6x6x6 Project #2: Overused Startup Buzzwords

Uncategorizedon February 19th, 2013Comments Off

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(you can get the above nifty shirt, and 2 others, here)

When I moved back to Silicon Valley in 2011, I was a startup neophyte. I’d done my undergrad here, but that was in the early, heady days of the internet, right when the first browsers were being released, and before startups that no one had heard of were running superbowl commercials about herding cats. And after graduating I left the area to spend some great years learning be a research diver, building products to take pictures underwater, and starting an underwater photography magazine…all very fun and highly unprofitable ventures.

The argot of the Valley was strange to me when I returned to enter a startup accelerator program in Palo Alto. Disrupt: isn’t that something our daughter did to our pre-baby sleep patterns when she bounced into our lives? Viral, leverage, traction…after being inundated with these terms, I unconsciously, and annoyingly to my spouse, dog, and friends, began to use them on a somewhat daily basis (“yeah, umm, we’re working on a totally disruptive solution for small businesses looking to leverage their underutilized resources…no doubt it’s going to go viral when we launch”).

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(accelerate your wardrobe with the above shirt here)

Sure, some of these terms are useful shorthand, but with overuse many of them have lost their shine…so we’re here to bring the sexy back! As the second project in the 6x6x6 Challenge (6 projects in 6 months, each taking under 6 hours, for under 60 bucks) I’ve worked at creating designs that attempt to illustrate several of these much maligned terms. You can choose to wear (or display) them with hipster irony. Or fresh-faced, eager gusto. Or both.

Who knows, maybe wearing the Traction shirt will magically bring you more paying users. Or perhaps putting up a Bootstrap art print will inspire your team to keep grinding away at less than minimum wage. Or you can just wear the shirt outside of any startup hubs and get confused looks from people.

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For the uninitiated  here’s a quick rundown of the terms used, and examples of where you might want to use them:

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Pivot: to change the direction of your startup, ideally while keeping one foot firmly planted (i.e. building from your learnings vs. breaking windows, throwing everything out and starting completely from scratch). Example: “When Bob realized being the next Pinterest for ham radio enthusiasts was not likely to get traction*, he decided to pivot and use his platform to create a dating service for lonely ham operators.” [*see traction definition below] Get your Pivot shirt or art print here!

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Traction: That magical quality that VCs need to see proof of in your pitch deck, traction is a measurement over time of the number of active users you have, your revenue, or some combination thereof, and if you have a pretty graph it should look like an exponential function to have a snowball’s chance in hell of raising money. Example: “While Karen’s startup certainly appeared to have traction, it was unclear whether her strategy of spamming users with barfing cat videos would pay off over time”. Get your Traction shirt or art print here!

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Bootstrap: This one gets my vote for the most practical; in startup-land, it means to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or create your product (at least largely) without outside funding, by for example using your savings to build an MVP (minimum viable product), and charging your customers enough that you can cover your costs, and maybe even make a profit (gasp!) shortly after launch. In most of the rest of the world this is called “running a business,” but in SV we are often skewed to think of success as being funded to the tune of millions of dollars with no clear idea of how to make any money. Get your Bootstrap shirt or art print here!

As per the rules of the challenge, I’ll run down the time and costs involved in putting this project together below the break.

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I’d thought of this idea roughly a year ago, once I finally got around to executing (thanks again for the kick in the pants James Altucher!) it only took me a few hours to put together the designs. I scanned some vintage-y illustrations from a clip art book, and paired them with hand-drawn arrows and the snazzy typeface Manteca (a free font from Chilean designer Eduardo Araya). In the original rules, I said I wouldn’t count content creation, but since this is new content:

  • Design time: 2.5 hr
  • Cost: Free!

Now I needed somewhere that would print posters and shirts on demand, and pass on a commission. I’d used Zazzle before, but was never very happy with the quality, or the overall noisiness of the site. So I did a little research, and landed on a site called Society 6 (hey, how appropriate for the 6x6x6 project!). The margins are pretty slim on T-shirts (around $2) so if you are trying to help me umm, bootstrap, go for an art print, but it sounds like the quality is quite good…let me know if you get a shirt how it turns out!

  • Set up time (including creating account & uploading designs): 1.5 hr
  • Cost: Free!

And Voilà! Project #2 complete in around 5 hours. I’d like to add some more designs to this series, so vote for what you’d like to see next below. And please let me know if this project has inspired you to dust off any of your own and get them out into the world!

An Experiment & A Challenge: Side Project #1

on January 16th, 2013No Comments

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(get the above image and 5 others as a Retina resolution wallpaper: Bahamas Sharks)

My wife recently shared an article with me called “10 Reasons Why You Have to Quit Your Job This Year” by James Altucher, a blogger/entrepreneur whose brash and honest style I’ve got a kick out of since discovering him last year. Having been an (often struggling) entrepreneur for the past 7+ years, the article really struck a chord: I’m probably not the only one who, during the downward slope of the entrepreneurial roller coaster, has wished for the perceived security of a full-time job, and beyond encouraging me that I’m on the right path, it also reinforced many of the values that, as entrepreneurs (and humans) we should probably think about more often.

“…[surrender] yourself to an idea that you want to create something of value to other human beings.”

With my current startup, Storied, I do feel like I’m creating something of value: a way for families to collect, share, and preserve family stories. The idea grew out of my experiences with my father-in-law, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 3 years ago. My sister-in-law Kathy put together a photo memoir for Don, and the benefits from it were huge, both for Don and for the family. Don was able to sit down with the book and reminisce about people and events that he would have trouble recalling in conversation; the family was able to capture stories from Don’s younger years that would otherwise have been lost as his dementia progressed.

I thought that creating a digital platform to make this easier for people, specifically an iPad app that uses the bundled technology to scan, annotate, and  create mini-documentaries from these stories, easily & intuitively, would be very compelling. Whether people are willing to pay for this, or whether we can figure out a way to create a sustainable business, is an entirely different question, which we are hoping to answer as we release the product and prototype a few business model ideas. As a father and a husband, these unknowns definitely add to my anxiety levels, and James’ next piece of advice lit a proverbial fire under my ass:

“…diversify the things you are working on so no one person or customer or boss or client can make a decision that could make you rich or destroy you or fulfill your life’s dreams or crush them.”


Ok, so running a startup eats up a lot of time. Add to that a wonderful two-year-old daughter, exercise, sleep, and a healthy amount of time with my also wonderful (and very understanding) wife, and the slice of available time begins to feel very thin. So how to diversify?

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(get the above image and 5 others as a Retina resolution wallpaper: SF via Kayak)

Here is where the experiment comes in: over the next six months, I’m going to create six small side projects that can generate revenue. As my advisor and coach Corey Ford likes to say, constraints drive innovation, so:

  1. Setting up each project/business can’t take more than 6 hours; this won’t count time used to create content, much of which will be pulled from pre-created stock (and I’m certain that I can sneak in 6 hours over the course of the month, though my pre-bedtime reading of books like Game of Thrones will probably suffer).
  2. Each project has to have the ability to generate revenue as soon as it is launched (even if it’s just a dollar).
  3. I’ll give myself a budget of $60.00 total for all 6 projects. With any luck, I’ll break even by the time the whole project is over.

For each project, I’ll list the tools that I used (not counting the standard tools in my arsenal as a designer & photog, including Adobe Creative Suite), how time was allotted, and money spent. I don’t expect these projects to bring in much (if any!) revenue, but they will definitely help me to learn a bit more about where I can create value for other human beings, and perhaps help other entrepreneurs, or would-be entrepreneurs, get excited about doing their own side projects.

And here is where the challenge comes in: I challenge you to do something similar! Maybe it’s one side project in 6 months, or 6 side projects in one month, but do something to diversify, to learn, and to get the courage to make the entrepreneurial leap if you haven’t already done so!

So without further ado, here is:

Side Project #1: Retina Wallpaper

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(get the above image and 5 others as a Retina resolution wallpaper: Ubuntu Garden)

In a previous life I was a professional photographer, shooting everything from food & wine, to weddings, to fashion (and even a short lived stint in the beginning as a baby-photographer; this was well before my own daughter came into the picture, and I lacked the necessary patience to deal with babies and anxious moms). I also co-founded an underwater photography magazine called Wetpixel Quarterly, and got to travel a bit and take pictures of big swimming things with pointy teeth. In the course of all of this, I shot tens of thousands of images, most of which just sit idle on my hard drives.

I’ve been told that some of these images are quite nice. I’ve also noticed a lot of folks out there with the new Retina Display macbooks that seem to have default images as their desktop wallpaper. So why not a snazzy, high-res shot to really show off what your hardware is capable of? (note: these images will still work perfectly well for the poor souls like me who have yet to own a retina display).

I’ve created three collections, each with 5 images, to begin with: Bahamas Sharks, Ubuntu Garden, and San Francisco via Kayak. You can purchase them at the links below (and above); name your own price, or at the minimum price of $5, that’s 1 buck per image, vhat a schteal!

The first collection, Bahamas Sharks, contains images from my Wetpixel trip to the Bahamas; lot’s of impressive toothy creatures including tiger sharks & lemon sharks.

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Get the Retina resolution wallpapers here: Bahamas Sharks

The second collection comes from work I did for Ubuntu, a Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant in Napa. These images are from their beautiful biodynamic garden.

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Get the Retina resolution wallpapers here: Ubuntu Garden

Finally, a series of images I took from my kayak when we used to live in Sausalito (ok, one is not taken from a kayak, and you can probably guess which one). Several of them show the SF skyline from a unique perspective.

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Get the Retina resolution wallpapers here: SF via Kayak

I’ll probably be posting more collections soon, so if you’re interested or just want to keep up with the overall project please sign up for my newsletter here.

Ok, so what are the tools, and totals for time & money, used to create this project? See below the break for the details.

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Kamen Estate Wines

Blog, Design, Web Designon October 29th, 2012No Comments

Here is just one of the designs we created earlier this year, for Kamen Estate Wines, an excellent winery in Sonoma. The site includes a gallery, wine club and an online shopping cart.

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New content on the way, and a quick “Owned”

Blogon October 29th, 2012No Comments

Hello! It has been too long since I updated Out of the Deep Blue, and I want to change that today. A lot of the design work I’ve recently done has been for startups whose content is strictly stealth mode until they are ready to face the world. The same goes of course for my work with secret shadow governments and hybrid car/dogs, which I will not mention here.


I do want to take part today in a small bit of internet activism. The same folks who tried to pull SOPA on us are back again with a new attack. The name of the site exposing this is “You’ve Been Owned,” and while the name borders on cheesy, the cause is important. It’s about your legal right to resell your own things, basically. If this goes through in the Supreme Court, it would be a disaster environmentally and economically, preventing people from selling and reusing old items. I will borrow this part from the site to describe it better:


It’s unbelievable, but trademark and copyright holders are trying to use a legal loophole to take away your right to sell things that you own. If we lose this fight, practically anybody who wants to resell products they bought — from Macbooks and iPhones to our clothing and textbooks — will have to ask copyright holders for permission first. And they’ll have the right to deny it! It’s bad for so many reasons: It’ll undermine Craigslist and Ebay, hurt the environment, increase incentives for manufacturers to move jobs off-shore, and effectively ban the traditional American yard sale.

I am posting this because we at Out of the Deep Blue firmly believe in reusing, and not in legal mandates to create more junk. There is also an excellent article on the whole thing here.

An Introduction to Appstem – file under Stop-motion, Voice-Overs, and Hybrid-Ninja

Blog, Design, Stop-motionon April 18th, 2012No Comments

I will let the video speak for itself! Stop motion magic by Eli, voice by myself, Appstem by our partners at Appstem. This was a really fun project, the first voice work I’ve done for a long time…

Salon St. Helena Tasting Room

Food Photography, Photography, Web Designon March 12th, 2012No Comments

In 2011 we took several photos of the new Salon St. Helena tasting room, which showcases the wines of both Harris Estate Vineyards and Jones Family Vineyards.  We put these shots together for a very simple and functional WordPress page at salonsthelena.com, which includes a rotating gallery, custom theme design and all the relevant information for getting there or contacting them.  The site makes for a good example of how photography can be used as the foundation of a site with very little else added!

(see more after the break)

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Now is the Winter of our New Content

Blogon March 12th, 2012No Comments

It has been an exciting and challenging few months since being handed the proverbial reins at Out of the Deep Blue, and certainly busy!  My previously-held theory that websites go into development hibernation during the Fall and early Winter now has some strong evidence to the contrary.  All the same, it seems many of OOTDB’s partners and clients are shaking off the internet snow and are ready to show off their shiny new CSS coats…

I will now dispense with the strained metaphors.

We have several ongoing projects at the moment, both brand new and redesigns with our existing partners – stay tuned in the next couple months; a lot of new content is on the way!  In the meantime, I am adding more of our existing work to the portfolio, with more content to follow shortly.

Whetstone Winery

Web Designon March 12th, 2012No Comments

We launched the site for Whetstone Wine Cellars in mid-2011.  More information to follow soon!

Whetstone home page

You can visit their site whetstonewinecellars.com.  To see more of the source photography, see our earlier post here!

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Harris Estate Vineyards

Photography, Web Designon March 12th, 2012No Comments

We launched the site for Harris Estate Vineyards in 2011. More information on the site and Harris Estate Vineyards to follow soon!

"Estate" page - Harris Estate Vineyards

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A Transition for OOTDB

Blogon August 31st, 20111 Comment

Our Team: TImnit Gebru, Andrew Chen, and me

Dear Colleagues, Clients, and Friends-

I recently found out I was accepted to the Runway Program, along with my teammates and co-founders Timnit Gebru and Andrew Chen, and two other great teams. The Runway Program is a “pre-team, pre-idea venture creation program” which is funded through Innovation Endeavors (Eric Schmidt of Google is the LP).

One of the many cool things about the program is the “pre-idea” facet, i.e. we will be involved in a search process for the first few months to find a problem in need of a solution, then build prototypes, get user feedback, and iterate until we have a solution we can present to potential investors.

This is going to be more than a full time commitment, so I’m handing the reins of Out of the Deep Blue over to my younger brother Alex, who is a rising star design talent, with a growing passion for photography to back it up.

alex woolery

Alex Woolery, Lead Designer

You can read some more about Alex on our About Page (scroll down a bit).

I want to give a shout out to CoLab and Appstem, two companies that I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with over the past few years, and who have helped OOTDB immensely in our success and growth. Alex will continue to collaborate with CoLab on web projects, as well as helping Appstem build great apps. Both companies are filled with great people, and I will greatly miss working with all of them.

I’d also like to say thank you to all of the amazing clients I’ve been able to work with over the years; from amazing chefs to sustainable builders, each and every one of you has helped to sustain our small business, and I hope that OOTDB and our collaborators continue to provide you with great products and services to help tell your story, connect with customers, and grow your own businesses.

I’ll be posting updates on this blog from time to time on our new Runway backed company, and Alex will be maintaing the blog with OOTDB updates. I’ll leave you with a little video that I used to “pitch” myself to my potential Runway teammates, as I think it’s a good summary of some of the work we’ve accomplished over the years.

Please feel free to leave a comment by clicking on “Comments” below the blog title at top, welcoming Alex on board if you have a chance, we’d love to hear from you!