Wow, I'm the Managing Director for the new Techstars Adelaide
Adelaide Oval and the River Torrens Karra wirra-parri
I'm going to keep this short because it's after midnight here in Adelaide, Australia and it's been a busy but fun day. By the time you read this it will have been announced that I am now the Managing Director of Techstars Adelaide. I can hardly believe it myself, and there will be a blogpost on the techstars.com website soon about how this came to be.
I'll then come back here in the next day or two and fill in the details and add links to this post. This will be the first Techstars accelerator in Australia and the Asia Pacific region and I'm feeling incredibly lucky to have this opportunity in this wonderful city.
This month's UniSA Business magazine asked me to write a sidebar piece for an article on entrepreneurship. I answer the question, "What three things do you need to start a business?" You can check it out here if you want. http://ow.ly/1W4e305m3fa You can find the sidebar by looking at the top of the article for the "Further Reading" tab.
The latest news is not from Australia, though things are going great here and Spring is finally springing, but rather from Appleton, Wisconsin in the USA.
My son Christopher is a professional musician and I'm very proud of him, and a big fan. He was named Wisconsin Singer-Songwriter of the year last year and he's a hardworking guy who is out there every weekend and a lot of week nights, while still being a great husband and father. Yes, I am very proud. Christopher and his wife Tori have done such a great job of raising a bright, fun, thoughtful young man and now my grandson Oliver is starting to get up on stage himself. Here is a video of Christopher and Oliver together in the studio.
If you want to sing along yourself, here's a version with the lyrics. I had not thought about it until this morning, but this could be a good anthem for entrepreneurs.
Finally, because I can't get enough of watching my boy playing, here is a video from his latest album release party at the Rock Garden Studio with his band The New Old Things.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost three months since we moved to Australia - and our furniture should be here “any day now.” Cindy and I were lucky to find a townhouse by the ocean where the owner was willing to let us move in with it furnished, and then they will take away the furniture when ours arrives. It turns out that most of the appartments we looked at were on the market furnished, and no one wanted to remove their furniture, so we are fortunate to have found this place. But it means I do about a 45 minute commute each way. Don’t feel sorry for me . .
For me it is a dream location because almost every room has a view of the ocean so I feel like I’m on a boat, except without the expense and maintenance of actually owning a boat. I just hit 600 days straight of running, and most days I get to run on the beach. I’m putting in a lot of hours at the University so on the days when I’m running before the sun comes up, or late at night, I run on the esplanade. It’s still winter here, but the days are getting longer and Spring starts September 1. It seems very safe here, so I just put on a headlamp and go.
Going to work is an adventure too - I walk up a nature trail, often in the dark, through a neighbourhood, up to the train station. My sister taught me when I was a kid that I didn’t need a flashlight most of the time if there is just a little bit of moonlight, so I think of her when I walk the trail in the dark. I’ll admit it was a little scary the first few times, but I enjoy it now. Walking down from the train with the sun setting into the ocean makes it all worth it.
The reason I’m running and walking so much is we’ve decided to try to do without owning a car here. That seemed really easy the first month when we were staying in the Central Business District (Thanks again Jana!). Adelaide’s CBD is beautiful, clean and safe and it was nice to just be able to take the elevator down, walk a few hundred meters and be at the grocery or a restaurant.
We gave that up when we moved to the ocean, so now we own grocery trollies and we walk or take public transportation everywhere we go, except for the occasional weekend where we rent a car for a few days to either see the sights or do a big shopping run. Most weekends we drag our trollies up the hill, get on the train and go to the grocery store four or five stops down the line. It’s fun really, and I’m not missing having a car. Adelaide has declared that it will be the first carbon neutral city in the world, and I feel like I’m helping a bit and staying healthier in the process, and it is so much less stressful to just hop on the train or tram.
I expected that there would be some challenges in moving around the world. In fact I’ve learned that figuring out all the little differences in culture and society is a big part of the fun. Some of the challenges are amusing - learning that french fries are chips, and ketchup is tomato sauce here for instance. I still don’t know what to ask for if I actually want tomato sauce to use in our spaghetti sauce recipe.
Here they say “How are you going?” rather than “How are you doing?” I'm quick to tell people that I am the one with the accent.
Other things are not so amusing, like having to work with companies in the US who simply do not have a way to deal with people who’ve moved to another country. Here in Australia phone numbers look different, and zip codes are four digits, not five. More than one place where I had an account couldn’t deal with that, but luckily a very good friend is allowing me to have what little paper mail I get to be sent to his address in Colorado, and I can use that address when they won’t accept an Australian address.
Just today I found out that the US Post Office sent change of address notices to everyone, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, who now has sent me a letter saying I could be fined if I don’t update my vehicle registration to match my new address. The problem is, they won’t let me do it online, or even by mail - they expect me to actually go in person to the DMV in Longmont to make the change. For a car that is in storage and not being driven.
Adelaide is a great multicultural city. Every day I hear languages that I don’t understand and can’t even identify. And it turns out that Americans are not that common here. In Sydney yes, but not Adelaide, so I’m often asked if I’m Canadian. I think they are playing it safe - if you ask a Canadian if they are American, they might be insulted. (That’s a joke, sort of) In any case, often total strangers will ask me where I’m from and what brought me here. And if they talk to me more than a few minutes, and they often do because everyone here is so friendly, they will usually ask me “what’s up with Trump?” I won’t get into to politics too much here, but the rest of the world seems to be making contingency plans in case he gets elected and they wonder how it is he got this far. They just don't understand it, and they are worried. I actually saw “Trump” listed as a risk in a PowerPoint presentation for a startup that is bringing a product to market in the US. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for private conversations. And yes, I am registered to vote in November, which was another little challenge. It’s not like they make it super easy for US Citizens to vote when they happen to be out of the country during an election.
The point is that all of these little challenges, that happen almost daily, do add up to a bit of fatigue at times. I had not expected it, and I was feeling like I was always behind in the tasks I had to get done. I certainly wasn’t regretting making the move, but I was getting a bit tired. (Australian’s love to say “a bit” as in, “A crocodile took off my leg, and now I have a bit of trouble walking very far.”) Lucky for me the Uni assigned me a buddy to look after me and help me get settled into the job. I believe she had been in the Peace Corp, so she saw the signs and told me that it was normal for people who make big moves to go through a cycle of ups and downs. Euphoria when you arrive, then a down bit when you start missing family and friends and “normal” life, and then you come back up again when you start to get settled. Just knowing that it was normal helped get me back on track, and I’ll always appreciate that she told me about the phenomena. That was a turning point for me. (Thanks Alicia!)
Before I stop whinging, I’ll say that staying in touch with family and friends has been more difficult than I expected, but I’m working on getting better at it. Given that I am 19 AND A HALF hours in the future, that means there is only a window in the morning, or after midnight, when I can call people. I never was very good at making phone calls, and now I’m worse. I’ve actually considered posting to Facebook just to make sure people know I’m alive, and I’m doing this blog post because several good friends cared enough to poke me. Thank you. I do not intend to disappear here.
Here’s part of the problem - most days are fabulous. I mean living the dream, amazing, can’t believe I’m here, happy days. I think to myself, “Oh, I should post on Facebook that a dolphin just swam by” or “A flock of parrots just flew over.” But then I think, “I don’t want to be that guy who only posts “Look at me!” posts." So, to avoid that, I have to commit to posting frequently and to writing about the normal, trivial and even annoying stuff, and that’s not my nature either. So I haven’t figured it out, and that means it may be another three months before I do an update. But I am thinking of all my family and friends. I wish you could be here, I wish we could talk and have a coffee or a beer, and I wish you all the happiness that I am experiencing right now. I’d love to hear from you too, and though it may take me a bit to answer, I am thinking of you. If you are up for a 24 hour plane ride, we have a spare bedroom.
To my new friends in Australia - I love it here, and I appreciate you inviting me into the country! Sometimes I think you don't realise what a great place this is, and that's the only negative thing I can say. Oh, and the slow Internet, but that's another post. :-)
My good friend Marty emailed to say it is time to update my blog. Life in Australia is great, but very busy. I'm taking a minute while waiting for the train to explore mobile access to Typepad, where my blog is hosted.
If this works, I'll be better about doing updates. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to allow photos to be uploaded. Maybe it is time to think about a new provider.
My new job in Australia - From Longmont to Adelaide in less than three months
The story of how I ended up in Australia begins almost 20 years ago. I was given a copy of a manuscript for a new book to be published called Leading at the Speed of Growth. One of the authors was Dr. Jana Matthews and I knew she was a friend of Brad Feld’s and had been a leader at the Kauffman Foundation.
I read Leading at the Speed of Growth at a time when I was struggling as an entrepreneur. We had grown the company, hired a lot of employees, moved into new space and I was not having fun. Reading Jana’s book made me realise that I needed to change and grow as much as my company was changing and growing. I decided I had to go from being the hands-on startup techie guy who liked to code, to an actual leader of a company. Fortunately Jana lived in Boulder, and I was able to meet her and spend time talking about the concepts she had developed over the years working with high-growth companies.
We both still remember having breakfast together the day after the September 11th attacks. Like everyone else we were still in shock but I felt better after that breakfast because Jana inspired me to focus on being a good leader and to be there for my employees. After that, we got together regularly to talk about growing companies. Often we talked about culture, core values and the challenges of growing as a CEO. My assistant at the time sometimes suggested I get together with Jana whenever she noticed the stress of the job weighing on my shoulders - it was that obvious that Jana was helping me cope and learn.
Jana is often introduced as a “Global Thought Leader” and she earned that title by literally going all over the world to work with CEOs and their teams. She traveled to Australia to work with growth companies, and soon helped found an accelerator for startups with growth potential. I had been a mentor at the Boulder Technology Incubator and at Techstars, so Jana called me up and invited me to visit Adelaide and be a mentor to their first cohort of entrepreneurs.
I fell in love with Adelaide, and as Jana likes to quote, I said, “How can you miss a place you didn’t even know existed until a few week ago?” I was fortunate to be invited back for the third cohort, and enjoyed working with Jana and being in Adelaide even more. When I heard that Jana had become the Director of the Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia, I wondered if I might be so lucky as to get a third visit back to Adelaide to work with her again.
In October of 2014, Jana invited me to come down and be a “Visiting Growth Entrepreneur” but I was in the midst of getting Launch Longmont started and I reluctantly declined. On March 5th, 2016 I emailed Jana to say that I was done with Launch Longmont and that Cindy and I were thinking about a trip to New Zealand. Instead of getting vacation tips back, Jana called me a few hours later to ask me to consider coming to Australia for a year (at least!) to be the “Growth Entrepreneur in Residence” at the Centre. I've now joined Jana, a growing group of researchers and managers, and other CEOs/mentors to help grow companies in South Australia and beyond.
In less than three months we went from thinking about “what’s next” to living in Adelaide, Australia. I am so grateful to Jana for making all of this possible and I’m honoured to be working with her and the team. When I first read Leading at the Speed of Growth, I never imagined how far it might take me!
My Work Visa was approved this week, so it's official - I'm moving to Adelaide Australia! We've given notice on the rental house that we've been in this past year in Longmont since we sold our house in Boulder, and now it's just a matter of packing up stuff into storage and getting on the plane on May 25th. That gives me less than a month to do a lot of organizing, donating and saying goodbye to many friends and family.
At times it is a little overwhelming to think about, but mostly it is just exciting to consider how lucky I am. I'm going to get paid to hang out with entrepreneurs who are growing interesting companies in a country that every single person I know has said they wished they could visit. Adelaide, the city where I'll be living, isn't as well known as larger cities like Sydney but it is listed in the top ten most livable cities in the world and I can't wait to start exploring!
I'll do updates to this blog in the future about what it's like to make a move half way around the world, and about the great people and companies that I know I will encounter in the process. If you want to get email updates, you can sign up to be notified whenever I do a new post or just check back occasionally.
A lot has happened since my last blog post, which was just over a year ago. We closed the doors to Launch Longmont on February 29th this year. The coworking space was a success in that we brought in some great members and had a positive impact on the community, but construction that was supposed to be started and done in three or four months never got past the demolition point. Because of the delay we decided to shut it down.
And now for Part 2 . . .
(Jeffrey Smart Building, University of South Australia - photo courtesy UniSA)
So you know how everyone tells you “when one door closes, another one opens?” I am living proof. Last week I received an offer to spend a year as the Growth Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of South Australia, in Adelaide. UniSA is in the top 3% of QS World University Rankings, and the UniSA Business School ranks in the top 1% globally. Wow! There are over 36,000 students and yet the University was just founded 25 years ago.
After a quick trip over to observe and look for a place to live, Cindy and I will be moving there sometime at the end of May, and I’ll be starting in my new position June 1st.
I will miss Longmont, and I will have to resign as President of Startup Longmont. I’m very proud of all the people who have made this organization what it is. When I arrived in town about a year and a half ago, the Startup Longmont Meetup had just over 30 members. Yesterday we added our 800th member, and earlier in the month we became a real 501(c)(3) non-profit. It has been my pleasure to work with all the people of Longmont, and though I will be half a world away soon, I will always be a Startup Longmont member!
I also won’t be the “Resident Entrepreneur” at the Temple Grandin School for at least the next year, but perhaps my new title can be Entrepreneur At Large or some such thing, as I do plan to stay involved. The great staff and students have been a highlight of my past year and I am proud to remain a supporter of their work. Although I will be 17 1/2 time zones away, I plan to occasionally occasionally call into Entrepreneur Thursday Morning Meeting. If you are in Boulder on April 4th, check out the Meeting of The Minds, it's going to be a great event, or let me know if you would like an introduction to the great people at the Temple Grandin School.
My plan is to spend as much time with friends and family over the next two months while getting rid of stuff and then packing up what's left for storage. We’re going over with two suit cases each and a big smile on our faces! (And my mandolin of course - I'm sure I can find a bluegrass jam in Adelaide!)
Update March 23, 2016
So far I think everyone I've told about this has either said they would visit me in Australia, or they asked me to take them with me when I go. I'm not surprised, everyone I know is fascinated by Australia and would love to visit. The long plane ride scares most off, but it's really not that bad. (Ask me again after I've done it twice more)
It is both the "smallest continental land mass, (and) it is the world's largest island."
This very cool map created by someone (wish I could find their name!) at The Guardian shows the population distribution of the country. It looks like there are a lot of people on the coasts until you look at the map key. Most of the people do live on the coasts, but even so it is not a crowded place unless you are in one of the city centers. Check out the article and other maps here at The Guardian.
Since so many of you have said you'd like to follow me down to Australia, here is a website I've found that has been helpful as I start to get my bearings.