Howard Tullman, former CEO of 1871. Earlier this year, Tullman said he planned to step down as chief of the city’s high-profile tech hub once a successor is found. Tullman’s involvement with 1871 won’t end — he’ll stay on as a board member and a member of the executive committee — but he won’t say what’s next. Tullman hinted that there are “a couple” of new initiatives he plans to roll out next year, but he declined to share any details.
Friday, December 29, 2017
Thursday, December 28, 2017
In a Year of Crypto-Craziness and A.I. Everywhere, It's Time for a Little Caution
These new technologies have generated the headlines, but don't get sucked in by their allure.
As we are about to begin the new year, I was reminded of the old adage that the biggest mistakes in business are made during the good times, not when the going gets rough. And, although it may just be me and Taylor Swift who think this, I'd say that from the perspective of the stock market and its reflected glow-- which has certainly made it easier for startups to come by cheap capital and especially easy for a bunch of really bad ideas and crappy businesses to get funded-- these are pretty heady days. A fair number of financial folks are feeling pretty fat and happy, too. So, I'd say now's the time for a word or two of caution.
First, do whatever you want about investing in cryptocurrencies, but if you insist on doing it, do it directly and for your own account. Don't be stupid enough to pay someone to help you become a bitcoin miner (whatever you think that means these days) or let anyone convince you that there's anything easy or trivial or even well understood about the entire process. Stick to something you know something about. And, if you're still on the fence and your greed still threatens to overwhelm your good sense, there's another rather simple test you can use when these bozos try to foist their "farms" on you and rent you a piece of the future. Ask them why they're still hawking this junk if they're so prescient and far ahead of the crypto curve. Or, more simply stated, if they're so smart, how come they're not already rich. The guys who made the most money in the Gold Rush didn't strike gold; they sold deeds to the dopes and shovels to the suckers. Try not to be either in the year ahead.
Second, on the same subject, don't do your friends and especially your family the favor of helping them into this particular swamp. FOMO fever is rampant, but just remember that you barely understand what's going on and you have absolutely no business trying to talk someone else (who maybe can't focus on the likely prospect of, or afford, the eventual losses) into jumping into the puddle with you. I get that misery loves company, but you'll have to live with some of these people for the rest of your life-- if they don't kill you first. The pain of all those future lectures isn't worth the few moments of pride you get for being "in the know." I've already said my piece on the merits of the whole and I sold my bitcoins a while back (once I figured out how to find them and re-gain access to my account) when I was reminded of another old market adage: you never lose money taking a profit too soon. Sure, you may leave some shekels on the table, but unlike the pigs who will eventually get stuck holding the empty poke, you'll have plenty of dry powder for next time.
Third, nobody you know actually knows anything about artificial intelligence. Notwithstanding that fact, 99% of the startups you'll see business plans and proposals from over the next year --along with all of those painfully pivoting to the proposition as well-- will tell you that they do. They don't. The last thing you want to spend your time and money on is funding their on-the-job-training while they try to figure things out. A.I. is not business process automation. It's not predetermined pattern recognition. It's not accelerated data retrieval. Building a behind-the-scenes bot or a series of macros or tagging a bunch of pix as a library for future image recognition isn't A.I. Also, the fact that your CRM program knows my shoe size doesn't constitute machine learning.
This is another one of those conversations in which it's hard to know where to start complaining because, in so many of these cases, even if they had the remotest idea of what they were talking about, the tools and technologies that they're bragging about have little or nothing to do with the business they used to say they were in and maybe even less to do with where they say they're heading. They spew all these annoying acronyms and exaggerate their exactitude with a bunch of assertions that are really fantasies of false precision.
We used to say that, whatever your engineers think, it's clear that not every product, service or application needs to be larded up with an email function for no good reason. Your dog doesn't need email and it's not really clear to me (while we're just talking here) that an 8-year-old needs a Facebook account either. Sadly, we're very likely to see these things happen. And, today, I feel that we are seeing the same bad behavior and all the associated BS with virtually every company (young and old) now claiming that their product or service incorporates powerful machine learning and A.I. systems. Here's a flash: if you have to tell it what to do, it might be augmented intelligence or a good supplementary tool for decision support, but it ain't A.I. when the primary "I" in the equation is you.
Some of these claims may be real and accurate, but a bunch are just smoke and mirror stories that are likely to give us all the bad name. Can we put a stake in it before the conversations go completely crazy? It'll save us all a lot of headaches and heartaches down the line. My barber needs predictive A.I. tools like a fish needs a bicycle.
Finally, while you are changing your smoke alarm batteries, change your passwords to something secure, or get a password security system like in place for your business because getting hacked these days isn't a matter of if, it's just a question of when. Happy Healthy New Year.
Friday, December 22, 2017
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Outgoing 1871 CEO Howard Tullman adopts wait-and-see approach to net neutrality
Outgoing 1871 CEO Howard Tullman speaks at the City Club of Chicago on Dec. 19, 2017.
Kim Janssen Chicago Tribune
Outgoing 1871 CEO Howard Tullman took a victory lap with a speech at the City Club of Chicago on Tuesday — but if Chicago’s techies were expecting their fast-talking champion to fire a parting shot at the FCC’s decision to rescind net neutrality rules, they were mistaken.
Tullman, who announced his decision in August to step down after four years at the helm of the startup tech hub, was asked by an audience member how 1871 could mitigate against any harm caused by the decision to scrap Obama-era regulations that treat broadband internet service like a utility and prevent broadband providers from discriminating between websites.
But he seemed to surprise his interrogator by sitting on the fence on the partisan issue.
“I was just at a meeting in New York with about 300 technologists and CEOs, and about half the room was on either side of this conversation, so we don’t know,” Tullman said.
“I don’t think it’s really a black-and-white situation. … Honestly, net neutrality is fairly new — we got along without those kinds of regulations for the first 20 years of the internet, so I think it’s an open question. We’ll just have to see how things develop.”
Asked what he plans for his next act, the 72-year-old entrepreneur was coy, joking that he has been telling pals he will be “getting into inflatable pool furniture” to shut them up.
Despite his efforts to winnow his enormous art collection (200 pieces were recently auctioned off, and he plans to sell more), he admitted to Chicago Inc. that he hasn’t been able to stop buying paintings.
And his wife, big-time PAWS supporter Judy Tullman, said she hasn’t given up on her plan to get Mayor Rahm Emanuel to adopt a dog.
While the Emanuels “are not animal people, I never give up,” Judy Tullman said, adding that she plans to keep working on Chicago’s first lady, Amy Rule.
Monday, December 18, 2017
Friday, December 15, 2017
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Howard presented Kristi Ross with a KR puppet from 1871 for her incredible service as an 1871 Board member and mentor
With Howard Tullman's tenure as CEO of 1871 coming to a close, he looks back at some of his favorite moments and memorable startup companies. Howard Tullman, CEO of renowned startup hub, “1871” and visionary, lecturer, educator, writer, art collector, brings his unique view of the business world to the tastytrade audience. You can watch a new Howard Tullman episode live and check out all previous episodes everyday at http://ow.ly/EoyGW! ======== tastytrade.com ======== tastytrade is a real financial network, producing 8 hours of live programming every weekday, Monday - Friday. Follow along as our experts navigate the markets, provide actionable trading insights, and teach you how to trade. With over 50 original segments, and over 20 personalities, we’ll help you take your trading to the next level, whether you are new to trading or a seasoned veteran. http://ow.ly/EbzUU
Sunday, December 10, 2017
I want to start by saying how flattered I am to be honored by this group of peers and people I’ve admired for decades for their leadership and contributions to the growth of our entrepreneurial community and to our city as well. I also want to especially thank Maura and the IVCA team.
Seeing people here from Pritzker, Frontenac, GTCR, MK, KB, OCA, Origin, and my G2 investors as well is like attending a Reunion Weekend on steroids. I’m also proud to be invested alongside many of you in such exciting Chicago-based deals as Spot Hero, Snapsheet, Tock, Xaptum, UpShow, Peanut Butter, THYNG and KnowledgeHound, among many others, and in a number of your funds.
And, looking at the amazing list of past honorees, many of whom have also been friends of mine for decades, I’m grateful to be the latest in a distinguished line which includes several of our 1871 officers and board members.
For many years, I was close to both Mayors Daley and I was a member of the original Tech Advisory Council so it’s especially meaningful for me to receive this particular award in the name of – as you might say – the father.
I have also attended this IVCA Dinner for many years (as a guest of my dear friend Al Kutchins) and I’ve always thought that this was one of the year’s most important and unique gatherings. It’s a humbling reminder to see so many familiar faces and remember so many deals that went up, sideways, or into the toilet over the years. But the good news is that at least we’re almost all still here to complain about them.
On that note, I want to remember that my first venture deal was funded by Stan Golder who was one of the giants in this business, who I miss to this day, and who was a friend, a mentor, and someone it was an honor and a privilege to know. The bag boy on that deal was a guy named Bruce Rauner – not sure what became of him.
Finally, I will also admit that I’ve rarely stayed all the way through dessert at these events, but tonight I hope to make an exception.
I said when I was interviewed about the award that what I thought distinguished and set Chicago’s investment community apart from the rest was the amazing extent to which we see various investor groups working collaboratively together here rather than purely as adversaries and competitors. I think this is a very healthy way to make more resources and connections (beyond mere cash) available to both startups and growth businesses and to grow the pie as well. In 1871 alone, we have half a dozen early stage venture funds and co-investments seem to happen on a monthly basis. This is great for the startups and also great for the city. We need to keep it up.
But I also want to inject a word or two of caution. You get to do that once you’re over 70 years old. It turns out that raises aren’t revenue (never have been) and that invoices are still more important in the early days than additional investments. I think that – driven in part by the abundance of media covering digital businesses these days – and the omnipresence of social media as well - we’re seeing an unfortunate tendency to celebrate too soon.
Let’s give our startups (and the dough) a little time to rise before we bring out the candles and start cutting up the cake. I can think of a dozen no-more businesses that were once toast of the town and which are now just toast. We brag a lot about being a revenue-first town, but – especially from where I’m sitting – I feel like we’re getting a little too carried away. Let’s rob a few trains before we start splitting up the loot.
And I want to make one other observation which I feel that I need to credit in part to Jason Fried of Basecamp who once said that “your dog doesn’t need email”. His point was that not every product, service or application needed to be larded up with an email function for no good reason, but it was sadly very likely to happen.
Today, I feel that we are seeing the same issue and associated BS with virtually every company now claiming that their product or service incorporates powerful machine learning and AI systems. Building a behind-the-scenes bot or a series of macros or tagging a bunch of pixs as a library for future image recognition isn’t AI and the fact that your CRM program knows my shoe size isn’t machine learning.
Some of these claims may be real and accurate, but a bunch are just smoke and mirrors likely to give us all the bad name. Can we put a stake in it before it goes completely crazy? It’ll save us all a lot of headaches and heartaches down the line.
So, thanks again for the award – all the best for the holidays – and I wish each of you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
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