The new golf: free beer & easy putting

In this recent HBO Real Sports episode, pretty wild stats on how far golf has fallen in terms of popularity since it peaked with Tiger Woods mania a few years ago — and equally wild ideas to resurrect popularity, including making putting a cinch by expanding the cup to a massive size:

As someone who has managed to play once or twice a year for 20 years and remain terrible but hopelessly optimistic that one day the game will get easier, I can understand the frustration.

The biggest gap that jumps out to me with golf is that there is no natural place to practice. The idea of going to the driving range seems tough to pull off. When you play soccer, baseball, basketball, etc with your kids or friends — it’s either in the backyard or down the street at the park.

I think for golf to take off, the industry needs to figure out a way get the game into the backyard and parks so when people actually get to the courses, the game will be easier. Maybe technology will play a role with lower costs simulators, backyard nets, 3D swing analyzers, and other gadgets. Will be an interesting space to watch.

Thanks Automattic, Hello Resolute Ventures

In many ways, the number seven holds special value. It’s a lucky number in various cultures, the number of days in a week, plays a role in agriculture and crop rotation, and it’s said that your allergies reset and change after seven years. So changing things up after seven years just feels right.

But as one of my editorial colleague back at TIME would frequently remind the team — stop burying the lead. So I’ll take that advice and jump into the TL;DR: After seven incredible, fun, and rewarding years at Automattic, I’m wrapping up in a couple of weeks, and joining Mike Hirshland at Resolute Ventures as a General Partner. Resolute is focused on early stage seed investing, and already has fantastic companies in the portfolio.

When I joined Automattic back in 2007, we were a handful of folks distributed around the world running WordPress.com and Akismet and contributing everything we did to the WordPress open source project. When we got together in person, we could fit around one table in the old Pier38, which was True Venture’s SF office, and later we got a space of our own at the very same pier.

About a year in I recall that Google and others had estimated that WordPress powered about one percent of the web (which we were ecstatic about!). I remember thinking, here was a company with still a couple of dozen people, having raised just over a million dollars in funding – and what a big impact already!.

Fast forward to today and WordPress is powering over 22% of the web. Automattic is 250 people in 190 cities and 30 countries, profitable (and now with a war chest), a positive force for the open web, and we are still contributing everything we do back into a huge open source project. As Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of Automattic likes to say, “we open source everything but our password files.” It’s a powerful concept, and one that has held true at Automattic for all these years.

Looking at our growth, I decided to flip through the annual company meetup photos over the past few years. It’s fun to look at these photos as a nice visual on just how much the company grew:

I want to especially thank Matt Mullenweg and Toni Schneider for making this an amazing journey. We sketched out some big ambitious plans (often at Crossroads) all those years ago, and it’s incredible to look at where things are now and see how many of those big ideas became a reality. When we started talking about my transition a while back, Matt & Toni were super supportive and it was fun (and a bit nostalgic) to walk down memory lane and add up all the amazing experiences we’ve had together.

At Automattic, maybe more than any other company I’ve worked at, every single team member made themselves available to help at a moments notice – we were real-time before it was cool!. All it took was a “ping” in IRC and you had the top person in the world in their field ready to help (I’m biased, but the talent level at Automattic is incredible). So a special thank-you to those early team members who welcomed me with open arms and helped me ramp-up. Too many to list, but I’ll try: Barry Abrahamson, Mike Adams, Ryan Boren, Andy Skelton, Joseph Scott,Nikolay Bachiyski, Donncha O Caoimh, Mark Riley, Maya Desai, Lloyd DeWolf, Matt Miklic, Alex Shiels, Demitrious Kelly, and many others. You all were unbelievable colleagues and true friends.

I loved every second at Automattic, and have learned a ton along the way. I loved the way we worked and focused on output, and put engineers at the center of the company. Automattic and WordPress will always be part of my DNA, and I can’t wait to see what the talented team tackles next. In fact, I’ll remain an advisor to Automattic, and you’ll still see me out there championing the cause of democratizing publishing. For anyone looking to work at a fast paced, fun, and big impact type of organization – I can 100% recommend working at Automattic.

I also want to thank Phil Black, Jon Callaghan, Tony Conrad, and the whole team at True Ventures. I’ve known many of them even longer than my colleagues at Automattic, and they are just a tremendous group of people who are the embodiment of integrity and loyalty. I’ve learned so much from them, and in many ways they provided the spark that got me hooked on working with early stage companies.

In terms of Resolute Ventures – this was an opportunity that was tailor made for me. My passion is working right in the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. I’ve always been both a tech entrepreneur who is passionate about building businesses and working on product, and a business guy who thinks the more technical you are, the closer you are to the truth.

I love working with founders and helping early stage companies navigate and make sense of the amazing opportunities and the chaos. I’ve founded companies back in the web 1.0 days, worked at large media companies in NY, and have helped grow Automattic the last few years wearing many different hats — from building up our enterprise VIP business to most recently heading up corp dev and partnerships. The highlights for me at Automattic were definitely helping bring people on board either through hiring or acquisitions — and seeing fantastic people make great contributions has been incredibly rewarding.

Mike Hirshland, the founder of Resolute Ventures, is someone well known here in the Valley, especially for a guy based in Boston. I’ve known him for close to a decade, and he served on our board at Automattic for many years while at Polaris and was part of the original investors in Automattic. Many of you know him from Dogpatch Labs, which he ran, and where Instagram and many other companies got their start. He’s a true advocate for founders, and blends hard work, persistence, and self deprecating humor into something magical.

Part of me is definitely a bit sad to be leaving my family at Automattic, but I’m excited for the next chapter and can’t wait to work with all the fantastic people who are part of Resolute. A special shout-out to my friends who helped me with this transition and were so generous with their time and insights.

So here goes something new — and I’m looking forward to the next seven years and beyond.

Automattic Series C

We announced some funding news today – so no need to keep reading those rumor based posts :)

Here are the official details from our CEO, Matt Mullenweg:

I’ll start with the big stuff: Automattic is raising $160M, all primary, and it’s the first investment into the company since 2008. This is obviously a lot of money, especially considering everything we’ve done so far has been built on only about $12M of outside capital over the past 8 years.

And a good recap by Liz Gannes and Kara Swisher over on re/code.net.

What do the WordPress VIP Workshop & the Google exec team retreat have in common?

While reading this post about Google & Larry Page on Business Insider, I ran across this blurb:

In February 2013, Google’s senior executives flew in from around the world to meet at the Carneros Inn, a rustic resort in the hilly vineyards of Napa Valley. This was Google’s annual two-day, top-secret retreat for senior executives.

Carneros Inn is a magical place – and is also home to our annual VIP Developer Workshop.

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Longreads Joins the Automattic Family

Raanan Bar-Cohen:

So excited about this!

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

Today we’re excited to announce that we are acquiring Longreads, the pioneering service that helps readers find and share the best longform storytelling around the world, for reading on mobile devices.

Over the last five years, Longreads and its community have created a new ecosystem for readers to find great in-depth stories, and for writers and publishers to distribute their best work over 1,500 words. Longreads will continue to do what it does best — recommending stories from across the Internet — and we are excited to have them join the WordPress.com team and continue in their commitment to serving readers.

Mobile reading and the appetite for longform content

As consumption has moved to mobile devices, there has been a growing hunger for longform content: phones and tablets are perfect for enjoying in-depth articles, and there are more moments than ever for readers to dig into a story —…

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2013: A Year in Review

Raanan Bar-Cohen:

an amazing year.

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

With 2013 behind us, we can now take a look at our community’s incredible accomplishments over the past year. Here’s the year that was on WordPress.com.

13,704,819 new blogs in 2013

That’s a 36% increase from 2012, during which you created 10 million new blogs.

489,281,136 posts in 2013

That’s 12 times the number of books in the Library of Congress!

667,675,929 comments in 2013

That’s an average of 21 comments per second for the entire year.

comments since you’ve been
on this page.

95,424,985 likes in 2013

That’s almost 38,000 times the number of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The most popular topics in 2013

You’ve written about thousands of topics in 2013. Here are the top ten:

  1. Photography328,763 posts
  2. Video289,493 posts
  3. Politics282,893 posts
  4. Music282,434 posts
  5. Life280,219 posts
  6. News259,493 posts
  7. Art240,367 posts
  8. Love168,657 posts
  9. Humor155,213 posts
  10. Food105,528…

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New Yorker article: Sergey Brin’s case for driverless cars

Great piece from the New Yorker this week: AUTO CORRECT: Has the self-driving car at last arrived?

Most of the coverage I’ve seen on driverless cars has been focused on the convenience factor and the safety ramifications given how super distracted drivers are today – which are important. But it’s interesting to see Sergey Brin quoted in this article talking about the cost to our infrastructure that cars have today, impact on the environment given some estimates showing 30-50% of gas wasted on people looking for parking, and how that might all change:

“As you look outside, and walk through parking lots and past multilane roads, the transportation infrastructure dominates,” Brin said. “It’s a huge tax on the land.” Most cars are used only for an hour or two a day, he said. The rest of the time, they’re parked on the street or in driveways and garages. But if cars could drive themselves, there would be no need for most people to own them. A fleet of vehicles could operate as a personalized public-transportation system, picking people up and dropping them off independently, waiting at parking lots between calls. They’d be cheaper and more efficient than taxis—by some calculations, they’d use half the fuel and a fifth the road space of ordinary cars—and far more flexible than buses or subways. Streets would clear, highways shrink, parking lots turn to parkland. “We’re not trying to fit into an existing business model,” Brin said. “We are just on such a different planet.”

It’s a great overall read and touches on the early DARPA competitions, and what massive leaps were made from year 1 to year 2 – and how those people are now at Google:

It was a triumph of the underdog, of brain over brawn. But less for Stanford than for the field as a whole. Five cars finished the hundred-and-thirty-two-mile course; more than twenty cars went farther than the winner had in 2004. In one year, they’d made more progress than darpa’s contractors had in twenty. “You had these crazy people who didn’t know how hard it was,” Thrun told me. “They said, ‘Look, I have a car, I have a computer, and I need a million bucks.’ So they were doing things in their home shops, putting something together that had never been done in robotics before, and some were insanely impressive.” A team of students from Palos Verdes High School in California, led by a seventeen-year-old named Chris Seide, built a self-driving “Doom Buggy” that, Thrun recalls, could change lanes and stop at stop signs. A Ford S.U.V. programmed by some insurance-company employees from Louisiana finished just thirty-seven minutes behind Stanley. Their lead programmer had lifted his preliminary algorithms from textbooks on video-game design.

[newyorker.com]

MacBook Pro 13″ Retina > MacBook Air

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If you are deciding between these two new machines, highly recommend you walk into an Apple store and literally hold each laptop in your hand — you’ll be amazed that there is nearly no difference in weight, and the MacBook Pro is actually narrower.

And I was a bit of a skeptic on the whole Retina thing, but the high resolution display does in fact makes a huge difference, to the point of making non Retina screens pretty tough to look at. Battery life has a slight edge on the Air, but still solid overall (12 hours for Air VS 9 hours for the MacBook Pro 13″).

Mashable literally just weighed-in with the same conclusion:

The 13-inch rMBP weighs just 3.46 pounds.

While that weight is north of many Ultrabooks, it’s still plenty light (which I acknowledge is an oxymoron). I had no issues with taking it to meetings, throwing it in my bag to take home every night, and flipping it open for some comfy computing on the couch when I got there. The 13-inch MacBook Air, at 2.96 pounds, may be lighter, but its overall footprint is actually larger than the 13-inch Pro’s by about a centimeter in width. The Pro’s thickness is just 0.71 inch, almost the same as the Air at its thickest point (0.69 inch).