Lessons Learned in San Francisco

In November 2014, I traveled to San Francisco and spent 5 days (Thursday–Monday) skating the streets to introduce FoodCircles to different startups, engineers, and connectors. I received some of the best technical, managerial, and fundraising advice of my life and wrote the following as a response to the question, “So, how did it go?”

Guidepost to Reading — There are two general ways of reading this post:

The “Lessons” Route: skim down the post, looking for the bold or yellow-highlighted sections. When you find something you like, feel free to read the context.

The “Narrative” Route: read the full perspective of an entrepreneur—and many times wantrapreneur—trying to find his way through the city and his first startup.

Late Wednesday Night

The journey started on a late, rainy night finding my way into the hills of Chinatown to get to my Couchsurfing host’s apartment. I once slipped on my longboard and watched it almost get crunched by traffic. Thinking back, losing my board would have greatly limited my trip and experience. But thankfully, that didn’t happen. I got to Ken’s place and he was already asleep, leaving a note for me on the table. I hit the strange bed in the strange city in the heart of Chinatown and tried to get ready for the day that was to come.

Continue reading


Super-Powered Peanut Butter: Plumpy’Nut!


(Anderson Cooper / 60 Minutes also produced a clip, but with some graphic footage of children. To view, click here.)

Some folks ask us about the food we donate globally. Above is a short doc on the food provided when you use FoodCircles to eat and select World Vision at your preferred charity.  World Vision works with us to provide a life-saving substance called Plumpy’Nut to kids in Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, among others. But what’s Plumpy’Nut? Continue reading

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Monday, I spoke with the four families selected to receive Thanksgiving dinner from The Gilmore Collection.  Was nearly brought to tears as I heard the shock and gratitude in the voices of the family, and the guardian angels who nominated ’em.  I wanted to share redacted versions of their stories..  Here’s the challenge: realize things some folks don’t have, that we take for granted. Health, freedom from addiction, even water.  Let us remember these things tomorrow, and commit to help others who don’t have these basics.

Thank you so much to those who nominated families, shared with their friends (MLive!), and to the Gilmore Collection for even providing 20 dinners over the originally set 16.  Special thanks to my friend Jonathan Stoner for running “delivery ops” w/ me tonight.  All of us together, we’re about to give 4 WMI families their best Thanksgiving in years.  Praise God!

Family 1:
[Mom] and [Dad] have [several] kids. [The father] is a delivery driver making a very low income and paying for his own gas and [she] is a nursing student at [school] with the dream of being able to provide well for her family. Their [recent] child, [has] very special needs, having been born extremely prematurely. They are a very loving, generous and fun loving family. They live in a small home overflowing with goodness but certainly never have any resources to celebrate or splurge on themselves.

Family 2:
This is two households but 1 family. Both homes are in foreclosure and both households are struggling with utility shut off notices and to keep food on the table. There are 3 young children, between the homes, 2 senior citizens, a teen, and the rest are the adults. This family has had a horrible year and they really need something to remind them that things will be alright.

The children need a day of fun and not seeing their parents stressed and worried. One of [them] is disabled and yet she seeks works and has been applying for work daily. One of the fathers has end stage kidney disease, yet he is still struggling to obtain social security. This is a family who worked hard and owned a thriving business but due to the medical conditions of one parent, they lost all they had. One of the households has not has water (shut off) for several weeks. There is just not much hope but they all keep trying to keep positive.
pt. 2
I already entered but wanted to clarify my story…
Our family has had a horrible year — yes the entire year — everyday of it. I am entering my own family in hopes of a day for everyone to forget about the hardships we are living and the children to have a holiday that I otherwise have no way to provide. Thanksgiving is about thankfulness but this year has been so traumatizing that it is hard to find a silver lining. I don’t want to even think about Christmas because I will break down into tears. I have no way to provide. One house has not had water in weeks. Things are impossible right now.

Both homes depended on a small business that the person with kidney disease owed / operated. He became no longer to run the business in March 2012 and due to several circumstances it is closed. Now both families have been living in poverty. Both homes are in foreclosure since there is just not income anywhere. Meals are hard to put on the table(s) and they are all pulling together to stay positive. Vehicles have been repossessed, business condemned, utility shut off notices galore and Christmas absolutely not going to happen.

I know this is more people than you may be able to help, and I know you must have hundreds of requests for this incredible contest. I would like to say in advance, we have lived through so much this year that at this point, I don’t expect much good to happen. I thank you for running such a contest and organization that cares about people. No matter who you help, you have helped someone!


Family 3:
[He] is my brother in law and he is married to [wife].  [Her] dad, a vietnam vet, lives with them.  They have one amazing daughter, who they adopted 2 years ago.  She had a heart transplant when she was only a few months old.  She is now 4 and making progress every day.  [The father] has diabetes and had a major foot surgery this year and is still recovering.  [The mother] is a traveling nurse working to make ends meet. They also are fostering [the daughter’s] half-sister right now.  They are good people and I know that a nice meal would really make their Thanksgiving!

Family 4:
[Husband] and [Wife] are the parents of two daughters, [omitted] months old. They are a hard-working married couple who need just a little boost. I know them from their days as my former students almost 10 years ago at [school]. [He] is a recovering alcoholic who is now alcohol-free and works at [a company], although he doesn’t make much money. [She] did work but was off for maternity leave and has not been called back. Needless to say, finances are tight. I have given them money so that they have gas in the car to take the baby to her doctor appointments for her breathing problems, so I doubt if a Thanksgiving feast is in their future.

To make matters worse, they just found out that [daughter] is likely deaf.  [The mother] has kidney and pancreas issues, also, but apparently it is inoperable and the doctor will treat only the pain. But they are remarkably upbeat in the face of all of this.

I think they would be so thrilled that somebody out there cares.