Looking Back On Four Events And Looking For Clues

in the past three weeks, I attended four events – The Bloomberg Enterprise Technology Summit, The 2014 NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge, Behance’s 99U, and Techcrunch Disrupt NYC 2014

I must have been crazy.

At any rate, I thought I would try boil down the experience, and highlight the most interesting and indicative trends, themes, and memes. 

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Techcrunch Disrupt SF 2011 - Best Hits

While a lot of it is kinda bullshit, Techcrunch Disrupt is going on in San Francisco and there’s been some great videos which iamclovin (in the spirit of Techcrunch, DISCLOSURE: iamclovin is one of the guys working on Denso) has managed to curate. Check it out here - Techcrunch SF Disrupt 2011 channel.

His favourites are the Paul Graham Office Hours and Founder Stories with Dustin Muskovitz.


Yesterday was the first official day of TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 at Pier 94, and other than the fact that the venue was kept at a bone-chilling temperature the whole time (two sweaters didn’t cut it) it was pretty awesome. 

Highlights include: 

  • Arianna Huffington trying to defend AOL-owned MapQuest after Mike Arrington called it a “huge piece of crap compared to Google Maps." 
  • This adorable kid, a 14-year old hacker and the youngest attendee at TCDisrupt
  • No lines at the women’s restrooms! 
Watch on

Watch SoundCloud’s Alex and SoundTracking’s Steve Jang at TechCrunch Disrupt today.

TechCrunch Disrupt Starts Off With A Bang!

We kicked off TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco today with some great participation in the Trivia Lounge and a down-to-the-wire finish for the $500 Apple gift card giveaway.

Players rack up points and compete to win prizes by correctly answering trivia questions related to the current and past Disrupt conferences, speakers at the show, and general industry trivia. They can earn points either at our live trivia booth in a head-to-head competition or on our website, Winners of the live trivia rounds are able to even grab cash in our Cash Booth. Q&A Disruption is our play-anywhere (from any device) trivia game built for Disrupt SF 2011 attendees. Today’s contest came down to a final, last-minute live trivia showdown between our first and second place contestants to determine our winner, see below for pictures!

I also had a chance to check out some of the conference’s speakers today, including an excellent kickoff speech from former TechCrunch Co-Editor Michael Arrington, a Fireside Chat by Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, a Founder Story from Dustin Moskovitz from Facebook and Asana, and a Startup Battlefield Competition, where entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to a group of potential investors in front of a live audience.

All in all, it was an action-packed first day and a promising start to the conference. There’s bound to be some exciting announcements throughout- stay tuned for more info and dont forget to play at for a chance to win cool prizes!




Sheree Polonsky, Public Relations


TYIL - This Year I Learned

What a year. I am beyond grateful for all the countless opportunities I’ve received in the last 365 days. I think 2014 was the year of “just doing.” Here are the highlights:

In all honesty I never expected a lot of those things to be in the same year. But if there’s anything I learned this year it’s that there’s no particular way things should be. They just are and learning to adapt is part of the fun.

The months leading up to my graduation in 2013 and thereafter were a bit emotionally tumultuous. I had always been one to have a set plan and avoid deviating too far from the path written in the books, or what people had told me, etc. At the beginning of the year I had become a bit disillusioned by my first job out of college (I wasn’t the only one of my friends… it happens). It wasn’t a bad gig, but it wasn’t for me. However, I had nowhere else to go and being “funemployed” was not what I had envisioned after college, so I stayed and tried to make the best of it. 

My biggest issue was that I felt like I wasn’t learning anything. And maybe it’s because I’m naive and was expecting a lot out of my first job, but I was learning more (at least technical things) through hackathons and side projects. It was difficult and confusing because what I wanted to be doing and what I needed to be doing, at least to survive, weren’t the same. Everyone always tells you to follow you heart and do what makes you happy, but I always had the counter argument that happiness doesn’t pay the bills.

And this is still true, but one thing I learned this year is that with enough patience and persistence you can survive doing what makes you happy. For a while it sucked and I looked for a way out of my job. I interviewed with several other companies (former employer: if you’re reading this SORRY!). So I had a full-time job, was searching for a new job, and spent most of my “free” tinkering with code or at a hackathon trying to learn something new. I don’t know how my girlfriend puts up with it, but I am VERY thankful. Bentley, you are beyond amazing.

the next part is an account of the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon which I never wrote down so you can skip this wall of text if you so choose.

Then on May 4th something totally unexpected happened. On May 3rd, I woke up with very little motivation, but had tickets to the NYC TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. I was having second thoughts about going and instead wanted to just stay under the covers. My girlfriend encouraged me to go and it took every ounce of motivation that was left in me to throw on some clothes, put on my bag, and grab my Oculus case before heading to the Manhattan Center. I ended up hacking on a VR app to visualize urban project proposals. I remember texting my girlfriend with the idea and getting something along the lines of “wow that’s such a serious hack for you.” I hadn’t really done 3D graphics before, but tried it anyway. It took me a couple of hours to get it off the ground and I almost gave up at one point, but eventually I had something working. My girlfriend came to the presentations the next day and she can attest to how nervous I was. I wasn’t a CS major, I had just started doing all this web dev stuff, and everyone around me was some startup coding “ninja” or “guru” or seasoned hacker. Not to mention this was hosted by TechCrunch so I felt like there was no room for funny business, everyone was here to win. I went up to present and it was a disaster. I had 60 seconds. I was switching between my laptop, my phone, and the Oculus. And I had barely rehearsed because a) I didn’t think I stood a chance, but thought I should at least showcase what I stayed up making b) do better when I don’t overthink what I’m going to say. I got off stage and my hands were shaky and I remember telling my girlfriend how terribly I thought it went. I thought I had a really good shot at the Esri sponsor prize, but after the presentation I thought I had messed that up too. Well to cut to the chase, I ended up winning the Esri prize, but I also won 1st place the hackathon. I was in utter disbelief. And maybe this isn’t as big a deal as I make it out to be, but to me it meant a lot. It gave me confidence. It gave me flexibility. It opened up doors. I remember my mom called me crying because she was watching the livestream after I had told her what I was doing. 

</techcrunch recap>

I could finally quit my job without having to worry about how I’d maintain financial stability for the next couple of months or feel guilty about letting my parents down by being out of a job for a while. So I did. 

I had no idea what I was doing and in retrospect winning a hackathon is not validation for whether or not you have a viable business on your hands. But I’m glad I was delusional enough to think so. Shortly after, I was lucky enough to be a part of the first Orbital Bootcamp, which led me to start this blog, but also pushed me out of my comfort zone and deflated my post TC Disrupt ego. In a good way! Gary’s mentorship and advice helped me realize the importance of talking to people, embracing struggles, and learning to learn. This really helps to sum up everything I’ve learned this year. I was always looking for what I shouldbe doing next. I sought advice from people, books, websites, etc. in hopes that one of them would have the answer. I’ve always been a sucker for self-help books. But being lost and finding your own way out is awesome. At the time it may suck, but once you’re out you really appreciate it for what it is. That’s not to say taking advice is bad, but that there is no cookie cutter advice. 

Vrban was created 7 months ago. Today it’s more than a URL to some hack made in 24 hours. It’s become a journey and part of who I am. It’s also more than just me now. It’s also Russell. It’s also our beta users and everyone else who has sat down to hear our spiel and give it a chance. It’s everyone who has given me feedback and advice.

There are certainly days where I feel more lost than I did the day before, but I know that if I can rough it out I’ll come out knowing something new. To everyone who has helped me through it all thank you. Your support means everything.

Thank you Russell for being an awesome co-founder. Thank you Bentley for talking sense into me every day and putting up with my shenanigans and delusions (the list of everything she does for me is way longer than this and I can’t thank her enough in a couple of sentences). Thank you parents for being so supportive. Thank you friends for helping me keep my head up. Thank you Gary for the opportunity and endless advice. Thank you everyone @ Orbital.

You’ve all helped me become comfortable excited with not knowing what’s next. 

2014 was awesome and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2015. Stay tuned!

Mark Zuckerburg in conversation with Michael Arrington “I’m not really a good liar.” #facebook #tcdisrupt (at TechCrunch Disrupt 2013)

The Rise of the Personal Revolution

The way people work is changing in profound ways, as a new class of company - the data factory - makes powerful tools accessible to the masses for the first time. The changes wrought by these data factories may come to exceed the changes and dislocations produced by the companies that sprung up during the industrial revolution.

We are at the dawn of the “Personal Revolution”. While the epicenter of the Personal Revolution has been California’s Silicon Valley – its shocks are being felt around the world. The Personal Revolution is changing the way people work, live and play.  For the educated, skilled and enterprising, it promises much.  For many others it means great hardship.

We spelled out our thoughts about the Personal Revolution at TechCrunch Disrupt this week.