Hangry – The Eat, Pray Love of Tech Entrepreneurship

I added Hangry to my Goodreads and Des Moines Public library’s holds lists upon a 5-star rating by Brad Feld. Having never ordered food via Grubhub, I wasn’t really sure why but his rating was the motivating factor. I was surprised to get the book quickly from the library but it was the experience of reading the book that surprised me. I have finished fiction in a day but non-fiction, memoir, by a tech entrepreneur in a day became a first.

Hangry is Mike Evans’ story of living through the frustrations of cubicle dwelling mixed with a desire for tasty food showing up at the door. He tells the rare story of a tech founder who knew enough to code his MVP, tests and pivots over the years, mergers, failures, acquisitions, and the most rarified of experiences – an IPO. His remarkable clarity of his purpose for having (and leaving) the business and the ability to achieve it makes a worthy read.

discontent is a feature, not a bug. Entrepreneurs aren’t happy people

This is the tech entrepreneur version of Eat, Pray, Love, much of which occurs in Chicago. The author’s reflection, however, is interspersed throughout the book via the coast to coast, Trans America journey he undertakes on a bicycle. Lessons learned on the journey are poignant and told with humble brevity.

It is, simultaneously, an entrepreneur’s guidebook. Mike channels his remarkable (and unwanted) mentors from his Grubhub journey by avoiding professorial lecturing. The aphorisms of entrepreneurship aren’t delivered as chapter headings or even articulated directly. The wisdom, instead, is imparted through his own experiential learning over the course of two decades. I found myself taking so many notes throughout the book to capture the true essence of these stories.

The point is to intrigue, not inform. You want to tease them with a small glimpse into a billion-dollar opportunity. You want to tell a believable story about why the business model really works. But most of all you want to induce FOMO, fear of missing out. Say less. Tease more.”

Professor Waverly Deutsch at Chicago Booth School of Business

Christine, Mike’s unwavering wife and partner throughout the book, is the soul that seems to have grounded him but, sadly, we don’t get to know her very much. I would’ve loved to meet and understand some of her feelings throughout the book.

The book is emotional in places, especially as he journeys across America on his recumbent bike. It is when he sees himself as a part of the big picture, journeying across a magnificent landscape and being reminded by some wonderful people to truly:

“Enjoy your trip,” …. “Don’t take it for granted. You’re lucky.”

I can obviously not distill the entire book here but will leave with the final note from the author to all (not just self-appointed entrepreneurs

If you see something that is broken, and it bothers you… If you can’t shake the feeling that it could be done better… If you look around and realize that nobody else is as annoyed by this thing, and that maybe nobody else is going to fix it, and that maybe, just maybe, you might be the person to do it.

You can.

That’s my piece of advice to every would-be entrepreneur. Don’t overthink it. Don’t write a business plan. Don’t hire a lawyer, or a market research firm. Just start.

Make the thing.

Sell a customer.


Covid-19 did not mess this up!

Nearly two years since the Polk County Treasurer’s office opened from pandemic era closures, its post Covid efficiency is admirable. Unlike a sentiment I overheard today, the old way of doing this is, THANKFULLY, dead!

image of the motor vehicle division of the polk county treasurer's office

I recently transferred ownership of a car, had the new owner register it in another state, and returned the original Iowa plates to Polk county. Three transactions whose complexity had sent shivers down my spine at having to work through two separate government bureaucracies. In pre-pandemic days, I would’ve had to walk-in to the treasurer’s office’s motor vehicle division, obtain a number from those old school ‘take your number’ machines, sit patiently until called, and then do the business. Three times over. Here is how it went recently:

Title Transfer

The county website laid out the requirements clearly, complete with simple, one-page forms. The instructions were in simple English, easy to follow, and the big blue button guided me to an appointment. Yes, a 15-minute window picked from a calendar. One I could schedule. When I showed up and checked-in, I was given my sequence within the 15-min window and promptly called to the counter. The agent was knowledgeable and verified all info and guided me to the next step.

Registration in another State

The other state did not have such a “modern” facility for its residents and the new owners sat in a waiting room, contracted by the DMV, for over 2 hours as the various paperwork required to register the car were validated.

Returning plates

Back in Iowa, I was instructed to simply walk in and turn in the old plates and registration for a refund of the unused registration period. I approached the reception desk and the representative, learning that all I was doing was returning plates for credit, formally received the plates and registration herself, recorded the date of transfer, and informed me of the time to receive a refund. In and out of the office in < 5 minutes.

I overheard a person behind me comment how Covid had messed things up and how you needed an appointment now to transfer titles. He was commenting because some one had walked in for a transfer and was guided by the same receptionist to the appointment process for the future AS SHE GRACIOUSLY MADE AN APPOINTMENT FOR HIM!

I’ll take today’s post-COVID formality over the past’s as the post Covid efficiency saved me time, money, and frustration. Well done, Polk County treasurer/MVD.

Is it fiction or real?

I have become a fan of near-real-time fiction through books addressing the startup communities. Eliot Peper got me started with his Uncommon Stock series and this book by Josh Riedel showed up in my Goodreads queue from Brad Feld, who incidentally had also turned me onto Eliot.

What happens if you report the bug which morphs reality into fantasy and science fiction

The book had an incredible start and picked up my interest considerably during the middle. A few pages in I actually had to double check to ensure this was fiction as it read so much like a memoir. The book feels non fiction in its beginning, as true life a story as possible. The life inside a startup, the type of work involved, the food, culture, working environment and more feel all too real. The real streets, restaurants, menu items and residences all reminiscent of a photograph that captures reality and not an abstract painting. This continued all the way past the M&A activity. The drama, intrigue, unresolved sexual tension, pain, sorrow, and desire throughout the middle feel like Ethan is simply telling what is happening to him – the writer and the protagonist.

The last third, however, enters the realm of fantasy and out of sci-fi and the dissonance lost me.  Though the transition is somewhat gradual, it still hit me as other-worldly. Once I shifted my own thinking and imagery to science fiction (or fantasy!), I was able to carry on toward the end.

Josh employs a technique to introduce human and (seemingly) inhuman characters and entities differently (I don’t know if this technique has a name – it surely must!). People and companies that are emotionless and irrelevant are simply called Corporation, Funder, Engineer. No soul, just a place in the author’s world. They interact with the humans, affect them and their emotions, control them and dispense with them. Yet, since we are never introduced to their ‘soul’, it is hard to love or hate them. Indifference is all that remains.

I read the final 50 or so pages in-flight, landing at Denver International in a cloak of darkness. An apt metaphor for the way the book itself happens, leaving me thinking as wheels touched ground — was it all just a dream? 

End of the world is just the beginning

My brief review of this large and fact filled book about our world

A nearly 500 page walk through the history of our world that gives one a view (and author’s perspective) on what is to come. It tackles transport, agriculture, manufacturing, energy, materials, finance in sufficient detail to understand nuances across various regions. 

My favorite part was the discussion of where certain items are sourced, purified, manufactured and finished covering iron through gold. 

I leave the book quite surprised at how remarkably little discussion occurred about the most populous country on earth – India. Peter is singularly focused on China and I wonder if his predictions would have been better informed with covering India and Canada a bit more. Or, perhaps in his eyes, the two countries are irrelevant to the past and future global order. 

All in all, a fun read that made me think hard about the world we inherited and inhabit.

Who (what) is the photographer?

Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD on Youtube) is one of my favorite techies. His insightful and honest reviews of diverse technologies keep me subscribed and buying items that he’s reviewed. As a photography fan myself, I was naturally attracted to his latest video on smartphone cameras. Though the title was ever so slightly click-baity, the content never lowered the bar.

The key message in the video is that the software in smartphone cameras is increasingly making decisions that produce images that are inconsistent with reality. From smoothing tones to filling-in shadows, the software produces images that defy visual reality. As the primary upgrades in newer smart phones tout batter or camera improvements, naturally it leads one to think about what, really, is improving with each version.

Though there is much technical analysis within the video with side-by-side comparisons with other cameras to prove the points, I am left with questions:




I admit the last question is a heavy one and Marques only brushes past the race/equity impact. But I’d encourage you to watch for yourself and make your own judgement on who really took that last photo on your smartphone.

Reading with the local library

A friend appeared perplexed at why I had chosen to read his book by waiting for it at the library instead of simply purchasing it. He knew I could afford the book, so he pushed me as we enjoyed a dram. He agreed with my response that I prefer to buy many books for the library by donating to the library instead of simply adding more to my bookshelves. Though that moment passed, I continued to think if I was being a poor friend by not supporting a friend author.

Until recently …

I’d just completed reading an ebook, “The Reading List” by Sara Nisha Adams and, highlighted sections for retrieval later. One of the highlighted sections stood out:

Mukesh turned to the front page of To Kill a Mockingbird and noticed the Brent Council Libraries sheet, full of black, splotchy dates. So many! It was strange, the idea that this book wasn’t just for him, it was for everyone. All these people who had taken it out before him, people who would take it out after him. They might have read it on a beach, on the train, on the bus, in the park, in their living room. On the toilet? He hoped not! Every reader, unknowingly connected in some small way. He was about to be a part of this too. “Yes, please.”

The reading list by sara nisha adams

This book, about a recent widower who finds his step out of loneliness and isolation via books is a debut novel by a London based writer. She explores how the sudden introduction to a book (The Time Traveler’s Wife in this story) can offer a step away from where you are. The widower, Mukesh, begins his path out of loneliness via a neighborhood library, finding connections beyond his wildest imagination.

I finally realized what I liked about the library checkouts – it isn’t the cost savings or the vast selection or the ease of checkouts via the drive up window. It is a connection to the wider community that forms a collective around the book’s message. Watching the size of the waiting list tells me about the hunger for a particular title within my community.

While you’re thinking of your local library, checkout “The Reading List”. And if they don’t have it, donate the money to the library so they can buy it for everyone! If you’re lucky enough (like me) to have multiple libraries near you, checkout www.worldcat.org to find your next book at your nearest library.

The different yet similar lives lived by America’s immigrants and their children

The American immigration council’s newsletter recently introduced me to a book, a product of research previously impossible due to the quantity and type of data involved. It unravels the myth of the model European immigrants of 1860-1920 compared to those who immigrated after the 1960s. It finds that the two sets are remarkably similar in upward mobility, children’s successes and a becoming ‘from many, one’.

Immigration carries a unique stature in America. On one side is the country’s badge of honor as a country that was built by immigrants despite the devastation and destruction of Native American culture and people. On another is the unfortunate history where previously (immigrated) citizens do much to shun the new wave. Jon Stewart, once opining on a historical context of immigration stated it well

America has always been a nation of immigrants who hate the newest immigrants

It was a sentiment I saw in the textile museum in Fall River, MA. The museum clearly showed how the British who’d set up the mills, hired and (mis)treated the Germans, the Irish and others who came after. Each new wave was relegated to their own enclaves, children as young as 7 and 8 deployed to unravel stuck threads even if it exposed them to losing precious little fingers.

The book first draws comparison between those Western Europeans (Britain, Germany, Norway) and the subsequent southeastern (Italians) who came in late 19th. Then it compares the past set to late 20th century immigrants from Asia and Latin America. The similarities in why and how they came, what they brought in pain and talent, how they adopted the new homeland, and the exclusions they suffered are uncanny.

Equally uncanny is how both sets toiled for decades in their roles but their children were the ones to propel beyond expectations. The myth of ‘pulling up by the bootstraps in no time’ isn’t borne out by the data collected, aligned, and presented. In fact, the book undoes a few representative stories through presentation of lineage and research. Of course, reading as an immigrant myself married to a genealogist who traces her history to the Mayflower and various (proven) soldiers in America’s earliest wars gave me a great set of reasons to devour the book quickly.

The authors utilized technological innovations and inventions to unearth the stories embedded in generations of immigrants. The early unofficial and subsequent authorized searches across Ancestry.com databases, 8 million speeches across the political spectrum since the 1800s, Ellis island voice recordings of immigrants, the many programs written to scrape, curate, analyze, learn via ML and AI, todays tech made this book possible and repeatable to stand scrutiny.

Our country’s structure under the constitution also created natural control groups that helped evaluate the affects of immigration laws between California and Pennsylvania, Florida vs Texas, Cleveland and Cincinnati, and much more. This provided a way to turn back history’s clock and view the effects through comparison and data.

Immigrants are synonymous with America. They arrived in various roles and exhibited an ability and willingness to adopt, adapt, honor, change, assimilate and impact a culture that was once called a melting pot and is now, thankfully, a mosaic. The mosaic makes it possible for a Japanese family in a multiethnic cafe to enjoy a Mexican meal served by a Caucasian. Where a mixed race couple name their children through lenses of pop culture, ancestry, and more.

A fun book worth reading as a traveler on international flight (me reading and writing this), in a genealogical expedition, or better yet, to prepare a speech to Congress or the country.

I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: First, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them.

Unknown Italian immigrant, painted on the wall of the Ellis Island Museum

Liftoff – an engineering challenge against gravity and time

A collection of humans with a shared purposes is a powerful force. Liftoff tells the story of one such collection of people known as SpaceX. People who ran a space race after the original, a story of heartbreaking losses and a win worthy of celebration.

Elon Musk challenged status quo by creating SpaceX. His short-term goal of earth orbit and the long-term dream to transport humans to and from Mars is remarkable. The book tells the story of that early vision, drive, money, and passion that created the Falcon one hardware. It also describes the Falcon 1’s four major iterations, Falcon 9’s and Falcon Heavy’s parallel developments, and their various component computers and parts.

What make the book real, however, isn’t the hardware but the humans. We meet these humans at various chronological junctures throughout the book. We learn of their passion through the creation of the launch site in the Marshall Islands. Their tenacity as they repeatedly transport themselves between Los Angeles and the middle of the South Pacific. And their love for the profession, marvel of space, and professional loyalty to the discipline.

One of my favorite sections of this book is the Epilogue where the author talks about the humans once again. This discussion isn’t about the chronological work at hand rather the trajectories of their lives at publication. I recommend this crucial section and implore the book’s readers to look up the Falcon 1 and Falcon Heavy videos to feel the emotional roller coasters.

We know SpaceX and Tesla’s successes today. What we don’t know as well is how close the two companies came to death. Tesla EVs, solar panels, batteries, the relatively inexpensive satellite deployment, Starlink, and the ability to reach and replenish the International Space Station continue to impact our world positively today. I am glad to have read this book and am grateful to the tenacity and resolve of the team so clearly and respectfully presented.

Welcome back, 37Signals!

The Sunday newsletter from Farnum Street included a thoughtful (as usual!) post from Jason Fried. Jason is one of those sages who continues to shift the software development industry through philosophy, writing, and creating enduring products. Seeing his name referenced by Shane, though no surprise, led me down the path of reading Jason’s current and many recent posts!

Jason’s company has returned to its roots. The company’s articulation of their manifesto of 37 (of course!) statements of purpose is a delight to read. I have many favorites with #14 as my favorite:

Meetings are the last resort, not the first option. Five people in a room for an hour isn’t a one hour meeting, it’s a five hour meeting. How often was it worth that? Could you have just written it up instead? Be mindful of the costs and tradeoffs.

37signals — 14. Meetings aren’t free

And if you make it all the way to #37, I hope you follow the embedded link. There is meaning behind the name 37Signals.

Eliot Peper’s latest – Reap3r

“…unlike fiction, reality needn’t be plausible”

Reap3r, chapter 37

I received an advance review copy of Eliot‘s tenth novel in February and, as prior books, began to read it nearly instantly. As I read through the first few chapters, however, I found myself needing to know the characters more. So, I began again, and again, and again. Each read exposed a strength or flaw in the human characters and I chose to slow down my reading pace to get to know them better.

There is no doubt this work is a work of fiction. The quote above reminded me what I was reading may be fiction yet is very likely to be real. In the near future likely to occur within our lifetimes. And that simultaneously makes this story frighteningly believable.

Eliot’s characters often carry a social conscience, and this book is no different. It isn’t hard to distinguish right from wrong, or to empathize with their struggle. The classic struggle of power over community, money over integrity, and self over sentient collectiveness are threaded throughout.

The tale spun deftly through this extremely fast-moving book is composed of numerous complex characters, who revealed themselves to the author in a different intimacy that the reader discovers in layers. I found the memory remembered by one of the characters in the quote below quite apt for the relationship between the characters, Eliot and the reader:

You face one way – towards the source-when you are learning what you want to say, he’d advised, and the other way-towards the reader-when you are saying it

Reap3r, chapter 35

I’d looked forward to the story Eliot would tell during and after his trek he and his wife began in 2019. He credits the experiences, the journey, and the stories that unraveled through this journey in the epilogue, and reading them at the end of the book jumped me back to Twitter where he chronicled parts of the journey

Reading his #CaminoThoughts thread at the end of the book gave me a new insight into the book I’d just finished. Incredible. I have read and bought all of Eliot’s ten books, and this one is, by far, the deepest exploration of characters.

His travels influence the book. Food, clothing, jewelry, locations, and names all allude to a character’s face behind the mask. You can choose to look at the mask and discover what happens as Eliot reveals what’s within. Or you can learn more about the attributes and find the pleasant surprises as you self-discover the character early. (I knew you, O’ petite woman at the end of chapter 58).

Grab the book if you haven’t already. I couldn’t wait to buy my signed copy despite the author’s review copy.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite opening sentiments from the book

Movies used music to build tension before major twists, but real life didn’t have a soundtrack to clue you in to the fact that everything was about to change

reap3r, prologue