January 14, 2014

there is no cure for curiosity

Curiosity is the cure for boredom. There is no cure for curiosity. We began our day with a visit to PR firm, Schwartz MSL, Bryan Scanlon gave the group a great overview of the players in the PR space and how PR companies work. The tagline for their group may be something like “telling stories that matter.” I like this and it resonates well with a lot of the career advice people are sharing with the students.

In fact Bryan told a great story about his brother that really helped emphasize the message that you have to find a real world outlet for your skills and then use your skills to develop something real, something that you can tell a story about.

Bryan’s story was that at an interview for an engineering job his brother was asked to glue together two PVC pipes. A pretty practical, maybe even mundane, task for someone applying for an engineering job. However his brother took stock of the situation and said he couldn’t do it. “Why not?” asked the interviewer. “You don’t have any cleaning fluid” was the reply, “without cleaning fluid I can’t do a proper job and the joint won’t last.” He was hired.

Lunch time was great as Gage, Dylan, and I went to an Irish pub called Irish Times. The outstanding feature of this pub is that they had the Arsenal game on all of the TVs during lunch today. The arsenal were taking on Aston Villa, in a game we needed to win to retake “top of the table.” In a stroke of good luck I got to see both Arsenal goals before we had to take off for our afternoon meeting.

The afternoon meeting was at Hatch Today, a co-working space that houses many many small companies. We visited for over an hour with Eric, one of the co-founders of Sqwiggle. Eric is young, energetic, has a thousand side projects going, and is the epitome of young founders here in the area.

The software that sqwiggle produces is somewhat like Google Hangouts, but the video is only in black and white and only updates every 10 seconds, unless you are actively in a conversation with a co-worker. The idea is you can have sqwiggle on all day, without using a ton of bandwidth, and your fellow workers can see when you are in your office. If they need to have a quick conversation, they just double click on you. This allows for good interaction in a company that is totally distributed. Sqwiggle is a great example of such a company. One founder is in the UK, one in San Francisco, and one of their developers is Luther alum Cam Webb, currently in Atlanta, but soon to move to Des Moines. I think many of us were skeptical of the idea until we met with Eric, saw it in action, and learned a bit more.

Many of the themes we’ve been hearing about were repeated by Eric this afternoon, but I would like to highlight one that has not been mentioned yet. Measurement Eric showed us the company dashboard. Very cool, how many user, how many paying users, how many active users, revenue per month. All great metrics to run the business by. In addition he talked about other metrics they are collecting relative to the details of the software. This is a really important lesson. If you want to really improve something, you need to measure it. For example, bandwidth usage, number of active users in a conversation, you need to set goals, and then work on designing your software to meet those goals.