Adventures in Ventures

Glider View of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado

Busy, busy, busy.

Our new RED cameras are winging their way to our studios. I can’t wait to dig into the new cameras and make some pretty pictures! It is pretty exciting to be working with one of the most revolutionary imaging machines in the history of motion pictures. We are one of only two studios in Boulder to have these cameras available–also pretty exciting. More gear! Feed the addiction!

We are building a new audio room in our studio for voice-over work. We have a lot of VO work coming up for the projects that we have on tap for this year, so it was time to dedicate a space. It should be quite nice when it’s completed.

Next stop, a 2K video screening room! (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?)

REI and Boulder Digital Arts have invited me to teach some classes on “Getting Started With Outdoor Filmmaking.” You can register at www.boulderdigitalarts.com – these classes will culminate in a short film festival of the producers’ work, which should be a lot of fun to attend. I love to see people getting started doing this sort of work. I love the way that it transforms the way they see their world.

The UWOL Challenge kicked off its first video challenge with the theme ADVENTURE…for me, that meant taking my camera for an experimental glider ride. I received a gift certificate for a glider ride for Christmas, so this seemed like a fun way to acquire some aerial footage of Boulder. You can view the films at www.uwolchallenge.com

And yesterday, I participated in a most interesting event locally, called Techstars-for-a-Day. The Techstars program is an incubator or accelerator or boot camp, which allows participants to build new tech-based businesses over the course of one summer, while providing the team mentorship with a group of 50 venture capitalists, with an eye towards pitching VCs on the project at the end of the summer. It sounds intense and transformative.

I submitted an application for the UWOL Challenge to the program. I figured that it might help me find a way to monetize the Challenge, since I currently fund it out of pocket and have not had time to find good sponsorship. Although that may be about to change, stay tuned.

But the Techstars program requires that the founders (me, Mat, and Kevin) basically quit our jobs and live here in Boulder together for the 3-month intensive program. How weird would that be?? We’ve never even met face to face! We’ve built this international phenomenon completely through e-mail and now Skype. Speaking of Skype, wow, that technology has certainly improved. It’s crystal clear. I remember using it in its initial release and having to yell at my computer, to be heard. We live in most interesting times. Mat and I still can’t bring ourselves to activate the video feature though, even though we are video producers–it’s too much to integrate at once. Too freaky to move from the imaginary to the real.

To return to the Techstars experience, I admit that I find the idea of running UWOL through the VC mill oddly appealing and, dare I say it, a little seductive. I like intense challenges. I enjoy transformative experiences. I could feel my competitive spirit rising to meet the idea of re-structuring UWOL from a fun little game into a global media empire! Woo-hoo.

My big fear is that UWOL would not look like UWOL on the other side of the experience. My big fear is that our one-big-happy global family vibe would suffer. Maybe not. But that is my fear. Right now, UWOL is built on a foundation of love and inspiration–I would hate to muck around with that model and re-tool the foundation towards the pursuit of cha-ching bling bling…money and ego. I don’t know if that would be the inevitable outcome. But that’s where the anxiety lands.

Still and all, it was a most interesting day. I would recommend to any aspiring business builder that they attend the event next year. It was a little portal into a whole new realm of how to go about building a business through the convergence of putting the right product in front of the right set of eyeballs, mostly seemed to happen through a happy convergence of convergence of the right circumstances and hard work and the right mentorship. Coincidence seems to play its part, for sure….

The most interesting moment of the day:

I met a guy, a VC, named Ryan who was actually one of the founders of Excite, an internet search engine company back in the 90s. Those were some amazingly bubblicious days, when Yahoo would jump 50 points a day, and AOL was red-hot. That was back in the strange days when I was financing graduate school by day-trading AOL and Cisco stock. Eventually, Excite was merged with the @Home broadband company (purchased by AT & T and eventually landed as Comcast, in its current incarnation). Excite squandered its opportunity in the public markets by purchasing an online greeting card company for cash and stock and eventually became an excellent short-selling opportunity. It was picked over by a vulture fund with some shady dealings–they re-financed the company using convertible debt, knowing full well that it was in its death throes, which pumped up the stock price artifically, and then allowed them to make a killing by shorting its stock…and thus a class-action suit was borne, which is still, I believe being swept up today.

It was quite a trip down memory lane for me. I had a bit of a flashback adrenaline rush from recalling those days of trading my way through graduate school. Those were some heady trading days all right. Empires built and fell in a matter of months, and riding that bull was the experience of a lifetime. I will probably never see trading days like that again.

The whole Excite story is so archetypal of that era. It would make a great movie, come to think of it! And we will shortly have the Hollywood tools, here in Boulder, to do it.

RED cameras, anyone?

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