My wife and I have recently become quite interested in putting together our family tree. It’s such a diverse family with various backgrounds and cultures. And a large family at that.
We signed up with Geni and with a bit of nudging and effort from various family members we now have a tree that spans over 380 people and growing.
We are getting a ton of details that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. It’s really quite excellent.
As we reviewed all the information and watch the tree develop, we started thinking about health matters and family medical history.
For example, my wife’s dad died at 50 years old. Her father’s father also died at a very young age as well. Her’s father’s grandfather also died at a young age. All of them died because of heart failure. It’s clear how important it is to understand your family medical history.
But aside from that striking data, we really don’t know much about other medical history we inherit from our family tree. Who in our family has diabetes? Or cancer? Or Alzheimer’s?
I realize that I’m walking into a hornets nest and patient records are highly confidential. But if I had a medical issue that might pass down to my kids and so on, I would very much want them to know about it. I assume my grandparents, parents, uncles & aunts feel the same way.
At some point, we are going to have better tools that give us data and access. Of course, we will need assurances & security to make sure that the right people have access to the right information.
Electronic medical records are a start. Stitching our medical records with our family tree is the next step after that. And we will all be better for it.
Can Genlighten tackle these issues? Not yet, but it’s something to keep returning to.
Today was the day we sent the first batch of private beta invitations out to interested Genlighten users we’ve met at conferences over the past few years or who’ve signed up on the site. So far it looks like about 20% have registered. Not as many new lookups offered as I would have hoped, but it’s a start. Great feedback from one potential power provider.
“I could talk for ages about how awesome and valuable the beta process was. We learned so much during the first year when invitations were going out slowly and we were talking to the users of the site about what they wanted every single day. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat — start with something that works, get people in it, and build it together.”—
Yesterday, we arrived at my parents in Long Island. Last night after the kids went to bed, my dad told us some amazing things about his childhood that I had never heard before.
My brother and I have learned a lot about my parents lives over the years but I know there are gaps missing from the stories. And there are certainly photos missing. The old photos we have aren’t tagged or organized at all and we don’t have any videos naturally.
I told my parents that they should write down their life story. Start at the beginning. They have led fascinating lives. One little tidbit: They both came from different countries to the United States in the 60’s. My mom is from Korea. My dad is from Iran. They met after medical school during their residency in New York. My mom was supposed to be arranged but she met my dad.
These days many of us are sharing our lives on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, blogs and flickr. It’s an attempt to write down and share our life story. From the seemingly mundane to the other end of the spectrum.
I hope my kids can one day check out my shared life to get another window into my life story.
And hopefully they will do the same for the next generation.
Dean’s take: So far, that’s two East Coast VCs (the other being Fred Wilson) who have indicated an interest in their family history on their blogs. This bodes well for our potential Genlighten Techstars presentation.
Startups make all kinds of excuses for delaying their launch. Most are equivalent to the ones people use for procrastinating in everyday life. There’s something that needs to happen first. Maybe. But if the software were 100% finished and ready to launch at the push of a button, would they still be waiting?
One reason to launch quickly is that it forces you to actually finish some quantum of work. Nothing is truly finished till it’s released; you can see that from the rush of work that’s always involved in releasing anything, no matter how finished you thought it was. The other reason you need to launch is that it’s only by bouncing your idea off users that you fully understand it.
“The whole entrepreneurial thing is that you kind of jump off a cliff and assemble your airplane on the way down. And financing, by the way, is a thermal draft, right? You’re a little further away, but the ground’s still coming at you if you can’t establish an airplane.”—
Reid Hoffman, as quoted by Jeff Bussgang in his new book, The VC Playbook (via fred-wilson)
The ground’s definitely coming at us. But it won’t take much revenue to keep us safely in the air.
“Making things is a circle. You start the arc with an idea about the world: an observation or hunch. Then you sprint around the track, getting to a prototype—a breadboard, a rough draft, a run-through—as fast as you can. Your goal isn’t to finish the thing. It’s to expose it, no matter how rough or ragged, to the real world. You do that, and you learn: Which of your ideas were right? Which were wrong? What surprised you? What did other people think? Then you plow those findings back into an improved prototype. Around the circle again. Run!”—
“I’m prone to those revelations where something blinks and things suddenly make sense but your excitement for this new understanding is clouded by your annoyance that you didn’t figure it out earlier and save yourself mountains of stress and frustration. And sometimes those revelations aren’t even that clear, you know know that you’ve jumped back on the right track somehow after being off it for some unknown period of time, even if you have no early idea where that track is leading you.”—
“The ultimate goal of a lean startup is to identify where its vision intersects with what reality can accommodate. It is neither a capitulation to “what customers think they want” nor a willful ignorance of conditions on the ground. It is a company built to learn.”—
“There are so many people that don’t care about their past. They are more interested in the here and now. Isn’t that the way it should be? But I believe there also needs to be someone that keeps checking the rear view mirror of our lives so that we don’t go off the straight and narrow path; so that we treasure what is beautiful and unique about our particular family; so that we don’t forget the precious and the notorious individuals that share our genes.”—
“It’s really amazing how many startups fail. Not that ideas fail, no, that’s a given — but that as the costs of running a business plunge ever lower so many smart people can’t cover their $4,000/month “don’t die” costs.”—
“By far the dominant reason for not releasing sooner was a reluctance to trade the dream of success for the reality of feedback.”—Kent Beck, Three Rivers Institute blog, Approaching A Minimum Viable Product also quoted on 37Signals’ SvN blog.
Should users be able to complete the entire checkout process without having to register? If not, how should registration be handled? These are the familiar e-commerce site usability issues Genlighten is grappling with right now.
Since I’ve often described Genlighten.com as “Etsy for Genealogy Document Retrieval”, it should come as no surprise that I see Etsy’s Twitter strategy as a perfect fit for us. As our providers Twitter about the lookups they offer, and post links to them on Facebook, we can in turn “cultivate and curate” the Genlighten community on Twitter. Thanks, Fred!
“An entrepreneur is only able to mentally fully commit if he is able to break any prior reservations he had about pursuing his startup. The most successful entrepreneurs exhibit a 100% time and mental dedication to their startup that would be impossible if they still possessed reservations about their future.”—
Our presentation tonight went fairly well. About 50 in attendance… some great questions/suggestions, and very productive chat with a local APG leader who strongly encouraged us to attend the International Black Genealogy Summit coming up in October. Highlight was the live demo Cyndy and I did of the lookup ordering / fulfillment process (and client-provider messaging in real time!)
If you’ve never supported your own software, spending just one day doing tech support will be an eye-opening – not to mention humbling - experience. You’ll have to keep your ego in check, because most people who contact tech support do so because they’re having problems with your software, some of whom will use colorful language to describe the annoyances they’re running into.
But that’s the stuff you need to hear. You need to hear it because you’re the one who can solve those annoyances. You’re the one who can get rid of all the things that prevent your software from being that kick-ass program that people recommend to their friends and co-workers.
If rewards do not work, what does? I recommend that employers pay workers well and fairly and then do everything possible to help them forget about money. A preoccupation with money distracts everyone — employers and employees — from the issues that really matter.
Those issues might be abbreviated as the three C’s of quality: choice, collaboration and content. Choice means workers should participate in making decisions about what they do. Collaboration means they should be able to work together in effective teams. Content refers to the job’s tasks. To do a good job, people need a good job to do.
I have a “Rule of Time in Startups”: How much time does a bootstrapped company take? All of it.
Even ten people could hardly keep up with everything you do in small business — creating, consulting, designing, fixing, self-promotion, blogging, networking, bookkeeping, taxes, customer support and cultivation, reading startup blogs for ideas and inspiration (!), and all those little crappy things like losing an afternoon troubleshooting your fancy outsourced IP phone system that was supposed to let you “work from anywhere.”
One, two, or even three people can’t do everything, so of course it takes all your time. If you’re working a day job while starting something on the side, of course you don’t have time to exercise or play with your kids before bed.
One enthusiastic visitor to the Genlighten booth today suggested we need a new sign… a big one to go behind the booth that says simply “We do it for you!”
I’ve shied away from that use case so far… the person who is really stuck and tired of being stuck and just wants someone to helicopter them beyond the research obstacle they’re facing.
I see that as the province of the true professional rather than the lookup provider. But what this potential customer seemed to be saying was that there’s a document-focused version of hiring a professional, and that it sounded like we were planning on fulfilling that need. And she liked that. Hmm…
“Most of the people involved never intended to be entrepreneurs, it just sort of happened. They didn’t start with a grand idea, a patent, or even funding in many cases. Some of the businesses were in competitive spaces that you would have thought they were nuts to go into. Time after time after time, the story was not sexy. It was about grinding it out. It was a story of will. It was a story of perseverance. It was a story of doing tasks that, from the outside looking in, would seem boring, dry, and monotonous. Every single one of these stories followed that same story line.”—
Cyndy and I wanted to test some crucial fixes our CTO just implemented and brainstorm around some UI/UX design changes we’ve been pondering. We ordered takeout Chinese food and headed down to Gillson Park in Wilmette along the lakeshore. We found a nice table, fired up the MiFi 2200 and took turns ordering lookups and mock-fulfilling them. Kept it up until the mosquitoes got too annoying.
I’ve struggled with this the whole way and it’s coming to a head now. I find myself wanting to tweak things that are about appearance more than usability… and hold off letting customers in until I’m done tweaking. Got to stop that and move on.
As recently as one year ago, everyone worked hard at making sure their brand was portrayed in a positive light. The message was tightly controlled and as a customer, you had very little power to express your love or hatred of a product.
As you all know, that’s impossible now. You could spend $10,000 on banner advertising for your new web app, proclaiming it to be “The World’s Best Solution for XXXX”, only to be ripped apart on Facebook, Twitter and the blogs.
It’s not about advertising anymore. It’s all about Conversation and Empowerment.
Microcopy is extremely contextual…that’s why it’s so valuable. It answers a very specific question people have and speaks to their concerns right on the spot.
Here are some… examples:
* When signing up for a newsletter, say “this low-volume newsletter”
* When people add their emails, say “we hate spam as much as you do”
* When subscribing for something free, say “you can always unsubscribe at any time”
* When storing customer’s information, say “You can export your information at any time”
* If offering optional account creation, say “If you create an account, you’ll be able to track your package”
All of these microcopy examples have one thing in common: they help to alleviate concerns of would-be customers. They help to reduce commitment by speaking directly to the thoughts in people’s heads. That’s why this copy can be so short yet so powerful.
“If your goal is to have a huge company and sell $100,000,000 of software per year, you’re going to have a tough time. You’ll almost certainly fail, it will take years, it will take cooperation among many people you haven’t yet met or hired, it will take a massive market, it will take beatable competitors, and it will probably take debt and/or investors. And yeah, a down economy could be your undoing.
But if your goal is to run a smaller successful business and be independently wealthy, it’s different. If you’d be happy making $1,000,000/year or even $200,000/year many potential problems fall away. A small, focused market changes the rules.”—
“If your company has VC investors, they will reduce the probabilities of an exit that would produce a 1-5x return for the angels. That exit might have produced a 100x return for the entrepreneurs because they paid much less than the angels for their shares. Having VC investors does increase the probabilities of exits above a 5x return. But there is no free lunch. This data shows that after a VC invests your chances of failing completely also increase significantly.”—
At first, entrepreneurship is a Faith-based initiative. There is no certainty about a startup on day-one. You make several first order approximations about your business model, distribution channels, demand creation, and customer acceptance. You leave the comfort of your existing job, convince a few partners to join you and you jump off the bridge together.
However, successfully executing a startup requires the company to become Fact-based as soon as it can.
“I think that founders stock before a venture financing should be subject to the same general vesting terms as one would expect after a venture financing. A typical vesting schedule is four year vesting with a one year cliff. This means that 25% of the shares will vest one year from the vesting commencement date, with 1/48 of the total shares vesting every month thereafter, until the shares are completely vested after four years. The vesting commencement date can be the date of issuance of the shares, or an earlier date, in order to give the founder vesting credit for time spent working on the company prior to incorporation and/or issuance of the shares.”—
Ask PG: YC Founders over 30 yrs old
46 points by dannyr 7 hours ago | 33 comments
I’m curious to know how many YC companies with founders over 30 yrs old have been funded.
We hear so much about founders right out of college. I also wonder how much of a factor is age in selecting companies.
40 points by pg 7 hours ago | link
There are quite a lot of founders over 30. I don’t know exactly how many because we don’t keep track of ages. The sharp falloff is around 35, but we’ve had a handful of founders over 40. None over 50 though.
From a post on Hacker News by user dannyr. PG stands for Paul Graham. YC stands for Y Combinator, Paul Graham’s entrepreneurial ‘not-an-incubator’ venture program for early-stage startups.
I’m about to turn 49, and I plan to apply to Y Combinator early next year. Though our chances are slim, I think it’d be fun to skew their age distribution a little.
Killing the troll isn’t easy, but you have to do it if you want to monetize your site.
Trustworthiness, transparency, credible authority, lots of high-value content, and just plain old decency are your best weapons.
Everything on your site needs to show that you can be trusted. Real contact information. Showing your photograph. Displaying seals for anti-hacker technology and the Better Business Bureau on your shopping cart. FAQs that actually answer questions. Clear, reassuring calls to action.
So let’s declare war on the trolls. Be extraordinarily trustworthy. Show your value. Put your customers first. Keep your promises.
The troll is tough and hard to kill. But with dedication and commitment, we can chase him off to go wreck somebody else’s business.
If you build it, congratulations, but don’t expect too much. If you build it, market it, support it, monitor its publicity, and keep improving it, then they will come, slowly, in fives and tens. Each new subscription is proof that you’re getting somewhere. The trick is ensuring constant growth, and that takes hard work.
Finding the right price points, attracting your target market, writing a blog they read, speaking at events they attend, supporting your current customer-base 24/7, adding features as you see fit, all of this is hard work. It’s usually a lot harder than the programming challenges.
You have to assume that anything you’re putting out there will have some success. Success typically means a number of paying customers, who you must support and communicate with. It’s not just writing an app, it’s attracting a market, supporting customers, dealing with enquiries, writing blog posts, talking to technology news sites, partnering with complimentary applications, handling feature requests. All of that is hard, but you have to plan for it if you’re assuming success, and if you’re not assuming success then what are you doing?
Even if I could find all the relevant official records digitized on the Internet, would that be enough? No! Conducting genealogical research isn’t just getting the dates and places and full names for vital events; it’s about the quest and the thrill of “the find.”
I want to walk the fields my ancestors plowed (assuming they haven’t been paved). I want to spend time sitting under a tree at the edge of a battlefield where my ancestor fought and perhaps died. I want to spend time at the cemetery, taking a moment to appreciate the lives of those who put loved ones in the ground there.
I swear I am not a romantic about this. Learning about reality is much more powerful and moving. So take my advice, don’t get wrapped up in how many names you collect for your database. Take the time to make some real discoveries: the awe and appreciation for lives that led to you.
”—From Sharon Tate Moody’s article “It takes details to bring your ancestors to life” in the Tampa Tribune, May 24th, 2009.
There’s no use going to a show if you don’t know why. Answers like, “because our competitors are there,” or “because it’s on our calendar,” or even “because I think we should,” don’t cut it. (Remember your department has a mission.) There’s a plethora of reasons why a company would want to exhibit at a show:
* write sales orders
* generate leads for future sales
* research the competition
* spot trends
* generate awareness and visibility within the industry
* build our mailing list with quality names
* find better or cheaper suppliers
* build rapport with current customers
* get press
* generate excitement around a new product introduction
* get additional partners
* recruit staff
At NGS, I thought we managed to generate awareness, build rapport with current (registered) customers, get press, get additional partners, and build our mailing list with quality names. We did many of the other things he suggests too. But I still need to work on going to trade shows with specific objectives and measuring the ROI in realistic ways.
The social technologies we see in use today are fundamentally panoptical - the architecture of participation is inherently an architecture of surveillance.
In the age of social networks we find ourselves coming under a vast grid of surveillance - of permanent visibility. The routine self-reporting of what we are doing, reading, thinking via status updates makes our every action and location visible to the crowd. This visibility has a normative effect on behavior (in other words we conform our behavior and/or our speech about that behavior when we know we are being observed).
The author uses a fear-inducing analogy to explore what we risk and potentially give up when we casually share truths about ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, et al. I don’t see things in quite so ominous terms, but the article is thought-provoking nonetheless.
When it starts accepting clients in June, Ancestry.com’s ExpertConnect service will be just one option for hiring people to do research tasks, such as photographing a gravestone or photocopying a record. Here are a few others:
* Genlighten: Here, you also can collect bids for research tasks. The focus here is on lookups, record retrieval and similar services.
”—Nice mention today of Genlighten in Diane Haddad’s Genealogy Insider blog, part of Family Tree Magazine’s online presence.