Local grub and why mobile matters

I’ve been looking at buying a new laptop. I have been considering buying a netbook mostly because if I can reduce my cash outlay from approximately $3,000 to $700 that makes me happier. But I haven’t bought a netbook. I keep looking at a MacBook Pro, a Dell m1330 and a Sony Vaio Z. And I realized why, Joey deVilla describes the problem with netbooks

Slightly bigger and pricier than a phone, but can’t phone. Slightly smaller and cheaper than a laptop, but not that much smaller or cheaper. To adapt a phrase I used in an article I wrote yesterday, netbooks are like laptops, but lamer.

The mobile device is the platform of the future. Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, Symbian and Windows Mobile.These are the platforms. There may be others that emerge. Sure there are economics for application developers that are being explored. Simply, much of these economics are about distribution, customer acquisition and retention costs and the necessary scale to run a successful business.

There is a different model which is similar to Google (read Googlenomics), Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, etc. A marketplace with a transactional model. Consider mobile devices as an enabler for players in a ecosystem. How does the availability of personal computers and the emerging high speed mobile smart phone enable?

logo

FarmsReach is a marketplace for “buyers to order food from local producers through delivery or local markets”. It uses technology to enable the transactions between local food producers and buyers. Using the web and mobile devices like the iPhone, FarmsReach is able to leverage an existing infrastructure of home PCs, carrier wireless networks, mobile devices and GPS to build unique applications for each person in the value chain. It’s brilliant. It also starts to look like something we’ve seen before. Who are the players in the local food production and distribution value chain? What part of the existing value chain are you disrupting? How are you going to acquire customers in each layer? What do you need to build as part of the prototype?

I first saw Alistair Croll present FarmsReach at DemoCampGuelph8 and have been in love with the business they are building. And I’m not alone, FarmsReach is winning awards and trying to change the world.

Trending

Identifying trends is important. Look at some assumptions around FarmsReach:

  • There is a growing local food movement
  • It is incredibly difficult for local farmers and local consumers to connect, other than through existing retail outlets
  • “Only 30% of farmers use the Internet as part of their business” – Keep It Rural
  • Average age of farmers is increasing (indicator that less young people are choosing farming as a career) – Farming For Us All
  • To attract/retain younger generations farms need to embrace technology – USAToday
  • High penetration of PCs in rural areas (yeah, it’s UK data but it demonstrates a point)
  • New mobile devices and data connectivity allow for distributed solutions

It is incredibly important to understand the societal, economic, technological and other trends that are happening. Use them to help predict your market, to predict customer behaviours and expectations, to look for opportunities.

Where to look for trends:

Startups can learn a lot from FarmsReach.

Conferences, connections & ecosystems

lights and crowds

Are conferences broken? Do conferences need to change?

What are the goals of a conference?

  • Communicate
    This can be research results, new products, new design, development or testing techniques, new ideas, etc. It can be about education and learning. It is the main
  • Exchange of Ideas
    To encourage the excitement, simultaneity, and ad-hoc in the halls discussions between people.
  • Connections
    To provide networking, partnership, and collaboration opportunities between the participants, companies, organizers and co-workers that last beyond the conference.
  • Recognition
    To celebrate outstanding work and research of the members of the community. The conference itself may represent the recognition of excellence by acceptance of a talk.

How do these goals compare to the goals of conference attendees?

  1. Evangelize: Conferences are a good place to share information about your company and to brand yourself. They allow you to share your expertise with fellow industry colleagues and potential customers…If you effectively demonstrate your capabilities, your company will benefit by 1- recruiting talent, 2- marketing its services, and 3- generating new business leads.
  2. Bonding with Colleagues: Often times, you have the opportunity to attend a conference with colleagues from work…Try to meet at least once for dinner or drinks and have non-office related conversations.
  3. Networking: One of the key aspects of any conference is meeting people who are normally inaccessible to you. The social media world, in particular, revolves around relationships. Conferences allow you to meet new people and maintain old friendships…Chris Brogan offers great tips on how to meet new people at conferences using social media.
  4. Education: The conferences are increasingly gaining reputations for not offering new knowledge for those who have been in the industry more than a year. However, I am seeing a shift where organizers are pushing for new topics and recruiting a more diverse group speakers. You can also gain valuable insight just by having conversations with various attendees. I really enjoy standing in the hallway of the venue and having random discussions with fellow colleagues about industry-related topics.
  5. Vendors: One of the best parts of conferences is meeting potential vendors face-to-face and learning about what they offer. This allows you to immediately determine if their product/service is applicable to your needs. It helps save time and allows you to go back to your office with some key recommendations of possible partners

Interestingly, I would condense these into:

  • Evangelize/Promotion
  • Communication/Education
  • Connections
  • Exchange of Ideas

The addition of an evangelism/promotion goal for attendees that is separate from the communication and recognition goals of the conference is important. It separates the needs of the conference to establish it’s self as a trusted resource and venue for professional activities from the need of the attendees to self promote and market. Yet it recognizes that there is an opportunity to allow companies and individuals access to a captive audience.

  • Communicate/Educate
    This can be research results, new products, new design, development or testing techniques, new ideas, etc. It can be about education and learning. It is the main
  • Exchange Ideas
    To encourage the excitement, simultaneity, and ad-hoc in the halls discussions between people.
  • Connect
    To provide networking, partnership, and collaboration opportunities between the participants, companies, organizers and co-workers that last beyond the conference.
  • Recognize
    To celebrate outstanding work and research of the members of the community. The conference itself may represent the recognition of excellence by acceptance of a talk.
  • Promote/Evangelize
    Share information about your company and your personal brand. The goal is separate from recognition, because it allows for recruiting, marketing, and lead generation.

The interesting part for me is “that last beyond the duration of the conference”. The ability to distribute content like Mix09, TED, and Mesh Conference allow participants and a community to grow and share the content. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Identi.ca make it easier to connect, stay connected and have ongoing conversations. There are tools like Ning, CrowdVine, and EventVue that make it easier to build custom community connection points for conference attendees.

If you could define the perfect conference agenda what would it be? What would be the events? What about the rooms? The layout of the food? What sort of technology? How much would it cost?

What’s your open data idea?

I keep thinking about Mayor Miller’s announcement about Open Data for the City of Toronto at Mesh09.

“I am very pleased to announce today at Mesh09 the development of http://toronto.ca/open, which will be a catalogue of city generated data.  The data will be provided in standardized formats, will be machine readable, and will be updated regularly.  This will be launched in the fall of 2009 with an initial series of data sets, including static data like schedules, and some feeds updated in real time.

The benefits to the city of Toronto are extremely significant.  Individuals will find new ways to apply this data, improve city services, and expand their reach.  By sharing our information, the public can help us to improve services and create a more liveable city.  And as an open government, sharing data increases our transparency and accountability.”

appsforamerica-white

I have started to think about how we inspire and encourage the community to both build applications, but also businesses on top of the newly available data to help improve city services. The first spot that I’ve started to look is at the Sunlight Foundation’s Apps for America contest, which was aimed at encouraging “more programmers to leverage public data and connect different information sources to effectively convey information about politicians and Congress.” The contest announced $24,000 in prizes ($15,000 + $5,000 + 4*$1,000).

This is an interesting model and I suspect that for the ~$25,000 we’ll see a variety of other interesting applications like those submitted for Apps for America. I wonder if there are ways to encourage and inspire beyond the civic developers. I’m wondering if there is an opportunity to build new applications for civic engagement or local commerce or for improving the lives of citizens and businesses.

I wonder if the $5 million grants for the Knight News Challenge might be a better model.

 

whatsyouridea

The Knight Foundation was 3 rules to apply for funding: 1) use or create digital, open-source technology as the code base; 2) Serve the public interest; 3) Benefit one or more specific geographic communities. The Foundation was founded around news and communities. And it’s interesting to look at ways to inform, engage, visualize neighbourhoods, information, and community. 

If you have a great idea that will improve local online news, deepen community engagement, bring Web 2.0 tools to local neighborhoods, develop publishing platforms and standards to support local conversations or innovate how we visualize, experience or interact with information, we’d like to see it! You have the opportunity to win funding for your project and support within a vibrant community of media, tech, and community-oriented people who want to improve the world.

Both of these organizations are foundations, they are hybrid organizations, like the Mozilla Foundation which is very different than a traditional for profit corporation. I’ve started to talk to Michael Lewkowitz more about this hybrid corporate structure and how it might work in Canada.  But I’m left wondering where the Canadian equivalents of:

Here’s the Top 100 Foundations in the US. And it appears that Canadian foundations only have about 3% of the assets available to similar organizations in the US (though the site hasn’t been updated since 2006). Mostly because I’m wondering how we find a champion outside of local government to champion the development of new citizen based tools built on this emerging data.

appsfordemocracy

The questions are dependent to what data will the City of Toronto make available at toronto.ca/open and when. The types of applications are growing, just look at the application directory as part of the Apps for Democracy.  The Apps for Democracy project that created over $2.3M of value for Washington, D.C.

“The first edition of Apps for Democracy yielded 47 web, iPhone and Facebook apps in 30 days – a $2,300,000 value to the city at a cost of $50,000 (all apps created are here).”

The project was to create applications based on the DC.gov’s Data Catalog that are useful for citizens, visitors, businesses and government agencies.

Questions for what will get built for Toronto are dependent on the data available. I can’t wait to see what we design and build.

Brave new world

Is old media dead yet? With the Christian Science Monitor and the Seattle Post Intelligencer shuttering their print operations to move to an online-only model, it is clear that the news business is changing. With Hearst Corporation trying to sell or stop print production of the San Francisco Chronicle the writing which has been on the wall for 15+ years, will reach the second major city in North America.

I had a great lunch with Don Dodge about the legacy of print operations and the economics of manufacturing and distribution that will continue to hinder print based publications. Don has written about newspapers dying since 2006. The decline of the newspaper is the result of a rise in a decline of subscriptions, a decline in advertising and classified advertising, and a continued rise in production and distribution costs. This has coincided with the rise of alternative online sources for advertising, news, and classifieds. This is not a new phenomena.

After a fun, heated discussion with Richard Stursburg, EVP English Services of the CBC at Interactive Content Exchange (IN09), I started to realize the problem.

Future of the Medium, Part Two – The New Rules

 

Canadians are sometimes divided about the role of the state in the funding of media content and services. We do know however, that creative industries have become a large and growing economic engine. Most governments, especially in the prevailing economic conditions, recognize the value of job creation and investment.

 

We are already the 3rd largest developer of video games in the world. Yet it is still extremely difficult for interactive media companies to access the capital they need to grow in Canada. So as the manufacturing sector melts away, is this a new area for potential growth? Or are we too late?

 

Moderated by Alan Sawyer, Principal Consultant, Two Solitudes Consulting

 

Participants

  • Marilyn Burgess, President, Burgess Consultants
  • David Crow, Evangelist, Microsoft
  • Brady Gilchrist, President, Amodo Group
  • Richard Stursburg, EVP English Services, CBC

It was a fun conversation. It was very weird to be the only panelist on stage actively tweeting the conversation [1, 2, 3, 4, etc.]. It was amazing to hear comments along the lines of “Beautiful, highly produced, professional content can only be created by organizations like the CBC”.  The argument that Stursburg was making is that we shouldn’t like old media producers, broadcasters and newspapers go under because the future is unknown. We won’t have high quality content, whatever the hell that means, if we don’t provide government bailout moneys to support old Canadian media monopolies. I find the FUD factor incredibly high and un-nerving. It ignores competition, changing culture, and reinforces the wealth of an elite group. It plays to the fear of people. And it’s couched in the most absurd arguments around Canadian culture. That only existing broadcast players can fund, validate and manage Canadian content (only if we give them further tax credits and government support). It is the belief that broadcast media is the default media. That "high-production-quality” as determined by television is what the funding from an ISP tax should go towards. This completely ignores shifting media consumption behaviours of youth, it ignores the changing landscape of always one, always connected, multiple device content, and it ignores the increasing amount of data and news being created in multiple channels.

Video Killed the Radio Star

Sure the revenue models that will support emerging content business are still being defined. We’re starting to see the creation of distribution channels like games and XBox Live that can support artists and content producers. Sure, the middlemen hate the shift in power and wealth with emerging distribution models. “Aerosmith has reportedly earned more from Guitar Hero : Aerosmith than from any single album in the band’s history.” There are new models emerging for content financing, production and distribution. And they are probably different than the entrenched players that got rich off television and radio. The financing models are still emerging, but we have examples of movies, video games, advertising, etc.

What’s next?

“So this is what the old-growth forests tell us: there is going to be more content, not less; more information, more analysis, more precision, a wider range of niches covered. You can see the process happening already in most of the major sections of the paper: tech, politics, finance, sports.” – Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson gave a great talk at SxSW about the recent history of publishing and distribution of news. His vision includes a role for organizations like CBC and other traditional media outlets. The validation, accreditation, accountability and editing of the abundance of news and news sources. The goal is to build relevance, trust and accountability for news consumers. To be agile and embrace new distribution and business models.  To embrace new mediums, why do I need a Kindle when I have a laptop, an iPhone and a Blackberry. The question is how can old media embrace and monetize this brave new world.

“But it’s also bad news because it’s going to distract us from the long-term view; we’re going to spend so much time trying to figure out how to keep the old model on life support that we won’t be able to help invent a new model that actually might work better for everyone” – Steven Johnson

What role should policy play in:

  • Culture & Heritage
  • Education & Training
  • Trade & Commerce

As Canadians, we should be asking for smarter government, better policy and a plan for the uncharted future. Not a life support system for an existing set of players.

Clouds gathering

Clouds Along the Road Photo by Reini68

Charles Cooper has an interesting post about cloud infrastructure and the impact it has on developers and IT professionals.

"So you’ve got a whole generation of start-ups that are basically just a couple of programmers with a couple of laptops, and they upload everything into the Amazon cloud. It’s pay-by-the-drink like utility. So all of a sudden, you have this whole new wave of Internet start-ups getting started for practically no money, right? So there is a level of innovation."

Amazon has done a fantastic job of building the foundation for the next generation of software infrastructure. Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides basic services in the cloud. EC2 for computation on Windows, Linux, and OpenSolaris. Database support including Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL. Application development in .NET, Java, Ruby. The AWS platform includes computation, storage, querying and indexing, queuing, payments, and a basic CDN. More importantly, AWS is the beginning of how the next generation of developers and IT professionals will build and manage applications in the cloud.

Dana Gardner explains why the IBM-Amazon deal is about enabling the best enterprise IT channel. For IBM it’s the perfect combination of services, technology and deployment. For Amazon, it provides an additional way to monetize their investment in infrastructure for their retail business. Brilliant!

Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Mozilla and Apple are fighting for the client. Microsoft, Linux and Java are fighting for the server. Oracle, Microsoft, MySQL and PostgreSQL are fighting for the database. Amazon is not alone, there are competitors including GoGrid, RackSpace, ElasticHosts, Google and others (MediaTemple and Joyent come to mind).

One small step for…

Where is Microsoft in the fray? Microsoft building Azure (my previous post on Azure). Azure is interesting because like Amazon’s AWS to get the most out of the platform, you have to architect applications for the new services provided by cloud providers. Azure unlike EC2 does not have an easy way to upload your existing applications onto cloud/virtualized hardware. The real benefit of the Rackspace/GoGrid/Amazon infrastructures are the ability for developers to very easily move their applications to the cloud offering at a reduced cost without having to re-write, re-architect everything from scratch.

I wonder if this transition state for developers and IT professionals is the real innovation. Being able to adopt the cloud as a lower cost infrastructure alternative is extremely compelling. The opportunity to optimize your application, learn new development tools, application design patterns and underlying architecture that provides an ongoing personal investment in bettering your application and your skills.

A web without windows

moz_design_challenge_logoCan’t help but love the shot at Microsoft in the latest Mozilla Labs Design Challenge post. Nice.

No windows, no unnecessary trappings.

I’m sure that this was not intentionally aimed at Microsoft’s IE8 RC1 announcement. But it made me laugh. It’s hard to imagine the world without the trappings of the personal computer. This is one of the unique challenges presented by August de los Reyes about Predicting the Past. I’ve been thinking more about personal health data, and thinking about how to build solutions aimed at informing and altering behaviour. Not on the scale of transformation that the Office Labs and MSR teams did with Future of personal health concept.  The video storyboards used in the Aurora Concept and the MSR Future of Healthcare videos are a great medium for students to express the complexity of the environment and the changes they see in predicting the future.

The question posed by the Mozilla Labs team is about extending the interpretation of the web. What does a user experience look like if the web is ubiquitous?

The Design Challenge is a series of events to encourage innovation, and experimentation in user interface design for the Web. Our aim is to provoke thought, facilitate discussion, and inspire future design directions for Firefox, the Mozilla project, and the Web as a whole.

It’s an interesting outreach to inspire and engage members of the Web community. It builds on the work that Mozilla did with Adaptive Path on the Aurora Concept exploring the future directions and ideas for Mozilla as a browser. The Design Challenge Spring 2009 asks 20 students to answer the following questions:

“What would a browser look like if the Web was all there was? No windows, no unnecessary trappings. Just the Web.”

It’s an interesting question and it provokes a series of other questions:

  • What does the Web really mean?
  • What does the Web mean in the context of a device? Does the device have local storage? local computation?
  • What assumptions as designers are we making about bandwidth? latency? interaction? behaviour?

The question of what is the Web and how individuals and groups interact, communicate and collaborate is really interesting. I hope that design students will document their assumptions about the hardware, software, networking infrastructure, carriers and to make their visions real.

As the Web becomes even more ubiquitous, we’ll never have to leave it. Whether it’s on touch tables, giant wall-sized screens, mobile devices, or just our computers, exploring the interactions for browsing a windowless Web will become ever-more important in the next couple of years.

Great opportunity for 20 design students to design a vision for the future. Plus they’ll get to work with Beltzner, Madhava, Aza, Alex and the rest of the team at Mozilla. 

Independent’s Day

Microsoft is hostingxna an free evening event at Fed Hall at UWaterloo talking about gaming, XBox Live Community Games, and entrepreneurship. The event is looking is scheduled to have a series of short presentations about how to build a gaming studio. It will feature folks from Microsoft, Frozen North, Infusion Development, and KPMG.

XNA Community GamesMicrosoft has been criticised about the need for a App Store for Windows Mobile (it’s coming). While the story on mobile is emerging, the story for gaming launched in November 2008. Xbox Live Community Games and XNA Creators Club allow designers and developers to create, share, and play games created by others. The FAQ has details about who can submit games and how you can make money. There is additional support for students and startups in getting access to the tools. Students can full access to developer tools at DreamSpark: Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition and XNA Game Studio 3.0. Startups can join BizSpark and gain access to MSDN Premium for almost free (it’s a $100 after 3 years or an exit event). If you are a startup, there are additional benefits in the BizSpark program including access to Network Partners like nGen – Niagara Interactive Media Generator, Communitech and others across Canada that can help support your business development and growth. You don’t need to be in BizSpark to access the services of these groups and others. And there are other fantastic resources like York Technology Association, MaRS, Interactive Ontario, and others.

Kudo One of the most exciting tools that will be release in the Spring is Kodu (formerly Boku) from Microsoft Research. Kodu is programming environment and language designed for kids. The programming environment runs on the Xbox and is built in XNA. It was shown as part of the keynote at CES 2009 (750Kb).

kodu

The conversation on January 29, 2009 won’t be focused on the technology. It will focus on the mix of technology, business development, and programs available to Canadian video game entrepreneurs to help them get started.

To register, visit ic.infusionangels.com or send Kayla Spiess an email with your name and other contact details.

 

Resources

 

What: Independent’s Day
When: Thursday, January 29, 2009 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Where: Fed Hall

University of Waterloo
Waterloo, ON   Canada

Personal Healthcare & Data

sensewear

Advertising Age has a summary of the best Health & Wellness products  at CES09. I have been fascinated by the industrial and interaction design work, done by my friends from Carnegie Mellon (Ivo Stivoric & Chris Kasabach), at BodyMedia. The product has developed significantly since the early days in 1999 where they were focused on the initial design and consumer adoption. It’s great to see the development of a multi-focused products built on similar technologies with offerings for: research; clinical applications; personal fitness; and club-based fitness. But it looks like there is an explosion of competition at CES.

polar-ft80 Since I suffered a heart attack in 2006, I’ve been thinking about buying a heart rate monitor (the meds now keep my heart rate artificially low). I’ve been thinking about purchasing a Polar FT80. It’s probably feature overkill, but the device and user experience is beautiful. I am curious about the integration to Polar Personal Trainer supports the software+services development and business models (it’s too bad that Polar hasn’t completely opened their API to support other applications like TrailRunner).

fitbit-inhand Fitbit, which launched at the TechCrunch50, was the category winner at CES. They are a wellness tracker. It tracks data about a persons activities including calories burned, sleep quality, and distance travelled (the calories burned and sleep quality must be interpreted numbers). It’s a great concept, that is similar to BodyMedia’s GoWear science of tracking your galvanic skin response, acceleration, skin temperature and heat flux.

It’s the data, stupid

There is a lot of focus on big when it comes to health care. HealthVault and Google Health are big solutions from multi-billion dollar companies. (Wow, I think the Polar RT80 connects to HealthVault, it’s not explicitly listed but I’m hoping it works). However, I’m wondering if there is a need to focus on individuals. The focus on individuals and individual responsibility can be seen with the appointment of Dr. Sanjay Gupta as the leading candidate for the Surgeon General. What better than a physician with broadcast experience to reach out to promote health and prevent disease for the American people.

With the development of devices like the GoWear, the FitBit and the Nike+Plus, it is possible for consumers to start collecting their own bio-signs. And begin monitoring, analyzing and altering their behaviour. Like the accelerometers have proven with innovative  iPhone interfaces (think UrbanSpoon read about accessing the GPS and accelerometer APIs),  the importance is in the sensors and the data. The Canary Foundation (thanks WIRED) uses simple tests and data to identify cancer at it’s earliest stages. I wonder if the tools around heart rate, metabolism, sleep combined with social networking can be used to change behaviour and alter the courses for obesity, diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease.

What other automated data collection could your personal healthcare devices collect? How could it be used to improve your quality of life? Or reduce your risk of disease?

High-Tech Tools for Social Change

Flipping through WIRED 17.01 and there is an “Wired Insider – Events | Promotions | Special Offers | Contests” (read special advertising page) with details about a

WIRED presented a four-part conference series with The Hollywood Hill, a Los Angeles non-profit reinventing social activism through digital technology. Members engage with leading tech professionals on topics ranging from microfinance to mobile media. The events included A-list cocktail receptions graciously hosted by producers such as Darren Star and Ari Arad.

thehollywoodhill

The Hollywood Hill looks like a very interesting organization.

“The Hollywood Hill provides its entertainment industry members with both speaker-driven educational events and tools that support them in the production of social issue media content.”

It is a membership driven organization. Memberships are limited to “Entertainment Industry professionals” and range in price from $1200/year, “for those that have experience significant success within the industry”, to $120/year , “for Assistants and those who recently entered the industry as creative talent”. Membership allows you to RSVP for any of the events.

It’s an interesting model. Probably not enough members to generate membership fees to cover all the costs

The events cover both educational workshops, e.g., Domestic Film Distrubtion, and trends, e.g., The Future of Hi-Tech Warfare, The Future of Copyright (with Lawrence Lessig). The conferences also look interesting:

Excites me because in Toronto we have many a lot of similar organizations and events. There’s:

This only scratches the surface. It would be fantastic if we had a few elder spokespersons with money (like Darren Star who hosts receptions at The Hollywood Hill events). And it would be even better if we had a cost effective venue capable of hosting groups greater than 100+ people comfortably that provided both a presentation setting and a social setting for the post mingling and networking (the most important part of any event) and was able to provide it at a reasonable price.

Where are the RIM alumni?

GigaOM has a great story about "The Growing Ex-Amazon Club and Why It’s a Good Thing”. This is essentially an extension of the Fairchildren model for seeding companies and talent. Jevon has placed MaRS in the deadpool. Austin, Joey and I have wondered about the role of early employees from successful companies at leaving to start, build and grow new startups.

It leaves me to question where are the RIM alumni? Where are the startups being started by ex-RIM employees?

You can find startups with founders from PixStream or Workbrain. You can see startups with DNA from Zero Knowledge Systems. The only RIM alumni founded startup I can find is Metranome.

Founders Wanted

I hadn’t realized how strong the motto at Reactivity was in our recruiting. We were looking for founders. John wrote about Reactivity’s beginnings back in 2004. I was lucky enough to join Reactivity as an early employee. I think I was employee number 12 and the third employee of Reactivity Austin (after Bryan Rollins and Andrew Willis). Reactivity was trying to build

A metastartup (this is a temporary name only–trying to think of a better one) is a company who’s mission is to foster a community of talented engineers and business people, with the goal of spinning off startup companies from that community, as well as to build a loosely coupled network of those companies.

It was a kieritsu, but not of businesses but of the individuals that build businesses. In recruiting new talent, whether on the design, business, marketing or engineering sides of the house, was to find founders. People that you wanted to leave Reactivity to start a new company. It meant that the goal was to develop every hire into a potential founder. You can see the alumni network of Reactivity designers, engineers and entrepreneurs around the valley. John Lilly is the CEO of the Mozilla Corporation. Mike Schroepfer is the director of engineering at Facebook. Graham Miller is the CEO of Marketcetera. Lynn Pausic runs Expero Inc. Ellen Beldner is the UX Designer for YouTube. Lynn Gabbay is the founder at Novod. Andrew Nash is a Senior Director at PayPal. Bryan Rollins was VP of Product Management at MessageOne before the Dell acquisition. The Reactivity alumni can be seen around Silicon Valley, Boston and New York.

A Magical Legacy – How these guys engineered our world

Fourteen years ago, a company called General Magic promised a handheld device that would make calls, send email, play music, and do almost everything else that makes today’s iPhone so drool-worthy. “Bill and Andy’s Excellent Adventure II” (April 1994) was about the two Macintosh vets – Atkinson and Herzfeld – leading the project. Unfortunately, they were far too early. General Magic sank in 2002. But its legacy lives on, in part because the effort was a formative experience for a team of brillant young engineers. Pierre Omidyar went on to start eBay. Tony Fadell heads Apple’s iPod hardware group. Kevin Lynch cooked up Flash. And Andy Rubin created the Sidekick and Google’s Android mobile platform. Not too shabby. As for Bill and Andy, they are still adventuring excellently: Atkinson works with the artificial intelligence startup Numenta, and Hertzfeld codes for Google. – Steven Levy, Wired 16.12 December 2008

Where are all the startups founded by RIM alumni?