Don't think about cutting and running

A few months ago I read Don't Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff. If told not to think of an elephant, you cannot help but do so. The book discusses how the Republican party and the political right wing in the US has framed the conversations in society by encoding phraseology that traps us all in just the same way. Their prescription is to find ways to do the opposite for the liberal, or progressive (or Democratic) agenda.

I thought of this this morning when a not particularly eloquent Republican candidate for congress complained that yes, the war in Iraq was a mistake, but that's all history and we can't cut and run now. I have been incensed over the use of the phrase "cut and run" by the Republicans and their proxies as a way to completely obliterate any sane discussion of what we plan to achieve in Iraq or how to consider withdrawal options for US troops in Iraq.

So here is my suggestion for a different phrase. "We should not strand our troops in Iraq."

I am not in favor of leaving Iraq to be a failed state which harbors and sponsors terrorism of any kind. A failed Iraq and a less stable mid-East is not good for any of the countries I care about: the US, the UK, Israel ...

However, absence of strategy is not a strategy. "We should not cut and run" is the absence of a strategy, and leaves no opening for discussion or consideration. At least "we should not strand our troops" implicitly asks us to consider whether and when we might think of them as stranded, why 80 are being killed each month, and asks for a pathway to some acceptable outcome.

From year to year

This time last year (the Tuesday before the Hazon NY ride) I was worrying about the weather: a tropical storm was due over the route at exactly the wrong time. This year, the weather looks wonderful for both ride days (70's, 80's).

This time last year I had ridden 380 miles during my training. This year, I have ridden 530 miles so far, including a wonderful 40 mile Lincoln/Concord ride with Guy Sapirstein and Jason Glasgow on Sunday morning (at a personal best speed of 14 mph moving average).

Last year the Hazon NY ride route on the second day involved a well known miserable set of hills. This year it the second day route is mostly on a rail trail (grades of 2% or so).

Last year I helped Hannah with her fundraising (or did most of it for her). This year she has raised $2000 or more without any help from me.

Last year I was on track to raise about $6,000 for my favorite cause. This year I still have hopes of getting to $10,000. Please help out if you have not already done so - I am down to the wire.

Last year we knew very few of the participants ahead of time. This year we look forward to meeting friends from last year and are thrilled to be bringing a whole team of friends from Boston.

Life as a venture cyclist has its ups and downs. Right now it feels like there are many more ups than downs!

The Streets of Newton

I spent a very pleasant hour on the streets of Newton this morning, on my regular carriage lane 11 mile route. I am definitely stronger on hills, and hoping this will translate well on the Hazon ride (unlike last year).

There is one stretch of the Carriage Lane (between BC and Hammond Street) which really needs repaving. It reminded me of my idea (which you are welcome to steal) for a website which would allow people to photograph potholes and add them to a map mashup so others know the locations. Add to this the opportunity to tell the Dept of Public Works about all potholes as soon as they are first spotted, and it takes away the City's defense "we didn't know about it". Apparently they (at least the City of Newton) will pay for vehicle repairs related to potholes and the like if they knew about the pothole ahead of time.

On this note, I just found another wonderful Newton blog: Newton Streets and Sidewalks. This is written by Sean Roche, someone we have known for years, but it was only when I saw his name in the local paper did I realize this blog existed. Perhaps Sean will take my potholes website idea and run with it (at least for Newton).

VC:VC Blood on the floor

In my venture cycling world I rarely see blood ... I didn't even scrape myself when I fell off my bike last year. However, I find myself drawing closer to a bloody side of Hazon's world ... the plan to shecht (slaughter for food according to kosher rules) a goat (or two) at the Hazon food conference in December.

This was first publicised in the Hazon sponsored food blog, Jcarrot, yesterday when Nigel Savage described the plan, and the apparent need for two goats, based on the need to hang the meat for at least a week before eating it. On this basis the plan described the need to shecht one goat a week in advance to eat at the conference, and a second one at the conference itself for those who wish to observe how it is done.

A second post on this topic on Jcarrot today brings more to the story. A blogger in picked up on this, and reminded Nigel that in Temple times animals were slaughtered and eaten almost immediately. Other comments included mention of the original Passover ritual in Egypt also, famously, eaten immediately. As can often be the case in the blogosphere the comments get heated and a little unpleasant in writing off Nigel and Hazon as all the wrong kind of (a) Jews, (b) food experts, (c) kosher food experts, and (d) environmentalists. Oh well ... more blood on the floor.

In venture capital we rarely see blood. The odd paper cut or two is an imminent threat at many board meetings. Sometimes discussions get heated, but I have not heard of too many instances when punches are thrown and blood is drawn. The awful times when either an executive is let go, or a company workforce has to be cut have been likened to bloody moments, but we generally try to make them as unbloody as possible.

In both sides of my life, venture cycling and venture capital, I am grateful that there is little real blood. Just thinking about the demonstration planned for the food conference is enough to make me blanch, and I don't even plan to be there.

VC:VC How to raise money

Raising Venture Capital money is not easy - ask any entrepreneur. This fun video from Israel (Hebrew with English subtitles) is worth the three minutes.

How to raise Venture Cycling money? Click on the "click here" text below... thanks!

Click Here to Donate

VC:VC The first twenty miles; the first twenty million dollars

Po Bronson wrote a great book about the high tech startup world: The first $20 million is always the hardest. The $20 million in question is the beginning of an entrepreneur's fortune. It certainly seems that way to me, being a long way off from my first $20 million! It is also true that for most startups the first $20 million are much harder to earn than subsequent revenue.

However, the first 20 miles is (pretty obviously) much easier, talking about bike rides, than the subsequent 20 miles, or any 20 miles after that. Apart from the warm up at the very start, the fresher I am, the easier the cycling feels. This was the case today with another, slightly faster than last time, 40 mile ride with Guy Sapirstein out to Concord and back.

The contrast is a result of the direct linkage of effort to action when riding a bike, and the very complicated linkages and dependencies when thinking about a startup. A startup has to put in huge amounts of effort into specifying and building its product or service capability, tuning it to the market needs, finding customers, convincing them to buy (from a startup, no less), agreeing on business terms for the transaction, and then doing it all again for yet more customers.

Compared to the humble bicycle chain this process of a startup earning $20 million in revenues is a Rube Goldberg-esque endeavor (or Heath Robinson-esque, for my English readers). The process is rarely pretty, although it is generally very edifying. Once at $30 million in annual revenues, however, a startup often falters as the organization struggles to scale operations and management capabilities (repeated again at $100 million). However, those stutter steps are a matter of business execution by the management team, and are (mostly) easier than the leap of faith and effort that we undertake for that first $20 million.

The Companionship of the Long Distance Cyclist

I am related, not too distantly, to Alan Sillitoe, author of a collection of stories called The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I have never been a runner, but it does look like a lonely sport. Even when running with someone the focus of the runner seems inward. Cycling, at least as I practice it, is very companionable. I get to ride with Hannah, my daughter, as well as my friends, and even when by myself I find myself nodding or waving to all other cyclists I pass.

Yesterday Hannah and I drove down to Dennis on Cape Cod, and then rode the entire length of the Cape Cod Rail Trail to Wellfleet, and back. This was a total of 45 miles, and is a good training ride for both of us ahead of the Hazon ride in a few weeks. We happened to meet some friends on the trail who are staying on the Cape for vacation and happened to be out on a family bike ride.

This was especially hard work for Hannah for whom it was the longest one-day ride she has ever done. However, we had lots of fun just chatting, learning about how it feels on a long ride, working hard and earning good feelings of achievement. At the end of the ride (around 6pm) the trail was almost deserted, but we had each other for companionship, and never once felt lonely.

Biking Boston

Two opportunities to bike Boston over the next few weeks...

First, thanks to Laura Segel, I heard about The Back Bay Midnight Pedalers which will hold its 19th Boston by Bike at Night on August 18th.
The ride starts at midnight downtown, watches the sun rise and ends at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. The tour hits the city's many historic sites when the hour and darkness offer riders freedom on otherwise crowded and narrow city streets. (More details.)

Second, Hub on Wheels is running its citywide ride and bike festival in Boston on Sunday Sept 23 (more details).

I am unlikely to do the midnight ride (like Cinderella's carriage, my bike turns into a cucumber at midnight), but really hope to do Hub on Wheels event. Let me know if you want to join me.

First time visit to Concord MA

Today was my first visit to Concord, MA ... as a cyclist that is. I cycled 40 miles with Guy Sapirstein and Josh Musher. Lee Goldfinch joined us for the first 15 miles but decided as a less frequent cyclist not to push too hard and peeled off. It was fairly hard work (average moving speed of 13.3mph), but seems manageable and is a good sign for the Hazon ride in 3 weeks. It feels harder to manage hydration and eating after a strenuous trip than during the ride itself when I kept myself pretty well in balance.

The route we take is really pretty - especially in Lincoln and Concord. You get to see lovely views of purple loosestrife and goldenrod and many other wild flowers. This reminded me how much I love Jon Regosin's Natural Newton blog. He opens my eyes to what is right in front of my nose. For example, he recently shared that there are five species of goldenrod in Newton. To my untrained eye I "saw" just goldenrod -- now I have to look for the differences.

Getting serious

I snuck in a nine mile ride yesterday afternoon -- not quite in between rain showers. I only had an hour and so I did my Carriage Lane ride but really attacked with a moving average to 12mph. Given it is lots of hills, this is not too bad, and is much faster than I usually ride it (even though my pace is a little faster on less hilly routes such as the Lincoln ride).

It is only three weeks to the ride and I am getting much more serious over this final stretch. Tomorrow I have a 40 mile ride planned with friends, and another one mid-week with Hannah.

Orthodox Paradox

I was chatting with my friend Paul Gompers this morning and he mentioned the Noah Feldman article in the NY Times Magazine from a couple of weeks ago called "The Orthodox Paradox". The article starts on the basis of Feldman's treatment at the hands of his high school alumni department at our very own local Maimonides School, so I understand it is the subject of much discussion in our community -- I must have missed it because of our wonderful vacation.

I will not rehash it here - you can read it on the NY Times website ($$ subscription required) and read all about it elsewhere (Google "feldman orthodox paradox"). However I was struck by this to-the-point article on JTA's website which I think asks the right questions.

I am hoping that Yossi Abramowitz will weigh in as well on his site.

From Boat to Beach to Bike

Hannah was on a boat, then we were all on a beach, and now we are back on our bikes.

Hannah and I cycled 20 miles on the Arlington-Bedford Minuteman bike trail a couple of days ago. I am planning a 40 mile ride on Sunday morning.

It is only three weeks until the Hazon bike ride and we are starting to get excited (and nervous)!

This photo was taken last Sunday morning, and it already seems like a fading dream...


Is a blog backlog a backblog?

We are just back from a fabulous vacation in the British Virgin Islands. This is not a usual time of year to visit the Carribean (hurricane season starts June 1) but we had an idyllic time there. Hannah (our 14 year-old) spent three weeks learning to sail on ActionQuest (check out her boat's log here). We met her shipmates and the ActionQuest crew when we picked her up last Tuesday ... she had a spectacular time. Then, as a reunited family, we spent the rest of the week going from beach to beach relaxing and having fun together.

The venture cycling content of our week was zero, although the very steep roads made us think of our bikes on every ascent and descent.

The venture capital content of our week was not quite zero - I met a high-tech entrepreneur turned resort owner who still dabbles in tech investing. I quite understand why he sees the BVI as an excellent place from which to invest!