Ich bin ein Berliner

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.

I never met President Kennedy but it’s comforting to know we share this sentiment (though I might swap ‘men’ for ‘people’ but that’s the 2015 in me).

While Berlin and Germany have long been on my travel bucket list (a layover in Frankfurt doesn’t count), when the real opportunity to visit emerged through my work, I couldn’t believe it: could we really do this now? For reasons I couldn’t fully articulate, Berlin has long held a captivating if ephemeral appeal to me. So much history, so much culture and so much transformation in so little time. But these were all abstract concepts to me before last month. Continue reading →

Silicon Everywhere

Today I had the very distinct privilege to share about some lessons learned from the region so lovingly known as Silicon Valley. It was part of the first “Silicon Valley Comes to the Baltics” — attended by over 1,100 mostly student entrepreneurs and produced with aplomb thanks to the crack team led by Andrius Neviera.

Indeed the legendary (if not downright mythical) Silicon Valley has a unique and incredible history that I touch on, helped largely by the timeless (if 16 years can count as that) analysis of AnnaLee Saxenian. But, while entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the Valley, it is key to realize that our increasingly networked world has information, relationships and even capital crossing borders in unprecedented fashion.

So rather than isolating the Valley as some kind of mystical place, I encourage startup founders to apply some key lessons – primarily around openness and sharing — to the markets they know best: their own.

You can watch me by forwarding this video to 1:35 (I go until about 1:51), and the slides are here. Enjoy!

The attraction of Crazy Beasties!

In December 1995 I went camping in Baja, California with two guys. Well, really, it was with Steve, and we corralled another guy into going with us to be an official chaperone.* Anyway, one thing we had to do before embarking was procure a means of transport to get us from San Francisco allllll the way down to the tip: Cabo San Lucas.

Steve – who grew up on a farm fixing cars – settled on a 1975 Chevy Blazer, with great joy because he got to work on it a lot before we left. And a lot during our trip. This labor – and these images – will all help you grasp why it soon became lovingly known to us as The Beast: it was The Beast’s very ugliness and unwieldiness that made her so attractive and beloved to us.

Lest you think I exaggerate, you should know that we nearly died in The Beast on one climactic night when Steve and our chaperone got into an altercation. When the argument subsided, we continued down the dicey Mexican “highway” in quiet tension, leading us to nearly snap when an unruly truck careened at us in the opposite direction, leaving us no recourse but to veer off the road. The drama made us appreciate our hobbling, graceless Beast (which somehow kept us whole) on an entirely new level. When I was charged with driving Her home after Steve had to fly back for a business meeting, my love grew all the more as she yawed the entire way back up the 101 (I say this now, of course…15 years later and indelibly marked by Her image every time I in fact hear or use the word “yaw”).

To this day, the ugly, unwieldy and beastly still hold a crazy kind of pull for me. Is it because I so want to redeem the beauty that I insist simply *must* lie within…some sort of savior complex?

I dunno. But I still love beasts. Lord help me!

My latest Beast spotting tonight in the Mission: isn’t she just *beautiful*??
* this had its own unfortunate end that requires a whole other side story…ahh, if only we blogged back then…