Sep 27

Why You Should Pay Attention to TechCrunch Disrupt (Even if You Don’t Like TechCrunch)

I’ve been to quite a few cities and discussed their tech communities with them. The one thing that rings true everywhere you go is this: everyone compares themselves to the Valley. It generally comes up in the first 30 minutes or so of every conversation.

In Austin, we are constantly making the case for why people should move here and invest in startups. I’ve talked with software developers here and in San Francisco, and there is one major difference:

Business acumen.

This isn’t the case for every Austin and San Francisco startup or software developer, mind you. I just know a lot of developers who are happy consulting and/or coding away in Austin. They aren’t making fortunes, but they certainly aren’t starving.

When I talk to many developers (not all, of course) from the Valley, they are savvy to the ways of venture capital and angel investing. They know who is who, what to expect, and how to play the game. It could be because it’s just too expensive NOT to know how to play and they have companies like Google to learn from, but it does give them an advantage.

Paying attention to TechCrunch Disrupt (Sept. 27-29) won’t teach you how to create compelling Facebook fan pages, switch to Rails 3 or give you the latest tutorial on HTML5. Here’s what you WILL learn about:

  • How to actually get money for your ideas. Yes, bootstrapping is a noble idea. It’s good to bootstrap…for a period of time. After a while, don’t be surprised when your competition raises a round of funding and then creams you. Or better yet, they just steal your idea pretty much outright. Disrupt will feature both VCs and angel investors and will help you navigate the system.
  • The triumphs and pitfalls of running a company from the founders of companies like LinkedIn and Zynga.
  • What Google is up to these days.
  • What startups are going to get the next wave of hype.
  • What it’s like to be a woman in tech.

Turns out, Michael Arrington respected me for standing up to the nasty commenters on his “Women in Tech” post. He invited me to be on a the Women in Tech panel this Tuesday, which features some interesting women including Leila Chirayath Janah, the founder of an interesting non-profit called Samasource. The panel is being moderated by Sarah Lacy.

So check out TechCrunch Disrupt this week. Software solves problems, and problems exist everywhere. Viable software startups should be everywhere–in the Valley and beyond. I’ll be taking notes and so should you.

Sep 24

AngelGate, Economics, & Torchy’s Tacos: a Solution for All of Us

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Apparently, the so-called “Super Angels” (does this come with a cape and a ring?) in Silicon Valley were trying to figure out how to reduce the valuations of startups as well as the power of YCombinator. I’m not going to comment on this. Why? Because I don’t really know any of these people. It’s between them. It’s just that simple.

Were they trying to figure out how to lower the price of startups or reduce the power of YCombinator? Was it malicious? I have no clue. What I do know is there is a simple solution to solving both of these problems that, collusion or not, would benefit everyone.

Hey guys, maybe you should step outside the Valley every once in a while.

I have no beef with the Valley at all. This is just simple economics. When there is a bigger pool of startups to invest in, the price of them goes down. There are countless talented developers, DBAs, UX and web designers, and web marketers here in Austin who could really shine with a little guidance from you. There are a considerable amount of cities like Austin as well. I guarantee you, the cost of running a startup in most of these cities is significantly less than it would be in San Francisco. The pool isn’t small–your scope should get big.

I can’t speak for other cities, but the University of Texas at Austin features very strong business and computer science departments, and graduates A LOT of talented people. Many people are here not because we don’t think we can make it in the Valley, but because like me, we have families in the area. Oh, and the tacos here are amazing.

Strong examples of startups here include Spiceworks, Indeed.com, OtherInbox, InfoChimps, WPEngine, Zenoss, SolarWinds, Riptano, Keepstream, gowalla and countless others.

So come talk to me at TechCrunch Disrupt if you are a Super or even Not-So-Super Angel Investor and interested in Austin. Email me at michelle(at)michellesblog.net if you want to set up a meeting. I’m eager to learn as much as I can and help in any way possible.

Oh, and maybe you should at least check out Hitler’s idea. He can be a bit of a loose cannon when people don’t pay attention to him, and I heard it was actually pretty good.

Jun 03

Pitch in for Linux Against Poverty Because it Makes you Cool

I have always admired people who seem to be successful while still remaining gracious and humble. It inspires me to do more with my life because it shows me that you can be both successful and likable.

If you read my blog, you are probably a geek who likes his or her computer. You might be oggling over iPads or Mac announcements. There’s nothing wrong with that because you are perfectly entitled to work hard for things that make your life more pleasurable. Just appreciate that what you have right now may be good enough for what you need, and there are people out there who can’t really afford to pay their bills, much less buy a computer with an internet connection. Lynn Bender at GeekAustin is helping to solve this problem for Austinites and Central Texans with an event called Linux Against Poverty on June 19th. Essentially, he is collecting a lot of computers, installing the resource light Linux Ubuntu OS on them, and then giving them to people in need.

If you appreciate what your computer does for you (which I imagine is a lot these days), perhaps you’ll want to contribute so you can be one of those people who has stuff but is still gracious in life and considerate not only of what they could have, but the power they have to contribute to others now. Graciousness and humility are endearing qualities that make you cool. And who in their right mind does not want to be cool? That’s just silly.

Please consider contributing in the following ways:
1.) Go to your facilities manager (or the person who wears this hat in your company) and ask them if they have any extra computers in the office they could donate.

2.) Look in your house to see if you have any old computers that could go through the Linux Ubuntu Makeover Challenge. You’d be shocked how lean an OS Ubuntu is.

The instructions for dropping off computers are here.

3.) Check out the website for volunteer opportunities.

4.) Blog about it, email it around and let people know about the event.


5.) Attend the event. It’s on June 19th at Union Park.

6.) Sponsor it! Here’s the lowdown on that:

Platinum Sponsorship Opportunities
$700 Additional RAM for donated computers(we can also offer platinum sponsorship for equivalent RAM donations)

Gold Sponsorship Opportunities
$375 Additional RAM for donated computers
$375 60 days pre and post event storage for computers
$350 T-shirts for Linux Against Poverty Volunteers

Silver Sponsorship Opportunities
$175 Chair and table rental for Linux Against Poverty Install fest
$150 48hr Truck Rental for Linux Against Poverty

If you have questions, or would like to discuss additional incentives, please contact our donations coordinator directly at: laura.carbonneau(at)linuxagainstpoverty.org.

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Nov 17

ANOTHER BAILOUT!?!? Check Out “WordPress for Clunkers” Now

Yeah, this time it’s not Congress (phew).

WordPress Consutant Bill Erickson is offering his services to one lucky website owner in his “WordPress for Clunkers” contest. WordPress isn’t just the best blogging platform on the planet–it is also a content management system capable of building anything from a brochure site to a powerful site like CNN.

If you are in need of an overhaul of your current site, submit your site here.

Oct 26

Today, I became a Racker

rackspace-web-hosting

Today, I joined the Rackspace team. It’s been a few months because we were trying to find the right fit, but I think we finally did it. I will say that I really like everyone I’ve met so far and am very optimistic about this opportunity.

Basically, Jim Curry (@jimcurry) and Mark Collier (@sparkycollier) work their tails off getting partners to integrate with the Rackspace Cloud. And then they put the tools on this site called Rackspace Tools and hopefully people use them. They really don’t have anyone marketing the site.

qSo my job is to to be like Q from James Bond or Alfred from Batman and show you all the cool tools you can utilize with the Rackspace Cloud. There is the CloudPlug which will automagically back up your hard drives to the cloud. There is Vanilla Forums, an open source forum software with some really cool plugins. Then there are tools for easily managing or load balancing servers like CloudKick or Zeus Load Balancer.

There are so many good applications and tools that help you both manage and better utilize the cloud, and I get to show them to you. Will they include exploding cuff links or machine gun pens? Maybe not…yet.

Nov 12

Meh, Sure, I’ll Check Out PubCon

So I got an email from Matt at WebHostingBuzz that we are going to start a Twitter blog. He is at PubCon and saw that Microsoft was doing it and thought it was cool, so now we are.

Me being me, I was naturally jealous. Why? It’s not that I care to see a presentation by Microsoft’s use of social media (although I give props to Phil Wheat for getting out there on the scene). It’s that I just love Las Vegas that much, and I like meeting new people in my industry.

So I booked a ticket and should be hanging out in Vegas this Thursday through Sunday.

Business first, if you meet me, please know that I work for the following companies:
WebHostingBuzz: Hosting company complete with published uptime each month. Proud host of hashtags.org and soon to be host of Platformic.
NameCheap: Domain registrar with easiest domain admin interface on the interwebs. API for complete domain reselling.
Sun & Ski Sports: Crazy cool gear for skiing, snowboarding, cycling, wakeboarding, and all things outdoors. @sunandski

and last but not least:
The Discovery Network: We are launching a blog for the Science Channel called Nerdabout. Stay tuned!

So business aside, I have been so busy/broke blogging, taking pictures, uploading video, etc around Austin, I haven’t been on a vacation in almost two years. So I’m hoping I can take somewhat of a breather and enjoy myself for once. I doubt I will as I always worry if I’m doing enough for my clients…

If you are in Vegas, please say hello. I am @michellegreer on Twitter.

Sep 12

Austin Tech Community: Your Support Is Needed. Help Me Show the Science Channel How Much You Totally Rock

So out of the blue, I get an email from Heather at the Science Channel in New York asking me to be a Managing Editor for a blog they want to launch about the Austin tech scene. I 1.) pinched myself and 2.) gave her a call the next day to see what this was all about.

I am really busy these days between Sun and Ski, WebHostingBuzz, and NameCheap, but I couldn’t turn such a good opportunity down. I’m going to delegate much of the writing, so I am going to need writers who feel so compelled by the cool geekery here in town that they MUST write about it. It is too good to contain. And then I will ask that they share this geekery with the entire world. I want to show the Science Channel audience why Austin is the coolest tech town in the U.S. and A.

So the people at the Science Channel getting this off the ground need some testimonials about me so they know they aren’t just throwing their money at some crazy Austin hippie. I would appreciate any kind words/mojo you could throw my way. Please leave some comments as to why you think I would be able to offer their viewers a sweet little sliver of the goodness that is the Austin tech scene. I would appreciate it very much.

Aug 22

Hunger is Unacceptable (But Please Read This Instead of Heading to the Fridge)

Hunger is Unacceptable

When Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank first told me that hunger was unacceptable, I kindly agreed with her and grabbed a Clif Bar to munch on. But then I realized that she was talking about the thousands of people who are on food assistance right here in Austin. Here are some statistics from the Capital Area Food Bank website that will blow your mind:

There’s More Need Than You’d Think

* Nearly one in five adults and one in four children in Texas is hungry.
* 41,000 children under the age of 18 in Travis County are confronted with food insecurity every day.
* 82% of Food Bank Partner Agency recipients are food insecure. 49% of recipients experience outright hunger. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
* 61% of Austin Independent School District (AISD) students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Austin is EXPENSIVE
* 76% of households receiving assistance from CAFB Partner Agencies report incomes below the federal poverty level. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
* 106,930 (12.6%) of Travis County individuals live below the Federal poverty level ($18,850 for a family of four). (Source: Austin Community Survey, 2004)
* The annual income needed for a Travis County family of four without employee sponsored health insurance to “afford” to live in the Austin area is $53,080. That’s 257% above the Federal poverty level. (Source: CPPP.org, The Family Budget Estimator Project)
* Austin continues to have the highest cost of living in the state of Texas, exceeding housing costs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth.

Kids and the Elderly Are Hungry. How Messed Up is That?

* While the child poverty rate in Texas is 23.2%, for the CAFB service area, 35% of the household members receiving food are children. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)
* While 12.4% of Texans in poverty are elderly, only 7% of households receiving food through CAFB are elderly. (Source: Hunger in America 2006: Central Texas Report, in association with America’s Second Harvest)

September is Hunger Action Month. Personally, I think every month should be Hunger Action Month, because there is enough food in this world for people to not go hungry and being hungry really sucks. But alas, now is the time when we show people how important this cause really is.

Lisa and a bunch of cool people in Austin are planning a Ham Up Tweetup to get food, and in particular protein, to feed the 21 Central Texas counties that CAFB helps. Follow Lisa on Twitter and at her blog for more updates on how you can help, and don’t forget to change your avatar and upload it to the Flickr group to show people that Hunger is Unacceptable.