Start Up From The Bottom (Now We’re Here) #Hustlers

We assembled at an undisclosed Chinatown bodega at 5am really with no idea what was about to happen. I had heard of Startup Bus being “life changing” and “absolutely incredible” and definitely picked up on the vibe at the night-before departure party, but words can’t really describe the epic-ness. I’m sitting in the Nashville airport awaiting a delayed flight back to NYC, already having mega fomo that I’m not dancing up a storm all over Nash-Vegas (this is a real name) with my Startup Bus fam right now. Considering starting an Indiegogo to fund my flight cancellation but alas, part of me is also looking forward to heading home to sleep and take a real home-style shower. You know what I mean. I’ve collectively slept 3 hours on average the past few nights. Last night I plopped down on my hotel bed expecting to take a 2 hour nap, woke up 4 hours later and decided to call it an official night of rest. Thirteen hours later, I was ready to get back into it.

I can’t describe what just happened. I got on a bus with 30 strangers, we each pitched ideas for start up companies and somehow, less than a week later, we are like a big family bonded by our common survival (and voluntary commitment) of an intense, and at times traumatic, experience. I’ve never pushed myself to such extreme limits, and over multiple days, ever before in my entire life. I guess it was life-changing to see what I’m truly capable of when I’m focused on the end goal. The manic energy of the last few days materialized into an incredible team united under a shared dedication to winning the contest but what developed along the way was what surprised me most. At times I asked myself, do I really want to stay up till dawn writing this Indiegogo campaign content and shooting another pitch video? This is all a game, after all, right? But the truth is – it wasn’t just a game. What we created is real, the strategy and implementation plan is real. We really created something truly original, that stands to make a huge impact while addressing a real market inefficiency. Plus share.ed helps so many people by creating new educational and economic opportunities. Sure, we had fun ideating silly ways to get early Twitter traction but it was all underlying real passion and investment in making a memorable impact. We didn’t just create Tinder of camping or the Airbnb of restaurants like some of our earlier twitter ploys joked.

shar.ed

Of all the experiences of Startup Bus, I can’t really select just one as the most memorable. I learned so much about myself and what I can truly contribute to a team. I’m so glad I didn’t follow my flighty premonition a few weeks ago that doubted going on the bus at all because of my lacking hacker experience. I am a hustler, through and through, and Startup Bus was the perfect spot for me to own it to the fullest.

Now onto my favorite ramblings on the trip: 

  • Finally made it to Detroit rock city. Impressed by how beautiful it was amid total dilapidation and erie abandoned buildings in its downtown financial district. Had the most amazing brussel sprout salad with more bacon than I could handle. Slept 4 hours max. The next morning we checked out Tech Stars where we got to pitch and work on some more content development. In my case I was just happy to have an outlet, wifi and some coffee. I wrote our mission statement, set up the blog and wrote another value prop outline in what seemed like a flash of light. All I know is I can pump out the jams as long as the vision of what I need to communicate is clear. What a cool exercise to see what I’m really capable of and what it takes to get to that point.
  • I’ve never written so much in such a short period of time! I have over ten multiple paged notes filling up my computer, certainly enough to make a baller business plan. I have a pitch outline to die for – so on point, if only we had energy slash foresight to put it into a deck for our first round presentation. You know what, I’m okay with not progressing through the entire competition because ultimately I got to sleep and enjoy time with other cool hustlers on the scene. What is meant to be will be and maybe Startup Bus just wasn’t ready for shar.ed’s big vision this time around. It’s the farthest thing from failure actually. We won in so many other ways.
  • The day on the bus after Detroit felt the longest. Maybe it was the lacking sleep. Although I got very little sleep before our very first day, with the heightened pressure of executing a real vision added on to the exhaustion – everything was intensified. Each day I wasn’t sure where we would be headed. I’m not sure if that was intentional on the conductors parts or if maybe I just wasn’t paying attention because I was so hyper focused on getting work done. Regardless, our arrival on day two to Ohio’s coolest startup (Cover My Meds) was such a welcomed surprise. We had real food (bahn mi and sushi) plus actual office space with wifi and outlets – it felt like a dream! It’s amazing how only two days of being on a bus can make you feel like you’ve been gone from civilization for years. Maybe it’s a New York adjustment thing in particular but the difference was palpable.
  • Later that day we were back to the grind, working out our company vision, user flow, monetization strategy and pitching whenever possible to refine our delivery. I was on a high I haven’t ever experienced. I felt like I was in the zone. Like THE ZONE – the one pro athletes must refer to when they’re getting psyched to go into a game. I was so tired and uncomfortable at times but couldn’t stop grinding on the work ahead even if I wanted to.
  • We crashed super late in Durham (North Carolina, come on and raise up), which did you know has a mega thriving startup scene? Me either. We started the day off bright and early after another short sleep at American Underground – a Google enterprises sponsored co working spot home to some seriously cool companies. We got some great pointers on monetization and user acquisition and I rolled my ankle on a super hidden short step, bumping right into the CEO that had just presented to us in the process. Suave.
  • Day three got really real, and fast. Other teams on the bus already had working demos, prototypes and legit designed websites and social pages. I was impressed. What a talented crew! I think what I started to appreciate on this day was the incredible power of teams coming together to support each other, communicate exquisitely and frankly just rally to get shit done amid less than ideal circumstances. My team mate Ryan, for example, had terrible motion sickness (as did many others) but still managed to give me a much needed step by step refresh of setting up a Facebook ad campaign on power editor. I couldn’t believe how good he was at teaching. Then I remembered he’s an instructor at General Assembly and felt less surprised. Nevertheless, everyone was in it to win it. I felt proud from the get go of everyone’s sheer dedication and the universal sense of being all in. Sure it was a game but we didn’t play like it was. We were playing to win.
  • Our friends on the bus who launched what seemed at first to be a bit nebulous – a virtual reality experience providing a getaway from the everyday bustle of life – actually got investment even before the final pitches! They balled so hard they couldn’t even make their final pitch because of investor interest – but they thanked the judges for the opportunity and then mic dropped so hard it hurt. Suddenly it wasn’t just a game anymore, it’s a legit mechanism for getting noticed (slash getting paper).
  • The long night in Nashville was the most intense. I drank a Red Bull to stick to the grind and ended up staying awake till dawn. Hadn’t done that in awhile and certainly never because of writing and working on work-related anything. Reminded me of being in college and cramming before a big paper deadline but even then I wasn’t as passionate or invested in what I was working on. This was easier in that respect. The adrenaline of being so close to pitching, having survived a three day bus trip across the northeastern U.S. and having a legit, impactful, purposeful business plan to share fueled us to no end. I must have gotten two hours of sleep. Pitch day was next, our moment of truth and our chance to see how far we had all come since our first pitches on the bus leaving NYC. 

What’s there to say? The talent, creativity, vision, contagious energy, dedication, community and sheer hustle speaks for itself and then some. Startup Bus-preneurs are game changers. Even if our companies don’t get worked on after the competition, we’ve all come out stronger, smarter and more empowered than before. No one bailed out, every single person brought it 100 and helped prove what’s truly possible when people work together to create the future. I’m so excited about what we’ll do next! Whether it be in our startup bus companies, our jobs, our communities or simply in our relationships – we are going to bring a whole new light with us to inspire others and move them to reaching their full potential. At the very least we’ll move someone with our crazy insane stories of the most ridiculous adventure of all time. Will I do this again? Next year? Ask me in a week when I’ve gotten caught up on sleep. Part of me feels like this is the kind of thing everyone should experience at least once. Lastly, the theme song of the trip is officially dubbed Start Up From The Bottom Now We Here (the remix). 

Pre-launch party On the bus - brainstorming UX Launch Party in it to win it detroit tech stars typical real talk nashville reppin it typical nashville up all night to code accelerate nashville hacking it up always be pitchingtwinz studio 615 hackers shar.ed ladies NRA shar.ed team breakfast 11393199_10205816671550310_162881668807833843_n 11257236_10205816672230327_4458793589188526923_n 11350421_10205820770452780_6753849344493127924_n 11163765_10205820788533232_8101063107973037569_n

Getting WIRED: Keep Falling

WIRED It wasn’t any ordinary Tuesday. Word on the street scoped May 12th to be a scorcher – destined to hit ninety degrees in the afternoon sun. Fortunately I got to spend most of the day in an overly air conditioned conference space with hundreds of tech innovators, journalists, start up groupies, founders and other proud techstars. Yes, the 2015 WIRED Business Conference was all that – and way less nerdy than I expected. Tech is so chic these days, all the cool kids agree.

I was invited to attend on behalf of one of my favorite nonprofits, United Women in Business (UWIB), a start-up foundation in its own right dedicated to fostering education and community among female entrepreneurs and changemakers. The day’s content was truly diverse, covering everything from cannabis capitalism, gender diversity in tech, and street skateboarding as environmental hacking, to crowdfunded social architectural design, Instagram’s backstory, the future of finance, and how to go pro without losing your soul.

Watch/listen to the whole conference here but first, here are my top highlights:

  1. The head of engineering for Pinterest is a total #GirlBoss – Tracy Chou.
  2. DJ Patil (not a DJ name, it’s real) is the US Government’s Chief Data Scientist (we have one!), working on new ways to leverage data for improved healthcare and personalized medicine. One day we could be using bioinformatic data to create custom individualized treatments for conditions and injuries based on genetics.
  3. Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, taught us that #DogMom was trending on Mother’s Day while #OnFleek is also on the rise. He’s all about the power of UGC – citing Instagram’s 300 million users each month who upload 70 million photos a day. He’s passionate about how a photo can start on Instagram and make it’s way to the cover of TIME. Krieger’s biggest hope is that the platform will create more empathy across the world and strengthen human connection, citing the #NepalPhotoProject as a prime example. What’s next? Private messaging will become easier to use, and a new feature will send notifications when your favorite accounts make updates to keep you in the loop.
  4. Did you know Anna Todd wrote One Direction fan fiction on Instagram while working at an Austin make-up counter? Her work has since developed into a NYT Bestselling novel after finalizing her writing on Wattpad, the YouTube of ebooks. She used Wattpad to crowdsource pieces of the plot and even her book’s cover art.
  5. Financial advising startup Wealthfront predicts that all of us will utilize an automated financial service within the next 5 years and cites 20-30 year olds as the most financially empowered generation.
  6. I met the VP of Product at Frankly – which offers What’s App-type tech for any kind of custom, branded app experience you can imagine! Check out what they did for Victoria’s Secret.
  7. Defy Ventures was the stand-out session with a surprise intro by legendary Seth Godin. Catherine and three EITs captivated the entire audience, likely enlisting a whole new cohort of volunteer coaches. Much deserved, MDC Partners presented Defy with their 2015 Humanitarian Award. Plus, I may or may not be in Coss Marte’s documentary (they have my release form).
  8. BIG – (super) cool architectural firm based out of Copenhagen presented on crowdsourced social design and groundbreaking projects they’re leading around the world. Have you heard of a court scraper? It’s a combo of a courtyard and skyscraper – currently underway on the Westside highwayin Manhattan behind Hell’s Kitchen. Get ready. What about building a 10 mile dryline (watch this, seriously), protective wall around downtown Manhattan to protect the city in the event of another hurricane?
  9. Brendan Kennedy of Privateer Holdings spoke to the continuously surprising nature of working in the retail cannabis industry (you can imagine). He says the end of prohibition is inevitable, and that there will be global cannabis brands within the next 5 years with federal prohibition ending in the US within the year. Keep an eye on Tilray, Marley Natural (yes, THAT Marley), and Leafly – all Privateer subsidiaries.
  10. Chad Dickerson, Etsy CEO, spoke to going pro without losing soul and how the company is approaching it’s 10th birthday fresh on the heels of its recent IPO. He plugged the benefits of being a B Corp, and how their team is SO Brooklyn that employees volunteer each week to bike-deliver the company’s compost out to a farm in Red Hook. Did you know Etsy sellers can opt into wholesale deals with Whole Foods and Nordstroms? Plus 86% of Etsy sellers are women – go girls! Think on this: if you come up with an original creative concept but use a 3D printer to create it, can your item still be considered hand-made?
  11. Pro-skater Rodney Mullen’s final words of wisdom sum up entrepreneurship best: “Most of what we do is fall – the best skaters are the best fallers” and “Whatever you do, don’t think about it too much.”

I schmoozed up a storm (without losing my voice, yay!) and plugged Praytell as much as humanly possible. All in all, the day was inspiring and knowledge-filled. It was amazing to rub elbows with the future of tech. It felt like being in the right place at the right time. After all, I was happily representing the future of PR.

WIRED

Daily Dose: Truth + Travel

barcelona

Don’t downplay your abilities now, Libra. You’re on the brink of greatness, so act like it. Things should go quite well if you let them. Don’t clog up the works by thinking that you’re unworthy of the good luck that is sure to come your way. If things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to, take it as a sign that the situation wasn’t right for you anyway.

Sometimes it’s as simple as subscribing to daily horoscope updates to remind you of the truth.

I’m going to Barcelona in less than 2 weeks and it feels like a dream. I’ve always wanted to go to Europe and I’m finally making the trip! Truthfully for a long time I believed that there were many things preventing me from going – namely student loans, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, an inability to save consistently (for a long time), and my healthy budget for self care and entertainment (gotta be healthy and have fun, duh!). Somewhere along the line my old frame of mine shifted into a new plane wherein I am no longer waiting for something to swoop in and save me from student debt and expenses. Instead I simply started saving and took responsibility for making my dream happen – and it wasn’t even that hard!

I’ve found a few tools incredible helpful in the process – including Mint.com, regular check ins with my checking account, and using a CaptialOne 360 savings account to auto-save each week towards my goal. Oh and definitely Hipmunk for my flight alerts – always my go-to for finding great flight deals. It only took a few months and I’m off to an incredible adventure!

What Ever Happened to Field Trips?

I can’t remember the last time I went on a real field trip – maybe back in college? It seems like it all happened a long time ago. Back in the day at Hoover Middle School, me and 800 of my closest 8th grade friends were taken to the Exploratorium on the free day as our 8th grade graduation field trip. Classic SF middle school jam if I do say so myself. In high school I went on solo lead field trips to visit my friends at other schools down the block and sometimes as far away as Lowell, which was all the way across the city. Anything to get my Sunset snacks at Victor’s Bakery, Panda Express at Stonestown or UCSF on Parnassus. So many memories.

Just the other day the special place I get to show up at every day (Praytell) turned two! For a happy birthday adventure we all took an afternoon stroll up the block to our neighboring Brooklyn Museum. How lucky are we? I forget how peaceful and inspiring exploring the ins and outs of an epic museum can truly be – I want to do this more often. I took a few snaps, mostly of colorful paintings emulating the style and energy I’d be proud to hang in my own home. What can I say, I like what I like. I could have spent way more time in the Egypt exhibit – I even took a meditation break to take in some of the majestic history I sensed surrounding me.

I only go to museums now, for the most part, when people come visit me. Then we’ll go to the Met or the MoMa, walk through Central Park or Prospect Park, or maybe take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. A long time ago when I first visited NYC I remember taking a day to myself while my friend had class at Columbia to walk all the way downtown from Harlem. I stopped inside the Museum of the City of New York and even ran into Julia Stiles in the entrance – such an NY moment. Reading about the city’s history and Robert Moses’ vision for development was electrifying. I knew I had to live here one day. And here I am, nearly a decade later, still seeking museum dates and long adventurous strolls across Manhattan with no particular destination in mind.

Below:

  1. Georgia O’Keeffe – Brooklyn Bridge
  2. Jarrell A. Wadsworth – Revolutionary
  3. Kehinde Wiley – Saint Remi (check out more of Kehinde’s work and upcoming exhibitions on Artsy)

IMG_8238 revolution

Kehinde Wiley Saint remi

Savvy Girls Know Their Personal Brand

UWIB BoardAt least I think I do! But there’s always room for improvement. Already lots of fun things happening on the UWIB NYC front this year, excited to be a part of such an amazing 2015 board making bold moves.

This evening’s content focuses on personal branding, finding your unique voice and navigating career challenges. We’ll welcome a presentation by personal branding expert The Lovely It Girl and then participate in small breakout sessions focused on developing your own personal brand. Come prepared to learn about the keys to living the personal and professional life you love (from the inside out!).

WHAT YOU’LL GET:

  • Actionable steps toward building your personal brand
  • Quality networking time with other UWIB NYC members and the new 2015 Board of Directors
  • Delightful snacks and drinks from our sponsors

DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 25, 2014 at 6:30 p.m

LOCATION: WeWork Charging Bull, 25 Broadway, New York, NY 10004

Expecting a wonderful crowd. Will post learnings as a follow up. #FUN

How to Make (Marketing) Magic

ImageUnremarkable means nothing special, not particularly interesting or surprising. Advertising seeks to draw interest in products, people and services that lack magic on their own. That is the age-old question anyway, isn’t it? What does it take to create something that is truly magical on it’s own? The un-marketed, surprise-released Beyonce album (see: #obsession) comes to mind. That record-breaking release required some groundwork early on for sure, perhaps for years prior dating back to the early Destiny’s Child days.

 Advertising can make or break a brand or an idea in general. Creative strategy and content marketing, if executed thoughtfully with a clear long range goal in mind, can literally change the world. This promise continually drives my personal interest in the field. Look at what’s going on with the green/sustainability trend–it’s all over fashion, haute cuisine and all the rage in tech hot spots like San Francisco (composts bins all over the place with recycling and pushes to go-organic everywhere you look). What if advertising and amazing content strategy could help change people’s perceptions on such a wide scale that the populace actually takes it upon Imageitself to address critical environmental and social issues that the government and corporations don’t necessarily solve?

Social and creative content are the new guard of tools for marketers seeking to change how the world communicates and the way brands can become humanized. Social is undoubtedly the future, especially with regard to video integration and ever-increasing personalization capabilities. Never before have brands had this much potential influence and personal engagement with their intended audiences. Across social, consumers can relate to brands like never before. There is great power in this humanization, notably the promise for greater consumer independence and empowerment with real-time information. Social represents the crossroads at which brands and consumers can create the future together and in doing so, change the way business is conducted and the way perceptions are formed altogether.

How Can I Help?

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.
NYC Skyline