Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

“Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” is a literal translation of the Chinese idiom “臥虎藏龍” which describes a place or situation that is full of danger.  It is from a poem of the ancient Chinese poet Yu Xin‘s, which means “behind the rock in the dark probably hides a tiger, and the coiling giant root resembles a crouching dragon.” – Wikipedia

Upon moving back to Canada, I was introduced to Heather Reisman and later joined Indigo with the idea of ‘what happens when books go digital’ planted firmly in my mind.  It was a new thing for me, to work for i) a non tech company, ii) a Canadian company, iii) a company i did not start or vend into.  Newly married with a new child, and a desire to not fly 250,000 miles a year helped push me over the edge.  It was an amazing experience on so many levels, and I will always be grateful for that time.

It didn’t take long in my new environment to recognize that on many levels, my life experience up to that point – ISEF, NASA, Microsoft, Silicon Valley and a few startups with giant exits – was different.  The people who were my mentors, my models were giants in tech, and they were hyper-smart, hyper-competitive and aggressive.

I think it’s safe to say, that you don’t find that often, anywhere, let alone in a book retailer.  Which made it all the more surprising that that was the place I met my friend, Dan Galperin.  Hyper-smart, hyper-competitive and aggressive.  Unrelenting and strong.  Ready to fight, and unquestionably, to win.  He is the Tiger and the Dragon, and you want him to be on your side.

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Dan was the only one to approach me, 1:1 and make it clear to me who he was — From Belarus to Israel.  A builder.  An entrepreneur.  Someone that solves hard problems.  Someone who can sail through rough seas.  Tough as nails.  A man of substance.

In my transformation of the team at Indigo, Dan rose to the top and became a partner.  When the time came to spin-out, to build a digital platform to deliver books to anyone on the planet, on any device – to compete among the best – there was no question that Dan was the right leader.

Dan built a team of hundreds of engineers that created Kobo’s platform, apps, devices and backoffice.  An extraordinary feat in and of itself.

Dan built our overseas development offices, extending our global footprint.

Dan built our partner platforms, in enterprise back offices around the globe.

Dan built a culture of delivery, pushing to deliver the unthinkable, to cross the finish line and to succeed in every mission I gave him.  Unquestionably, every time.

Dan built a team so acutely aware of the importance of delivery, that they counted the days in between a “Dan’ing” – a fearsome ritual that was performed anytime there was slipping.

Hidden behind a Zen-like calm, Dan has the intensity of the Tiger and the Dragon.  That intensity enabled us to compete, and to win with Kobo – building a world class platform, and competing with the best on the planet.  We sold Kobo 2 years after launching for hundreds of millions.  We then accelerated the business around the globe.

That wouldn’t have been possible without Dan.

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Training, the kind when you feel your legs burning – screaming at you in fact – is often a good time to reflect and to find truth.  I went for a long ride last week with a good friend that is a VC in Palo Alto.  As we were pushing through the most intense part of the ride, when my legs were burning the most – we talked about people we knew and worked with, and agreed, that Dan Galperin is among the best there is.  And I am proud to call him my friend.

As I think about creating another global, world changing platform – there’s no one better suited for the challenge.  Today, I am thrilled to announce that Dan Galperin has joined Dan Leibu, Todd Humphrey and I as a co-founder & investor in the Everlong Project — and this is the most alive, and the most intense I have seen him in years.

Welcome to the Everlong Project Dan!

(As many people can appreciate, we now have the power of the Double Dan. 🙂  )

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Meanwhile, we’ve been quiet at Everlong while we build out the company in stealth.  I look forward to sharing some more soon,

Oh…It’s On.

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Our second month at Everlong has been filled with forecast meetings, governance sessions, planning meetings, and late night calls with Asia.

Yikes.  No it hasn’t!   

The best way to describe our second month is to share a little story.  Throughout 2009, ebook sales were a tiny fraction of 1% of total book sales in the US.  Almost zero everywhere else.  We launched Kobo in December.  Within 90 days ebooks jumped to almost 10% of US book sales.  Every week was filled with acquisitions, product announcements, and new milestones.  What was brewing for over a decade appeared to go from zero to something material.

Seemingly overnight, it was on.  The window had burst open, with a wave of oxygen giving life to a new industry.  Thousands entered the fray.   48 months later there were only a few left standing….what a ride.

Everlong 2014 M2, Health Inflection Point

In the last month we’ve seen Mary Meeker’s report, the Samsung ‘let’s pre-empt Apple’ announcement with some sweet smelling vapour; the Apple ‘here are some tools for you to start using before our iWatch’ announcement,…, ‘i dare you to give us your data’….and upcoming we will have a similar Google announcement.  Even Sony squeaked out a wearable.  Awww, way to go Sony!!! (insert snarky face)  The real signal in all that noise though, was Mary.  A year ago — nary a word in her report about Digital Health.   This year, pages and pages.

Oh…It’s On!

Meanwhile, the Everlong HQ has been getting crowded with Todd Humphrey and Dan Leibu joining.  We are now up to about a dozen working on the project…so we are tripling our total space and moving fast.   Wow, month two has been a period of triple digit growth (CEO speak).    

I thought I would share some of my favourite moments, sentences uttered, questions asked…and give you a glimpse of what’s happening at Everlong.

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“Hi Mr. Serbinis, this is security.  We have a Mr. ABCD here to see you.” Apparently when you blog your new location, people like to drop in with offers of offshore development resources, critical opinions, and even some with undying love and gratitude.  Thanks everyone!  However, the “stealth” in “stealth mode” is all about quietly scheming, and hiding from random visits.  if you want to reach out,…pls email us at info@everlong.io Thanks!

“GO or Node.js?….Titan or Neo4J?”

Month two is major infrastructure setup month.  If this means nothing to you, skip to the next one.  Otherwise, you get a sense what’s important to us.  Graph DB’s are where it’s at Baby.

“I know exactly what you guys are doing”

Really?  You must have a time machine.  Cool!  Let’s go buy some lottery tickets so I can forgo the funding process….I don’t even know exactly what we are doing, yet.

“Health is so hard.  You guys know nothing about Health.”  

True.  But I know 10X more than I did last month.  Guess what?  Turns out you can hire a lot of smart people that know a lot about Health.  If you are one of these people, give me a shout.  I’d love to meet.

“I’m building a health app too!”

Shocker.

“I’m building a cool new wearable device!”

Let me tell you a little story about the hardware business and how I learned about EVT, DVT, PVT, BOM, building the supply chain, shipping lanes, inventories, mdf, co-op, price-protection, ATL, BTL, LCM, and W-T-F.  Beware the sensor that has a 2 year half life…it will be in the next iPhone.  Oh, and few investors like tying up their money in your component buys.  Good luck!

Epics and Stories, Alpha, Beta,….Launch

Sounds like a nod to my love of Fantasy, Rockets and all things Greek.  But no, this is about product.  It’s amazing how fast you can go when you’re on a mission.  Month two was also about product / service design.  If you move fast enough, you get a launch plan too.

“Dude, you’re code gay”

That was from the HBO series “Silicon Valley.”  Nothing to do with Everlong, although I have been described as code gay before.

 

 

“Wow…We’re sending you a term sheet”

Seriously?  That’s cool.

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So month two has come and gone, and every moment of every day, I have increasing energy and enthusiasm for The Everlong Project.  Things have been incredibly fast, F1 fast.    A few weeks ago I hit the F1 Monaco Grand Prix with some friends, watching qualifying from Hotel de Paris and the race from a yacht in the harbour, a few feet from the track.If you’ve ever been a few feet from the track during an F1 race, feeling the heat on your face, the woosh of passing cars, the sound of the roaring engines in your ears, reverberating into a pounding in your chest…the oooos and dead quiet upon a smash up, and the joyous cheering of fans with the checkered flag…..

That’s what a startup can be like, when it’s on.    

It’s on…at Everlong.

Harder Better Faster Stronger

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It’s hard to think of my own history without thinking about my friend Dan Leibu.

We met through a want-ad, in an actual newspaper.  Dan applied for a job with our fledgling company and after spending an hour on the phone with him, I thought – ‘there’s no way we’re bringing that guy on board’.

He started the week after….and he has had a profound impact on my life ever since.  Like Daft Punk’s duo of music-nerdery, we have developed a partnership over a decade long with our own form of nerdery….the kind that dreams big, and turns those dreams into reality.  Daft Punk’s 2001 hit “Harder Better Faster Stronger” is how I think of Dan and I.  Together, we are Stronger.

Our partnership began at the founding of docSpace, a little cloud storage company we built and sold in 2000 for >$500 million, seven days before the bubble burst.  Our first year together was spent remotely with Dan in Vancouver, me in Toronto / San Francisco.  I mostly knew Dan by the sound “Oh-Oh” – the cute-turned-annoying alert of ICQ that was my signal that Dan was there, alive and cranking.   We chatted constantly, and he built the entire platform.  One Friday I returned from a competitors’, sent Dan my notes with a “we have to do this….” and then he re-wrote the entire system over the weekend.  Amazing.

Post docSpace, Dan took on a team of hundreds and ran the hosted service at Critical Path – the company that ran about one-third of the world’s email through it’s service and telco partnerships.  In the meantime, I was trying to ensure the company didn’t fall apart through a massive restructuring, fundraising, and marketing effort.  Dan ran the operation, with tens of millions of customers worldwide, and the biggest telcos, governments and enterprises as our partners.  Through this time, he lived in New York, San Francisco, Singapore.   The man was on a mission.

Together, we next took on the world of books, initially at Indigo where we developed a new strategy process, a community platform, and most importantly, where we conceived of a ‘myspace for books’….that would become Kobo.  I remember our first CES, where we witnessed a sea of ebook players, which Dan correctly predicted would soon die.  I remember Dan negotiating with Random House – our first publisher deal – talking about building a global, scalable platforms capable of supporting billions of transactions.  They thought we were nerds that didn’t understand publishing (partially correct).  To Dan, these guys had no idea what they were in for, and in the future would be obsolete.  I remember staring down Sony’s President who suggested that we drop what we were doing and join their leading ebook division.  We walked out of that meeting, and Dan looked over to me and said “we are going to crush those guys.”  In fact, we did.  Kobo now serves over 20 million readers in 190 countries worldwide.

Dan knows code, and I’ve seen him build a platform in a weekend.

Dan knows the boardroom, and I’ve seen him turn a room full of suits inside out.

Dan knows strategy, and you don’t want to be on the other side of the table from him.

Dan knows the hard things about doing hard things.  He is a lethal weapon.

Anyone that has worked with Dan would attest to all of this and more.  When his team was asked what Dan should do next in his career, they suggested the following:  Magician, Jedi Master, FBI Interrogator, Hawaii Tour Guide, Professional Dungeon Master, or lead singer in a Matthew Good Cover Band.  He could do all this and more 🙂

He is the one that shared this line from Inception with me, and it has stuck –

‘there are those that live in a dream world, and those that are stuck in reality,…, and then there are those that can turn one into another’

There’s no one I know that embodies that statement more.   Together, we are going to turn our next dream into reality.

Welcome to The Everlong Project my friend.

-MS

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

todd_mike_partee

 

All great relationships have a story.

I first met Todd Humphrey on the phone.  His was the name that just kept popping up, the name that wouldn’t go away.  I did the phoner and it was an upside surprise, so I suggested we meet at some point in the (distant) future.  The following Monday I walked into my office and I did a double take.  Eva warned me seconds in advance, that “Todd is your first meeting of the day.”  What the…?

We hit it off and Todd joined my exec team at Kobo by week’s end, running business development, and was in Las Vegas with me the week after for some deal making.

That was four years ago.

In that time, he’s visited 20 countries on 6 continents, nearly a million miles for Kobo and was key to our success.  He got deals on the table.  He got deals done.   He got on the cover of dozens of national newspapers you will never read.  Once he had the MD of a prospective partner in headlock (not entirely unexpected if you recognize the former semipro hockey player once had 350 penalty minutes in a season.)  Then there was that time when he ordered a round of tequila shots for the President of a large telco and his team to kick things off.  Or the time we were on a road show, and Todd made sure he lowered the seats the VC’s would sit in, before they entered the room, so we towered over them (a hilarious move btw).

“What could possibly go wrong?” was a line that became part of our culture.  If you want to win, you have to be prepared to take risks and Todd is not shy.

I could go on and on with amazing, and some unbelievable stories (Woody Harrelson snowball fight…Wonder Woman on a bus…) but I’ll save those for the book.  As a leader, more than anything Todd has heart.  He understands culture and the importance of the moment – capturing it, working it, shaping it, using it to build and grow a company.   Time and time again, Todd gave everything he had to his team, to win.  And he always had their back.   That kind of leadership is rare.

For all these reasons and more, I am thrilled that Todd has joined as co-founder at the Everlong Project where we plan on building another great company.   As we are just rounding out Month 2, doubling our space, growing the team, and working toward launch – it’s great timing.

30 years ago this past week, Gretzky won his first Stanley Cup.  As a little boy, I was forever changed by witnessing a young team knock off the reigning Stanley Cup champs.  That team had Wayne, age 24, but they never would’ve won without Messier.   Messier had skills, he had grit, but more importantly he had heart.

Therein lies a lesson.

Welcome Todd!

– MS, from Monaco

If Everything Is Under Control

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“If everything is under control, you’re not going fast enough” – Mario Andretti

One of my favourite quotes, that I think about all the time. I live it. I feel it in my dreams…last night I dreamt about 2 years in the future, seeing my family for the first time in 2 years – whoaaaa! Scary, but an indication of where we are in The Everlong Project. An indication, of the quickening.

I first met Sebastien Vettel at the Paddock Club at F1 Montreal, about 6 years ago. He was a practice driver for BMW – Sauber at the time. Of course, today he is the 4-time championship driver for Red Bull Racing. Back then we talked about the importance of managing speed on the track. Sounds simple. Not when you think about all of the factors a driver is managing – car performance, crew, conditions, rubber, fuel, time, competition, weather…It’s complicated. If you don’t believe me, take your car on the track and prepare to take a turn at speed. If that doesn’t freak you out a little, imagine doing the same with your adrenaline pumping and 20 other cars on the track. Imagine doing that in the rain. Imagine doing it faster. Imagine doing that hundreds of times, over an hour, and winning. Imagine doing that, starting from the back.

That’s a startup.

Too slow. Competitors blow past you.
Too fast. You burn out or blow apart.

Either way, game over. Managing your speed is critical and it’s a fine balance. Hire 20 more people, double your office space, launch….or, pull back, re-examine, get the experience ‘right?’. These are the decisions we live or die by.

Every moment counts, in that fine balance between going fast enough and going out of control.  I’ll see Seb in Monaco later this month. Until then, I’ll focus on the track in front of us at Everlong — MS

Month One

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I’ve always felt that making startups is a lot like making movies.

You get (or write) a story you want to tell, a producer, a director, actors, a crew, you go into production, post/editing, distribution/sales, marketing and you either have a hit or not.  Most are not.  If you have a hit, you want to go do it again with the same people.  If you don’t, you still want to do it again.  I met Bob Ezrin this week (producer of The Wall, Alice Cooper, etc…) and he agreed, “that’s called production.”  Wicked.

You can measure the whole exercise in months.  Kobo was 24 to sale, 12 before that as we were incubated.  50 months until i stepped down.  DocSpace was 24 to sale, etc.  Every month counts.  Momentum matters.

Month One at Everlong has been an absolutely amazing time.

There are few things like the experience of diving into something entirely uncertain, attempting to envision the future, and giving birth to a new concept, that with will, you make real.  When you build a company like we did at Kobo, there’s always a point when things slow down and become a little less creative.  Pretty natural, especially after an acquisition.  All of a sudden its been 4+ years and you are spending 90% of your week not creating anything new.  BAM.  Then it’s over.  30 days later and the world is different.

We’ve got some great momentum now at Everlong.

In fact, its amazing how much you can drive in a month when you are revv’ed up, and you’ve had a few wins under your belt to build on.  Office space, infrastructure (google apps, aws, slack, wordpress, 15five, asana, social…etc), legal, tax, branding/pr agencies, ideation, business planning, product planning, research, over 100 meetings with potential recruits, partners, investors etc, and the all important launch plan.  We’ve made incredible progress.

I thought i would share some of the (typical) things people have said to me in month one, so you get a glimpse of my last 30 days.  If you are an entrepreneur, you know what i am talking about so you can skip to the bottom.  

“So…what are you doing in there.  Tell me, what is it?”

Seriously dude?  You want me to tell you in our first month, when beyond setting our vision, mission, and objectives….the whole thing changes everyday?  Seriously dude?  You want me to tell you my newest little secret?  Dude, seriously.  You think I want to be judged by you in my most precious, moment of inception?  No thanks.  I am working on revolutionizing earth with the internet of things with spaceships and aliens and Godzilla.  ….that’s right.  

“So… is there a process you use to manufacture that A-HA! moment?”

Uhhhhhhhh, what the f—?

“Can we meet for a coffee/lunch/etc?”

As much as I like people, and i like coffee, and i like talking….I am in the crucible right now.  This time is incredibly valuable.  Outside of my dear friends and family (who I will always try to make time for), this is often more about people wanting to know what you’re doing, which translates to time away from your month one.  And every second counts so I am very careful with this kind of time.  You get it.

“So…who’s onboard?”

This is a way for people to again judge you by who’s on your team, and see if there’s a place for them.  Totally understandable.   My answer: people who can compete, and win.  

“This space is so much more complicated.  You don’t know anything about it”

No….kidding…Thank you for the advice.   I knew zip about publishing/media before Kobo.  Or telecom before Critical Path.  Or storage before DocSpace.  New, I welcome.  Complicated, I can handle.  I’ll take a few smart guys, a rocket scientist or two….over a bunch of people that live in the current bureaucracy.  Maybe naiive, but that’s me.  I think it is often best to have a fresh set of eyes, and brains unencumbered by the “system”

“This space needs people like you and your team”

Very nice to hear (thanks to my Mom, and other people that care about us).

“You know, past success is not an indicator of future success” 

Is that really true?  Let’s not get into a random walk/brownian motion discussion.  I think you’re just being mean.  Of course we know that.

“That’s never going to work”

Ahh…thank you.  The translation inside my brain: “this is an awesome opportunity that no one has figured out yet, or wanted to take the risk in disrupting.  Double awesome.  Lets go!”

“You’re going to get killed”

One of my faves….as in “Sony is going to kill you [kobo]”…I say, Bring it.

“How can i invest?”

Now you’re talking.  But we don’t really need outside money in month one.   Still flattering and appreciated.  Thank you.

“You’re not seriously calling the company that, are you?”

What…? You don’t like Everlong?  One person i met asked me why i didn’t choose an .xxx suffix?  That was hilarious 🙂  Truth be told, the name almost always changes.  Kobo was Shortcovers.  DocSpace was Intrasect.  Zip2 was Global Link Information…  So choosing the initial name might as well be a song you love.  Hence, Everlong.

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So…there’s a glimpse of Month One.  Building new companies is what I love.  The world needs more people doing it, I think.  People will build you up, and try to hack you down all the same.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  You just keep moving toward the target.  Month two is upon us.   More are joining.   We already need more space.  I look forward to telling you about who’s joining the project over the next month, because ultimately I believe the team is the most important determining factor to your success — MS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fed Up

“This is the first generation of American children expected to live shorter lives than their parents”

“Over 95% of Americans will be overweight or obese in two decades”

If that doesn’t absolutely stun you, it should.

Fed Up – is a new documentary by the Katie Couric, the producer of the Inconvenient Truth, Laurie David, and Heather Reisman.  I’m excited to see Fed Up tomorrow night at it’s Hot Docs Premiere.  There is an epic problem here that needs solving.  Check out the trailer below, go see the movie and think about how you can help.

#FedUpMovie

–MS

sunriseepicdecade

When you are focused on thinking bigger, being an innovator, a disruptor in a space….you love to see headlines like Epic Decade describing the future of your new industry.  We are up and running at The Everlong Project (TEP), and already, thousands of our friends, investors and potential partners have reached out to us since we put out our inaugural post at www.everlong.io the other day.

IOT is going to revolutionize how we manage our health, but the real trick is not in all of the various data-emitting, wearable devices.  As someone who once saw 100’s of eReaders at CES (what we affectionately called the eReader ghetto) and then saw that turn to dozens, then 3-4 and eventually…you know the drill.  It’s not about the hardware, ultimately. It’s not even in the data.  The data on its own will be almost useless.  It’s in the services that use that data, and engage consumers, and keep them coming back.  If there are any people out there who actually, regularly, use their FitBit dashboard, and find it indispensable….please let me know…

The latest insights from Startup Health start out with a slide titled “The Conditions are set for an Epic Decade in Health.”  An Epic Decade. US CTO, Todd Park is quoted up front –“There has literally never been a better time in history to be an innovator or entrepreneur in the healthcare space.”  We couldn’t agree more.  With the advances in Cloud Services, Big Data, Mobile and Wearable tech, we can solve some very big, very important problems that need solving.  That’s our plan at Everlong.

I believe it is going to be an Epic Decade, and I’m excited to become part of it.  If you’re into working with us, message me @everlongproject

—MS

Check out this presentation by Unity Stoakes of Startup Health.