Capital Factory is the center of Austin’s startups scene

Lori Hawkins from the Austin American Statesman wrote a great  about how Capital Factory has become the center of Austin’s startup scene.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of it all.

Austin vs Salt Lake City in Gemalto Contactless Challenge

Josh Kerr wearing his game face

Game face on

Gemalto a multi-billion dollar company that you’ve likely never heard of is sponsoring a wireless payment challenge pitting me and my city of Austin vs Kathy and her city of Salt Lake City.  Both Austin and SLC are piloting a new NFC payment technology from ISIS which uses a mobile wallet on your phone to wirelessly pay for things at participating retail stores.  The challenge will award points to Kathy and I as we use our phones to pay for things.

Kathy wearing her game face

My competition: Kathy from Salt Lake City

The challenge is called “Contactless” because your phone is able to make payments via the NFC wireless protocol.  I think this means that I can hold my phone near a supporting credit card reader and it will pay for things just like swiping my credit card.  An app called the Isis Mobile Wallet holds my credit cards, gift cards and other funding sources and  transforms my phone into a glorified wireless credit card.

Gemalto invited me to participate in the challenge encouraging me to share my experiences whether good or bad.  They are looking for authentic feedback and in return they will make a donation to a charity of my choice.  (This week its save the tigers.)  They will fill up my phone with $250 and I will be buying food, getting haircuts, sending flowers and much more which I will be sharing through Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Facebook and my blog.

Gemalto provided me with a brand new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone which I’m actually digging.  I’m an iPhone 5 owner with a strong affinity (or loyalty) for Apple’s products, I even co-founded and sold a company based on their technology.  Android in my eyes has always seemed less polished and lacking design flare.   This Galaxy S4 is making me rethink how I feel about Android.  This phone is super slick, fast and polished.

My Galaxy S4 with Verizon Isis Wallet
My new Samsung Galaxy S4 with Verizon Isis Wallet

I’m going into the challenge with low expectations for the technology.  Contactless payment isn’t an easy thing to do requiring participation from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Chase, American Express all working together on a very complex stack.  Getting a telco like Verizon to do something cutting edge is like trying to get a rattle snake to use a hula hoop.  Who knows, maybe it all works and I ditch my wallet for it.  Either way, I’m going to take down Kathy and her Salt Lake City by outspending her with my mobile wallet.

Hey Kathy, hear that?  Its the ka-ching sound you’ll be hearing from my smartphone as I wirelessly outspend ya.

Hardware is in season

Hardware seems to be back in season. Several of the startup’s I’ve seen come through Capital Factory have innovated with hardware and some of it is pretty cool. Hardware is not an easy cookie to bake so it is unusual for a startup to go for it.

This past weekend I was a judge at AngelHack and one of the startups created the printer in the video below:

Creating hardware is cheaper than ever thanks to innovations like the Raspberry Pi which is a lowcost programable computer. With startups willing to take chances on prototypes and programs like Kickstarter that allow entrepreneurs the ability to test the market, it is a perfect season for creating hardware.

Ultimate Ears reference in-ear monitors review

This is my video review of the Ultimate Ears Reference ear monitors.  These are custom monitors that are made to fit your ear and thus block out all outside noises.  These are a fantastic pair of earphones that produce great sound but they are costly at $999.  You can find more on Ultimate Ears website.


I met the President of the United States today

Sitting at a table with President Obama standing nearby

Shaking President Obama's hand

Obama visited Capital Factory today and I got to meet with him.  This was a once in a lifetime experience for me.  I feel very grateful to be part of Capital Factory, it is an amazing organization one that is now getting recognition from the President.  Hopefully other cities will be able to replicate its success.

Bazaarvoice co-founder Brett Hurt has an in depth article covering the event on his blog Lucky7.


Draft version control for writing

I am composing this blog entry with a new tool called Draft which bills itself as version control for writing.

Draftin shot

This is a web based editor that uses Markdown as its primary language and allows you to sync to various file networks, post to various blog targets and share with other writers. It supports Dropbox, iCloud and Google Docs which means it can easily fit into your existing workflow.

File sync options

For me, I like its version control feature which allows me to roll back changes or view previous versions. This is useful because I typically write in several phases and sometimes I like to go back to an earlier phase especially if I’ve lost my train of thought or if I need to rework a section.


I’m not big on browser based editors, I have a fear of hitting the back button and losing my work, but this editor literally saves the document on every keystroke. So the worse you can do is lose a single letter. In the bottom left of the window is a little status that says “saving” which makes me feel a little bit better but I’m not fully used to it yet.

The author of Draft has been adding new features rather quickly and if you sign up as a paid user you will get access to early features. I think this app shows a lot of promise and I for one will surely continue to use it.

The Settler’s of Catan board game

Settlers of Catan

This past weekend I was introduced to a new board game called Settler’s of Catan. This game combines some of the best elements of Monopoly, Risk and poker into a single easy to learn board game. I’m addicted.

The goal of the game is really simple. The first person to 10 points wins. There are a lot of ways to score points which leads to exciting and unpredictable games with each player to taking a variety of strategies. The main dealing in the game is trading resources with your fellow players. You’ll use those resources to buy and build things which score points. You generate resources based on the location of the things you’ve built. So if you are short on a particular resource that you need to build something new, you can either trade for it or wait until you generate it.

Settler’s of Catan is a game that can be played with 3 or more players but it is most fun with 4 or more. My only opportunity to play was this past weekend but I’m already addicted. I will be buying a copy to keep in my home and actively trying to get my friends hooked too.