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Olson’s Observations

Technology. Innovation. Science. VC. Media. :: by Eric Olson

Archive for March, 2008

She Said Yes!

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After six great years together Laura and I are now officially engaged. She is the greatest woman in the world and I am very lucky to have her. I mean, let’s be honest, I am probably (definitely) not the easiest guy to live with considering my wacky company ideas and my myriad of interests and pursuits but she is able to do it and do it well. *cliche warning* She is definitely the yin to my yang. She balances me out and keeps me focused on what is important which is, well, important (man, should have headed over to thesaurus.com for that one).

If it wasn’t for Laura’s unwavering support I may never have taken the leap to move to Chicago and join FeedBurner which turned out to be the catalyst for many great things that have happened since including TECH cocktail, DFJ Portage and meeting all of my great friends here in Chicago. She packed up and moved here with me right away because she knew what a great opportunity FeedBurner was. Who could ask for better in a partner?

Babe, here’s to many, many more great years together. I am very much looking forward to continuing the adventure and to seeing where life takes us.

Written by Eric Olson

March 19th, 2008 at 12:12 pm

Posted in General Thoughts

Manufactured Landscapes: The Work of Edward Burtynsky

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Manufactured LandscapesWhen Manufactured Landscapes came up as a suggested film on Netflix I was immediately intrigued. What was this film about I wondered. So I took a look at the description and found that it was a documentary that focused on the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky.

Burtynsky has been photographing what he calls “manufactured landscapes” for over twenty years and his work is, quite frankly, breathtaking.

It all started with a missed direction on the highway that landed Burtynsky at a strip mining operation. This got him thinking of not only what a great photograph the mine would make but also about the harm we were doing to the planet. It was then that he set off to document, through fantastic photographs, what we as humans have done and are doing to our home.

What is great about Burtynsky though is the fact that his photographs don’t hammer you over the head with their environmental message. It is a very subtle message that you begin to realize only after looking at the photographs for a while. At first the photos simply look like interesting pieces of art but then, all of a sudden, you realize what you are really looking at and you have to take a step back and think.

If you’re not sure a whole film about Burtynsky’s work is for you I would suggest checking out his TED talk. I think you’ll be captivated by it and by his work.

Looking at a massive pile of tires or a sea of used electronics through the lens of Edward Burtynsky really makes you think about our impact on this planet. I hope you will check out the movie, Burtynsky’s work and his TED talk because I believe it will open your eyes.

Written by Eric Olson

March 19th, 2008 at 6:56 am

Crisis or Opportunity? My take on the Bear Stearns buyout

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Wow. Who would have thought a year ago that Bear Stearns would simply crumble like it did? The stock was around $140, things were looking good and, bam, the mortgage crisis hits and Bear Stearns stock enters into a tailspin that “ended” today at $4.10 per share (a couple bucks above the proposed buyout price of $2 which could mean shareholders are optimistic that the deal price will edge up in the coming days and weeks).

As a long time student of the financial markets (and not an owner of Bear Stearns stock) today was one of those days that gets me excited. Will there be a massive sell off? Further loss of wealth? Or will people be rational about things and take this situation for what it is, a “trimming of the fat” if you will?

With all the sensational media coverage early this morning I feared the worst. I figured investors would send the market into a downward spiral. Investors have overreacted in the past so why would today be any different? Then, Maria Bartoromo appeared on the TV and, lo and behold, was pretty rational about the situation.

Maria spoke about this situation being a good thing for markets long terms and suggested this was not a huge crisis of epic proportions and in fact a good thing. I almost fell off my couch not because Maria is usually sensationalist (she is usually level headed actually) but because she was the only media person not talking about doomsday. It was then that I had hope that this time things would be different.

As the day unfolded there was, as to be expected, a run to the big blue chip stocks sending the Dow up 21 points for the day (partly due to JP Morgan’s stock rising about 10% due to the deal). Holy smoke! It was up! Of course the S&P and the NASDAQ ended down but not by too much. They were only down 0.90% and 1.60% respectively at the close of trading and some companies in various sectors had OK to good days in both of those indices.

It seems that investors acted fairly reasonably today and recognized this situation for what it was: a consolidation that needed to happen in order to maintain stability and to allow things to push forward.

If anything today was a day to consider buying solid companies (which a lot of folks did) since a lot of them would be selling at a discount due only to the Bear Stearns sale and not to anything they could control. Today was a day for the smart value investors to step up and shine.

What a fascinating day. The mob could have ripped the markets to shreds but they didn’t. Well, I guess there is always tomorrow but for now I am impressed with how things turned out. Are investors getting smarter and more rational? Who knows but if today is any indication I think we’re heading in the right direction in terms of mindset.

Written by Eric Olson

March 17th, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Business, Investing

Brazen Careerist: Career Advice for Gen Y

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The Brazen CareeristThe Brazen Careerist has been a favorite blog of mine for quite some time now. Penelope Trunk’s writing style is a lot of fun to read and she manages to pack in a lot of great career information and insight into each post for the Gen Y folks out there.

Due to the success of Penelope’s blog, book and syndicated column she decided to start a new web property with the help of co-founders Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh (founders of Employee Evolution). The web property is called Brazen Careerist of course and it launched a couple of weeks back (yes, I am very late in writing this post).

The site consists of a blog network of Gen Y bloggers hand picked by the founding team along with Penelope’s blog at this point but they plan to expand the site to offer more career related features as time goes on.

I was flattered to be asked to join the Brazen Careerist blog network. There are some great bloggers on there now and I am sure it will grow to include even more. I also have the privilege of advising the Brazen Careerist team on a handful of things which I am enjoying.

If you are part of Gen Y and looking for career advice look no further than Brazen Careerist. Not part of Gen Y but looking to hire Gen Yers - you guessed it - Brazen Careerist is the place where you can learn more about the latest generation to enter the workforce.

Written by Eric Olson

March 17th, 2008 at 8:05 am

Posted in Work

Movie Review: Saints and Soldiers

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Saints and SoldiersI have always been a big fan of war films and and especially those that depict various WWII stories. It was for this reason that Saints and Soldiers caught my eye. Saints and Soldiers had won many film fest awards back when it first came out (2005) but, as we all know, awards don’t mean a given person will like a film.

There was something different about the awards this film was winning though. Saints and Soldiers was taking home all of the audience judged awards (as opposed to those judged by a panel). Could a number of film fest audiences be wrong?

Nope. They were spot on as far as I am concerned.

This film was fantastic from the very start and continued on to a powerful ending.

What I really loved about the movie was that it was very character driven. A number of scenes in the movie were there simply to allow the viewer to learn more about the five main characters. There was still a lot of action though so you action junkies won’t be disappointed.

The other thing I really loved about Saints and Soldiers was its’ historical nature. The event that both kicked off the film and inspired it was the Malmedy Massacre in which a number of U.S. soldiers were executed by the Germans. The film took off from that point and made sure to keep the historical accuracy at top of mind throughout. The costumes, weapons, vehicles and other gear were very true to life. Even the sound work was spot on.

I couldn’t believe that they made this film for under $1mm and I think you’ll feel the same way. This is a movie for those who like war films, history and great character driven stories so check it out if you fall into one or more of those categories. You won’t regret it.

Written by Eric Olson

March 16th, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Movie Reviews

Movie Review: The Darjeeling Limited

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The Darjeeling LimitedThis is a film I have been waiting to see for a while and by waiting I mean I was too busy to check it out in theaters and had to wait for the DVD from Netflix. I was unsure I would like as I assumed it would be a pretentious Wes Anderson film (and had read as much from some reviewers) but I was pleasantly surprised.

The Darjeeling Limited was a great character driven film that had me from the very beginning. Sure, the characters are quirky but the quirks of each really do work to tell the story rather than being random or there solely for comic relief.

Throughout the film the main characters, three brothers, try to shed the baggage their deceased father left behind (both literally and figuratively) and, just when they think their trip is a bust, they are put in a situation that shows the best in humanity and in themselves.

I highly recommend The Darjeeling Limited and it is especially good for those that enjoy a good dark comedy. Check it out and and let me know what you think in the comments.

Written by Eric Olson

March 15th, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Movie Reviews

TECH cocktail Boulder Wrap-up

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TECH cocktail Boulder MarqueeTECH cocktail Boulder has been a long time in the making. In fact, my friends at lijit have been nudging me for a while and I am glad they did because TECH cocktail Boulder was a blast. Everyone here has been so welcoming that I honestly wish I had another week or two to spend in Boulder to see all there is to see and to hang out with all the awesome folks I met. There is a thriving tech community here as is evidenced by all of the great web apps coming out of the Boulder area.

Speaking of web apps, four local companies were on hand last night showing off what they have been working on. Here are some brief descriptions of the companies so you can see which ones you may like to try:

Filtrbox: Business grade content monitoring and filtering for professionals and small businesses.

Newsgator: Consumer and enterprise feed reading and collaboration software.

SocialThing!: Digital life manager. Get all of your online “stuff” in one place.

SurveyGizmo: Survey creation tool.

Of course we wouldn’t be able to put on these events without the help of great sponsors and we had two outstanding ones for TECH cocktail Boulder.

First up was lijit. I am lucky enough to be able to call some of the lijit folks friends and they certainly made things happen in terms of helping us get TECH cocktail Boulder off the ground. If you’re looking for a great search widget for your blog please check them out. I love my lijit wijit. It is probably the most useful widget out there.

Second, last and certainly not least was skinnyCorp (threadless). These guys are friends from Chicago and they decided to not only make the trek down to Boulder for the event but also to sponsor the event for the benefit of the Boulder tech community. If you’re a t-shirt junkie like me make sure to check out threadless if you have a chance.

Along with these great sponsors we also had the benefit of some helping hands from DEMO. These guys helped us out with some logistics which made it much easier for us to plan the event from afar.

If you want to learn more about any of sponsors please head to their websites or check out our write up on them from a little while back.

Thank you again Boulder for having us. Frank and I had a great time and we hope to be back soon.

Written by Eric Olson

March 7th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Posted in TECH cocktail