One year later
A year ago this month, in Downtown Culver City, my life changed pretty dramatically.
It was then we took our first investment for what became HowMuch.
At the time I was at a bit of a crossroads. I’d been doing contract work for GetBonkers, an Amplify-incubated company started by the great Charles Chase. That contract was up, and with my previous venture wound down, it looked like my foray into “entrepreneurship” was over.
Like any idea, HowMuch started in a pretty humble way. A bar bet with a friend. A joking one, at that. “Ten bucks if you can come up with some way for me to avoid going back to work for a major corporation.” Of course, within a few minutes, we knew that was the idea: a social bar betting app called Betcha.
So then, it was Thursday. I’d set a meeting with Amplify’s own Jeff Solomon for the following Monday to go over a bunch of potential contract jobs he could set me up with, any one of which I’d be glad to have. But now I had a new idea… a “scheme,” if you will: from Thursday until Monday morning I’d flesh out the concepts and design for Betcha, then walk into the meeting and pitch that instead.
Either as a product of his infinite wisdom, or his pity for me, Jeff bought into the concept. Between himself and Charles, we’d get enough cash to build and launch a working prototype of Betcha, test the assumptions and hopefully raise a real round of cash in three months.
Boom. We’d done it. Mission accomplished, right?
A week later I found myself walking away from our lawyer’s office, two signed convertible note documents in-hand, on my way to a celebratory dinner. We did it! Right? The excitement felt a little like dread. A lot like it, in fact. Oh, yes, and terror. Suddenly I understood why nobody likes to be congratulated on raising money, any amount of money. Suddenly I got to meet that crushing sense of responsibility, of fear that you won’t deliver, of fear that these people have totally misplaced their faith. Knowing you’ve got to take that fear, that dread, and convert it into a tireless drive, a need to make good. A hope and belief that you can do what you’ve said you will do, what you’ve set out to do. And a hope that at the end of it, you’ll share with everyone a product that makes a difference in the lives of your customers.
One year later, we’re still on the mission. We’ve had some false starts, some setbacks, sure. But we’re hungrier than ever, feistier than ever. And still filled with that hope, that drive, that need to make good.
Here’s to the next year. I can’t wait to see what happens.
Connecting the Seeed Studio SD Card Shield 3.1 to your Arduino Mega 2560
I had to do some digging on the message boards to find the info needed to solve this one, so I thought I’d summarize.
The Seeed Studio SD Card Shield 3.1, which I grabbed off the rack at RadioShack, isn’t directly compatible with the Arduino Mega 2560. This is due to the SPI pins being moved on the Mega.
I got the shield working by connecting some jumper wires from the Mega to the shield:
Connect Pin 10 on the shield to Pin 53 on the Mega.
Connect Pin 11 on the shield to Pin 51 on the Mega.
Connect Pin 12 on the shield to Pin 50 on the Mega.
Connect Pin 13 on the shield to Pin 52 on the Mega.
It’s not stackable, but it’s workable. After connecting the jumpers to the board, I was able to run the CardInfo example by changing the chipSelect variable from 4 to 53, and the pinMode(4, OUTPUT); line to pinMode(53, OUTPUT);.
Hope this helps someone.
In defense of Tom Cruise
There I was, sitting at Starbucks, when I received a rather curious text from a friend: a text claiming that Tom Cruise is a terrible actor, and that one must merely look at his body of work to see it for themselves.
I was stunned. Was this true? Had I never really thought about it? Was I just blindly assuming he was good?
Now Tom Cruise is a very complex man, to be sure, and one whose personal life has many times overshadowed his craft and his career. But through all of his ups and downs, through the controversy, and the couch-leaping, there’s no question — he’s one of the biggest movie stars of our generation. But that’s not the question.
A common criticism leveled against Mr. Cruise is that he merely shows up to set, flashes his pearly whites and earns a paycheck. There’s no soul, there’s no depth of character, there’s just Tom playing Tom. Now like any actor who’s been on the scene as long as him, he’s surely phoned a few in. (Valkyrie.) But let’s go on a brief journey through some of his roles and see if we can find his range for ourselves.
In which I gush about HowMuch, our fledgling little company with a big heart and bigger ambition.
In just a couple of days, we’ll be submitting a roughed-in beta of the iOS app for our shiny new platform, HowMuch. (If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a good place to start.) God willing, Apple will approve it just in time for us to aggressively pimp it on street corners at South By Southwest.
That analogy could get creepy later if I refer to the platform as “our baby,” so I’ll be sure to avoid that.
If you’d told me in January that we’d be taking a completed, functioning version of this app to Austin at the beginning of March, I wouldn’t have even reacted, because the idea seemed so ludicrous. So many partnerships we’ve got to lock down. So much platform development. So many user interface designs, so much art, so much copy to write. At the beginning of January, we still didn’t even have a platform engineer! The iOS app was still in hand-drawn sketches and a few wireframes.
And yet, here we are.
Each and every person on this team has been pushed far outside their comfort zones, and has stepped up in such a huge way. It’s a point of personal pride for each of us to meet and exceed expectations, and each person puts on themselves a higher and more aggressive measure for success than anybody could ever put onto them. If something’s not getting done, and it needs to be, Scott gets the team on point, gets on the phone, hunts people down, whatever it takes. If something’s not making sense in our platform API, Kurt relentlessly pursues answers until it’s all figured out, and finds a half-dozen ways to do things better or more efficiently. Kristin exhaustively researches and compiles data, writes copy, finds designers and pulls projects together. Tyler wrings out bugs and wrangles views in our iOS code well past midnight on the east coast, much to his family’s chagrin (we’ll get ’em out here eventually.)
I mostly just sit here with a dumb look on my face. But you know. We can’t all be winners.
It’s truly inspiring to work with such great people, and I walk into the office every day knowing I’m going to be amazed by someone’s drive, ability and ambition. I know I’m going to get pushed to work harder, to do better, to learn more and to deliver great results.
Tempers flare, of course, and there’s plenty of missteps, tense moments, arguing, stomping around, the occasional passive aggressiveness… (okay, that’s probably me.) But there’s a shared goal, a need for greatness, and that keeps the ship moving in the right direction. Never paralyzed by inaction or infighting, and not looking for or taking labels. Doing it the way we do it. And doing it as well as we possibly can.
We’re not perfect and we’d never claim to be. But I’m so proud of who we are and what we’re accomplishing. And I couldn’t possibly imagine hitting these milestones without this group of people.
I can’t wait for everybody to see what we’ve been building here. We’ll see you in Austin.
Editing Microsoft Office documents on your iPad using the Office Web Apps Preview
This might be common knowledge at this point, but it was news to me: the new preview versions of the Office Web Apps let you edit documents on your iPad.
I’ve tested so far:
Lets you do all the usual stuff, including insert charts and graphs. Has touch-friendly selecting context menus.
Very slow, even on the iPad 3, but fully-featured (including spell check!) and goes as far as having touch-friendly text selection.
To check it out:
- Log into your SkyDrive account in Safari
- You’ll be in the Mobile version. Scroll to the very bottom and in the bottom-right corner you’ll see “PC Site.” Click that.
- Now you’ve been redirected to the desktop version of SkyDrive. Tap on an Excel file in your SkyDrive, or tap ‘New Excel Document’ at the top.
- Presto — you’re editing it.
The editor is pretty functional. It’s slow, but you can even right-click: tap a cell, then tap it again to access the context menu. Tap a row header to get a green touch-friendly ‘dot’ that lets you drag to resize.
They’ve clearly built this to be touch-friendly, as right-click and drag-and-drop events don’t translate to touch devices. Not officially supported, but definitely something they’re working on for the future.
Note you’ll need to be participating in the Office Web Apps Preview for this to work. When you log into SkyDrive, you should get a prompt asking if you’d like to participate.