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January 29, 2007

Calling all entrepreneurs - what was your biggest, ugliest challenge?

Hello my fellow entrepreneurs,

I'm going to be writing a series of posts over at the Kauffman Foundation and I'd like your help.  We all know that being an entrepreneur is almost 100% an easy and happy existence.  Right . . . .  So, what about that 1% that really tests what you are made of?

I'd like to hear about the biggest, ugliest problem that might have some general appeal to other entrepreneurs.  I won't use your name unless you tell me I can, and you don't even have to give me the answer to the problem although if you feel like sharing, or if it would just help to commiserate about what did or didn't work, I'd like to hear it.

By the way, if you like learning from other entrepreneur's mistakes and misery, check out Lessons from the Edge, by Jana Matthews and Jeff Dennis.  Just don't read it late at night.  With subsections like "when disaster strikes", "picking the wrong guy", "starting with a bang, ending with a whimper" and "caught in the act", this is one book that might keep you awake at night.  Confront your fears; the book has a "lessons learned" section and a "top 10 lessons" list after each section.  If nothing else, you'll feel very fortunate because I guarantee that there are people in this book who had it worse and who have bounced back. 

Thanks in advance for your help.  Email me, or if you want to share in public, leave a comment.  Be sure and say if you want me to credit you by using your name if you email me.

January 29, 2007 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 27, 2007

Computer voices

If you are a geek like me, and you hear voices in your head, are they computer generated voices?  No need to answer, but I have been thinking about computer generated speech recently.

A few weeks ago I remembered that my dad had brought home a 45 rpm record when I was a kid and he was very excited to say that it was the first recording of a computer singing a song.  I may actually have the record, but the recording is still available on the web and it has an interesting history.  It turns out that it wasn't IBM who made the first computer sing, but rather a researcher named Max Mathews who worked at . . . AT&T Bell Labs, which is where I worked as a contractor before leaving to start Gold Systems.  A shiver just went down my spine to think how my dad handed me that record so many years ago, and now I've worked at Bell Labs and continue today to be involved with speech recognition and applications that use speech synthesis.  And to this day, my company works with Avaya, the grandchild of AT&T.

But the coincidences continue - my friend Verna sent me a link to what may be the first scanner that plays music.  Mostly because she knows I'm a geek and a musician, so what could be better?  Why do people spend time doing things like this?  Because they can and who knows what it will lead to.  I'm sure people asked Mr. Mathews why he was wasting his time and what must have been very expensive computer resources to get a computer to sing a song.

And now for the best coincidence of all.  A few weeks ago my sister and I were trading songs names and memories via email.  She remembered an old favorite song book, which I found used on amazon.com and ordered just a minute or two before she was ready to send it to me as a gift.  This book was published in 1952 and it has a great foreword that talks about the songs that were sung in America around the Civil War and the turn of the century.  (And to me, the turn of the century still means going from the 1800's to the 1900's)  I received the book a week later (thanks amazon.com and an independent book seller somewhere!) and started to flip through it.  Guess what the VERY FIRST SONG was in the book?  Daisy Bell (A bicycle built for two) by Harry Dacre.  That's the song that the computer sang, thanks to Bell Labs, that I listened to as a kid and wondered about what other amazing things a computer could do.

Here's a site with more information on the song. According to that page, Alexander Graham Bell also used the song in a demo, so that's probably where Mr. Mathews got the idea to use it in his research.  Here's more on Mr. Mathews - he looks like a fun guy!  And I just found a link to the very same recording I listened to as a kid.  Scroll down until you see "Daisy".  The singing only happens after a nice long intro by a second computer that was generating the music.  You see, it does matter what music your kid listens to.

January 27, 2007 in Speech Recognition | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Values in the Board Room

(This is an older post that I left as draft accidently.  It still applies - I believe most boards are made up of decent people trying to do the right thing, despite what we see in the press.)

I don't really have a board room but I have a great board of directors. (The only board member who reads my blog wasn't able to attend today so I'm not sucking up) It was a great board meeting with a lot of energy, good ideas, good cookies and something the average person on the street probably doesn't expect from a board - a discussion about values and integrity.

A topic was discussed and it quickly turned into a discussion about what was "right" as opposed to what was best for the company. Now I believe that what is "right" is also best for the company, at least in the long term, but I was very happy to see my board as committed to our values as the rest of us.

January 27, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, for_myway | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2007

I'm OK

I just received an "Are you OK, I haven't seen a blog post in awhile" message from my friend Marshall at GotSpeech.Net.  It's nice to be missed, and yes everything is fine.  I should explain that my entrepreneurship postings have been going up at the Kauffman Foundation's eVenturing site.  The Kauffman Foundation is a wonderful organization that makes the world a better place by improving education and supporting entrepreneurs.  I was asked to be their entrepreneur blogger last year, so this blog has leaned more towards tech, with a lot more pictures according to one local media person.

I do have some stories to tell, and I will get them posted this weekend.  Here's a quick one though.  I'm a big believer in organizations like YPO and YEO (Now just called The Entrepreneurs Organization or EO), but I'm no longer a member, so late last year I convinced a small group of local entrepreneurs to get together at a local pub.  We had a great time, despite the fact that there seemed to be some sort of play-off kind of game on all the TVs and people around us would just start screaming for no apparent reason.  We left when the screaming became non-stop.

So now it is time for another get-together, and one of the folks sent this email:

The purpose: to discuss how great it is to run a business (sometimes) and how exhausting it is to run a business (sometimes), sort of like raising a kid but just a little bigger though it throws up on you about as often (but who would have their life any other way). And of course to drink a beer or two, eat some pizza and talk with people of similar interests and life journeys.

That pretty much sums it up.  Have a great weekend!

January 26, 2007 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2007

The future of search?

Thanks to Bo for sending me a link to www.msdewey.com/  You're going to want to check this out, because in about 10 minutes everyone is going to be asking if you've seen it, er "her."  It, uh "she," is a real search engine but when you first go there Bo instructed me to not do anything for a few minutes.  You'll then probably waste 20 minutes typing in different words to see her reaction as I just did, which is why I'm posting this on the weekend.  I don't want to be responsible for a dip in the GDP on Monday.


January 13, 2007 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2007

New Apple iPhone

My buddy John was the first to tell me that the Apple iPhone has been announced. A few minutes later I got a newsletter with a link to a review of the announcement. It sounds great and I look forward to seeing one, but if it won't sync with my Exchange server I'm not going to be able to try it. If it raises the bar for phoneset design, then we (the consumers) all win, whether we buy one or not.

January 9, 2007 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 05, 2007

One good thing about snow

We've got another Winter Storm Warning in Colorado this morning. In Boulder people are driving a little slower but it isn't that bad. The nice thing about it is that it's easier to find a parking spot at Turley's, my favorite Boulder restaurant.

Paul Turley is a great local entrepreneur and his daughter Sandy is carrying on the tradition. The service is always fast and friendly, and the menu is five pages of great food. You can eat Boulder-healthy, have breakfast anytime or go for the cheese burger and fries. Beef or buffalo if you prefer.

During the dark days of late 2001 Paul and I would commiserate on being an entrepreneur and what the future might hold. He was always quick with a smile and his optimism definitely rubbed off on me. Maybe that's where my "keep smiling" mantra came from.

January 5, 2007 in Entrepreneurship, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack