Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Brilliant! I'll Take 2!

Batteryless Smoke Alarm

No batteries required for this smoke alarm. Instead, it connects directly into ceiling mounted light sockets, automatically recharging whenever the light is turned on. Not bad — it involves less maintenance, and saves batteries from the landfill. The price is $39.95.

From the smart folks at First Street

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ten Rules for Web Startups

Odeo CEO, Evan Williams has some great advice for web-based startups. And he ought to know, having co-founded Blogger, which is now part of Google.

#1: Be Narrow
Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful. Most companies start out trying to do too many things, which makes life difficult and turns you into a me-too. Focusing on a small niche has so many advantages: With much less work, you can be the best at what you do. Small things, like a microscopic world, almost always turn out to be bigger than you think when you zoom in. You can much more easily position and market yourself when more focused. And when it comes to partnering, or being acquired, there's less chance for conflict. This is all so logical and, yet, there's a resistance to focusing. I think it comes from a fear of being trivial. Just remember: If you get to be #1 in your category, but your category is too small, then you can broaden your scope—and you can do so with leverage.

#2: Be Different
Ideas are in the air. There are lots of people thinking about—and probably working on—the same thing you are. And one of them is Google. Deal with it. How? First of all, realize that no sufficiently interesting space will be limited to one player. In a sense, competition actually is good—especially to legitimize new markets. Second, see #1—the specialist will almost always kick the generalist's ass. Third, consider doing something that's not so cutting edge. Many highly successful companies—the aforementioned big G being one—have thrived by taking on areas that everyone thought were done and redoing them right. Also? Get a good, non-generic name. Easier said than done, granted. But the most common mistake in naming is trying to be too descriptive, which leads to lots of hard-to-distinguish names. How many blogging companies have "blog" in their name, RSS companies "feed," or podcasting companies "pod" or "cast"? Rarely are they the ones that stand out.

#3: Be Casual
We're moving into what I call the era of the "Casual Web" (and casual content creation). This is much bigger than the hobbyist web or the professional web. Why? Because people have lives. And now, people with lives also have broadband. If you want to hit the really big home runs, create services that fit in with—and, indeed, help—people's everyday lives without requiring lots of commitment or identity change. Flickr enables personal publishing among millions of folks who would never consider themselves personal publishers—they're just sharing pictures with friends and family, a casual activity. Casual games are huge. Skype enables casual conversations.

#4: Be Picky
Another perennial business rule, and it applies to everything you do: features, employees, investors, partners, press opportunities. Startups are often too eager to accept people or ideas into their world. You can almost always afford to wait if something doesn't feel just right, and false negatives are usually better than false positives. One of Google's biggest strengths—and sources of frustration for outsiders—was their willingness to say no to opportunities, easy money, potential employees, and deals.

#5: Be User-Centric
User experience is everything. It always has been, but it's still undervalued and under-invested in. If you don't know user-centered design, study it. Hire people who know it. Obsess over it. Live and breathe it. Get your whole company on board. Better to iterate a hundred times to get the right feature right than to add a hundred more. The point of Ajax is that it can make a site more responsive, not that it's sexy. Tags can make things easier to find and classify, but maybe not in your application. The point of an API is so developers can add value for users, not to impress the geeks. Don't get sidetracked by technologies or the blog-worthiness of your next feature. Always focus on the user and all will be well.

#6: Be Self-Centered
Great products almost always come from someone scratching their own itch. Create something you want to exist in the world. Be a user of your own product. Hire people who are users of your product. Make it better based on your own desires. (But don't trick yourself into thinking you are your user, when it comes to usability.) Another aspect of this is to not get seduced into doing deals with big companies at the expense or your users or at the expense of making your product better. When you're small and they're big, it's hard to say no, but see #4.

#7: Be Greedy
It's always good to have options. One of the best ways to do that is to have income. While it's true that traffic is now again actually worth something, the give-everything-away-and-make-it-up-on-volume strategy stamps an expiration date on your company's ass. In other words, design something to charge for into your product and start taking money within 6 months (and do it with PayPal). Done right, charging money can actually accelerate growth, not impede it, because then you have something to fuel marketing costs with. More importantly, having money coming in the door puts you in a much more powerful position when it comes to your next round of funding or acquisition talks. In fact, consider whether you need to have a free version at all. The TypePad approach—taking the high-end position in the market—makes for a great business model in the right market. Less support. Less scalability concerns. Less abuse. And much higher margins.

#8: Be Tiny
It's standard web startup wisdom by now that with the substantially lower costs to starting something on the web, the difficulty of IPOs, and the willingness of the big guys to shell out for small teams doing innovative stuff, the most likely end game if you're successful is acquisition. Acquisitions are much easier if they're small. And small acquisitions are possible if valuations are kept low from the get go. And keeping valuations low is possible because it doesn't cost much to start something anymore (especially if you keep the scope narrow). Besides the obvious techniques, one way to do this is to use turnkey services to lower your overhead—Administaff, ServerBeach, web apps, maybe even Elance.

#9: Be Agile
You know that old saw about a plane flying from California to Hawaii being off course 99% of the time—but constantly correcting? The same is true of successful startups—except they may start out heading toward Alaska. Many dot-com bubble companies that died could have eventually been successful had they been able to adjust and change their plans instead of running as fast as they could until they burned out, based on their initial assumptions. Pyra was started to build a project-management app, not Blogger. Flickr's company was building a game. Ebay was going to sell auction software. Initial assumptions are almost always wrong. That's why the waterfall approach to building software is obsolete in favor agile techniques. The same philosophy should be applied to building a company.

#10: Be Balanced
What is a startup without bleary-eyed, junk-food-fueled, balls-to-the-wall days and sleepless, caffeine-fueled, relationship-stressing nights? Answer?: A lot more enjoyable place to work. Yes, high levels of commitment are crucial. And yes, crunch times come and sometimes require an inordinate, painful, apologies-to-the-SO amount of work. But it can't be all the time. Nature requires balance for health—as do the bodies and minds who work for you and, without which, your company will be worthless. There is no better way to maintain balance and lower your stress that I've found than David Allen's GTD process. Learn it. Live it. Make it a part of your company, and you'll have a secret weapon.

#11 (bonus!): Be Wary
Overgeneralized lists of business "rules" are not to be taken too literally. There are exceptions to everything.

That's So Right,


The Million Dollar Homepage

The five stages of dealing with The Million Dollar Homepage

1. Denial: "What? This guy is selling advertising in a page which shows nothing but advertising? That can't be true."

2. Resentment: "You mean people -- TONS of people -- actually check out this site? That's ridiculous! It's a cluttered page full of everything that's wrong about internet advertising! And people are clicking on it! You people won't click on banners that go along with content but will click on a flea-sized picture of Che Guevara (upper-left corner)? What's wrong with you all?!"

3. Bargaining: "Maybe it's really a lesson in advertising, and that homepage is really a metaphor for the cluttered advertising landscape that we deal with every day. If I can bring it up in a conversation with a client maybe he'll understand that even the best-looking ad will probably be lost in clutter if all you can afford is a 10x10 pixel square."

4. Depression: "The now-famous guy behind the site is 21 years old and, as of today, has sold 62.4% of the page. Which means that he's probably made a good $600K in the last few months. What was I doing when I was 21 years old? Wait, I know -- getting myself into debt. And drinking."

5. Blogging: "I should write a post about this."

That's Genius,


Thanks to the kids at American Copywriter

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ringo's Stick

So. It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 70 and sunny down here in San Antonio and I'm walking Ringo around the Squirl track at Trinity University. I get a hundred yards or so ahead of Ringo and call for him. "C'mon boy, let's go!" As the good puppy looks up from underneath a cluster of trees I notice he's got a big stick in his mouth. Ringo fetching a stick, what the heck? Ringo will be six on December 23rd and he's never, ever, fetched a stick in his life. The stick, part of a branch really, is about 3 feet long and a bit wider than the width of a pencil. As Ringo gets closer I realize that the stick he's "bringing" me is actually caught in his collar and he's just walking along like everthing is cool. Suddenly, the whole camera phone thing makes perfect sense! Crazy pup.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Author unknown

O Great Spirit, Creator and source of every blessing,
we pray that you will bring peace to all our brothers and sisters of this world.

Give us wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect and to be kind to each other.

Help us to learn to share all the good things that you provide for us.

Bless all who share this meal with us today.

We ask your special blessing on those who are hungry today, especially little children.

Help us to be just and to bring your peace to all the earth.

Praise and Thanksgiving be to you.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Thoughts For The Day

Give thanks for all that you've got and always remember: Be Cool To The Pizza Dude

Here's to a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!




That's Right

Kerry Wins Election!

... as jury foreman

BOSTON (AP) -- Sen. John Kerry's public profile and prosecutorial past didn't spare him from performing that most mundane of civic responsibilities -- jury duty.

Kerry was not only chosen this week to sit on a jury in Suffolk Superior Court, but also was elected foreman.

The case involved two men who sued the city for injuries suffered in a 2000 car accident involving a school principal. The Kerry-led jury rejected their claim Tuesday, and his fellow jurors said the state's junior senator was a natural leader.

"I just found him to be a knowledgeable, normal person," said Cynthia Lovell, a nurse and registered Republican who says she now regrets voting for President Bush in last year's election. "He kept us focused. He wanted us all to have our own say."

The former Democratic presidential candidate reported for duty Monday and none of the lawyers in the case objected to putting him on the jury.

"I was a little surprised," Kerry said of being selected for jury duty.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "It was very, very interesting and very instructive."

Loud and Clear!

That's Right,


Monday, November 21, 2005

The Perfect Gift!

Click image to make it bigger...

Have a great week!

That's Right,


Friday, November 18, 2005

Gary Pools Winter Sale

Wouldn't it be nice to have a pool built by the same folks that did the awesome pool at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio and save some real money?

Well, now is the time!

Gary Pools just announced their Winter Sale that expires at Midnite December 31st, 2005.

Jump on it!

Details at Gary Pools

And, see what happens when you tell'em HMK from the Atkins Group sent you!

That's Right,


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ad of the Week 2

Think before you speak.
Don't drive and use your cell phone at the same time.

Campaign by E.B. Lane, Phoenix.

Hang Up and Drive.

That's Right,


Ad Of The Week

VW Crossfox. The first off-road compact from Volkswagen.
Almap BBDO, Sao Paulo. Graphics by 6B Estudio.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Awesome Recorder

PCM-D1, the professional microphone by Sony

Sony presents the PCM-D1, a microphone with 4Gb of internal memory that should provide you with the best recording possible and a reduction of the background noises.

As you can see, this device has 2 microphones that touch (and cross) each other. This setup allows you to get a very high quality recording and a considerable reduction of the ambient noise. this microphone also has SBM (Super-Bit Mapping) that makes the processing of the information faster which in its turn means that the background noise is detected and removed in a more efficient and faster way.

More Info at Akihabara News

That's Right,


New Shiny Cool Thing!

Dig these shiny stainless steel mini 2GB, 4GB and 6GB Monster Drives from US Modular

Go! US Modular

Lost & Found

Har Har!
Found by Steven Holt in Pismo Beach, California

Steven found this at Ocean View Elementary School in Pismo Beach. I think we'd all like to give a note like this to someone.

The folks at Found collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles - anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life. Anything goes...

Lose yourself at Found Magazine

That's Right,


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Not Just Another USB Flash Drive

Wow. Now you can actually turn your iBook into a digital TV and DVR. It’s the world’s most portable USB plug-n-play Freeview (DVB-T) receiver. You’ll now have the power to enjoy crisp, clean digital television from wherever your laptop can go.

The Mobix allows you to pause and rewind live digital TV, or record your favorite programs in advance so you can watch them later at your leisure. Sweet.

Source: Stuff Mag UK

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Japanese Superstitions

In Japan there are certain things one does not do because they are thought to cause bad luck. A few examples are:

*The number four:
The number four is considered inauspicious because it is pronounced the same as the word for death (shi). Therefore, one should not make presents that consit of four pieces, etc. In some hotels and hospitals the room number four is skipped.

*Stick chopsticks into the rice:
Do not stick your chopsicks into your food generally, but especially not into rice, because only at funerals, chopsticks are stuck into the rice which is put onto the altar.

*Give food from chopstick to chopstick:
This is only done with the bones of the cremated body at funerals.

*Sleeping towards the North:
Do not sleep towards the North beacause bodies are laid down like that.

*Funeral Car:
If a funeral car passes you should hide your thumb.

*Cut nails at night:
If you cut your nails at night, you will not be with your parents when they die.

*Lie down after eating:
If you lie down immedeately after eating, you will become a cow.

*Whistle in the night:
If you whistle in the night, a snake will come to you.

*Black cat:
There are also some imported superstitions such as the believe that black cats crossing the street in front of you cause bad luck.

In many shrines, temples and souvenir shops, amulets are sold that are supposed to bring luck, safety or good fortune. There are amulets for money, health, love, success on exams, safety on the streets, etc. Small pieces of paper (omikuji) that predict your future are also available. These pieces of paper are tied around the branch of a tree after reading; either to make the good fortune come true or to avoid the predicted bad fortune.

Good Luck!


Friday, November 11, 2005

Ad Of The Week

"More than 100 million children live on streets. And eat off it."
Unicef: Springer & Jacoby, Hamburg

Thanksgiving is only a few days away. Count your blessings.

That's Right,

And check out the awesome Sidewalk Art - talk about a potential cool campaign!


The Man Who Invented Album Covers

Most people who have bought any musical recordings over the past 60 years might have assumed they always came in covers, or sleeves, or jackets, that featured a colorful graphic designed to enhance the lure of the music.

They didn't. Album covers had to be invented. This was a task that largely fell to a Brooklyn kid named Alex Steinweiss.

Before Steinweiss entered the business in the 1930s, most 78-rpm records, the only kind that existed, were sold in plain brown sleeves, flimsy pieces of paper with a large round cutout so the label would show through. If the record company was ambitious, it might list other releases on the paper, as a kind of promotional afterthought.

This changed slightly around 1935, when record companies began bundling several 78-rpm discs in one package, with a cardboard outer jacket. An "album," this was called. But even then, to keep costs down, companies would mostly just stamp the name of the artist on the front.

Then in 1939, Columbia Records hired Steinweiss, a 22-year-old design whiz kid, to become its art department.

Technically, Steinweiss would recount in his 2000 autobiography, "For The Record," that he was hired to create catchy ads and promotional posters for store displays. But he had his eye elsewhere. The company was wasting its greatest promotional opportunity, he argued, by blandly stamping a name on the front of albums. They looked like tombstones, he said. Why not make 'em sing?

So he invented the album cover.

His bosses liked his designs from his very first project, a Rodgers and Hart collection. But what sold them wasn't art, it was numbers. After he redesigned the cover for an album of Beethoven's Ninth, sales rose 894% in six months.

That won him the green light to create cover designs for everything from Bartok to Broadway to Bessie Smith.

His designs were influenced by the art schools with which he had worked, but they were also his own: stylized images with clean lines and bold colors that often exaggerated some feature to highlight what Steinweiss, himself a deep fan, felt was the essence of the music.

For an album of boogie-woogie piano, he drew a keyboard played by two huge hands, one black and one white - a subtle but unmistakable acknowledgment that boogie-woogie brought together both sides of a racially divided country.

For a Kostelanetz recording of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue," he drew a small piano under a small street lamp, with a huge silhouette of a city skyline towering behind.

He did all this, moreover, with tools that were as primitive as 78-rpm records. Steinweiss worked with rulers, T-squares, pencils, paste and glue on a drawing table. He could use photographs only sparingly because they were expensive to reproduce, and printing technology severely limited his color palette.

But he didn't care. He knew exactly what he was doing because he'd been working up to doing it all his life.

Steinweiss was born March 24, 1917, on the lower East Side, the son of Eastern European immigrants who moved to Brooklyn when his father, Max, became established as a women's shoe designer and mother Betty as a seamstress. Max immersed young Alex in opera and classical music and in 1930 he enrolled at Abraham Lincoln High, where his visual-arts teacher was Leon Friend, a key figure in galvanizing a generation of graphic designers who would one day define the look of everything from pop culture to advertising.

Friend's students were known as "The Art Squad," and after Steinweiss graduated from Lincoln and then Parsons, he became one of the bright lights. He worked under various design stars and became somewhat well-known, though hardly rich. By the late 1930s, he was making just $30 a week, barely enough to support himself and his new bride, Blanche Wisnipolsky, whom he married in 1938 after a six-year courtship that began when they met at Brighton Beach.

Columbia hired Steinweiss as part of a bold marketing push that included selling 78-rpm albums for $1 instead of $2. Steinweiss' bold designs, the label hoped, would get this campaign noticed.

It did, though he soon turned his brush to a more-urgent cause: winning World War II. After he enlisted, the Navy decided he would be more valuable behind an art table than an anti-aircraft gun and he spent the war in New York turning out informational and morale-boosting posters.

One showed a group of black Navy recruits with the message: "Advance through training: Skill commands respect." Another said: "Hands off the Americas," and showed the body of a bloody-handed Nazi hanging from a scaffold.

When Steinweiss returned to Columbia after the war, engineers were finishing up the development of 331/3-rpm records, which soon would be sold in 12-inch jackets, which for his purposes simply meant a bigger canvas.

By now, every label had followed Columbia's lead and given their albums designed covers. Steinweiss began to freelance, and in 1954 he left Columbia. He worked in music, advertising, magazines and other design areas before retiring in 1972 to concentrate on his own art.

He was still around when album covers were downsized to compact disk and cassette covers, which he and other connoisseurs felt negated much of the impact. But, meanwhile, it helped build and sell the modern music biz.

You can find more info on Steinweiss here as well as this sweet little flash presentation from the Eisner Museum

Thanks to David Hinckley for help with the above.

That's Right,


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pedigree Concept


Pedigree made stickers in the shape of a dog barge with the scent of delicious Pedigree dog food. They placed them on floors in front of pet stores and supermarkets so passing dogs could go nuts and show their owners what they really want.

Made by Tequila Amsterdam.

Fast Cities

Fast Company's November issue is spotlighting 15 up-and-coming hubs for creative workers--places that draw people who are talented, tech savvy, and tolerant.

Meet the home of your next big opportunity.

Not so long ago, some techies proclaimed that communications technology and the Web would make geography irrelevant. In fact, the opposite is true: Talented people keep congregating in cities because they understand intuitively that working with other talented people spurs them to be even more creative.

For the first time, people aspire--even expect--to do work they love and to live in a community where they can be themselves. At the same time, the world of work has become increasingly temporary and insecure. As a result, talent is shifting to regions that offer dense concentrations of other talented people, tolerance of differences, and a great quality of life. These are the places that lure what Richard Florida, the Hirst Professor at George Mason University's School of Public Policy, calls the "creative class." They're scientists, engineers, artists, cultural creatives, managers, and professionals, who together comprise more than 30% of the total U.S. workforce and nearly half of the economy's wage and salary income.

The country's epicenters of such talent--San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles--are well-known. To find out which up-and-coming places show the highest rates of creative-class growth--the country's truly fast cities--we drafted Florida and his crack team of data crunchers, led by Kevin Stolarick, assistant professor with the Information Systems Program at Carnegie Mellon University. They identified the seven U.S. cities with populations between 1 million and 5 million and the three cities between 400,000 and 1 million that have offered the most potent mix of talent, technology, and tolerance in recent years. To top it off, we found a member of the creative class in each emerging city to tell us what's appealing about where they work and live.

Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class (Perseus, 2002) and The Flight of the Creative Class (HarperBusiness, 2005) asserts that for 60 years, the United States had much of the world's talent pool to itself. But now, his research shows that the creative class has gone global. U.S. cities are competing with Dublin and Helsinki for creatives. And so we also asked Florida to pick five international cities that are winning chunks of the world's talent pool. Maybe one of this new generation of Fast Cities, in the United States or abroad, is the next San Francisco. You won't know until you make it happen.

San Antonio, Texas
Lea Ann Champion arrived in San Antonio five years ago, and she immediately fell for the Alamo city. Coming from the Bay Area, the SBC executive found San Antonio to be affordable, family-friendly, and blessed with a rich Hispanic culture. Those same city selling points helped her recruit top entertainment-industry folks from New York and Los Angeles to Project Lightspeed--SBC's initiative to bring IP-based voice, video, and data to the home--which she heads up as senior executive vice president of IP operations and services. "It's been easy to attract amazing talent," says Champion, who's drawn more than a dozen team members from outside San Antonio. In the five years she's been there, Champion, 47, has watched as San Antonio's economy has diversified away from the military, adding tourism, manufacturing, and high-tech jobs. She expects the SBC-AT&T merger only to add more. "I already see the effects of [SBC] attracting other companies to locate their key personnel here in this city," she says. "There's truly a pulling effect going on." -JM

Cornerstones: SBC, the Baby Bell about to swallow its mama, AT&T, will become the largest telco when the merger goes through. Artpace is one of the country's most respected contemporary arts residences.

Caveats: San Antonio is diverse, thanks to its Hispanic population, but there's not much melting of the pot going on. Its "integration" measure, which looks at how well ethnic groups are dispersed, is the lowest of our U.S. cities.

Sacramento, California
Sandra Gonzalez grew up in a family that picked fruit throughout California. "I got into the wine business by osmosis," she says. But it was during her 10 years working for the Wine Institute, a California trade association, that she came to realize that wineries were doing little to cater to Latino customers. In 2002, she founded Vino con Vida ("wine with life"), a wine-education company, to change that. Gonzalez, 36, has worked with such wineries as Round Hill Vineyards, writes for trade publications, and appears at industry events. She picked Sacramento rather than San Francisco because it's between some of the largest wine-producing regions and because "Sacramento represents a lot of the changing demographics in the country." Living in the state capital also helps her stay attuned to new legislation that could affect the wine industry. And as California goes, so goes the country. As Gonzalez says, "I don't think people realize the impact that Sacramento has on the world." -Michael A. Prospero

Cornerstones: Between 1999 and 2003, the average annual growth rate of the creative class demographic was 4.3%, one of the highest upticks of our 10 U.S. cities. The University of California, Davis, in the midst of California's wine region, is a worldwide center for viticulture and food-science research. Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and Napa are all within a few hours' drive. Daniel Libeskind is building a condo tower downtown.

Caveats: Plans to revive Sacramento's downtown entertainment options are admirable but have seen years of false starts.

Phoenix, Arizona
When the New York ad agency that Louie Moses worked for opened a Phoenix office and shipped him out to work there, "it was kind of like being sent to Siberia," he recalls. But within a couple of years, the Pittsburgh native came to like Phoenix's desert sunsets and red-rock mountains, and at the young age of 23, he opened his own ad shop, Moses Anshell, in the Valley of the Sun. "I remember thinking, This is the perfect place for an artist. You can think freely, and you have time to open your mind to new ideas." More than 20 years later, Moses, 45, runs his agency--which expects $69 million in billings in 2005--from a converted 1920s warehouse in Phoenix's revitalized downtown. With clients such as the Arizona tourism board, creative director Moses is helping to tell others what he already knows: Phoenix, now the fifth-largest city in the country, is a lot hotter than Siberia. -Jena McGregor

Cornerstones: That biotech cluster in the middle of downtown is no mirage. In March, the city opened the Phoenix Biomedical Center, a 28-acre campus that already houses both the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the International Genomics Consortium. Phoenix's tourist and convention attractions--Sedona's red rocks are just two hours away, and Scottsdale's galleries, golf courses, and spas are even closer--aren't bad for the locals, either.

Caveats: Metro Phoenix's population, currently 3.5 million, is one of the fastest growing in the country. With nearly 5 million more people expected in the next 25 years, smart planning will be crucial to prevent boom from becoming bust.

Salt Lake City, Utah
A few years ago, Shawn Nelson was driving between two of his funky furniture-design stores in Los Angeles when, in his words, "I went insane on the 405 freeway." The 28-year-old founder and CEO of LoveSac, who had lived in Taiwan and Shanghai (he speaks fluent Mandarin), decided to move back to his hometown of Salt Lake City. It wasn't crazy at all: A large number of former Mormon missionaries, like Nelson, return to Salt Lake, ensuring a steady supply of educated, bilingual workers for his 75-store, $30 million company. That's especially helpful when your manufacturing is in Mexico and your material comes from China. The abundance of four-season outdoor activities at hand--skiing, mountain biking, boating--doesn't hurt, either. Nelson is establishing LoveSac as a "hard-core leisure" brand. That thinking almost certainly endeared him to Sir Richard Branson, helping Nelson win Branson' s reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. -MP

Cornerstones: Between 1997 and 2004, the number of women-owned firms in the metro area increased 36%. The money local VCs have available to invest in the past five years has grown from $75 million to $700 million. The Sundance Film Festival hosts some screenings here each January.

Caveats: Florida's "Gay Index," which measures an area's gay population as an indicator of its tolerance--and therefore the talent it attracts--ranks SLC second lowest of our 10 cities.

Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
When Ryan Wuerch's Nashville-based software company acquired a small Raleigh, North Carolina, firm last year, he naturally thought he'd move the headquarters of the merged mobile software company to Tennessee. But then his wife reminded him how frustrated he always was at the lack of top-notch tech talent in Nashville and suggested he think about Raleigh. "I knew what [a fertile talent region] looked like, and that was the exact feeling I had when I went to Raleigh," he says, noting the city's deep educational resources. Since the merger, his company, Motricity, has grown from 46 to almost 300 employees, and in turn is moving from Research Triangle Park to downtown Durham, where it will call home a 100-year-old converted tobacco-factory complex with restaurants, waterfalls, Wi-Fi, and jazz bands. "People want to work in a place where they feel inspired," says Wuerch, 38. "That means not only being in a creative city, but being in an environment where creativity can take on a new shape." -JM

Cornerstones: The area has the highest patent-growth rate (17.5%) of our 10 cities and is home to three prestigious research universities: Duke, UNC, and NC State. It's becoming a hub for medical-device companies. And the biggest job surge between 1999 and 2003 wasn't in computers or medicine but in knowledge professions like education and consulting. The creative-class community--nearly 40% of the population, the highest among all our cities--is fueling downtown renaissances in both Raleigh and Durham.

Caveats: The Triangle's traffic snarls are mounting. A commuter rail system between Raleigh and Durham is coming eventually, but the state recently cut the region's transportation funding by $300 million over the next six years.

San Diego, California
Born and raised in Montreal, Jennifer Luce, 45, started her architecture firm Luce et Studio in San Diego. Why? With the ocean, desert, and mountains all nearby, "there are so many contrasting images," she says, "so to build in that environment is very exciting. It's one of the most diverse landscapes I've ever encountered." Her 15-year-old, eight-person firm has done mostly corporate work, particularly for Nissan, garnering seven architecture awards and $2.3 million in revenue last year. Now Luce wants to do municipal projects, such as helping to redefine San Diego's public spaces. "It's a growing city," she says. "And we're there at the perfect time to help formulate a physical identity for the place." -MP

Cornerstones: Last year, the city pulled in more VC funding than Los Angeles. Per capita, there are more biotech companies here than in any other city in California--something that only stands to increase as the state rolls out its $3 billion stem-cell initiative. Locals have adopted the trendy bars and shops in the revitalized Gaslamp Quarter, prompting city planners to invest in further downtown developments like Petco Park.

Caveats: San Diego isn't cheap; geographic constraints keep property values high in the city. The New York Times branded San Diego "Enron by the Sea" last year after a raft of investigations and financial problems in city government.

Portland, Oregon
Jeffrey Butters sold his Xterra SUV a little over a year ago. "It was senseless driving into downtown Portland," he says of his commute to work that now takes 12 minutes on his bike. A native of Oregon, he and several members of his family founded the Butters Gallery--an international contemporary-art gallery that has showcased everything from gold-leafed cow dung to sophisticated modern sculpture and paintings--in 1988. "Maybe five or six years ago people would've been surprised to find a modern gallery like ours in Portland, but not today." Butters, 42, is an artist as well as a gallery owner and has his own downtown studio for painting. His passion for the city matches his passion for art. "I think we've developed a sense of city pride that revolves around being creative," he says. "The city is a wonderful, vibrant place to be." -Lucas Conley

Cornerstones: The Pearl District, an 80-year-old warehouse area, has seen more than 50 residential and commercial projects in just over a decade, transforming it into a hip place to live. It's a mix of 19th-century industrial buildings and modern condos and art galleries. Home to the largest wooded city park (Forest Park) in the country, the Portland area is lush with outdoor opportunities.

Caveats: As real-estate prices continue to rise, residents have been fleeing to the suburbs. Big-box stores such as Pier One have been cropping up on the fringes, drawing shoppers from inside the city and stalling development of the downtown shopping district.

Madison, Wisconsin
Brian Vandewalle knows what Madison, Wisconsin, has to offer better than anyone. The founder of an eponymous urban-planning firm, he helped develop "The Healthy City," a report by the Madison mayor's office mapping out a progressive development plan for the community. Recommendations include linking two local assets, bioscience and agriculture; creating more space for the arts; and working with developers to produce live-work neighborhoods. "The idea is to study each of these layers," says Vandewalle, "and try to develop a comprehensive model." It's a model that Vandewalle, 56, thinks will let Madison entice the University of Wisconsin's 41,000 students, nearly 30% of whom are pursuing advanced degrees, to put down roots here. -MP

Cornerstones: A progressive-minded enclave where unemployment is a rock-bottom 2.5% and the creative class continues to expand at an average of 7.8% a year. Madison owes much of its success to the 26,000 people who work in high-tech fields--a number that's growing every year. The vast majority of Wisconsin's recent $750 million biotech initiative will wind up here.

Caveats: Local business owners describe Madison's city council as an "indecipherable bureaucracy" of red tape.

Tuscon, Airzona
Dr. Shibin Jiang knew he was in the right place when he moved to Tucson to work at the University of Arizona's Optical Sciences Center in 1996. It was a big change from North Carolina (especially the weather), but the work was too appealing. "We call Tucson 'Optics Valley,' " he says. "If you're an optical engineer, it's the best place in the country to be." By 1998, Jiang, now 40, had cofounded NP Photonics, a company that makes advanced fiber-optical lasers used by the Department of Defense and scientific researchers to monitor conditions deep beneath the sea. As for the weather, it's now one of Jiang's favorite parts of life in the Southwest. "I travel to the DC area a lot, and it'll be snowing and raining and cold," he says. "When I get on the plane back to Tucson, I'm so glad to come home." -LC

Cornerstones: Technology companies have transformed Tucson into the fifth-fastest-growing high-tech community (in terms of goods and services) in the nation. Recreation is also serious business: The city's spas, golf courses, and desert retreats account for more than $1.5 billion in leisure and hospitality spending. Nearly a third of Tucson's 900,000 metro residents were born in Mexico, giving the city significant cultural diversity.

Caveats: The large population of immigrant workers means one in five here still lives in poverty. Urban sprawl is taxing the city's infrastructure; local authorities have identified some $3 billion in much-needed transportation improvements.

Colorado Springs, Colorado
"Software companies actually exist in Colorado Springs?" That's what new clients of XAware invariably ask its CTO and cofounder, Rohit Mital. He understands their disbelief. His first visit here came as a Columbia University electrical engineering PhD candidate, applying for a job with Hewlett-Packard. He headed back that same day, even though HP had paid for the weekend. But after MCI moved part of its IT force here in 1992, things changed, and Mital founded XAware with a former MCI executive in 1999. "The technical force we needed was available," Mital, 42, says. So was the customer base for this integrator of complex computer systems. The big defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon, were XAware's bread and butter for the first couple of years. Since then, his company has been able to build on the products it developed for those contractors and pitch them to the insurance and financial-services companies it almost exclusively serves today.
-Jennifer Vilaga

Cornerstones: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, the nation's top-three defense contractors, all have offices here, and it's also the home of the Air Force Academy. They're magnets for talent and create opportunities for startups. Residents here enjoy 300 sunny days a year. The 14,110-foot Pikes Peak acts as a scenic backdrop.

Caveats: The reliance on the military means a pinch on the local economy whenever troops ship out. This largely Christian conservative city's Gay Index score, at less than 70% of the U.S. average, hints at low tolerance.

From: Fast Company, November 2005 By: Bill Breen

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Best Halloween Costume Ever!

And if you like this you'll love This!

That's So Right!


Curious? Buy George!

You know you want one of these T-Shirts! I do!

Getting one is as easy as 1-2-3 Alphabets!

That's Right,


That's What It's All About

Customer Satisfaction!

David Pogue has some rules for electronics makers who want some consumer love this holiday season (and beyond).

Worship at the altar of good design and make customer satisfaction your religion. These should be your commandments.

I. Thou shalt not entomb thy product in indestructible plastic.

II. Thou shalt hire native English speakers to translate thine instruction manual.

III. Thou shalt not hype irrelevant specs.

IV. Thou shalt not charge tech-support fees for thine own mistakes.

V. Thou shalt not participate in rebate rip-offs.

VI. Thou shalt not hide from thy customers.

VII. Thou shalt remember the customer's phone number.

VIII. Thou shalt not prevent "zeroing out" of thy phone-mail maze.

IX. Thou shalt not hog the power strip.

X. Thou shalt not plan obsolescence.



Monday, November 07, 2005

Ceramic NY Cup

Alright, as promised. Everyone's been asking about my cool NY coffee cup. Talk about the perfect affordable gift. And it really does make coffe taste so much better!

Here's the hook up for the best deal on the Ceramic NY Cup

Tish, Bill, Brian, Jackie, Chris and Alex - You're Welcome.

That's Right,


Sunday, November 06, 2005

"Switch On"

That's Right. Coffee via text message.

Tea makers PG Tips have joined forces with mobile phone company Orange to create the world's first SMS enabled kettle.

All you do is text the words "switch on" - even when you're on the way home from work - and the water will be on the boil by the time you get to the kitchen.

Called the ReadyWhenUR, the silver and black kettle is fitted with a radio receiver programmed with your mobile number, an electronic circuit and a tiny set of mechanical levers.

PG are hailing it as the greatest thing since the Teasmade.

The high-tech gadget - inspired by animated inventors Wallace and Gromit - will be on sale from January.

Bad news is you still have to remember to fill the kettle with water - and actually make the tea or coffee. And it will set you back around £100.

100 British Pound = 177.680 US Dollar

Orange you glad you got text messaging?


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Jesus Shaves!

Waring: Some images may be offensive to those with no sense of humor.

You've got somebody on your list that will love a shirt from Busted Tees.

I Guarantee It,


Friday, November 04, 2005

iF001: Irregular Frequency

Stage One Is Go!

Ok ya'll - SharkThang.com. is officially up and running.

Basically, just click around and explore what little there is to date.

The best part, and the sole purpose of this post, is the fact that you can now download the first episode of iF: Irregular Frequency!

Simply click on the radio to listen to a sample the podcast.

Click here for the iF001 Podcast Setlist

Anxious to hear any and all feedback.


Your Pal,

Ad of The Week

Hmmm. Coffee Beer...

Dig the latest from those ingenious Swiss dudes: Coffee-beer, a “fermented coffee beverage” that has been patented in every major market around the world by Nestac (part of the Nestle empire). Coffee Beer is your basic super-caffeinated liquid that pours like a beer but smells like coffee. No alcohol included. To make it, coffee beans are roasted and the chemicals that contain the natural aroma are collected in a cryogenic condenser and then converted to coffee oil. The rest of the roast are ground into powder, mixed with yeast and sugar and fermented for 4 hours at 22 degrees Celsius. This way, the yeast still metabolises but doesn’t convert to alcohol. They then mix the oil in with the liquid and nitrogen and that is injected to make foam. Hmmm. Coffee beer...

Lots of other cool stuff at NewScientist.com.
Rumour has is they're working on Green Teaquila.

Not really. I just made that up. Sorry for wasting your time.

That's Right,


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Viral Marketing: Top 10+ Tips

1. Don't obsess over producing meaningful metrics for viral campaigns. The tracking numbers can only provide a general estimate of what's going on.

2. Don't try and compare a viral campaign with, for example, banners. A banner view is passive, while a video clip view involves a proactive, involved experience. And there's also the added benefit of third-party endorsement through download site editorials and comments made by people as they pass on the creative.

3. Achieve critical mass as quickly as possible by seeding all the bigger sites. This is particularly important if you're trying to create word-of-mouth buzz before a more formal marketing campaign.

4. The best way to ensure prominent and positive coverage at relevant sites, and a higher pass-on rate, is through quality. Content is king!

5. Get immersed in the scene. The insider view gives you a better understanding of what viral content works and helps you develop relationships which will keep you in good stead when it comes to seeding material.

6. Find advocates, people who run a community or are linked to other communities. People who are online influencers, yet not necessarily regarded as influencers offline.

7. Learn to let go. Once the viral content is out there, you have little control over how it's presented, which can be hard for brand managers to accept. It's another reason for ensuring high quality.

8. Avoid looking like a marketing campaign. Viral does not need to look like TV advertising, as there is resistance to forwarding if perceived as advertising.

9. Ensure the viral effect is not geographically limited if you want to hit a global audience. Go for a universal theme, situation or truth people can relate to.

10. Feature an entertaining concept which the viewer enjoys interacting with.

Henry Cowling, The Viral Factory
The Viral Factory

1. Be original

2. Rip-off something that’s already been successful.

3. Be topical. Latch on to what everybody’s talking about.

4. Don’t insult the audience’s intelligence.

5. Don’t get sued.

6. Do something with fluffy animals. Everyone loves these.

7. Make influential friends in the advertising industry.

8. If you’ve run out of ideas, put tits in it. If you can’t use tits, try violence. If you can’t use violence, use David Hasselhoff.

9. Umm... a song is always nice.

10. That’s it. Nine ideas is already way more than most virals have.

Chris Hassell
DS. Emotion

1. Make it funny (You have to piss yourself laughing at it)

2. Make it topical

3. Make it relevant

4. Make it risky

5. Make it fun (games etc.)

6. Don’t send it out if it’s crap

7. Don’t make it some sort of complicated file that people need to install

8. Target initial sites/audience correctly

9. Test it on your friends

10. You could, ahem, pretend it’s been developed by a brand – bound to get lots of coverage.

Rob Wakeman
Bore Me

1. Start by trying to copy someone else’s idea. Often, when you get underway, the result turns out differently and you’ll end up going off at tangents, because it’s being filtered through you.

2. Who or what do you like to make fun of?

3. Is there something that makes you angry?

4. Try altering the state of your mind a little!

5. Use a digital camera or video camera to spontaneously capture things in everyday life – these can be unusual or ordinary things. Ordinary things can always be manipulated digitally later – it just takes imagination.

6. Combine things that don’t normally belong to each other.

7. Try to push the envelope a bit – take risks.

8. Think naughty.

9. Ask yourself: would people want to forward your idea to their friends?

10. Don’t take too long. Great jokes don’t seem so funny after staring at them for four hours.

Big Gracias to: Danny Phantom and Will Jeffery at
Maverick Media

Holy El Santo!

Check out these handmade gifts from Luchadore Lucha Libre Handbags and more!

That's Right,


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Vente Coffee Of The Day: 10% Half&Half + An Equal Por Favor

Finally. A way to ensure The Perfect Cup every time!

Now all we need is the right PMS chip to make it flawless.

Ok kids. Only 52 Days and counting!

That's Right,


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

It's Here!

It's here! Download The Official iLounge Holiday Buyers Guide! If you're like me, and you're into all things audio and mp3 or know anyone that does you'll absolutely love the indepth and insightful approach to what's cool in the world of 3rd party iPod gear.


That's Right.


Anchors Away!

Ok, Halloween is officially DUN. It's time to check out some items that'll be sure to please those who dig the finer, less commercial "must haves" of the upcoming givin'/gettin' Season.

The original Vintage, Sailor Jerry offers some killer throw back goodies that are perfect for the hard to shop for nocturnal crowd. Buy the set and give'em to four of your closest beer buddies. Although they're not cheap, these pint glasses are the real deal (not bogus knockoffs) and can be found in Housewares at the official Sailor Jerry site.

Business Weeks also got a nice Tech Buying Guide that'll work while we wait for the new iLounge guide...