Re-Vinyl Demo Day Video

Well the whole team is back in LA now and it’s awesome. Really busy, but awesome. We’re finding that every element of the future music system is here and in full swing. Plus, it’s desperate for a big change.

Big gratitude for everyone in New York who brought us from Freshmen to Seniors through the DreamIt program. Especially to our mentor/mother-in-law Laurie Racine at Startl. And Mark Wachen at DreamIt for believing in my rap powers. WE LOVE YOU ALL!

We had another great demo event with Schmoozd in Santa Monica this week and it’s great to be splashing into another completely different startup land. LA is not New York.

We’re happy to be back at the Annenberg Innovation Lab, but we haven’t forgotten about New York. I’ll be back on the east coast from September 20th to 27th to take meetings and continue building relationships on the other coast.

For those of you just meeting us in LA or those who didn’t get to attend DreamIt’s demo day in New York, here is the video from our pitch:

We’ve got a big job to do and we’re going to need all the help we can get. Brace yourself for some really cool media coming out in the next week featuring some of the artists we’re working with.




Learning Tools to Wax On and Wax Off – Mr. Miyagi Where You At?

I can’t stop learning. I don’t think that’s a confession. I hope it isn’t a confession. It’s more a statement that should be recognized as universal.

I can’t stop learning. We – the people – can’t stop learning.

But where is the learning happening? And how is it happening?

Kids from 8-18 are consuming approximately 10 hours of media a day. Minority youth are closer to 13 hours a day. That’s important.

How are schools around the world coping with this digital/media revolution?

A 2010 study done by PBS and Grunwald Associates shows that nearly all K-12 teachers use some form of digital media–including interactive games, activities, lesson plans, and simulations–for learning…more than 62 percent report that they use digital media frequently (two times a week or more) and nearly 24 percent report that they use digital media every day for classroom instruction.

By 2015 the entire nation of South Korea will have completely digital textbooks for all of their K-12 students. Technology must be used as a tool to reach and engage students. Companies like Piazza have come from groups of students given the license to collaborate and create with digital technology.

The desire for student driven content is increasing at such a rate that old models of “top down” publishing will no longer be able to sustain the weight of educational demand. Last summer the U.S. Department of Education announced the creation of its National Learning Registry, an on-line reservoir for digital learning content from all over the nation.

But what tools do students and teachers have to critically examine this content? Where will they get them?

There are no real start to finish tools that create engaging, 21st century content made FOR the people BY the people.

Until students begin to see the deep value of learning made relevant to them – what are their role models for learning? Where do they look for these role models? In the media!

The kind of lessons learned by Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye about life, family, love, anger, honesty, and friendship have resonated with youth in the decades since the film was made.

The legendary car scene teaches a necessary life lesson under three minutes – that is efficient education.

Learning happens through experimentation and memories linked to tactile experience:

The 1999 cinematic masterpiece, “The Wood“, starring Omar Epps highlights the journey of three best friends growing up in Inglewood, California.

Learning happens through experimentation and memories linked to tactile experience:

The deep philosophy of Mr. Miyagi was eternally embedded into the human psyche through The Karate Kid. A simple four words demonstrate the power of a balanced universe and self-knowledge found through inner peace. These powerful words were then repeated by Jackie Chan to remind a new generation of what they may have forgotten.

Learning happens through experimentation and memories linked to tactile experience:

Learning happens when it’s not forced. When you’re comfortable and you’re motivated and you feel like your actions will bring something valuable into the world. Learning happens when you do the unexpected. Learning happens through risk-taking, through drastic circumstances, and through tension resolved by breaking through.

Let’s not be afraid of the unknown. Let’s see what we can come up with together, but we must have the tools to experiment first.

PS – newquill

Lessons Learned from a Startup: Beta Testing

This picture is funny because it’s for Diablo 3 which has been in development almost since I was fifteen years old, but it’s not funny because it makes beta testing looking terrifying. That is the stereotype in the tech world. This stereotype is not only wrong, it is dangerous. Beta testing is the most important thing a startup can do and too many times does ego and fear stop companies from learning valuable lessons early in the game.

Beta testing is cute, fun, and should be more like this:

We just had our second beta testing session with teachers from New York City. But no matter how many teachers we invite, people representative of some amazingly diverse fields including design, journalism, and software development show up! And they all give the amazing feedback that we need!

Beta testing Saturdays are my favorite day of the week. Not only because we get awesome feedback on our product, but because we meet the most fascinating people! In the digital world of tech startups they are, you know, REAL people! Let’s not forget about the people that will pay for and use the product!

So this is an important lesson to learn, startups. Do beta testing! Bring them to you! Get a response from your users as soon as possible. In a world that is the most primed for scientific experimentation, you should be living life on the edge. Don’t be afraid to fail! The sooner you fail the faster you can get up and keep going. The sooner you recognize a problem the sooner you can fix it. It’s good for everyone.

Bharani, CEO of LearnBop, an adapted learning platform for students and teachers, introduced today’s event, Disrupt-Ed, by saying: “We want you to break the products.”

It’s true. We need you to.

Every incubator/accelerator in the country – and there are many now (DreamiT comes in at #9) should have built-in beta testing. Seriously. No excuses. We work so constantly that we rarely have time to get outside of the workspace. So, that’s ok, bring testers to you! Buy them some sandwiches, dumplings, whatever, but don’t act like you don’t have anything to learn!

We came up with the idea because it met a need. The four education focused Startl teams came together and we each pitched in what we knew how to do.

Bharani is a great organizer. Jorge and Alejandro of are amazing web developers who made the website for the events in a day. And me? Well I just wrote the copy and have a big smile waiting for people when they come in.

Don’t let incubators take on the same silo mantality that universities have! Look around you, look at the strengths offered, and utilize them for the benefit of the investors, entrepreneurs, and users!

Business is all about relationships! I can’t stress this enough! Sometimes I think that business is, in many ways, actually just an excuse for having relationships with people. We all crave meaningful relationships and ways to further our personal growth and an understanding of ourselves. Business is a powerful tool to do that – it also makes you a bunch of cash if you’re successful at it. And what does being successful mean? It means having good relationships with your users, with your investors, and with your team.

So – what kind of feedback did we get? Well, for one, we learned to make sure that everything you do that involves your business is social. And who better to teach us but this amazing man, @MoKrochal . According to his business card Mo is a “Journalist, Educator, Beta Tester.” Man – this man is an angel for startups! And he hit us with the truth:

I don’t want to be an author – I want to be an educator.

I don’t want to take all the time to structure, edit, and publish my ideas.

I want to be able to share, learn, and teach instantly.

I want to painlessly get my ideas out to the world.

We also heard this from other beta testers:

I want to use newquill as an advertising platform.

I want a prezi like template.

I want to be able to translate my quill into different languages.

I want to be able to send this information to others and let them respond and edit it in case I am incorrect.

I want to be able to easily annotate and assemble my content.

Well, Mo and others, we’re listening. This next week of development is for you. We’re on our way! Can you feel it?

Inspirations for newquill: New Media Literacies – Collective Intelligence

Incubators are vocational schools. I’m not Mark Suster or Fred Wilson, but that statement deserves to get pasted all over the blogosphere.

What makes up a vocational school? We’ve first got to scrub our minds of what we’ve come to think of vocational schools. They aren’t limited. They don’t prepare us for low wage jobs. They don’t lack resources. Vocational education prepares its students for particular occupations or teaches particular skills. In our case, they teach us to build technology and sell it.


In the last month this is exactly what I’ve experienced.

I’ve learned how to network, market a product, and be a better leader.

Ryan has learned HTML, java script, and Ruby.

Robert has learned HTML and how to create .ePubs.

And Jackie is learning new English words on a daily basis along with new aspects of Objective-C.

And why are we learning all these things? To create an iPad/iPhone application that will change education from the ground up. We also do it to have a product for the market at the end of the day. But we’re also doing it because we love to learn – and we are getting something here that we are not getting in our traditional schooling.

Compare these pictures:

The first was taken at the Tuskegee Institute in 1902. The second was taken at Dreamit in 2011. Is it difficult to accept that the Tuskegee Institute was the foundation and inspiration for today’s tech incubators?

W.E.B. Dubois says this about the first vocational schools in his Atlantic essay from 1902, “Of the Training of Black Men.”

“The industrial school springing to notice in this decade…was the proffered answer to this combined educational and economic crisis, and an answer of singular wisdom and timeliness. From the very first in nearly all the schools some attention had been given to training in handiwork, but now this training first raised to a dignity that brought it in direct touch with the South’s magnificent industrial development…”

The incubator system was created in response to the 21st century’s “combined educational and economic crisis.”

Paul Graham started the first incubator, Y-Combinator, in 2005. In a Wired article from this year, they call Y-Combinator “A boot camp for start-ups.” Why don’t they just call it what it really is? A technical school founded and governed by a really intelligent principal. Is Paul Graham a reborn Booker T. Washington? Is Y-Combinator an iteration of the Tuskegee Institute?

The glamor shots in that article make it nearly impossible for us to recognize the similarities, but let’s look at the words and philosophies of the founders:

“In industry the foundation must be laid–that the very best service which any one can render to what is called the higher education is to teach the present generation to provide a material or industrial foundation. On such a foundation as this will grow habits of thrift, a love of work, economy, ownership of property, bank accounts. Out of it in the future will grow practical education, professional education, positions of public responsibility. Out of it will grow moral and religious strength. Out of it will grow wealth from which alone can come leisure and the opportunity for the enjoyment of literature and the fine arts.” – Booker T. Washington, “Industrial Education for the Negro,” 1903.

“About a month after we started Y-Combinator we came up with the phrase that became our motto: Make something people want…another thing we tell founders is not to worry too much about the business model, at least at first. Not because making money is unimportant, but because it’s so much easier than building something great…Morale is tremendously important to a startup – so important that morale alone is almost enough to determine success…Here’s where benevolence comes in. If you feel you’re really helping people, you’ll keep working even when it seems like your startup is doomed…the mere fact that someone needs you makes you want to help them…another advantage of being good is that it makes other people want to help you.” – Paul Graham, Be Good, 2008.

That doesn’t sound too different to me. I have always believed that there is nothing new under the sun. This helps keep you humble when you’re the CEO of a company bringing amazingly revolutionary disruptive progress in the social/mobile ed-tech market. I don’t take credit for what we’re creating. I give credit to my students who asked for a solution to a problem. They asked for tools that made sense to them in the spaces where they are located.

Just like how Dean Kamen got sick of walking everywhere and figured out how to create a roman chariot to make it look like he was floating around, just like Peter Dering got sick of hanging his camera around his neck like an aping idiot, we all create when we see a problem and feel empowered.

But many of our nation’s youth don’t feel empowered. So we’re forced to fill our incubators with young people who have been raised in mostly loving, nurturing, and supportive homes. And if they weren’t, they found it somewhere along the line. And it allows them to take risks confidently. Like I’ve said before, success in the start-up game is all about being fearless. These are the same students who attend our nation’s most prestigious universities. And these labels, sometimes more than abilities, give them the self-confidence to call themselves entrepreneurs.

How can we bring this culture of innovation to our youth sooner than later? How can we make them see learning as relevant and engaging? How can we begin mentor programs that encourage our children to see themselves as creators? We start by creating with them.

And that’s why incubators, and vocational schools, are brilliant. They bring people together to accomplish a collective intention centered around creation. It creates the perfect atmosphere that matches exactly W.E.B. Dubois’ call for the system that would rip away chains rather than impose them:

“To make here in human education that ever necessary combination of the permanent and the contingent — of the ideal and the practical in workable equilibrium — has been there, as it ever must in every age and place, a matter of infinite experiment and frequent mistakes.”

Incubators, no more than the first vocational schools, are learning laboratories. That is what this nation needs. But this nation needs it for everyone. I don’t have any data, but I’m willing to say that the demographics of incubators are similar to the demographics of the top ten universities. This is unacceptable. 21st century vocational schools (incubators) need to include and support every kind of young person with a variety of backgrounds.

I am proud to be a part of Dreamit because of their Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP). But the tech scene needs more of this. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois were the first pioneers of incubation thought – both were amazing bloggers for their time, also. We need to bring this new kind of thinking even further.

We must further explore what Washington and Dubois started to see over a hundred years ago – although they could not have articulated it because they didn’t have the research of Einstein, Bohr, and Wheeler like we do today.

This new kind of learning laboratory requires a new kind of science that we call quantum mechanics.

The old school system, and the old science, followed the assumptions of Newtonian science that conclude that we all have private minds. This view defined the universe as fundamentally separate, irreducible parts.

Incubators require a breaking of the fetters of the private mind. Incubators take the bets they do because they invest in collective intelligence. They invest in the “flow” of a bunch of brilliant minds coming together to create. Revelations like Bell’s thereom, now proven, require us to completely rethink our assumptions about connectivity and collective potential.

This is what any good educational institution should be doing – investing in collective intelligence. And, for any student-teacher wanting to learn more about best practices, incubators are the place they should be. That’s why I’m here.

We live in a new world now. We live in a quantum world where the universe is non-locally, suppositionally entangled. This new paradigm requires a new system of learning. It requires a new student. It requires a new teacher. It requires a new quill.

Inspirations for newquill: New Media Literacies – Distributed Cognition

What tools are needed to transition the people from consumers to creators?

For hundreds of years the “old quill” has dictated what people could say and how they could communicate. Communication was for the privileged, educated, and the powerful. The “newquill” is not for the privileged, it is for the masses. It allows you to educate yourself. And it makes you powerful beyond belief.

Mass communication started with the African drum. Through a series of hand beats on some animal skin one could send messages to people miles away. Music has always served as a powerful tool, requiring specific instruments to give rise to the message. Instruments have, traditionally, been for the privileged, the educated, and the powerful. That began to change in the 20th century. And now everyone has access.

I visited with the founder and executive director, Ebenezer Bond, of World Up today at their funky office in SoHo today. We got into an intense discussion of hip hop and why it’s important to the world. Ebenezer told me, “The most ubiquitous musical genre in human history is hip hop. Why? Because it is comprised of the most simple, and important, aspects of communication – the voice and the drum.”

Hip hop gives us all a voice by giving us the drum. Hip hop is distributed cognition personified. We do not need to know musical charts, spend painful hours of practice, or spend money on luxury items. All we need to do is speak. We have the tools within us.

Then why don’t more people engage in hip hop creation? People have a voice – but do all people have a drum? I’d say that we do; however, just like we must learn how to speak, we must be trained to learn how to hear the drum.

Freestyle is a practice – not just through verbal flow, but learning to live life like a freestyle: to be spontaneous, to be fearless, to speak your mind, to mentally battle the forces that oppress you.

Here is my challenge: Try to freestyle. Do it anywhere – by yourself if you’re embarrassed (though you SHOULDN’T be!) Do it in the shower, do it walking down the street, under your breath, in your head. Listen for the drum. Then, when you hear it, speak your mind.

newquill will democratize 21st century writing. You don’t have to go to film school. You don’t have to take classes on studio production. You just need to speak up and know that the world wants to hear what you really have to say.

The world doesn’t want to hear another cheap rap knock-off. The world doesn’t need another thug, another gangster, another wannabe. The world needs you.

newquill will give you the tools to share your authentic voice with the world. newquill wants you to own what you create. newquill needs you to understand how much power you have inside of you! Your fingers are the newquill! Your mind is the ink! Your heart is the drum beat! You have everything you need!

We here at newquill know that the next generation wants to create. And, more than that, we know that they can create the most amazing works of art the world has ever seen. We know that they will startle the world with their displays of passion and awareness.

And here’s all the inspiration you need.

Take this beat and let it be consecrated frequency:

(0:15)I still dream about it,
not about the business,
but about the learning.
Yes, all about the listening.
The world is awakening.
The slumbering is shifting.
And I can feel the weight of the world finally lifting. 
I wonder if it’s only me,
how can l face the system?
Thank God that it isn’t. I can march with the million.
Why do we miss the targets
yet we’re shooting at our children?
They are not clay pigeons
yet we’re shooting them with symptoms –
sick, misfired pistons –
Detroit selling prisons. 
What happened to our vision?
Since 1983 we’ve been a Nation at Risk,
for some time now we’ve been blindly lead by Oedipus.
And here we are in the future and not a thing has changed,
but with newquill I know it can: wait for 2014.
Now we’ve gatling gunned our mission,
let me ask Henry Jenkins, is this a true example of distributed cognition?

Building Bridges

When we first conceived newquill, we paired it with a production studio idea that we called “pont-fx.” Pontifex is Latin for “greatest bridge maker.” Over the last two days of the Venture Capital in Education Summit  put on by STARTL, I’ve thought a lot about this idea of bridge building.

The audience of the event was mixed: entrepreneurs, vcs, publishers, and superheroes. From what I hear, last year the event had a completely different feel. There were droves of people trying to talk to the publishers and a line of people trying to get a business card into Fred Wilson’s pocket. This year? Not so much.

This year was all about entrepreneurs partnering with entrepreneurs. The secret is out. Education doesn’t innovate quickly. *gasp*

So most of the young people at the conference – entrepreneurs – avoided the big dogs and spent most of their time playing with the other pups. I know I certainly did.

I heard people complaining of the kind of “attitude” the older and more experienced investors and publishers held that made them come across as patronizing or snobbish. They asked you a few questions: how many users do you have, what school did you go to, and how are you going to make money? We don’t need that!

Those weren’t the conversations that entrepreneurs were having with each other. One conversation that I found myself in went a little something like this:

“You’re doing tablets? I’m doing tablets. What are you doing?”

“Well – we’re a creative suite, content creation and publishing platform for iPad. You?”

“Cool! We’re a real time writing app on the iPad. What does that guy do?”

“Oh – he makes tablets for the educational space.”

“Why don’t we make apps that will work on his platform and then bundle them into an education package?”

“Hey! That sounds great! Then we can get the bundled tablet to the guy who started Atari and Chuckee Cheese, Nolan Bushnell.

“You down, Nolan?”

“Hell yes! I need all the cool stuff I can get in my HYPERSCHOOL in LA! My hyperschool has a class where kids play Dance Dance Revolution for exercise, they learn coding through game mechanics, and then they create their own games and software, sell them, and use the profits to fund their own education!”


“Hey! Let’s all just connect our companies, ideas, and start our own school! Then we’ll have a proof of concept for how education can REALLY change. We’ll get our products through the school, and we won’t have to play this ridiculous waiting game for a bunch of these venture capitalists who are afraid to take the only risks that matter.”

And that – ladies and gentlemen – should be the new model of entrepreneurship. Collectives that partner talent, product, and purpose to bring all the puzzle pieces together. That is, actually, what all incubators should really be. But they aren’t. Why? People want control, still. And the vision for change isn’t laser focused yet. But there’s no reason it can’t be.
And this brings me to the Moses theory mentioned at the conference today.

Moses brought the children of Israel to the promised land, but couldn’t come with them. He had to wait and simply “drop them off.” So, evidently, the older generation feels a bit like Moses. They’ve created this wild thing called the internet, but they can’t really come into the promised land because it’s changed so drastically. They don’t understand the new landscape!

So that’s the BELIEF – but I think it’s only a belief. The truth is that we need bridges. We need Jeff Bridges, Lloyd Bridges, Nash Bridges, all the bridges we can get.










We need more Nolan Bushnells, willing to take wild risks by completely flipping traditional models upside-down. We need more true partnership and mutual support.

Venture Capitalists in the education tech space need to be mentors, coaches, first and foremost. Then they can act as agents, brokers, and business people. We don’t care about cash – as much. We care about critical mass and impact. Then we care about the cash.

Publishers need to let go of models and the steel-trap idea of “professional content.”

Teachers need all the help they can get to make their absurdly difficult jobs easier. It was also mentioned today, after the WSJ article on Apple Stores, that teachers should be more like Apple store employees – without individuality, yet with intelligence, grace and service.

The new business generation needs the experience, insight, and confident experience of the older generation. They’re seasoned and strong – not over the hill.  We’re fresh and optimistic – not untouchable.

We need to connect with one another, we need to create together, fail together, all develop the 21st century skills of honing critical thinking and building human relationships together. This is our world – and we need each other.

But, most importantly, we need the buy-in for the users and real stakeholders in the education space: teachers and students!

Next time there’s an education summit it should be mostly teachers and students, a bunch of entrepreneurs who really care, and a handful of the most brilliant, visionary investors in the world (not just country). The model will be reversed. The investors, entrepreneurs, and teachers will listen to what teachers and students want. Then the entrepreneurs will beta their products and the teachers and students will use them. There will be a lot of honest discovery happening and very few assumptions made.

We need each other – equally. We need companies, cash, new schools, and applications for new technologies – not equally. But that doesn’t matter! All that matters is we start – now. Let’s fly!