pm


3/28 Applications open

4/11 Applications close

4/13 Notifications to selected designers and businesses

4/18 The Event

Brought to you by Philly Tech Meetup,  Venturef0rth and us!


the poster:

Killing Assumptions with Open, Honest Discussion

A recent post on Fast Company’s design blog, (clearly my go-to) is about argument. It frames it in a way that vilifies brainstorming, which seems needless to me (I’ll discuss this later), because the gist is still valuable. Arguments enable diverse perspectives on a topic to be externalized. The challenge is keeping it productive and not degrading. The author, a Design Strategist at Continuum, provides a shortlist of guiding principles when doing this, such as keeping it fun (a design staple), and saying “No, because…” as opposed to simply saying “No.” These points, and the others listed are very valuable aspects to executing this idea of productive arguing well.

However, in the article the value of productive arguing is built on a comparison to brainstorming. I think this is both inappropriate and debilitating, because it is a bad comparison and doesn’t enable the tool to stand on its own. Brainstorming is a generative process, i.e. it is meant to produce a lot of ideas, good or bad, the point is not to care but create. This process isn’t meant to provide well-thought, thorough and refined ideas. This is important to remember, because this article claims that some people thought brainstorming was the key to innovation, as if this was all that was needed. This implied replacement of one tool with the other seems to say that they are comparing apples to apples, so to speak, with innovation as the fulcrum on which the tools are compared. This is not true. View full article »

Scientists Do It Better

Startup success is often glamorized, but so should the struggle (via @cdixon). The power of iteration has definitely caught on with the Lean Startup craze, but we as entrepreneurs need to remember that for every Pinterest or Zynga, there are 10,000 garage teams burning the midnight oil because they are passionate about something. As a society (and subsequently as professionals), we treat failure as something to be feared or mourned. Why should it have to be like that? I’m not saying that everyone should get a a participation medal, but if failure were less demonized, perhaps the concept of turning failure into a learning experience wouldn’t be such a revelation. And so I echo my co-contributor’s co-sentiments, put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to kill your children.

Two relevant pieces of startup advice that have stuck with me:

1) Do a startup because you love the idea. That way, you can fail and still have a great time. (I think this might be from @cdixon too, or perhaps @sgblank)

2) Scientist are a group of professionals that exalt failure. We should all try to be a little more like scientists. (via @marcecko)

That is the real beauty of startups, people trying to change the world just because they can. Not because they want to be the next TechCrunch headline.

Having read an interesting, yet seemingly obvious article written in The New Yorker, I wanted to do a quick post. The article deals generally with HR practices and I especially wanted to talk about it in light of some of the interview stories I’ve heard from my fellow, soon to be post-graduate school, colleagues. In business school (and surprisingly in one of my law school classes even) I’ve heard HR advocates talk again and again about how the Immelt’s of the world say they wish they had paid attention during their Human Resources classes as they now believe it to be the most important part of running their businesses. View full article »

Effective Communication

If you were able to make it to the Startups for Creatives event last night at VentureF0rth, I’m sure you would agree with me saying that it was an awesome opportunity and a chance to engage some great members of the community. For those who couldn’t make it, or have no idea what I’m talking about, the event (co-hosted by VentureF0rth, Philly Tech Meetup, and the BDQ) was the first in a series designed to better integrate the philadelphia design community with the philadelphia entrepreneurial community. Specifically, this first event was run with the goal of educating designers about the value that they bring to startups and with the help of some kick-ass, designer/entrepreneur panelists (special thanks to @chuise, @OperationNICE, @wells_jake, and @ptribal) about what the startup experience is like of designers.

So without further ado, my take-aways (by profession). View full article »

First, I want to thank Dom and Jake for putting the time in to work with VentureF0rth on these upcoming events that were mentioned in the previous post. The motivations behind these events are obviously close to the collective BDQ heart and I hope that we can capitalize on this great opportunity. I look forward to seeing ya’ll there.

I was reading an article today from Steve Blank about his lean startup class at Stanford. Looking over the presentations that were posted, its awesome to see this kind of entrepreneurial teaching getting traction in curriculums. If you read through to the bottom of the article, you’ll notice that Steve talks about the volume of interest in the class and how going forward, getting into the class will essentially be an application process. Day to day we are well accustomed to the logic of meritocracy. To steal from a TED talker (who at this point I can’t remember), there is a strong argument to be made that the most talented should be given the best stuff. Society as a whole arguably benefits more from the best violinist getting the best violin, rather than a random or an equal distribution scheme. Meritocracy in theory is great, but it is also subject to abuse.

A few posts ago Dom posted about a fascinating article concerning the higher education bubble which I wanted to play off of. The so-called higher education bubble, to me, is a perfect example of the perils of bastardizing meritocracy. Too many students go to school believing that the education system is transparent: if you crush that entrance exam, you go to the highest ranked school you can, and you are justly rewarded upon graduation. I believe that is at issue here, is a question of incentives. We as students are led to believe that educational programs are incentivized to maximize our future societal potential. You work hard, you get your due. Period. Educational programs, however, also have interests in accepting the largest applicant pools that they can. Problems always surface when a certain class of actors is either unaware or misled about the incentives of another actor class. Ex. Student debtors believe that those issuing the loans would not issue them if the loaner knew that the student couldn’t pay them back.

The business lesson of my diatribe is this: incentive analysis is crucial. Given the bottom line focused business world that Dom mentioned, not understanding the motivations of those we do business with is a potential disaster for both parties. You never have the benefit of costlessly gathering data, but making efforts to understand the incentives of parties is important whether you’re making an HR plan, doing a VC deal, or making an app. So go out, be a skeptic and don’t let the man get you down.