Annoucing Red Bud Partners by Nate Westheimer

Note: For what ever reason, a few people have misconstrued that somehow this means I'm less involved in Picturelife. As I point out below, a primary reason I am doing this is because I live Picturelife 24/7. I don't think I'd be a good investor if I wasn't a fulltime entrepreneur -- and so I always will be.

Since 2006, I’ve invested much of my life into startups. Much of that journey has been documented here, on this blog.

But, many of you don’t know that my family has been investing in startups since the 1970s. It began with my grandpa Bob and great uncle Charles, and, since 1997, our family investments have been led by my dad, Dick Westheimer.

Red Bud Partners

Today, we’re proud to announce a new seed-stage investment fund called Red Bud Partners, focused on New York and focusing on what we’re calling “networked technology.” (More on that in a minute.)

Red Bud will be co-managed by Dick and me, and while we’ll be considering investments in Cincinnati and elsewhere in the world, our primary focus will be in New York City, where I work, live, and organize in startups 24/7. Though it may change in the future, we’re starting small, making our average investment size $25,000.

We believe there are several reasons why this is the perfect time to start a small fund in New York, and why we bring a unique combination of experience and insight to potential investments. We’ve already made one (unannounced) investment from this fund (and a number of investments from other vehicles) and can’t wait to add more to the portfolio.

Our Team

My dad, Dick, can be an executive’s or Board’s best friend. His steady hand has helped several startups succeed through challenging acquisitions and survive through hard times. It’s uncommon to have an angel investor who both wants to dive in and help you build financial models and coach you as you grow and learn the ropes as an executive.

Meanwhile, I provide the unique value to a startup that I wake up, eat, sleep and breathe a startup of my own. I know what entrepreneurs go  through not only because I’ve done it before, but because I’m also doing it now.

Investing in New York

We believe in and understand deeply the fundamentals of the early stage market here and what makes it work. Despite what some may fear, after a few years such explosive growth, our industry rests on an incredible foundation: its “maker” community. The best successes in New York have been from folks to make things and hustle to make their companies succeed. The supply of interesting people making worthwhile things in New York has only increased over the past few years and they will power our industry for years to come.

Networked Technology

Above I mentioned our thesis is to invest in “networked technology.” This idea comes from my observation over the past few years that “information technology” and “web technology” no longer describe everything that’s interesting. “Networked Technology” encompass not only incredible new web and mobile technology, but also the array of new hardware projects which are springing up showing great promise to change the world we live in. We want to invest in all of it.

Getting in Touch

Reaching out is not difficult. Both Dick and I can be reached at our first names @redbud.vc, my blog has a contact form that goes straight into my email, and, as always, you can just show up at my weekly office hours if that’s what suits you.

We can’t wait to meet you!

The Math and the Tears by Nate Westheimer

A lot has been said since Tuesday night about how "Math" won the election. Whether you're talking about The Church of Nate Silver or The Church of Jim Messina, a lot of people seemingly have found what they feel is the future of our Party.

I'm all for this movement to science in campaigns. After all, it was Obama's competency as a campaign organizer in 2008 that convinced many of us he'd be a great president. It's that competency that led him to hire a real FEMA director vs handing out the job to a buddy, or a Brownie, or a donor. In 2008, we made an argument that Obama was a smarter campaigner and therefore would be a smarter Administration. He is.

But, as we embrace the hard science of competent campaigns and administration -- as we hand power to those with big brains and powerful machines -- let's not leave empathy behind. 

This morning, a video was released of President Obama's speech to his campaign staff the morning after the election.

What's striking about this video (watch at least around 3:30) is how empathetic this man is. My friend Whitney Hess has done a much better job detailing how empathy played a role in this campaign, so I'll just add a few words of my own on this point:

President Obama has absolutely not been right on everything he's done, but I truly believe he has empathized with everyone he has touched. Even the people who disagree with him.

Obama's empathy is not the same as Clinton's infectious compassion or even Romney's impressive charity, but rather it's a trait that allows him to make extraordinarily tough decisions which end up being good for the future of this country: decisions where not everyone feels like they got what they wanted, but that feel like America and the World are headed in the right path.

And so, while we embrace Math as the future of how we win campaigns, let's not forget that empathy is how we should definite what we're campaigning about.

If we forget that, we'll end up like the other side, and who could feel for us then.

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 Meetup.com 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!