Monday, October 31, 2011

Uncharted 3: Arriving tomorrow

I'm more than a little excited about this: Uncharted 3 comes out tomorrow, and I just got e-mail confirmation from Amazon that my pre-order copy shipped earlier today.

If you haven't played a game in the Uncharted franchise before, you're missing out. I'm not a hard-core gamer (I hadn't owned a console for almost 20 years until I got a PS3 for Christmas a couple years ago), and Uncharted 2 remains the only modern game I've played from beginning to end.

Uncharted 2 is an incredible game - I picked it back up this past week while my Dad was in town, and my Dad (even less of a gamer than I am!) made it through 1/3 of the game over the course of his visit - and loved it. (Side note: playing video games with your Dad late into the night the same week you turn 40 is about as cool as it gets.) It's funny, thrilling, and at times surprising - and easy for a newbie like me to pick up and still feel engaged. As I said to my Dad - Uncharted - not Indiana Jones - is the franchise Steven Spielberg would build today if he were 22 years old. And after playing Uncharted, it's not hard to understand how the video game industry is bigger than the film industry.

I've deliberately avoided watching any of the game play videos or reading the reviews in depth. All I know is that I'm going to have a lot of fun hanging out with Nate Drake again in the weeks ahead.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A phenomenal birthday present

I turned 40 yesterday. It's been a great week - we celebrated at the house with friends Saturday night, then my parents arrived for the actual day and we had a terrific meal at home followed by gifts and cake.

Though I've been fortunate to have received some wonderful birthday gifts over the years, nothing really compares to what my wife coordinated for this year. Earlier this year, we got a letter from my friend Bill's wife April - Bill was turning 40, and in lieu of gifts, April wanted Bill's friends to send him a book that meant something to them, along with an inscription inside saying who it was from and why they sent it. We loved the idea, and I eagerly sent 3 books to Bill.

Robin thought it was such a great idea that she'd do the same for me - and last night I unwrapped nearly 50 books from friends around the country. I don't know what's more incredible: the thoughtfulness that so many dear friends put into the selection of the books (and the messages they inscribed), that I've only read a handful of the books (each of which I'll read again now), or that I now have easily a year's worth of amazing reading ahead of me. Opening the books last night and reading the messages inside of each was the absolute best birthday gift imaginable.

Even better? Apparently more are on the way! To everyone who contributed a book (you know who you are!) - thank you so, so much. This list reflects the diverse personalities everyone who participated, and I am blessed beyond measure to have such remarkable friends.

For those who are curious to see what was sent, the list is below.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Joining Google Ventures

I'm very excited to share the news that I recently joined Google Ventures as a partner, where I'm going to be running Startup University. Startup U is our dedicated effort at helping entrepreneurs at our growing portfolio companies benefit from our experience and that of our colleagues at Google.

For those who know me, you know what an ideal role I consider this. I have loved working at Google, and consider it a true privilege to continue to work among such incredible colleagues. While leaving YouTube was an excruciatingly hard decision - I loved my coworkers at YouTube, and am excited about what's coming up from them - the role that I've been asked to take on at Google Ventures was simply too perfect for me.

I've worked at a number of startups - most recently FeedBurner, which was acquired by Google in 2007. Before that, there was Socialtext, and before that a couple of software companies focused on the legal space (I'm a lawyer by background, for those who didn't know). Before Google, the largest company I'd worked for was just 200 people - I'd worked at a couple companies of just a dozen people. FeedBurner had 6 employees when I joined. I've been on phone calls where founders discussed postponing pay so they could pay the other employees. I've held my breath as we waited for news of the Big Win - some hits, lots of misses. And I've been in the midst of some pretty spectacular crises (maybe a blog post or two in there, come to think of it!) where we wondered if we'd weather the storm.

Which is all my way of saying that I've lived the startup life - good, bad and in between. But in the last four years I've lived the Google life, and seen countless reminders of what an extraordinary collection of talent, experience and insight Google is. When Joe and Bill first reached out to me about joining Google Ventures, I started thinking about what it might look like if we could combine the deep experience of the Ventures team (many of whom have far more impressive entrepreneurial cred than I do) along with the collective expertise of tens of thousands of Googlers. I've been excited ever since, and I formally joined several weeks ago.

If you haven't seen the story that ran earlier this week in TechCrunch about my move, it's worth reading. Not for anything it says about me, but for how Google Ventures as a whole is thinking about Startup U. Startup U is not about telling the portfolio companies how to do things. Instead, it's about setting them up to succeed - and if they're going to make a mistake, let's make sure they don't repeat the ones we made.

The early feedback from companies in our portfolio is exceptionally positive. We have a number of experiments we intend to try in the months ahead, and I cannot wait to report back on what's working (and what's not).

For those who've been in the startup trenches before: what do you wish you'd had access to? What mistakes do you wish you could have avoided? And for those of you thinking about taking the plunge: what assistance/guidance/input would be invaluable to you?

I'm all ears!