3500 Miles Later

A photo of my electric bike.

1.5 years and 3500 miles later, my e-bike has held up pretty well. I have to say, it looks magnificent in this light.

Ps. I’m hoping to get a bike rack for my car soon so that I can explore some some new trails around here. If you’re in the area and want to go for a ride, let me know!

Is that a woman?

Photo of a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk along the Embarcadero.

“Is that a woman”, a stranger asked me as I road my bike down the Embarcadero this afternoon. If you look closely, you’ll notice another person in the top left hand corner walking away, wearing a fur coat and having a casual conversation with a friend.

As beautiful as San Francisco is, it’s a majestic backdrop juxstaposed by a reservoir of sadness. I went to the Embarcadero to get some fresh air and clear my mind, but now I’m weighed down by this imagery.

Sorry my blog is a little all over the place. I just share what I think and see. I wish there was more of a theme, but it’s just a stream of my ephemeral thoughts.

More Tests Photos from the Sony A7RIII

Here’s another photo James and I shot last night of a MacBook Pro.

If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the wallpaper is from a leak from the upcoming Apple announcement this week. This photo was created by stacking two bracketed images together.

This is the original image straight from the camera.

Shot with an A7RIII and Canon 24-70mm f2.8. If we continue doing more photography, we may need to set up a little studio. More stuff coming soon.

By the way, are you ready for the new iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad Pro announcements this week?

Testing out the Sony A7RIII

Portrait of James Donovan working late on a friday night.

I swung by James’ new apartment yesterday evening to talk about design and play around with his new camera. He’s got some sweet gear–the Sony A7RIII with a Canon 24-70mm f2.8. The images were essentially straight out of the body, and they’re ridiculously sharp. The camera is amazing, and the low light capabilities are just astonishing.

If I were to shoot this again, I think I would use a small hairline light to help accent the backside of his head.

The original image out of the camera, with no retouching.

If you were wondering how I got this photo, I used my iPhone to create a little accent lighting behind the monitor… and I swapped out the desktop image to something darker to create a more dramatic effect. I also did a little retouching to the image curves to create a more cross-processed film feel.

Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.

VW GTI

After 4 years in San Francisco and being car-less, I finally caved in and got one this weekend. I appreciate everyone supporting me. I play it off like it’s not a big deal, but it kinda actually is.

I’ve been trying to save money and live minimally for a while now. But, it’s time to make the most of the west coast. I still love my e-bike, however, I needed something that could extend my radius and transform California into a true playground. If you’re in the Bay Area, let’s find some twisties and do a weekend run.

I wanted to take a moment to honor one of my closest friends, Mark Smith, who passed away in 2014. He and I used to talk about everything, but most of all, cars. I’m going to do something a little different this time—I’m going to share something more personal. There are plenty of car reviews on the GTI, and I don’t want this to be another one just echoing the same things. If Mark were still alive, I’d write him an email like this (picking up where we left off):

Hey Mark,

As you know, I’ve been test driving some cars. I finally landed on something–the new VW GTI. I know it’s not a Porsche, but it’s still German and has a ton of character.

I’ll get the GT4 one day. Until then, this will have to do. Hah!

I needed something practical—so it’s got 4 doors, a 6 year bumper-to-bumper warranty, and has a dual clutch auto transmission. As respectable as it is, the DCT isn’t as good as PDK. I was reeeeeeeeeally leaning towards a manual, but all my friends in SF recommended me to get the auto since there are so many hills… and traffic can be brutal, even on weekends. So this seemed to be the most logical choice.

I’ll be honest, I still miss my 911. I probably should have never sold it, but I’m happy (and lucky) that I was able to own one for a while. It would have been a thrill to have it here in Cali. Some of the roads here are pure driving nirvana. And, it seems like there are less cops hiding around each corner! Hah!

Anyway, the GTI packs a respectable amount of performance for the price, and it’s better suited for the city. I got mine for under $6k MSRP—it required a lot of haggling, but I managed to walk away with a deal that felt like a tremendous bargain. I got the base model, and it’s honestly just as good as fully loaded version. I just needed something for the weekends.

I went for a short run this weekend, but there was a little too much traffic (b/c of labor day) to really open it up. However, I fumbled with some of the settings and experimented a little. I think the key is to keep the car at higher RPMs (above 4k), sport mode, with the turbos spooled. When the turbos kick in, the GTI pulls. It’s a car that you can really applaud because it does so many things well. It even has heritage, and fan base loves each new iteration. The GTI isn’t a flashy car, but I actually kind of like that it flies under the radar. It’s really growing on me, and I’m also really digging the color.

By the way, Annie got a new car too. She got a new Accord–the safety features are amazing. She was driving a used Accord that had over 180k miles on it, and we were worried about it breaking down at some point. I’ll have to send you some pics soon.

Hope your GTS is running smooth! Don’t make the same mistake I did—don’t ever sell it!! I’ll be back on the east coast new a few weeks. Perhaps I can make it down to Richmond to say hello to you and Julie. We have a lot to catch up on. Let me know if you’re free!

Cheers!
Jeff

Ps. I started BJJ again… it’s like riding a bike!

Pss. Noel is in SF as well. I was able to quickly catch up with her over the phone. We wanted to collab on a project together, but the timing didn’t work out. Anyway, you should ping her sometime too. She was asking about you.

Baking Purpose into Culture

Over the years, the brands that I adore the most have been built by the most determined people in the world with a vision—but something deeper drives them.

Purpose.

It is the gravity that pulls people from around the world to be a part of their story. Purpose is the north star that guides them. It reminds every employee and advocate to protect something much more precious. When they get up in the morning, they have a clear idea of what they’re fighting for.

As I work on early stage companies, I realize that product market fit and growth are critical, but those metrics represent a small fraction of the company genome. Companies go through ups and downs searching for product market fit—hell, after finding product market fit, they have to find product economic fit. It’s easy to lose footing when everything’s constantly changing. Hopefully a purpose can be the constant fire that reinvigorates a team and enriches their lives.

I’ve seen how teams can fall apart quickly—motivation can literally evaporate before your eyes–people start showing up later, and daily interactions become mercurial. I’m embarrassed to admit that one of my teams fractured from misalignment in one point in my career. I focused too much energy on building vision. In hindsight, I should have spend more time with my co-founders to un-package the most fundamental question, “why?”

Why are we building this product and why the does it matter?

Our purpose wasn’t baked into our DNA from the get-go, and the effects were clear when the chips were down. All is not to say that we wouldn’t have failed. Even if we had a crystal clear purpose, we could have inevitably perished… but at least if we were going to fall on the sword, everyone would know why it was worth it.

Aram shared this advice with me recently, “99% of the projects out there are not worth doing, but 1% is worth dying for.” As we get older, we have less time to start new things, and we have to be more deliberate about how we spend each day of our life. I think purpose can help us decide what that 1% is.

There’s an opportunity to bake purpose early into a company culture. When people feel something from the most vulnerable and empathetic place in their heart, they will move mountains for you. That source of inspiration must be authentic and ultimately human. It has to be a feeling that touches their soul and reconnects everyone with the world they’re fighting for.

Hat tip to Sina and Expa for opening my eyes to this.