The Rise of the Silicon Prairie

Thinc Iowa speakers

Presenters at Thinc Iowa 2011

Returning home to the midwest after spending a few years in the cultural bubble of San Francisco is a strange experience. As John Travolta’s character says in Pulp Fiction regarding Europe: “It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just… there it’s just a little different.” You’re confronted with of all the superficial differences in dress, decor and culture, and you start to remember that in Iowa it isn’t about wearing expensive clothes, or having a hip club to check out every night. It’s about sincerity, genuine friendliness, working hard, and desire to help other people. “And that,” I imagine the people presenting at Thinc Iowa would probably say, “is exactly the point.”

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SF Startup Weekend EDU

Last weekend I and ~50 other developers, businesspeople and designers attended the SF Startup Weekend EDU hackathon at Grockit HQ, located right around the corner from TokBox here in SoMa. The event marked the first in a series of events in a new Startup Weekend track (EDU) focused on learning and education.

This was the second Startup Weekend I’ve attended since starting here as a Developer Evangelist, and it was noticeably different from the first one I attended which was Startup Weekend MEGA, at Microsoft HQ in Mountain View. Even though SW Mega is generally regarded as a sexier Startup Weekend event due to its visibility, prizes and the three startup tracks it features, this smaller event was more fun for me because it was more focused and seemed to be a more cohesive and intimate.

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Localize or Fail

I used to think that localization meant translation. As someone who has lived in the US my entire life and has no experience with international business, I didn’t know any better. I assumed that to enter a foreign market, all a company had to do was slap up translations, register a local domain, hire a US celeb to pimp the brand, then boom—10 million new users.

I wasn’t that naive of course, but I never knew what localization really meant. I never knew until I learned how unsuccessful US consumer internet companies have been at entering China. Google, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter—all the giants. They all tried and failed.

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Video Hack Day SF

Last Saturday at TokBox HQ in San Francisco, 40 awesome and friendly hackers (and 1 mascot) came together to create 13 video apps built with a variety of video APIs. Six out of 13 projects incorporated OpenTok, including:

You Got Served: Two videos went head-to-head to compete for votes to see which one is the crowd pleaser.  One of the hackers presenting deftly showed off his dance skillz vs a football game; dance was the winner there.

8sec.tv: App that integrated OpenTok video archiving and RottenTomatoes to let users record video reviews.

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HAPI Hack Summary

Last weekend we hosted HAPI Hack Weekend at our office in San Francisco. Over 40 talented hackers made it out to show off their skills and win prizes by hacking on 11 different APIs.

Here are the applications that were built using OpenTok:

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Win a chance to demo at TechCrunch Disrupt in SF!

Want to prove you’ve built the coolest OpenTok application? Think you have what it takes to demo to the most influential people in Silicon Valley?

Here’s a chance for you to prove it here in person in San Francisco! Just build the most compelling OpenTok app and you’ll win a place in  Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco this September. To make the prize even sweeter, we’ll pay up to $2000 in travel expenses!

As a Startup Alley participant, you’re eligible for audience voting to participate in TechCrunch’s premiere startup competition, Startup Battlefield. If you win the “Audience Choice” award, you will earn a slot to present your product on stage during Startup Battlefield in front of an all-star panel consisting of the biggest innovators, angels, VCs and influencers in the Tech community on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011.  Winner must meet Startup Alley criteria; for more details, please visit this page.

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S.P.A.R.K Chicago – Only the strong survive

If Startup Weekend is entrepreneurship on training wheels, then we sure could use an event that’s one step more advanced. Once you understand the dynamics of choosing a team, the compromises involved in pivoting, and the pitfalls of not validating customers, there should be a place to dig deeper into your startup idea – execute, period. I’m glad to say this weekend I found that next step.

S.P.A.R.K Chicago kicked off last Friday like any other Startup Weekend, except these entrepreneurs were hungry. They knew that not only would they be judged on launching a startup in 54 hours, but the top three teams would move forward for another three days to find one ultimate winner. The stakes were high because the competition was steeper and the prizes were money. But what I saw motivating these teams was that coming out on top of this unique event would be something memorable (okay fine, the prizes valued at over $100k were part of it too).

Allow me to introduce you to some of the teams.

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You Fly, We Buy: Launch at Startup Riot Seattle

Here at TokBox we love seeing you, our OpenTok developer community, build awesome applications. To help make your OpenTok app a success, TokBox is sponsoring travel to Startup Riot Seattle for two deserving OpenTok app developers.

Apply now!

So what exactly is Startup Riot? Startup Riot is an all-day event which highlights 25 startups through three minute, four slide presentations given by the startups. The startups subsequently answer questions from a judging panel for three minutes.

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My Favorite Things

This week I’ve been travelling the east coast, hittin’ up various events. I’ve learned about a bunch of new stuff I didn’t know about, so I thought I would share some of…

JON’S FAVORITE THINGS!!!

This is the reaction I expect out of all of you:

Okay, my favorite things are:

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Why your company should do an internal hackathon

Originally posted at blog.mumm.me

Hackathons are awesome.

At TokBox we put our normal schedule aside for a couple days to run our first internal hackathon. The rules were simple: pitch an idea, form teams, build something, then demo it 30 hours later. The winning team would get a prize.

My team didn’t win (though we were proudly among the first losers), but it was a really positive experience. Here’s why I think every company should try doing an internal hackathon:

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