Adventure

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!
CUGfCuTWUAATku9

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Community, Leadership, Technology

Introducing the Commerce Forum

I am very excited to announce the launch and first event of the Commerce Forum. I am very thankful for MasterCard’s willingness to support this initiative.

There are many events in NYC that focus on products, often in demo day fashion. There are a few events with panel discussions focusing on general topics such as data or NoSQL. There are very few meetups, if any, that focus on individuals. My hope is that during these events, we will better understand the people who work in the wide field of commerce. It’s time for a different type of meetup – I hope you will join me for it.

The first event is planned for mid-January. Be sure to join the group to be eligible for a ticket!

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Community, Entrepreneurship, Leadership

Building a Corporate Culture

IMG_1249MasterCard opened an office in Manhattan this year. It’s not a bad space for a reinventing tech company. Right now we are in a temporary space which offers terrific views of downtown and both sides of the island (see pictures courtesy of my iPhone). The office is software and “innovation” focused – the teams in this office are working on cutting edge and/or high priority products and platforms, identical in mission to the final office that is scheduled to open before the end of the year.

One of the neat things about helping open a new space is that I have the opportunity to help shape the culture of the office. It is a unique opportunity normally reserved for organization founders or early members/employees. It is slightly different from a startup in that we are not just creating something from scratch or from previous experiences – we are creating a branch of an existing corporate culture. So how have we begun to do this? Two simple changes have made a significant difference:

IMG_1273The permanent space is open desk style, but even our temporary space is more open and clustered. This has lead to more conversations among employees in the office, which has helped break down any barriers that may have existed between technology and product teams. Collaboration has greatly increased among employees, even for projects not included in core responsibilities.

The office dress code is startup casual, though we certainly have some stragglers from headquarters who work in dress pants. For the most part, casual dress has lead to a less stressful environment. My hypothesis is that employees are more efficient if they are as comfortable as possible in their work environment. Anecdotally, the results in the office seem to support this.

We are in phase one of this cultural transformation, and I will certainly be writing more about it as we continue to build this office. Any tips or tricks to building a great work culture? Tweet at me with #culture, and let me know!

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Entrepreneurship, Leadership

The Key to Startup Success?

A friend of mine recently asked me what I thought the key to a successful startup was. Even though I’m involved in the entrepreneurship community and have heard many others speak on this topic, I wanted to make sure I gave him a thoughtful answer. I kept thinking of everything I’ve learned over my number of years engaged in entrepreneurship from both an operator and facilitator standpoint: Business Model Canvas, Learn Canvas, the importance of customer development, user experience design, etc. The one thing that kept sticking in my mind, however, is the need for great people. What I mean by this is leaders who have complementary skills with the ability to productively work in concert to accomplish a goal. There are several important parts of this definition:

Leaders – individuals who can inspire and enable the success of others. This includes the recruiting, training, and retaining of employees and cofounders.

Complimentary Skills – See previous post.

Productively Work in Concert – This doesn’t mean that founders have to cover favorite bands at the local coffee shop every night, but teams should have compatible working styles.

To Accomplish a Goal – Your end goal will change along the journey but whatever it changes to, the team must still work together to reach it.

Want your startup to have the best chance of success? Have the best team possible. You need only read the latest startup news in your favorite tech publications to see the impact this can have. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to the startup world: in any size corporation, the most fundamentally important asset is great people. Tweet at me with #startuphire, and tell me whether you agree or disagree!

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Community, Entrepreneurship, Leadership

Inverse(STEM) – What Happened to Well-Rounded?

For a few years now, some of the most notable technology executives have impressed upon today’s youth the importance of learning to code and the importance of STEM. Even President Obama jumped on the bandwagon in 2013. When I served on the board of the University of Connecticut, we worked with our Governor to launch a new operational and capital investment initiative by the state called NextGen Connecticut. The focus of this initiative, as you can read about, was additional STEM faculty, facilities and programs. STEM initiatives, in general, are good for the long-term health of our businesses and society as long as they are not created through or with the debilitation of other initiatives. It is that last part I’m a little worried about.

Dave McClure and the 500 Startups team, who are doing tremendous work globally in entrepreneurship communities, focus on finding great companies that have three key team ingredients, succinctly called “H2D”: a hacker (software developer), a hustler (sales/business development), and a designer (product architect/humanist). This team formula can create fantastic results, as we’ve seen from many of their portfolio companies. Yet STEM only focuses on one or two of these three legs, those being hacker and (maybe) designer. Not even discussing the broader needs of society, have we become to narrowly focused on STEM while forgetting other important fields?

Fortunately, I have been able to become somewhat fluent in particular programming languages, enough to have a certain level of conversation with software developers. As a kid, I went to a computer science camp and learned some game design (yes, I was/am a nerd, let’s move on). Later, I took courses on Codecademy and I continue to work with many of our product groups at MasterCard who were building APIs. I never have any intention of being a developer, but a certain level of fluency has been useful. My job at Apple was sales and marketing focused, so that box has certainly been checked. You could say I have filled in two parts of Dave’s formula so far, which just leaves some design experience. I’ve been able to take on some prototyping projects, but I am sure I will lean on resources like GA to help fill the gap.

So while the President, industry leaders, and many individuals are correct in suggesting that individuals learn to code (or more specifically, gain some level of fluency in coding as one might learn a spoken language in school), it is also important that our leaders recognize, even from an economic development persecutive, the importance of other skills and fields.

Thoughts on educational investment for the next generation? Tweet at me with #edu, and let me know!

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Community, Entrepreneurship

Other Side of the Island: Startup Weekend New Jersey

newJersey_v02

I didn’t have to do much traveling to facilitate Startup Weekend New Jersey, but the amount of energy here would have certainly made a longer trip worth it. There were some great pitches on Friday night, and I’m excited to see these teams progress over this weekend and beyond. One in particular (that shall go nameless since they are still developing) is an app that, if developed, I would use immediately and every single day.

The space where this event is being held is very dynamic. If you’re a New Jersey company looking for coworking space, I definitely recommend checking out JuiceTank. Private, semi-private, and open space is available (with parking!!).

Startup Weekend is an organization that is focused on building entrepreneurship communities around the world. Now, we can add New Jersey to that long list. Looking forward to Sunday night pitches!

Be sure to follow the action on Twitter, or tweet at me directly.

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Entrepreneurship, Technology

Why Regulation Would Help Bitcoin

A lot has happened in the world of Bitcoin this week. The Chair of the Federal Reserve recently gave the opinion that the Fed does not have the authority to regulate Bitcoin because the technology is not tied to the financial institutions under its jurisdiction. While the Fed may not have jurisdiction over this new platform, if Bitcoin is to serve a long-term proposition, it is necessary to establish a regulatory framework in order to protect stakeholders. Hopefully the loss of about half a billion dollars from Mt. Gox will inspire some global action. While many in the Bitcoin industry (if we can call it that, yet) have assured the community that they believe in “transparent, thoughtful, and comprehensive consumer protection measures,” we have learned throughout our world history that financial services companies (particularly those operating on a global scale) are not able to sufficiently self-regulate.

The reality is that this is a huge opportunity for those in the Bitcoin space rather than an impediment. If the goal is to push Bitcoin mainstream, then it is necessary for the platform to get legitimate recognition from the major global economic drivers. This means enacting certain consumer protections that are not present in the system today. This is a rapidly evolving space that leaders like the Bitcoin Foundation can play a significant role in.

What are your thoughts on the future of Bitcoin? Tweet at me with #bitcoin, and let me know!

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