Graeme Thickins on Tech

Reflections & analysis about innovation, technology & startups, with a focus on Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes

Author: Graeme (page 1 of 223)

Our Times Call for Multiple Careers

I believed it then, and  believe it even more now. It was a poster I first saw in my early working years in the advertising and marketing business, and it hit me hard. I thought, yeah, that totally makes sense — I don’t want to be tied down to one thing for my whole working life, one aspect of this exciting, crazy business. I had already improved my lot quite a bit by moving on to a couple of better-paying jobs after I left college, and I was feeling pretty good about that… buying a house, buying nice cars. I figured I was just getting started! I had way too many interests, too many things I wanted to do, to be tied down to one kind of marketing job, or (God forbid) one company. I had a whole world of options in front of me.

About this time, I had become really interested in design, too (not just writing). I was learning a ton from some smart colleagues I worked closely with, and I loved everything about design. Bought books, read a lot, studied it in my spare time. Wasn’t out to become a designer — just built a really good appreciation for it.

This poster (which I still have hanging in my office) was designed by Milt Glaser, an uber-famous graphic designer in New York whom I had come to admire. (Seriously, click on that link — this guy earned true rockstar-designer status!)  His poster struck me then as having an important message, and it’s continued to inspire me over the years. As in… don’t be pigeon-holed, resist being narrowly defined, always keep learning, keep doing, keep trying new things. And, yes, as the illustration shows, juggle all those options, as many skills as you can acquire, and learn all the tools you can to make yourself invaluable to employers or clients.

Unlike the prevailing wisdom at the time, I could see early in my career that working for the same company one’s whole career was a ticket to nowhere. I knew it wasn’t for me. I learned the only job security was what was between one’s ears. I worked about two years average for a company or agency, then moved on to a bigger challenge and more money. A dozen years into my career, I made the big jump to being a self-employed consultant and never looked back. And that, let me tell you, became the ultimate “multiple-career”… 🙂

The  philosophy encompassed in this simple poster has proven to be right for me, as it has for many others, I’m sure. For me, it’s been about multiple careers within a single discipline (marketing), but for some it can even mean switching disciplines. I’ve managed to keep reinventing myself over and over, in varying degrees. Part of that has been a result of getting myself involved in so many new fields of technology, as I’ve been lucky enough to be out in front of innovation in my chosen field of self-employment — as a consultant to early-stage tech startups. Never a dull moment in this business! Always something new to learn, some new milestone to reach. Never sitting still, forever juggling, constantly reading, always having fun, constantly surfing new waves — and, most importantly, moving the ball, to use another sports analogy (I played football, too!). Net-net: making things happen. It’s a great way to go through life.

How many “careers” have you had? How many will you have? I wish you many!

 

 

The Hottest of the New Hotness in 2017: ‘The #AI 100’

Need a new list for the new year? And I don’t mean a list of predictions — save us from more of those. I mean a list of hot startups, in the hottest space of all this year: Artificial Intelligence.

CB Insights just uncorked “The AI 100” at its Innovation Summit, now going on out in sunny rain-drenched Santa Barbara. (Well, guys, at least you were going to be indoors most of the time, anyway.)

Yes, last year may have been all about Big Data, but this year it’s AI. Note, however, that the former isn’t out of vogue. It’s just that things are… evolving. And sort of blending. The algorithms of AI, which is actually a technology that’s been  studied for decades, hunger for data — huge amounts of it. The more the better, and the higher quality the better. It’s only in recent years that enough good data, and the tools to manipulate and analyze it, have become available to drive advances in AI. And those advances are coming at us in increasing, amazing waves.

So, dig in to The AI 100 PDF. Herewith a couple of screen grabs from the report: a graphic showing the various categories of companies, and an alphabetical listing of the all the lucky chosen. (Most of which have been  well funded, and many of which are already well into revenue stage.) 

 

Former MN Serial Entrepreneur Lief Larson Has Yet Another New Venture

Many of my readers remember Lief Larson. He was known and respected widely in the startup community here in our state as a longtime entrepreneur. He had a successful exit with an interactive kiosk company before going whole hog into a software startup. A few years ago, he moved to Seattle after handing over the CEO reins at that VC-backed software company, Workface Inc. I miss him, and I’m sure others do, too. Not only was he a ball of energy, a smart developer and product guy, and a helluva salesman, but a really fun guy, too. He began life in Seattle living on a boat with his wife in the trendy Fremont section. And he’s definitely loving life out there in the Pacific Northwest.

But his entrepreneurial endeavors hardly stopped. Soon, he’d launched Engage.co, and not long after a sideline called Sportzy, a leisure sports and activity site. Always one to spot a new opportunity, Lief recently told me he and a colleague launched a new site called Planning to Retire.

“My buddy and I both have parents entering retirement and they keep asking us all these questions, so we decided to build a site to help them,” said Lief.  “We’re trying to capture 1,000 members in 30 days.”  So, friends, tell all your parents and relatives who are approaching that magical age about this great new site. It’s a really helpful resource for them!

Gettin’ old? Sign up now!

My Background With Lief

A little history: I was lucky enough to do some consulting work for Lief back in his Workface days — including traveling with him twice to big events in California. I really enjoyed the experience and found myself writing about him several times on this blog. Those posts go back more than five years, covering his journey with Workface (which he founded in 2006), his ties to Marissa Mayer (they grew up together in Wisconsin), and how he took on an educational effort for entrepreneurs all by himself here in Minneapolis called “SaaS Camp,” which I attended. Here are all those posts.

In one of them, I told the following story, which still makes me laugh today every time I think of it. Not only is Lief an amazing, hard-working entrepreneur, but the man knows how to have some fun!

Lief and I traveled to Palo Alto a couple years ago for a conference where Lief was pitching to the Silicon Valley VC community, along with a bunch of other hot startups, and sharing the stage with speakers like the founders of Salesforce and SuccessFactors. We stayed in a funky old, ’60s-vintage Travelodge motel — about as low-priced as we could find in Palo Alto. After we checked in to our respective rooms, we both went online to work. First thing I see is an email from Lief with a photo attached of this gorgeous, expansive hotel room, saying, “Wow, I hope your room is as nice as mine.” I never laughed so hard, because I could hardly turn around in my dinky little room, and I knew he couldn’t either… :-).

I haven’t had an opportunity to get out to Seattle since Lief moved there, but you can bet I’ll be meeting up with him the next time I do. Go, Lief!

Older posts