“Founder Labs was the best way to keep my thoughts innovative.”: The Volunteer Perspective

This post was first published on 7/25/11 on the Founder Labs blog.

Two weeks ago, Founder Labs’ first session in New York, lead by Shaherose Charania, wrapped up with an awesome demo night at the USV event space. Leading up to that evening, I spent many of my nights and weekends working with her and the teams as a volunteer, and I’m grateful to have been part of it.

What I found from the inside was that Founder Labs really is a different type of startup accelerator. The company is run by a team of brilliant and totally authentic women. When they advise on team dynamics, they’re leading by example. The participants were unique too. Every single team consisted of technical minds, business minds, and design thinkers. They all had widely varying experience and perspectives from all aspects of life. I spend my time in the startup world, and many of my coworkers and closest friends are white male engineers in their 20’s — and that’s ok. The thing was, you could tell at Founder Labs that everybody was a whole lot more interesting because there was so much variation in their ideas and teams. The positive feedback loop was apparent. 

Founder Labs is designed for professionals who are moonlighting. You go in and are encouraged to keep your day job, while being provided with a best-in-class network of mentors to help you figure out if you, and your idea, are cut out for building a real company. Of course, if you are doing this while keeping your day job, you’re making double the time commitment. Participants weren’t afraid to shed some blood, sweat, and tears.

At Shapeways, I’m focused on contributing each day to the long-term growth of a meaningful company. With Founder Labs, the opportunity for me to temporarily put myself back into the mindset of seed stage, pre-funding entrepreneurs was one of the best ways to keep my mind fresh and my thoughts innovative. 

If you’re thinking about whether or not to take the plunge as an entrepreneur, check the program out. It’s run by some seriously high caliber people, and rumor has it they may even be back in NY soon.

Unsexy Startups

When people build companies with amazing appeal in a hot space and get tons of press, I really respect that. I’ve found I have a soft spot though for those startups who aren’t as sexy and who’s products might take a little longer to take off, but in turn are dedicated to solving a thorny, very tangible human need. I have deep admiration for people in the tech space who know the impact they want to make on their users lives, take the long view, and are willing to forgo some of the quick glory in the interest of building a company that lasts.

Why I’m Loving the Switch to Ubuntu

Just about 2 weeks ago I made the leap. I finally wiped XP off my HP Mini netbook and installed Ubuntu. I’d wanted to make an operating system change for a good while, because Windows rapidly got to be the worst thing about my 10-inch laptop. At first I’d planned to Hackintosh but after some research found that my particular model tends not to take well to OSX. Ubuntu seemed like the next best option.  I still pushed it back though, mostly cause I was afraid of making some enormous, unforeseen mistake that made my netbook go from being really difficult to use (a la XP) to impossible to use (aka broken). I have not yet broken my computer and am really happy to report that Ubuntu is working beautifully. I think I may officially be a convert.

Here’s what’s shaping up to be awesome about it:

Ubuntu’s UI is both more technically oriented and user friendly at the same time, and honestly it’s very pretty. I love that my OS no longer bugs me about useless updates I don’t want and it’s way more stable than any Windows machine I’ve ever used. My battery lasts longer and the system lends itself to programming much more readily, which I want to spend a lot more time on. And, call me a hippie, but I love that this system was created through the hard work and collaboration of skilled people who pulled together to make this software available for free. I’ve only scratched the surface on Ubuntu’s inner workings, but I’m digging this.

Linux FTW, man.

Exhibit A

I decided it was time to make a space where I could write down my thoughts on tech, business, culture, policy, and whatever else that has my attention in any given moment…

This should be fun.