Monday, November 30, 2009


StartupDrinksWaterloo is a fine initiative aimed at, and enabled by, the sociable tech community here in Waterloo. Basically, it’s an opportunity to meet people in the greater startup/tech community and engage in conversation over drinks. It’s part of a loose federation of similar events in other cities. I managed to get out the the second edition last month, and I enjoyed the low-key conversation (and even the beer). Happily, it’s on ongoing event, happening on the first Tuesday of every month, and tomorrow night is the third Waterloo edition. It’s at 6:00pm at McMullen’s in Waterloo. Come on out and relax, talk with like-minded folks, and enjoy the connections.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

5 minutes, 20 slides, and a stage

Ignite Waterloo now has its first event in the rear-view mirror. I’m happy to have been able to give a talk — Metaphor in product design: Are you sure that’s an album? — and even happier that it went reasonably well. Ignite is a challenging format, and I wasn’t at all certain that I’d pull it off. I think I did, despite what feels in retrospect like an inadequate amount of rehearsal on my part. I can’t stop editing and revising the talk my head though!

The other speakers were all terrific, and the range of topics and experiences presented was inspiring. I have to confess that I especially enjoyed the talk given by my wife, Jayne Thompson, on climate change at a local level and flooding on the Maitland River.

The cupcake decorating contest was a success too, though I didn’t get a close look at all the entries — I spent the early part of the evening on door duty, which turned out to be a fine way to meet folks.

It’s less than 24 hours later and I’m already looking forward to the next event sometime next year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Waterloo Region Tech Startups

I occasionally post items in this blog about technology- and startup-related events in Waterloo Region that I attend or plan to attend. A terrific new resource has recently appeared that makes it easy to keep on top of these events, as well as much more. Waterloo Region Tech Startups includes a calendar, links to blogs and other resources, and a stream of related tweets. It’s the brainchild of Jesse Rodgers and Joseph Fung both of whom are active and visible in the community through various other initiatives. Great work, guys!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It didn’t rain on my parade

What do Toronto, Waterloo, and Wroxeter have in common? Apart from all of them being cities (and a town) in southern Ontario, each has an annual Santa Claus parade that happens in November. The Toronto edition for 2009 was last week, Waterloo had its parade yesterday, and tiny Wroxeter holds its 2009 parade next Friday. Actually, I think that every small town in southern Ontario has a parade of its own, but I mention Wroxeter’s as my wife knows about it!

As with Oktoberfest, it wasn’t until after I had children that I really enjoyed and appreciated Waterloo’s Santa Claus parade. This year’s edition was a big improvement over last year’s, in that it didn’t pour rain. Not surprisingly my sons all enjoyed the parade, and I got a huge kick out of it too. Between pipes and drums, Rudolph, a steel drum band, a roller derby team, and a Christmas tree made out of recycled cans, there was a lot to enjoy. And that’s just the non-traditional stuff! (Well, pipes and drums are probably traditional in many parades in Ontario at this point.) It’s really quite hard not to have fun.

There was also a toy drive and a food drive, which my sons each contributed to. Of course, Santa appeared at the end, on a flatbed trailer with his reindeer, and then it was time to head home. Great fun, and a real treat every year.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Primal Fusion gets out of the house

This week was active on the Primal Fusion front, with two milestones of a sort.

First up, we released an update to the alpha version of our thought networking service. Our initial version was launched last Spring at the DEMO09 conference. We’ve received a lot of feedback since then, and have made improvements that address the biggest issues. You can read all about the details on the Primal Fusion products blog.

Next up, my Primal Fusion colleague Tom Ayre and I demonstrated a brand new Primal Fusion prototype at StartupCampWaterloo. The prototype is an automatic website generator (“Instant web sites! Just add water!”) that's built on our thought networking platform. While still quite rough, and not yet released in any form, we feel good enough about this prototype to have shared it with the community at this great event and get feedback. There were interesting questions, some great suggestions, and even a little healthy skepticism. It was all appreciated, and we do listen closely to what we hear. We also appreciated all the votes that we received after we made our pitch to demo — great pitch, Tom! We both also enjoyed the rest of the demos and conversations. If you haven’t been to one of these events, it’s well worth a visit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November UX Group meeting on Thursday

The November meeting of the UX Group of Waterloo is on Thursday. This session is a group discussion on a big UX topic:
This month we want to explore the factors and issues that will have an impact on user experience design in the near future. As the world goes mobile, what does it mean for users? If everything is accessible, how can it all be managed? What does the move from point-and-click to tap-and-pinch mean? Bring your own issues and questions, and share them in a group discussion with our inquisitive and curious UX community. If you have online videos or other resources to share, let’s have a look at them.
Check out the details and make sure to come out and share your thoughts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Entrepreneur Week in Waterloo

Entrepreneur Week is happening November 16–22 in Waterloo, and there’s a great range of sessions to attend and things to learn:
Entrepreneurs! start your engines: Entrepreneur Week, North America’s largest annual innovation festival dedicated to the entrepreneurial spirit, will be held in Waterloo November 16-22 and it promises to be another high-octane event to inspire innovation.
Entrepreneur Week is an invigorating week-long festival of events dedicated to celebrating the significant contributions of our greatest community asset – our entrepreneurs!
Waterloo Region is the best place in the world to do a tech startup. Just ask the 200 tech startups doing their thing here. And Entrepreneur Week is a festival unlike any other on the planet. Entrepreneur Week connects entrepreneurs, financiers, students, youth, mentors and the services that support them to success.
I’m still not sure which of the sessions I’ll be able to attend (work commitments make for a busy week) but I know I’ll be at the next edition of StartupCampWaterloo on Wednesday November 18.

By the way, from one the same instigators, there’s FailCamp Waterloo happening on Monday night. The theme is essentially learning from failure, and it sounds like a fun time. Failure seems to be in the air, as Scott Berkun wrote recently about failure, why it needs more attention, and recent initiatives to give it just that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rampaging giant ape foils startup’s plans

I’ve written a couple of previous posts on movies (The Dam Busters, The Adventures of Robin Hood) that are good metaphors for a startup company. I recently re-watched another favourite movie, King Kong (the original version from 1933), and enjoyed the startup elements in the story. In contrast with the previous posts, though, King Kong doesn’t end well at all for the startup!

King Kong features a visionary serial entrepreneur (movie maker Carl Denham) who has an innovative idea (a trip to a scary and mysterious island to make a movie like none that anyone has seen) to solve a pressing problem (putting patrons in seats at movie theatres despite the hard economic times).

Denham hires his key employees (Captain Englehorn and his ship the Venture, ship’s first mate Jack Driscoll, lead actress Ann Darrow) convincing them that his vision will lead to success (“It’s money and adventure and fame. Its the thrill of a lifetime and a long sea voyage that starts at six o’clock tomorrow morning.”) Denham successfully grows his startup company and hires a team who buy into his vision (he recruits a large crew for the voyage), and then goes deep into R&D mode (sets sail for the mysterious island on his ship of choice, the Venture).

Having achieved initial technical success (camera tests on the voyage, discovering the island), Denham and his company suffer one great setback (Anne is taken by islanders) after another (Ann is taken by Kong, a giant ape). Through determination and effort Denham’s team survives early trials (attacks by various giant beasts: Brontosaurus, T. Rex, Stegosaurus, Kong), recovers from early losses (they find Ann, though several crew are lost), and adjusts to new market conditions with a bold and risky plan (they decide to bring Kong back to New York, rather than just a film). Denham puts together an equity sharing plan (excitedly tells the survivors that he’ll share the money they make by exhibiting Kong).

Denham and his team take their product to market (with a plan to exhibit Kong live on stage) and appear poised to reap their rewards (lots of buzz in the sold-out theatre). The product launch is a disaster, though, (Kong escapes his bonds and rampages through New York looking for Ann) and a key employee is lost (Kong again abducts Ann). Denham’s hubris has left his company with nothing, having led to untold damage in his intended market (Kong’s rampage through New York was costly), and the loss of his biggest asset (Kong dies, falling from the Empire State Building, though Ann survives). Disruptive innovation indeed!

Son of Kong (1933), a sequel, isn’t as good as the original, but is fun and interesting for its references to the consequences (lawsuits, etc.) of the action in the earlier film.