Today I want to announce that Commonred is starting the incubator to end all incubators. Commonred is happy to report another amazing project in the Vaporware Labs tradition of our forefathers: we’re starting an incubator that will incubate future incubators.

Yes tech world. BOOM. Or should I say BOOM BOOM POW!

Ever heard of an incubator? Ok maybe. But have you ever heard of an ‘incubating incubator’? We will begin accepting applications starting with the comments of this blog post. Here’s how the program will work:

Once accepted we’ll begin by helping founders learn how to be advisors for other companies that they can incubate. It doesn’t matter that they have limited to no real success or even experience – the less the better. We want young technical centric founders (no non-Zuckerberg types need apply) who are really opinionated and able to say no and ‘that sucks’ a lot.

Next we’ll set up weekly meetings for you to meet with all the other incubator founders. You can swap horror stories of startups you’ve turned down or dreams you’ve broken. It will be so awesome. This camaraderie will make everyone strong. Saying ‘no’ only gets easier after each of these dinners.

Another thing we’ll do is pool all the applicant totals together so that so can say that you were able to get ‘hundreds’ or ‘dozens’ of applications because they were part of the larger group. This will give your incubator an advantage in the extremely crowded incubator market that’s only getting worse with what we’re doing.

Our first batch will feature 100-200 incubators, and we’ll ramp from there. This will help us be apart of creating 6000-12,000 startups each year starting in 2012 and make Palo Alto altogether unbearable to work or live in.You thought startups were ‘cool’ before just wait till we’re done.

I know you’re dying to know – how can you get in?

It’s really easy. Just present an incubator idea that is really unique. Own a vertical that’s hot and will leave us chomping at the bit. Here are a few examples of incubators that have already received invites:

Incu-Woof-Woof: This incubator will focus entirely on dog-centric companies. They’re looking for companies like social networks for dogs, dog food distribution, dog naming wizards, online dog privacy, dog barking non-profit.

Sit 2 Sit-Incubator: This incubator will focus entirely on chair-cenric companies. Companies that should apply include: virtual Facebook chairs for games, daily chair deals, death row chair mini-game companies.

Osama-Bator: This incubator will focus entirely on businesses making money from Bin Ladden’s death. Companies that should apply include: Taliban daily deal sites, Al Qaeda photo sharing app, terrorist check-in mobile apps. Also interested in Taliban crowd sourced flash-mob communities.

So get going – the sooner you start incubating your incubator the better. Everyone knows that the longer you bake cookies the better they taste…or something like that. Submit your idea below and lets make all of your incubating dreams come true.


This is part of a new series I’m starting on my blog for Startup Post Mortem’s. If you don’t learn from the past you’re doomed to repeat it. Lots of great lessons in here from Ryan Bennett, the founder of Liv. I met Ryan in late 2010 and he was full of passion and gunning for the success of his product. He tried to build a great team, and get something to market.

I absolutely applaud his effort. The guy just got his real world MBA. Far better than any school he could have attended at about the same price. Having just attend FailCon yesterday it’s so clear that even the guys at the very top fail. What sets them apart is they get back up and go for another round. Ryan’s that type of guy. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

Written by Ryan Bennett:

One of the hardest decisions of my life was to shut down my company, Liv, after 2 years and 5 months.  It all began with a vision for a product that could solve a problem for millions of people. I took on this challenge full-force, moved to California in the heart of Silicon Valley, and invested all my time, energy and funds into making this product a success. Unfortunately, after many different pivots and partnerships, the idea failed to take off and I found myself with a greater knowledge from the experience.

Although Liv has been my life for the last two years both emotionally and mentally, I knew it was time to move on.  Here is my Post Mortem.

1) Find a Paying Customer – We should have found a paying customer first to fund the business instead of trying to build out the consumer app and rely on our users for revenue from the beginning.  We should have found a company willing to pay us to build a white label product for them and in return, use the experience to learn about the product and use their funding to build out the consumer application of our vision and passion.

2) Lean Approach to Product Development – We should have used the lean approach to product development to build, measure, and learn from every user right from the beginning.  After doing our research and talking to many people, we thought we knew exactly what the user wanted.  After building two different products, which wasted money and time, we finally learned about the Lean Startup Movement.  We should have built a minimum viable product at first and the n used that product to learn what the users really wanted by their actions and not their words.  After we started using the build, measure, learn methodology, we were much more productive.  From that, we saw our users grow and more importantly, we saw our flaws.

3) Build For the Want Not the Need – We should have built a product for the want and not the need.  I know this sounds counter-intuitive but we noticed a huge need for a product that allows people to collect and organize all their favorite products in one spot. However, after many months, we realized that although a need did exist, no one wanted to use it more than three times a year, which were Christmas, Birthdays, and furnishings for apartments or homes. We should have built a product for the want not the need.  Even if there are 10 products doing exactly what we were doing, if a big enough want still existed then we would have users willing to sign up and use Liv.

4) Better “Go-To-Market” Strategy – We should have build a better “go-to-market” strategy.  We relied heavily on the “viral” characteristics of the product and not enough on other influences.  Research would have allowed us to target exactly how our market receives their information and clearly identify those early adopters. We could have built a product they loved.  We should have identified the first 150 ideal users of Liv and talked to them directly about a product they would love.

Ultimately, we decided to move our attention elsewhere because I lost the passion for the problem I was trying solve.  Although building a business is an emotional roller coaster, I knew in my heart it was time to move on.

Building a company from nothing is not without its challenges.  From these challenges and experiences, I made many mistakes but I also did a few things correct.  Click here to read about the 5 lessons I learned from Liv.  I know everyone has different experiences and this is just one prospective, but I hope it helps at least one entrepreneur.


Ryan can and should be reached at Help him find his next project.

I came home a couple of weeks ago to my 2-year old son saying, “Dad, never give up! Never give up! Never give up!” This seemed like awesome but strange advice from a two-year old. A week or so later we found out that Dora the Explorer (aka: legal crack for children) has an episode reinforcing this message.

It reminds me of an awesome Ben Horowitz post a few months. Here’s my favorite part:

“As CEO, there will be many times when you feel like quitting. I have seen CEOs try to cope with the stress by drinking heavily, checking out, and even quitting. In each case, the CEO has a marvelous rationalization why it was OK for him to punk out or quit, but none them will ever be great CEOs. Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweat, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary founder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say: “I didn’t quit.”

*I met with a friend yesterday who recently shutdown his business that he worked on for about a year. He eventually realized that it wouldn’t get traction and decided to cut his loses. Much more important is what he’s doing now. He didn’t give up. He’s immediately trying to get the next thing going. Head high – he’s onto the next thing.

*I have another friend whose product has taken longer than expected to get live (sounds familiar). Instead of throwing in the towel he got a part-time job at HP to supplement his startup dreams and keep it going. I respect this guy a lot more than the founder who get’s 22k hits on the first night of being live.

I just found this image on Ming Yeow Ng’s blog today. It’s reflective of reality for 99% of entrepreneurs.

We’ve had our own fair shares of highs and low. Let me share one. Last year we launched an iOS game called Steve Young Football. We had some good moments, and some not so good moments. Afterwards I sulked for 2-weeks and then got back to work. A year later we’re being featured again (positively – or not) for our latest project.

But positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. I’m not doing what we’re doing for high fives or pats on the back. I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do. That sounds stupid and cheesy but it’s true. Sorry.

The only way for you to prove that you’re not actually crazy is to be successful. That’s the motivation for a guy to get a part-time job to keep his preverbial startup ball in the air. You (and I) just have to find ways to keep it going long enough to eventually find that product market fit we’re all looking for.

Rarely will it be the first thing you come up with or start working on. So in the profound words of Dora the Explorer:

“NEVER GIVE UP.” I won’t if you won’t.

What everyone thinks it’s like being in a tech startup. 

What it’s really like.

I got this email tonight from someone that was invited to join Commonred via a ‘friend’ invitation. I’ve learned that people are generally nice. If they act stupid it’s best just to ignore it and carry on. Here is an exchange with an angry potential user tonight. It’s amazing:

Bill: If you do nothing in life….never email me again.

Me: Ha. Your friend sent this to you not me. Maybe you should follow his advice. 🙂 I can find you someone to dramatically help your business or your money back – oh wait accounts are free. What are you looking for and how can I help?

Bill: Impressive you wrote back Derek, I can appreciate that.  I took a jab because the individual that sent that correspondence is the furthest thing from a friend or acquaintance.  As for you, best of luck with your business!
Me: Haha. Well very sorry to hear that. I’ll remove you. Offer still stands. If you need help with finding someone let me know.
Bill: Thanks Derek, best of luck!
I have had a few like this, but this is the best. He’ll be back – just give him a few months.

We (Vaporware Labs) have spent the better part of 2011 working on our latest project. It’s called Commonred and it has a simple mission: be the best place to find commonality with other professionals.

Strong common threads are the basis for any meaningful professional relationship. We work together. We went to the same school. We like the same books. We know the same people. We both frequent the North Shore of Oahu or the Startup Grind Meetup. This information is scattered all across the web on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Some of it lives on our blog or Plancast profile. So when I want to build a relationship with you, I embark on a scavenger hunt across the internets wasting lots of time.

Commonred (short for common thread) solves this problem by giving you a snapshot of commonality you share with others. Each user’s data is customized to the person looking at it. I don’t need to know everything about you – just what we have in common and what’s interesting to me (schools, places, hobbies, people, companies, etc). This helps inform me on how to best approach someone, or gain a meaningful contact. The deeper the better.

Our goal is to drive serendipitous experiences for people as they find commonality when they never would have previously. We attempt to do it in a fun, simple, and design focused way. Join our beta today and start finding common threads with people you never would have otherwise.

If you asked a teenage girl, they might call it…disgusting.

If you asked a detective…it’s golden.

To a child…it has awesome stuff inside.

If you ask a garbage man…he might say it stinks but it pays the bills.

And if you asked us we’d say…it’s just a garbage can with our logo and you’re going to buy at least three next quarter.

thanks to @JaredJacobs for smuggling this out from 1 Infinite Loop.

I turned 29 years old today and this video haunts me! Should I be concerned? Check out the 1:45 mark. Happy Birthday to me….I guess. 🙂

There’s something highly rewarding about telling someone how you really feel in a long, heart-felt, brutal email. We’ve all sent them. We’re all received them. It’s almost too easy.

When you yell you get interrupted. You have to listen to the opposite perspective. You have to have some level of decency. A face-to-face almost requires it. But when you email, all protocol for being a decent human is abandonable.

The Compose box becomes a canvas of hate, and your masterpiece of degradation would make Van Gogh proud. After only a couple of sentences the recipient has been sucked into the black hole of your anger and any of their attempts to stop reading are futile. You’ve got them. They’re in your world now and they’ll have to read every word.

You press send, and you’ve won! At least until they respond back because that’s where the ’email hangover’ begins.

Like waking up in a strange place after a seemingly awesome night; the headache, nausea, and internal bleeding pain ramps up quickly. Usually the email sent back is more inflammatory than the one you sent out. Now you’re the one getting picked apart. You’re the one that can’t look away. You’re the one that feels like a midget at a dunk contest.

Then the lawsuit threats start and things go from Howard Dean scary to Jihad scary. This email you crafted to help you feel better starts eating up hours in time and worry. More importantly your reputation and the possibility of your email ever resurfacing are things you can never get control of again.

Some people just don’t get that any email they send is no longer theirs. Might as well post it on the internet yourself. There are some famous examples of this.

Sean Parker’s Napster email to the record companies was later used as major ammunition to take them down. In a recent interview with Jason Calacanis, he told me that during his public fight with Michael Arrington he had received lots and lots of emails that would embarrass its authors. How many  Steve Jobs emails have been reposted?

If it’s bugging you enough to seriously consider sending, you’ll probably need to let it out before it goes away. I suggest writing the email. The only difference; before you hit send, hit delete instead.  I can tell you from personal experience that there’s a relief that comes from writing things out, and there’s another relief that comes from hitting delete.

Each time I’ve lobed an email grenade it’s had a negative effect. Every single time. The response I received made me feel worse than before. Each time I’ve received one it’s turned out worse for the author. Some people have come back months later and apologized saying they have felt guilty for months. What a waste.

This happened to me as recently as this week after a particularly obnoxious relationship hit a boiling point. I typed an email, put all my feelings on paper, and then hit delete.

You can do it. It only takes one keystroke.

Last week I went to Maui for a few days of really hard work. During that time I didn’t check Twitter at all (gasp). Here’s what happened….

Nothing. Nothing happened. Everything was fine. My business didn’t collapse. My friends didn’t abandon me. I didn’t miss out on anything.  

Just some perspective.

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