On Murphy’s Law

A great story from my childhood came back to me tonight, with new meaning.

"Long ago in a village in northern China, there lived a man who owned a magnificent horse. So beautiful was this horse that people came from miles around just to admire it. They told him he was blessed to own such a horse.

'Perhaps,' he said. 'But what seems like a blessing may be a curse.'

One day, the horse ran off. It was gone. People came to say how sorry they were for his bad luck.

'Perhaps,' he said. 'But what seems like a curse may be a blessing.'

A few weeks later, the horse returned. It was not alone. It was followed by twenty-one wild horses. By the law of the land, they became his property. He was rich with horses.

His neighbors came to congratulate him on his good fortune. ‘Truly,’ they said, ‘you have been blessed.’

'Perhaps. But what seems like a blessing may be a curse.'

Shortly after that his son-his only son-tried to ride one of the wild horses. He was thrown from it and broke his leg. The man’s neighbors came to say how sorry they were. Surely, he had been cursed. ‘Perhaps,’ he said. ‘But what seems like a curse may be a blessing.’

A week later, the king came through that village, drafting every able-bodied young man for a war against the people of the north. It was a horrible war. Everyone who went from that village was killed. Only that man’s son survived, because of his broken leg.

To this day, in that village, they say, ‘What seems like a blessing may be a curse. What seems like a curse may be a blessing.’”

"While people on Facebook tend to friend their friends, people on Twitter tend to follow their interests. The following graph from Twitter is worth far more on a per-account basis because it is directly monetizable in a way that Facebook’s generally isn’t."

I’ve long held that the true value of location lies beyond real-time updates. We need tools that indelibly relate to our real-world social interactions, not those which are driven more by a novel engineering challenge.

A Heartfelt Thanks To Steve Jobs

I want to keep this note brief, because Apple showed me the beauty in simple ideas expressed clearly.

I cannot thank you enough, Steve, for demonstrating that the most compelling side of technology is the most human.

The best tools foster knowledge of ourselves, our communities and the world around us, rather than serve as a replacement for or a distraction from them. At its best, Apple provides better lenses to explore the worlds we live in. Interfaces should fade away from the conscious mind; they exist to facilitate our own process of discovery and creation.

Your tireless, passionate leadership provides inspiration that will live inside me and countless others for a long time to come.

On behalf of the foolish and the hungry, I salute you, Steve.

The connected, social Web is alive, moving, proactive, and personal, while the document Web is just an artifact — suited as a universal reference, but hardly a personal experience…As human beings, we have changed how we fit the Internet into our lives. And the nature of the Web is changing to match.

THE NOUN PROJECT - a great concept (though not as consistent in styling as Glyphish)

Via decodering:

Noun Project

The Noun Project collects, organizes and adds to the highly recognizable symbols that form the world’s visual language, so we may share them in a fun and meaningful way.

A successful Kickstarter project that has resulted in a large and growing collection of free symbols. Plus, a fascinating Tumblr blog.

The Startup Visa must be an American (not a Silicon Valley) story

Let’s start with the good news. There has been an inspiring outpouring of support for the Startup Visa this year, from truly passionate and accomplished innovators and investors. As an entrepreneur who grew up in the Bay Area and hacked through the visa jungle with foreign co-founders, it’s a story very dear to me. The Startup Visa legislation represents the most effective jobs bill on the table in this Congress, fostering the development of America’s next great companies from the best talent around the world, and we do have some incredible stories to share in Silicon Valley.

That said, I’m incredibly skeptical about the prospects of the bill passing, particularly because of this outsized focus on the Valley version of the American Dream. Hearing from tech titans and investors in Palo Alto and Mountain View might be inspiring to us, but fundamentally, we need to ask:

Are we trying to lobby the tech community to support the Startup Visa, or the US Congress?

Without a single Republican co-sponsor in the House, this legislation is doomed to failure in this session of Congress. If we want to build that base of congressional support, do you think a House representative in the American heartland will be inspired by a chorus of soundbites from Silicon Valley (or Silicon Alley) dreamers? I’d think again.

If we want to mount an effective lobbying effort in the US House, we need to find a way to present a more broadly American story, highlighting other cities and colleges around the US which also hold the key ingredients to foster entrepreneurship.

One of the most powerful ways to communicate those stories is through personal interviews in those communities; from American and international students looking to partner on a venture, to local investors who want to grow the next great businesses in their own backyard and simply want the broadest access to talent.

That’s why I’m helping Basil Glew-Galloway and Tarik Ansari with the production of a short documentary (supported by the Partnership for A New American Economy - http://www.renewoureconomy.org/) that highlights these local stories and aims to bring home the value of the Startup Visa directly to House members’ local districts.

With that in mind, I have searched for universities/cities that combine as many of the following criteria as possible, so that we can plan an interview roadshow:

  • Universities with large international student populations
  • Startup incubators (either private or university-supported)
  • An active seed/angel/VC community
  • Republican or mixed-party House representation in the region

Results are in this chart.

I would love to hear from people in these local startup communities to help narrow this list to the three most relevant regions to conduct interviews. I’ve also posted this on Quora to spur the conversation further.

So how can you get involved?

  • Email me if you can help connect us with startup entrepreneurs, investors, incubators and legislators in these cities who would like to be interviewed or can spread the word in their local community.
  • You can also reach out directly to your local reps through Votizen's fantastic letter writing program: https://www.votizen.com/issues/startupvisa/

Thanks for reading - now let’s help make the Startup Visa bill a reality.

Notes:

My research for the chart combined data from

  1. The list of Top 25 US Universities by international student population (http://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/International-Students/Leading-Institutions/2009-10),
  2. Robert Shedd’s excellent breakdown of startup incubators (http://blog.shedd.us/321987608/),
  3. Seed, angel and VC investors registered on AngelList in those regions
  4. Current party representation in the US House of Representatives.

Our NYC digs. Often feels like a little piece of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Alley.