Pursuit of Happiness

October 10, 2009 2 comments

Rainbow in DC

Recently, I have been somewhat addicted to the Kid Cudi song Pursuit Of Happiness. It’s soothing and interesting. We’re all on the pursuit of happiness, right? Well, as much as I love the song, I think Kid Cudi got it wrong. He sings:

I’m On The Pursuit Of Happiness And I Know Everything That Shines Ain’t Always Gonna Be Gold
I’ll Be Fine Once I Get It; I’ll Be Good

It’s the same old paradox. Everyone’s trying to find or figure out the things that will make them happy – another person, money, fame, things. At Shiny Heart Ventures, we take the opposite view – be happy first, then bring your happiness to everything you do. It’s a mind shift for many people. Some may not think it’s possible. It is. It’s not only possible, it’s imperative to making great things happen and to living your best possible life. Life is a journey – so if your journey isn’t enjoyable you’re wasting precious time.

It may all sound somewhat trite, but it’s one of the most difficult truths for many of us to absorb and put into practice each day. It takes practice to wake up and be happy and put that into our daily work – not letting the mundane of everyday life drag us down. I recently read this in Positive Psychology News

Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania teaches that happiness is not something that just happens to us but rather something that we must consciously choose. By being mindful, we increase our opportunities to choose. Kirk Brown of Virginia Commonwealth University and Richard Ryan of the university of Rochester write in a summary of self-regulation that mindfulness is “an open or receptive awareness of and attention to what is taking place in the present moment.” – Suzann Pileggi

Mindfulness takes practice…and practicing gratitude is one way to help us stay on track, which is why we created Thankfulfor. The more you can slow down, identify and focus on the things you’re thankful for, the more you realize what you have and can invite more of those things into your life.

So, I hope if you enjoy the Kid Cudi song, you don’t take the words to heart. Don’t be on a pursuit of happiness. Be happy – take that happiness and use it on your pursuit of something else. He did get a few words right and I’ll leave you with those.

Imma Do Just What I Want Lookin’ Ahead No Turnin’ Back
If I Fall If I Die Know I Lived It To The Fullest

Creativity in Business

October 7, 2009 No comments yet

The Shiny Heart Ventures team was out in full force at the Creativity in Business Conference this past Sunday in Washington, D.C. asking attendees what they were ThankfulFor. Creativity is so important in business so it was great to devote a day surrounded by such forward thinkers. Here’s how Michelle James, the event founder and producer, describes the conference:

Creativity is the capital of the new economy. Join creativity thought leaders, pioneering entrepreneurs and business innovators – in the fields of applied creativity and innovation, organizational change and development, social media and  leadership – from around the country for a full-day event focused on:

• Harnessing and focusing individual, group and organizational creativity
• Organizational structures/business models conducive for creativity and innovation
• The integration of creativity, purpose, business and serving the greater good

It was a powerful event with a smart, creative and determined group of people in attendance. We’re thrilled we could be a part of it and create this fun video montage capturing the spirit of the day.

Thankfulfor Is Live: Come On In!

September 11, 2009 No comments yet
"Open" by Flickr user ChipGriffin

"Open" by Flickr user ChipGriffin

Great news – today we opened up the first version of Thankfulfor and we invite you all to come in and get your Thanks going!

When you get there, just click the Sign Up button or sign in with your Twitter account. By default, all your posts are public, so visit your settings page if you want to make your posts private. Once you are in, it’s pretty simple – just post what you are thankful for!  We suggest posting 3-5 things each day. Stick with it and pay attention to how you are feeling. Seriously, writing down or expressing gratitude on a regular basis is key to happiness and well being. Try it out for yourself! By the way, this is our beta release, so there are many more features coming down the pipeline – we’d also love your feedback and suggestions.

Today we are most thankful for the Interwebs, Bill our developer, Tia our designer and of course, all of YOU, our very first Thankfulfor friends and supporters. And if you like what you find, we’d be delighted and most thankful if you’d share it with your friends far and wide.

Grazie, Merci, Mahalo, Danke, Arigato, Xie Xie, Thank you!

We’re Thankful For… Our First Product Announcement

August 27, 2009 4 comments
Shiny Heart Ventures Launches Thankfulfor.com
Shiny Heart Ventures Announces Thankfulfor.com

The Shiny Heart team has two projects in the works:  one is more involved and it’s still in development (more about that later), and the other is just about ready for launch. It’s called Thankfulfor and it’s all about gratitude. We’ve talked with a few close friends and family about it and the first question we usually get is, why?  Well, why not?  As Jerry Maguire once said: “We live in a cynical world. A cynical world.” It’s the easy and expected path to resort to sarcasm and snark nowadays. But our mission is not to build products that remind people of jaded attitudes – it’s to build products that remind people of the joys of life. What better way to do that than to provide a way for people to take stock of the things – big and small – that they are thankful for each day. In my experience, when we are feeling thankful it’s just a hop and a skip away from feelings of happiness – and happiness is contagious, particularly across social networks. We have a perfect medium to take advantage of this and maybe do the world some good.

So, back to the point.

What is Thankfulfor?

Thankfulfor is a micro-blogging site focused on gratitude. You can enter up to 140 characters about what you are thankful for and post them to your personal “journal” of thanks, which can either be private or public. You can also choose to send each Thankfulfor post to your social network on Twitter (and soon Facebook), spreading the good vibes far and wide.

Thousands, maybe more, practice gratitude globally, many using gratitude journals where they write down a few things they are grateful for each day. Most of those people will tell you it’s more than just a journal – it’s a key to happiness and well-being. Thankfulfor promises to take the resources available today and develop tools for a growing generation of people interested in journaling their gratitude as well as expressing and sharing their thanks with others.

While we haven’t opened up the site to everyone yet, we’re very close. If you are in the DC area and want to be one of the first to see it, we will be demoing Thankfulfor at TECH cocktail DC at the LeftBank in Adams Morgan tonight, August 27.  Out-of-towners, sign-up for our email updates (above) and follow us at @iamthankfulfor on Twitter.

We are so thankful for all of you who are here and supporting us in your own way. We hope you’ll give Thankfulfor a try. More to come soon!

Shiny Heart Spotting

August 19, 2009 No comments yet

Shiny Heart Spotting: On Beach at Fortunes Rocks Tidal Pool

Shiny Heart Spotting: On Beach at Fortunes Rocks Tidal Pool

A few months ago, Frank started noticing hearts in random places which he dubbed “hearts in the wild”.  First it was the back of a chair at a NYC cafe, then a wine bottle, then fireworks – and it continued on. Since then, it’s become a game for us to be out, spot a heart, snap a pic with our phones and then send to Flickr/Twitter as a “Shiny Heart Spotting”.  A couple people have jumped in, sharing their pics with us (the heart shaped clouds were the best) and now we’d love for more people to join in the fun. To send us your own heart spotting, Tweet us at @shinyheart or upload to Flickr and tag it with “ShinyHeartSpotting“.  Here are a few of our favorites so far. Be sure to follow Shiny Heart Ventures on Twitter, Facebook or AIM to get the latest spottings and product updates!

Shiny Heart firework spotting in the wild - Happy 4th of July!

Shiny Heart Spotting: NYC cafe 6/17/09

Double 'shiny heart' spotting...

shiny heart spotting: loaded (shiny) heart revolver with a twisted barrel tattoo

Shiny Heart Spotting: Robot with heart at iStrategyLabs in DC

Shiny Heart Digital Nomads in the Sunday News

August 4, 2009 3 comments
Frank Gruber and Jen Consalvo work near the pool at the Hilton Embassy Row Hotel in Washington, D.C. They pay $15 a day for pool access. WASHINGTON POST / TONI L. SANDYS

Frank Gruber and Jen Consalvo work near the pool at the Hilton Embassy Row Hotel in Washington, D.C. They pay $15 a day for pool access. WASHINGTON POST / TONI L. SANDYS

We’ve had some major excitement here at SHV recently. As you may have seen in one of the nine ten (and counting) major press outlets that featured our story, we (Jen & Frank) were recently profiled as part of Mike Rosenwald’s (@mikerosenwald) story on Digital Nomads. Now we know there are many, many people out there who have lived this way for years and we are somewhat new to the game. But that makes it even more exciting for us and in a way, makes us feel like we’ve found our tribe. We love discovering blog posts and tweets from people whose work lives reside outside of an office (whether they work for themselves or not) – and sharing info about how they get things done. We’ve received so much encouraging feedback – we’d just like to say thank you! Also, a few things…

1. Many of you are asking about what we’re going to launch and when. We should have one announcement in the next 2-3 weeks so make sure you sign up for our email updates (at the top of this page) or follow us on twitter so you are one of the first to know what’s going on.

2. No, we don’t spend a lot of money working from places like the Hilton pool. That was one place we had wanted to try out for a while, but will reserve for only special occasions since they charge extra for the wifi. Frank does actually go into the AOL office as much as he can when he’s in town (but most of his team is distributed across the country anyway) and Jen works from home (she calls it “the nest”) to save money. Both of us like to mix it up once in a while though and keep looking around for interesting new places – especially on the weekends and when on the road, since for us, work doesn’t really stop. To understand this “connected 24/7″ life, check out Peter Shankman’s post “Why don’t you do some work?“.

3. If you haven’t seen the article, here are some links… sorry, can’t resist! This is our first version of a “Press” page ;)

The Entrepreneur @SnagFilms

July 30, 2009 No comments yet

This morning I saw @stevecase tweet out that today was the last day to watch the full length version of The Entrepreneur on SnagFilms. So I multi-tasked… Skyping with developers in India, checking email, writing and watching the film. It’s a 91 minute film, produced by Morgan Spurlock and directed by Jonathan Bricklin, son of Malcolm Bricklin (the subject of the film). This world premier was part of SnagFilms one-year anniversary “SummerFest” celebration (congrats Ted and team!). Partnering with Hulu, they provide world premieres of a new film each Friday for four weeks. Each film — streaming on demand from Hulu — is available exclusively online for one week, before appearing at festivals, theaters, classrooms and at-home DVD players. Pretty exciting for film buffs – and for Snagfilms!

But back to the film… What a story of human spirit, adventure and persistence. From the very end of the film, here’s my favorite quote:

In 70 years, Malcolm Bricklin married 4 women, and started over 30 different businesses – and less than half were successful. That’s if your criteria for success is based on positive financial returns. For Malcolm, it seems to be based on the experience itself. If I had to guess how many more businesses or wives he may have, I would say, as many as he can.

If you are an entrepreneur or have ever been interested in what drives people to continue on in the face of adversity, watch this film. It took Bricklin 5 years and over 1500 hours of footage to create this stellar combination of humor, determination, success, defeat and spirit. It’s honesty is startling.  Through it all, Malcolm’s life is a reminder that it’s about the experiences and the journey – not the money or success or failure. It’s about setting your eye on a target and going after it – working hard but having a great time doing it. And in fact, demonstrating that when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, working your ass off is FUN! Hope you get a chance to check it out.

Sharing Summer Experiences

July 20, 2009 5 comments

Sharing Summer Experiences on YouTube

Summer is in full swing and it was time to embrace it with the crack of the bat by taking in some summer baseball. With the beloved Chicago Cubs visiting Washington, D.C. to take on the Nationals, we recently rallied together a dozen friends to take in a Friday night ballgame. We took it as an opportunity to share not only the ballgame but also our thoughts around the following question:

What’s your favorite thing about summer?

We got lots of great responses and compiled it into one video Sharing Summer Experiences (shown above). Let us know what your favorite thing is about summer in the comments below.

Embracing Unrestricted Mobility

June 28, 2009 4 comments

embracing mobility

We’ve been on the road quite a bit in the last month, and between the two of us we’ve hit Maine, Milwaukee, Chicago, Taipei and New York in just a few weeks, with a few more trips on the horizon. We like to consider ourselves digital nomads and have a goal of being location independent in order to experience as much as we can – definitely a lot more than when chained to an office desk. Thanks to the developments of wireless technology and lots of devices, we are always connected. While many people love working at larger companies and thrive on daily office camaraderie and a certain level of stability, we like to feel the freedom of unrestricted mobility. Whether we are jumping on a Skype call via our iPhones while reviewing new devices in downtown Taipei, sending our developers daily feedback from coastal Maine or responding to an email thread while watching our favorite Chicago baseball team rally to pull out an exciting win, we remain productive from virtually anywhere. Not that life is always that exciting, but with family and friends scattered, global tech events and lots of frequent flier miles, we like to take advantage of any change in scenery.

In real-estate the emphasis is always put on “location, location, location!” and thanks to ever-evolving technology we can now be productive from almost any location – the devices and connectivity leave us no excuse. And while we understand that there is no place like home, we like to think we have many homes – the primary one being the World Wide Web. So we embrace our unrestricted mobility as much as we can, allowing us to experience more in life while continuing to move the ball forward. Who needs vacation?

Just Another Scrappy Startup

June 15, 2009 1 comment

Anytime I talk to people about starting up, I get the same reactions – are you sure? In this economy? Do you have funding locked?  My answer is always the same – we’re bootstrapping, looking at creative options for money and want to go as long as possible before trying to do the rounds. I like to think that the two of us have lots of friends and great connections so when the time comes and we need bigger funds to grow, we’ll have other options to consider. But we haven’t even launched our first product and we both firmly believe we can do this without going to poor house – it just takes some ingenuity.

When all those comments get me a down, I look for inspiration.

So, a few weeks ago I happened across Dave McClure’s tweet about scrappy startups, and just reading it gave me another boost of “I know we can”. Which reminds me that I also have a copy of Little Toot on my shelf somewhere… But seriously, it’s a link to a blogpost by the team behind UserVoice and I love their focus and dedication – and seeing how they’ve made such great headway in one year. I’m really glad they shared because stories like that get me pumped.

Daves Tweet about scrappy startups

Dave's Tweet about scrappy startups

It also turned me on to this fun mini-post from BusinessWeek.com (scroll down past the pirate articles) which made me think of all the other things we’re doing to make this work, yet enjoy this amazing time of freedom and creativity. And since I know that we’re not the only ones thinking that now is our time, I thought I’d share some additional thoughts for all of our spunky comrades in bootstrapping.

  • Clearly, cutting down on expenses is essential. I’ve changed many habits and have even changed my living situation because making this work is absolutely my top priority. I even told my landlord I needed to cut my rent down a little or he needed to find a new tenant. He was amenable.
  • Don’t get lured into buying full solutions. The bizdev guys seem to love us and want our non-existent money – they’ll make you think you can’t succeed without them, that they’re the only solution. Until we have a full proof of concept and start building an audience, we can only spend money on the essentials – and even for that, we’re looking for the best deals for everything.
  • Bartering is our friend. Already we’re finding ways of trading services. Actually, we’re broadening our options by leveraging our own personal skills as well as future product opportunities. For example, we can help busy professionals with SEO and social media in exchange for their services. Win win.
  • Searches on the web may make you think that bootstrapping is synonymous with ramen noodles and junk food. JUST SAY NO. For the same money, buy fruit, nuts and dark greens in bulk and live off that. It will keep you healthier and give you more brain power – seriously. Eat food that is going to work for you and FUEL your creativity and stamina. If you’re 22, I suppose it doesn’t matter. But we’re not – so there’s no messing around. Here’s a great article about how to stay healthy while starting your business.
  • Have laptop, will work from anywhere. It’s almost summer and to me, there’s no reason to do this venture if I’m not going to enjoy it. Finding places with free wifi, particularly if they have outdoor seating, is pretty easy (at least in the cities where I tend to hang out) so it’s a great opportunity to change scenery, which is also great for creativity. Plus, you never know when you might meet some interesting, new person. Here – find a Jelly near you!

There’s more but I’ll save them for a rainy day. Here are a few other posts I’ve found recently on the topic – thanks to everyone out there sharing their experiences and offering up new ideas and resources.

How One Small Scrappy Startup Is Surviving (And Growing) During The Financial Crisis by SocialMedian.com
8 Things Bootstrappers Should Know by Andew Warner
Bootstrapping Your Startup by Entrepreneur.com
Bootstrapping a Startup by BusinessWeek.com
Bootstrapping Tips by BootstrapMe.com
Top 10 Reasons to Start a Business in a Recession by Entrepreneur.com
Bootstrapping Your Startup – 12 Rules of Bootstrapping by RyanSpoon.com

Got more words of wisdom to share with us? Leave them in the comments or drop us a note at friends@shinyheartventures.com.