Atlanta, ruby, Sports, startups, Technology

Touchdown Nation finds a rhythm – Atlanta Startup Weekend 3, day 2

Touchdown Nation was formed yesterday (the name was updated from Football Nation so we could secure a web domain, twitter account and be unique on Facebook).  As a part of Atlanta Startup Weekend 3, we’re building an engaging social game for Facebook in less than 3 days.

The first 24 hours of Startup Weekend are a volatile time.  During ASW1, a huge swath of business and marketing types ran away after we chose to work on Skribit, and more attrition followed during early and mid Saturday afternoon as the team lurched into action.  During ASW2, many, MANY teams flamed out when they realized that the person who pitched the idea was trying to find free development & sales labor to build their idea in the coming months.  This year, at least 2 of the 8 teams totally cratered in the first 24 hours.

It happens.  Teams realize they can’t agree on what to build, that they can’t build what they want to, or that someone else already built the whole thing.  It’s not always a reflection on the people involved.  In some cases, I think it IS a reflection of the idea pitched.  Vague pitches about ill-defined products that will take a year to build are recipes for team implosion.

The first 24 hours of Startup Weekend are kind of insane.  You have teams of 5 to 20 people trying to get on the same page to figure out exactly what their project is, how to make money, and how to work effectively with a dozen strangers.

Touchdown Nation was no exception.  We had a great working session on Friday night deciding many of the things the game was and was not.  It changed a decent bit from my original pitch, or at least what I had in my head, which is a good thing and a great reflection on the team.  We came into this morning with a list of things to get done by noon, and we basically hit all of them, but there was still this sense of urgency.  We had a loose plan, a new name, and the technology infrastructure was in place, but hadn’t had any time to actually build the technology, the business, or the marketing.  It’s an uneasy feeling, which makes people on a team want to spend more time generating certainty instead of building something.

In the afternoon, we started to do less planning and more doing.  There are amazing times in startups where I believe the core team is in a rhythm.  In a rhythm, people on different teams understand the common needs enough that problems are worked out in conference calls, not huge meetings, and I believe Touchdown Nation hit that stride today.  When everyone is running toward the same goal, you need less meetings to reach that goal.  Course corrections happen through natural conversations, not huge meetings.

We hit that moment today.  Code started flying, blog posts started getting posted, you name it), but we got everyone technically ready to do their job.

That’s enough for now.  We”re very exicted and having a blast.  Check out @TouchdownNation for the latest news.

Game On!


Atlanta, Sports, startups, Technology

Football Nation – Atlanta Startup Weekend 3, Day 1

It’s been 2 years since the first Atlanta Startup Weekend, which I view as a landmark moment in the growth of Atlanta’s technology startup community, and certainly a pivotal moment for me personally.  It grew both my ambition of what startups could accomplish in Atlanta, and my network of like-minded startupy people.

We launched Skribit in 3 days, and it remains one of the most successful Startup Weekend companies anywhere.  Last year, I spent time on the Seed Stage Records and Giving Time teams.  I left Seed Stage after Friday night, before it proceeded to implode on Saturday, and spent the rest of the time on Giving Time, which may be viable but hasn’t launched yet.

I pitched an idea at Startup Weekend, didn’t last year, and decided to pitch an idea this year.  Whether or not my idea was picked, my main goal was to launch whatever app I did work on by Sunday night.

Imagine my surprise when I presented an idea to build a social game for Facebook centered around Football, which I initially called Football Nation (the actual name is TBD), and I ended up with a team to build it!  The idea is that football is super popular, and Facebook apps are super popular, but nobody has effectively combined the two – instead, people are busy building farms, restaurants, and mafias on Facebook.  Not only could a football app be successful as a standalone app, it could provide a foundation to build a niche in social sports games and eventually a way to dethrone EA as the king of sports games.  (Frustration with NCAA Football 10 was actually the pain point that generated this idea.)

Our team is pretty enthusiastic about football.  We’ll be streaming Georgia Tech v. Duke on a projector tomorrow, and probably some other games.  Our team was not as well versed in Facebook social games.  In perhaps an odd move, we spent the first 30 minutes or so of our team meeting playing  the currently popular Facebook games in teams of two.  Mafia Wars, Restaurant City, Farmville, YoVille, and I even assigned Sorority Life to a guy I knew could take it. Hopefully they can detach from these new-found addictions enough to work on our app tomorrow. 🙂

I think we’ve got a good concept, and great thoughts from the team helped solidify answers to some key product decisions.  I am immensely grateful to have a strong development team which I can trust implicitly because I have worked with most of them.  I’m excited about the non-developer elements of our team too because they had great input and we need strong design, marketing, biz dev, etc. to make this thing work, and we have all of those skills.

If you’re a creative type and interested in helping, please find us.  We have a great start, but I believe that with this app, we have  a nearly unlimited need for UI input and asset production to make this game really rock.

If you’re planning to come to a startup weekend, prepare an idea to pitch.  The process of running  a team that has chosen your idea is amazingly different from being a part of a tea built around someone else’s idea.

Tomorrow is going to rock.

Atlanta, Sports

Tornado Night at the Georgia Dome

I went to the Georgia Dome tonight for the SEC basketball tournament.  I caught up with a good friend who’s on UK’s faculty to watch both games, but the weather had different plans.

The Mississippi State vs. Alabama game went to overtime.  The Kentucky fans (a majority of the attendees) seemed quite excited for overtime even though they weren’t even playing, so I thought little of it when I heard what I thought was the UK fans loudly stomping their feet.  Until it became evident that it wasn’t them… it was too loud.

Looking beyond the UK fans, I could actually see the fabric of the roof of the Dome shaking in the wind.  I’ve been in the dome before for storms, and the fabric has never moved.  One of the advertising banners near the roof tore, pieces insulation started visibly blowing through the air of the dome, the scoreboard and partitions hanging from the ceiling were swaying widely, and the stomping noise got louder.  At this point, we decided that being underneath the steel and fabric roof was a bad idea, and were among the first wave of people to head for the concourse.

This was the edgiest part of the evening.  The aisles began filling up, people were becoming impatient with the slow walk up to the concourse, and the train-like sound of a tornado grew louder.  Here, there was a major possibility of a Cloverfield moment – like some monster was about to peel back the roof of the dome, screech, and create mass hysteria.  But simpler than that, if the power had flickered or gone out, if a larger tear had opened in the roof, I think chaos would have erupted.  It was a nervous and tense moment that could have taken a very bad turn.  After this, the stories began to circulate and we looked at visible damage.  One person almost got hit with a bolt that fell from the ceiling.  One security guard saw a rotating storm, another saw a woman who was outside slammed into the building by the wind.  There was an obvious hole in the roof of the Dome.

After lots of waiting, they somehow managed to finish out the Mississippi State  game, and they decided to wait to start the second game.  Overall, their crisis plan needed a LOT of work.  Via my phone, I learned there were ongoing tornado and severe weather warnings, but they left people in their seats rather than requiring them to move to the more sheltered concourses.  They provided very infrequent updates.  They kept telling everyone to stay around, and then suddenly announced that the Dome would close in 15 minutes.  They also postponed the second game just when all of the storm threats were subsiding.

The walk back to my car proved to me that a tornado was almost certainly the culprit.  The damage was extreme, but localized to very narrow areas.  We saw pieces of insulation surrounding the outside of the dome, and what appeared to be random structural pieces of the dome.  Insulation was blown so fast that it severed halves of shrubs.  Metal barricades were bent as they blew over.  Branches and plywood were sheared.

The most convincing evidence was on the Northside Drive side of the Dome.  Just below the roof of the dome were 2 sections where the exterior paneling was ripped off.  The insulation was gone, and torn banners were visible.  There were effectively 2 huge breaches directly to the interior of the dome, which explained why is was so drafty after the initial hit, and why they were reluctant to resume games if more bad weather was coming.  Large metal monument signs had been wrestled to the ground, twisted and wrested from their foundations.  Power poles and trees were toppled like twigs.

The Georgia World Congress Center may have sustained some of the worst damage.  LOTS of windows on the west side of the building were shattered.  Water pipes were broken and spewing water, and fire sprinklers appeared to be running as well.  News reports showed that this caused flooding in the building, and I’m sure this will require major repairs.

My car was frighteningly close to the path of destruction, but appears to be fine.
What a night!  I’m exhausted, and glad to be safe through this experience, which will also be another intriguing memory with a great friend.


Why did Ron Artest leave the game early?

(Punch line is coming.) I’m very excited to have been given club seats and a parking pass to tonight’s Atlanta Hawks vs. Indiana Pacers game. As a Pacers fan, I’d wish the players would have had more restraint so I could see an undepleted Pacers squad out there instead of a team sliding downhill fast, hanging on for dear life until they get 2 of their starters back and try to salvage a playoff spot.

For those of you just here for the joke, the answer is, “So he could beat the crowd.”


Worst Olympic "Sport" Yet

Feel free to suggest your own, but I nominate trampolining.

I was amazed tonight to see that there was an event based on jumping on a trampoline. 10 hops and a variety of acrobatics later, the judges spit out a subjective score and someone wins. I couldn’t help but snicker at the thought of Adam Corrolla proclaiming, “And now time for girls jumping on trampolines” at the conclusion of “The Man Show”.

I don’t know what flavor of nutcases are in charge of the Olympics. They’re clearly quite odd, picking their pet sports and finding ways to have more of the same. It’s like hey, there’s not enough aquatic events, let’s have them swim 10 different distances, and add synchronized diving just for giggles. And there’s not enough gymnastics (yeah right), if we put them on trampolines, we can have more gymnastics, but call it a new “sport”.

What a bunch of elitist jerks. Bring back the tug-o-war as an event. Add some additional team sports such as Rugby or Football. Sure, they’re not hugely popular worldwide, but when was the last time you went to an exhibition of acrobatic trampoline jumping? In any country in the world? If the Olympic officials actually liked basketball, you’d have half-court and full-court basketball on 8, 10, and 12 foot rims. Instead, we get individual and group competitions in 5 different gymnastic events, then add-on events like the dances with props like ribbons & balls, this trampoline thing, and several dozen swimming and foot race events. It’s only a matter of time before they add synchronized underwater weightlifting.

It will be over soon, and the NFL will mean something soon, and the college football debates can begin. In the mean time, there’s always Olympic beach volleyball.


ACC Title Game – Jacksonville

The decision has been made, the 2004 & 2005 Atlantic Coast Conference football championship games will be in Jacksonville, beating out Baltimore, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Washington.

While I would have loved Atlanta as the location, the SEC title game precludes that option, so Jacksonville truly seems to be the next best option. Washington and Baltimore are too far north, too far from the middle of the conference, too cold in early December. Miami, Orlando, and Tampa are all too far south, a 10+ hour drive from anywhere but FSU, Miami, and Georgia Tech (though Tampa wouldn’t be bad because a) no ACC Bowls are played there, b) great facilities, and c) my mom and in-laws live there). Charlotte isn’t a bad option – a nice town, and nice facilities, but in the run-up to the bowls, fans and players want an atmosphere to be outside, celebrate, and maybe take a vacation. I mean, do you think of the great atmosphere surrounding the Motor City Bowl? Charlotte also would have let the Carolina schools think they’re still in charge, and would be a bad thing.

That leaves Jacksonville. Decent facilities, decent town (from what I hear). It’s already the site of a game with HUGE atmosphere (Florida/Georgia), that is wildly successful. The biggest flaw in J-ville is that the ACC’s #2 bowl is the Gator Bowl, and few fans will want to go to the same town twice in a month. So I suppose they’re betting that the #2 team will make a BCS bowl, now that they’ve added the 5th game. Not a bad bet, with the ACC jostling for the crown of the best conference in all the land, it’s a reasonable bet. If not, a swap with the Capital One or Cotton Bowl could make sense, and the Peach Bowl is one of the top tier #3 bowls around. And for the near future, chances are that either FSU or Miami will be in that game, so the location ensures a huge turnout. Not a bad decision from the new ACC… at least until they prove to Atlanta that it’s worth their while to give the SEC title game the boot.


Super Regional – Tech vs. Georgia

My excitement is on the rise for this weekend’s college baseball matchup between my alma mater, Georgia Tech, and No Name University. Tickets were apparently tough to come by, selling out within the first hour of their sale to the general public (available to GT donors and season ticket holders since Monday). That the university from Athens only reserved HALF of their 600 ticket allottment in a series that will decide a berth in the College World Series is both sad and amusing – only family and friends of players received tickets through UGA. Overall, I’m guessing this will lead to a huge home field advantage for Tech.

Russ Chandler Stadium is a great venue for one of the purest major college sports, baseball. Although we won’t get the beauty of a night game in downtown Atlanta, the 2 pm Friday start will give me an opportunity to cut out of work early, and perhaps lunch at Junior’s. Saturday and (hopefully no need for) Sunday noon starts mean nice sun and brunch tailgating. It’s almost like football season.


Baseball Draft Timing Irresponsible

Wait until the College World Series is over. Is that so hard? As if professional baseball isn’t so self-important already with its super-size 162 game season and its incessant whining about “tradition”. (Before inter-league play, precisely what was so interesting about playing the same 13 or 15 teams an average of 10+ times each? Why not cut that number in half so people can even think about caring about the importance of a single game?)

Now we have the baseball draft, where they begin picking the 17 year olds that they’ll send to southeastern Idaho for 4 years where they can stock groceries and hope they get moved up to AA ball eventually. The real problem is that, in case they haven’t noticed, some of the kids they’re drafting – the ones in college, haven’t finished their seasons yet. For most student-athletes, this doesn’t matter. They don’t have a chance of a career in the pros, but what of the ones that do? Just why should Vanderbilt’s Jeremy Sowers give 110% toward next weekend’s super-regional matchup with Texas when he’s already the number 6 pick in the draft? I’m not suggesting that he’ll throw in the towel, but he certainly doesn’t have the same motivation to put everything on the line. I know when I was in my final semester in college, it became much harder to care about classes once I’d locked down my post-graduation job.

These players and their teams should have an opportunity to focus on getting to and winning the College World Series, on doing and showing their best so that they can win games, and possibly improve their value in the draft. Instead, for the top prospects, the race has been run. Almost nothing they do now will affect their paycheck. Hopefully, pride is enough to motivate them, but why risk it? Drafting DURING these games harms the college game. Waiting would harm nothing. In just 3 weeks, a national champion will have been crowned. Colleges have already signed their recruits for next year, and Spring training is still be 8 months away. The NFL doesn’t draft during bowl season, the NBA doesn’t draft during March Madness. MLB’s choice to draft during the college post-season is a distraction, and a sample of the arrogance that has led to the league’s declining popularity.