My 23andMe kit just came in! Here is what's inside.

I just picked up a 23andMe kit as a part of their Research Revolution campaign. They're trying to better understand disease in a crowd-sourced user-generated way. I think it makes a ton of sense.

Health information is difficult to gather, and with good reason. Health information is sensitive, and can change your life in positive and negative ways. On the one hand, I can see what ailments and diseases I'm prone to get, and change my lifestyle to avoid them and live a longer, better life. But on the other hand, if that information gets in the hands of my future employers, or worse, my future health insurance, then a Gattaca-style scenario could become reality.

Those concerns are luckily handled through HIPA and the privacy policy that 23andMe has published. Once I know my data is safe, I can give it to science and help researchers make us all more healthy.

I'm glad they're doing it, because I don't know who else could.

Here's what came in the kit today. I am sending it off later today, and am waiting eagerly for the results.

And just for fun, here's what it's like to do a spit kit, courtesy of my friend @jensmccabe. is like Nielsen / Comscore for consumer spending

Originally built as a Quicken-competitor, just became a lot more interesting. It's a case study in having aggressive terms of service that declare company ownership over data. When you own data, you can do a lot more than just provide a service to a web consumer.

Like make aggregate graphs like the above. Mint has direct access to the realtime spending habits of all their users. As such, they are able to forecast consumer spending *AND* revenues of large public companies sooner than everyone else. It's almost like insider trading. They will have information nobody else has access to. If you see Mint CEO Aaron Patzer making a killing on the stock market, I wonder if the SEC will come calling.

Mint proves that when it comes to making money with user-generated / user-provided content, opportunities can come in unexpected ways.

The Demise of SpiralFrog: Proof that buying traffic is a crap way to grow a startup

CNet illuminates the troubled story of SpiralFrog, an online music startup that burned through $26.3 million, and only generating sales of $1.2 million.

They bought traffic with the misguided intention to "get eyeballs fast." Smell like 1999 to anyone? Their traffic maintained a 1:1 correlation to the amount of money they were plowing into affiliate ads.

It's a cautionary tale. Great metrics might help you raise dumb money. But if you're buying those metrics, it's just a house of cards -- possibly worse than a Ponzi scheme. At least in a Ponzi scheme, someone comes out on top (and later, in handcuffs, hopefully).

If you buy traffic, everyone loses.

JamLegend becomes the web-enabled Rock Band / Guitar Hero that lets you upload and play ANY SONG.

This is phenomenal. My senior project at Stanford was a Dance Dance Revolution game that could take MP3's and turn them into playable DDR steps. But I have to say, it didn't work nearly as well as what the JamLegend guys have done. I just uploaded one of my favorite rap songs to JamLegend. They processed the file, extracted the beats and melodies of the song, and made a playable song based on it.

What's even cooler is you can now play JamLegend just like RockBand / Guitar Hero, with your real guitar. There are instructions on how to set this up for both Mac/PC for GH/Rock Band controllers for all platform controllers PS3, Wii and Xbox 360.

And you can duel your friends online (multiplayer) without ever even being in the same room.

OK, so lets review: JamLegend has created Guitar Hero that a) is super fun multiplayer Flash web game with no download, b) works with any guitar controller you may have lying around, and c) lets you upload any song you want and it will work awesome.

You should play jamlegend here.

Filmmaking advice writ large: Tarantino's advice at ComicCon applies to all creative endeavor

I love these kinds of questions posed towards filmmakers and media creators of all kinds. Like Ira Glass on creativity.

Great auteurs answer these questions about specific industries but they're broadly applicable to everything, including my favorite topic, creating Internet startups.

There's a certain auteur aspect to it that translates precisely. It's a business, no doubt about it. But you have to appeal to people, even change people's lives -- the way they think and act. You have to understand and communicate visually, spatially and emotionally with your audience.

There's a technical element, substitute filmmaking and editing and cinematography for software engineering, scaling, and tech architecture / ops.

How you start is the same. You create. You create until your fingers bleed, and then you create some more. Iterate and don't worry about creating crap, because at the end of it, you'll have made a movie. Or a site. Or a story. Whatever it is.

The final part spoke to me the most. Yes, it's harder than ever to become a filmmaker or an Internet entrepreneur, or an author-- a creator of any kind. There is so much competition. But that competition sucks so fucking bad, that it will be plain as day when you've created something good.

It can be done. Today. Now. Go.

Technology is not dead. It is exponential.

Electricity greatly improved our quality of life. But I'm not going to get excited about buying a basket of utility companies. Same for the Internet. Can't live without it, but can't live with it (in my portfolio).
--James Altucher via

James Altucher will eat his words. To count tech out at a local minima is absolutely absurd. Fred Wilson is right: Tech is alive and well. But there are deeper reasons than what Fred Wilson mentions.

Other than computing technology, what field can boast exponential gains? Green tech is much talked about of late, but what are the rates of improvement for battery power, photovoltaics, and clean energy? Miniscule, in the single digit percentages. We can only wish for exponential advancement in almost all fields of technology. It's just not a reality.

With computers, we are blessed by the exponential curve of Moore's Law. Ray Kurzweil plots this exponential curve:

Just look at the innovation that has happened in 40 years. Bill Gates is famed to have said in 1998: "If General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty five dollar cars that got 1000 miles/gallon."

Instead, GM has gone bankrupt, and now we have one-inch-thick netbooks that we can buy for less than $300 that provide 300,000x the computing power of the ENIAC, which cost $500,000 and filled a very large room in 1946!

The exponential march of software begets the exponential march of software capability. Software has gone more and more high level. Instead of slinging machine-readable bits, we started writing assembly. Then C/C++. Then Java and Perl. Now, Ruby and Python -- each step is less efficient for the computer but more efficient for the human. In 1946 you needed a PhD to even get near a computer, and only now are we seeing the rise of the truly interconnected, paperback computer that costs next to nothing but is indispensible for everyday life -- not just for an educated elite but for every person on the planet.

The advent of the Gutenberg printing press and modern mass-produced book changed society at its core -- at its basic fabric, humanity as a whole became more educated, more equal, more enlightened, and far more human, rising out of the depths of ignorance. The rise of cheap, ubiquitous books formed the modern world. But now we have a book that is infinite in length and unbounded in capability to teach, share, educate, and think.

So we've got an exponential engine of innovation, and it is transforming society before our eyes. And we're at a such a local minima where the WSJ is calling the whole engine dead.

We're still only beginning this mad experiment of infinite and ubiquitous computing. The greatest, most earth shattering software has yet to be created. On the upslope of an exponential, you'd be insane not to go long.

How Scribd got huge - Ideas matter, but there's a method to coming up with the madness too.

This slide deck explains what it takes to create something that's going to be huge. It's been a great privilege to help give advice to other startups as they're getting off the ground as a part of being a YC alum and a former president of ASES Stanford -- and this time and again is the biggest message that people need to hear.

Your idea should be big. Huge. There are so many people out there doing so many things. Why do something small, or niche? Don't be afraid of going big. If you're good, you'll figure it out.

Your first idea is rarely ever the idea that gets you where you want to go. As Trip says, a successful startup is a series of good ideas executed well, in succession.

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.
— Bruce Lee

Cash is not king for startups. Number of iterations matter. But what kind of iterations?

Cash on hand is just one important variable in a startup’s life, but it’s not necessarily the most important. What matters most is the number of iterations the company has left.

What's interesting is on the Web these days often there are actually TWO different phases of iteration. The first phase is where you're looking for product fit. Paul Graham at this stage says "Make something people want."

Google did product fit early on (get users, see massive user adoption and traction). But it took Google years to figure out the business model, which is phase two. So you built something people want... now how are you going to make money doing it? Because until you figure out both phase one and phase two, you're gonna have to go back to the fundraising trough again and again. You can't plant the flag and declare victory until you got it covered.

So when you calculate how many iterations you have left, be sure to leave leave time for phase two.

Hat tip to @manukumar.