Fat Canvas by the Author

October 19, 2014: The headline above is a statement that comes up time and again when I meet people who want to become entrepreneurs. They may have the drive, intellect, and requisite instincts, but they’ve not been inspired by a particular mission and often don’t have a team to help them toward that goal. If they force the issue by gathering up some colleagues and entering a class like our Longhorn Startup Lab, they’ll often settle for the next “find me a beer” app that they draw from their current experiences as undergraduates.

Air Force Academy football

October 12, 2014: The lean canvas methodology is all about de-risking each component of a startup idea. You talk to customers, build an MVP, try to get trial users to prove that somebody will adopt the product, and analyze carefully all your assumptions as you work your way through the process. The lean canvas is ideal for web and app concepts but may not apply, for example, to heavily science-based and capital-intensive ventures that rely on university IP. The US didn’t put men on the moon without taking considerable human, technology, and financial risk.

Metronome artwork, Union Square, NY

October 5, 2014: A common theme in my student office hours and other meetings with tech operators in recent days has been headaches with iOS 8. One head of a development shop told me that half of the apps he has produced for clients are now misbehaving as iOS 8 proliferates through the iPhone user base. There are more than 1 million apps in the App Store, and that would imply 500,000 of them are no longer working as intended. As an example, I got an email from my bank asking me to download a new version of their mobile app to address this very problem.

Painting of woman with pen in hand

September 28, 2014: About a month ago I wrote an essay on keeping your angel fundraising inside the box with respect to customary deals. Over the last week, in what some call office hours but are more like therapy sessions, I met with a succession of young companies that had no box. The conversations generally went like this: “I need an introduction to Mrs.

train leaving the station in Spokane

September 21, 1014: The headline above is a quote from an investment banker who looked at a deal with which I’m very familiar and concluded that the company was falling behind in its tech sector. That was about 4 years ago, and that particular sector has attracted high profile VC funding or generated an M&A deal nearly every week this summer. Billions of “smart” dollars are putting more trains on those same rails and stoking them with plenty of fuel.

Rolex clock at Congressional CC

September 14, 2014: A column by Neil Irwin in the NY Times last week questioned whether Apple Pay is a step forward in convenience or not. It seems like we’re always going to have to carry some plastic backup in case our phone or watch battery dies, and there’s the obvious question about all the Android users out there.

Missionary ship "Duff" arrives

September 7, 2014: This past Wednesday was TechStars Demo Day in Austin, featuring 11 companies, and the opening of fall semester for Longhorn Startup, with 12 teams in our crop, 10 of them new to the program. TechStars always puts on a first-rate show, and we’ll have our student teams ready for their debuts at our own Demo Day on November 20.

Ferrari 250GTO at Le Mans 1962

September 1, 2014:  Bob Metcalfe gave his customary founder’s story about 3Com at our first meeting of the Longhorn Startup class last Thursday. As many times as I have heard that, I always learn something new. Like all entrepreneurial successes of that magnitude, it’s hard to boil down such a complex and interesting story to a one-hour talk aimed at 20ish age undergraduate students.

NASA testing with volunteers at Langley

August 24, 2014: We’ve learned in recent days that Facebook, Twitter, and one of the dating sites are messing with us for testing purposes. Evidently we all acknowledged user agreements in which we agreed to be human subjects. Those of you in academia know the rigors of any research that involves us as subjects, but we’re all fair game in the great world of big data.

Nixon resignation speech to his staff

August 17, 2014: The finer points of business competition have been the headlines in recent weeks, and this bears some discussion.  There was “donut-gate” here in Austin when BigCommerce sent its recruiters with donuts into other companies’ offices in an effort to steal employees. From the social media I saw, this seemed to cross the line in this town where there is fierce competition for every capable engineer or bona fide creative.


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