2015, in Review

What a year! I have had some incredible professional and personal experiences in 2015 and I thought I would share a few of my favorites:

  • At MasterCard, we launched several new API services for a variety of customer segments.
  • We launched Masters of Code, a global hackathon competition from MasterCard that enabled us to work with some of the best software developers in the world.
  • We focused on expanding our customer base globally and ensuring that our global growth was sustainable through the creation of a decentralized process. This allowed me to work with some incredible technologists and organizations all over the world.
  • We launched the first ever global internal hackathon at MasterCard in which more than 5% of the entire company participated.
  • We worked with highly skilled and creative NYC developers at events such as the NYC FinTech Hackathon, TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon (at which a group of MasterCard developers won third place overall) and with Cornell Tech students at an internal event.
  • We facilitated Commerce Forum meetups in MasterCard’s NYC Tech Hub, bringing in a variety of speakers to talk about what’s happening in the commerce industry. This was in addition to our NYC involvement in great organizations such as the NY FinTech Meetup and the NYC TechDay.
  • I had the opportunity to represent MasterCard at fairly large events in the community this year, including an Inter-American Development Bank event, Front End of Innovation, AnDevCon, and more.
  • I was honored to be a formal mentor for a variety of organizations this year including XRC Labs, Techstars, Startupbootcamp, AngelHack Hackcelerator, and NYC Generation Tech.
  • I had a (short) conversation with and was retweeted by pmarca.
  • We closed out a successful year for Ignite Stamford (and will have relevant news on the organization soon).
  • I have continued to serve on my city’s legislative board and with my colleagues have continued to improve our community.
  • I was very excited to attend tapings of new talk shows that launched in 2015 including Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, David Letterman and Stephen Colbert.
  • I attended some games including those of the Yankees, the Red Sox and the UConn Huskies. I’m a fan of two out of those three – I’ll let you guess.
  • I attended a few concerts, my favorite of which was U2 at Madison Square Garden.
  • I saw the new Star Wars movie. Multiple times.
  • I am always trying to learn new things, so I took some time to study the fundamentals of quantum entanglement, machine learning, cloud architecture and venture capital.
  • I became engaged to an intelligent and loving woman.

Here’s to a great 2016!

Community, Entrepreneurship, Technology

Technology / Government / Data

No, not that kind of technology. This week, the legislative committee I chair in Stamford kicked off what I hope will be an ongoing conversation about the use of technology and data in our government. It is very exciting to think about the opportunities that are available to not only improve the quality of life for many in the city, but also increase the operational efficiency of how the city operates. Stamford also has the potential to be on the leading edge of not just opening up data for viewing, but enabling the use of data through APIs. Our ability to make these long-term investments takes more than just a wish, and I look forward to working with local, state, and private officials to see Stamford become a true “smart city.”

It has been fantastic for me to view these opportunities from both a government and private sector perspective. I am very thankful for the opportunities I have been given to learn as much as I have. I hope it will serve me well in the future, as AOL co-founder Steve Case predicts. Too often, we see governments in the United States (and perhaps elsewhere) trying to shape technological solutions to their purported needs rather than being adaptive to the rapid evolution of available solutions. Part of the reason for this is the embedded process of these types of institutions (ie bureaucracy), but that doesn’t mean our governments can’t be a little more agile; it just takes some evolving of their own.

How would you like to see cities effectively use technology and data? Tweet at me with #SmartCity to let me know!

Community, Entrepreneurship

A Facilitator’s Journey: Startup Weekend Lancaster

That was quite the drive. But after hours of road time through the back hills of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I have arrived at the small city of Lancaster. As preparation to facilitate the Startup Weekend event this weekend, I learned how to correctly pronounce the city’s name. This is one of the smallest events I have been to with less than 40 people attending. The experience is great, just the same, though. Friday night pitches were creative, and I heard some fantastic ideas: everything from 3D printed coffee-top designs to a ride sharing app.

As of the time of this writing, the teams have coalesced into four (maybe five) teams, and are working hard to flush out their ideas and start some software and customer development. I am continuously impressed by the level of passion individuals bring to their work at Startup Weekend events, even if the idea isn’t originally theirs. Can’t wait for Sunday night presentations!

Follow some of the action on Twitter, and be sure to tweet at me with #startups. Go teams!

Community, Leadership

Stop What You’re Doing and Listen…

Screen shot 2014-02-17 at 12.22.53 PM… to yourself. When was the last time you paused from your daily routine to do a little self-reflection? There has been a plethora of research done on the chemistry of creativity, and there are practical benefits to self-reflection. As a leader, your self-reflection can mean the difference between your team’s success and failure. These are a few steps I take when I consciously self-reflect, though each person’s experience is unique and you should identify your own process:

1. Get in a comfortable and relaxing environment. Concentration requires a particular type of environment, so make sure you’re in it before self-reflecting. It could be something as simple as a quiet room alone, or as complex as lying down in bed at precisely 11:15pm with your favorite song on.

2. Allow your mind to wander and allow issues to rise to the top. Remember all those times you tried to remember where you left your wallet or tried to remember if you actually locked your car on your way in to the store, only to remember later when you were doing something totally unrelated? In your relaxed state, let your mind bring the most pressing matters to you. Don’t force an issue that isn’t coming to you immediately.

3. Obtain clarity on an issue and ask focused questions. Once you begin to reflect on something in particular, ask pointed questions: “Why did they react that way? What information did we miss? What are possible next steps?” This is the core of your self-reflection. But you still have on more step to go.

4. Ask, “So What?” Now that you have the answers to these questions about a particular topic, what are you going to do about it? What actions do you need to take as a result of this realization? Write it down, and actually do something about it!

How has self-reflection helped you? Tweet at me with #reflect, and let me know!

Community, Entrepreneurship

Ignite Stamford V.2

21699_555963527753715_98390566_n2013 was a great year for Ignite Stamford. We had some fantastic speaking events, action nights, and great engagement of the community. Bike Stamford, a bike-friendly initiative, is a great example of the organization’s success. We hope this success will continue in 2014 with the relaunch of our organization.

The evolution of Ignite Stamford is a testament to the dedication of its founders and the participation of the community. The organization has changed from a simple speaking outlet to a true platform for community engagement and action.

Our 2014 kickoff event will be taking place soon, so be sure to get your tickets ASAP. Follow Ignite Stamford on Twitter and Facebook. If you are interested in applying to speak, just fill out the application on the website. We hope to see you at the event!

Looking forward to attending Ignite? Tweet at me with #Ignite, and let me know!


My Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday. Fortunately for you, I am going to tell you exactly what I would like (being greedy, I am asking for three things):

Request #1: Think about a social or community issue you are passionate about. It could be something like improving quality education access to children in inner-cities, supporting returning veterans, preventing the spread of disease in developing countries, supporting your alma mater, helping natural disaster victims recover… the list goes on and on. Take a few minutes and think about it: an issue, problem, or opportunity that is truly meaningful to you and to your community, however small (your neighborhood) or big (the world). Now go to Charity Navigator, find a nonprofit organization with a high rating and a website, and make a donation to them. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, just something you feel comfortable with. Note that not every legitimate nonprofit is rated (like the UConn Foundation, for example).

Request #2: Your financial contribution to an important cause is terrific, and I thank you for doing it. No matter how small your donation, you will make a positive difference. There is something else I would like to ask of you. There are many nonprofit organizations close to where you live that are doing some terrific things on both large and small scales. Contact one of those organizations, find out how you can volunteer to help them accomplish their mission, and spend at least an hour in 2014 doing so. One out of the 8,765 hours of 2014; that’s all I’m asking for. The work you do can be immensely helpful, and is possibly even more valuable than a financial contribution. If you can’t find an organization that does something you’re passionate about, just do it yourself!

Request #3: My final wish: share this post. The greater the positive impact we can have, the better birthday I will have!

Thank you for all the birthday wishes. Here’s to a great 2014! As always, feel free to tweet at me and let me know what you are planning to do!


Charging for Community Development

This evening I had a meeting with my colleagues from Ignite Stamford, an organization we are slowly formalizing, evolving, and relaunching as a unique brand (coming soon). The question came up as to whether we should continue to charge a nominal $10 fee per event attendee, or if it would be better to open up the event for free. There are advantages to each, of course. On one hand, charging money frees the organization from relying on sponsors to pay for things like food and drinks for events. On the other hand, free means that as long as someone can get to the event location, they are able to participate and partake. As you may have already been able to tell, I am leaning towards the former.

From an attendee point of view, $10 is not a lot of money for this event. Each person who attends is given more than their money’s worth in consumables, alone. Add in the value of the event itself, and the organization is significantly undervaluing its tickets. From an organizational point of view, we aren’t keeping any of the money as profit or paying ourselves, but we can use some of the income to fund cool community development projects. Seems like a greater community ROI to me.

What do you think? Should community development events like these be free or paid? Tweet at me (@BrienBuckman) with #IgniteOp and let me know!