Category: Entrustet

How to Live Before You Die: What I’ve Learned From Entrustet

At the end of the segment on NPR’s Forum yesterday, the host asked me if my life or worldview has changed at all since starting a death-focused company.  I deal with death on a regular basis.  It’s forced me to confront many issues of mortality and the unpleasantness that goes along with thinking about my own demise.  I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to think about issues that most people only think about in their 50s or even potentially on their death beds.

So how has working in the “digital death” industry changed me and my worldview?

I no longer take anything for granted.  I’ve read so many stories of people dying unexpectedly that I’ve realized how special life truly is.  Jesse will say from time to time “Isn’t it ridiculous that we’re alive?  Think about all of the things that had to go right for us to be here today. It’s amazing.”  It really is true.

If the average life expectancy is 80 these days, it means we only have 29,200 days on this Earth.  Before Entrustet, sometimes I thought days were boring, or were simply impediments in time before I got to do something I really wanted to do.  Now that I’ve been working on Entrustet for almost two years, I never take a single day for granted.  It’s one of my 29,200, and only if I’m lucky.

Dealing with death has caused me to care even less about what other people think.  You only live once, so do what makes you happy.  In the whole scheme of things, rejection isn’t that big of a deal.  Seize your opportunities and take your chances with alacrity.  You never know when you won’t have the ability to take them in the future.

I’ve become even less materialistic.  You can’t take your possessions or your money with you when you die, so I’ve come to realize that I don’t need things or to make $1b (unless we get hyper inflation!).  When I read about people on their deathbeds, they all say they regret not spending more time with friends and family or taking a trip to a foreign country or taking the opportunity to work on the things they loved.  They never say they wished they had bought a bigger TV or a nicer car.  I’ve realized that it truly doesn’t take much (money) for me to be happy.  I know I can live well on a small amount of money.

It’s strange that I’m dealing with these issues as a 25 year old, but I think I’m lucky.  Most people push the idea of death down the road and many people don’t end up following their dreams.  I’m glad I’m realizing these truths now, not when I’m 50, 90 or not at all.  Sometimes it takes a near death experience, but for me, all it’s taken is being near death.

Please watch Steve Jobs’ speech to Stanford’s graduation class.  Jobs was diagnosed with an extremely deadly type of cancer and miraculously survived.  He’s an authority on how to live before you die and his speech is where I got the title for my post.  Do yourself a favor and take the time to watch.  You only live once, make the most of it!

I’m Moving to Chile for Six Months for Startup Chile

I’m moving to Santiago, Chile for 6 months in two weeks to run Entrustet.

About six weeks ago, I saw an article in Forbes by Maureen Farrell that talked about a program launched by the Chilean government to attract startups to Chile.  As I read, I found out that the Chilean Government was offering US startups $40,000 to move operations to Santiago for up to six months.  Startup Chile’s goal is to attract 25 high tech startups to Santiago for 6 months, put them in free office space and connect them with Chilean entrepreneurs, VCs and potential employees.

Members of the Startup Chile program, along with the Chilean Minister of the Economy, fanned out across the US to try to recruit startups.  They went to Stanford and Berkeley and met with Vivek Wadhwa and Mike Arrington of Tech CrunchThey met Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook and countless valley VCs.  Next, they crossed the country to talk with entrepreneurs in Boston and NYC.

As soon as I saw the program, I knew I wanted to apply. I love to travel and my biggest regret of college was not studying abroad in a Spanish speaking country because I had to pass up a semester abroad to run exchangehut.  Convincing Jesse was easy.  We both love to travel and do new things and we’ve both worked on Entrustet all over the country for the past year and a half.

On September 20th, we submitted online applications and hoped for the best.  Two days later, Startup Chile told us to be ready for Skype interviews.  Our Skype session went really well and we were told we had to create a 3 minute video that showed why we wanted to be selected.

We wanted to do something to stand out and Jesse and I love to cook, so we did 1 minute on Entrustet and then shot a Chilean cooking show.  I had seen Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations that featured el lomito, a slow braised pork sandwich with crushed avocado, lime mayo and a huge slice of tomato.  We also picked cold avocado soup as our starter and cooked a Chilean dinner at 10pm after I got back from reffing soccer.  Evidently, Startup Chile liked our video, because four days later, we got an email saying we’d been selected.

Now we had to decide if we really could go.  We wrote out all of the pros and cons and then drafted emails to all of our investors, mentors and advisers.  Next, we talked to everyone individually to hear their concerns.  We got tons of support and most people were very excited.

For us, the decision was easy.  We spend most of our time each day online or on the phone.  We rarely have in person meetings and we travel to the east or west coast every six weeks or so.  Entrepreneurship is an adventure every single day.  You never know what kind of challenge you’ll deal with or what kind of surprise each day will have when you flip open your laptop.  We feel like going to Santiago for Startup Chile is just another adventure that will help us concentrate on creating an awesome product that people want to use.

I’m really excited to move to Santaigo to run Entrustet.  I can’t wait to see the city and meet the founders of the 24 other companies that were selected.  We’ve been location independent many times before, and we don’t think this will be any different.  For us, the pros outweigh the cons by a longshot.  We also know that if anything happens or for whatever reason it’s not working, we are only an $750 plane ride home.

Jesse and I both keep active personal blogs, so if you want to keep up with what we’re doing in Santiago, make sure to check back here often.  I also update my Tumblr mini blog pretty much everyday and it’ll be the place where I’ll share short observations and pictures.  If you want to learn more about what we’re up to in the Startup Chile program, make sure to check out the Entrustet Blog.

I’m really excited to go and can’t wait to write my first post from Chile!

What My Assets Will Become by The Entrustet Interns

One of the best things we’ve done with Entrustet this summer is hire 9 interns from the University of Wisconsin.  They’ve been a huge help to us and hopefully Jesse and I have taught them a few things too.  As the summer winds down, most will be heading back to school, so we wanted to do something fun heading into the last few weeks.  Here’s what they came up with:

Introducing the Entrustet music video “What My Assets Will Become” a cover of All the Things I’ve Done by The Killers.  Daniel Thompson plays the piano and with Rob Howard on the camera.  I hope you enjoy…I know we all had a ton of fun with it.

SXSW Recap

SXSW 2010 was my first SXSW experience.  I had heard amazing things from friends who had gone before and from people on my previous trips to Austin, so I had high expectations.  It did not disappoint.

For those who do not know, SXSW stands for South By Southwest, which is a combination Technology, Film and Music festival held each year in Austin, Texas.  It is one of the biggest in the US, if not the world and brings some of the smartest and most interesting people together to listen to panels, network and go to parties.

I was lucky enough that my first time going to SXSW also included the added experience of launching Entrustet into beta, with Jesse giving a talk called “People Die, Profiles Don’t.” I met some great people and attended some really interesting sessions and will share my best of SXSW.  Check out our Entrustet blog for more info on what we did at SXSW.


We launched our beta version early in the morning on Friday March 12th, a day before our panel.  Everything’s been going really well and we’ve started to get some good traffic and user sign ups.  Our panel got some traction, especially online on Twitter.  Our stat that over 285k US Facebook users will die this year caused a stir and was used by our friends over at The Digital Beyond at their panel on the 16th.

More and more people are asking the question “what happens to my digital assets when I die?” and this attention is starting to reach a critical mass.  Everyone from Guy Kawasaki to the American Bar Association is starting to think about it.  Hugh Forrest, the founder of SXSW raised this question in an interview with NPR:

Yeah, we did one session on that last year and we create this virtual presence more and more with our new technologies. What happens to that presence when you pass away? Do you will that on to someone else to essentially keep on your virtual existence or how does that work? And there are lots or there are some services that help you with that process now.

Now, the other session you mentioned was My Right to Delete, which is, again, in this brave new world we live in, the things we say or do often get onto the Internet and it’s impossible to get rid of them. How do we move on, if and when we want to move on?

Gizmodo is dedicating an entire week to looking at what happens to your digital assets as people pass away, including an article called What Happens Online When We Die? and many other publications have been writing about this issue.  The Digital Beyond’s panel was well attended and Adele McAlear’s blog Death and Digital Legacy has been gaining strength.

I believe that 2010-2011 will be the year that consumers really start to think about what happens to their digital assets when they pass away.  What do you want done with your Facebook?  Your email?  How will you protect your family photos or all of your blog posts?


I went to some great panels this year.  My favorite one was about Seed Combinators and featured a who’s who of entrepreneurship forces.  The panel included Paul Graham, Naval Ravikant, Marc Nathan, David Cohen and Joshua Baer and they spoke about their efforts to create successful seed combinators across the country.  I think that Madison, WI has to potential to have a very successful seed combinator and am going to post about it in the next week or so.

Another great panel talked about Social Media in China.  In China, websites are not able to sustain themselves on “advertising” as a business model, so they have had to create innovative business models in order to survive.  I hadn’t realized how big TenCent is (1.5B in revenue, 40% profit margins) and all of it is based on virtual currency and virtual goods.  The Chinese version of charges $450 for 6 months, equivalent to 1 months salary for the average Chinese citizen.  Like, the service matches you up with potential matches and you go on dates.  After the date, you call into their call center and rate how you thought the date went, what you liked and didn’t like about the other person and if you want to date them again.  The next day, the service calls you back and tells you what the other person thought of you.  It gives you the chance to improve your dating skills and cut through some of the awkwardness.

Another dating site allows you to create an avatar of yourself and go to a virtual “dance club” where you dance with potential partners.  You talk, exchange personal info and get to know each other.  The site makes money when the people buy drinks, gifts and other virtual goods for each other.  After awhile, if you like the other person, you can meet up in person.

Advertising has been a crutch in the American Internet space that is being removed as we speak.  I think you will start to see more innovative business models, like and others come to the US in the near future.

I also attended Student Startups to hear about others experiences starting a business in college (nice job by the panel, including Ellen Chisa), The Third Coast, by the founders of Crowdspring and many others.  If I had to do it again, I would attend more core conversations, rather than panels, as there is more give and take and you have a better opportunity to interact with the speakers.

Food, Parties, Fun

I could write an entire post about each of these topics, but a short recap will have to do.  I had some amazing food in Austin, but the best came from a food cart called Texas Picnic.  I had one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had and their white BBQ sauce on their chicken was unlike anything I’ve ever tried.  I’m somewhat of a BBQ connoisseur, so that is high praise.  The Whole Foods we went to was the biggest I have ever seen, with a crazy amount of selection.  If I had unlimited money I’d shop and eat there all the time.

The parties were really fun, with the highlight being the Mashable party.  We had to wait in line for at least an hour, but we made the best of it, creating a new check in location on Gowalla that served as the unofficial Entrustet Launch party (8 people checked in).  We grabbed some beers from the liquor store across the way and made friends with the people around us and had a great time.  The Thrillist party on our last night had some great live music, although we missed the DJ.

I also met some great people who I hope to stay in contact with in the future.  One of the interesting people was Geoff Hamrick, a 19 year old entrepreneur from North Carolina.  Geoff and his partner George have a cool site called Group Story that lets you share photos and collaborate to create photo books.  They’ve got a really cool idea going.

Overall SXSW was a great experience.  I will definitely be back next year and hope to see many of the cool people I met this year again and hear about their successes in the year apart.  I learned a ton, including some lessons that will lead to direct improvements in Entrustet.  It was a week well spent.