The gift economy: Why I became a TWiST Producer

ThisWeekInStartupsWhen I decided to remove the shackles of the corporate cube and begin a career hustling software, my life changed forever. I worked for some great VC-backed companies for the next 13 years and became a denizen of the “friendly skies”, hotels and fast food. In October of 2002 I made a big decision, a decision that was made based upon the needs of my family more than my career aspirations.  I decided to buy a software company with a legacy product in south Florida where I was raised and focus on two things: 1). building a company in a niche industry and 2). spending more time with my family.

For many reasons, not the least of which is the special attention my son needs (A Life of Distraction), the decision to hang up my frequent flier wings was a good one. The impact on my career wasn’t apparent to me at the time, but as I look back at that inflection point I know in my heart it was the right decision. However it didn’t take long for me to become disconnected from the “techniverse”. My connections and knowledge of the industry began to atrophy.

My first blog post was in 2008, but it really wasn’t until Jan of 2010 that I decided to re-engage. I immersed myself in tech blogs and podcasts.  In March of that year I stumbled across Jason Calacanis and This Week in Start-ups (TWiST). My first listen was episode #46 whereby Jason interviewed David Heinemeier-Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37Signals. Jason and David have very different approaches to funding and building start-ups, but the debate was brilliant as their passion and philosphies about business rang through with such clarity.

TWiST has had a profound effect on how I think about business. It helped drive me to co-found a company called DzineBox to build an online communication platform to help home and business owners connect with architects and designers. This lead to the incubation of a couple other socially-driven platforms that have viral characteristics. As for my “day job”, the ideas expressed on TWiST have helped me come up with many market driven changes that are transforming a business founded on a legacy based accounting system into a web and mobile consumer focused application for various recreation industries.

In a nut shell, TWiST has helped to re-energize my entrepreneurial spirit and broaden my thinking. Every episode is a jolt of intellectual energy.

In May of this year I became a TWiST Producer. I wanted to get closer to the action and contribute to the show in some way. Helping to produce the show and interacting with fellow Producers is a huge benefit. When I tell people that I pay a monthly fee to be a part of the so called TWiST List, I get some blank stares. “You mean you pay to work for the show?” or “you give them money and valuable feedback?”. These people completely miss the point about the value I receive in kind by being associated with such a dynamic production like TWiST and the talented people involved in this process. The “backchannel” as we call it of e-mails, discussion board threads and Producer conference calls are of great value to anyone who engages in the process. But at the end of the day it’s all about contribution. Like anything, postive outcomes require participation and engagement.

  • Cam, love this post, especially this statement:
    “Every episode is a jolt of intellectual energy.”. So true! I started listening to TWiST from episode 1. Episode 46 is also one of my favorites. DHH totally squared off with Jason during that show, and both he and Jason deftly held their opposive views, stuck to their guns. I am sure Jason is proud to have you as a TWiST producer as you have a proven track record of success. Rock on yo! I look forward to learning from your insights.

  • Kyle

    Very good read. Specifically around the plains, trains, automobiles and cubicle lifestyle impact on our lifes and families. Congratulations on doing it your way!

  • Cam

    I, also, have a similar story. Used to sit in a NYC conference room w entrepreneuial companies coming through, making presentations every day. Now, I get that energy and insights through TWIST and this producer/backchannel group

  • Daniel de la Cruz

    Cam,

    It’s stories like these that make me get up in the morning and think ‘all this is not that bad after all’ 😉

    Congrats to where you got to and I wish you all the best for your future.

    Great to have you part of the TWIST producer list!!

    Cheers,
    Daniel de la Cruz
    @longlivemyword