Author: Steve Guengerich

Good-bye Twitter

A decade ago, my friend and colleague, Susan Scrupski, persuaded me to finally get with the program and start using Twitter.

At the time, Susan was already rapidly growing a social media following that would eventually contribute to her being recognized among the Twitter elite. At least one ranking authority calling her the #1 most influential woman in her category.

So, following her lead, I created my account in October 2007. It was slow at first, but eventually I settled into a pattern that became my norm for nearly ten years. Until now.

After a recent re-evaluation of the way I allocate my time and the rewards – or penalties – for doing so, I just can’t justify using it any further. So, my account is officially in long-term, suspended animation.

I’m not ready to kill it entirely; but, I don’t see any value in keeping it active anymore. Why? Well, let’s start with the data: after all of this time, I’ve compiled 11,900 tweets, with 1,144 followers.

In other words, that’s an average of 9-10 new followers per month, or 2-3 per week. Out of nearly 100 tweets per month, or 3-4 per day.

For every day’s tweets, I would tend to scour event listings, accelerator newsletters, investor research reports, local tech and business newsletters, and more, for about 1 hour — usually in the early mornings or late evenings.

The goal was to identify unique, yet broadly topical bits of info that were interesting to me and, hopefully, my follower audience. In other words, if you translate that into 8-hour workdays, I was spending nearly 2.5 workdays per month searching for the perfect tweets.

And, what did it get me? A handful of nice, ego-stroking mentions, like…

And, every once in a while, I would hear from someone who followed my Twitter account and knew me, relayed that they had read some bit of news or seen some event or program listing in my Twitterstream, acted upon it, and received some kind of positive outcome for themselves.

In many ways, that was the most satisfactory to hear, because it is very aligned with my personal, pay-it-forward philosophy. But, in the end analysis, it wasn’t enough. Especially with other social media options, like LinkedIN, Facebook, and newer ones.

Sorry @Jack, @Biz, @Ev…thanks for helping to put SXSW Interactive on the map — even though the Southby launch story is more legend than truth — as a must-attend tech festival years ago. But, I’m @done.

UT Dallas, Here I Come!

For those who know me, you know that I began taking steps to transition from my long-time owner-operator role with new ventures studio Powershift Group a few years ago, after turning age 50.

It began when I lucked into the opportunity to teach the New Venture Creation class for the St. Edward’s University MBA program, as an adjunct professor.

While it was more work than I had expected, it was also quite rewarding. Enough so, in fact, that I re-upped for additional classes, ultimately teaching the New Venture Creation class again, as well as MBA classes in Branding & Promotion, Global Business, and the MBA Capstone class.

Along the way, I began seeing a transition path from the “all in” nature of the work demanded by the executive roles I served in various Powershift Group-related entities, to one where I could spend more time on the things I most enjoyed:

  1. mentoring first-time founders and students of entrepreneurship,
  2. using my network and experience to help promising founders, and
  3. promoting their ventures, where possible, to help them succeed.

It felt like a university setting, or a role with a heavy university affiliation, might be the ideal place for this career transition.

I won’t take you through the search process, because it spanned 5 years with a couple of well-intentioned starts-and-stops along the way, in pursuit of the best fit.

But, over the 2016-17 Christmas/New Year’s holidays, I finally found what turned out to be what feels like the right place to be, with UT Dallas.

Rather than going on-and-on about UTD, the School of Management, or the particular group that I lead as executive director — the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship — I’ll the links below do the talking.

While we still have our home in Austin, I now live in Dallas and urge all of my colleagues in Austin and around the world to come visit, any time!

SXSW 2017 Photo Highlights

So much to say, that only pictures can do justice. Because, you know, who wants to read a 13,000 word blog post…

(For the extra-curious, click on the photos for secret URL surprises!)

Mon, Mar 6 – Sarah Hernholm and Friends!

Tue, Mar 7 – Trashbots

Wed, Mar 8 – Capital Factory VIP HQ

Thu, Mar 9 – Austin Tech Happy Hour’s 10th Annual SXSW Opener

Fri, Mar 10 – Rain, Rain…

Sat, Mar 11 – China Gathering

Sun, Mar 12 – Daylight Savings Time

Mon, Mar 13 – Jessica Jackson Shortall

Tue, Mar 14 – Sterling

Wed, Mar 15 – Galvanize / Tech Inclusion

Thu, Mar 16 – PolyVinyl Showcase

Fri, Mar 17 – ATX = Breakfast Tacos, Live Music, and Triple-Stacked Planking

Sat, Mar 18 – How to Fit a Million People in a Park Made for 50,000

The Miracle

it-transform-0-monarch_butterfly_danaus_plexippus_caterpillar_2000pxWe live in miraculous yet challenging times.

Miraculous, in that the world is as peaceful, prosperous, and populous as at any time in history.

Challenging, in that socially, politically, and economically, nations and multinational organizations are competing with each other and emergent groups for future primacy.

On the economic front, it’s a time when every leader of business – large and small – should be going to sleep and waking up thinking about what kind of transformation is on its way (or already underway!) impacting the viability of their company.

it-butterfly-polyommatus_bellis_antiochena_-_hatayin_cokgozlu_guzelmavisi_30Transformation. Not change; not evolution.

But, a thorough and dramatic conversion form one from to another. Like the mutation of a caterpillar to a butterfly.

BEYOND IMAGINATION

Pick up your phone and check your email or voice messages.  What just happened?

They say miracles are the stuff of angels. But, we live in a time where the everyday task of communicating with one another is a miracle of human ingenuity.  And it involves ingenuity on a scale simultaneously so small and so large, that it is nearly beyond imagination.

Take a strand of your hair.

Now, imagine a tiny strand of glass, less than a tenth as thick as your single strand of blond or brunette or black hair.  And each strand of this tiny glass is carrying up to 10 million telephone calls.

Now imagine a fiber-optic cable, made up of 100 or more of these incredibly thin strands of glass or plastic, known as optical fibers. That’s a possible 1 billion telephone calls, traveling that one cable, or enough for 1 out of every nearly 7 people on Earth to be talking on the phone at the same time.

Now feel your pulse.

At rest, the average adult heart rate is one beat per second.  One beat, one second.  With every beat of your heart, AT&T Labs is performing hundreds of checks on every byte of data it handles on its global networks.  These checks are to ensure the data is safe, secure, ‘unbroken,’ and conforming to many other standards and government regulations.

How much data does it handle, you might ask?  AT&T Labs’ former CEO, Keith Cambron, estimates an amount of 80 petabytes (a billion megabytes).

That is a number so large that it represents all of the books, all of the audio recordings, all of the movies, and all of the photographs ever taken.  Every day.

IT IS EARLY

As miraculous as these marvels of human ingenuity are, we are in the early innings of a massive phenomenon that is far greater.

Possibilities coming from an age of computing power and connectivity, available all of the time, everywhere.

In the palm of your hand… in your ear… in every pane of glass surrounding you… under your skin… woven into your clothing… How each of us responds to this miracle will be different. You may revel in it, you may accept it, or you may refuse to embrace it.

But, regardless of your response, as Sheriff Ed Tom’s father says in the great modern crime movie, No Country for Old Men, says “You can’t stop what’s coming.” (Timemark 01:50 in the clip, for the impatient.)

BdyHax 2017 Top of Mind

I was, what we call in Texas, “dog sick” this past weekend. Likely the result of 2 straight weeks of travel + weather changes + being-around-recently-sick-people.

bdyhax-4But that didn’t keep me from getting over to the Austin Convention Center for a 45-minute walk through of the  exhibits at the 2nd Annual Bodyhacking conference, Jan 27-29.

I was intrigued when I heard about the conference a year ago from my Austin tech colleague Christopher Calicott of Trammell Ventures, to the point which I volunteered to serve in a modest capacity on the Advisory Board.

It was an attempt to bring together a range of products, services & technologies which on first blush seemed unrelated or modestly related at best. Things like tattooing, body art, implantable medical devices (think pacemakers),

…AND lifestyle sensors (think Ethereum– or NFC-enabled), 3D printing, machine/human prosthetics, cognitive-targeted nutrition,

bdyhax-1…AND wearable art/haute coutre, AR and VR, all-things-wearable (Fitbits, Apple watches, etc.) and more!

But, the more you think about these categories, and especially extend them into the future, beyond what you know or see today, the more you begin to see how the case can be made for pulling them all together into a single, conference program, unified around the “future self” — what’s inside us, on us, around us, etc.

Here’s what caught my eye, during my walkthrough:

bdyhax-2Fashion: the garments on display seemed to make a big tip of the hat to the iconic work of the Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, which just finished a smashing run in the U.S. at the Grand Rapids Art Museum!

Haptics everywhere: back in 2010, I wrote about haptic tech being the “next communications breakthrough” and, to some extent, many of the products I saw told me that my hunch remains on target. Products on display from Somatic Labs, Neosensory, Omius, and Brainport were all examples of processing various sensory (e.g., visual or audio signals), environmental, or other data sources by translating and conveying  them in “touch” on the wrist, on the upper body, etc.

In particular, take a look at the Moment, by Somatic Labs. In addition to experimenting with the initial apps they are releasing, the team plans to provide access to the device via a set of developer-friendly APIs. I think it will be fascinating to see what developers might do, especially when you start thinking about platforms like Slack or IFTTT.

BTW: you can get an additional $20 discount on the Moment with pre-orders by using the promo code: BDYHAX.

bdyhax-3VR and AR inescapability: They (as well as AI and “big data”) are the darling of this decade. At the moment, a lot of experimentation going on — definitely akin to social media 1.0 products from 10+ years ago, with playfulness and creativity remaining a big VR theme.

As a counterpoint, I’m eager to see what VR and AR demos Capital Factory rolls out in its new first floor expansion space, expected around SXSW 2017, two months hence — it should be epic and, I’m betting, more balanced between work and play apps.

So, those are my top-of-mind observations from 2017. Much, much more to come, no doubt, in this fascinating, poly-product tech marketspace.

Ten Favorite Futurists

1137px-van_gogh_-_starry_night_-_google_art_projectThis is a Top Ten list of books, stories, and one documentary film written by or about my all-time, favorite futurists…a label, by the way, that several (most?) of them might have resisted.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932) — I’ve always favored this vision of the future more than Orwell’s dystopian vision in 1984 because it has rung truer. For me, the future is less likely one where we are tortured and frightened into submission, but moreso one in which we are seduced and willingly manipulated into complacency.

On Computable Numbers, Alan Turing (1936) — I’m amazed at the genius of this paper, produced by Turing when he was at university. He literally invented the concept for the modern computer out of pure thought.

The Veldt, Ray Bradbury (1950) — Bradbury is my all-time favorite science fiction writer. This short story of unanticipated consequences of well-intentioned technology (a frequent theme) was a first introduction for me to concepts we see in virtual reality and smart home tech today.

The Cuckoo’s Egg, Clifford Stoll (1989) — Stoll’s book on tracking a cybersecurity break-in, written like a thriller, was my first exposure to the hidden world of hackers, white and black hats, and the global threats & protections that are part of our worldwide networks.

Heavy Weather, Bruce Sterling (1994) — I go see Sterling speak every year at SXSW Interactive. This book was my first exposure to climate change…published a dozen years before Al Gore’s breakthrough documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla, Marc Seifer (1996) — Tesla is the prototypical, 20th century example of a person who struggles all of their life to achieve the level of financial and professional success that, upon historical reflection, they seem due — even when they have both the genius and the work ethic, during their lifetime, that most would say are “all you need.” In certain respects, I think Tesla’s life is one of the great reminders of the career cliché “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

The Cluetrain Manifesto, Rick Levine and others (2000) — the guys nailed the open source and social media waves to come, upon the commercialization of the internet and the world-wide web. They are great examples of modern-day futurists, whose rewards are more reputational than financial.

The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil (2006) — there is no greater, present manifesto supporting the unwavering truth of an AI-dominant future. In other words, this book makes clear “the question isn’t ‘if’ it’s ‘when'” the singularity occurs and how we have prepared for that moment.

You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier (2010) — if Kurzweil is the gas pedal, then I view Lanier as the break pedal. Not a fully fair analogy, because both have thrown fuel and water on the fires of tech hype. But this book and Lanier’s 2013 follow-up, Who Owns the Future, are counterpoint appeals to putting the needs of individual people first — especially the creative class —  ahead of technology.

David Bowie: Five Years, Francis Whately (2013) — this documentary, somewhat like the biography of Tesla, captures the lightning of genius. Watching it provides glimpses, through the stories of others, of what it’s like to be a member of the supporting cast of a one-of-a-kind creator, in real-time, during the most productive and iconic phases of their lives.