Two Years Later. Learning to code. Picturelife funding. by Nate Westheimer

Learning what an Array is, two years ago.

Learning what an Array is, two years ago.

I was reminded a few weeks ago that I was upon my second anniversary of learning to code.

Yesterday, TechCrunch discovered that Picturelife has raised a $4 million Series A.

With these milestones, and along with the honor of speaking at The Flatiron School a few weeks ago, I've been thinking a lot about this journey of learning to code and founding a new company.

My first thought was how lucky I am to be working with the team I'm working with. I'll write a longer post next week about how we want to grow the team (maybe there's a role for you?), but we've started with an incredible foundation. Charles and Jacob are true visionaries. Chris, Joe, and Keith are true craftsmen. Luis has a sense of humor every startup needs. It's the team you dream of building stuff with and I'm lucky to be building stuff with them.

My second thought was about learning to code. I am so happy I am I wrote The HoPE Manifesto when I did. The information I had to share was so fresh then. When you go through these transformations a lesson learned is to just get stuff down on paper and out of your brain as it's happening. Today I have much less clarity about how to help others but I'll always have that document for myself and others.

So, onward! And if you haven't checked out Picturelife yet, please go download and give it a try!

What NY Tech Meetup and #nytech are all about. by Nate Westheimer

Wednesday night I attended VentureBeat's NYC launch party, which coincided with them honoring a few folks they felt have been influential in making NY tech what it's become.

As I was one of the folks on their list, they asked me to come and say a few word about NY Tech Meetup and the NY tech community.

The venue was full and I knew people wanted to get back to the open bar, so I make my remarks as fast as possible. But before the event I had prepared some thoughts to share, and so since I didn't get to share the full version at the event, I figured I should share the full version below:

Thanks Matt and Devindra. Matt Marshall was one of the first West Coast journalists to recognize this tech renaissance going on in NYC and I'm excited for their team and the New York tech community that VentureBeat is increasing their presence in the city.
I want to talk a bit about NY Tech Meetup and what receiving this honor means to me within the lens of our group's history.
As many of you know, the NY Tech Meetup was founded in 2004 as a way for Scott Heiferman to get people in a room together to show off the cool things they'd been working on. There wasn't talk of funding, or IPO trends. The NY Tech Meetup was founded purely from the joy of seeing and sharing new and interesting things, and celebrating everyone's work, no matter the commercial prospects or eventual "success" they might enjoy.
When I attended my first NY Tech Meetup, in January of 2007, instead of 10 people in the conference room, I found 200 people in an auditorium at Cooper Union, but the very same ethos was in play. Cool things were being shown off and everyone was just tickled to death that they lived in a city where other interesting people were working on interesting things and willing to share.
At the end of those early meetups, there was one more thing: Scott and Dawn let anyone -- seriously, anyone -- get up at the front of the stage and announce whatever: events, initiatives, open positions, stuff on the same night as the next Tech Meetup, whatever. The platform was for the community, and one day, in 2006, Charlie O'Donnell used that platform to announce a new group called nextNY.
I bring up Charlie and nextNY because, for several critically important years in the formation of the modern "NY Tech" ecosystem, nextNY was the hub of great discussions about what NY Tech was and what it would become. It was an unparalleled forum where founders and hackers could ask each other for advice and share lessons learned.
Without reservations, I can say NY Tech wouldn't be what it is today without those key years of a vibrant nextNY, and nextNY wouldn't have been what it was if Scott and Dawn hadn't operated the NY Tech Meetup in a way that always promoted the community, and never itself.
Fast forward to now and the NY Tech Meetup's has changed a bit. Today we have over 28,000 members and are operated by one of the best non profit executives in the Country, Jessica Lawrence, and best Board Chairs, Andrew Rasiej.
But while things have changed on the surface, we've worked extraordinarily hard at preserving that ethos that Scott and Dawn instilled in the organization from its earliest days: the idea that NY Tech Meetup, as an organization and as organizers, should be not be the center of ny tech, rather that leadership in this community needed to grow everywhere, and the NYTM should be a launchpad for new leadership, not a way to promote existing leaders.
So I think that NY Tech Meetup has successfully influenced the evolution of our ecosystem but most of all when we celebrate of the successes and ambitions of others. That's why we opened the stage to Charlie and nextNY in 2006, and what helped kick off Social Media Week and Internet Week in 2009, and started handing the stage to Camp Interactive in 2010, and what gave HackNY a place to launch and grow starting in 2011 and what brought dozens of organizations together for our successful protest of SOPA and PIPA in 2012.
And so, while I accept and appreciate the recognition here tonight, at the same time I want to remind ourselves and sing the praises of a community that cares less about the public recognition of "influencers" and more about a community that elevates new people and ideas with a vision that a rising tide lifts all boats.
That's the vision that has driven the NY Tech Meetup to its scale, that's the ethos that's driven the NY tech community to its vibrancy and unique culture, and that's the ethos that will keep NY tech growing and changing and remaining the best place on the planet to invent, share and celebrate new technology.
So thanks so much for the recognition. Now lets get back to celebrating everybody and every thing NY tech is all about.

WNYC by Nate Westheimer

I just supported a cool, innovative media project. They've promised to deliver me independent, smart, and investigative news and entertainment on a daily basis, and they've promised to deliver that content on the web, on my phone and even over the air.

No, I'm not talking about the latest Kickstarter phenomenon, I'm talking about WNYC -- New York City's public radio station.

As technologists, we readily embrace the future, but sometimes can't believe that our finest innovators may be an organization from the past.

WNYC is an incredibly important organization in the New York and global media landscape, and they continue to push the edges of journalism and entertainment in ways that bleed over to the mainstream and back to the cutting edge.

If you, like me, want to support the future of journalism and media for all, please go support WNYC today!

We Did That. by Nate Westheimer

Like many progressives, I spent the majority of the last four years feeling disappointed by Obama's presidency.

How pathetically amnesic of us.

In early September, I finally snapped out of it, due to one line from Obama's nomination acceptance speech which, I am quite sure, was designed, delivered and retired for people just like me. I've embedded the video here, and linked to it here.

You see, Obama's right. Four years ago, I was working for David S Rose. Since we both agreed that the election was a monumentally important one, he kindly agreed to let me take a leave of absence from Rose Tech Ventures, and I got on an Amtrak and went back to Ohio to work on the remainder of the campaign.

Now, this was no vacation. Campaigning is hard work - most of the time it totally sucks. Leaving a nice VC job is risky. But work needed to be done. I didn't really want to go door knocking and community organizing back home in Ohio, but I didn't want to have regrets either (remember the fun NoRegrets video I worked on with Fred Graver, Lindsay Campell, and Adam Quirk?)

So I went to Ohio and knocked on hundreds - if not thousands of doors. I organized an election day satellite office across the street from President Grant's birthplace. I brought my friends in from out of town. Drove a car in Obama's motorcade. And most importantly of all: I met a ton of amazing people along the way. (See some photos from the journey here.)

One of those people was Fran Ginn (remember me writing about her and sharing her words when I got back from Ohio four years ago?), and it was Fran I was thinking about last month when Obama reminded me that I Did That.

What did I do?

Why was I in Ohio, skipping out on "the good life" in New York?

I was in Ohio because Fran Ginn's husband had lost his manufacturing job and, since they both had preexisting conditions, they couldn't get health care.

To be blunt: I needed Obama to get elected because I needed American manufacturing to be believed in again and Fran needed a country that didn't tell her she had no right to health care. I believed Obama could do both.

I was also in Ohio because I believed my high school friends over seas in Iraq should be given a plan for coming home.

To be blunt: I needed Obama to get elected because I needed to know there would be an end to a war we shouldn't have been in in the first place. I believed Obama could do that.

I was also in Ohio because, in an era where civil rights for gay Americans was an actual question (on ballots, being debated, etc) and our nation's leading politicians wouldn't say directly and unreservedly that gay American's deserve equal, not separate, rights, we needed bravery and leadership.

To be blunt: I needed Obama to get elected because I needed to live in a country where the person holding the highest office in the land truly believed in equal rights for all and would fight for them.

So when Obama said "You Did That" last month, I was jolted out of my ho-hums about his presidency. To be honest, I was more than disappointed with myself for not realizing this earlier, but when I really thought about it, I couldn't believe what had happened in only one term:

You see, I was in Ohio so Fran could get health care and today she has health care.

I was in Ohio because I wanted to war in Iraq to end (hard to remember, but the McCain alternative was honestly no end in sight). And guess what? That war has ended.

I was in Ohio because I wanted someone to stand up to Don't Ask Don't Tell, and to push back on the Defense of Mariage Act and to publicly say they support gay mariage. And guess what? Obama has done all three things.

How often do the things you care most about, the biggest things a candidate promises to you, actually get done?

In politics, this never happens; not unless you have a politician willing to risk it all to make it happen. And not unless thousands of people like me fight to make sure she or he gets elected, and then fights again to get him or her re-elected.

You see, it's all on the line again. Substitute war in Iraq with war with Iran and Romney has literally promised that we'd go back to the way things were. Laws can get repealed, especially before they've been fully enacted, and so the stakes are very, very high.

This year, I'm not going back to Ohio. My role in my company is too critical this time around. However, I'm giving as much money as I can. If you think your tweet or wall post is enough to get this job done, you're completely wrong. Tweets and wall posts are nice, but they don't win elections.

If you're not going to Ohio to knock on doors this time around, then give money. If you don't want to give money, make phone calls. Door knocking and phone calls are still the only things that actually win elections and your money just helps buy phone minutes and paper for the walk lists a harder working volunteer than us will use in Ohio or Virginia or Wisconsin.

But whatever you do, don't sit here and wallow, thinking that somehow you didn't get what you signed up for four years ago. It's sad. It's sad because you got more than anyone could have really dreamed. You got it all. And by being sad about it, you're exhibiting an extraordinary amount of selfishness because you didn't get a higher level of debate in Washington -- just health care for your neighbor who actually needs it to live.

Don't be sad. Be happy. The world is a better place, and you did that in 2008.

We did that in 2008.

We can do it again.

Welcoming Flybridge to NYC by Nate Westheimer

As many of you know, I've been an Advisor to Flybridge Capital Partners for nearly three years.

I've been a big fan of Flybridge for many reasons, but I've especially appreciated their commitment to NYC and their early vision to invest here. Their major investments in iconic NY startups like 10Gen (MongoDB), and rising stars like 33Across and tracx, mean a lot to this community and help it continue to blossom as the major tech hub in the world.

Today, Flybridge is taking that commitment much farther and has some exciting news: Flybridge Managing Partner David Aronoff is opening a New York City office, he's brought my good friend, fellow Eggnog Latte loving, and wicked smart dude Matt Witheiler (Flybridge's Principal) down from Boston with him, and the team at Flybridge has savvily hired Caitlin Strandberg, one of NYC's rising stars in the tech scene, to be Flybridge's Associate here.

Flybridge has moved to NYC and moved big. Nearly half of their team now lives and works from New York City -- a first, as far as I know, for VC firms who were founded outside of New York.

So this is exciting, from me, for Flybridge, and for the New York Tech community. Please help me welcome them by giving @flybridgecap a shout-out on Twitter or by commenting below.