Nara day!

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Tom, Nathan and I goofing in our hallway

Years ago, I used to sign off email with Happy day! I don’t recall how it started or even how it stopped, like most things it was gradual. I do know I missed it being “my” signature. There was something about typing it that reminded me — and hopefully the recipient — to smile a bit more.

I was quite far into discussions regarding signing on as president of Nara Logics when I found out Nara has the Greek meaning of happy. So while I will share all the logical reasons I’ve joined the team, like the trend to practice gratitude, I know the practice of wishing happiness works. I’m looking forward to many Nara days ahead!

Now that you know I am smiling broadly, let me fill you in on why it is not just my heart, but my head leading this. About a year ago, it was time for me to take a step back and a breath, and figure out Jana++. I spent the time learning, both from the perspective of what was happening in the industry and what aspects in my career were missing. About a week after I declared to a few of my mentors that a role “where science meets business” was a likely focus for me, a headhunter called and said, “I found your next role.” I chuckled when he described the MIT neuroscience that is the basis of the company, thinking, wow, sometimes when you throw something out into the universe it comes back to you FAST.

I had been dabbling in a bit of research on the state of artificial intelligence, and felt about it how Kevin Kelly does in “You are not late” — we are at the early stages with great opportunity. Talking to Nathan, Nara’s co-founder and CTO (who is not only brilliant but a kind and delightful person), I got an understanding of how Nara’s approach is different, being based on the latest understandings of how our brain works. I called one of my buddies from my days at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who has stayed on the research side of life, having a successful and fascinating career in cognitive sciences. He gave me the “these guys are legit” thumbs up on Nathan’s background. (Actually, it was quite a bit stronger than this; the words “world class”, “best”, “leaders”, “amazing” were used, but I know how humble Nathan is.) And, the more I talked with Nathan, the more I learned about how we think, and how Nara is representing that in a technology platform.

Oh, I see I’ve gone on too long without stating what Nara actually does. Nara Logics uses neuroscience-based artificial intelligence and machine learning to take the loads of data we have in life today and help you take smart actions from it. As humans, we can’t process as much information as machines can. And machines can’t process that information in more refined ways we do. The “neural” part of what Nara is doing is mimicking the way we store information in our brains with many different links to that information. Based on different stimulus, like say being in a neighborhood or being served a certain dish, we can recall the name of a restaurant for example. We have loads of information stored and the stimuli that are applied helps us recall the right piece of information. Now, imagine if we applied that stimuli and our brains could tell us not only that one thing, but also others that have those same attributes? We get recall AND learning!

Where can this go? The possibilities are vast, likely endless. Think of all of the decisions we make each day. What if we did have support for making them, but not only based on the information our brains have, but all the information available on that topic? For me, this is an opportunity to take another giant leap towards making technology work for us, versus us working at technology.

…Which leads me to Tom, the visionary and entrepreneur behind Nara Logics. Tom started off with a vision of removing friction from people’s lives. He had done this already literally with one of his ventures, BodyGlide — as a triathlete I LOVE him for this product! This time he wanted to focus on the growing amount of information we are trying to process and how difficult the technology we have to solve this remained. On his own, Tom began searching for who was doing the leading research in how we think, in an effort to figure out how we can make technology work more like us. Long story short, this led him to MIT, which led him to Nathan, and four years later, there’s a revenue-generating company. You can tell from this snippet that Tom’s a remarkable person — a visionary who relentlessly pursues his vision to make it a reality, an entrepreneur who has already delivered ground breaking products, and someone who finds the right people to support his ventures, but it doesn’t tell you what a fantastic person he is. He is one of the most, if not the most, self aware people I have ever known. It is fabulous to be around.

I have so much more to say about Nara, but that will come. What I wanted to add to this note, in the words of J. Cole “I’m coming home… Back where I belong … I’ve never felt so strong”. While I thought for awhile I would end up in Silicon Valley, I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be headed back to Boston. So what’s on my shirt today? Can’t resist it…

617 > 650

My Sunday muse: a browser share graph




This week Adobe released some browser share stats. I saw the graph and saved the article, thinking it was tweetworthy. The big news was Chrome/Android passing IE for browsing dominance. And I agree, that’s newsworthy. But as I thought about my precious 140 characters and the message that was useful to convey, I realized there was a more-than-140-characters story to tell.

So here’s my muse…



And here’s the thinking she inspired in me today…

When we see a graph like this a typical response is “those idiots at Microsoft were fools for not seeing this and doing something about it. Big companies can’t innovate…sigh.” Let me leave the big company bashing and answer why Microsoft didn’t see this. It was because of how they (the browser team) defined themselves. They were likely looking at graphs like this one:


See that IE share is growing? Does that surprise you, especially when you look at the overall graph then this one? Stats can easily mislead us, especially when we want to believe something. Stats can play tricks on our brain. I’m reminded of an awesome painting I saw this weekend at Robert Lange Studios: Embracing the Illusion


An illusion can be subtle. I won’t belabor this point further; I know you all are smart and get it.

The question is how do we combat it? It is so easy to get caught in our illusions — big company, start up, new product, old product, and even in how we define ourselves. How do we not lie to ourselves and become the fabled boiled frog?

I vote for Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle from Start with Why. What if, for example, the Internet Explorer team started with the why of “we ensure people find what’s interesting to them wherever, whenever”, not starting with their “what” of “we are a browser for the internet”?

Apple did not define themselves as a computer company. If they did, would they ever have come up with the iPod, which led to the iPhone and then the iPad. 

Once the IE team started with the idea of ensuring people find what is interesting to them, they might think about how people define what’s interesting to them. Many people view that as recommendations from a friend. And that might have led them to this study from ShareThis that shows that the mobile web is 2x more social than the desktop web. Wow, if I am in a market where I find a channel with 2x the leverage of my traditional channel — note desktop just becomes a channel for interesting stuff versus the product — I’m going to take it!

So now you know how I spent my Sunday… by the pool thinking about how we all limit ourselves, and what are the ways of overcoming that. Inspired by another of Robert Lange’s paintings, my shirt today says:

Aspiring to be,
free from illusions

If Håkon Kornstad can learn opera, I can write a blog post

I am not even going to start on the fact that it has taken me almost 3 months to sit down and write my “first” post. We are just going to move on from here, OK? Together, right?

So, last night, I was running late and almost decided not to attend Håkon’s show because my to do list was behind me mocking my progress. And, being honest, I was solo, which always adds another barrier/excuse. I tell you this, in case you get in that headspace sometimes too in hopes you remember this story and step away from the computer, hold your own hand, and GO!

OK, so why am I so glad I went? It wasn’t the music, which was fabulous. I was intrigued by mixing jazz and opera which is why I chose the tickets. I like mashups and especially ones that make you think… push your boundaries. I was expecting that, and the performance fulfilled that.

What I wasn’t expecting was to find out that he started opera at thirty two with no prior singing experience. Let me tell you why this is exceptional:

  • Most of us don’t reinvent ourselves or our products.
  • Most successful people wouldn’t take the risk once successful.
  • Most of us don’t see opportunities.

I’m not bashing “us”. I think we do amazing things. But I do wonder — actually I admit it — I believe we have lost opportunity in our amazingness. Let me tell you his story, so you really understand what a risk he took and how beautifully it turned out…

After just releasing his second solo album (you don’t get a 2nd if your first isn’t successful), he went to NYC for inspiration. A friend invited him to an opera. He wasn’t excited about going but did. In the opening scene, he cried at the power of the voices. He became a fan. He happened into a gig with an opera singer. They ended up at dinner. He mentioned wanting to learn to sing and a week after seeing his first ever opera, he was in said singer’s instructors house learning to sing. Months later, he was enrolled in opera school in Norway. And now, he’s a celebrated 2x tenor — tenor sax and tenor voice.

Now, what’s key here is NOT that he’s successful. Though I didn’t talk to him about it, I’m pretty sure from hearing him talk and perform, he would have said, even if he hadn’t found he had a fantastic voice, he would have been a better saxophonist for the experience of attending the opera. He would have been richer again for meeting an opera singer. He would have been richer again for the instructor and the school and the opportunity to try.

Think through all those steps and realize what it took for him to get there. Many little steps following an opportunity. None were guaranteed to work, but each was guaranteed to move him closer to a found passion. Remember when he first went to the opera, he wasn’t going to find a passion. And when he met the opera singer, he wasn’t thinking he would find a teacher from that. All of these things happened because he felt AND observed AND took a step forward. Not a giant leap each time, right? A step following an inspiration, not a plan.

I always encourage folks to fall in love with their customer’s problems, not their solution to those problems. This is such a beautiful example of that… he fell in love with opera, not being an opera singer. But he saw steps along the way to get closer to opera and he took them. Yes, he ended up an artist that mashes up opera and jazz, successfully as a career. He could have hated opera. He could have ended up an opera fan. He could have ended up marrying an opera singer. He could have used it as inspiration for his jazz. So many opportunities from one little problem of missing inspiration. The way it turned out is just one success that was possible!

So, when I first started, I thought what was on my shirt was “inch by inch, life’s a cinch”. But as I wrote I changed shirts, I’m now wearing:

❤ problems

w/o them, we’d have fewer, if any, opportunities for success!