Click the image to see it at full size.


Found in a tweet by Katerina Borodina, found via Bernie Marger.


This is one of a series of articles leading up to the 10th annual Startup Busevent, which takes place from Wednesday, July 24 though Sunday, July 28th. I’ll be on the Florida Startup Bus, where I’ll be a hustler with a group that will spend three days on a bus, building a software, a business model, and a pitch, all of which we’ll present before a panel of judges in New Orleans! I hope these articles convince people to join Startup Bus, inspire the “Buspreneurs” who will be participating, and get the rest of you to find out more.

I’m on the Startup Bus! Tampa to New Orleans - Wednesday, July 24 - Sunday, July 28.

On Saturday, I pointed you to the StartUp podcast’s episodes on Startup Bus 2017 (and if you haven’t heard them yet, go listen now!). Today, I’m pointing you to another documentary on the bus — Coin’s series on Startup Bus 2013. There’s a lot to watch, what with about three hours of main content recorded during the event and an hour of follow-up interviews with the organizers.

Here’s episode 1:

Here’s a bonus episode, featuring the complete set of intro pitches:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Episode 4:

Episode 5:

Episode 6:

If those six episodes weren’t enough for you, there’s more: three episodes of the “round table”, where the Startup Bus conductors share their observations and opinions. For those of you who are from Tampa Bay, this features a couple of local heroes: Mitch Neff and Greg Ross-Munro (CEO of Sourcetoad):


This is one of a series of articles leading up to the 10th annual Startup Busevent, which takes place from Wednesday, July 24 though Sunday, July 28th. I’ll be on the Florida Startup Bus, where I’ll be a hustler with a group that will spend three days on a bus, building a software, a business model, and a pitch, all of which we’ll present before a panel of judges in New Orleans! I hope these articles convince people to join Startup Bus, inspire the “Buspreneurs” who will be participating, and get these rest of you to find out more.

I’m on the Startup Bus! Tampa to New Orleans - Wednesday, July 24 - Sunday, July 28.

In the previous post in this series, I pointed to the StartUp podcast’s series of podcasts covering the New York bus from Startup Bus 2017. The idea for the winner — Daisy, the app that helps people manage a funeral and all the attendant tasks involved — came up with the idea on the first morning, because she was thinking of her father who had cancer (he’s since gotten better). This brings up an important question for buspreneurs: How will you come up with your startup idea?

To assist my fellow buspreneurs, I’ve compiled a list of sources for ideas. I’m not making any promises or guarantees about the quality, practicality, or viability of the ideas from these sources, but they may serve as an excellent starting point for your brainstorming.

Here’s a list of articles on app ideas for 2019:

If that list doesn’t help, perhaps these “idea warehouse” sites might:

And failing that, here’s a list of “how to come up with ideas for your tech startup” articles:


Every week, I compile a list of events for developers, technologists, tech entrepreneurs, and nerds in and around the Tampa Bay area. We’ve got a lot of events going on this week, and here they are!

This weekly list is posted as a voluntary service to the Tampa tech community. With the notable exceptions of Tampa iOS Meetup and Coders, Creatives and Craft Beer — both of which I run — most of this information comes from, EventBrite, and other local event announcement sites. I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the dates and times listed here; if you want to be absolutely sure that the event you’re interested in is actually taking place, please contact the organizers!

Monday, July 22

Tuesday, July 23

Wednesday, July 24

Thursday, July 25

Friday, July 26

Saturday, July 27

Sunday, July 28


This is one of a series of articles leading up to the 10th annual Startup Bus event, which takes place from Wednesday, July 24 though Sunday, July 28th. I’ll be on the Florida Startup Bus, where I’ll be a hustler with a group that will spend three days on a bus, building a software, a business model, and a pitch, all of which we’ll present before a panel of judges in New Orleans! I hope these articles convince people to join Startup Bus, inspire the “Buspreneurs” who will be participating, and get the rest of you to find out more.

I’m on the Startup Bus! Tampa to New Orleans - Wednesday, July 24 - Sunday, July 28.If you check out only one of my Startup Bus articles, make it this one. This one contains the episodes of the podcast Startup that cover the Startup Bus team that departed from New York. These episodes contain insight and intel that will be valuable to Startup Bus participants. I’ve already listened to all of these twice, and plan to give them a couple more listens to make sure that I didn’t miss any important observations, hints, or clues.

For my own benefit and the benefit of my fellow Buspreneurs, I’m posting the episodes here, along with my notes — well, a small snippet of those notes, anyway. I’m keeping some of them for myself and my team (whoever they end up being!).

The intro

  • This is the podcast episode that tells you that there will be more podcast episodes. You can safely skip this one; I’m including it only for the sake of being thorough.

Day 1: Coming up with the idea

Start with this one, in which some of the buspreneurs come up with an idea, pitch it to their fellow riders, and form teams. One of the buspreneurs’ ideas is a morbidly interesting one.

  • If you’re going to be on the bus, please, for the love of all that’s holy, please observe this rule: “The number one rule on StartupBus is there’s no number two on the bus. You get what that means? Rule number one. No number two on the bus.
  • This is the episode in which we get to meet the people on the bus and get some of their back stories.
  • There’s an interesting array of ideas being pitched: a funeral-planning app, an anti-phishing tool, and — of course — someone saying “we should build something based on blockchain!”
  • The important lesson from this episode? “So every year, pretty much this happens a lot, is that you end up wasting so much time today trying to validate an idea that has already been invalidated, just now.”

Day 2:

The challenges begin.

  • Eric the narrator has a realization: “When I was growing up, my family was very into a particular kind of reality tv—competition shows… I thought I’d be reporting on a hackathon. I’d find one person, going through something interesting, and we’d just see how their week played out. Pretty simple. But when I woke up in a hotel in Raleigh, North Carolina that Tuesday morning, and I saw a giant “StartupBus” decal on the charter coach outside my window, I had this realization that would have thrilled my younger self to no end: “Holy shit. I’m not just reporting a story about a hackathon, I have landed inside a real life competition show.”
  • “To get the day started, each team sends one person to the front of the bus to practice their pitch over the intercom. This is something that happens a lot on StartupBus—people are practicing their pitches constantly.”
  • Startup Bus borrows a big trick from reality TV shows: surprise obstacles. When the bus pulls into Charlotte, North Carolina, the New York team finds out that they’ll be pitching against two other teams — Akron and Tampa.
  • Introducing local heroes Robert Blacklidge and Trey Steinhoff! “Robert and Trey, very on top of things,” the narrator says approvingly, and he presciently sees that their idea — CourseAlign — has legs.
  • “And the Ohio bus is impressive in its own way. It turns out they teamed up with some people from San Francisco, and they’re manufacturing physical products. So they have 3D printers and computer aided design software. The whole thing feels like that scene in “The Sandlot” when the other team shows up in their actual jerseys and matching converse sneakers, and all of a sudden you realize, ‘Oh… this is some real competition.’”
  • Also: gender dynamics. On one team, there’s a good news/bad news thing going on because they’re electing one of the women to be CEO; the bad news is that it’s a job that none of them particularly want, and a lot of it will be about reining in unruly behavior. On another team, a “that’s just who I am” kind of guy butts head against a young woman on his team.

Day 3:

It’s like a reality TV show!

  • “The thing about StartupBus is that it really is like a reality TV show. It’s so intense that every interaction, every personality can feel like a caricature of real life.”
  • “Now, if you were to look at a map of this trip on StartupBus, you’d realize it’s a pretty insane route. It jogs and meanders. It’s nowhere near the quickest path to New Orleans. I mean, we spent a full 24 hours just in North Carolina.”
  • We get to find out more about Ash.
  • “Despite all their troubles—the personal dramas, the failed ad campaigns, the miscommunications—the teams all feel really good. They’ve overcome a lot. And they’ve built actual working products. In three days. On a bus.”
  • They arrive in New Orleans!

Day 4:

The moment of truth: the teams arrive in New Orleans and make their pitches in front of the judges!

  • Another appearance with Tampa-based Robert Blacklidge and Trey Steinhoff, and their startup, CourseAlign! Eric the narrator can’t stop gushing about how well Robert and Trey get along (of course, we in the Tampa tech community know how easy it is to get along with them).
  • The sound system at the venue isn’t what it should be: “The setup for the pitches is, in a word, janky. There’s a microphone plugged into an old guitar amp, and it’s very prone to feedback. And given the size and concreteness of this room, the teams all sound like they’re pitching from the bottom of well.”
  • An observation: “With 22 teams, it’s inevitably a mixed bag. Some of the ideas seem a little half-baked, others are good ideas with a lackluster pitch. Still others seems like they’ve really got it together.” One of the startup’s pitch people delivers her pitch with a song, dressed up as Marilyn Monroe, complete with iconic white dress and blonde wig.
  • For most of the pitches, only some of the audience is paying attention while others are working away on their own projects. But when it’s Daisy’s turn and Colleen makes her pitch, “something remarkable happens. The room goes silent. People in the back shuffle their way forward to the stage. They pull out cell phones and start taking videos. She commands the room in a way no other team has managed.”
  • Initially, when Eric asks to record the judges while they deliberate, they say “no”. Then they change their minds, and we get a look into their decision-making process.

Day 5:

As you’d expect, we find out who wins — and a surprise challenge.

  • Eric the narrator and Colleen from Daisy go for a walk and talk about their lives and their families. Colleen reveals her approach to coming up with a startup idea: “My strategy for hackathons is I think of things that have been bugging me the past week. Like packing. So I thought of like something that I was worried about and I was like, “OK, death.” And there weren’t really that many death apps out there.”
  • More love for Robert and Trey!
  • There’s some controversy: Elias Bizannes, founder of Startup Bus, adds a sixth team made up of non-finalists, who now have less than a day to build a startup and present against the other finalists. There’s a great amount of concern about this last-minute addition. It turns out that it’s just another challenge: “It’s classic reality TV. They did it on “The Bachelor” just last season, when they brought back one of Nick’s former loves. It was just before the finale, and they were trying to resurface old feelings, to throw him off his game. StartupBus is meant to mimic what it’s like to start a company in real life. And it does. But it also mimics reality TV. And in every reality TV show, there are producers in the background pulling strings, creating drama. That string-pulling got the sixth team onto the stage, but it does not guarantee them a win.”
  • “From the moment the pitches begin, it’s apparent. This is a very different level of competition than yesterday. The presentations are all well-crafted. Each of the products makes sense. You could imagine people making these pitches to actual investors.”
  • And finally, the winner is announced, and from the “Grey Poupon” accent, it’s easy to tell that  person doing the announcing is another Tampa hero: Sourcetoad CEO Greg Ross-Munro!

{ 1 comment }

Notes for Startup Bus 2019: Hackathon tips

by Joey deVilla on July 19, 2019

This is one of a series of articles leading up to the 10th annual Startup Bus event, which takes place from Wednesday, July 24 though Sunday, July 28th. I’ll be on the Florida Startup Bus, where I’ll be a hustler with a group that will spend three days on a bus, building a software, a business model, and a pitch, all of which we’ll present before a panel of judges in New Orleans! I hope these articles convince people to join Startup Bus, inspire the “Buspreneurs” who will be participating, and get the rest of you to find out more.

I’m on the Startup Bus! Tampa to New Orleans - Wednesday, July 24 - Sunday, July 28.At its core, Startup Bus is a hackathon. As a portmanteau of hacking and marathon, a hackathon is a  competition where participants try to build a software (and sometimes hardware) solution within a limited span of time. Startup Bus increases the challenge by expanding the goal to building not just a product, but a startup — all within 72 hours.

For my own benefit and the benefit of my fellow Buspreneurs, here’s a collection of startup tips from recent years. You’ll note a lot of the advice overlaps.

Top Tips to Hack Your Way to Success at Your Next Hackathon

Delphix blog, February 2019

  • Solve a real-world problem rather than a deep technical one. “When starting out, you might have a clear vision for what the demo will be, but that often changes as you run into technical problems. You’re better off presenting an abbreviated version rather than an incomplete one.”
  • “Hackathons are a unique opportunity to work with engineers that you might not get to in your normal job, and explore unique crossovers between different areas of the product and company. Work with someone you might not know and learn part of the product you’re unfamiliar with.”
  • Think MVP. “Make sure to keep your minimum viable product to produce an intriguing proof of concept demo because generally, you won’t have time to actually finish a full-fledged feature. ”
  • Think of the end result: “Approach a hackathon with two high-level goals: 1) explore a problem affecting a segment of the audience (could be in the product or an internal organizational process) and 2) learn something new.”
  • Show up to win. “The secret to winning is showing up, from participation to completion. Manage the project the same way you would for a customer-driven initiative. Determine the tasks required and prioritize them according to minimal-need, would-be-nice, and cool-factor.”
  • Keep it simple, stupid. “In previous hackathons, I would always have grand projects that were very interesting, fun and complex, but I would never finish.”
  • Work smarter together. “Don’t be afraid to take on a project with people much more experienced than you are.”
  • Communication > flashy demo. “Technical communication is an indispensable skill in engineering, and communicating why your work is important is very often more valuable than conveying how you developed your solution. Assume that no one in the audience knows anything about the problem you’re trying to solve, and briefly provide motivation for the work at a level that everyone can understand before diving into the details.”
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. “The main point of a hackathon is to have fun and socialize with your fellow coworkers on something you wouldn’t normally work on. That’s why it can be helpful to keep a running list of projects as you think of them throughout the year into a google doc.”
  • Optimize for fun. “For me, the most fun hackathon project are the ones that do 3 things: forces you to learn something new, has a broad impact within your organization, and opens the door for collaboration with people outside your team.”

10 Tips for Conquering a Hackathon

Alia Poonawalla, Ironhack blog, January 2019

  1. Dress for comfort. “You’ll want to use your brain to think about maximum productivity. I’ve found you can’t be productive if you’re not comfy. Plan for the fact that you’re going to be up all night.”
  2. Be realistic with your skill level. “Be realistic with your skill level and what you can do in [the allotted time]. If you’re lacking in some area find someone who can complement. If you’re junior, go for the experience instead of the win.”
  3. Be realistic with your scope. “Assume whatever can go wrong will go wrong. It’s better to do something well than not finishing something that was ambitious. I’ll let you in on a secret, most wins go to complete projects even if they’re simpler.”
  4. Have supplies.
  5. Understand the benefits of a hackathon. “Hackathons allow you to do cool things and experiment outside of your norm.”
  6. UXers… Be familiar with front end development. “As a UX designer, it’s important to have some front end dev knowledge. Even if you’re not good at implementing you will be able to slide into the workflow a lot easier.”
  7. Avoid being a team just to be on a team. “Make sure personality and talent fit.”
  8. Know the difference between hacking and a hackathon. “It’s a common misconception that “hacking” means you’re BREAKING into something. Hackathons are not that. The traditional definition is piecing something together in a novel way by using creative thinking in a way that hasn’t been done before in a short amount.”
  9. Find the low-hanging fruit. “Low hanging fruit are easy implementations that wow judges and can help you place at Hackathons. If there are API sponsors, utilize their software! Even if your app sucks, you can still win sponsored prizes for including them in your work.”
  10. Don’t freak out! “Tensions get high at a Hackathons. Late night and hours can cause anyone to break… Remember, this is all for fun and learning.”

How to Make the Most of Your Hackathon

Angel W, Noteworthy — The Journal Blog, November 2018

  • The ideation phase is crucial. “Looking back at the hackathons, the ones where we did the best were the ones where we spent time to brainstorm the best solution to a problem.”
  • Research the hackathon itself. One of the most helpful things to do at a hackathon is to do research on the nature of the hackathon you’ve signed up for.
  • Communicate. “A hackathon is very short. Usually you have 24–36 hours to work with a team of 4 to 5 people. Being open about what you think is incredibly helpful. If you have a question, ask for clarification. If you think of a better way to solve a problem, tell your teammates. Rather than saving time early on by diving in to build the project, making sure that everyone is on the same page will save you time down the line.”
  • Form a good team. “A hackathon can be stressful so you want to make sure you can rely on your teammates.
  • Learn how to learn. “There’s going to be a lot of learning that happens on the spot. One thing I realized through seeing how quickly I could make something within such a short time is that you can learn anything if you really wanted to. At a hackathon, you will learn how to accelerate your learning. Don’t be afraid to use a tool you’ve never used before because a hackathon is a great place to learn how to learn.”
  • Fail fast, fail often. “Every failure leads to something new, and something you really learn about yourself and the world. You never know how far you’ll go if you don’t push yourself.”

4 Killer Tips For Hackathon Success

Codeworks, Code Words, August 2018

  1. Help each other out. “Your idea will change in ways you can’t predict.”
  2. Just like your laptop, arrive fully charged.
  3. Plan as a team. ‘‘ If I were to go back in time, I would have much better planning. I think to succeed in a hackathon, you really need to have figured out what you want to implement and get everyone to agree, at least a day in advance. Then stick to that plan during the event.’’
  4. Take risks.

How to Win a Hackathon — Tips & Tricks

Danijel Vincijanovic, COBE (Creators Of Beautiful Experiences), April 2017

  • Team selection: “The ideal team would be the one consisting of people with different skills and types of knowledge — when skills and knowledge vary.”
  • Planning and preparation: “Hope for the fastest, expect the slowest.”
  • Don’t jump immediately to implementation. Take a couple of hours to brainstorm, filter ideas, prioritize features, and prototype.
  • During the coding phase, take a break every 2 – 3 hours for a short meeting, where everyone informs the team what they’ve built so far, any obstacles they’ve run into, and what they’re doing next.
  • “Remember that you’re creating a prototype, and not a product that should be architecturally perfect and production ready. That is why you should simplify things as much as possible, and implement features to a level where they can be presented as concept.”
  • The presentation: “Victory consists of 50% presentation, 30% ideas and 20% implementation.”
  • “The presentation needs to have a story — beginning and the end. In the beginning, you have to clearly explain what was the problem you were solving, and how did you solve it.”

How to win a hackathon: 5 easy steps to developer victory

Ingenico blog, October 2016

  1. Focus on a single problem. “The technology is actually the easy part of winning a hackathon. 90 percent of your task is to ruthlessly reduce the challenge down to one fundamental problem and find a solution.”
  2. Refine your message. “What is the critical message you want to convey to your judging panel? How can you deliver that message in a simple and impactful way?”
  3. Hack the clock. You have to make the most of your time:
    • Focus on the MVP.
      Break down your work into possible versions.
    • Use frameworks and libraries. Depending on the rules of your hackathon, you may not be able to write code ahead of time, but you can use existing open-source libraries. Study the available libraries and APIs in advance. Find and choose trusted libraries that are actively being developed and have good documentation. Install them and run tests so you know they work… make sure to take advantage of these and use them in advance, so you don’t end up spending time doing it during the hackathon.
    • Focus on the judging criteria.
    • Don’t waste time creating login screens, confirmation pages, thank-you pages, footers, social buttons, or anything else unnecessary.
    • Don’t write beautiful code: You don’t have the luxury to fix indentation or otherwise make things look pretty.
    • Don’t waste time looking for perfect data sets. Fake the parts that aren’t mission critical and focus on conveying the message.
  4. Practice your pitch. “Don’t let all the effort be wasted by presenting a bad pitch. Take enough time to practice your pitch and prepare for potential questions from the judges. A dedicated person from the team should practice non-stop in the final hours before judging. When it’s time to deliver your pitch, this person should field all the judges’ questions.”
  5. Have fun! “A hackathon is a competition and a big potential opportunity for you to learn something new, but remember to have fun! Don’t put pressure on yourself, get stressed out, or worry about the results if you don’t accomplish your objective or win. A hackathon is a tremendous learning experience, and it’s a great chance to experiment and meet interesting people. Have the best time you can, make your best effort, and take away all the positives you can from the entire experience.”



This is one of a series of articles leading up to the 10th annual Startup Bus event, which takes place from Wednesday, July 24 though Sunday, July 28th. I’ll be on the Florida Startup Bus, where I’ll be a hustler with a group that will spend three days on a bus, building a software, a business model, and a pitch, all of which we’ll present before a panel of judges in New Orleans! I hope these articles convince people to join Startup Bus, inspire the “Buspreneurs” who will be participating, and get the rest of you to find out more.

I’m on the Startup Bus! Tampa to New Orleans - Wednesday, July 24 - Sunday, July 28.Back in 2008, when I was a newly-minted developer evangelist at Microsoft Canada, I helped out at an event called Startup Empire. At this point, I was one of the stewards of the monthly DemoCamp meetup (think of it as “show and tell” for the then-still-nascent Toronto tech community), and now-famous startups like FreshBooks and Wattpad were still getting off the ground.


My favorite speaker at the event was Hugh MacLeod, who was best known for his comics drawn on the back of business cards his blog, Gaping Void (which is now the name of his consultancy), and the offbeat ads that he was making for Dell and Microsoft at the time. His talk was a live, in-person version of his 2004 article, How to be Creative, which was long and rambling, yet excellent and enjoyable.

The presentation he gave at Startup Empire was a distilled, talkier version of that essay. While I’d already read his essay, it was great to hear one the live version, which had been tempered by an additional four years’ worth of experience and observations. I wonder what would be different if he had to give the talk today.

Although the presentation was given at a conference for techies starting their own startups, Hugh’s advice applies to anyone who is creative, and if you asked him what that meant, I’m sure he’d say “everybody”.


  • It’s easy for an advertising career to tank, especially if you live in New York and drink too much.
  • I started drawing comics at bars, on the paper that just happened to conveniently be around: the backs of business cards.
  • I’m not in the VC business, nor am I in the tech business.
  • I’m greedy — who here’s greedy? [Many hands in the crowd went up.]
  • What really drives us? The “C” word: creativity.
  • The reason we work in this field is that we want to build stuff — fun stuff.
  • If it pays the bills, so much the better!
  • The “we’re so fucked” thing is pretty long term.
  • What will get us out of the hole? Creativity. People like yourself, doing and building cool things
  • I’m in my 40s — what motivates me now is seeing bright ambitious kids coming out of the colleges.
  • When I was a kid, there was no internet — not even computers! I had to write my term papers on typewriters.
  • I want to talk about creativity to the young.
  • I now present 12 little tips for you people just getting started.

1. Ignore everybody.

  • When you come up with a really great idea and show it, people won’t get it.
  • You yourself might not even get it.
  • Imagine the early days of search: “Why would you want to do that?”
  • “Good ideas have lonely childhoods.”
  • If you’ve had a good idea, you were probably called a fruitcake at the start.
  • Good ideas alter power balances in relationships, which is why many people resist them.
  • Your boss doesn’t want you to have a good idea that makes you richer than him.
  • Good ideas will meet resistance – not because of the idea, but because of power and hierarchy.

2. The idea you have doesn’t have to be that big.

  • Jewish proverb: “A rich man is one who can satisfy his wants.”
  • I grew up on TV, watching shows about people who had more than us.
  • Fast-forward 20 years later, I get to do what I want every day:
    • I haven’t had to set my alarm clock in years!
    • Work is just me and a couple of pens.
  • And yeah, I read Fast Company, BusinessWeek — “business porn magazines”. They feed greed.
  • Anyone seen No Country for Old Men? I live in that town!
  • One of the locals is Harry, the master brewer, who moved out there and opened his own bar. He makes $500 a day and is the best businessman I know. He does what he wants and everything he does has some meaning to him.
  • Meaning scales!
  • We owe it to the generations to come to find meaning.

3. Put the hours in.

  • Nothing happens overnight.
  • People look at what I do “Aren’t you worried about people ripping you off?” or taking my idea and doing the same thing.
  • My response: “I’ve already done 10,000 cartoons and 7 years of blogging.”
  • Inertia stops a lot of people. Know anyone in a dead-end job? Ever been in one? They say “One day, I’m going to open that cheese shop. But right now, I have to write a report…”
  • I have a book coming up. I didn’t quit my job to write it; just woke up an hour earlier every day to write it and posted it on my blog. Penguin eventually contacted me. All I did was put the hours in.

4. If your business plan relies on you being discovered by a big-shot, you will fail.

  • I once got a book contract offer. The terms in the contract were terrible, and I turned it down.
  • The publisher, it turned out, was in the business of finding people so desperate to have their moment in the spotlight that they would sign anything.
  • We now live in an era of cheap, easy, global media — we don’t need middlemen.
  • I’m friends with Rick Segal [Canadian venture capitalist — remember, this talk was given in Toronto]…but probably because I don’t need venture capital!
  • Where I live in Texas, you can live really cheaply. Part of this is because you run out of things to spend on.
  • When I hear about people talking about VCs, I think of people looking to have their sorry asses saved.
  • Don’t get me wrong: it’s great to have VC, but it’s even easier when you get one because you don’t really need one,
  • “If you’re looking for advice, ask for money; if you’re looking for money, ask for advice.”

5. Do it anyway.

  • You don’t know that your idea is the right one at the right time – no one does!
  • Do it anyway — that’s how great ideas start out.
  • Seco0nd-rate ideas are all about the immediate “yes!” response because it keeps them alive longer.


6. Everybody is born creative.

  • “Everybody gets a box of crayons when they’re young .”
  • We turn adolescent and for many of us, somehow, “our color gets turned off.”
  • Suddenly, it’s not about coloring anymore, but concerns like “Got to get a 3.5 GPA, got to get that job…”
  • Then you get an idea that you can’t turn off.
  • It makes you start avoiding your poker buddies.
  • Most people get scared off by that idea. Doubt creeps in: “What if I get a bad publisher? What if nobody likes my idea?” That’s not your idea talking, that’s your grown up boring self fighting that idea.
  • Your idea came to you because your soul needs it.
  • If you don’t nurture that idea, it dies. It also takes a lot of you with it.

7. The “Sex and Cash” theory.

  • If you have a creative life and you make money doing it: you generally bounce between two kinds of jobs:
    1. The sexy creative job, and
    2. The one that pays the bills.
  • In movie stars’ cases, that means alternating between parts in popular hit movies and critically-acclaimed art films.
  • For a photographer, that means alternating between doing work for indie art mages and paying the bills with photo shoots for catalogs.
  • Consider Martin Amis: he writes critically acclaimed novels and supplements his income by teaching courses and writing newspaper and magazine articles.
  • As for me: I do comics on the back of business cards, and I do work for Microsoft and Dell.
  • It’s a balance of artistic sovereignty and making a living.
  • “The moment you accept this is when you take off .”

8. Remain frugal.

  • This particular lesson took me the longest to learn.
  • Living in New York City, I was in the top income bracket, for all the good it did. I had so much outgoing cash in rent and other expenses.
  • You can live like a king where I do, in Alpine, Texas, quite cheaply
  • I now have “West Texas expenses, New York wages.”
  • This is hard to do if you want to be seen in “all the right places.”
  • Remember: we become creatives because we want freedom, and that includes freedom from avarice.

9. I’m going to skip this one.

  • It’s too corny!
  • [He capitulated later; see the end of this article.]

10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need props.

  • At any advertising agency, it’s always the second-rate art director who’s the first to get the newest model Mac.
  • If you go to any magazine office, it’s the second-rate writer keeps an old Remington typewriter on display.
  • You see this at startups too: the loft office in the hip neighbourhood with the foosball table.
  • Remember: the Gettyburg address was written on borrowed stationery!
  • We use props to hide behind or mask our inadequacies.
  • I know a woman who recently IPO’d — she didn’t start in a fancy office, but on her dining room table.
  • It’s not the props, it’s the good idea and the effort.

11. The best way is not to stand out from the crowd, but avoid the crowd altogether.

  • Bartenders are the great social enablers of New York City.
  • No under-50 bartender is really a bartender: they’re actors, musicians, whatever. Bartending is a way to pay the bills; they have plans to become famous photographers, musicians, whatever.
  • The thing about the arts to me: what often drives people isn’t just the money or business, but the prestige: “I want to be like that guy, because he’s really privileged”.
  • Ever noticed how few really good writers have blogs? You don’t see literature, you see shit like what I write.
  • A lot of authors are enamored of books and the prestige attached to them.
  • The worst thing you can do as a creative is fall in love with a privilege model.

12. If you can accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

  • When my sister was born and my mom was in labour, the pain was unbearable — “Why is this happening to me?” she asked.
  • The midwife replied: “You’re giving birth to a baby. It’s supposed to be painful.”
  • Mom accepted that and got on with the birth.
  • Trying to do something worthwhile and creative is really hard.
  • As you get older, you realize that pain is part of the process.


9. Okay, here’s point number 9, since you asked: We will fail, but we will be forgiven.

  • Failure is part of the process.
  • The important thing really isn’t about reaching the summit, but setting out for it.