I'll never apologize for being a little bit weird... I work hard so I can afford to play even harder and get the most out of life.


Growing up in Nebraska during the 80's and 90's made it easy to fall in love with college football. Going to school in Lincoln sealed the deal.


Spending time on the mountains, at the lake or simply camping on a nice evening is my idea of a great time


I have the pleasure of living my life with someone who adores me, makes me laugh and pushes me to do the best in everything.

I started life on a Christmas Tree farm in Nebraska where my parents raised me and 3 younger brothers. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, I met my lovely wife and moved to Kansas City where we currently reside.



    I stumbled upon my passion for mobile technology during college working in a retail store as the first camera phones were hitting the market, internet on your phone was stil a wild concept. Since then, I’ve focused my career on becoming an expert in marketing apps and services.

    I’m extremely EXCITED about the future of Mobile Commerce, Communication, Engagement, Gaming and how Parental Controls will play a role



    I pride myself on thinking differently. Finding creative solutions to every day problems is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. Whether it’s through freelance consulting work, my day job or tackling boring tasks I always look for a better way.

    Some may call me an IDEALIST, I tell those people thank you.



    I’ve always looked for roles where my people skills can thrive. Working in retail, waiting tables, tending bar and representing Sprint into indirect retailers like Radio Shack and Best Buy have given me the confidence to build relationships, present to large audiences and matrix manage groups of people.

    Surrounding myself with talented, energetic and DIVERSE personalities in my personal and professional life has made me the person I am today. I have strong parents, fantastic brothers and amazing mentors/friends that I lean on daily.



    I’ve learned a lot this far in life, but I like to shake things up when things start to feel too comfortable. Growing up professionally in the mobile industry, I’ve seen revolutionary changes over the last decade.

    Knowing that CHANGE is the only constant, I like to stay up to date on upcoming trends and understand how to handle them by staying well read on marketing theory, customer behavior and business strategy from thought leaders in each space.

I rely heavily on the KNOWLEDGE of others. Below is a collection of people, books, videos, quotes, concepts and more that inform my point of view

I'm a pretty big GEEK, so prepare yourself for that. For the most part, I'll talk about Marketing, Mobile Tech, Bourbon and my experiences with the preceding


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Kansas City, Leadership, Life Lessons

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    I spent the first ½ of my week in Las Vegas attending a conference on behalf of Sprint.  South by South West is a well-established cultural conference that takes place in Austin, TX each year, but they’re extending the SXSW brand into other parts of the country.  V2V (Venture 2 Vegas) is the first of its kind with Las Vegas playing host to almost 1K entrepreneurs and innovators.

    There were a few stumbles and I question why it wasn’t held this October in a venue located near the revived “Downtown Project” (adjacent to the upcoming “Life is Beautiful Festival,” a combination that would have easily delivered on the brand promise of SXSW), but overall I’m walking away more enlightened and energized about what’s to come in my career.

    Conferences can often be a mixed bag and I treat them much like I did business school…you’re only going to get as much out of them as you’re willing to put in.  For me, this conference was special…I got to hear from one of my business idols (two if you count McGinnis), listen to a forefather of the internet, develop deeper relationships with KC community leaders, collide with like-minded innovators and speak on a panel for my very first time.

    There’s so much to share and many of my insights will continue to develop here on this blog over time…  I’ll wander through some of the high points of my trip so you may have to bear with me.  Hit me up in the comments if you want to hear more specifics!!

    Tony Hsieh

    It’s not fair for me to narrow this to one take-a-way but I’ll try…  Tony is someone I’ve been following for a long time because of his very progressive views on the importance of company culture.  If I had to pick one quote, it’s the following:

    “Brand is just a lagging indicator of company culture”

    He talked about selling his first venture to Microsoft for $¼ Billion.  He didn’t sell out because of the money but because, in his words, he just didn’t like working there any more.  His focus with Zappos is on the employee experience, looking to create a community where his employees collide with the other innovators in Downtown Las Vegas.  Tony has successfully built a company culture that reflects each individual Zappos employee, focusing solely on customer service that eventually results in the sale of more clothing.  Zappos is not a shoe company, it’s a company that will always deliver happiness to their customers, regardless of the product they’re selling…maybe even an airline some day soon?

    Bonus Points – I also got to shake Tony’s hand after a random encounter at a pool party in downtown Vegas…pretty awesome moment for me.

    Steve Case

    For those who don’t know, Steve Case is the founder of America Online (AOL) and literally responsible for getting America “online.”  I don’t know what comes to mind when you think of AOL (probably CD-ROMS being delivered to your door, a screeching modem connection, chat-rooms and that friendly voice exclaiming “YOU’VE GOT MAIL!”), but we owe a lot to this man.

    When AOL was founded, 3% of the US was connected to the internet and on average those people were online 1hr per week.  AOL created the tools and applications that made the internet real, effectively revolutionizing how we now communicate and conduct daily life.  Steve talked a lot about his views on the continuing internet revolution and the fact that it’s not limited to a single city:

    “60 years ago, Detroit was the center of American innovation, not Silicon Valley.  What happened?  They lost their entrepreneurial mojo.”

    This quote is something that resonates with me and helped provide some context to what I wrestle with in my company.  Almost 120 years ago a farmer in Abilene, KS decided to stand up to the Bell monopoly, giving the customers he served a choice in their communication provider.  Decades later, we laid the first all fiber-optic network across America and soon after launched the very first national wireless network.

    The entrepreneurial mindset is not something reserved for 2 people in a garage or a start-up just trying to make it in “Silicon Wherever.”  Entrepreneurial thinking is a mindset that challengers everywhere must adopt to survive…  Whatever industry you’re in, take a look around.  Does your company have its entrepreneurial mojo?

    KC Community

    Launch KC and Think Big Partners held a cocktail party Tuesday night to get some of the KC people together as well as some other interested conference goers.  The party was in a penthouse at “The Hotel” (That’s with a capital T for those out there trying to find the right place…..*cough*……Brian).  It was off of the beaten path, requiring a $10 cab ride to get there, but as I exited the elevator on the 62nd floor and rounded the corner, the sound of 50 people having simultaneous conversation filled the hallway.  My take-a-way:

    The Midwest’s neighborly attitude and ability to work together will help us win!

    The city’s Big 5 initiative is ambitious, hoping to make KC one of the most entrepreneurial communities in America.  KC is relying on one of our strongest assets…the Midwest cultural values of a hard work ethic and a neighborly attitude to make waves in the tech/entrepreneurial scene.  KC has long been plagued with an invisible line that for some reason fosters a centuries old “border war.” It can be fun during football season, but the entrepreneurial community is showcasing our ability to compete together as one.

    Among the party attendees was a strong contingent of KC start-ups, government agencies, foundations, corporations and venture funds.  We all get-a-long in a way that is unique from the start-up communities I’ve visited.  There’s still a long way to go but the conversations happening in this room were evidence of how far we’ve come by working together.

    KC is thriving and will continue to do so because of our desire to collaborate.  We may never get to the population density of other larger markets, but we have a leg up when it comes to the “collision density” that Tony is striving for in Downtown Las Vegas.

    A Corporate Role in the Entrepreneurial Eco-System

    Kevin McGinnis and Jeff Slobotski sat down on Wednesday to have a fireside chat.  In a story I’ve heard many times, Kevin talked through the last couple years of Sprint getting more involved with the entrepreneurial movement in KC.  The symbiotic relationship between corporations and start-ups has been well documented and a lot of times, it can be misconstrued that the benefits are lop-sided.  Kevin brought in a few examples of the benefits Sprint has seen since engaging more in the community, but the following really hit home for me:

    “Employee satisfaction picks up when our employees engage in the entrepreneurial ecosystem”

    I’ve taken a lot of inspiration back to my day job through my involvement in the entrepreneurial community.  Participating in local hack-a-thons, start-up weekend, mentoring and just hanging out with some of these innovators in KC has given me a fresh perspective on my career.  As a corporation, we have access to a lot of valuable assets ranging from intellectual property, money, customers and more…but our most valuable resource is locked within the minds of the domain experts we’ve trained over the last few decades.  Getting those people out of their desk every now and again to “collide” with the larger eco-system is critical to our success.  Giving employees the freedom to sit down as a mentor and walk away with a better understanding for the entrepreneurial mindset will change culture at Sprint in a way that can’t be trained or handed down.

    If you’re a corporate employee in Kansas City and you feel like you’re doing your job the same way it’s been done for years, then stop it.  Stand up, get involved, change something.  The community is ready for you, but much like a business conference, you’re only going to get out what you put into it.

    Let me know if you need help getting started.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Tech Trek

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    For those following along, my week-long road trip from California to KC afforded me and 8 friends a unique viewpoint of America.  We picked up Google Glass in downtown San Francisco, and took a leisurely 2,500 mile trip back home through the bay area, LA, Las Vegas, Boulder and back to KC.

    I spent time in Part One of this story talking about what it was like to have access to a piece of technology on the “Bleeding Edge.”  Today I’ll spend a little time talking about some of the communities we passed through, visiting a few of America’s most vibrant entrepreneurial metropolitan areas.


    Part Two:  Tech Communities Across America

    As we travelled across the western half of the US, we had the opportunity to connect with each local entrepreneurial community; America’s enterprising spirit was alive and well with each stop.  LA has adopted the “Silicon Beach” name where creative incubation labs like Science have popped up, Tony Hsieh is funding a massive project blending his Zappos corporation with entrepreneurial minds in downtown Las Vegas and a well nurtured entrepreneurial community in Boulder continues to flourish.

    In each of these communities you ran into the same kind of people.  Entrepreneurial minds who want to solve meaningful problems, displaying a youthful ambition regardless of age.  Conservatism isn’t a trait that you commonly see as every single one of these people are diving head first into their work with the expectation that they’ll figure it out and make it big, or fail trying before moving on to the next thing.

    San Francisco:

    Downtown San Francisco was the same place I always remember it being.  The birthplace of the hippie and the hipster still continues to define cool with architecture, art, food and music un-matched by any of the cities we visited.  Every corner you turned was bustling with activity, each neighborhood bringing a different vibe than the last.  Walking the streets you’ll run into familiar brands like Zynga, Pinterest, IDEO and many more.  Tech royalty like David Williams roam the streets, waiting for an appointment to lead the hottest new start-up to success.

    All of that culture comes at a price with median home prices topping $1M, the average startup entrepreneur just trying to get by is generally sharing a small rental with a few other people.  San Francisco can also be down right cold…isn’t this supposed to be California?

    Silicon Valley:

    The suburbs of Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Jose, Cupertino and others make up what is the undisputed tech hub of the world.  Internet and Tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, and Ebay call this home with large office parks and wide open space for development making it appealing for companies in rapid growth stages.  Small startups seek refuge in the shadows of these giants hoping to find an office to share, colliding with other talented people, seeking funding from one of the big venture capital firms and hoping for a large exit.

    Big box stores, chain restaurants and office parks all right next to large highways make it feel like an American suburb.  If you didn’t see LinkedIn, McAffee or PayPal logos on buildings when you drove around you wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from any other over populated metro area.  Many of the younger entrepreneurs we spoke to lamented this fact stating that they moved to California for the culture…Silicon Valley wasn’t the promised land they hoped for and were ready to move after getting what they needed from the mentors in the area.

    Los Angeles:

    Dude….it’s southern California.  Beach community after beach community, the warm sun, soft sands and crashing waves never get old. A walk down the board walk will make you realize that you’re out of shape and not nearly as interesting as you thought you were.  While not front and center, there’s entrepreneurial activity happening here.  We reached out on Twitter to a few people, but because it was Sunday I think most of the entrepreneurs we wanted to connect with were surfing.

    If you think metro centers like KC are spread out, try multiplying that by 9.  Getting around in LA is a real pain in the ass, making it that much easier to  plant yourself on the beach, wasting warm and sunny day after warm and sunny day.  I’m sure that gets old eventually if you need to make things happen…right?

    Las Vegas:

    Of all the cities we were visiting, Las Vegas was the one I was most excited about due to the entrepreneurial explosion downtown.  The Vegas tech scene has a lot to over come with a deeply rooted identity in legal gambling (among other things).  I would have loved to been in the room when Tony Hsieh first told the city he was going to spend $350M of his own money and none of it was going to gaming.  I’m guessing the old guard city hall had no idea what to do with this insane proposal.  He’s starting to make a difference, carving out a large chunk of the downtown area, dedicating it to building new businesses through the collisions of amazing people.  Small companies are starting to build themselves in co-working spaces and over the next year they’ll be surrounded by dog parks, adult playgrounds, a TED stage and even the Zappo’s headquarters.

    While it definitely wasn’t humid, 117 degrees still feels really freakin’ hot (it’s a dry heat….).  There were bike lanes all over the city streets but I would probably opt for one of 50 Tesla S (the sporty EV) Tony purchased for entrepreneurs to zip around town in.  New families have some big hurdles to overcome with the Vegas school district coming in as one of the lowest rated in the country and housing difficult to find in the downtown area.


    Boulder is about as beautiful as an outdoor city can get.  I had lunch on a patio overlooking a gigantic mountain with a beer selection that impressed this beer snob.  Pearl Street is a pedestrian friendly district with a lot of startup companies nearby creating a density typically not seen in towns of this size.  Brad Feld literally wrote the book on what a good Startup Community looks like and you can see what he loves about this place.

    I find it hard to complain about anything going on here…Boulder clearly has their stuff together but maybe it’s the Cornhusker in me who can’t come to grips with openly endorsing the entire city.


    Talking to people like Dylan Bathurst and his iPhone app Rumgr or Claus Moberg and his 3D printed transaction authenticator “SnowShoe” showed all of us that tech entrepreneurship isn’t unique to the Bay Area.

    The lesson learned in seeing all of these communities in a short amount of time is the recognition that none of them are Silicon Valley…and they shouldn’t be.  Silicon Valley in all of its glory is a place that has built an identity over decades and continues to define itself to this day.  LA, Las Vegas, Boulder and Kansas City are very different markets with very different personalities and very different assets.  Kansas City doesn’t have Tony Hsieh or mountains or the Googleplex sitting in its back yard.  We also don’t have blistering desert heat, smog, unaffordable housing or crushing traffic jams.

    What we do have is a bustling eco-system of doers, a top notch infrastructure including the fastest internet in the country, supporters like the local universities, The Kauffman Foundation, corporations like Sprint and Hallmark.  I might be biased, but I didn’t see that kind of collaboration in any other market we visited.  Every entrepreneurial expat we spoke to still referred to the midwest as “home” and what we’re building in KC is becoming a destination that they’re looking forward to coming back to soon.

    If this trip did one thing for me, it solidified my conviction in this city…making me as proud as ever to call KC home (a gigantic leap for this Nebraskan).


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Mobile Tech, Tech Trek

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    It was 2am, my eyes were focused on the road directly in front of me and my hands were firmly planted at 10 and 2.  I was definitely getting tired as the 9 hours of traveling (and the 2,500 miles prior to that) started to wear on me.  As we crested a small hill on I-70, KC finally came into view.  The Tech Trek was quickly coming to a close and we were all anxious to get a good night of sleep in our own beds.

    I captured some of the events that had happened along the way but up to this point hadn’t really reflected on what the trip meant to me.  Seeing “home” in the distance brought a sudden rush of energy into my system and the events of the last 7 days ran through my head.  We packed every single day full with meetings, sightseeing and general shenanigans…my body could feel that.  It’s probably why it’s taken another full week for me to process what this road trip really meant to me.

    As I’ve encountered co-workers and friends, a narrative has started to shape up.  There’s so much to share but I think I can boil it down into 3 key observations of what I witnessed on this unconventional “business trip.”

    Part One:  Bleeding Edge Technology

    I wasn’t originally invited up to the top floor to receive Google Glass with Chris, but apparently my status as a “Sprint Employee” intrigued one of the Google staff and I was told to come up.  There were large guys standing at the entrance with Google polo shirts on, one of the “o’s” was shaped like a deputy sheriff’s star…all the same they were extremely friendly and showed me into the pop-up store.  It was modern, sparsely furnished with wood and steel tables, each of those holding a Chromebook Pixel and a fitting mirror to see how you looked with Google’s wearable computer on your face.  Through the picture windows along the side of the room you could see the Bay Bridge spanning out across the water and a couple demo stations stood nearby giving me the opportunity to try on a pair of Glass for the first time.

    I had read a lot about Google Glass and to be perfectly honest, wasn’t completely impressed with the functionality.  That being said, a podium with a bunch of non-working samples of Glass awakened the squealing Google Geek within me and I was already thinking through how I could explain a $1,500 purchase like this to my wife.  Fortunately for her, Glass is only available to a limited number of people and I didn’t make that exclusive list.  I tried them on for the first time and felt instant tech euphoria.  One of the employees could sense this emotion and walked over to ask if I wanted him to take a headshot for me…I did and I instantly posted it to Facebook.

    While my geek-out was going on, Chris was sitting at one of the modern tables working with a Google Glass fit specialist.  She was walking him through the hardware and beginning to introduce some of the the software functionality.  I turned around to watch him initially struggle with they very specific syntax of the voice commands.  Through trial and error, a number of questions and a few technical difficulties Glass was up and running and we had worn out our welcome with the Google team.  We were the last ones in the location and the Googlers were clearly ready to go home.

    We hit the streets, reunited with the larger crew and went in search of pizza (every member of the Tech Trek taking their turn trying on Glass and taking a picture of themselves wearing it so they too could post to Facebook).  Within 20 minutes, we had our very first Glass Gawker.  After parking our car outside of the pizza joint, someone stopped Chris on the street to ask if he was wearing Google Glass.  Chris did a quick demonstration for the guy and we headed on our way.  This became extremely common in public places…even in downtown San Francisco where there is arguably a higher saturation of Glass than any other part of the country.

    We interacted with a number of people over the course of the trip to get their reaction.  There was really no standard…everyone fell into different parts of a quadrant:

    glass plot

    As we traveled on, the composition of people’s thoughts didn’t change as much as the frequency of gawking.  The further we travelled from the Bay Area the more we would catch people stopping and staring.  At one point I enjoyed following our camera man Spencer, as he captured reaction shots.  People would walk by Chris and, immediately after passing him, look at each other with puzzled faces or do a double take.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

    Finding communities like Venice Beach where we could put Glass onto people doing amazing things like dunking a basketball or boxing produced great results.  We all agreed that video and photo capture is probably the current “killer app” but that means Glass in its current form is little more than a pricey Go Pro camera that sits on your face.

    It’s clear that Glass has a long way to go and the promise of more invasive applications like “Winky” or deeper exploration into Augmented Reality may justify the concern of the people who sit on the “freaked out” end of the spectrum.  The product is definitely a 1.0 or Beta version and has a long ways to go before its utility is proven in the general market.

    In part two, I’ll talk contrast the tech communities from California back to KC, stay tuned!


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Tech Trek


    One of the benefits to riding across the country with a group of uber-connected entrepreneurs is that they’re well….connected.  In the case of Vegas, we had a hookup at one of the hottest new night clubs in town, Hakkasan.  After shaking hands with the club promoter, letting the bouncers and hostesses try on Google Glass, we were on an elevator, headed to the 4th floor of the club.

    Long story short, my wake-up call came WAY earlier than I expected.  All the same I jumped out of bed with enthusiasm because we were headed to Downtown Las Vegas.  Downtown was once the center of gaming in Las Vegas after its legalization in the 1930’s.  As the industry boomed, Las Vegas grew from a sleepy city of 5,000 to the nearly 40 million visitors seen annually today.  Soon the bright lights of the downtown casinos were dimmed by the mega resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard that we all associate with the city today.  As tourism shifted to the miles of resorts south of town, the downtown district suffered.

    Tony Hsieh is changing all of that.  The CEO of Zappos moved to Las Vegas in 2004 to scale his start-up and has since been a champion for the Vegas community.  He’s ponied up $350M of his own money to re-develop the downtown area, relocating the Zappos HQ to the old city hall and buying up every piece of property he can to form what looks like a llama shaped plot of city blocks (seriously…he’s obsessed with the animal).

    His dedication to the growth of Zappos, the entrepreneurial community and the education system in Las Vegas is nothing short of amazing.  Seeing his vision taking shape from the top story of the Ogden building inside the penthouse he calls home blew my mind.

    What really got to me was the blending of his Zappos Corporation and the entrepreneurial community.  In designing the new HQ, Tony and team studied the corporate campuses of Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and more.  The common thread in all of these places was the open format that encouraged collaboration and ideation with other employees…Tony wants to take it a step further.  Rather than simply collaborating with other Zappos employees, Tony is building a downtown that encourages his three C’s (Community, Collaboration and Co-Learning) among his Zappos employees, start-up entrepreneurs and any other companies who locate to the area.

    Open co-working spaces, community arts centers, coffee shops, dog parks, stages where you’ll be able to catch a TED talk on your way to work, new early childhood learning centers, bars and restaurants make up the re-imagined area.  In the blistering heat of the desert, this section of downtown is beginning to take shape as a business oasis.

    As I’ve discussed previously on this blog, there’s a symbiotic relationship that must occur between corporations and the budding entrepreneurs of the world.  What Tony is building isn’t simply an innovative way to build a corporate HQ, it’s the way corporations will need to operate if they are to thrive. We’re now in a world where you must disrupt of be disrupted…immersing your employees with potential disruptors can do nothing but help the chances of succeeding together.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Tech Trek

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    After the long ride down the coastline, we ended the evening in one of LA’s oldest Mexican restaurants (El Cholo).  The cold margaritas and spicy fish tacos were a welcome treat after a long car ride.  It was nearing midnight so after one more beer at a bar around the corner we all headed for the hotel for a little rest.

    We spent the next day on the beach, finally feeling that California sun….many of us now with the red skin to prove it.  Of all the beaches in the LA area we decided to spend our time on Venice beach, hoping to catch some of the action on the board walk.  It didn’t disappoint.

    Among the street vendors, beach bums and tourists there were pockets of really interesting people doing things outside.  We took the opportunity to put Google Glass on the faces of people who were out and about get their point of view.

    So far, most of us agree that the “killer app” of Google Glass is definitely the photo and video capability, capturing a cool human eye perspective that only takes seconds to enable (and we’ve found the image quality to be amazing).  We interrupted a few people to try on Google Glass while they were going about their afternoon activities.  A street ball “dunker,” a boxing trainer who was working out with a client and a street performer on the boardwalk were all willing volunteers.  We had fun watching the point of view Google Glass afforded us (I don’t know about you, but my days of doing a 360 degree spinning dunk are long gone).

    More than the cool videos that we were able to capture, it was fascinating to see the general public react to seeing Google Glass in the open.  In San Francisco we got a few looks but for the most part, the novelty has worn off in a city where Googlers have been walking around with them on in public for months.  LA was far enough away from the bay area giving most of the residents and tourists their first look at it in the wild.

    It started out with in-conspicuous looks but soon enough people were gathering in a crowd around Chris to catch a glimpse and maybe even try them on.  You can instantly see the power in Google’s bleeding edge piece of hardware to capture people’s imagination.  Even more than that, you get a good understanding for Google’s strategy of “pre-releasing” this device before it’s ready for prime time.  Google may not know how Glass will be put to work, but what we’ve discovered is that everyone has an idea of how they would like to use it….and that’s exactly what Google’s hoping for.

    We wrapped up things in LA (stopping at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles for a quick bite to eat) and headed into the desert for Las Vegas.  While Google Glass continues to capture the imagination of the general public we found at least one person who’s not interested in imagining the future…the head of security at the Luxor Hotel and Casino.  Chris was told to “take those off” within seconds of entering the hotel lobby.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Life Lessons, Tech Trek

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    On day 3 we departed from the bay area and headed south toward LA.  Instead of taking the direct route down Highway 5 we opted for the curvy and scenic Highway 1.  After a brief stop in Monterey to see the ocean for the first time, we settled into a great sushi restaurant just a little down the road in Carmel.  The sun was out and shining down on us from our spot on the patio…a huge change from the chill of the bay area.

    We continued on down Highway 1.  Around every curve a new view of the ocean appeared against the steep rocky cliffs that were almost dizzying as you looked over the edge.  As we neared Big Sur, there were people pulled into scenic turn-outs right next to a gigantic concrete bridge.  We decided to pull over and take a look, our progress south was somewhat slow but we were trying to take it all in.

    Commissioned in 1931, the Bixby Bridge was meant to connect the residents of Northern and Southern California.  With an initial budget of $203K the project was completed in about 14 months and came in under budget.  At around $3M in today’s dollars the project seems like a relative bargain when you consider the $8M that was just recently spent on lighting up the Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

    I hiked off a bit behind the bridge, to get a better view.  The bridge was stunning from the view where we parked the car but as you moved further to the Northeast you got a perspective that made the concrete arches look dynamic.  Standing right on the edge of the cliff, my head started to spin just a bit and I had to take a step back due to the height.  Looking at the bridge from a distance made me question whether or not what I was seeing was even real…I started to think about the workers who constructed it over 80 years ago.

    This bridge stood in front of me as a symbol of American ingenuity…not unlike what I had seen over the last couple of days.  Though today’s entrepreneurs aren’t building bridges, dams or interstate systems, Americans haven’t lost their desire to tackle interesting problems.  Literally building a bridge over gaps rather than turning around and giving up is something I see in San Francisco and I know I see it in KC.  We’ve entered a new era, one that requires us to appreciate the infrastructure our ancestors built and do them proud by advancing the American economy into the next era.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Leadership, Life Lessons, Tech Trek

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    Day 2 of the Tech Trek didn’t disappoint…I’ll admit, the non-stop action met by the comfort of a hide-a-bed is leaving me hoping for a little extra rest but I’m learning too much to worry about it.  We had a unique opportunity to see three different companies in very different stages yesterday.

    Early Stage –

    Our first stop of the day was to meet with the founders of  Steve and Danny both grew up in the shadow of the research triangle in North Carolina.  After being accepted into Y Combinator both of them and Steve’s brother Scott moved out to the Valley to grow their business.

    The three of these guys (all in their mid-20’s) cram themselves into a small room in a poorly built office park near Mountain View.  They sub-lease a space that is smaller than a tiny bedroom from another startup where the two companies share less than 1,000 total square feet.  The three of them also live together in a small 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment where they pay over $3K/mo.

    They’re thrilled….

    Both Steve and Danny quit their jobs in the corporate world.  They could easily be climbing the ladder, nearing a 6 figure salary as consultants with their technical background but something about the entrepreneurial lifestyle called them to their current position.  Both lamented hitting a wall in the corporate world where they weren’t being challenged any more at a time where they wanted to continue learning.

    When asked why they’re doing what they’re doing, Danny simply told us that “Figuring stuff out is satisfying…we’re working until 11 or 12 at night and that would probably normally kill me but for now it’s working.”  He couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face.

    The challenge for corporations is clear, find a way to leverage talented people who are interested in solving problems for you or be prepared to pay a premium for them later on once they’ve figured it all out.

    Scaling the Business – We Heart It

    We had an unreal opportunity to sit down with digital content royalty in downtown San Francisco.  David Williams worked for Schweppes early on in his career and at one point was tasked with figuring out how the company would “use the internet.”  After a few months of poking around and researching, David came back to his executive team and said “I have no idea what a soft drink company is going to with the internet, but I’m leaving.”

    He did and he was successful.  After a few startups, he and a couple other entrepreneurs revolutionized the music industry.  A few years after Napster had shocked the music world, the labels were still looking for their play in a digital era.  iTunes had started to peel users away from CD’s but a little startup called Rhapsody had this crazy idea to allow users to “access” all of the music they could listen to, long before Netflix was ready to do the same thing with digital movies.  David was a co-founder of Rhapsody…so yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.

    Since leaving Rhapsody, David has tinkered around in the Valley successfully jumping in and out of startup companies.  His talents for scaling small companies were now required at an image based social network by the name of “We Heart It.
    Started by a designer in Brazil as a solution to his own problem, it quickly turned into something more than 20M active users log into on a regular basis (presently adding 1M users per month).

    David had a lot of knowledge to share and did so graciously.  He’s not what immediately comes to mind when you think of the stereotypical ego-maniacs that top the ranks of successful Silicon Valley companies.  In fact he’s completely the opposite.  Kind, patient, honest, open and more than willing to sit down with 8 guys from Kansas City at 5pm on a Friday evening.

    He spoke to us about a lot of different topics but I thought it was interesting to hear his thoughts on the benefits of the densely populated downtown San Francisco area.

    “It’s just smart people talking to other smart people”

    Building a huge network and engaging in meaningful conversations is what’s to blame for almost every turn in David’s career:  the opportunity to leave Schweppes, the idea for Rhapsody and his current role as president at We Heart It.  These “collisions” of brilliant minds shouldn’t be unique to the Valley…this might be my inner Alana Muller talking now but I need to drink more coffee and eat more lunches with smart people.

    The Giants – Facebook

    The cities of Mountain View, Cupertino, Menlo Park, San Jose and San Mateo look much like any other white collar suburban metro area aside from the fact that every commercial building and office park is littered with logos from your favorite websites.  You can become a bit star struck as you drive around gawking at the signs that say Ebay, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Google, and a gigantic “Thumbs Up” symbol that we all have come to know as the like button of Facebook.

    We decided to pull over.  The idea of taking a picture in front of the Facebook sign, posting it to Facebook and tagging the Facebook HQ was too tempting so we did.  As we found a spot in the parking lot and made our way out of the car toward the sign, we started to notice Facebook branded security trucks arriving near our area.  They never said anything but they were always in view as we walked around.  We snapped our picture, got back in the car and noticed that a blue tag had been placed under our windshield wiper.  It wasn’t a ticket, but definitely some kind of a marker to track how long we had been parked there.

    This was a recurring trend at many of the big companies we visited.  Blame it on Edward Snowden or just the paranoia around intellectual property…the openness and friendly collisions are most definitely running out of favor for the internet giants.  Multiple requests to speak with anyone from any of these companies for our documentary were declined…people are fascinated with what they’ve done and what they’re doing but they have no interest in the free publicity.

    What does it all mean?

    I can’t say that there’s a common thread between these three stories just more of an observation of companies each making their way in the San Francisco area.  It’s been fascinating to observe, listen and learn from everyone we talk to.  I’m seeing a lot of the appeal factor that comes with this area but I also believe there are lessons in my experiences above that I’m already seeing applied in Kansas City.

    I’ve been typing this all from the curves of Highway 1 and have learned that car sickness is impossible to avoid while watching the screen.  We’re about 200 miles out from LA and this weekend should be fun to see how Southern California differs from Silicon Valley.  Stay tuned for more!!

  • TECH TREK – DAY 1…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Mobile Tech, Other Cool Stuff..., Tech Trek

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    My eyes shot open and I looked above my head to see the upside-down characters on the alarm clock…somehow my brain made out the fact that it was 3:30 AM, but it didn’t matter I couldn’t sleep any more.  I reached up and turned off the clock so it wouldn’t blare and wake up my wife when it was scheduled to go off at 3:45.  I rolled out of bed to see my wheeled carry-on bag and backpack bursting at the seams, sitting along the wall.  Both bags were stuffed with enough t-shirts, clean underwear and technology to last me 7 days on the road.

    My beautiful wife eventually woke up and graciously drove me to KCI where I barely made my flight out.  Airport security at 6:12 AM runs just as fast as you do at that time….  Day 1 of the Tech Trek had begun:  8 guys, 7 days, 5 stops, countless experiences with the bleeding edge Google Glass hardware in tow, all documented on video.

    After some flight confusion and missed connections by some others we eventually assembled as a team in Silicon Valley.  A Mod Squad of technologists, creative designers, innovators and entrepreneurial minds assembled on the patio of a German style beer garden in down town Mountain View:

    Chris Shaw – Entrepreneur In Residence at Think Big Partners and founder of the Tech Trek (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Hampton Stevens – Freelance journalist for the Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy and many more (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Blake Miller – Partner at Think Big Partners and Managing Director of their Accelerator (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Andy Olson – Innovation Leader at Hallmark Cards (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Tom Brantman – Innovation Leader, Immagineer at Hallmark Cards (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Jason Grill – Media Relations, Public Affairs, PR, Attorney, Entrepreneur, TV Analyst, National Writer, Radio Host, Fmr MO Rep (LinkedIn Twitter)

    Spencer Walsh – Documentary Filmmaker, Owner of Piscator Media (LinkedIn Twitter)

    and me….

    We kicked off the day talking with Wade Foster, a graduate from MU who founded Zapier and just recently moved out to Silicon Valley. Over brats and a .5L of beer we talked about his experience with Y Combinator, the benefits of the Valley and his desire to eventually come back “home” to Missouri.

    After killing some time at  the Googleplex in Mountain View, we headed back to our hotel to prepare for the main event….picking up Glass in downtown San Francisco.  We arrived at a nondescript corporate office building close to pier 28 and took the elevator to the 5th floor.  Greeted by Google security, only a couple of us were actually allowed to go into the Glass Receiving area…a stripped down concrete floor with modern/minimal furniture accented by Glass branding.  Chris was seated at a table with a Glass specialist who helped him with the fit and walked him through a very detailed orientation.  It’s clear the technology is new and Google is trying to reduce the learning curve as much as possible.

    We played around, geeked out, asked a bunch of questions and then we were off…on our own in downtown San Francisco.  We navigated to a local pizza joint using Glass and devoured our food.  Everyone took their turn passing Glass around the table and envious onlookers peered through the window to see what we were doing.  We were having a great time but many of us were coming upon our 24th hour awake and we were ready for bed.

    Today is a new day, we’ll be exploring the bay area a bit more talking with a few early stage companies and then doing some of the touristy things.  I would love to take you all along with me on this experience over the next 7 days and you’ll be able to do that because of the technology we have in tow.  Stay tuned here, keep an eye on the TechTrek Blog and Twitter as well as my social media sites….we’re capturing a lot of content with the intent to share!!

    Tech Trek Blog:

    Tech Trek Twitter:


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Leadership, Life Lessons

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    I am an Arrested Development NUT….those who know me can attest to my fanaticism.  I’ve seen each of the episodes in the first three seasons over 10 times and have been through season 4 on Netflix twice now (after staying up until 2am to watch it the morning it was released).

    Tonight I have been reading through the Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with Mitch Hurwitz (the creator of Arrested Development).  He talks a lot about the stories behind the running jokes, keeping timelines straight, directing amazing character actors, reigning in even more amazing writers, cameo appearances that didn’t happen, how the internet and social sites like Reddit are changing television plus so much more.

    For those who don’t know, Arrested Development was canceled in 2006 after the show had failed to gather a following of the masses.  The creators and writers of the show aimed to do something never seen on network TV…after 2.5 amazingly hilarious seasons, network TV execs decided it was a failure leaving cult fans like myself completely upset (only to squeal with joy to hear that Netflix revived the series for at least one more season in 2013).

    There are a lot of easter eggs in Mitch’s discussion with the internet but I find this question and answer between a random Reddit user and Mitch Hurwitz extremely insightful on risk taking:

    Question from Reddit User:  On February 11, 2006 What were your thoughts of continuing the Bluth story? Did you think you had a shot in hell at ever telling more?

    Answer from Mitch Hurwitz:  On February 11, I DID. There’s an audacity that comes with any creative enterprise. I mean, I don’t think I would have written my first spec script if I had known how unlikely it was to get a writing job. And I don’t think I would have tried creating ARRESTED if I really thought “look at the data of what’s already been developed. they won’t make this.” but I should have – that was the evidence that existed. I don’t think I would have included all the stuff about Saddam Hussein in Season 1 if I’d done the math on the likelihood of getting through an entire season to reveal the punchline. And I think that everyone has to jump off that cliff and make that assumption in their own work – because the truth is, even if it doesn’t happen, you have a more interesting life if you’re to sit down and write a novel than doing the math on the likelihood of it getting published.

    We are all challenged by the “What If”; data, peer pressure, the risk of something not working and the way things have always been.

    Stop doing the math….embrace your audacity…make an assumption on your own work…

    You’re probably right.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Innovation, Leadership, Life Lessons

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    A continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.

    If you had to put any moment of your life on a continuum, where would you place it?

    The fat middle – Where your decision, action, opinion, perspective isn’t perceptively different from those around you?  Where it’s safe and the return is relatively predictable?

    The extreme edges – Where you will stand out from the pack?  Where there’s a chance you’re going to fail?  Where you’ll most likely experience something new and different?

    I try to stay on the edges as much as possible.  At the very least, always be aware of where you stand in any given situation…


    One of my favorite examples of someone living on the extreme edge is a boxing coach in NYC by the name of Eric Kelly.  In this VERY explicit YouTube video, you see a man who is offensive, vulgar and rude to his own clients.  He also has a waiting list of people hoping to work with him….he gets results and charges clients handsomely for it.

    (seriously…a lot of F-Bombs behind the play button…I warned you Mom!):


    There are hundreds of boxing coaches in NYC, most of them in the fat middle…hell, there are probably a few that are better than Eric Kelly.  They all have 3 choices:

    1)  Don’t change a thing, stay comfortable with their place on the continuum and the results they’re getting (ASSUMING THE CONTINUUM ISN’T MOVING!!!)

    2)  Move to an edge, it’s difficult to be known as the 2nd most offensive boxing coach in NYC…what about the nicest?

    3)  Create a new continuum, when all else fails change the selection criteria…the only boxing coach in NYC who will bring the gloves to your workplace so you can duke it out in the office.


    “Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience”

    -Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling – #13

Thanks for stopping by! Find me on one of your favorite social networking sites.

Erik Wullschleger