Category Archives: Endeavors

How To Prepare for Disasters. Emergency Healthcare and Rescue Tips.

I just finished up my National Ski Patrol refresher over the weekend. This is the 12th year I’ll be volunteering as a patroller at Mount Snow Vermont. For those of you that don’t know what ski patrol is or what we do, you can think of it as an EMT on skis or in my case a snowboard that is primarily responsible for the immediate response, rescue, stabilization, and transport of a patient off of the mountain and to a primary care resource such as a doctor or hospital.

Hurricane Sandy has made everyone aware of the importance of good preparedness and immediate rescue in emergency situations. With that in mind, I wanted to share a few tips that you could use in times of an emergency.

Hands-Only CPR. In times of an emergency or a disaster, it is likely that people around you may go into shock. This could happen for a number of reasons but the result is that a person may experience low blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, or poor diffusion which means organ’s aren’t getting the appropriate blood and oxygen levels. These issues can lead to death. One serious cause of shock might be due to hypothermia. With many people still out of heat, coupled with another storm coming, it’s entirely possible that you come across someone in need of CPR.

We watched this video (below) at our refresher and it is a great lesson on hands-only CPR. You can do this without being certified in emergency healthcare and it could make all the difference in a life or death situation. As for the video itself, please disregard the emergency number in the video as this was created for the British Heart Association.


Have a Plan: In Ski Patrol, we train and plan for a variety of scenarios that are both likely and unlikely to occur. The likely scenarios are things like broken legs or head injuries. The unlikely scenarios are things like an entire chairlift collapsing. In either case, we have a plan and set of tools we can use to handle any situation.

In times of an emergency, it is important to stay organized and have a plan. Hurricane Sandy caught everyone off guard and many were ill-prepared. In 2001 my family was also caught off guard when an F2 tornado hit our house in New Jersey.

Just like the fire-escape route in your office building, your family should have a defined plan of action in the event of an emergency.

Have the Tools: I think we all now understand the importance of preparation so some things to consider include: food and water supplies, clothing for extreme weather conditions, medical supplies like bandages and medicine, tools like knives and shovels, and gas and fuel.

Below is an actual list of items that a Sandy victim is in need of. Might you need these things too in case of another emergency?

  • – work gloves to pick up your sewage soaked stuff
  • – black garbage bags to put them in….
  • – swiss army/leatherman type multi tools
  • – hand sanitizer
  • – plastic grocery bags for use over spackle bucket as toilet. baby wipes and diapers also
  • – paper towels / toilet paper/ zip lock bags all sizes
  • – plastic tarps to lay your good stuff on so it stays off of the wet porch and street while you pack it in your car…
  • – rope to tie down your roof and your hatch back so you can fit more stuff per trip.
  • – rubber boots for cleanup volunteers and the older people wandering the street in their slippers because they will not leave their homes….
  • – propane as people are using their gas grills to keep warm…
  • – flashlights/batteries/head lamps
  • – metal water/paint buckets to boil water on the grill to make cup of soup/canned ready to eat meals (think chef boyardee) especially with pull tops!/tea/hot cocoa/instant coffee also flip top canned fruit!
  • – certified red plastic gas cans… as people are bringing poland spring jugs to the gas station and being turned away .. 2- 1/2 gallon or smaller…. we would love 5 gallon ones too but they are very heavy to carry when full especially if you have to walk a great distance…….. trust me I know!
  • – our “pipe dreams” are for generators and hand trucks but we will work on the small stuff for now…
  • – I know there are more items but these are what WE needed when we were there… clothing and food being brought by local scout troops etc but the above things the stores down there are out of!

So there you have it. Having a basic understanding of life saving skills like CPR, having a plan, and having the right tools can make all the difference in another disastrous situation.

Value of Engineering to the Entrepreneur

This post originally appeared on Badger Engineers.

My company Spinback was recently acquired by Buddy Media, the largest Facebook Management Company in the world. It’s clear that my four years studying in the Wisconsin College of Engineering has played a role in that acquisition.

At the core, I’d argue that an engineering, math, or science related degree is the single best degree or use of four years in an undergraduate program, especially a program at UW – Madison. In my years in the COE, I obtained a certain skill set that has helped me succeed during and after school, and in the various businesses I was involved with including Spinback. I’m not talking about skills like designing a circuit or solving for a system of equations. I’m talking about the cliché skills we always hear about but disregard as obvious and too abstract for our own benefit.

The skills I’m talking about are teamwork, problem solving, hard work and creativity. In every single class and project that I worked on while at school, each one of these skills was required.  I remember spending many hours with my friends like Steve Weisman (ECE ’08) and David Nosbusch (ECE ’08) poring over class notes and textbooks (and also starting two businesses together while at school). No matter what the content and material, the routine was the same. We studied together, relentlessly discussed the problems together, and used creativity to help solve a solution when we couldn’t find one. In the COE, this is what we were all taught to do. In the real world, these are the skills that have helped me succeed and they are also the same skills that have given me confidence to venture out as an entrepreneur.

Before we were acquired, we were the typical startup. We had raised very little money and had a billion and one things to do. We had to build a product, sell the product to clients, create marketing materials, manage finances, create processes and business workflows, deal with attorneys, and on and on. The reality is I never learned about any one particular topic in school that was applicable to our business. Its not like I took a class called “how to prioritize features” or “how to get a terms sheet from a VC.” I did however learn how to think in a certain way. An analytical thought process that allowed me to break down each component of our business and understand how each component affected the other.  And this is what engineering is all about. It’s about understanding how things work, in order to identify a problem and ultimately solve for that problem.

At Spinback, the problem we were solving was how to help online retailers leverage social media to drive and track new sales. In a short period of time, our solutions called EasyShare and EasyTrack helped us secure over 15 clients in less than two months. We were able to sign up some of the largest online retailers in the world, convince investors to give us money to scale our business, and secure our position as a thought leader in the social commerce space. As a result, we were lucky and fortunate enough to be acquired by one of the fastest growing technology companies of all time.

Looking back, I can recall one very late night in our Union Square office. As we were trying to solidify a sales and marketing strategy one of my partners said, “this is one giant equation that we are solving.”  In that moment I thought about the four years at UW-Engineering and said, “Yes, yes it is.”

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Dogpatch Labs NYC – The Spinback Home

Image representing Dogpatch Labs as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase

Now that the dust has settled a bit and the acquisition is done, I wanted to talk a little bit about Dogpatch Labs NYC and the role they played in Spinback.

1. Collaboration

For the past few months the Spinback team has been working out of a union square loft in NYC hosted by Polaris Ventures. We have been working alongside 15 – 20 other impressive and humbling startups all of which are building truly unique businesses. Every day, we had the opportunity to walk around to other startups and engage in conversation on a variety of topics that affected our business. We were able to get real time feedback on specific topics from unique perspectives. For example, a custom commerce startup gave us feedback on our EasyShare design and sharing process. A real-time group messaging platform gave us insights to different marketing tactics.

2. Networking

In addition, many companies were often meeting with angel investors, advisors, clients, and other high level folks. Often times, these meetings would spill out on to the Dogpatch floor and we would also end up speaking with these guests. These folks would dive right in and start asking us questions like “what are you working on” or “who are your working with?” Questions that ultimately led to more introductions and more business relationships. Furthermore, many of the folks in Dogpatch Labs have previously worked at other startups and large corporations so it would be a fairly regular occurrence for a fellow dogpatcher to say, “hey, do you want to meet so and so at company x?”

3. Education

Lastly, Dogpatch Labs would host many lectures, seminars, keynotes and workshops for people in the startup and technology community. It was commonplace to have 40 people listening to a speaker at the front of the office while we were writing code and making client phone calls in the back of the room. This aspect of Dogpatch Labs transformed the space from an office to a next generation classroom.

At the end of the day, Dogpatch Labs is perhaps one of the most important entities in the NYC startup community. Their ability to provide opportunities around collaboration, networking and education makes them the ideal home for early stage companies.

Big thanks to Peter FlintMatt Meeker, and the rest of the Dogpatch family for letting Spinback call Dogpatch Labs our home for the past few months. Also, big thanks to the rest of the dogpatchers for keeping us humble and hungry in the pursuit of building a great business.

(partial) Spinback Team @ Dogpatch:

(left to right: Andy, Corey, Dan)

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My Company Is Being Acquired

As the news says, today my partners and I over at Spinback are pleased to announce that we’ve been acquired by Buddy Media, the Facebook management system of choice for eight out of the ten top global advertisers.

When we started Spinback the goal was to build the most cutting edge technology that would facilitate conversations and sharing of products. More importantly, we wanted this technology to also track how word of mouth marketing affects new sales and new customer acquisition.

Now as a part of Buddy Media, we will have  all the tools and infrastructure necessary to accelerate our collective mission which is ultimately about leveraging this new social web in new and interesting ways for leading companies around the world.

We are really excited to begin the next chapter and I’ll leave the rest of the details to Buddy Media.

On to the next one…

UPDATE – Here are a few press releases:

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Not Being Able To Help

The situation in Japan is really horrible but perhaps an even worse situation is that rescue workers and aids are afraid to help those within a 12 mile radius of the nuclear power plant.

Aid agencies are reluctant to get too close to the plant. Shelters set up in the greater Fukushima area for “radiation refugees” have little food, in part because nobody wants to deliver to an area that might be contaminated. And with little or no gasoline available, not everyone who wants to leave can get out.

The catch 22 is that all rescue workers and first responders are trained to check for scene safety before engaging in any rescue operation. So what do you do when an entire region is contaminated with radiation? This is the issue many are struggling with and as a result, many more are most likely facing dire circumstances.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans I remember getting an email from someone on my ski patrol because they were looking for volunteers to head down and help with emergency rescue efforts. I was literally packing a bag before I got into a big argument with my parents. The short version is I lost that argument and I didn’t go to New Orleans. I did however get to chat with one of those patrollers about his experience in New Orleans. A few years later I also heard his stories from Haiti and its amazing to see what some people are willing to do to help others.

But now I see the situation in Japan. People want to help but they are afraid to. I guess even the bravest and most willing people have their limits but it also makes me think about the people who could and should be contributing to causes within their reach. The situation in Japan makes me think about all those that can be helped and should be helped.

So I guess my point of this post is, if you are able to help or improve someone else’s life you should absolutely do so. If people are willing to put their lives at risk, it shouldn’t be so hard for you to do a simple task of kindness.

“Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save someone’s life but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one” – Mark Bezos

Video below – this is one of the best short talks I’ve seen in a while. Take 4 minutes out of your day and watch.

A Focus Group of 1

A classic red cruiser: the Schwinn Phantom. Th...
Image via Wikipedia

As we continue to build our business at spinback we continue to engage in a number of very interesting conversations on the topic of product recommendations and sharing. Jared Spiegel, a friend of mine and someone who is currently participating in the Brooklyn Law Incubation Program (BLIP), made the following point that I thought really highlights the core of why product sharing is so valuable. His point is this:

Suppose you are interested in purchasing a new bike. The single most important thing that you are looking for is durability and reliability. That is, you don’t care about looks, design, or wheel style – what you do care about is the frequency of repair. As a reasonable and sensible person, you consult Consumer Reports and learn that the bike with the best repair record is clearly a Schwinn. No other bike even comes close. Naturally, you decide that the next day you are going to buy a Schwinn bicycle.

Suppose that the night before you are going to make your purchase, you are at dinner with a few friends where you announce your intention to buy a new bike. One of your friends at the table says “I just bought a Trek bicycle last week and I love it! It’s much better than my rusted, beat-up Schwinn. In fact, I’ve never been so happy with a bike in my life!”

Let’s suppose that the ranking you read on Consumer Reports was based on a sample of 1,000 bike owners. Your friend’s preference for his Trek bike (and distaste for his old Schwinn) has increased the size of the sample to 1,001. It has added one negative case to your statistical bank. Logically, this should not affect your decision. But a large body of research indicates that such occurrences, because of their personal character and connection between the purchaser and the source of the information, assume far more importance than their logical, statistical status would imply. All other things being equal, most people are more deeply influenced by one clear, personal example than by an abundance of statistical data.

So even if there is a large data set that crunches consumer reviews looking for the very best product, it really only takes a focus group of one and a personal connection to influence someone’s buying decision.

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