fastcompany:

Capturing The Defining Images Of Hip Hop History
He caught NWA, Tupac, and Biggie—as well as a young Outkast and Cee-Lo—but his favorite rappers to photograph were Kriss Kross.
See More>
fastcompany:

Capturing The Defining Images Of Hip Hop History
He caught NWA, Tupac, and Biggie—as well as a young Outkast and Cee-Lo—but his favorite rappers to photograph were Kriss Kross.
See More>
fastcompany:

Capturing The Defining Images Of Hip Hop History
He caught NWA, Tupac, and Biggie—as well as a young Outkast and Cee-Lo—but his favorite rappers to photograph were Kriss Kross.
See More>
fastcompany:

Capturing The Defining Images Of Hip Hop History
He caught NWA, Tupac, and Biggie—as well as a young Outkast and Cee-Lo—but his favorite rappers to photograph were Kriss Kross.
See More>

fastcompany:

Capturing The Defining Images Of Hip Hop History

He caught NWA, Tupac, and Biggie—as well as a young Outkast and Cee-Lo—but his favorite rappers to photograph were Kriss Kross.

See More>

That time I ended up at the observatory…

From time to time my friends and family ask me “so what is your typical day like in a start-up?”. Usually my reply is one of these three: “I was on the phone all day”, “I was designing parts”, or “I have been writing”. Sprinkle in a few “this guy was an idiot”, “I was stuck in traffic”, or a selection of expletive filled tirades and you’ve got me down pat most days.

But I’m not talking about one of those in this post. I’m going to speak on those days where nothing gets done, when you’re tired of looking at Netflix, and there are no more new episodes of “The Colbert Report” to catch up on. These are doldrums, they happen every now and then. You could have reached a major milestone, temporarily run out of money and ideas, or in my case, waiting for strategic investor’s board to meet so you can get finish what you’ve started.

A couple days ago, after going for my usual afternoon walk with Evan, I did not want to follow it up with a nap. So I decided to go for a joy ride and do some thinking. I’m a bit of car guy, so being behind the wheel is a bit of an escape (ask any other car guy if you don’t believe me). I decided to tackle the one of the mountains in the San Gabriel valley, which are a constant backdrop here in Pasadena. 

So I went to google and found out that California Highway 2 basically runs the length of this mountain chain. I also found a road that would take me from the summit right back down to pasadena and thus I would have nice round trip and probably kill an hour or so.

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Though I expected a lot of switchbacks and a lot of green trees I was surprised to find not much of either on my ascent. Instead, I found a lot of winding roads, bushes, rocks, and tons of trees that had been burned out a few years ago. This was actually my first time seeing trees affected by a forest fire. It was both intriguing and scary knowing that 8 miles away from where I’ve settled there was a major forest fire not that long ago.

Anyway, about 30 minutes into my climb I realized something was wrong, in that I started descending the mountain and had not reached the winding road that was supposed to round out my trip, so I stopped and consulted my phone. There I found out that google maps listed a road that turned into a trail, so I had to make other plans. But then something else caught my eye. It was a large white dome on the top of a mountain across from me that is hidden from the LA side of the mountains. 

I set a course for it and found it was only 2.5 miles away. The last mile consisted of one of the scariest roads I have ever been on in my life. Tons of twists and turns, rocks jutting out so far into the road that you had to get on the wrong side of the road clear them, and tons of blind curves. I never made it above 20 mph. I later found out that I was at an elevation of 5700 feet (Pasadena is only about a 30 minute drive away and is nearly 4800 lower than this)

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So I discovered that I was on Mt. Wilson, and was greeted by a ton of tv and radio antennae. If you ever want the LA gossip to stop, coming up here and cutting the power would be a good start.

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The road ended and I parked. The first thing I noticed was that no one was here (I mean no one: no cars, no joggers, no trash, no music), but the place was open: it was very eery. In the distance I caught two things that looked like water towers but were actually solar towers, used to look at the sun. 

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I headed to those first and after a quarter mile walk found that there was a museum next to them. I took a few photos. Again this museum was wide open, no one was in it.

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It’s 150 feet to the top of that tower.

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Then I discovered that were about 6 other observatories up there. The smallest one as big as a one car garage and the largest one had to be about 6 or 7 stories tall. So naturally, I went to that one. Again, it was wide open, no one was there, and I walked up a couple stories to a visitors area where I saw a telescope will a 100-inch mirror. For those of you bad at math that’s a mirror over 8 feet tall.

I took pictures and video, but my phone managed to not saved them or I accidentally erased them in pocket. Either way, it was engineer’s or scientist’s wet dream. So many structural elements, sensors, and buttons.

Strangely enough, I felt uncomfortable. It was like I was in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone had died (but me) and stumbled onto this sprawling research facility. After inviting myself into several other buildings and reading a bit I found out that this place was jointly run by UCLA, USC, Berkeley, and Georgia Tech (or was it GSU?).

I had run out of water, which meant that it was time for me to head back to my car for the ride down. On the long walk back to the car I got a little lost. But I did notice that the squirrels up there seemed not to be that familiar with humans. I would attempt to walk by one of them and they would just stare at me. As I walked, they would timidly come closer, but when they came too close I became nervous and would stop walking. When I stopped walking and stared at them, they would stare at me, then scamper away, scamper back, scamper away, and stare at me some more. It was awkward. 

I found another one eating a nut on the side of the road and I noticed he was going to let me walk right by him while eating. So I figured I would record him with my phone. Sensing I was killing his vibe, the squirrel ran up a tree before I could press record. I guess he thought I was paparazzi…typical LA.

The trip down was tedious and uneventful, other than the three cars behind me that were essentially pushing me down the mountain.

stoked-n-broke:

canterbury records - pasadena, ca

stoked-n-broke:

canterbury records - pasadena, ca

So it’s been a while since I have posted….

In the past six months since my last post a lot has happened. First is that things have been quite dynamic at LAFORGE. The number of times my bank account has had five figures in it has been almost equal to the number on times my account has had no funds in it.

We are currently in the midst of a raise of $1.25MM and we currently have about $950K of it “soft-circled”. This is pretty good but it took us 3 to 4 moths longer to get here than what I had anticipated. This is mostly because were we led on by two different group of investors who had played a bait and switch on us.

The first one was from a group of burned out and washed up entertainment execs and their associates. The long and the short of it was that “they tried it” and we weren’t having it. They thought we were the fool of the deal and we outsmarted them. We also discovered that these guys had a lot less money than they said and were actually middlemen. The biggest lesson I learned from these investors was that there is no such thing as a sure thing and that people will say anything to keep you around.

The second waste of time occurred immediately after we had written off the first group. This time, I made sure to cast as many broad nets as possible to keep the opportunities flowing (and we are in a much better place now because of it). This group was a group of three ophthalmic and eye wear companies. They were interested in investing after seeing me speak at Vision Monday in NYC. Not wanting to drag out these conversations too long I put in a series of filters. I figured I would try to get them to say “no” as soon as possible and if they didn’t say “no” to the filter then they would be truly interested. One filter was to give the company a five figure sum of cash to talk to me, the other was verbal promise from them that they would not try to re-engineer our product as a term for future discussion or investment, and the final would be that they would act fast.

They accepted all these terms and things were off to a good start (though as I later found out the only term they were good for was the money). About a month later, we met in Atlanta for what I thought would be a 3 hour meeting which later turned out to be a 9 hour meeting. Though the meeting wasn’t bad, something was a bit of a miss to me. 

It was mostly the fact that it was clear that these guys who had just seen our IP somehow though they could come up with a better idea in less than an hour (note it had taken me nearly 14 months to refine the idea and write patents). The even more peculiar part was that my team and I allowed the possibility of them being right to enter their minds (even though we knew what they were proposing would break laws of physics and be expensive to build).

In hindsight, I lost control of this investor meeting and let it devolve into a design critique of the concept. This was the biggest mistake I made. From there on out this group was constantly trying discredit our experts, and question our costs. BTW its not like these guys were trying to shit on us. We basically let them sit on our laps and gave them the option relieve themselves. The guys we met with were at the top of three companies worth nearly 3 billion dollars; two were CEO’s and the other was a product guy. 

After the meeting, Evan and I flew back to LA to regroup. This group of investors wanted us to quickly make our product to their specifications and cut our budget. After our first pass, I was only able to cut $50K from the budget, because I ended up cutting $275K out of software dev and adding about $250K to lens and frame development (I know the difference does not add up to $50K; there were cuts in other places).

Then I slept on it and became angry. The next morning I woke up and started to vent to Evan. I said “What the fuck are we doing?!”. “They want us to waste 6 months to make our proof of concept look better!” The purpose of a proof of concept is to prove a concept and we did that. I said, “Evan, write a one page letter telling them that were aren’t changing a damn thing and in fact we increasing the amount of the raise. I will make a presentation showing them why their ideas are horrible, why its a waste of time, how there is nothing to gain from this”. An hour and half later we sent a one page letter and a 26-page keynote laying into them for even suggesting this”.

From there on out we made a vow to never let a potential investor tell us what to do. (BTW, the immediate result of the email was that they backed off immediately and agreed with us). But trying to work with these large parties proved a fool’s errand. These guys moved so slow that we ended up writing them off. They ended up telling us “no” a month later for reasons that went against me taking the meeting with them in the first place.

I put my hands back on the company steering wheel and told Evan full speed ahead. Within 2 weeks we were fielding offers from 7 different investing parties at a higher valuation from people who respected our vision.

This was a long post. But It’s been a while. There will be more stories soon, a lot is about to change for us.