vSpring Capital’s top 100 Utah venture entrepreneurs (the v|100) met today at Thanksgiving Point’s Garden Room for a lunch and social.
I saw dozens of people that I know (what a powerful gathering!) but only had a chance to briefly chat with a few: Dennis Wood (the most LinkedIn person in Utah), Phil Windley (the man who inspired me to start blogging!) John Pestana, Josh James and Brett Error of Omniture, Glen Mella (Control4), Cydni Tetro (NextPage), Brent Bishop (Dollar Tree and Content Watch), Gavin Christensen. I met Scott McDonough, now with vSpring, who was the President and COO of LoveSac.
I think the v|100 would have even more value if Corporate Alliance could introduce its learn-serve-grow philosophy to this group and if we were guided in our networking and given more time to network. We had only about 15-20 minutes before lunch and maybe 10 after before everyone was gone.
The invited speaker was Ellen Levy, a well-connected Silicon Valley entrepreneur turned VC who now runs the Media X program at Stanford and consults for DFJ, a top Silicon Valley VC fund.
Ellen came at the invitation of NextPage’s Tom Gno. They worked together at Paul Allen’s Interval Research Group as the internet was emerging. Ellen left and founded WhoWhere, sold it to Lycos, and has done a dozen interesting things since, including NeoCarta Ventures. I sat at Ellen’s table. She and Tom were apparently laughing at my name.
Speaking of my name, I’ve dropped to #6 on Google for “paul allen”, even though I recently switched domain names for my blog (from infobaseventures.com to paulallen.net), which should help my rankings in the long run.
What I really need is for a few hundred of my friends and readers to please link to my new blog site at www.paulallen.net, so that I can regain my former #3 position. Maybe even sometime, if my blog gets enough incoming links, I’ll be the #1 Paul Allen in Google. And then I’ll have to change my name from “The Lesser” to something else, maybe “The Prominent”. (I’ll accept nominations for a name change if and when this happens.)
Ellen said some very interesting things. First, she said that as a Silicon Valley VC she really thought she had her ear to the ground and knew everything that was going on. But in her role at Stanford as a “connector” between students, faculty, industry partners, and VCs, she actually feels that her access to information is even better. She encouraged everyone to do something in social entrepreneurship, such as teach at a university, or work with non-profits or do community service. (Because there is more to life than making money.)
She told us about the mission of Media X at Stanford and mentioned some of the 25 affiliates (almost all were very large corporations) who are interacting with Media X in order to map their R&D interests with the projects that are being done by the Stanford research community. She feels that she has made many connections that were win-win.
(I had hoped she would talk more about how small technology companies — not just huge corporations who can afford the annual fees — could partner with Stanford’s Media X.)
Ellen said Media X is sometimes described as an “intellectual match making service” and she seemed to like that.
She mentioned several topics that seem to come up frequently these days in conversations with industry:
- Technology and the Aging. For example, how the aging population will change automobile transporation and health care.
- Distributed Media and Online Content. This includes trying to understand consumers as publishers, the role of big media companies, how copyright should work, how people consume and manage information.
- Human Machine Interaction and Sensing Technology. She mentioned sensors and RFID and the marriage of the analog and digital worlds.
- Mobile computing.
- All Things Gaming. She said that the Online Entertainment industry is now bigger than the Movie Industry and that a lot of thought is going into discovering the role of gaming in learning. Should gaming principles be applied into enterprise software? The next generation that grew up on interactive games might not like the limited interactivity of SAP, for example.
Finally, Ellen made some interesting comments about time, which I found very timely, given the stage I’m at in my career.
She says that time is the most important resource of a risk-taking, company building entrepreneur, and that it is very important to be careful about how you use your time.
In 1999 she conducted a year long experiment, by journalling every day for a year about every thing that happened each day. She didn’t make judgements about what was worth writing about–she wrote about everything. She also took a photograph of everyone she met that year.
What she discovered was that she wasted a lot of time on things that she didn’t want to do and didn’t enjoy. At the end of the day she would write about everything she spent her time on and realized she had to waste time writing about things that had been a waste of time doing. She learned how to become a better director of her time.
Ellen believes that how you use your time will determine the level of impact that you will have in your life. She cautioned us against the tyranny of the urgent.
As I listened to Ellen talk about her 1999 life chronicle, I thought if she kept this up, she’d be the world’s greatest blogger.
She talked about how on a plane trip she visited with a man (has never seen him since) and asked the flight attendant to take their picture together since she was “chronicling her life” that year.
He was in magazine publishing and apparently told a friend about this woman, who told another friend, who mentioned it at a party, where a Wall Street Journal reporter found it curious. So she ended up being mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, which led to old friends finding her and other interesting things happening.
Now all of us can blog (chronicle our life) and use social networking services to meet new people and connect with old friends. But Ellen was 5-6 years ahead of her time.
(I found it interesting that she has served on the advisory board of eVite and LinkedIn.)
I also had feelings of regret while listening to Ellen, because I have been an avid journal-keeper since age 15. I have a couple dozen journals and then since 1991 I’ve been keeping my journal using Folio VIEWS software, with it’s amazing full-text retrieval capabilities.
I have found huge benefits from keeping a journal — personal, intellectual, spiritual, social and career benefits. But in the last 18 months, my schedule has gotten so full, that I have probably only written a dozen times in my journal. How ironic that at a time of life where I’m actually working on more interesting projects and meeting more interesting people and having more profound experiences than ever before that my journal writing is suffering for the first time.
I know some people keep a journal so their posterity can read it someday. That might happen, but in my opinion is quite unlikely. I think our descendants will be so busy (even more than we are) with what technology and prosperity enables that they won’t be all that interested in our 20th century chronicles. It might seem rather dull to them, compared to what the Always On world of the 21st century will offer.
So while I hope that a few words of wisdom from my writings might someday touch some of my descendants, I primarily keep a journal for personal benefits. It helps me remember people and events. It helps me be more grateful. It gives me perspective during difficult times. And as Spencer W. Kimball said about journalling, it helps me keep the Lord in remembrance daily.
I hope I can arrange my schedule (be a director of my time, as Ellen said) so that I can fit in consistent daily blogging and journalling.
I may have to return fewer phone calls and fewer emails in order to make time for more blogging and journalling. But as Phil Windley said today, I should let those one-to-one communications slip in order to do the more important one-to-many communications. That makes sense to me.
So let me apologize in advance to all the people whose phone calls and emails I might not return …
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