- Friday night party at Madrona Ventures
- Breakfast and lunch included on Sat + Sun.
- Google-provided devices to play and test with.
- Demo contest - great prizes for best apps of the weekend.
John Sechrest is bringing a new kind of Angel event to Seattle. Last night I joined with about 20 other Angel investors to pool our resources (we each contribute $5,000 toward the investment fund) and sponsor a new startup competition in Seattle. While I think it's great that John has created a great new way for startups to get funded, I think the real benefit is for the Seattle Angel community itself.
Other organizations in town do a great job of sourcing companies and providing "deal flow", but I find relatively few opportunities to improve my skills as an Angel investor. The process is very complex to do well. The fact is, most startups will fail. The most successful angels are able to improve their odds by:
- Placing a lot of bets to diversify risk.
- Eliminating startups with the most risk factors.
I think one of the barriers to getting more Angel investors active in Seattle, is that it's pretty hard to get started (not to mention that mistakes can be expensive). But with this new conference format our individual financial risk is minimal, and we get to learn from each other how we analyze prospective companies.
We're going to meet once per week for the next eight weeks to do due dilligence and dig into the business plans of each of the applying companies. I'm really looking forward to the process and learning from and helping other Angels in our group.
StartPad can help you purchase Pre-paid debit cards in exchange for BitCoin.
Fees: 10% of total value (minimum $10 fee per order).
Your prepaid card can be used like any other VISA card for US-only purchases. There are no transaction charges or interest on this card. After 12-months of inactivity, VISA will charge $2.50 against the card balance each month. You will be able to register your card online to verify the balance and history of transactions. A lost card is replaceable for a $15 fee.
How we compute the loaded value of your new debit card.
- When we receive your BitCoin payment, we convert it to $ using the current market price on the MtGox.com web site.
- We deduct our fee (10% or $10, whichever is higher) and round to the nearest whole dollar amount.
- If the total amount is over $500, we will divide the total between multiple gift cards.
- We will mail your cards via 1st class mail (insured for up to $400).
Gawker, a large blogging network, recently had a security breakin and over 1/2 million users passwords were compromised. If you're like me, you re-use the same password on multitple different sites. That would give hackers access to multiple web sites by getting one password (Facebook, Twitter, your bank, Amazon, etc.).
While I used a "more secure" password for some sites, I did not have a systematic way of dealing with managing a unique password on multiple systems.
So, last night, I finally bit the bullet and installed a (free) password manager - Last Pass. Last Pass will do two things for you. First, it created a cloud-based secure storage location for all of your passwords. They are available from any web browser. Second, you can install a browser plugin that will auto-fill your username and password into any site you use regularly.
So, now, I have the freedom to create a unique password on every web site I use, AND I can choose something that is much harder to guess - like a string of 12 randomly chosen letters and digits. Since my password is not in any dictionary, the only way to steal it from a web site (that stores passwords as cryptographically secure hashes), is to to brute force guess all possble 12 character strings. That's over 60 bits of random information - or over a quintillion (10^18th) combinations.
It feels a little odd not even knowing my passwords anymore (I just have to remember a single secure password to log in to the Last Pass site). But I feel much better knowing that my data is not vulnerable to the kind of security breach that happened at Gawker this week.
The only downside is that I now have a single point of failure in LastPass. If they loose their database, I could loose my passwords I haven't backed up locally. And if THEY have a security breach, I could loose all my account information to hackers. But I would rather put my faith in one company, dedicated to protecting security, than to distribute that obligation among lots of individual sites around the web. Since my Last Pass password is also a random string, it's very difficult to decode on a trial and error basis. I believe Last Pass also goes out of their way to use an encryption algorithm that is intentially slow. Making a brute force attack that much more difficult.
If all sites supported a distributed authentication system, like Open ID, or oAuth, it would be even more convenient to use just a single authentication provide you trust, to gain access to every service you use.
I've spent the last two weeks taking a segue to learn how to develop applications for Android phones. I just gave a presentation last night to the Seattle Google Technology User's Group. If you're interested in getting started with Android, I pass on some general tips for the beginning developer.
My friends know that I have an interest in antique computing devices, and in particular, the German Enigma machine. I thought it would be cool to make a very realistic simulation of the Enigma that I could run on my phone. After two weeks of work, I finally published my Pocket Enigma Machine into the Android market - and sold 6 copies in the first 12 hours!
We got an envelope that said "Official Document, 2010 Census". But on the inside, it's a "survey", where you eventually see by question 5 that this is NOT an official US census, but rather a fund-raising letter from the Republican National Committee. WTF?
This IS a US Census year, so it's easy to see why people would be confused. It's just a slimy attempt to deceive recipients into opening a piece of junk mail they would otherwise discard. Is this legal? It's certainly unethical. Do people respect organizations that walk the fine line between legality and criminality by playing these dirty tricks?
Maybe I've just become overly sensitive to unethical behavior, but I keep running into examples of bad-behaving companies and organizations. I find it hard to understand why people behave this way; it certainly does not enhance their reputation and respectability.
I've twice reported companies to the WA State Atty General for unethical business practices in the last year (Microsoft, for retaining my credit card against my will, and SquareSpace for retaining my subscription payment after the point I determined that their service was defective for me). This RNC letter may compel me to send a 3rd complaint.
Earning money is hard - but do businesses really have to resort to tricking their customers to make it? I would love to see stronger laws in place that would penalize companies for acting badly; especially when there is such a big divide between the power of the company vs. the power of the individual.
Here's are my biggest pet peeves of bad behavior:
- Making services more difficult to cancel than they are to purchase. E.g., not allowing consumers to cancel a service using the same mode as they purchased the service (I can sign up for Vonage VOIP phone quickly online, yet I have to wait on hold on the phone to cancel the service).
- Not refunding the (unused) portion of a subscription payment if the customer finds the product or service defective to their needs.
- Retaining customer (billing) information against the wishes of the customer.
- Sending deceptive communications in order to trick consumers into reading email or mail (actually there ARE laws against this - but companies walk the fine line of being strictly legal, but still unethical).
- Repeatedly charging consumers for services they don't want or are no longer using.
I've been meaning to update my personal web site for a long time. When I heard the glowing recommendations from Leo Laporte about the SquareSpace hosting service, I signed up for a trial account. The migration of my existing web site looked to be a bit more complex than I had thought. So I had to upgrade my account to have another user log in so I could get some help from Zach.
After several attempts by both of us, it became apparent that their service is just too limiting for the type on content I want to create. SquareSpace is pretty - but it's a locked down environment, and they are missing features like FTP access to do bulk upload of content to their service.
So, after paying for SquareSpace for 6 months, and never deploying my site to it, I finally canceled my account. BUT, here's where SquareSpace shows their true colors. Because it has been more than 90 days since they took my payment, they refused to refund ANY of my 1 year subscription. Even though their service never worked for me, and despite my willingness to pay for "time served", they were totally inflexible in giving me a refund for the remaining time on my contract.
This puts SquareSpace in the "Evil" column for me - just like cable TV and cell phone providers. They position themselves "against" their customers, rather than trying to serve them and provide real value.
So, SquareSpace wants keep my money, even though their product was never able to satisfy my needs. After several back-and-forth emails with their product support, they just told me "I'm screwed".
So - chaulk up another company as entering the "Evil" column. I would never recommend that anyone use this service. There are many more companies that can solve the same problem (and for a much better value - compare to DreamHost where you can get multiple domains, and mulitple user accounts all for about $10/month).
StartPad has been running for over 2 years now, and has attracted some great entrepreneurs and developers to our space.
We just had a 300 sq foot area open up at StartPad that would be ideal for a team of 2 to 5 people. Our rental rate is $300/person per month and includes everything your team needs to get started:
- conference room
- 24x7 secure access
- downtown (Pioneer Sq) location