Archive for September, 2011

We launched our new Data as a Platform and Hyperpublic Labs

Posted on September 28, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today we released a bunch of the secret stuff we’ve been working on at Hyperpublic.  See it live at 


Thanks to Techcrunch for communicating the awesomeness.  Read article here: “Hyperpublic Launches Free POI Database, Now Helps Developers Monetize Local Apps”



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An Interruption to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Posted on September 25, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today I walked down the street and saw a 230 pound father at a loss for words as he tried to come to terms with his inability to support his son.  A 15 year old boy holding a plane white plastic bag, uncomfortably back pedaled as his dad tried to discipline him for purchasing the contents of this bag.  “I need a pair of pants dad…why’d you leave me in the store, what’s going on here?”  The dad grasped for words or an explanation, but could only push questions back to his son.  “Why’d you buy those pants?  What were you thinking?  Do you want to be able to eat lunch this weekend?”  It was clear they had both been shopping together, perhaps a little tardy in back to school necessities, and from the looks of it, they were very tight on their budget.  Gently and slowly the two arrived at a middle ground, moving beyond the purchase, as it was clear the child had not acted out of greed, and they walked down the street, arm on shoulder, both knowing that times are hard.

Today I saw a 15 year old kid, with burnt orange hair, methodically and rhythmically dance around a chess board in Washington square park, deconstructed a toothless 40 year old hustler as AM radio pushed muted sounds of an undefined baseball game.  The clock showed only 5 minutes per side, moves emerged in seconds as both players physically bobbed back and forth to the rhythm of the game.  The host of this match, like his 10 bretheren on the benches left and right, did not have the aesthetic of a grand master champion.  Had he not been sitting in front of a board, you might have put a quarter in his cup, but his moves were swift and decisive, and he had clearly been hustling at the table all day.  1:20 left and the kid exposes a weakness in the game.  He watches carefully as a wave of defeat washes over the face of the hustler.  Humbly, he continues back and forth for another few moves, but both men understand what has just occurred.  “You got me” proclaims the bum as he reaches into his pocket and reveals a crumbled wad of dollar bills.  As he reaches forward with the money, the kid is joined by his mother and sister who had been off a safe distance to the right.  In a humble southern accent, the kid relieves the bum of his debt “Oh, I don’t need any money, it was just fun playing with you.”  As he sinks into the background of a crowded park corner, his mother sings to a deaf ear “he’s been waiting a very long time to come here and do that.”

I sit and watch the riders, moving unpredictably across the stones of union square.  Flipping, slipping, wheels on end, the bikes catch light from passing traffic.  I play a song, we listen closely, but laughter and rumblings fill the air, media stands no chance against a see of people, flitting, flooding every sense as I sit, listening, and watching, the real life version of life unfold before my eyes.  Screens light the sky for moments, but  drown against the pulsing adolescence of an Indian Summer night.  I talk and think and watch and walk back to the walls that will separate me from this night.  But rest not with stress, for this is New York, where tomorrow will hold 1000 more versions of today.

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On Endurance, Recruiting & Catching Big Waves

Posted on September 21, 2011. Filed under: Hyperpublic, venture capital |

I read somewhere that half of building a successful company is simply staying alive and keeping the doors open as the weak fold.  I always thought this was a stupid adage.  How could simply existing position you to build the next Google?  I now realize that endurance is not to be underestimated.  At Hyperpublic, endurance is in our DNA to the point where we now hire for endurance explicitly.  It’s no surprise that founders who are capable of pushing through hard times succeed more than wimps, but the waves and swings of building something from the ether are not just felt by founders.  Every single person at HP has a sense of our wins and losses, risks and rewards, and more generally our momentum as a company.  When we lose a key hire that everyone loved, it’s a blow.  When we pickup a key hire that everyone loved, it’s a celebration.  When Google announces a product that is directly competitive with something we’ve been hustling toward, it’s scary, and when our product outperforms their efforts it’s the coolest feeling in the world.

I want to tell you a short story of falling in love, apparent love lost, and then an awesome reunion.  And I want to tell it to you in the context of endurance, persistence, and a team pulling together in the valley only to emerge at a crest of a bigger wave. About 6 months ago, Hyperpublic was 4 people.  3 of us were immensely dedicated and tough, 1 of us was less so, and we were having a hell of a time getting from 4 to 5.  We set a bar incredibly high for who we’d invite to join our cadre, and only shot for the top talent in the market.  We’d meet people, show them our skills, articulate our vision as best we could, and try to mask the fact that we were wildly under-resourced to accomplish the goals we had set out to achieve.  People would dig our team and our vibe, and then accept offers at more well defined companies, with established teams and roles and clear and digestible products.  No doubt, it was a low when we’d sell the shit out of someone we liked and then they’d take a gig at Foursquare.  Our trajectory was sort of raise a hot seed round –  build – realize we need way more help building – struggle against bigger companies in the fight for talent – put head down and keep pushing. So that’s the backdrop of what I’ll call a valley in the story of our company.

Around this time I remember Doug coming back from a Penn Engineering competition that he had judged and telling me about this guy from Comscore who was amazing. “We have to get him,” Doug commanded.  I got on the phone with this supposed company maker on a Saturday morning (at that point and still today I’d get on the phone at 4:00AM for anyone we’re considering as a team member) and walking in circles through Thompkins Square parking, I listened to him talk about the R&D efforts of Comscore, and we started finishing each others sentences.  It took me about an hour and 15 minutes to know that this guy was destined to be a part of our team.  We immediately bought him a train ticket from Washington D.C. even though he said he wasn’t looking for a job, and began what would become a 6 month courtship.  What we didn’t know at the time was that this guy had received half a dozen ridiculous offers as we were getting to know him, and he ultimately called me and said, “listen, I love you guys and what your doing, but I’m going to take a job with XYZ behemoth.”  I didn’t take no for an answer 3 or 4 times and then I finally accepted his decision, and moved on.

The HP crew went back to work as usual, made a ton of progress, pushed the company forward thin staffed, made a couple of amazing hires, and one very important fire, and sort of pulled ourselves out of the 4 person valley.  All the while, Doug and I found ourselves comparing new applicants to a “Jeff Weinstein” and saying “He’s no Jeff Weinstein” or “He could be a Jeff Weinstein type.”

At some point I got fed up with referencing the guy we wanted when considering alternatives and I sent him an out of the blue email. “Hey, here’s where we are.  We are ready for you, if I were to offer you [insert big numbers and tons of responsibility here], what would you say?  We caught up, started talking again, and over the course of a few weeks, many late night conversations, and a delayed but still present meeting of the minds, we signed a deal.

Jeff started this week, joined an amazing team that we constructed organically, from the bottom up, the company is on a crest, the details of which I can’t wait to share (as soon as Techcrunch rights their ship and we can make some announcements without fighting Erick Schonfelds 200,001 unread messages in his inbox), and all of this would not have been possible if we did not have endurance flowing through our veins.

So now back to the adage: “Half of  building a company is simply staying alive”… I think about this quote now, and although we were never at risk of dying, endurance through the periods between crests does seem to be the surest path to catching big waves…

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4 Life Hacks derived from 7 Days without Internet

Posted on September 12, 2011. Filed under: Hyperpublic, startups, venture capital |

I just got back from 7 days rafting down Grand Canyon with no internet.  I’m still processing what I learned on the trip, but Fall is here and it’s time to start hacking my brain again.  You’re not going to learn anything from reading this post, but I decided to publish as a form of social governance to ensure I stick to what I’ve decided to attempt:

1)   no email in bed in the morning:  I’ve decided to cut the habit of rolling over and scanning my inbox first thing in the morning.  I want to wake up, brush my teeth, shower and get dressed before absorbing the fire hose of new stimulus that is waiting for me on my iPhone.  I realized during my time “unplugged” in the Grand Canyon that the first 20 minutes of a morning can be an awesome time for reflective thinking.  An opportunity to digest the previous day’s information with the benefit of rest and a quiet mind, enables you to look at what’s going on in life through a slightly slower and more thoughtful lens.  I don’t think anything is going to change with regard to my output or response if I delay my morning consumption of emails, but I’m looking forward to a couple light bulbs in the shower that have nothing to do with whatever unfiltered mail was sent to me overnight. My friend Andy Weissman told me once that he keeps a Crayon in the shower to write down the ideas that emerge during this super valuable thinking time…I’m going to quiet some of the noise of “post alarm clock stimulus” and arm my bathtub with a few Crayolas…

2)   No news before 6:00PM:  I went an entire week without a single piece of news, and again arrived at some insights that were much deeper and more interesting than my normal day to day thinking.  I’m thinking that my current daily architecture of breakfast meeting, catch up on news and inbox, create and add to do list, execute on specific tasks and analysis is incorrectly ordered.  I think I’ve been wasting high value bandwidth when energy and attention is very high in the morning on passive news and email consumption, while tackling more mentally intensive tasks late in the day when my mind is less sharp.  News is never-ending, so I’ve decided to push all consumption of it to the less mentally productive portion of  late day. If I fatigue I’d rather not get to that last article or two in tech crunch or hackernews in exchange for crushing the operations that can really move the needle early in the day.  I haven’t decided yet if this means no logging into twitter before 6:00PM, but maybe…

3)   Gym in the morning: ever aspired to and never realized, but I think I’m going to make another real run at exercising early in the morning as opposed to after work.  When I was away, I spent a ton of time hiking and exercising and focusing on improving my physical state.  No new surprises here, I’ve always known that a healthy body contributes to a sharper mind, but the last few months the gym has taken a backseat to late nights at work and late meals with slightly-neglected friends and family.  So…in the gym by 8:00AM is the new plan.  Doesn’t hurt that I moved to an apartment yesterday that is ½ a block from my gym and 5 blocks from work.  Gained an hour in commute time, going to put it to good use.  Maybe also some morning runs on the Hudson river if anyone wants to get into the mix, holler…maybe also some running meetings…a strategy pioneered by my college roommate and founder of the awesome @sonarme app, Brett Martin…

4)   Experimentation: Abrupt changes in context and routine always unlock hidden and interesting things.  If you have any life hacks that you’ve found particularly useful or interesting, please share with me or in the comments. I’d love to give them a whirl.

Not sure what other life hacks will emerge, but the most salient takeaway from rafting down a river with no internet for 7 days is that life in startupland in NYC is VERY VERY noisy.  As a result, I’ve decided to experiment with the yield of building a little structured quiet into each day.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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