Chris Savage has a great post on 5 ways to get to inbox zero. Here’s another tip.

Set aside 1 hour sometime this week to go through your emails and kill them.

Seeing and thinking “1 – 100 of hundreds” is psychologically tiring. Seeing a full inbox on my iPhone distracts me from what I want to actually get done. Get it off your mind. Set aside an hour sometime this week and get through it all. Not next week, not the month after, but this week. Set an appointment in MobileMe or Google Calendar or whatever. You might not want to inbox zero right this moment—that’s okay. Just postpone it, but when that time comes, put on some music, fire up your email, and get deleting/responding/whatever you have to do.

After the whole Chargify thing today, here’s a comparison spreadsheet of the available subscription billing services.

I left out two subscription billing services that Hacker News users mentioned: Zuora and Braintree. Zuora is more enterprise-y, while Braintree has a recurring billing solution built into it (like Authorize.net has) but it requires use of their payment gateway.

I’m taking a few minutes away from studying for my GB110 Legal and Ethical Business quiz to talk a little bit about this whole collusion thing going on in the “angel ecosystem”. If you missed it: Arrington’s post.

After reading Fred Wilson’s response about collusion and his rejection that collusion is actually happening in the venture capital space, I put together some of the things he said, namely: venture capital deals typically don’t have as many subscribers in a syndicate as syndicated angel deals, venture capital collusion isn’t really happening, angels have welcomed his firm into their own deals, and the like.

The question is: if collusion is an actual threat, is it really that big of a deal? Collusion itself is, yes, a pretty big problem. Price fixing (well, valuation fixing) with the cooperation of the interested parties is both untrustworthy and unethical. However, the angel and seed-stage world is large enough that collusion in a small group such as that described by Arrington is not going to make a huge dent (even if it includes the ‘top ten angels.’)

Whereas a startup raising money through venture capital runs the risk of collusion in their syndicate of two or three VCs (which, as Fred says, isn’t really a risk as collusion isn’t really happening much in the VC space), an angel syndicate has less of a chance.

With the help of services that promote transparency in the angel world such as Venture Hacks’ AngelList, the chances of being able to pull off price/valuation fixing with these angels, a large number of which seem like ethical folks, is pretty minimal.

The problem comes in when super angels, as they’re called (and as Fred dislikes to call them), start to block off the angel group and section off to their own space in the middle of angels and VCs. I don’t think that will happen. Even given what Arrington heard during the meeting. They have more to lose than gain by doing so, and that’ll be a clear signal of something strange happening behind the scenes.

Interesting post on Hacker News today: What’s the big deal with startups anyways…

Why do we continue to preach the greatness, the undisputed manifesto of startups and entrepreneurship in general.

Why are there half-a-million blog posts by some 28-year old on how having your own startup will result in you losing weight and gaining muscle, eating better, dating supermodels with PhDs while the startup simultaneously mows the lawn and cooks breakfast every morning for you.

Why, even when we know that 9 in 10 of us are doomed.

I want to know: Why the hype?

I responded in the comments.

Hacker News is a community of people who have what Dharmesh Shah calls a “genetic defect” that makes them crazy enough to start a startup. It’s true. A subset of the people in the world are crazy enough to do something this high-risk high-yield, and that’s us.

We preach the greatness of startups because we’ve put a lot of things on the line. The opportunity cost of doing a startup is great; the major aspect of this opportunity cost is time. With this time, we could do some consulting, or learn a new language, or go on dates. Instead, we’re fixated on the idea of creating amazing products that change the landscape. We’re attached to the concept of being the ones that enable the software your dad uses to trade mutual funds. We’re enamored with the ideology of being an active contributor rather than a passive consumer of the world we call ours today.

I’ve questioned the strangeness of this enchantment of startups being the road to various levels of success in the past as well. Losing weight and all that stuff is all about discipline, and is an element of really any profession you can think of. At the bottom of it is just who we are and what we want to do: entrepreneurs and to create meaning, respectively.

I decided to take a trip to San Francisco for July, partly because I was getting pretty tired of the Boston tech community, and partly because I won’t have the same opportunity to come back until at least December (if not June) (reason: college). From my past four weeks here in the great state of California, life isn’t completely different from Boston: I’m spending most of my time here working and cooking and waiting for the subway.

But there are a number of more interesting things at play that do cause Silicon Valley to have the reputation it does as the premier place for startups (and founders) to be.

The environment: “you better be hauling ass right now” attitude. Silicon Valley really sets the tone of startups. I can hardly walk in the city for a day without noticing a startup in the basement of some office building with engineers tapping about. The atmosphere is a mixture of the “hauling ass” attitude and knowing that 80% of the people you know here are working on or at a startup. And there’s a mutual understanding among this group that each one is working hard towards success.

Something that Silicon Valley has is the idea of moving fast. Everyone here moves fast. Startups are launching every day. Engineers are pushing code every few minutes. Acquisitions are happening weekly. If you’re walking in SoMa or down University or California Aves in Palo Alto, there’s a massive amount of startups just like yours around. So many people around you are focusing on building a disruptive product, or increasing conversion rates, or designing experiences. In this environment, it’s hard not to be inspired to get back to work, whether that means answering emails, or pushing code, or setting up a meeting with a potential client or investor or advisor.

Because of this environment, work feels great. There’s this thirst for success that Silicon Valley has, imposed in various ways. Your friend is doing stuff at this startup that’s making the headlines. Your other friend is the founder of a startup that just got half a million in angel funding. And when you hear that, you know you want that too. And you know that the only way you’re going to get that success is if you start hustling right damn now. There’s a rush of endorphins when you’re bombarded with what might be in your old hometown (Boston, for me) the stuff of legends, but in fact happens all the time in the Valley.  Work gets boring when we forget that when we work, we’re getting that much closer to success. Doing work means working toward success. Success feels great, and as a result, work feels great. Everyone here believes that the work they do is awesome, and they inspire others to do the same.

Events… and some of the most interesting things are the most serendipitous. This is something I kind of expected, but it still rings true. Events happen all the time here, in so many areas and so many meetups. If you want to attend both a huge TechCrunch August Capital party as well as a super-focused group of startup entrepreneurs that are focused on the idea of lean startups and failing fast, then hitting up a random night at a bar that your friend organized that an angel you’ve been wanting to talk to is also attending, this is the place to be. Anywhere else, and it’s like experiencing theater without being on Broadway. Or clam chowder without being in Boston.

Randomness is a huge thing at play in Silicon Valley. A lot of events happen on a whim (and services like the excellent Plancast only help you somewhat keep up with the scheduled ones). In most places outside Silicon Valley, stuff like my friend texting me and letting me know there’s a Heyzap party that’s going on tonight and I should go, resulting in meeting an incredible amount of great people. There’s so many brilliant and well-connected people here, and it’s so easy to meet them.

Close proximity to people you want to know and meet—and the ability to get introduced to them. An incredible amount of people really worth knowing are here. Advisors, fellow startup guys, founders of the company you want to partner with, angels, venture capitalists, and just smart people working on amazing things. For example, as I was spacing out thinking about database design at Starbucks, the guy next to me pulled up Hacker News and later mentioned he was a founder of a Y Combinator company. Or, perhaps something that could become one of the most important relationships I’ve ever revived:

Two weeks ago, I crashed a party held by a guy that worked at Zappos I didn’t know, only because I saw that Francine Hardaway was attending on Plancast. I did a panel with Francine Hardaway about how generations have been affected by technology and vice versa at Gnomedex three years ago. As we caught up and chatted about everything, we delved into business in China, which she vehemently urged me to pursue. I’ve never been really huge about China, but she persuaded me to talk to Dave McClure and her other friends from the East Asia group on Geeks on a Plane (a conference-hopping air vessel with, well, geeks aboard). This stuff happens here. It’s this dynamic that makes amazing things happen.

Live a life here, too. We all need a time and place to relax and experience life. San Francisco to San Jose, the bay is an incredibly dynamic environment for social activities as well as places to go to reset (at least from my limited experience. I’ve been told (by Abby) to stay away from the beaches up north because you’d have to bring a sweatshirt. Not unlike Boston beaches.) Jane H. from Twitter introduced me to an amazing dance event in Palo Alto called Friday Night Waltz; I hear there’s a massive nightlife culture going down at Mission; the different neighborhoods in the city have their own special feel. It’s cultured and it’s an amazing place to lead that thing-on-the-side-of-doing-work that we call life.

Five reasons Silicon Valley’s right for me—and could be for you. We’re creating the future of technology, and this place is the catalyst.

This is my piece as published in ‘What’s Next: 25 Big Ideas from Gen-Yers Under 25′

In the past few years, something has changed with the perspective and mindset of the members of the “new generation.” Indeed, we call this group Generation Y. It represents not only a change in the modernity of the generation, but also a dramatic change in both forward-thinking as well as access to technology and resources at a younger age.

One of the affected areas is entrepreneurship. A gradual change in entrepreneurship has been taking place in the past few years, towards the idea of creating businesses and products as something that’s more approachable than before. With the resources available to anyone in today’s times, the barrier to entry to entrepreneurship is lower.

Creating value is a term that reverberates throughout the halls of this new entrepreneurship. Creating value, or as entrepreneur and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki puts it, making meaning—is quite important to the development of your company as well as evaluating the benefit your company and your company’s products create.

However, as more entrepreneurs emerge and start creating value, I want to make sure that doesn’t go in a dead-end of monetary gain. Entrepreneurship has two halves: creating a business, and then giving back. Giving back can be attainable in quite a large number of ways. Your goal is to maximize both the effectiveness and far-spreadingness of the benefit you give back.

One thing I highly suggest is creating a part of your company that is devoted to nonprofit work. For example, my business Genevine, which helps families keep in touch online, has a side foundation called The Genevine Foundation, the mission of which is to fight homelessness and promote family and community values. A portion of Genevine’s revenues goes directly to The Genevine Foundation.

And if you don’t have a company at this time, create one! Or, focus on creating a nonprofit: one of mine, The Center for Ethical Business, is an independent nonprofit working towards business ethicality change.

Older businesses lose sight of the value of giving back. You can’t exactly quantify the magnitude of your impact perfectly in any kind of metric, nor will many of the things you do to give back result in higher profits. That’s good. What really does matter is the simple fact and action that you’re making an impact—and making meaning—to make the world better. That’s your personal impact on the world, and as a member of the global society, your goal is to maximize that.

There’s a lot you can do, and you can start now. Go and create what’s next!

I just read John Gruber’s article ‘First to Do It’ vs. ‘First to Do It Right’. It talks about how Apple is, essentially, going to be “the first to do it right” on video calling. This brings up an interesting situation:

We currently can make calls from devices such as N900s (over Skype) and HTC EVOs (over Fring). It’s already been established that such functionality exists and has existed, but nobody’s been able to get it right. In other words, the manufacturers that currently have tried video calling have established video calling as something that industry onlookers have described as “it’s been tried before, and it always fails. nobody uses it.”

But why is it that when the iPhone 4 is introduced, everyone that I know that is getting an iPhone 4 is “excited about the video calling” and “will be using it all the time”? Why is it that people that aren’t into technology at all are talking about the iPhone 4 video calling functionality in the break room? Why is there, all of a sudden, a belief in the idea that video calling can be resurrected by Apple and FaceTime?

There are a few reasons, none of them mutually exclusive.

  1. The simplicity of FaceTime adds greatly to its appeal. John Gruber argues this point in his article, and compares this to the video call procedures of the HTC EVO with a quote from David Pogue’s review of the HTC EVO.
  2. Apple’s track history in making perfect experiences. Subconsciously, do we think back upon Apple experiences, and draw extrapolations on those experiences regarding their future products, such as FaceTime? Compare this to if Microsoft launched a front-facing camera on their new KIN line of phones. Usually, when people think Apple, they think excellent user experience, whereas Microsoft—which reminds me of Windows Mobile and even the clunky and slow KIN interface—they’d be thinking the opposite.
  3. Advertising of the FaceTime feature as a flawless, seamless experience (see video below.) Especially the fact that they included FaceTime as a prominent feature of the iPhone 4, whereas the HTC EVO—even though there was a lot of chatter about there being a front-facing camera—with other phones, didn’t.
  4. Is it the first real video calling solution that normals have been introduced to? Have normal users really been introduced to mobile video calling before the iPhone?

Hi there. If you follow what I do, you’ll know that Branchr Advertising acquired my small business collaboration suite SaaS app Atomplan back in August. During that time, I was also building an advertising system called Adaptance Advertising, based on two algorithms I designed and developed called HyperTargeting and FairAds.

I’m happy to report that I’ve joined Branchr Advertising as CTO, joining Christian Owens (CEO) and Arjun Rai (aka: Aaron Ray) (COO). Adaptance Advertising is now exclusively licensed for the moment to Branchr Advertising, and we’ll be integrating our top-notch technology with Branchr’s existing, extensive customer base of publishers and advertisers.

I’m really really excited about this opportunity. Branchr is relaunching with Adaptance technology in the next few weeks, so look out for news here!

Man, if there’s something I regret, it’s not writing more during childhood. That reminds me of some Chiddy Bang lyrics, actually.

I once was a kid, all I had was a dream, mo money mo problems, when I get it I’m going to pile it up…

Hey, yo, I once was a kid with the other little kids
Now I’m ripping up shows and them fans going wild with us
Tell mommy I’m sorry, this life is a party
I’m never growing up

I’m not quite sure why I put those lyrics there, but I’m pretty nostalgic about childhood. So that’s probably it.

Serious documentation required starting now, man. Never too late.

China is the manufacturing capital of the world. With over 800 million workers, its workforce is the largest in the world. The obvious answer to manufacturing anything anywhere is China. Because of one reason: it is cheap.

China has a detrimental obsession with cutting costs. Lower costs to their manufacturing means more corporate profits. (Obviously, workers aren’t seeing any of that. Their wages are decreasing.) In fact, the sole reason that China is really any manufacturing power is because of the two reasons:

  1. Cheap labour.
  2. …due to the arbitration of cost of living and currency value.

Currency value drives the low manufacturing expense. Workers work for dollars a day. Their living expense is lowered, because of the low cost of goods in their country. The low cost of goods in China makes less money for the people selling the goods, which is okay because they don’t need much to live up on either. It’s a vicious cycle. If you go to any city in China, your one dollar will get you far more than what it would in the United States.

Even still, cutting costs is something that is still being done. However, the cutting of costs leads to many, many downsides with its quality, workers, Chinese residents, and China as a whole.

  1. Lower quality
  2. Less inspection (high risk to consumers)
  3. Worker conditions and nonexistent worker rights

Lower Quality

The lower costs to production lead to lower quality goods. Products made from cheap materials are rampant in China. Unfortunately, the words “Made In China” is sometimes associated with low-quality goods. And in some cases, it is fitting.

Although the quality of goods is decent in exports, the quality of goods for consumption in the nation itself is a completely different story. The production of products for use internally by China is governed by an extremely aggressive cost-cutting strategy. There have been, however, incidents with exported Chinese goods that are indeed low quality, and unless the clients of the manufacturers change, nothing in that area will ever change.

Less Inspection (high risk to customers)

Throughout the years, there have been cases of anything extremely awful happening with exports to the United States or other purchasing companies, including a few large incidents that are usually few and far in between. However, as previously stated, the story is different when dealing with Chinese goods.

I rarely go to China these days. I love the country, but the quality of goods there is something to take note of. Although the risk is low, I’m extremely wary of the low quality of goods produced in China. I try to avoid buying manufacturered goods and foods and instead opt for direct-from-farm food.

There are two foodstuffs that I try to avoid from manufacturers at all costs: meat and milk. Those to have been through many internal incidents (since they are rarely exported, to the best of my knowledge.) Milk is very different in China than in other places.

The inspection problem is rampant in China. Many times, I do not even opt for the direct-from-farm milk produced by farmers and delivered directly to the door. At China’s massive size, reach, and traditional village and individual autonomy, it is virtually impossible to impose laws and inspections upon the farmers that produce the foods. One does not, for example, know even if pasteurization had been performed on the milk. With farmers barely getting by every year, it is not difficult to imagine the cost-cutting that farmers may take part in.

Manufactured is not better, nor does it give much more confidence to the informed consumer. Although one may say that manufactured milk is more regulated and less autonomous in terms of government intervention, that argument has some merit, but not much. The government seems not to care much about its own people and inspections, though I imagine exist, are not powerful enough. Nor does the government want them to be powerful enough: the more interventions, the higher the cost for the manufacturers, the higher cost for the consumers, and thus, less money exchanges hands, cutting off the blood supply of the national market. Like the small individual farmers, the manufactuers have a will to cut costs.

The problem with laissez-faire economics and market ideals is this very idea. China, despite its socially Communist connections, is a very much based on laissez-faire economics and markets. This is not because the government pushed for this. It is because in a normal capitalist society like that of the United States, United Kingdom, or any other established power, interventions exist in the trajectory of capitalism. With a free market, none of these interventions exist, effectively giving the corporation more power than the government. A normal established capitalistic society has these interventions to protect both their power in their respective nations as well as the well-being of their customers. These are inspections and regulations such as with the FDA.

The difference here is that American manufacturers deal with these inspections and imposed regulations. Thus, the quality of goods is directed by the government, who does have the power to change the regulations and tell manufacturers to comply or get out. Interestingly, China has some power in this as well, despite its extensive size. There is little will to do so, though.

Labour

Labour is a huge problem in the nation. Few laws really govern the rights of workers in China. Even still, such laws are rarely followed, given the large extent of the nation. The working conditions in China are notoriously miserable. Cramped areas, hard, fast-paced, dangerous work, in any sector of work, be it manufacturing, mining, buliding, anything.

It is difficult to gauge the quality of working condintions in China. The problem is with the indifferent mindset of consumers: we know that someone produces the goods that we purchase. But do we care about their conditions? Are they just not simply replacable, behind-the-scenes workers?

This disappointing mindset is the block for change towards responsible and ethical working conditions.

Though there seems to be some reports of manufacturing factories being not as bad as they seem, one has to understand that, especially in this economy, the amount of manufacturing work that is outsourced to China is increased every day. They are pushed to produce and produce more. It is most likely true that the amount of new clients and new manufacturing contracts to China outpaces the improvement of working conditions in China.

Interestingly, labour is one thing that can be changed, at least for manufacturers that serve 1st world clients. That’s my next article.