In April 2017, I made my way across Sandy Springs in Atlanta to a house nearby the JCC (Jewish Community Center). It was an area of town I was more than a little familiar with; I’d grown up around there, my grandparents lived there, I’d gone to school around there, and holiday dinners were spent quite literally in the neighborhood. But it wasn’t a holiday get-together I was attending that afternoon—it was a small, intimate meeting with then-Congressional candidate Jon Ossoff.
There were about 40 people at the host’s house—some of them children who’d come with parents—so it wasn’t difficult to listen to Jon speak intimately about the issues which drove him; issues like healthcare, anti-corruption, job creation, equal rights, and renewable energy opportunities. After a short speech, he took whatever questions peppered the crowd, and in a unique twist of fate, ended on my question about what opportunities he saw in making Atlanta a tech-hub and destination city. He seemed to connect with my eagerness to see the city listed among Boston, San Francisco, Austin, New York, and Seattle as a major tech hub, and recognized the opportunities we had to make it so. Afterwards, we chatted a little further and exchanged numbers to continue the conversation.
Here, I need to give it up to my grandparents—and especially my grandmother—through whom I effectively met Jon and began our running discourse. She was instrumental in turning out Dunwoody residents for Jon’s 2017 campaign, a fact which he’s expressed gratitude for time and again. He even opened an email with such a sentiment later on (see below).
In June of that year, when Jon became the Democratic nominee for the special election in Georgia’s Sixth District, the energy was something we hadn’t felt since perhaps 2008. Ultimately, Jon would miss by a mere percentage point or two; perhaps meaningless to those living outside Georgia, but to those of us who grew up here, indicative of a larger change on the horizon.
The Out-of-the-Blue Email in 2018
One of the big questions thereafter was what Jon would do. Would he run for GA06 again? No—he came out as a vocal supporter of now-Congresswoman Lucy McBath. Would he run for Governor? No—he left that to Stacey Abrams and I think everyone would agree that was the right decision to make. Abrams has fundamentally changed the Georgia political landscape in ways previously unseen certainly in my lifetime. Jon seemed to step back from the spotlight a little at this time, focusing I would assume on more personal life events and future plans.
Nevertheless, he and I resumed a light dialogue after a minor time lapse. I received this email from him out of the blue in February of 2018 and subsequently scheduled a catch-up call.
The call wasn’t long; perhaps about 15-20 minutes. But then again, it didn’t need to be.
How Relationships Grow Through Long-Term Discourse
One of the key things I’ve learned through becoming an expert relationship-building and networking consultant is that it’s the substance that matters, not the time. So it doesn’t matter that our catch-up call was 15 minutes instead of two hours—and it didn’t matter that we don’t speak daily. One of the biggest misconceptions about great relationship-building is that you need to be in someone’s face 24/7 to see any long-term benefit. This is incorrect.
One of the key rules to understand in any relationship-building scenario is that people have a million things to do every day. Time is their most precious commodity followed closely by energy. Recognition of this is core to developing any sort of dialogue that is positive and authentic.
During our conversation, Jon and I discussed the normal things: his expression of gratitude for support in 2017, what my future goals might include, how I might be able to support him in the future, etc. No bombshell revelations, no hints at future runs for office. All I had on that level were my own theories. But the calls accomplished what they were supposed to; keeping the lines of communication open and indicating interest in future dialogue.
This would become our particular dance: running into and acknowledging each other, continuing our discourse, and then parting for some time until the next time.
Serendipitous Meeting in 2019 and Senate Candidacy
I would bump into Jon again in April of 2019—almost two years exactly since we first met—down at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta at another event. We stood again and spoke a bit about the developing political landscape in Georgia and I asked if he might run again. He demurred a little and returned our conversation to the current event, but I thought I saw a slight glimmer in his eye.
The next time I saw Jon wouldn’t be too far off, and there wouldn’t be any more question of what lay ahead. It was in September of 2019—at his official Senate campaign kickoff event. It included moving remarks from civil rights icon John Lewis, whom I was also humbled to meet before his passing last year.
Jon and I spoke only for a brief few minutes—he was swarmed by people wanting to shake his hand and take his picture (in the time before Covid)—and it was important to let him do so. But in those few minutes, our continued discourse was acknowledged, our mutual hope for Georgia articulated, and, again, an expression of gratitude on his part for support and positive words.
Throughout his 2020 Senate campaign, I saw Jon at a number of events, and watched the crowds grow larger and larger. It very quickly got to the point where the lines for pictures with him were longer than I’d ever seen them, and after he’d be whisked away on his bus to hit the next stop. But every time I was there on the side, watching him take pictures with new supporters, he never failed to acknowledge me and thank me for continued support:
“Adam, great to see you! Thank you so much for coming out. How’s your grandmother? Please give her my best. Shoot me a text and we’ll catch up when things calm down.”
2020 and Looking Forward
The friendship I’ve developed with Jon over the last few years has been unique because it must appear from the outside as arms-length, but on the inside feels—and is, I believe—much more genuine. Like I said before, you don’t need to spend hours on the phone with someone to develop a truly positive and authentic relationship. There just needs to be a mutual desire to pick up each other’s call or answer each other’s email and a mutual recognition of value. Mutual—that’s always the keyword. It’s what I tell my networking clients and associates.
Now, on the morning of Jon’s 2021 runoff election for the Senate, I find myself grateful for the somewhat unexpected way that our friendship has developed. It’s allowed me to watch his upwards trajectory and draw from it inspirational goals to emulate on my own journey.
I don’t know when next I will speak with Jon—certainly only in a moment of quiet for him after such an eventful year. But I know that it will most likely be as serendipitous as all of our previous meetings have been, a fact at which I can’t help but chuckle a little wryly.
As our friendship and dialogue continue to develop, though, I’ll always be glad I made that drive across Sandy Springs to that first intimate meeting in 2017.
Well we’re finally here — the end of 2020! Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
I don’t think anyone will be sad to see this year go. But for me, as difficult as this year was, there were still some very positive things I want to acknowledge and celebrate. As I took a look back last year and the year before, I want to take a retrospective look at some of the things I accomplished in 2020.
Perhaps one of the biggest ironies is that the year really started to pick up around September and was a mad dash until the end of December. In that time, I recorded the bulk of this year’s podcast guest spots, so you never know when good things are gonna happen!
Before I dig into all the things I did do, though, I want to take a moment to acknowledge something that didn’t happen. For the first time in 5 years, I opted not to publish a new list of “100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed” for 2020. There were any number of reasons that I chose (not) to do this; partly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, partly because of different projects I worked on and the time commitments associated with them, and partly because my heart may possibly have not been totally in it. Sometimes we have things we need to take a step back from, and this year my “100 Independent Albums” list was one of those things.
Music is still core to my identity and brand though, and isn’t going anywhere; if you want a taste of the list, though, here’s 2019’s list, which itself includes links to all the prior ones. I hope to have the musical fire back in me in 2021, so here’s to looking forward to some phenomenal albums and EP’s next year!
So, with that, here are a few of my biggest highlights for the snafu that was 2020.
My girlfriend took me to IKEA for the first time!
Though I didn’t get my annual pic with Arlan this year, on a similar note I got to congratulate my friend Bryan Landers for joining Backstage Capital as its new partner! So that’s something. Always be celebrating others.
Was so humbled to be able to literally voice my support for my friend & ally Espree Devora on her “Women in Tech” podcast. This was a great way to start my “recording spots” for the year. (She’s since become the icon for the new Clubhouse app!). 🎙️
Started this year out with a bang! My article — “There’s Life After Failure” — was shared by my friend Bobby Umar into his network and ended up getting featured on the front page of an aggregate blog. 😮
Visited Denver, Colorado for the first time with this beautiful girl! ✈️
Denver has amazing food!
And mountains! 🏔️
Started the “I Am Vow” graffiti thing again… (I might need to write an entire article just on this alone…stay tuned…) 😉
Went skiing for the first time! I did…ok. 🎿
And Boulder has cool socks!
Back in Atlanta, had a fantastic meeting with the brilliant David Lightburn of Atlanta Ventures and the Atlanta Tech Village down at ATV (before Covid!). Looking forward to our next chat in the beginning of 2021!
Wonderful Valentine’s Day with this one — made her a collage. ❤️
I had my first call of the year with Aly Merritt. Little did I know what that zoom call would lead to!
Aly mentioned that she was working on a project and could use some help leading it. It was secret, though, for the time being.
Track captain for the Tech/Fintech track for TechStars’ inaugural Atlanta Startup Week! More on that later!
Covid-19 hit and we all began to understand that life was going to change pretty drastically for a long while.
I recognized that I may have missed my calling as a VC-inspired parody writer. Aileen Lee graciously put up with my ridiculous humor ha! 😂
Had my first virtual coffee (via Cuppa, thanks KP!) with Whit Anderson. Whit and I would spend the rest of the year building out an awesome dialogue around startups, no-code, networking, and the Atlanta tech scene!
Got retweeted by Gary V. to 2M people — my notifications subsequently blew up. 😱📈
Started celebrating Shabbat! 🕯️🕯️
The beginning of a consistent calendar of calls with Mubs — things started cooking. Mubs and I started having consistent chats — this would lead to exciting things later in the year.
The first of a year’s worth of awesome calls with my friend Dale Dupree, the master of the Sales Rebellion.
Published an article looking at why one of my posts went viral on LinkedIn. It seems that this would continue to be a theme throughout the rest of the year… 📈📈
I made my second #AdamMarxParodyProductions creation — Hunter Walk continues to put up with my humor as well. 😂
Chelsea made the best challah French toast!
Love April 19th — always a special day since Mom and Dad have the same birthday! 🎂
I started to really run my LinkedIn experiment on new strategies — with legitimate viral success! 🤔📈
Had an amazing opening call with my new friend Dr. Julie Gurner. We discussed the opportunities on LinkedIn, how to build great relationships, and possible projects together. Saw this pop up in my Twitter feed later that night and was just so humbled by the kind words! (She continues to tweet similar things and I’m so bowled over by the positivity every time she does!).
Did my first webinar, thanks to my LinkedIn friend Emmanuel Ndifor. We talked about how current students on campus could lean into social media tools to build out their networks and prepare for virtual job interviews when campuses and career centers remained closed. Discussing networking, branding, & how to build influential relationships from scratch was especially critical to helping students navigate the first steps of the job market during a time as difficult as the pandemic. 🎦
Great call with Wayne Sutton and so humbled by his kind words!
My brother turned 21 and I felt old. 🎂
Then I launched Branded Background (include link) with Mubs on Product Hunt! Out of a series of discussions that we had over zoom grew the idea that we could apply branding to all the zoom calls that people were having (and that were multiplying by the day!). I wrote about the reasoning for building it here. So we went heads-down for a week or so and kicked it out the door. It ended up doing 334 votes on Product Hunt!
We got some pretty cool traction and feedback from the Twitter and PH crowd that day! 😃🙌
Got retweeted by Product Hunt!
What really surprised us, though, was the response we got on it from the LinkedIn community.
Our final stats for the end of the day were pretty good for my first launch on Product Hunt. (We continued to rack up about another 150 votes after the initial launch day). 😉👏
Chelsea is part Cherokee, so I took her to New Echota here in Georgia — the last Cherokee capital east of the Mississippi River. Heritage is important.
Mom bought a new house and helped her move in! It’s now become our home away from home. 🏠
June was a little thin since we did our best to basically stay inside and be safe. But…moved into a new apartment! Still waiting to have our official housewarming party, but the new place is looking pretty good.
Cast my early vote in the primaries for my friend Jon Ossoff. 🗳️
Then road trip to Tulsa, OK to visit my Chelsea’s mom! We had the puppy in the back and he loves car rides. (Don’t worry, we were safe and socially distanced the whole time). 🚗
Found out that Alabama can’t decide if it allows dogs or not…
Had my first Sonic Drive-In burger ever! 🍔
Went to Joe’s Sno Shack — apparently it’s a Tulsa staple and it’s pretty damn good!
Headed down to the beach in Florida for a week away! Again, believe me that we observed social distancing pretty strictly; we drove, rented a house, brought our own food, didn’t eat out and stayed far away from everyone on the secluded beach. Was nice to have a few days outside Atlanta. 🏖️
Called on my alma mater Brandeis University to stand up for what was right. They answered in kind.
Guested on the “Digital Introverts” podcast with Godwin Chan. recording should be out early next year! 🎙️
Celebrated this gorgeous girl’s birthday! The pets were there too. 🎂
Had a great time guesting on Bob Clark’s show “The OnFire B2B Podcast” to talk about networking and branding in the B2B space! 🎙️
It was one of the highlights of my year to sit down with LinkedIn super-influencer and my dear friend Rachel Beck on her podcast to discuss topics close to my heart like mental health, diversity, empathetic relationship-building, and my own Jewish identity. 😊🎙️
We broke the hour-long discussion up into multiple bits and I was thrilled to drop the first one just before the Jewish High Holidays this year.
Voted early on Day 1!
I finally decided it was time for a chance and a new image.
Celebrated one of the anniversaries I am lucky enough to celebrate with this wonderful girlfriend. It was one year ago October 19 that we met and the rest is pretty much history. ❤️
Recorded a LIVE guest spot on Simon Squibb’s show! Had a killer time talking networking, branding, core relationship cultivation techniques, and lending some of my expertise to a startup that live-pitched Simon and me! 🎙️
Was finally able to announce the work I had been doing with TechStars since Aly Merritt brought me on in February! 😃🙌
So proud of my brother for writing his first screenplay — and letting me read it! I had a few edits, but couldn’t put it down and read the whole thing in one night — yeah, it’s that good.
The story was even the lead for that week in the FinLedger newsletter!
Joined my friend Mubs again for another launch — this time for the election! We launched HowManyPeopleVoted.com to try to keep track of the breakdown of officially counted votes in the 2020 U.S. general election. 🗳️
We started trending on Reddit! 😱
And then we got featured on the front page of Refdesk!
I was so immensely excited and humbled to work with TechStars on their inaugural Atlanta Startup Week! We ran it virtually from Nov. 9-13 and were able to pull together an amazing list of guest speakers for the Tech/Fintech track!
A couple highlights for me were seeing my mom speak on Day 1 about what it takes to have good company culture and the efforts that need to be made to keep it inclusive and respectful of everyone. Moderated by my friend Stefanie Jewett and also featuring my friend, LinkedIn influencer Elaine Jacques.
I was also able to lead my own panel and discussion, though the recording hasn’t been uploaded yet (I’ll update when it is!).
I had the pleasure of sitting down with LinkedIn influencer Cory Warfield, entrepreneur Jake Tital, and film-tech veteran Kate Atwood — all close friends of mine — to discuss what exactly it takes to build a magnetic and influential network from scratch. We drilled down into the nuances of networking, brand, what really works, and what really doesn’t, and what founders really should know about building their own networks.
And I wrapped up the week with a surprise guest spot during one of the last blocks for the event, a great talk between LinkedIn influencers Judi Fox and Dale Dupree — also people whom I’m truly inspired by — around branding, marketing, and how to build a persona that works.
My mom hung one of my paintings in her office. 🎨
And hung the other one in one of the main hallways.
I had a killer time guesting on Bob Sieger’s podcast “Coffee With Bob” after meeting him through my friend Rachel Beck. It’s true what they say: the more people you know, the more opportunities you see pop up! In fact, Bob had reached out to me after he heard my recording on Rachel’s show (as did others!), so I’m continually grateful to her for that opportunity. 🎙️
Bob and I connected immediately and it wouldn’t be our last time collaborating. 😉
Began December with a bang as I guested for the second time that week on a great cast where I could lend some value and expertise!
I had met Joey Womack through my work with TechStars on the Atlanta Startup Week (he’d also been a track captain and long been on a list of local “people to know” at the top of my list) and we had such a great conversation during the wrap-up captain meeting that he invited me to guest on his massive Goodie Nation #GivingTuesday live broadcast! 🎙️
We talked all about the best ways to build concrete relationships and I shared some of my own most unbelievable stories that Goodie Nation community members could really find actionable! He brought in so many talented guests to speak that he had to break it into two recordings lol! I guest on the first recording and come in around 5:23:15.
I came back again that week to do another video cast with my friend Bob on a very special holiday-themed live episode of “Coffee With Bob” and it was a blast meeting the other guests. Looking forward to catching up with them in the new year. 🎙️
Recorded my last guest podcast spot of 2020 with my friend & LinkedIn influencer Luke Williams on his “30 Conversations with Entrepreneurs” event and had an awesome time wrapping up the year discussing how people can begin or continue to build incredible networks in 2021. 🎙️
I’ll definitely be back for another chat on one of his casts!
Celebrated one year for the second night my girlfriend and I love to celebrate…which happens to also be my parents’ anniversary, funnily enough.
And this year they celebrated 40 years!
Took Chelsea to the Chattahoochee Nature Reserve on one of her break days to see some birds and plants. It was a great place to socially distance and she loves the outdoors!
It flurried a little in Atlanta. ❄️
One of my favorite bands Eve 6 liked one of my tweets — pretty good way to round out a tough year. 🎸
Reflecting on 2020
This was a hard year for everyone. There were a lot of challenges to overcome. But I’m grateful that at the very least I have people I love around me as I move into my 30s. Perhaps a little cliched, but that’s how I feel as this year draws to a close.
Even with this crazy pandemic, 2020 was a marathon year for me. I guested on numerous podcasts, launched multiple projects, and coordinated for a major tech event. I began building my brand around the Zero To One Networker persona and philosophy, and look forward to seeing that grow in the new year. On the personal, I formed wonderful memories with those closest to me.
As I said last year, no plan ever survives the battlefield. So while there were things I wanted to accomplish this year, I know they’re well on their way to happening next year. I’ve grown as a creator, builder, entrepreneur, and most importantly, as a person. As I move into a new decade of my life, I’m excited to see that continue!
This is the somewhat brief story of how a few tweets led to an incredible summer of helping to build and launch TechStars’ Atlanta inaugural Startup Week.
I’ve made it as short as possible without skimping on the details of the people who made this all doable. I included the other team captains as well, though to detail their respective speakers would certainly take a further article.
For me, though, I tried to give a full rundown and sampling of what the Tech/Fintech track put together for that week, including promo graphics and links to (most of!) the videos—the last few should be uploaded soon!
Sorry the TL;DR was still long anyway lol. 😆🚀
A Few Tweets
In October of last year, I found myself at OTT Fest here in Atlanta, tweeting about some of the great presentations and speakers I was seeing that week. It was before Covid turned our lives upside-down—hard to remember, I know—and at the time, I couldn’t have seen where it would lead. In fact, the biggest surprise at the time was that some of my tweets eventually led to winning a Roku by accident.
But one of the other happy side-effects of my tweets was running into Aly Merritt of SalesLoft in the same hashtag conversations of the event. Being a film-oriented event, most people were engaging with Instagram or Tik Tok as opposed to Twitter. We struck up a brief conversation first in the comments, and then via DM, discussing the things we enjoyed about the event from the techie angle. After the day was over, I mentioned we should keep the dialogue going. We did, meeting for coffee a couple weeks later—again, pre-Corona—discussing tech startups and whatnot. Then the year ended and we agreed to circle back in 2020.
Getting the Call
In February of this year, just as I was back from Colorado and before the pandemic would turn the world on its head, Aly and I hopped on a zoom call; I thought to talk more about the Atlanta tech scene. Aly, however, had a unique and totally unexpected proposition for me. Under the covers at the time, she was working with TechStars Atlanta to help launch their first Startup Week and lead the Tech/Fintech track. The work was definitely a two-person job, though, and she mentioned she wanted to bring me in as a co-captain to work together if I was interested.
So…was I interested?
I didn’t have to be asked twice—how could I pass up an opportunity like this? Especially one that seemed to come so out of the blue.
Later on in the conversation, she mentioned her reasoning:
“You have a massive network on Twitter and on LinkedIn—I told TechStars that could bring some incredible value.”
An hour later at dinner, I had to take a mental step back and reflect on where the hell I was compared to the start of the day and how the hell I’d gotten there.
That morning, I’d hoped that our scheduled zoom call would lead to another; one consistent conversation at a time is my networking philosophy. Methodical and consistent value creation and authenticity—that’s what had built prior relationships and what would build this one. Instead—or perhaps, in addition to..?—I was now working on a long-term project for TechStars, co-captaining with one of the best networkers in the Atlanta tech scene (which she still is!). All of which had seemingly dropped in my lap as a result of some tweets months ago and a reputation that I hoped was growing, but never thought at the time had expanded so far.
Why do I harp on this?
Because the proof is in the pudding, as my mom would say. Relationships take time and patience. And life is relationships.
Because even when Covid hit hard and required us—all the team captains, TechStars, sponsors, and potential speakers—to reevaluate and roll with the punches, we found a way to pull together and put on a phenomenal program. Sometimes unexpected things throw initial plans out the window, but when you’re working with talented and determined people, you find ways to create positive value all around.
Before I go any further, I want to make special mention of Kylan Kester (Lead Organizer), Eli Becerril (TechStars contact), De’Havia Stewart (Track Captain Lead), and Ronan Roche (TechStars contact) who were our conduits at TechStars and who all did an incredible job helping Aly & myself (and all the other track captains!) coordinate to put on a fantastic event.
So we—and all the other team captains and TechStars folks—worked through the summer against a new November deadline. To their credit, the behind-the-scenes people at TechStars reworked the entire backend of the program to go 100% virtual. So often we don’t think about the amount of work that goes into that reworking, but coming from the music world I know what it looks like behind the curtain to get a show done right, so kudos to the team there.
Goals & Breakdown
Working with Aly, we put together what I considered to be a truly exciting and bang-up list of speakers. Importantly, and absolutely worth mentioning, one key thing that Aly and I set out to do from day one was construct a speaker list that reflected what we both believe that tech should (and does) look like; that means we made a conscious effort to have a diverse set of panels and perspectives. I’m immensely proud to have had a hand in creating panels that heavily represented female founders/VCs as well as those who identify as POC. Next year I hope we can outdo ourselves and bring in even more diverse groups and perspectives.
Let me take a quick aside and mention that I’m no statistician, so there are numerous cross-demographics at play here which I’m frankly not gifted in statistics enough to properly record.
For the entire Tech/Fintech track, we broke down as:
50% male; 50% female (!)
70% white; 30% POC — This is clearly an area that we can & will do better on next year.
Interestingly enough, though, of the POC demographic, 62% were women of color.
Were we perfect? No. But will that dampen our drive to continue to do better? Also no; we’re more driven every day. Why am I spending time to break down some simple numbers? Because unless we have the conversations about our goals and where we are, we never get to where we should be.
Diversity builds better businesses.
For the Tech/Fintech track, we divided the week into daily themes: HR & Legal (Monday), Media & PR (Tuesday), Funding & Partnering (Wednesday), Design & Development (Thursday), and Branding & Marketing (Friday). And damn if I’m not proud of the programming blocks we were able to put together. TechStars was good enough to record all of the live panels & talks, and you can watch them below!
**(We’re still waiting for 3 more to be edited & uploaded, including the panel I ran on Tuesday, so I’ll be sure to update as soon as I have those too!)
What’s the Big Idea?: Navigating Common Intellectual Property Challenges
On Monday, November 9th, we kicked it off in the morning with Rusty Close of Troutman Pepper discussing intellectual property law and patents within the context of the startup world. He did a terrific job underscoring how IP should be handled from the outset. Often it’s the intellectual property factor which can lead to a dispute between cofounders and potentially lead to an implosion, and Rusty’s talk discussed great ways to try to preempt this headache.
Dead on Arrival: Avoiding Legal Mistakes That Could Kill Your Startup
Then we had Jack A. Donenfeld from Boomtown Accelerators discuss some of the common pitfalls that startups should be aware of and avoid. Jack gave an awesome & detailed powerpoint presentation on some of the legal mistakes that he sees daily in his work with startups. Some of Jack’s suggestions are so critical precisely because they are seemingly so common, and his guidance was a great addition to Monday’s schedule!
We wrapped up Monday with a killer panel which I heard got immensely positive feedback. Moderated by my good friend Stefanie Jewett—well-known here in Atlanta—and featuring LinkedIn influencer Elaine Jacques as well as my own Mom, Marx & Marx partner Jeannie Marx, this afternoon panel discussed the cost of good company culture, especially when the murky waters are difficult to navigate. Elaine and my Mom broke down some of the most common situations that often go unaddressed by HR and how to address them so you don’t end up on the opposite side of the table from my parents’ firm in a sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuit. We talk so much in tech about good company culture; this is how we ensure that we walk the talk.
Tuesday, November 10th was no less busy. We had a spirited discussion in the morning with some of the biggest names in tech journalism and I had an awesome time leading my own panel in the afternoon around networking & reputation-building.
Almost Famous: How Tech Journalists Determine the Companies on Their Radars
As a writer and sometimes-journalist myself, I always wonder how my peers determine the companies that they like to keep on their radars. Yes, there are always the big companies with their newest fundraises, but I wanted to know how a smaller company might creep onto a journalist’s radar—and how it could stay there. This panel began as a question in my mind as to how new founders might be able to approach tech journalists in more mutually beneficial ways.
Brick by Humble Brick: Building an Influential Network from Scratch
Featuring: Adam Marx (me 😄), moderator (The Zero to One Networker; formerly CEO at Glipple; Crunchbase News, Mattermark, & Startup Grind), Cory Warfield (ShedWool, CorryConnects, & LinkedIn influencer), Kate Atwood (LoCo+, Kate’s Club, & OTT Fest), & Jake Tital (Sproutways).
I hear so much discussion about how to properly (or not) develop a good network and if accelerators are necessary in doing so. For the record, I think accelerators are a fantastic resource and they certainly facilitate a number of the strategies. But for people who don’t have access to that option, there are indeed ways to construct a broad and influential network from scratch. In this panel, I talked with a number of influencers—and close friends!—about how strategies like patience, humility, and value creation can really build concrete networks seemingly out of nothing. In effect, this is how I built my network in tech and what the concept of the Zero to One Networker is all about!
Wednesday, November 11th began with a bang and we heard some amazing viewpoints from fundraising and IPO experts all day. Our panelists included some of the most well-known names in Atlanta tech, both on the funding side and the founder side!
The IPO Show
Featuring: Kunbi Tinuoye, moderator (UrbanGeekz; Advisory Board at CES and SXSW) & Barrett Daniels (IPO expert; formerly SoftBank & Next Step IPO)
Out of the gate we talked IPOs and pro/con assessments. Kunbi and Barrett had a killer discussion on the whole IPO process, breaking down some of the mystique and weighing if and when it’s actually a good idea. In startups we’re so often faced with news of impending IPOs that it behooves us to take a step back every once and a while and assess whether it really is the right strategy for our companies. Some of the perspectives dropped here are must-hear perspectives on the IPO reality.
Building a $1B+ Enterprise: The Story of SalesLoft
In the middle of the day, we were able to have an invaluable pre-lunch session with SalesLoft founder & CEO Kyle Porter and Holly Beilin (who for the record, is a killer tech writer here in Atlanta!). Kyle broke down the basic components of how Salesloft got off the ground and indicated some of the key tactics that could help other founders build a massively successful B2B SaaS company. It was great to hear some of the more nuanced portions of Kyle’s journey; full credit to Aly for setting this block up!
Show Me the Money: What to Know About Funding and How to Raise Capital
And we capped Wednesday with a killer discussion from some of the most well-known funding names in the Atlanta tech scene. Moderated by the incomparable Asia Orangio, the knowledge dropped by Karen, Jen and Charlton was almost a how-to regarding fundraising presented by a who’s who of Atlanta knowhow. Definitely one of the panels we were thrilled to have on-board, and again, credit due to Aly for taking the reins here to pull together a magnetic discussion.
Thursday, November 12th was one of the only times we ran into minor technical issues—pretty good for a virtual tech event! Initially, we had Ruben Harris and Erica Stanley scheduled in the morning, but technical glitches moved their talk on non-traditional paths to engineering to Friday (we were so grateful for their flexibility and understanding!). So we moved on to a phenomenal discussion later in the day on the no-code movement, hearing from two no-code influencers!
Speak in No-Code: The New Movement
Featuring: KP (Karthik Puvvada) (On Deck & No-Code influencer) & Lacey Kesler (Women in No-Code, No-Code community at IndieHackers & the Visual developers Podcast)
No-code is blowing up, especially here in Atlanta. That was my line of thinking when I worked with Aly to recruit KP and Lacey Kesler—two of the leading voices in no-code—to have a discussion about the new movement. Their discussion of the possibilities of new no-code applications, as well as the potential for growth of the no-code communities, made this dialogue immensely engaging. Having known KP for years now, it’s been especially intriguing to see the focus he’s helped bring to no-code in Atlanta!
Friday, November 13th was our wrap-up day for the event, but no less busy or engaging! Aly and I were immensely grateful that Ruben Harris and Erica Stanley took time out of their schedules (again!) to come back and have a chat about non-traditional engineering after some minor technical glitches on Thursday. Their talk seems especially timely given Career Karma’s new Series A raise! Then in the late morning we switched gears and focused on branding and marketing strategies that can expand your sales funnel. Not a bad way to end a week of great content!
The Code Less Traveled: Non-Traditional Paths to Being an Engineer
Despite some minor tech glitches, Ruben and Erica generously came back Friday morning to kick off our last day with a killer chat. They covered topics like education and non-traditional paths to landing an engineering job. Whether at a startup or large company, with the pandemic making distributed work especially necessary, more and more people are looking for ways to get their foot in the engineering door. Their talk seems especially timely given Career Karma’s new Series A raise!
Appetite for Construction: Building a Brand for Your Sales Funnel
Featuring: Judi Fox (Executive coach & LinkedIn influencer) & Dale Dupree (The Sales Rebellion, Selling Local Podcast, & LinkedIn influencer), &….surprisingly me haha! (See Tuesday’s details; I was able to hop into this conversation at the last minute and I’m glad I did!)
Then we switched gears and dove right into branding & marketing with Dale and Judi, two super well-known influencers and branding experts on LinkedIn. In a funny twist of serendipity, they invited me to join their live chat and we discussed the dynamics of great networking (see my previous Tuesday panel 😄) against the dynamics of positive branding and successful marketing. Couldn’t have asked for a better discussion to be a part of on the last day!
Brand + Go to Market Strategies: Your Most Valuable Asset
We wrapped up TechStars’ Atlanta Startup Week with a brilliant presentation from Tami McQueen, well-known in the Atlanta startup community. Her discussion around go-to-market strategies within one’s branding provided great, actionable content that guests hopefully came away with!
Looking Forward to the Next Atlanta Startup Week
Lastly, I want to give recognition to all the other amazing track captains that were doing work simultaneously as Aly & I put our own speaker list together.
And certainly to our corporate sponsor for the Tech/Fintech track, Invesco!
I’m excited to see what the long-term feedback will be on all of the speakers and panels; I definitely think that TechStars will continue to see engagement on the content in the coming months. As we speak, I’m drafting out some emails to send out to the TechStars people after the holiday season to see how we can continue to get these high-quality talks in front of new founders & VCs who would surely appreciate them. 2020 was a hard year indeed, but this was certainly one of the bright spots for me. I added numerous positive and inspirational people to my network, created some (hopefully) killer content, and learned a boatload from a variety of experts across an array of disciplines.
I’m looking forward to next year and hoping we can top it all in 2021.
If you’re looking to have more conversations around networking and building concrete relationships, ping me and let’s chat! I’m looking forward to picking up new clients and recording more podcasts in the new year. Anyone can be a powerhouse networker—that’s my philosophy behind the Zero To One Networker. 🚀
I flew out of bed and onto a zoom call with him; I saw immense opportunity in it and knew this was something I had to be involved in. Politics and local involvement had been something that I had become progressively more intrigued with, and Mubs’ new build piqued my interest immediately.
Over the course of the next hour, Mubs and I kicked ideas back and forth about how we could grow and expand “How Many People Voted?” beyond the 2020 November election. Sure, it was definitely timely in that respect, but as grassroots involvement has grown, so too has interest in locally focused organizations and initiatives centered around expanding the democratic process. It’s not that similar initiatives weren’t around before, but rather that we seem to have seen a resurgence of local interest from demographics of people perhaps previously not so tuned into the mechanics of the process.
Maybe it’s just the times we’re living in.
Minor Tweaks and Copy Content
And this isn’t even a uniquely American trend either. Grassroots and local communities in democratic nations around the world appear to be experiencing similar trends of interest and involvement here. Those people were (ostensibly) voting too—maybe we could apply the same idea there for other elections in the future.
But back to America in November 2020.
We updated the How Many People Voted? page (and its Product Hunt profile page) as quickly as we could—Mubs rearranged a couple things and I wrote up some copy to give some context to the election for our non-American visitors and the most accurate voting numbers we could source before the actual election.
We added columns for “Early Voting” and “2020 Population” counts as well. Then I tweeted it out into my political network and waited. There wasn’t much to do before the actual voting results started to come in.
During the first day or so, we started to do some significant traction—people all of the country (and world!) were clearly geared up to learn and talk about the election, even if we didn’t have any new number yet. Regardless of political affiliation, there was clearly more interest in the political process than there had been in years.
We got posted to Hacker News and started to work our way up the main page to number eight!
We started with a couple thousand visitors in the first few hours—that night we got posted to Reddit and started to trend!
Then we jumped to over 7K visitors by the morning of November 2nd. That day we were retweeted by GA State Senator Jen Jordan as well as Staci Fox, the CEO for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates.
We ended up doing more than 10K visitors by Election Day on November 5th.
What was interesting was that the visitor numbers only seemed to accelerate after Election day was over; presumably because there were still hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of outstanding votes left to count all over the country. We all knew it was going to be a long wait and that numbers would continue to trickle in. I figured we’d still continue to see some more page views, but wasn’t sure just how many.
The next day on Nov. 6th, that question was, if not answered, then certainly addressed: we were featured on Refdesk.com as their site of the day. That kicked up our traction a bit.
By the end of the week, we’d done somewhere in the neighborhood of ~13K views with almost no marketing. In fact, the only “real” marketing Mubs and I did was perhaps a tweet thread each with some people tagged. I ended up resharing the same tweets with people in my local network here in Atlanta (the energy here was—and is—insane!) and in my other social networks in the lead-up to the election to try to motivate everyone to go exercise their right to vote.
Relaunch for the GA Runoffs
Fast-forward to now. While most if not all of the 2020 races have concluded around the country, here in Georgia, things are still very much red-hot. Both of our U.S. Senate seats are up this year; one as a regularly scheduled election and the other one as a special election. The latter will be up again in 2022.
In Georgia, state law requires candidates to receive a majority of the vote (50.1% or more) in order to be declared the winner; failing to do so for either candidate leads to a runoff election. And this year, our senate seats are heading to dual runoffs!
So Mubs and I put our heads back down and redesigned How Many People voted? for the special circumstances we now find ourselves in. We updated the copy to give non-Georgia citizens an idea of why the Senate is still up for grabs and a brief overview of the four candidates now vying for the prospective seats (the general 2020 election featured an all-party jungle campaign for the special election Senate seat). Similarly, we updated the informational deadlines at the top of the site to correspond with the particular deadlines that are set here in Georgia.
1) The absentee ballots mailed-by date — Nov. 18th, 2020
2) The GA voter registration deadline — Dec. 7th, 2020
3) The day in-person voting begins — Dec. 14th, 2020 &
4) The runoff Election date — Jan. 5th, 2021
Additionally, we totally revamped our informational columns and breakdown. Since we have a Georgia focus until the election is over, we replaced the other state rows with all of Georgia’s 159 counties (we have a ton!) and the number of registered voters per county. And while we wait to have some official numbers of early votes, we wanted to give some context of the last time we had a statewide runoff election here in Georgia, so we included the data for 2018’s runoff for Georgia Secretary of State.
We’ll see what the numbers tell us as we get closer to Election Runoff Day! Things should be super exciting as there are thousands of newly registered voters here in Georgia who will have just turned 18 and are now legally eligible to participate in the voting process. The energy here is palpable to say the least and it’s clear that everyone’s foot is still on the accelerator.
Remember, if you’re a Georgia citizen and eligible voter, please #GoVote and make your voice heard!
Follow the continuing election numbers on Twitter at @HowManyVoted and keep getting involved!
How I Got 1.6 Million Views by Following My Instincts 📈
Accidental Virality & a Little Experiment
In spring of this year, I was scrolling back through some of my LinkedIn posts and was floored to see that one of my posts had gone viral. Without me even realizing!
It was something I’d put up about a month prior just to get my daily quota filled (I try to post every day for consistency) and I hadn’t thought much about it afterwards.
It ended up doing more than 50K views. 😱⚡
I read and reread that post over the course of the week, trying to figure out what in the hell it was that had caused it to go so crazy. Was it the content? The formatting? The emojis (don’t laugh, those things matter!) or the hashtags?
🤔 Working over the next week, I tried a variety of things to understand what had keyed into the LinkedIn algorithm so acutely. After a few days, I began to wonder if it was something else—something which LinkedIn power-users cautioned against. So I figured why not try that and see.
I went viral again. 📈
And again. 📈📈
And again. 📈📈📈
20K, 40K, 80K, 190K views started popping up in my feed. At one point, I even did half a million views on one post!
I racked up well over a million views over a spread of just 10-15 posts. 😯
I started to track my thesis in a spreadsheet.
Over the few months that I consistently ran the experiment, I went viral about a third of the time—I was going viral at least 2-3 times a week over a ten-week span.
It got to the point where if I didn’t go viral, it was a little uncommon and I felt that tomorrow I’d just make it up by going viral then.
So what was the secret to all this insane virality?
Hold your breath, because LinkedIn power-users are about to lose their shit here…
The LinkedIn “Rule” I Ignored to Go Viral (Again and Again)
I ignored one of the “rules” of the LinkedIn algorithm and just went with my natural instincts.
During the time I ran my little experiment, I started sharing…a lot.
A lot more than I already had been.
Here’s why this is such a drastic statement:
Because lots of LinkedIn power-users often share tips for how to do better on LinkedIn; a lot of which have become gospel because of how the algorithm reacts—how it changes, and how it doesn’t change…
Core tactics like:
Text content is king.
Write up to the content limit.
Canoe-tagging is okay, even encouraged.
Answer every damn comment.
And towards the bottom of the pecking-order?
Or rather, don’t share, because the algorithm (supposedly) dings you for it.
I always saw sharing listed at the very bottom, the thinking being that the algorithm smacks you for not creating your own content and suppresses your reach. (Probably a reasonable theory, but as I said, algorithms get tweaked sometimes).
And yet, that post that racked up 50K views? The one I’d just pushed out without thinking about it?
It was a share.
I just went through it, found a few points I connected with, tried to articulate how I thought about them, and shared her post into my network.
Then it spread like wildfire. 🔥
Why Sharing Works So Well
🙌 Sharing is one of my favorite strategies because it’s a great way to simultaneously learn and build great relationships with the people who are creating the material you connect with.
Here’s why sharing doesn’t work for a lot of people: they’re not patient and they don’t give credit!
It’s not just sharing though; it’s sharing the right way, a key factor which I see trip people up all the time.
This is such an avoidable pitfall that it just baffles me why I continue to see this. I always give credit at the top of the post. This is key; never take credit for what isn’t yours. That kills a reputation and potential relationship before they even start.
But there is a way to successfully “piggyback” on someone else’s content without looking like a tool. In fact, I wrote all about it here. The key is, as always, humility, authenticity, & due credit.
So when it took off, it made me wonder why anyone would ever recommend against sharing on LinkedIn. Perhaps the algorithm did penalize you a little bit, but here’s my thinking:
1) We never know for sure
2) Sharing is a great way of pushing out new, high-quality content, &
3) It’s probably the best way I’ve found to build an amazing network.
Breaking 1.6 Million Views (Fairly Effortlessly)
In fact, it’s pretty much precisely how I built my tech network on Twitter, and how I built my network in the music business before that. People who follow me know that 75-80% of everything I tweet or put out is in support of someone else. Either a company I dig, a mission I believe in, or someone who I absolutely wanna see grow and succeed.
So I just started to adapt my Twitter strategy to LinkedIn and see if emulating it yielded any different results.
Now I’ll stop here and say that I don’t know if this is a “surefire” way to still go viral on LinkedIn.
In fact, I don’t think there is a “surefire” way.
Some of my posts did 100K views. Others didn’t even break 100. There was never a guarantee.
But it did make me reexamine the question that so many people ask (and now, amazingly, ask me) of: How do I go viral?
That’s not the right question.
The right question is: How do I build a magnetic reputation and a deep bench of allies in a concrete network?
Answer: You do it through sharing and supporting others in the right way. 👏💫 This is what I love teaching other people how to do because once you start doing it, your network takes off like a rocket. 🚀
That’s why the share tactic worked for me. Because it was something I could easily emulate from my Twitter strategy (which had also worked for me), something which people associated with my brand, and something that I could easily tweak if need be.
Perhaps, though, the most important part of the strategy (for me, anyway) is that it allowed me to sidle close to the people whom I want(ed) to learn from in a way that was neither fanboy-ish nor self-centered. It was a way to indicate that I appreciated someone else’s mission, accomplishments, company, or character without actually having to say so. Sometimes the subtle signals are the most effective.
In the end, my “share” posts went viral about one third of the time. Not bad at all.
But the really amazing thing is that I ended up doing well over 1.6 MILLION post views from when I started the experiment.
Even more intriguing to me, though, is that I still continue to see many of my LinkedIn friends continue to suggest not sharing because the algorithm dings you on it. And I absolutely understand this; their suggestions come from a place of not wanting their followers’ content to be stifled by the algorithm. So the advice does come from a good place.
But for me, that’s the exact opposite of what I found that really started to work for me. And perhaps most importantly, it’s antithetical to what worked for me elsewhere and what ultimately defines my brand as the 🚀 #ZeroToOneNetworker. Because when people 😎#LookForTheOrangeSunglasses, they know that the content won’t only be my own thoughts, but tips, experiences, & stories from other people in my network whom I also learn from.
Maybe that’s the reason that my sharing worked in the first place; because so many people are not doing it consistently. Daring to do something different—even by accident—is a great way to set yourself apart and make your content more unique.
Maybe it makes me a little different than the other LinkedIn power-users out there, but I’ll double-down and say it:
If you wanna grow your network and content, then share.
And if you really wanna grow your network, then message me and book some time with me so we can figure out how to supercharge your networking chops! ⚡💸
Share positively and consistently; always try to add something valuable and always, always give credit.
After all, I didn’t have anything to lose—do you? 😉
In 2018, amidst the high school walkouts taking place around the country, I called on my alma mater, Brandeis University, to join a slew of colleges and universities and put its money where its mouth is. I—and I’m sure many other alumni—challenged them to commit to honoring their ideals of free speech & social justice in the wake of high school administrations cracking down on such free expression.
They rose to the occasion and released a public statement articulating their support for free expression and exercise of social justice—a core ideal on which our school was founded—and committed to honoring interview dates and acceptance packages based on students’ merits, and not swayed by fickle administrative politics. It even got picked up by Buzzfeed News and I made my social media debut—my Twitter handle at least—in a Buzzfeed listicle; I guess I can cross that off my bucket list.
Now, two years later, I called on them again to rise to a similar, if not more daunting challenge. And again, I imagine I wasn’t the only one.
As the Trump administration seeks to engage in thinly-veiled isolationist and racist policies—in the wake of a global pandemic no less—simple students have found themselves caught in the political crossfire. The administration’s “guidance” over not allowing foreign students to take online-only classes for the U.S. fall semester is yet another stain on a consistently tumultuous and erratic educational policy. It’s not only antithetical to everything that Brandeis stands for as an institution, but what we as a nation stand for. One would think that such a stark departure from core American ideals would be enough to dissuade the Trump administration from pursuing such a draconian agenda.
“The order came down without notice—its cruelty surpassed only by its recklessness. It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others[.]”
The lawsuit itself expands further on this line of thinking:
“…for many students, returning to their home countries to participate in online instruction is impossible, impractical, prohibitively expensive, and/or dangerous.”
Why does any of this even matter? Why did I even tweet about it?
Well if you’re reading this as someone with any connection to Brandeis at all, you should be able to answer those questions on your own.
For everyone else, here’s why:
Because Brandeis was founded on ideas of equality, diversity, right to a first-class education, and above all, social justice. Indeed the latter phrase emblazons most every free space around the university’s campus.
In the school’s own words:
“Brandeis University was founded in 1948 by the American Jewish community at a time when Jews and other ethnic and racial minorities, and women, faced discrimination in higher education.
Brandeis’ visionary founders established a nonsectarian university that welcomed talented faculty and students of all backgrounds and beliefs.”
There, in the first breath of our school identity and history, is the commitment to being different in the face of adversity and acting as a tether—the tether—to being a socially just port in the storm. It’s no surprise that Justice Brandeis—the school’s namesake—adorns the central space by the Student Campus Center—the “green building” as it’s affectionately known to students. The indelible mark that Brandeis made on modern jurisprudence is now playing out before our eyes.
And in this moment, we as Brandeis alumni and community members cannot be spectators; we must be leaders.
When I called on Brandeis to step up to the plate in this game, I didn’t have a specific goal in mind beyond urging my alma mater to lead in the game from the start. Whether joining Harvard and MIT or finding a place similar to Cornell University, which has joined the case as a friend of the court and had this to say:
“This was wholly unexpected, and it is a senseless and unfair policy that runs counter to all that we stand for as a global academic community[.]”
Because in the end, this is not a game.
This is about who we are and what our legacy will be. I spent years at Brandeis majoring in history—I studied masses of it. From East Asian and European Medieval to Roman and American Colonial, there’s always one thing that’s true about history:
There is always a right side of it. And a wrong side of it.
It seems that the Brandeis administration is of a similar mind.
As I continued to tweet about this whole snafu last week, I noticed the Brandeis account liking all of my tweets.
Then I saw their comment pop up; a link to a tweet from the Brandeis account late last Wednesday evening—hours after I’d logged off for the day and busied myself with dinner and household chores—that detailed their full statement on the matter. The official post—appropriately titled “Supporting International Students”—basically boiled down to this:
“In the face of such callous [ICE] guidelines, Brandeis must act in support of our international students and those across the country. Today, we are joining with a number of other colleges and universities in supporting an effort by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to temporarily prohibit the enforcement of these guidelines…We are committed to finding solutions to redress the ICE guidelines.”
However Brandeis is named in the suit—either jointly with Harvard and MIT or similarly to Cornell and other universities—is more or less irrelevant. Semantics are just that—semantics.
The only relevant thing is that they—we—are in the arena, fighting for what we as students, donors, alumni, and socially just thinkers went there for. This is how Brandeis can (and will) continue to define itself as a leading university and community in the coming years; how it proves to the outside world that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Ivy League schools and similar institutions like Emory, Stanford, and MIT.
The suit came before a federal judge this week and it took all of five minutes (seriously!) for ICE and the Trump administration to cave. But I have no illusions; I imagine there will be other repressive agendas that follow. And in those moments, we as Brandeisians must see and meet these challenges head-on.
Because ultimately this isn’t a meaningless issue. There is no gray area here.
For me, the desire to create things is an itch that never really goes away.
Ignoring it really isn’t an option; you have to scratch it.
That’s part of the reason why I’m excited today to launch Branded Background with my friend Mubashar “Mubs” Iqbal on Product Hunt. I’ve known Mubs for years now and I’m stoked for our first build together. 🚀
Like everyone else right now, Mubs and I are living with the realities of COVID-19; social distancing, tons of people working from home, and zillions of Zoom calls. 📽️
It was the last one that got us thinking: amidst all the uncertainty, are people really taking advantage of the current WFH environment? Are they able to and/or how could it be better?
I kept thinking about two words: marketing and branding.
You don’t need to be a marketing expert to put a great campaign together or have a great, engaging brand. You just need to have a clear consistent message and image, and an easy way to project it to your audience.
Great Marketing and Branding
Great marketing starts with brand uniformity. 📈
So we picked one pretty intriguing gap to fill: a better way to brand Zoom calls better.
One thing that stuck out immediately during our conversations was the sheer number of new people using Zoom, possibly for the first time ever, or for the first time in a professional way. I’ve seen this number increase massively for all sorts of companies amongst my circles on LinkedIn.
But the thing that really struck me? Just how many of these professional calls I got on with people with unbranded backgrounds. Not everyone works at a huge company with a big budget for marketing, so how could we build something for the people who run small businesses or are just starting to get side-projects off the ground?
The answer: make it quick and easy for them to put their logo on their background for a Zoom call.
I wanted a tool that was dead-simple; a couple of clicks max. 🙌
Last Friday, I wrote a post that felt more like a personal update than anything else.
It went viral anyway, and I know why. 👇
Quick Message — I’m Here to Help
☝️ First, let me say: I know the crunch that’s happening all over the country (and the world), which is why I’m cutting my rates and making them as flexible as possible. I do personal branding, relationship-building, content editing, and networking consulting.
I teach people how to get in front of anyone; tech investors, company CEOs, journalists or media, etc., and I do it by teaching basic tactics that anyone could use (patience, value creation, consistency, etc.). If you need help—growing your network, developing your brand & reputation, building relationships for a new job—then reach out to me. I will work with your budget —just send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn.
What We Expect of Our Companies
When we apply for jobs at companies, we expect that the contracts they give us are mutually beneficial at their core. For our part, these contracts require us to show up on time, excel in our skills & dedication, produce results, etc. And for that we get paid. It often boils down to a base concept:
“You give me time and skills, and I’ll give you money and benefits.” 💰
But sometimes in our readiness to accept these terms and get paid, we can overlook the things which we should be expecting & requiring from the companies hiring us.
And one of the core things that every employee should expect of their employer is a safe workplace. This isn’t innovative thinking; it’s a necessary cost which every employer should figure into their overhead.
Here’s the problem with that:
Safety isn’t sexy and profit rules the day.
Many people like to think that their company has their back; that the organization will catch them when they fall. And indeed this is true of many companies, but unfortunately not all.
And I think this is exactly why my post went viral. 🤔
Companies in Two Camps
With all the coronavirus stuff happening globally, there’s a lot of fear about how to weather the storm. Many companies have taken it upon themselves to step out on the limb with their employees and help as best as they can. Some of my favorites like Slack, Airbnb, Zoom, PagerDuty, and Box are cutting costs to their premium products so that the sudden influx of people now forced to work from home can continue to be as productive as possible. Many companies recognize that they may see a financial loss in the coming weeks, but they accept that this is bigger than that.
They’re placing their employees’ safety above their fiscal bottom lines. 🙌
These are the poster children for companies which are sticking to the gray areas of what is defined as an “essential business” apparently so that they don’t have to close up shop or move online. And this is going to jeopardize the health of their workers. 😷
When this is all over and the dust settles, there will only be two camps of companies:
📈 Those who placed the health of their employees over the fiscal bottom line, and
📉 Those who placed the fiscal bottom line over health and everything else
(For the record, the companies I’m referring to en masse are not the typical essential businesses; i.e. police, medical personnel, grocers, firefighters, etc.)
Why My Post Went Viral (I Believe)
My post went viral (perhaps a poor adjective given our current situation…) because I have been documenting the struggle that one of my close friends is having with some such company. My friend works for a company that is doing its damn best to stay in one of these gray areas; they are not “essential” on the same level as a homeless shelter or police department, nor are they 100% remote as software engineering might be.
My original post from Tuesday, 3/24/20.
What I do know, though, is that the work my friend does—operations, bookkeeping, customer support—could all be done remotely. Certainly in an extenuating circumstance like the one in which we now find ourselves, 98% (if not more) of my friend’s work could be done from their laptop at home.
Yet the company refuses to allow them to do so.
The optics are even worse: the partners and employees who work in corporate are already working from home and have been for a week. 😡
My post went viral—I believe—because this kind of management of employees is not only reckless and irresponsible, it’s dismaying and unconscionable. People have a right to work in safe conditions, and a right to request leniency in extenuating circumstances like this. They have a right not to fear retaliation for desiring to work from home in the middle of a pandemic.
My viral follow-up post from Friday, 3/27/20.
This Isn’t Leadership — It’s Extortion
I’ve run startup companies before and I’ve worked for bigger organizations, and here’s a rule I never break: I would never ask my employee or team member to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.
Like, say, risk my life for a good quarterly profit.
The irony is that these companies who are putting profit before safety will see cataclysmic retribution when this is all over. Not from me or even from governments most likely, but from their employees, customers, investors, and advertisers. Nobody wants to work for, buy from, or promote a company which places profits over employee health and safety. Investor Mark Cuban mentioned as much just last week.
My post went viral because people are angry at my friend’s circumstance (and probably those of their close ones as well) and know that this is not right. This is not what my friend signed up for, and certainly not what the company should be expecting of them.
Leaders lead from the front, and what this company is doing now isn’t leadership—it’s extortion. 🚨
The Upshot When This Is Over
For those of you out there running companies the right way and doing your very best to hear your employees and put their health first, thank you. I applaud you. I will patronize your businesses and continue to lead with you in the right direction.
But for those who are not following suit—who view any desire for leniency & safety as insubordination and are living in the gray areas intentionally for profit—, you do so at your own risk. The optics are not on your side, and any profit you manage to make during this tough time will undoubtedly be used on public relations damage control.
And for the hardworking employees out there: you deserve to work in a safe environment. If you know that your company truly doesn’t fall under “essential business,” also know that your health and safety are paramount. This isn’t a normal corporate situation; this is an extreme that we’re living in right now and people need to adapt to that.
I’m truly grateful for all of your support. Keep moving forward. 🚀
P.S. — Leads on new jobs for my friend still greatly appreciated. To my knowledge, skills include: asset management, operations, bookkeeping, customer service, company relations, & extensive real estate experience.
Last year, I took a look back at some of the things that I accomplished throughout 2018. It was a simple writing, but something which really provided some fantastic perspective.
Oftentimes, it can be all too easy to lose track of the little victories which we accumulate in pursuit of our broader goals. But for me, acknowledging these smaller steps has led to an ever-growing appreciation for the bigger picture.
And so with that, here are a few of the highlights from my 2019 year.
January & February
I kicked the year off by sharpening my meme-making skills. 😂
As with the last couple years, January brought me what’s become an annual picture with my friend Arlan Hamilton — the work she’s doing with her team at Backstage Capital is something I love supporting here in Atlanta. Her talk this year was no less compelling.
I was super excited to have my friend Emily Best here in Atlanta to discuss the work she’s doing at her company Seed&Spark, and the opportunities for the Atlanta film scene.
“Three sibs” picture with our brother before he went abroad to Germany for six months!
Two of my best friends in the world formally asked me to be their best man. I could not be more thrilled and am so excited to be there to support Luke and Danielle when they get married. It seems I’ll have to go rent a tux! 🤵
I had an awesome time recording my first podcast as a guest on Tyler Wagner’s show, “The Business Blast Podcast”. We talked about music, startups & tech, my time as a music journalist, and how learning to build relationships has been key to all of it. 🎙️
Sometimes the most interesting opportunities come to you from the most serendipitous of sources. 🙃
April & May
I got retweeted by Dee Snider, the legendary lead singer of Twisted Sister! 😱
And getting retweeted by Atlanta Magazine was kinda cool too.
I was floored (and truly humbled!) to be name-dropped by Jessi Hempel during her interview with Recode. Formerly of BackChannel, Business Insider, Fortune, and Wired, and now the editor-at-large at LinkedIn, I’ve followed Jessi’s writing for a few years now, and it was some of the first material I gravitated towards upon my entrance into startups & tech. Sometimes in this business (as with everything in life, I suppose), you wonder if you’re making any sort of impact or impression. It’s moments like this that underscore the answer: yes. 😱
Go out and bring the very best value you can to people; all the rest takes care of itself.
I didn’t make it to the #PitchAtlanta event at the Atlanta Tech Village, but I did make it to the afterparty where I was introduced to the incomparable David Lightburn.
Here’s a snap of the great panel I hope to hear live next year!
The excitement continued as I became more politically active, meeting a number of rising stars. Some I took pictures with and some are people I’m quietly continuing to meet with. 🗳️
Get out there and get active!
Here I am with Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff.
And here I am with Gwinett County Board of Ed Representative Everton Blair, Jr.
June & July
Went to a great 90s punk tribute show downtown with the bestie Abby (before her move to Ohio). This picture accurately captures our friendship. 🙌
I could not have been prouder of my parents — their win at the 11th Circuit (in a gender discrimination case) was cited at this year’s NELA Conference in New Orleans. Huge deal with far-reaching results. ⚖️
I met Kwam Amissah around the holiday time last year through Ruben Harris. It’s been awesome to see his growth in the tech world and exciting to hear about his current projects — here we are at Flatiron Atlanta!
(Picture taken by the incomparable Tammy Carson, whom I also met this year!) 📸
I always love it when Career Karma CEO Ruben Harris is in town and I’m able to come out to support him. He’s doing awesome things in tech and I’m super humbled to count him as a friend & ally. 🚀
I’m also continuously thrilled by the serendipity of tech — it was at this event, heading out to support Ruben, that I had the immense pleasure of meeting Charles Pridgen, a huge asset to the Atlanta tech scene. 👍
Then it was time for a break for a little while. Wheels up for a couple weeks in Europe traveling with my mom — one of my best friends in the world. ✈️
And here’s the post-flight exhaustion in the Frankfurt airport.
First stop (same day!) — historic Mainz, Germany. The medieval history nerd in me was all kinds of happy. 🇩🇪
Next day — first full day in Germany, we went to Heidelberg. 😎
We took in some amazing Jewish history in Worms. Here’s Mom going into a synagogue that is hundreds of years old.
Hopping over to France, we experienced Colmar, a town in Alsace known as “Little Venice.” 🇫🇷
We saw the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg in France. The medieval history nerd in me continued to geek out. 🏰
I saw a hedgehog at our Airbnb and my life was complete.
We stopped in Basel, Switzerland to see the synagogue. It was closed, but the architecture is amazing. 🇨🇭
Stopped by the Jewish Museum of Switzerland in Basel before leaving the city.
Next day brought Lauterbrunnen — it’s cold in the Alps even in the summer.
We climbed the Schilthorn (ok, it was a cable car, but it was still 9744 feet up!). 🚠
Jungfrau is known as the “Top of Europe” (11,333 feet). It also means snow in the summertime. 🗻
Driving back north to Germany, we decided on a couple side-stops…
Like Vaduz, Liechtenstein! I feel like Fulton County in Atlanta is bigger than this whole country. (But it’s an awesome country!). 🇱🇮
And dinner in Bregenz, Austria. 🇦🇹
This is my Mom, the badass master scuba-diver, Columbia-trained attorney licensed in three states, mature as can be…
I wasn’t leaving Germany this time without seeing Augsburg. The historian in me demanded it.
We went to see the synagogue here. Truly one of the most gorgeous synagogue interiors I’ve ever seen. They didn’t allow pictures in the sanctuary, but I will be going back sometime in my life.
Ulm, Germany was beautiful. We took time to see some of the most popular sights.
And some of the most nondescript — here is the Holocaust Memorial behind the newly rebuilt Ulm synagogue. ✡️
Before we did dinner in the town, we had to climb the Rothenburg city walls. Here’s Mom trying to distract me from taking a good picture because she thinks she’s funny. 😂
While Josh finished his final exams, we took in the beautiful town of Bamberg.
And here’s the camera capturing my face just after she tells me a ridiculous joke. 🤦♂️
Last day before our flight home with Josh in the morning. Some wine in Frankfurt to celebrate a wonderful trip.
Back from Europe, a week of rest, and then I so enjoyed finally having the chance to meet the phenomenal Lolita Taub in person. Gorgeous view of Baltimore in the background!
Then over to Washington, D.C. to visit Shaina for her birthday. She makes funny faces.
She also made me a special keychain — “one tiny fuck” as she called it.
We hit up the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. to take a peek at work from David Best (who’s most well-known for his ephemeral wooden Temples at Burning Man). 🔥
And yes, we are very mature…
I did an awesome interview with entrepreneur Rich Cardona which I’m excited to post in the new year! And had the immense pleasure of meeting Allen Gannett before heading back to Atlanta.
And then dropped my second podcast recording as Mario Porecca’s guest on his fantastic show the “Ten Minute Mindset.” We talked about humor, humility, creating value, how to define a mission, and how to build relationships with people who might otherwise seem unreachable. 🎙️
Made it out to Atlanta Blockchain Week to hear about some of the great blockchain and crypto stuff happening in Atlanta tech. ⛓️
I met Jon Ossoff again at his official Senate campaign kickoff event.
And I met the legendary civil rights icon and hero Congressman John Lewis as well!
You know it’s gonna be a good month when it starts with old college friends coming to visit — thanks Esther!
October was an absolute marathon of Atlanta tech! I started the month off by landing access to the first-ever OTT Fest! The sheer number of talented film, tech, and media speakers over the multi-day event was incredible. 📽️
I finally met OTT Fest founder (and newly-minted Thea CEO!) Kate Atwood in person.
I won a Roku…from tweeting about the amazing panels… 😱🤣
Over the same day during lunch, I raced up to Google Atlanta in Midtown and was able to see my friend Antoine Woods speak at their Founders RoadMap event.
So I was able to add to my “Google guest” pass collection (I’ve now crossed off Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco ha).
I was super excited to serendipitously hear Stefanie Jewett speak too, and finally meet her in person as well. 😃
I was able to attend the TechStars Atlanta demo day and hear some awesome new companies pitch! 🚀
I kept up the pace by heading out to Atlanta’s Startup Battlefield.
I was excited to record my third podcast episode as a guest with Luke Williams on his show, the “Grab a Cloud” podcast. The episode drops early in 2020! 🎙️
And my fourth show as a guest, on Emily Velilla’s show, also releasing in the new year. 🎙️
Then I capped off October’s tech marathon by going down to my first Atlanta Startup Village event (thanks to Aly Merritt for the invite!).
Actually that’s a lie; October’s tech marathon was really capped off with an awesome care-package from my friends over at Shrug Capital (thanks Nick and Niv!). 📦
Could November begin any better than another amazing care-package from the incomparable Nikki DeMeré, who has become one of my closest friends and allies?
I don’t think so. 🤗
I was super excited to represent my alma mater Brandeis University at the college fair this year. Once a Bradeisian, always a Brandeisian. 😎
Back up to D.C. to spend Thanksgiving with Shaina. Can’t believe I’ve now known her for ten years. But she works for a tour company and told me some of the cool things about D.C. as we walked around. 🇺🇸
And I introduced her to her first Philz Coffee! ☕️
A day in Fredrick, Maryland with Shaina and Kate, two of my closest friends in the whole world. It was cold haha. And Kate’s son is adorable, even if he’s not interested in the picture. ❤️
Met up in D.C. with my other college friend Victoria — and I was rocking my Liechtenstein shirt.
And I started planning a short webinar with my friend Elaine Jacques — we’ll see about getting it out the door in the new year. 😉
With multiple birthdays and anniversaries, December is family time.
Met this wonderful girl a couple months back — here we are at Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Chelsea made funny faces in some pictures… 😂
And we saw Hanson! The 90s kid in me was happy. 🎸
December is also friends and siblings time.
Mom couldn’t resist taking one last funny picture of me for the year. ✡️
This was a marathon year for me. I feel as if the seeds that I sometimes serendipitously planted years ago in tech and music really began to yield amazing relationships and opportunities in 2019. And I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. I can see myself continuing to write about music, tech, relationships, mental health, business, and diversity, and so much of my inspiration is drawn from dialogues I had this year.
No plan ever survives the battlefield, and 2019 was certainly no exception to that rule. But I’ve grown as a person and as an entrepreneur, and intend to keep that trajectory moving at full force as we move into the next decade.
Bring on 2020! 🚀
(And remember to look for the orange sunglasses. 😎 😉)
Welcome to the FIFTH annual list of independent albums and EP’s that probably slipped under your radar this year. I’ve been in the music industry for over a decade at this point (I know right?!) and it continues to floor me just how much talent is out there.
Yet here we are again, with even more incredible music for you to sink your teeth into. One of the truest things that keeps me creating these lists year after year is the excitement I derive from the serendipitous discovery of these wide swaths of creativity. Sometimes the best artistry emerges from the best-kept secrets. 🤘🎸
Since 2015, I’ve given you lists of 100 independent albums and EP’s you probably missed during the year. Here they are:
And so, here is the 2019 list in all its glory. I’m equally excited for the new crop of artists here as well as for those returning again. A healthy helping of the content on this year’s list is from artists I’ve known for years and who continue to crank out new material. It’s all balanced by an influx of new content from new artists whom I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on into the new year.
As with all previous lists, these 100 albums and EP’s come from artists all over the world. This year’s list includes artists from: Canada, Greece, Germany, Spain, Austria, Hungary, France, almost ALL of Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland!), Australia, Estonia, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, New Zeland, Indonesia, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Bulgaria, the U.K., Poland, and 21 different U.S. states. The independent world is massive.
It’s always interesting to see what each year brings in terms of style and genre, and this year’s list seems to heavily feature classic garage punk, pop-punk, shoegaze, alternative, metal, folk rock, and hard rock material.
With all that out of the way, here are 100 of the independent albums and EP’s that you probably missed in 2019. All were released during the 2019 calendar year.