I’m sitting by Gate 15 at JFK (Jet Blue), by myself in a corner charging up the laptop. I’m struck by how surreal things feel right now. There are maybe two other people (that I can see) here, aside from six airport staff (four of which are struggling with a malfunctioning door alarm. I don’t actually hear the alarm, as I’m wearing a badass pair of Skullcandy Titan earbuds. I made the mistake of taking them out a few minutes ago, and OMG that alarm is piercing. That means the noise cancelling on these $39.99 headphones is pretty damn awesome. I recommend!

Anyway, back to surreal in JFK. I’m listening to some decent tunes…already gone through some Cloud Cult, Jordin Sparks, Cake, Teddybears, Daft Punk, Bomb the Bass, Robyn, La Roux, Hybrid, Gipsy Kings, and Utah Saints (hey, I like variety). I feel a little disjointed, kind of like I’m not really here, or I am only partially here. Time is passing pretty slowly, but also pretty fast. This isn’t the first time I’ve effectively stayed at an airport all night, but it is nowhere as bad as it could be (or has been in the past).

I’m feeling pretty contemplative…thinking back over the panel I was on at Comic Con NYC with Alex Macris and Greg Costikyan titled “I’m From the Future and I LARP: Augmented Reality, Role Playing and You”. There were a lot of great questions and I met some interesting people, but in retrospect I feel like I could have answered some questions better. For the few people that got my email address at the end, I hope they follow through and contact me with their questions.

I was only at the Con for today, which kind of sucks, as I didn’t get to see everything, but I did get to hang out with the folks from the Escapist (I love these guys), and I got to meet Karl Kerschl, the creator of The Abominable Charles Christopher, one of my absolute favorite webcomics. I ordered one of his books a couple months ago and paid extra for the autograph/custom sketch inside the cover. I picked it up today and watched as Karl blew my mind with a quick sketch (I’ll scan and add to this post later). I swear, it doesn’t look like he penned it on the spot…it looks like it was printed. Yeah, he is that good. I am totally a fan. He is amazing.

Anyway, after everything was over, I hooked up with Chris Grayson (@chrisgrayson) for several hours. Chris is a great guy and a great host. We chatted about a lot of things, but mostly about advertising, marketing, broadcast, mobile, virtual, augmented, and so on. Very good stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And then he had to go home and I had to head here to the airport.

I’m thinking now about how long it has been since I last posted here (January?!). So much has happened since then. I’ve been to a couple of events (usually as a speaker or keynote) and I’ve missed some big ones…SXSW, ARE, E3, ISMAR, etc. Really sucks. On the other hand, I’ve been completely busy with some family stuff and working to keep my startup cranking. I think we are up to 13 or 14 people now, and we are flying. I’d kill for another local mobile developer (Raleigh NC baby!), but we are doing pretty good. Yes, we are several weeks behind schedule, but otherwise, I think the ultimate timing is going to be good. We have some neat stuff that we are going to roll out in the next month or so, and some even cooler stuff shortly after that. It is hard to avoid talking about it : )

I’m going to try to get back into the habit of posting here regularly again. I still have a lot to say and a lot of observations to make. There are some interesting things developing in multiple industries, and they are definitely worth discussing. And of course, there is a lot going on in the whole, Social, Local, Augmented Reality sector.

We shall see. In the meantime, feel free to post some comments on here and let me know what you are thinking. I like feedback and I feel a bit weird if I don’t get any.

By the way, if I met you today or at SASK Interactive 2010 in Canada a couple weeks back, Yes, I know I need a haircut. I don’t always look like I stuck my fingers in a socket. Its just how my hair likes to grow when it gets long haha.

See you soon.

Robert Rice


The Japanese Sword

Ok, so Holly scored some tickets to the Antique Roadshow (TV Program) for when it was in Raleigh today. Long story short, one of the things I brought is an old sword that family history (for whatever those rumors are worth) claim that my Grandfather received as a gift during the Korean war from the head of a village his unit (“Rice’s Raiders”…seriously, that was the name) liberated. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. My grandfather (Major(?) Robert L. Rice) died in a wierd car accident when my father was a young boy. There is so much I don’t know about him. Very enigmatic and involved in military intelligence or something. I have a couple of stories about him and some bits and pieces of his military career. I might share them later if there is interest.

Anyway, so the sword is obviously Japanese of origin, plain wooden sheath, taped together with some sort of black tape that reminds me of electrical tape, if it was textured and felt more like adhesive cloth. Sorta. The blade itself is in realtively good condition with a few areas that look like they want to start rusting, and a few scratches (shudder). In the photographs below, you can see what I mean. Oddly enough, the photos make the blemishes look MUCH worse than they do in person, but eh, it is what it is.

The sword has been stuffed in closets and storage around the US and overseas. I never even knew of its existance until several years ago. I’m not even sure how or when my father got it into his possession. I do know that there are other heirlooms (that I should have by all rights as the last son and only direct grandson) but some other relatives have been sitting on this stuff for a rather long time. It is a point of annoyance, but what can you do, eh?

Back to the story. I expected the appraiser at the Antique Roadshow to tell me it was likely mass manufactured or something pre-war, maybe early-mid 1900s. I would have been surprised if it was much older than that.

He almost completely ignored the sheath and pulled the blade right out and whistled. He stated that it was likely Koto (The Old Sword Era, everything pre-1590), and worth at least $2-3k. He suggested that if I could get it evaluated and certified by or through an appropriate organization, it might be worth “$5-7k in the worst case, if the evaluation is dismal in all respects and the blade is graded low quality”. He also mentioned that to get it polished (this is special work for Japanese swords, not like you can just buff it), the cost might be around $100 per square inch or so to have it done “right”. I think the way to consider this is as you would restoring a work of art…you certainly wouldn’t take windex to it to get the dust off, would you? No, I didn’t think so.

Here are some pictures. I plan on wrapping this up and putting it back into the closet until I can have it officially appraised and certified, and then I’ll invest to have it polished properly (preferably in Japan, just cause).

If any readers out there have any insight into any information about the sword, historical, forging technique, dating, whatever, please contact me or comment here. I love history anyway, and I would dearly love to know everything about this piece. Of course, I would be beside myself if I could find out more about my Grandfather, his time in the Korean War, the Multinational unit he was a member of, and so on.

Here you go (apologies for the poor quality, I just put these together, I didn’t have time to setup a proper background/lighting).


Vision and Plan

Vision without Plan is mere daydreaming and avails nothing. Plan without Vision is the definition of aimless mediocrity. Vision with Plan is the essence of greatness and can change the World.

I spend a lot of time thinking ahead, thinking big, and contemplating what is possible. I think that you have to think outside of the box and really push the envelop if you want to accomplish something worthy of effort. People that do so, and match this vision with plans, resources, and effort are usually called visionaries. Our history is littered with these giants that refused to settle for average, mediocre, or the status quo. On the other hand, people that just spin out ideas all day long without doing anything about it are generally derided as lazy daydreamers, or accused of having their heads so far in the clouds they live lives in fantasy and impractibility. Success changes that perception real quick.

As an entrepreneur I am regularly sharing ideas and thoughts with people. I always start with the macro…where is the horizon? How far can we go? What is possible? What is our potential? Then I move on to the micro…how do we get there? What do we need? What are the obstacles to overcome? What is the plan of attack?

This has always worked out well for me. Vision and ambition inspires people, and has magic to “stir men’s blood”. However, many people that I have encountered over the years are either small minded or so trapped in a rut of mundane living with blinders, that they are unwilling to consider new ideas (big or small). They can only see what has been done, time after time, in old and proven models. People like this are a dual edged sword…on one hand, they temper the visionaries and force the writing of plans, methods, and models. They are a necessary backbone to any venture. But on the other hand, they can suck the life out of an idea or vision and turn it into a hollow grey shade of its former vibrant self.

My advice to entrepreneurs is to find people with practical experience and wisdom that share in your passion and zeal for your idea and vision. Learn from them, leverage their experience, and listen to their advice…but the first time you encounter someone that tries to change, diminish, or flat out destroy your goal and excitement, divorce yourself from them quickly.

You would be amazed at how many angel investors and venture capital funds I have shared various ideas and plans with that either entirely missed the point, or flat out dismissed us. One of my favorite examples here happened to me in the early/mid 90s. I was seeking funds for a MMORPG startup in 94/95…we were going to be the first “real-time 3D” massively multiuser online role playing game. A few people laughed at us…”that can’t be done”, “there is no market for that”, “you can’t do real-time 3D graphics on a PC”, “people want to buy games one time, they won’t pay a subscription for it”, “the PC game industry is dead”, “why isn’t microsoft or yahoo doing this?”. You get my point.

The sad thing, is that this is not uncommon. It has happened throughout history. Many of our greatest innovators, inventors, scientists, and great thinkers had to fight with this. Now, what really kills me, is when people with no vision (and only occasionally a plan) find massive amounts of support and funding to do some mediocre, generic, “me too”, or whatever project. The ultimately fail in a miserable fashion. Again, history is littered with examples (do your own google search). The end result of this, is an increased pulling away from big ideas and innovators. If small ideas don’t work, big ones won’t either.

Of course, sometimes small ideas are successful, and this is perceived as an indicator that safe and small is the way to go, when in reality, it is because there is nothing else that is bigger, grander, or more innovative to compete against. I talked about this in my book…if you have bought rotten eggs all your life in the market, you base your judgments and values on rotten eggs. An outsider would determine that rotton eggs are a great business. But imagine that first time someone starts selling fresh eggs! I firmly believe that many industries and sectors out there (especially high-tech, social media, virtual worlds, mmorpgs, etc.) have been suffering from rotten eggs for so long, that we can’t recognize what we are settling for. We have become nearsighted and hunchbacked. We can see (and smell) our feet, but we miss the trees around us and we have no conception of the larger forest of possibility and potential.

We are at the edge of yet another new year, which means there is a collective feeling of rebirth, newness, and a clean slate. What will we make of 2009? Will we expand out of our comfort zone and expand our horizons? Will we take risks and strive for innovation and growth? Will we let ourselves be suckered in by the doom and gloom of a economic downturn or will we leap out of our seats and aggressively look for opportunities to seize?

As you reflect on the last year, I encourage you to think about doing something unexpected, unconventional, and different in 2009. Shake things up. Take some risks. Think big. Make plans. Start something new. Move to the other coast. Pick up a new hobby. Change the business model. Challenge yourself and the people around you. Get rid of your preconveived notions. Refuse to perpetuate hate, bigotry, or stereotypes. Reach across the aisle. Think, Do, Grow, Challenge, Innovate, Achieve, Succeed.

Your life is what YOU make of it. Don’t settle for less. Don’t be satisfied with mediocrity.

Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds. Do something worthwhile and change the world.

Make no little plans:
They have no magic
to stir men’s blood.
-Daniel H. Burnham

Just for the record, I’m taking my own advice. I can’t talk about it now, but I’m neck deep in some mind-blowing life-changing industry-rattling world-shaking evolutionary revolutionary “OMG” stuff. My startup is starting to get some incredible traction and a table full of opportunities has fallen in my lap. The synchronicity of everything is a little jarring…it is all related and all dovetails quite nicely into our short and long term goals.

The fun thing? Part of this is going to create some unparalleled opportunities for other entrepreneurs and startups out there willing to really think outside of the box and be unconventional. I can’t wait to tell you about it. We have a chance to do something huge together. Screw the economy. I’m going to create jobs. That’s what entrepreneurs do best, isn’t it?

Hey, do me a favor and post a comment if any of this rings your bell. I get a reasonable amount of traffic on here and people don’t say much. Tell me what you think. Share your passions and ideas here.

(The Twitter Version of my quote: “Vision without Plan is empty daydreaming. Plan without Vision is aimless mediocrity. Vision with Plan can change the world.”)



Three Moves Ahead...

I love to read and I’m always ready to recommend books to people. However, it is a rare occurrence that I come across a book or two that I insist and demand that you absolutely MUST read. No, I’m not going to lay out a really long argument why, or try to convince you. You should know me enough by now to accept my recommendation like this at face value. I’m not in the habit of throwing down the “must read” tag unless I really mean it and have good reason.

ThreeMovesAhead%20Cover_med.jpgSo, stop what you are doing and go order “Three Moves Ahead: What Chess Can Teach You About Business” by Bob Rice (no relation) right now. Drive to the bookstore or get it online, I don’t care. But get it and get it now. Especially if you are in startup mode working on your business plan and trying to raise capital. This is book is critical food for those trying to turn around a business, deal with competition, or break into new markets. Is your “web 2.0” company struggling because you *still* don’t have a business model? You need to read this.

I talk a lot about “light bulbs” going off when I either have an idea, or I read something and suddenly a thought or a feeling I have had suddenly crystallizes with sweet clarity. A-ha! There were a lot of moments like this for me when I was reading this book…things that I had been doing intuitively but unable to express tangibly were suddenly laid out in clear and logical detail.

Every chapter is loaded with insight and compared to chess strategy and philosophy with some great examples about the Grandmasters. Bob Rice is an engaging writer and personal in his style. I felt like I was sitting down with him in a cafe while he imparted his knowledge and expertise…both in business and in the Chess world. It is not often I (or anyone else for that matter) has opportunities like this, and it just underscores the value of the book.

Really, go get this book and read it. It will open your eyes and make you a much better entrepreneur, captain of industry, executive, employee, designer, engineer, and chess player. 

Robert Rice