Thursday, November 15, 2012


I've been called a lot of things. Some of them are nice. Some of them are, well - my mom might read this, so let's stop there. Along the way, I've probably been called cartoonish - and for all you that might have said this, I have good news. Turns out you were right!

The Kauffman Foundation made a Sketchbook video from one of my interviews with them, and published it earlier this week. Here's the press release and the video is embedded below.

Before this gets all self-promotional and weird let me make one point about Kauffman.  I don't know if I deserve this, but what Matt Pozel and Dominique Pahud created is humbling and, at the risk of getting too technical, it's super cool.

If nothing else, I want to give them heaps of credit - they cut up a few hours of me ranting on and on into a pretty neat cliff notes version of my verbal diarrhea (Related: Every single one of my friends is now trying to reach out to Matt and Dominique to figure out how productize the cliff-notes-inator for future conversations with me).

When they first approached me, they had already created the whole thing - they did all the work, animations, concepts, everything just from our video interviews. If you think the content/words are crap, that's my fault (and let me know in the comments below) - but the animation, video, concepts - that stuff is really amazing, way outside my skill set, and deserves tons of praise for it's amazing delivery of my rambling. And, they got the gap between my teeth correct, too.

It's another awesome output from the Kauffman Foundation, and one I'm proud to be associated with. If you have some time, I'd highly recommend you check out all the Sketchbook videos.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Couldn't have done it if I tried...

It's September 1st, which marks my third full month with the Nike FuelBand. Over that time, I've come to believe in the form factor (to which the FuelBand owes Jawbone a tip of the hat) and the experience as one of the best in activity monitoring. What's incredible to me is that over the last three months, without trying to achieve or knowing this pattern existed, I've become remarkably consistent:

Check this out (FuelPoints):

Even more clearly:

There is a big drop off in steps in August, but I've felt that since the last update, the FuelBand was much more conservative in it's measurement of steps (I saw a drop from about 20k per day to 15k per day) - of course, here I am blaming my tools, when it could have been me sitting on my behind. 

There's a an observer issue (which is not the Heisenberg principal, I know, for you physics bigots...) at play here, and it's hard for me to claim that the FuelBand is directly responsible for the consistency, but I've certainly found that the form factor, the fact it does not break, the battery life, and the daily incentives/rewards/goals are having an effect on my desire to exceed my numbers each day. 

It seems to be working. The lack of an API is still horrible, and the fact I had to type my data into a Google Spreadsheet just to tell you about it - yes, it's got flaws still. But in terms of consistent engagement? Impressive. 

Have you found consistency in your monthly output? Any hypothesis on why it's working (or not) for you?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Followup to Advisor Post

Chris Seper, the CEO of MedCityNews, interviewed me at the Kauffman Life Sciences Venture Summit right after I came off stage - which was both exciting and a little weird.  While we talked about a number of things, one of the videos he made was about my current hot-button topic, which is "what makes a good advisor," and specifically, my hypothesis that you want "value-connectors" not "super-connectors" when it comes to introductions from your mentors.

My thoughts on this topic - which Chris summarized well in the post - are further articulated in the Do I need an Advisor post I made recently. As a startup, you want to know that when someone makes an introduction, they are taking it really seriously. Access to a "contacts list" shouldn't be based on money (at one extreme) or "sure, I'll do that for you," (at the other)  but really based on you, the startup, earning it.  You want someone who is focused, dedicated, and willing to say "no, you are not ready" when you are not ready. 

Honestly, this seems awkwardly self-promotional to me, but I really believe in this meta topic (the rise of an unqualified "Advisor class" in Silicon Valley) and it's micro topics, such as introductions.

The post is here and the you tube video is embedded below.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Do I need an advisor for my startup?

This was originally posted on the Rock Health Blog, and I've included only an excerpt here - you can find the full post here

Advisors can play a very positive role in the development of a company when deployed effectively. Over the last few years, however, we have seen a rise of the “Advisor Class” where it appears everyone is either advising, or believes they are in need of advice. During this same period, more self-service resources have become available, from movements like the Lean Startup, to thoughtful Q&A discussion boards, such as Quora, which boasts nearly 75,000 people following questions on entrepreneurship.
So, does my startup need an advisor? An advisory board? How do you manage that relationship to get the most value from it while expending the least amount of effort? You know your effort needs to be on your company, your product, and your team. Anything else should be given rigorous consideration before adding it to your plate. So how do I take on advisors without being distracted?
If you read no further, remember that your investors value ‘team’ more than you know. Often, in fact, than your idea itself. They are placing a bet on you, your team, and your collective ability to make decisions and execute. If you can enhance your team with a small number of focused advisors to fill gaps, that’s a great win for the team. Just remember, never once has an investor said “I don’t believe in the team, but they have a great advisory board.” – team first, team always.
If you choose to read on, the following post provides hints for you to weigh when considering advisors, and most importantly, how to maximize advisor relationships. It’s a framework, but not an answer. And remember, only you can truly decide if you need advisors, because after all….YOU are the CEO!

Runkeeper has made it!

It's official, RunKeeper has finally made it to the big leagues as a social network - I've got my first RK spam! Sadly, it was not a Nigerian Banker with my lost millions, but this is progress none-the-less.

(Of course, I love the Runkeeper guys. It's actually very impressive I've gone this long without getting any spam. A little tongue-and-cheek never hurt anyone. Well, except

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nike FuelBand and Ice Hockey

My own little Quantified Self project is to review the Nike FuelBand and it's use during Ice Hockey games.  I have two specific questions I'm chasing, although I expect fully to get some new insights in how to improve my hockey performance, or at least my fitness level, by challenging some assumptions. And, I freaking love data, healthcare gadgets (actually any gadgets) and Ice Hockey, so this is pretty much the definition of "in my wheelhouse."

Specifically, I have two hypothesis I'm testing.

I want to see if playing center is, in fact, the hardest position on the ice - or as Wikipedia puts it centers "are expected to cover more ice surface than any other player". Does this hold true for me? Could I even map it to team performance? I believe it to be true, at least, if you are playing center the right way (a huge caveat in this experiment, of course), but I'd like to see if I can actually show it in my play. I love playing defense (and the whole idea of hitting, rather than being hit, is appealing as well), but I'm focused on really understanding if I'm working as hard as I should at center. It's arguable that I should also be playing harder on defense, too. At least, so says my goalie.

I'm also starting to wonder if I'm not ending hockey days with the best workout - or even, surprisingly, an average workout. Specifically, I think I'm sandbagging it during the day of Ice Hockey games. I think I'm actually using hockey as an excuse to not get more steps, travel more distance, and use more "fuel" because "I'll make it up at hockey" - or, when I'm feeling particularly good "I need to save myself for the game" - although I'm starting to doubt either of those are facts. First, I don't think I actually make it up or hit my fitness goals, and second, I don't think going into the game with any more steps or exercise really adversely effects my play. I think it's an excuse.

I'm playing on three teams this season, so we should have ample data, although my FuelBand arrived after the season started, and the Memorial Day holiday in May is throwing a wrench in my first month collections, as all the schedules are a little disorganized heading into the weekend. A version of the spreadsheet is here, but a live-updating version can also be found in the next section.

So far there are only two games to show, but there is a difference (about 100 FuelPoints) between center and defense (with same number of lines), and interestingly, my 2nd best day and my worst day - both hockey days. Let's see what the data will reveal!

The Data:


Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Incubators and Rock Health

Yesterday I posed a rather long rant/entry on the Rock Health blog. It was in reaction to a really ignorant piece that ran in MedCityNews, where the interviewee literally just ran his (uninformed) mouth on and on, with no facts, and no data. He compared Incubators such as Rock Health to puppy mills, a garden of broken dreams, the valley of death, and finally, accused people inside incubators are just gambling with people's dreams. Yes, these incubators include YC and Techstars, if you can believe that.

Meanwhile, you'll be glad to know, he works for a saintly profession. He's a VC. He's been one for a whole six months, according to his LinkedIn profile. So clearly, he's got it all figured out.

Anyway, it was a horrible piece and it drove me to reply. It took a few drafts to get all the f-bombs out. You can read the whole entry on the Rock Health Blog

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Startups, Patents, and Me

This morning, Mobihealth news reported that Bosch Healthcare has sued three companies on alleged infringements of the Health Hero patent portfolio. Although I don't know the details of the lawsuit beyond what is reported, my former role as COO/CTO and author of several patents for Health Hero resulted in me waking to numerous emails asking me what I thought. There was even one that asked me if I felt like I had "blood on my hands." I searched around the bed for a horse head.

Of course, I had three options.
  1. Keep my mouth shut
  2. Reply "no comment"
  3. Blog about my opinion
A smart person would have chosen one of the first two options.

The Caveat
Before I get to my biggest issue, let me be clear that I'm not against patents, only their abuse. Our patent portfolio saved us many times, and was, as a defensive mechanism, a brilliant device. It gave some people confidence to choose us in a competitive situation, for example, with Panasonic. It lead to a license with Philips Electronics and others, who were going to run over the top of us without it. It made us better partners to McKesson, and certainly enhanced our valuation. Most of the credit for the depth and size of the patent portfolio goes to Steve Brown, who started patenting many of these core ideas long before there was a Health Hero Network. If you look closely, priority dates go back to 1992. That's amazing foresight, and also why some of the claims which look "obvious" today are actually shockingly predictive. 

On Startups and Healthcare
My disappointment is predictable and obvious. Bosch is litigating MedApps, Waldo, and Express MD Solutions. These are hardly brand name companies. You only need to look at my dedication to Rock Health or view AngelList page to know I believe Healthcare and Technology (in general) are both best served by supporting entrepreneurs and startups.  Most will fail. Some will change the world. But there is nothing more motivating, exciting, and encouraging than seeing experts of all kinds coming together to solve real problems that scare other people away.

There is a sign that hangs at the doorway to Rock Health, paraphrasing something I wrote in response to a different topic, but it sums up the point of view.

(Credit to Ryan Panchadsaram for the layout and design)

Every "big" company has to decide how to work within its ecosystem. Most simply ignore it, outside large conferences and events. There are some who focus supporting the ecosystem, through the availability of APIs, Hackathons, incubation sponsorships, and other vehicles. There are, of course, also those that choose not to ignore it, and not to support it, but consciously attack. Nothing wrong with that either, but who you choose to pick on matters. I'm uneasy not so much with patent litigation, but with the targeted companies.  I hope the community does not quickly forget this action next time someone offers a conference sponsorship or speaking engagement.

Lawsuits like these have, much to the determent of true progress, become the new normal. With a sigh, I read through the quotes from Bosch defending the process:

"We feel it is important to demonstrate that IP is important, and not just to our company"

Does anyone - and I'm serious, is there a single person - who feels that this demonstrated IP was necessary for other companies? Did you read the article and think "thank you for clarifying that for me, I had no idea IP was important."

Just say it - you have a patent, the system allows you to protect it, and clearly there is some competitive threat from the market you feel the need to defend yourself. Okay, that's fine and within your rights. But when you start to talk about making a demonstration of someone, here's what I read: "We're going to take someone out behind the shed to make a point. We picked someone we know can't fight us with dollars or time, and we're sending a message to the rest of the market." When it's three startups with barely any traction, it's hard to read it any other way.

Now, I have no idea if there's a misquote in there or not, but read this one (emphasis added):

"Bosch is open to working with those companies that are interested in securing this technology through a licensing agreement."

I've got a better idea. Build something people want, and technology licensing won't require a shotgun. Again, I don't know the details, but if this is really about forcing severely outdated technology down the throats of others, that's an even more horrible state. I hope that's misquoted and pure patent license is on the table, if nothing else.

Bosch and Health Hero are better than this. There was a time when we built great, patient-centered solutions to real problems, and there are still so many high-quality people there who are, in the end, only motivated to fix a broken healthcare system. But this can't go without comment – the very companies being litigated against could be the next Health Hero, and the market, the healthcare system, and our patients deserve better. I want Bosch and HealthHero to be great, and I'm sure they can again rise to that greatness, but this is not the path.

While this "demonstration" may be Bosch's right, that doesn't make it right.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Paper vs. Plastic, eBooks revisited

I love my Kindle. Despite it's usability issues, Android operating system (Que Horror!), and all the other bits people complain about, I enjoy carrying around the Kindle Fire much more than I would have lugging around the Steve Jobs Biography or any other number of books. It's the right size, and much easier to read on than my iPad. It works for me(1) That said, there is one small problem with eBooks, be they on the Kindle, Nook, or reader of your choice.

Bits don't stick.

I'm hardly nostalgic, but the physical manifestation of a book is a powerful mnemonic. Like a greeting card from your past to future self, the good ones mean something to you. This can take several forms.

Today, I decided to re-read Alan Cooper's classic "The Inmates are Running the Asylum." I pulled the dead-tree-version from the shelf, dusted it off, and flipped it open.  On the second page of Inmates,  I found lovely note from the person who gave it to me. I had remembered it was a gift, but seeing the inscription there, in the person's handwriting, was a lovely experience.

The person who gave it to me was a prior VP of Operating Systems at Apple, and later the co-inventor of WebOS. Yet none of those make his inscription valuable to me, what was valuable was that he took the time to do it at all. This was not a book signing, he's a friend who wrote something memorable and meaninful.

Thankfully, when Inmates was published he couldn't "gift it" too me on Amazon

When I left Health Hero/Bosch last year, I gave everyone on my team books I felt were fitting for that person and their current career path or professional interest (2), but looking back, I wish I spent time writing in the books, rather than cards, as a more permanent reminder and thank you.

I dug around my shelf and noticed that almost every book I've kept was either personally signed, like Inmates, or stretched my mind at the time that it had signficant impact on how I've worked, led, and behaved (3). Clearly, these books made it through a lot of years of purging, donating, and generally clearing-house, yet here they are, and I'm unable to part with them.

So I wonder, emotionally, mentally, when there are no physical constraints on my ability to posses these books as bits, and no emotional tie, with they be as valuable to me? Will I be as connected to the words and ideas? How will consuming e-Books change the ways future generations attach value to the long-form written word? As an early adopter, technologist, and human (mostly), I'm fascinated by this topic, and it's potential cognitive effects.

(1) well, except for the horrible spiral-round-about-selection-UI that's so terrible, I can't even come up with a phrase to describe it.

(2) Rework was one I gave to a lot of people who were part of the acqusition. I think you can do the math.

(3) Some quick, but non-exhaustive examples:  Inmates and Rework, Don Norman's "The Invisible Computer" and "Things That Make Us Smart", Neil Gershenfeld's "When Things Start to Think" (the cover with the shoe, not the new horrible cover), Gary Vaynerchuck's  "Crush It!" and  David Beckham's autobiography. Okay, that's a joke, just wanted to see if you really read the footnotes.