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Preview: Loosely Coupled

Tim Marman :: Loosely Coupled

Articles from Tim Marman

Updated: 2014-02-20T00:00:00Z


Microsoft should buy Xamarin for a lot of money


Microsoft’s attempts to bribe iOS and Android developers has been moderately successful, but this is ultimately a very short-sighted strategy. Yes, it costs money to build for other platforms, but for many small startups the opportunity cost (and distraction) far outweighs any actual cost.

If Microsoft really wants Windows Phone to compete with iOS and Android apps, a better strategy would be to defragment the mobile development landscape. There are, of course, companies already doing this - but of the major players only PhoneGap allows you to target Windows Phone. (Interestingly, Telerik Icenium which runs inside of Visual Studio and is built on PhoneGap/Cordova, doesn’t allow you to build for WP). Many of these other platforms are also effectively compiled HTML 5 applications which is not always the ideal solution for all apps - particularly games.

Instead of throwing money at individual developers, Microsoft should be throwing money at Xamarin. The recent partnership was certainly a step in the right direction, but Xamarin is still very expensive. At minimum, you’re looking at $299 annually per platform. If you want Visual Studio support, it’s $999 per year, per platform, per developer. Worse yet, the discounts announced as part of that partnership don’t apply to BizSpark members - which is exactly the audience they should be trying to attract.

Yes, it would be a bold move - but when you’re playing catchup sometimes you have to make bold moves. If Microsoft offered its world-class IDE with the ability to natively target multiple mobile platforms, I’m sure there would soon be a lot more people developing for Windows Phone - even if that’s not the reason they came.


Of Tragedies and Anniversaries


I've always had a weird and complicated relationship with 9/11. Obviously in many ways, the day was absolutely terrifying. As I've written about before, I worked across the street from the World Trade Center at the time in 1 Liberty Plaza - this was the black steel building that many thought would fall soon after. I wasn't watching this on television, I was living this. I saw people jump out of windows. I heard the screams and panic in the streets. I watched the first tower collapse in Battery Park and was one of the many people enveloped in a cloud of dust. As a young kid just out of college, this opened my eyes to the harsh real world. It was, in many ways, the end of my innocence. On the other hand, the day has always represented hope and resilience for me. On a normal day, I would have been coming out of the World Trade Center almost exactly when the planes hit. And, I had a lot of people I knew who could have been affected: I had worked in the Financial District for several years at this point and had many friends who also lived and worked in the area; my wife (then my girlfriend) lived a few blocks away; and I have a number of friends and family in FDNY and NYPD. Despite all of that, I didn't lose a single friend or loved one. On that fateful day (and in the months and years beyond), I also saw the best in a lot of people. Friends and strangers alike opened their doors and hearts and helped their fellow citizens. We lived in Battery Park City for years afterwards (and I continued to work in the Financial District until 2008), and we saw the resilience and strength of a community and city first hand. For a long time, I really thought September 11th, 2011 would be the defining point in my life. Certainly, it was an important day in my life and I'm sure it's affected me in some deep, deep ways that I still don't (and might never) fully understand. That said, I don't think about it on a day to day basis anymore, and I probably haven't for 5 years. Sure, I still get emotional when I recount that day, or when I watch shows like 102 Minutes that Changed America - but frankly the only time I consciously think about it is on anniversaries like this. The other reason it's complicated for me is that, as you may know, my birthday is September 12th. Celebrating birthdays is another sort of bizarre ritual, and in many ways mirrors the way we "celebrate" these tragedies: mourning the loss of youth while at the same time celebrating life. With these anniversaries falling on nearly the same day, I guess that just really adds to this bag of mixed emotions. Ten years later, I'm a different person living in a different city. As a cancer survivor, September 11th isn't even the greatest personal tragedy I've dealt with. But as I learned from September 11th, tragedy has a way of taking a back seat to life. It's now been two years since I've been declared cancer free, and just like September 11th I don't think about it every day. Both of these tragedies have helped shape me into the person I've become, and have become a deeply integrated part of my being, but neither are something I think about consciously each day. The lesson here is that bad things happen in life, but they don't have to - and won't - define us forever. At some level, I think that's why anniversaries like this are so important: it's a way for us to celebrate the complicated relationships we have with loss and life, and reflect on the impact these tragedies have on who we are. In other words, never forget - but don't let that get in the way of living either. [...]

Rethinking My Blog


I've been writing here for over seven and a half years, during which I've written almost 1,100 posts. I've made a few changes recently to my site based on trends I've noticed, and thought this might be worth discussing in more depth.Technical PlatformsWhen I first started writing, the blog was hosted on, where Scott started to host what eventually became .Text. That site was eventually subsumed by, and the underlying platform was eventually migrated to Community Server.At some point, I decided that it was important to move this content to a domain I controlled. I ended up running Community Server on - a domain that had some significance because /* is both a comment in many C-based languages and in XPath means "everything in context". (Remember, this was when XML/XSLT/XPath was taking off). My plan was to start a site where myself and a series of other bloggers (like in the DotNetWeblogs days) would write about a series of topics, and categories were organized and discoverable by sub-domain.That vision never quite panned out and as a result decided to move to my own personal domain. Shortly after this transition, I migrated to BlogEngine.NET, which I think fit my needs a lot better than Community Server. That said, I've recently run into a number of limitations with their object model, and there are a number of features that I have no need for such as themes, widgets and other features.ContentMy posts have definitely slowed down a lot over the years - but this was especially true after I joined Twitter in Feb 2007. Twitter is the perfect outlet for some kinds of short-form and/or time-sensitive topics, which has two implications: 1) I've posted fewer, but longer, posts since I joined Twitter, and 2) there's a lot of stuff from the 4 years prior to Twitter that were probably better suited for Twitter. In many ways, I think this temporal content has diluted the higher quality (or, at least, longer) stuff I've written over the years.Going forwardAs a result of these things, I've decided to refocus what this site will be and how I'm going to organize my content.Replacing BlogEngine.NET with custom ASP.NET MVC. I've resisted the urge to reinvent the wheel by writing my own blog software to this point, but I finally kind of hit the wall with having complete control of my content. MVC routing made this process a lot easier, so I decided to take the plunge.I now have much more control over the site structure and can better integrate my content throughout the site, while at the same time leveraging the existing BlogEngine.NET admin and Metablog API until the transition is complete. (I may eventually release this as Open Source, though I'm not sure it will necessarily be full-featured enough for a standalone product or whether I even want to bother rewriting the admin pages).I've also taken the opportunity to try to make the content more readable - eliminating side bars and advertisements (which didn't make any money anyway). If there was a Readability JQuery plug-in, I would use it - but in general I tried to adopt some of the principles of Readability and Instapaper.Discovering content. There's a lot of buried content on this site because I haven't done a good job (beyond the normal "blog" things) to surface that content. You may notice the most popular / most recent lists here, but I'm brainstorming some more interesting ways to promote that content. I am working on simplifying the category structure to make the posts easier to discover. Finally, I'm working on classifying content (particularly older posts) as "Twitter material", HOWTO or as a "timeless" post, and will promote these posts accordingly.Integrating "content" produced elsewhere. The biggest problem I have right now is that I "do" a lot of things on other sites - tagging on Delicious, posting to Twitter, sharing or liking on Google Reader - and that's not reflected here. I hope to integrate some of this activity to bring this sharing to a single place, and just g[...]

One Year after a Cancer Diagnosis


Today was sort of a surreal day for me. Exactly one year ago today, I was sitting in the ambulatory surgery center at Weill-Cornell Medical Center waiting for an orchiectomy. This was after a whirlwind diagnosis between Christmas and New Year’s, where I went from having a little back pain to finding out I had cancer. And exactly one year ago today, I learned that the cancer had spread and I would need additional treatment.

I’m still trying to get my head around everything that happened. While it’s obviously had a permanent impact on my life, it is also very weird to think that this all happened within the past 12 months. Maybe it was just the way I’ve been dealing with it, but it feels like the distant past to me now.

What was perhaps even more surreal, however, was the fact – exactly one year later – I spent all morning at Weill-Cornell Medical Center going through nearly the same battery of tests. This year, the CAT scan and blood tests showed nothing and my appointment with Dr. Scherr was decidedly more positive. Of course, simply spending a few hours in the hospital – especially on the anniversary of such a fateful day – brings with it a wave and range of emotions that was difficult for me to fully comprehend. I have been simultaneously angry and grateful and nervous and relieved and relaxed and terrified today.

On the whole, I feel absolutely wonderful. I’m in better shape now than I have been in years – of course, working Equinox will help with that. There are still some lingering side effects from the surgery and chemotherapy - the most notable of which is neuropathy, which basically means occasional numbness and tingling in my feet and arms, cramping in my legs, and related complications – but overall I have very little to complain about.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about how adversity figures in and how this experience has made me a stronger person – but I decided I also want to be able to say that literally. After turning 30 and beating cancer, I decided a good goal was  to beat my personal bests in weightlifting. So, consider this my public commitment - by the end of this year, I will either do a single rep of 550 lbs or do 35 reps of 225 lbs. I’ve only started lifting heavy again in recent weeks, but I think this is something I can do… and I will literally be able to say I cam out of this thing stronger.


Why Paying to Pitch is Necessarily a Scam


There's been a bit of a backlash recently - spawned primarily by Jason Calacanis' post - against angel groups that charge entrepreneurs relatively significant sums to pitch their ideas. As Jason puts it, this is an “injustice” and an “abuse of power” – that the poor, desperate entrepreneurs shouldn't be footing the bill for any expenses for the rich angels they are seeking money from. In principle, I think we can all agree with this.Much of the focus here has been on exposing the bad behavior of these investors, but I think the problem is deeper than that. In other words: By paying to pitch, entrepreneurs are actually hurting their already slim chances of raising money.[more]Early-stage ventures have a high rate of failure.We all know that high-tech ventures – especially in the nascent stages – have a very high rate of failure. David Rose shed some last , he expects seven out of every ten investments to bust, two to make their money back, and one to carry the rest of the portfolio. (I may have the specific numbers wrong, so feel free to correct me). Now keep in mind - this isn't one in ten companies that pitches him - this is one in ten that David actually chooses to invest in. One has to assume that David and his peers get pitched by an order of magnitude (or two) more companies than they actually invest in.Paying for access to investors is likely a negative indicator of success.There are a variety of motivations behind why a company might pay for access to investors, but for the most part none of them reflect positively on the company’s chance of success.With the rise of social tools, investors (both VCs and individual angels) are increasingly more accessible than ever before. Entrepreneurs with a good team, product and/or idea should be able to get a meeting without paying for the right to pitch. Moreover, if an entrepreneur is not resourceful or confident enough to get a meeting with a potential investor, why do we think said entrepreneur will be any more resourceful in terms of actually building a successful business (which we already established is a difficult thing to do)?In other cases, entrepreneurs were resourceful enough to get introductions, but the investors declined to hear their pitch. If this happens repeatedly, it should be a pretty strong signal that there is something fundamentally wrong with the business or how it is presented. Paying money to pitch isn’t going to fix those problems.Another group of entrepreneurs who pay to pitch are those who are desperate, as mentioned in Exhibit B. First of all, if you're running out of money, spending more on it to pitch doesn't seem like the best route to me. And, just like in dating, if you're desperate for cash then investors are going to see that and are not going to be as attracted to you. Again, this is a situation where paying just to be in front of the investor isn’t going to solve underlying problems.Sophisticated investors should not invest in any company that pays to pitch them.If an investor expects even the majority of the small group of businesses that make the investment cut to fail, then he or she would be foolish to invest in a company that has demonstrated that they are more likely to fail than the average business. First of all, if they did chose to invest, they are effectively taking valuable resources away from the company which will hurt its chance of being successful and providing a return on said investment. Moreover, it should give the investor pause in terms of how the entrepreneur may spend the investor’s money going forward. Understanding this dynamic, a sophisticated investor should not invest in any company that paid for that access.I recently had an exchange with Joe Rubin from Funding Post about the Perfect Venture Conference they are running. The event will bring "20 early-stage technology companies" and "40+ VC and Angels" together for a full day of one[...]



8 years later – and on the eve of my 30th birthday – I figured I would once again repost what I first wrote here several years back. [more]

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I went to work at 1 Liberty Plaza across the street from the World Trade Center. We happened to have a global department meeting that morning, so I had passed through the transit hub at the base of the WTC earlier than usual - 7:45 instead of 8:45.

I still remember the sound of the first plane. I was in a conference room on the 12th floor facing south, so we couldn't actually see what was going on at the time. The paper and ash looked like confetti, and our first reaction was that it was some sort of ticker tape parade.

Without television or radio, we had no sense of what was going on. I called and woke my girlfriend who was living a few blocks south at the base of West St. My plan was to come down to her apartment and figure out what to do. I watched the second plane hit, and by the time I got to her building it had already been evacuated.

Standing in Battery Park, I stared at the burning towers. It was only as I watched the first tower fall that I began to understand the gravity of the situation. I simply stood there in shock with countless others as a cloud of dust and debris and God knows what else enveloped us.

I was on the FDR ramp on my way uptown and did not see the second tower fall. At this point, everything was pretty much a blur. Things hadn't quite sunk in, but all I could think about was where my girlfriend (now wife) was. I finally got through to my parents on a landline. Tara was ok. She wisely ran to the ferry terminal and managed to get on the last ferry off of Manhattan and was making her way to a friend's apartment in Jersey City.  

All trains leaving the city were closed, so I eventually ended up at Chris' apartment, a good friend who I worked with and who left the office with me. We eventually met my father for dinner who was still in his office a few blocks away coordinating things. I don't remember what I ate or what was said that night. The only thing I really remember was how grateful I was to be sitting with my father and a few close friends, knowing my mother and sister and girlfriend were all safe.

The greatest gift was waking up on my birthday the next morning at home with those I love and learning that none of my family and friends had been taken. There were 2,749 other families that were not so lucky, and my heart goes out to each and every one.

I still don't fully understand the impact that day had on my life and I don't know that I ever will. I do know, however, that I never forget September 11th, 2001.


Friday Fun: The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog


I’m sure you’ve all heard the titular phrase, which contains all of the letters in the English alphabet and is often used to test typewriters or keyboards (or, these days, to showcase fonts).

Well, it really does happen.

(via Caroline)