I work for a big company, but in the past I’ve been an entrepreneur several times.
Now I mentor for a few startups, and most of the time they’re struggling with one thing: FUNDRAISING.
Even the brightest and smartest people are not at ease when they need to find the money for their startup.
It takes guts, and you can do it only if you strongly believe in what you’re trying to build.
My suggestion for you is to learn how to do it, by doing it for a charity first. The reason why? I am raising money for a charity NOW, and what I’ve seen is the same dynamics, same barriers, same problems that you would have if raising money for a startup.
These are the steps you have to go through:
1) Find donors
Who is going to give you money? Friends? Colleagues? Write down a list. Get a sense of how much these people might be willing to donate.
(same thing with startups: find angel investors)
I selected friends and colleagues with which I’ve interacted in the recent past. I would find ODD to email someone that didn’t hear from me for the last few years, only to ask him for money.
2) Create a campaign, a message, a call to action
What are you going to tell them? Well, X is a problem, and we need to solve it, and I need your help, and you can do Y to help.
(same thing with startups: you are going to solve a problem with your startup, and you need money to do so)
3) Tell them
What are you going to say? How are you going to contact them? How will you engage them, without annoying them?
(same with startups: you cannot simply email someone and say: “Hey, gimme da money!”)
This is the message that I’ve sent to my friends, to raise money for a charity.
What do you think? Do you like it?
I wanted it to be short, specific, and give people an easy “solution”: go to this site, spend 20 seconds of your time, and help out.
in early June 2013 I will climb the Kilimanjaro for a good cause: raising money to provide an education to street kids in Africa.
I know that your time is precious, so I’ll keep it short: go to this link below, and please donate as much as possible. It takes about 20 seconds to do so.
This will be my first and last email about it (these kind of things can be annoying otherwise); it’s your only chance to help, and I will thank you forever for that!
Well, why did I write this blog post? To share this thought with you, and to ask you something.
Why don’t you donate 50$?
It would be awesome!
Feel free to discuss this on Hacker News.
There are many, but this one caught my attention:
11. What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren’t told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend 6 years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.
A few weeks ago I passed an important mark: five hundred times on stage as a Technology Evangelist for Amazon Web Services.
When I started in 2008 (thanks to a virtual church and a lot of work), I couldn’t have imagined that I would have covered conferences across all continents (except for Antartica, but I’m working on it!) for a total of FIVE HUNDRED times.
I hardly believe it.
In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts, learnings, considerations and the like.
I hope you’ll enjoy it. Let’s start!
1) Did you watch the movie “Up in the air”?
I’ve been asked this question at least fifty times, if not more.
People who know me often compare me to George Clooney in that movie, but not because of my handsomeness – only just because I (used to) fly A LOT.
Now that I’m based in San Francisco and that I focus on the Bay area I fly less than before, but up until recently, I used to fly over 100 times per year, and be “not at home” for 220+ days a year, on average. My wife and parents are the main beneficiaries of millions of airmiles with tens of different airlines.
It’s tough, almost impossible to sustain this type of lifestyle, unless you find little tricks that can help you.
In my case:
1.1) I’ve switched to a vegetarian diet, and I believe it helped me stay healthy despite a very stressful lifestyle.
1.2) I’ve learned how NOT to waste time at airports and during flights, either by working or by reading, and sometimes by watching nice movies on the plane. Being able to work effectively while on the move is a necessity when you are traveling for 2/3 of the year.
1.3) I’ve also learned to decompress whenever I could, and do some light exercise whenever I could. Walking is my favorite; unfortunately, I wasn’t able to maintain a proper fitness program, but I should have.
Despite this, I went from 220 pounds down to roughly 205, which is now my stable weight, and a good indication that I’m not doing too bad.
Decompressing also means to enjoy a city’s landscape, urban gems, architecture, and sometimes art. Despite being a hard worker, I’ve always tried to find some time to “learn” from the place I was visiting. Otherwise, it would have been such a wasted opportunity.
1.4) Avoid alcohol whenever possible, for two reasons: it makes you fat, and it kills your productivity. Also, it’s very tempting to drink when it’s free (airport lounges, flights, etc.). I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but once I started with this lifestyle, I decided to almost cut my alcohol consumption. I think it worked pretty well.
1.5) Last, but not least, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to fly more comfortably (in short: become Gold with two airlines and get free access to airport lounges; pick seats in the back, possibly isle seats; book in advance, so you can afford good airlines while complying with your company policy), despite the fact that we always fly economy (frugality is one of the key tenets of Amazon.com).
As a result, this is a map of the places I’ve been in the last few years. Pretty nice :)
Most people never make it to Iceland, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia, India, Cuba, Japan, Korea, Nepal… Etcetera. I am glad I did.
This list shows the number of events per year, since 2008:
You might be thinking: how can someone possibly make so many trips and events in just one year (e.g. 114 in year 2010)?
Well, you can by becoming a master of “multiple destination” trips. To keep costs low, you just need to start and end in the same place. Other than that, you can do Singapore – Mumbai – Bangalore – New Delhi – Hong Kong – Shanghai – Seoul – Taiwan – Singapore in just 9 days and a reasonable cost.
Anyway, I guess the point is clear: I’ve travelled A LOT.
It doesn’t necessarily make sense to travel like this, though. More on it below.
2) What is a Technology Evangelist, anyway?
Besides my traveling errands, I have to admit that my role is not easy to “grok” for most people.
Technology what? Evangelist what?
I’ve tried to explain my job thousands of times.
In short, a Technology Evangelist is someone who explains a certain technology (in my case, Cloud Computing and Amazon Web Services) to crowds of potential or existing customers. Most of these “talks” are at conferences, and most of them are quite technical. My main duty, then, is “public speaking”, and I also do a bunch of other things as part of my role.
You want to see some of my presentations online? You got it.
You want to see me on video? Here you are, below.
This one is about Parmigiano, a Monastery, Love and Faith. And, of course, about Backup and Disaster Recovery in the Cloud.
3) What did I learn?
Now you might want to ask: after 500 talks, presentations, keynotes and the like, what did I learn?
Many things, among which:
3.1) Somebody in the audience is smarter than you: no matter how smart, focused, sharp you are, you’ll always find someone who is smarter, more prepared, more skilled. Which means: be humble, and if you don’t know something, just say so. People don’t pretend that you know everything; they just want you to be honest.
3.2) Slides are only a small part of a presentation: you present to inspire, and possibly to provide knowledge and details. Slides are not the main part… The most important part is telling a story, involving people, showing passion, making things memorable.
3.3) Always be listening. I mean it. Even when you’re on stage, speaking.
Don’t just listen to WORDS. Listen to feelings as well.
I’ll tell you a little story to explain this point.
Late 2009. I was in France, and I was the last speaker before lunch. I was supposed to speak at 12:30, for about 30 minutes. However, previous speakers took more time than expected, and one of the big sponsors pretended to have their CEO speak before me, unplanned, for more than 20 minutes, reading some text the entire time. READING. No slides, no interpretation.
Why didn’t he simply email all of us, instead?
His message was very boring, very corporate, full of vaporware. His last words were about how customer-obsessed his company was.
He was using people’s time as he pleased, without even thinking about their needs.
When it was my turn, it was already 13:00, and people really wanted to go to lunch.
I was angry. I was in a difficult situation.
I introduced myself, and then told the audience: “My talk was planned to be 30 minutes long. However, we are late, and you are hungry. I’ll cut my talk down to 15 minutes, and then we all go to lunch at 13:15. This is what I call customer obsession.”
Big round of applauses. The crowd was mine.
So, the lesson is: if you want to deliver a message, the length of the message doesn’t count. Other things count.
Or, if you want to be a Technology Evangelist, don’t FORCE the message to your crowd. Use empathy.
3.4) Get inspired. I have amazing colleagues that inspire me every day. Our CTO, Werner Vogels, is one of the best public speaker I’ve ever seen, perhaps second only to my all-time favorite, Matt Wood (a rare combination of intelligence, humility, knowledge and a collection of PhDs), who recently moved to a new role, Chief Data Scientist. Our most senior Evangelist, Jeff Barr, is a walking encyclopaedia on all things AWS. Jinesh Varia is a talented, super-smart producer of high quality content, and a good presenter too. And there are other colleagues (like Simon Elisha) which, despite not strictly being Technology Evangelists, are amazing speakers nevertheless.
There are also a lot of amazing Technology Evangelists out there, not just within the Amazon Web Services team.
I loved reading Kenneth Reitz’s blog post about his experience at Heroku.
So the lesson here is: get inspired, as much as possible. Never stop learning and improving.
3.5) I’ve mentioned above that “It doesn’t necessarily make sense to travel like this, though”.
In fact, after 500 talks, I think that I should focus on quality, rather than quantity. Let me be more clear.
At the beginning, you should do as many talks as possible, simply because you learn a lot, and you mostly learn by doing.
After a while (500 is enough, but also 200 would be enough), you will notice that you’re not improving so much anymore. It’s time for you to start focusing on quality. Quality, in this case, means committing your time and energy to events that matter. It could be a small user group, or a huge conference, but as long as it matters, it’s ok.
It will actually be easier for me now, since I am focused on the Bay area, and therefore travelling time is not as much as it used to be… Which means I can afford to do more events, while keeping the “quality” high.
3.6) You’re a public figure representing your company, learn how to deal with it. This was a tough one to learn, and I admit it wasn’t easy for me, but eventually I’ve learned it the hard way. Different companies might have different policies, but in most cases you are not “just one employee”, whatever you do online or in public matters a lot.
Ah, and by the way: Opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of current or past employers. Just in case.
4) What’s next?
I love this job, and I think I’ll keep doing it for at least some time, perhaps a couple more years before thinking of a different role.
It’s fun to search for my name online and come up with pictures of me speaking at conferences… It seems that I’m much more important or famous than I really am :)
Seriously, I think that this role is a quite unique combination of customer facing activity, technical activity, and interaction with several members of the company you work for. For now, it’s the best job I can think of.
If you want to join our team, start from here.
I hope you have enjoyed my little story.
Let me know what you think :)
We almost bought one. But then we thought: does it really make sense to OWN a car these days? What about Zipcar and the like?
Of course the guys at Zipcar have some great arguments to consider renting in lieu of owning. Even Jeffrey agrees.
What do you think?
If we decide to NOT own a car, and therefore rent: which would be the best option?
1) Zipcar by the hour/day
2) A normal rental company, by the day/week
3) Wheelz / RelayRides ?
Thanks for any suggestion!
(p.s. we live in the Mission, San Francisco)
5) Another option is Getaround.com (similar to Zipcar)
Zipcar also has more interesting plans (the 125 $ / month seems great).
Also, I found out that a “normal” car (e.g. Ford Focus) can cost up to 800-900 $ a month, when you include everything (car cost, depreciation, insurance, fuel, maintenance, fees, etc). See screenshot below.
Leonardo da Vinci is one of my passions. Yes: a man, who lived half a millenium ago, can be a PASSION for someone.
I visited a show about Leonardo at The Venetian in Las Vegas. It was disappointing… Sorry for my American friends, but when it comes to Leonardo, the recent show that was opened in Milan can’t be matched by anybody else.
Leonardo’s most famous painting is undoubtedly the Mona Lisa (or Monna Lisa, or Gioconda, in Italian language). See below. Don’t you like it?
Well, this painting is worth a Billion dollars now. Yes, Billion with a B.
According to Wikipedia, in 1962-1963, the painting was assessed, for insurance purposes, at a value of 100 Million dollars. Adjusted for inflation, it equates to 765 Million dollars in 2012.
Add the fact that “La Gioconda” (as we like to call it in Italy) has been recently featured in big hit movies, such as the Da Vinci code, you might easily raise that number to a square Billion. In fact, the value of the painting didn’t simply increase with the inflation, but it kept growing faster than ever. Everybody knows it today, and rich people collect Leonardo’s works.
Last, but not least, I believe that Leonardo is a yet unmatched genius in our entire human history.
If you don’t believe me, watch ”The secret lives of paintings”, by Maurizio Seracini, on TED:
I greatly admire Maurizio’s work, and hope that he can delight us with more talk like this in the future.
When in May I was talking with Aziz about this, I wasn’t sure that this was going to happen, although I thought it would make sense in the long run.
Now it seems that my little prediction is becoming reality: Nike just announced an Accelerator, in partnership with Techstars. (disclaimer: I’m a mentor at Techstars Cloud in San Antonio, TX).
I think this comes from the following:
1) There is a huge need for Enterprise companies to innovate.
2) Innovation has never been easy in Big companies.
3) Accelerators are a way to speed up innovation (when done right).
As a consequence, it didn’t take long for companies to figure out that they needed to change their structure a bit, in order to “capture” innovation. One way could be exactly to leverage accelerators to do that.
In the long run, this might also be a way to retain top talent.
Here in Silicon Valley (especially in San Francisco, where I live), the top talents are heavily attracted by hot startups, with the promise of exciting jobs, stock grants that will make you rich if the startup goes IPO, and less barriers to innovation.
(However, it generally also means less structure, and therefore more chaos, than the traditional company.)
To attract and retain those people, big companies might want to bring some of these benefits in-house; company-powered accelerators, such as this one just announced by Nike, might be the answer.
Let’s see what happens in the coming months. My humble, personal opinion is that companies should embrace this model, and that whatever sector starts doing this, the consequence will be greater innovation, and the fall of some barriers to entry. Who knows? We’ll see.
By the way, if you’re not already doing so, I suggest you follow Brad Feld’s blog: lots of precious bits that you don’t want to miss.
Last night I was working, but then I had to rest, and quite randomly I found this masterpiece: Douglas Adams, days before his death, in one of the most interesting talks I’ve ever watched.
I admire Douglas and his way of being a “Renaissance man”, interested in a multitude of things.
Watch the talk (or read the transcript), well worth your time.
This is a TED talk that you should watch.
I could simply call it “an unstoppable spirit”. Stop doing what you’re doing, and watch Janine Shepherd.
This is the video of my talk at AWS Re: Invent, on November 29th, 2012, titled: “Parmigiano, a Monastery, Love and Faith: Technical lessons on how to do Backup and Disaster Recovery in the Cloud“.
I hope you’ll like it. If you do, please share :)
Slides are here:
Update: this one below is a screenshot of my famous “Parmigiano moment” (at 25:17)!
Most people don’t know what an hacker is.
It’s not easy for me to come up with a definition with which most people would agree… But here it comes:
Hackers thrive on sharing, collaborating, and improving their field. (inspired by this).
I work in the field of technology (software, systems, Cloud Computing, etc.), and of course I’m very familiar with the “hacker” approach in these fields.
I don’t think that hackers should necessary be “against” a particular form of protection, law, or approach to technology: I simply think that being a hacker means that you want to make the world a better place, usually with your intelligence and generosity. I like it when “hackers” want to change the status quo, not with violence, but with a perfectly legal, smart initiative. An example is what Larry Lessig is doing with Change Congress, which now became RootStrikers. (I don’t know what has changed, therefore I’m not endorsing them or criticizing them).
But that’s not the topic today.
The topic today is: would it be nice to have hackers everywhere, in every field, trying to bring collaboration, sharing, and a sense of community, and to solve problems with the same elegance with which problems are solved in the software world?
Just by looking at my day-to-day life, there are plenty of examples where a hacker community could bring benefits.
My wife and I are soon moving to a new apartment in San Francisco, as soon as the paperwork is ready (yes, we bought it). It’s not furnished, and we plan to stay here for a few years at least, therefore we’d like to “decorate” it in a nice way. My wife started by searching resources of interior designers, furniture shops, and the like. We’re not rich, and we don’t like to waste money either, therefore we’re simply trying to make the apartment beautiful and welcoming, without spending a fortune.
Then I thought: why there’s no Github for this? No Hacker News for this? No Reddit for this? Why, when I need to get updates on the tech industry I easily can, or when I need to find some open source code I simply can, but when it comes to get help on other problems, it’s so difficult to find resources, tools, etc?
My second thought was: would it make sense? Can a Github exist for non-software contributions?
And more importantly: can nice and generous and ingenious people (hackers, that’s how I call them) find ways to contribute ON EVERYTHING ELSE?
I don’t know the answer… But there are a lot of smart people out there, and my hope is that this question will reach them, and stimulate a smart answer.
What do you think?
I spent about 35 minutes collecting the following links, thoughts, etc.
You can spend about 5 minutes to read them, and eventually much more to dig the details… But you would have saved 30 minutes… Given that you trust my filtering skills :)
Please remember that: opinions here are personal, and that linking to resources doesn’t necessary mean that I agree with the content. Thanks!
2) The most seen online video in history: Kony 2012.
3) Tax loss harvesting: I didn’t even know it existed, but I think it’s a good read if you care about your money investments. The video is nice.
4) Can we make San Francisco smarter?
5) YouTube premium content goes global. I want to watch more BBC documentaries. I love them. I love Nature.
6) Talking about Nature (and Africa), watch this interview made to Vinny, co-founder of Gyft. I met his a while ago and he’s an amazing entrepreneur.
That’s probably enough links. Enjoy.
A few months ago, my colleague Simon Elisha and I started the “AWS Podcast“, a weekly podcast on technical aspects related to Amazon Web Services.
It has quickly become quite popular, and if you are not subscribed yet, it might be a good time to do it.
You can also listen to past episodes. We’re now at Episode number 16.
It’s one of these rare moments when you have three letters floating inside your head. W. And then O. And then another W. WOW.
I’ve just watched Chris Sacca interviewed by Jason Calacanis. It’s about 72 minutes long, and it’s only the first part. WOW (again).
I am embedding it here, find 72 minutes of time and watch it, ASAP.
Do you know what the worst part is? That I’ve NEVER HEARD of Chris Sacca before.
Despite having been part of this “crazy” world of technology for quite a long time now, yet… Gems like this slip unnoticed.
Special thanks to Stefano Bernardi for sharing this with us.
Oh, by the way: I don’t even need to tell you why you have to watch this. Simply do it. It’s worth it.
I’m Simone Brunozzi, Technology Evangelist at Amazon Web Services, and this blog post is about the “Mini-Hack” challenge at DreamForce 2012.
There are two challenges for you: a Basic Hack, and an Advanced Hack (which includes the basic one, plus adds some more juice).
This page is also available from this link: http://bit.ly/dreamforce-aws.
Download a MySQL database dump.
Launch a MySQL instance on Amazon EC2.
Copy the database dump to the new instance.
Convert the database into a NoSQL database.
Upload the newly converted database into DynamoDB.
Query DynamoDB and retrieve the value specified below.
Launch a Web server on Amazon EC2, and create a simple Web page that allows anyone, from a Web browser, to query the DynamoDB database and read the value.
Below there are some instructions for you to complete both hacks.
1) Launch an EC2 instance with MySQL pre-installed:
You can use this AMI (Amazon Machine Image) to launch a LAMP stack:
(instructions: http://wiki.bitnami.org/cloud, and also http://wiki.bitnami.org/cloud/how_to_connect_to_your_amazon_instance)
(you might also need to read: http://wiki.bitnami.org/Infrastructure_Stacks/BitNami_AMP_Stacks)
Make sure that the Security Group you’re using allows connections to port 22 (SSH).
Also, make sure your .pem file has the right permissions (on Mac OS or Linux clients):
chmod 600 keypair-useast_main.pem
2) Login to your EC2 instance:
ssh -i keypair.pem firstname.lastname@example.org
(note: you can name your keypair keypair.pem or in a different way)
You might want to set a root password:
sudo passwd root
3) Download the MySQL dump from here:
4) Restore the dump into your MySQL:
Use this command:
mysql -u root -p[root_password] [database_name] < dumpfilename.sql
5) Connect to MySQL, to make sure that everything is working:
mysql -uroot -pbitnami
(password is bitnami)
6) Explore the database. How can you convert it into a NoSQL database?
This part is left to the reader. It’s a challenge, right? :)
7) Upload the content into DynamoDB
You should find out what type of Schema you want to use, and then find a way to upload the content to DynamoDB.
For more info: http://docs.amazonwebservices.com/amazondynamodb/latest/developerguide/Introduction.html
8) Retrieve the phone number(s) for Simone Brunozzi and Leonardo Da Vinci.
(note that ‘Da Vinci’ uses a space between letters). Show it to the Amazon Web Services staff. Done! Give us your contact details to receive 50 US$ in AWS credits.
9) Just one quick piece of information
If you’re doing the Advanced Hack and want to use the same Bitnami AMI, just remember that the default directory for Apache on that AMI is:
Otherwise, you’re pretty much on your own. Show us what you can do!
For any question, you can drop by our AWS area within the Dev Zone.
We’ll be there during opening hours.
I will personally be there on Tuesday and Thursday.
p.s. Don’t forget that from November 27th to 29th we are having our first global AWS conference, called Re: Invent.