In the Beginning, the world was fresh and bright, albeit dreary in Western Pennsylvania.
I was read Bukowski.
I found words early on and felt the power of good writing.
My sister taught me to be kind.
I wrestled kids for trophies and authority in the unspoken ranks of youth society.
I wrestled with the structure and control of school, parents, conformity. The future was not set; it could be created.
I was determined to use computers. Early on, this meant being the only kid to turn in a typed paper. I wrote written on a magical word processor and printed on sheets (remember the ones with tear-off edges from the printer feed)?
I ran obscure, likely-illegal copies of games and applications on 5.25 floppy disks.
I read Stephen King and wrote my own short stories. I shot and edited backyard movies, played Huck Finn and ran through the woods whenever I could. I started underground businesses at school to fund my freedom. I tasted those first, incredible moments of Brave New World at the onset of the Internet.
When my family moved to New Mexico, I was 15 and ready to break out of my geeky Anglo shell.
It started early with "organizing" - first in my high school and then on campus. I entered the world of campaigns and canvassing, talking to people where they live about what they need.
There was far more to learn outside of school. I joined and even started new campaigns for bold ideas. There were brilliant minds and potential all around me, feeding and teaching me. I even began hear my words echo in others, and thought of running for office myself one day.
It became clear: policy was where the real impact lies. When Martin Heinrich (pictured) was an Albuquerque city councilor, I came to work for him on policy.
In the fast-paced NM Legislature, I was trusted with a powerful position as a lobbyist and liaison, moving House bills through the Senate, finding sponsors, and learning to speak policy.
New Mexico holds tremendous power at the national level thanks to the legacies and persistence of our politicians. Congressman Tom Udall was a civil rights leader who supported my group's efforts on UNM campus to oppose the Patriot Act. When he ran for US Senate, I was hired and assigned to campaign across all of eastern NM.
Politics became my frame for seeing the world as adaptable, changeable, fixable. With the right strategy, message, and philosophy - the future was open to become anyone's compelling vision.
Udall and Heinrich became the two United States Senators for New Mexico. I'm grateful to have been some, front-line part of their journeys.
New Mexico is a dynamic state. Poltical scientists come from all over the world to study our bubbling, melting pot of people. Years among farmers and ranchers, the descendants of original Spanish families, the artists and politicos - my time in field politics reaffirmed my faith in real, face-to-face community dialogue. It's how we connect and understand each other. It's where humanist policy is born.
Politics is everywhere. So I began to explore the re-explore world of technology, and saw the potentials and freedom of bold new ideas applied.
The dream from my hustles of childhood never left. I craved the wide-open frontier of new ventures. Campaigns and new offices only satisfied the itch so much. My faith in my role, what I could create and impact through politics had begun to wain. To start my own business, define my own policy and purpose outside of government rose again in me. Sitting still and waiting for someone else's story to play out was too safe and simple.
What exactly was I "good" at? What does the world need? How can I change it?
I joined Business Plan competitions. I conspired with other restless, creative minds. New realities began to take shape. The endless risk and unknowns were catalytic, rocket fuel, pure motivation. The future was right in front of me.
Restaurants lived in an unfair Point Of Sale market in 2010. We knew this from the restaurants who came to other cofounders for websites (our first, failed startup). Restauranteurs needed a better, affordable way to run their business, send orders, take payments.
The iPad was just about to come out. We were the first in the App Store, and made enough with each sale to scale up our software and service without investors. We grew 4000% annually those first few years and hired an all-local team. We had found a need and rose to the occasion.
Through creative connections, I put our system in front of the producer for Kitchen Nightmares. She showed it to Gordon Ramsay, who gave us huge airtime in exchange for helping save the businesses he was turning around on the show with our system. Taking orders at the table with iPhones and iPads makes for good TV too. Our name and sales popped.
As we grew, interest from abroad poured into our inboxes. We were in 82 countries and 4000 locations by 2014. Our resellers translated and programmed menus and portals for our software to be understood in their countries. I discovered Asia and was overwhelmed by the potentials overseas.
In my travels, I saw the need for payments - for merchants to be paid for the things they made and sold. In Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei - it was near impossible for the small players to play. Then, the real problem, a new need, was revealed: there was no business data. Their were no listings. A city like Bangkok had leap-frogged the landline and the phonebook. You couldn't find anything; shops had no way to be found. Google gave up years ago. So we went to work, and founded Uteeni, a complete directory with a full consumer app. I applied canvassing strategy from politics and built a Harvester program to pay local people to collect data in-person, verify it, and then hand off a full profile to the business itself to keep updated. It was a huge, ambitious play - and we set the standard for how a business should be represented. I was back and forth to the US, and then full-time on the ground over 3 years.
It's hard to say no when you can see the possibilities in each new technology and team. I wanted to help everyone, everywhere - make things happen. Between my consulting business, multiple US startups, and my moves abroad - it was too much. Things were not happening fast enough; I was not effective enough. I was learning less, too operative to think deep and clear. I missed rest and reading and philosophy.
The frantic sprint, proving I could do it all, build it all, keep all these teams and visions together - I hit true burnout and was forced to reset.
I returned to the Land of Enchantment, found balance and new purpose. My experience and travels made it possible to see the bigger picture. I chose to re-base, plant my feet more often, look ahead into the horizon and the future. I would travel with new perspective, and use what I learned to build the next philosophy and technology from New Mexico.
It took a few years to find my optimal role as a strategist and advisor. Pride in being the operator, the chief, the one in charge of everything slowly faded. I found how powerful, objective approaches and prompts will discover the next great model, or product strategy, or philosophy. I must read constantly, be active and vigilant to observe and understand, speak to truth and listen for what's real. New Mexico is where I find space to think deeply and create new things. I am a CEO whisperer, a practical philosopher, and a strategic futurist. And it actually works.
What a journey. What a place and time to be alive and involved on the edges of the techno-human world.