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Currie ’78 to Lead Twitter CEO Search

Twitter needs a jumpstart and a new CEO.

And, per the tweet above, the person in charge of finding Twitter’s new leader is Peter Currie ’78. A longtime Twitter board member, it’s been only a few months since Currie tweeted his support for outgoing CEO Dick Costolo:

Now, Currie must find Costolo’s replacement. Do you have innovative ideas for how to monetize a highly-interactive, dedicated, but touchy user base within 140 characters or less? Have a good track record in a Silicon Valley C-suite? Better get in touch with Currie — he’s going to need all the help he can get!

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Best Name for an Eph-Owned Company?

I nominate Susan Lai 01’s accessory company Live Glamorously or Die .  They are also on Facebook.  Honorable mention goes to Derek Scanlon ’98’s My Pet Chicken.

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Eph Furniture Cabal

In prior posts, I have highlighted the Eph booze and culinary mafia, as well as Ephs working on sustainable energy initiatives.  While there aren’t enough Ephs crafting / studying custom / hand-made furniture to qualify as a “mafia” (yet), there is a surprisingly strong contingent, large enough to fairly dub a cabal.

Blu Dot, owned by John Christakos, Charles Lazor, and Maurice Blanks (all ’87), has been previously featured on Ephblog.   Early American furniture curator Ethan Lasser ’99 has also been previously featured on Ephblog.  Jonathan Edie ’88 (pictured) was recently featured in this article chronicling his work (with his wife) at Chajo Art Furnishings.   Seth Rolland ’86 has been working as a custom furniture maker for 20 years.  Jason Phillips ’89 is the President of McGuire Furniture.   [Notice the concentration of alums in the late 1980’s … no doubt inspired by the infamous campus Furniture Wars of 1987, when the administration removed all furniture from row house common areas after one-too-many ottomans drunkenly tossed through windows, necessitating self-help in the form of hand-carved furniture sourced from Hopkins Forest].

Of course, every cabal / mafia needs a Dean, and for Williams, Leslie Keno ’79, Antiques Roadshow and Sotheby’s furniture appraiser, and now furniture designer, certainly qualifies.

Overall, while not yet a mafia, it is an impressive group of Ephs thinking outside the box, and using their talents in beautiful, creative ways.  I am particularly impressed with Ephs such as these, who took the immortal words of Martin Sheen’s character in Wall Street to heart:  “Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.”  So, the next time someone tells you that everyone with a Williams degree is a consultant, lawyer, doctor, academic, or investment banker, please correct them!

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Eph Culinary Mafia and Food News Round-Up

A few months back, I highlighted the large number of Ephs engaged in that noblest of pastimes, providing new and better ways to consume alcohol.  I am happy to report that an equally august group of Ephs are engaged in an equally pleasure-giving field: the culinary arts.  Click through the links to read some interesting news stories interspersed in the post (my favorite is the article on Michael Gallagher).

If anyone is aware of any notable omissions, let me know and I will update this post accordingly.  It’s fun to compile these lists, but also instructive.  So many Ephs lament the fact that their only options after college seem to be grad school, consulting, or investment banking.  But as evidenced by this post (as well as the prior post on Ephs in the alcohol industry) many, many Ephs are doing really interesting things in a wide variety of fields, in particular entrepreneurial fields.  How cool would it be for Williams to bring back to campus as many Ephs engaged in the gastronomical industry as possible for a weekend-long discussion of careers in those fields (and by the way, if they are showcasing their wares, I’m there!).  It would certainly be instructive for undergrads, but also for the alums themselves — an organic farmer, venture capitalist, CEO of a restaurant chain, chef, and food writer could all stand to learn something from other Ephs who have succeeded in different aspects of the production / consumption / analysis chain.

Or failing that, OCC could create some type of resource, web-based or otherwise, geared towards bringing alums and students with a common interest in the gastronomical arenas into closer contact.   And the same thing could happen in a wide variety other fields / industries that rarely make it onto undergrads’ radars.  I’d love to see OCC take the great raw material in the alumni database (which was my primary, although not exclusive, resource for finding the alums I listed above) and create a series of highly targeted, interactive mini-networks, featuring interested alums as well a continually updated list of links to / blurbs containing crucial information provided by those alums and pertaining to getting started in their field of interest.  Perhaps OCC is doing so already, but I don’t get that sense …

http://www.chickenowners.com/news/wsj070810.htm
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Ephs on Entrepreneurship #1: Ken Thomas ’93

Near the end of the comment thread in my recent post on entrepreneurship, Ken Thomas posted some of his experiences. With his permission, I’ve compiled  some highlights in a main page post so that more people can read them. I’ve also received and seen some other Eph experiences, which I plan to post in this brief series. Here’s Ken:

I left the world of [humanities] graduate school at Berkeley (another story, but certainly not a world dedicated to entrepreneurship of any kind) to co-found a series of companies…

Certainly that was due, in large part, to the Tripod example– and, in fact, to the very concrete examples of a month of having [Tripod founders] Brett and Bo sharing an apartment with me, and the years of tales of Tripod to follow.

It doesn’t boil, simply, down to that. There were items in Mark Taylor’s Imagologies class (Bo was taking Mark’s Psychology of Religion at the time); there was Dick Sabot’s presence; there were things in many other classes; there was, for that matter, the pure contingency of meeting someone from BBN on a train from Munich to Prague, because M——- ’95 decided to meet here [in Prague], and that this whole chain of events was contingent on sitting next to Bill Fox’s son during a busride from Williamstown to Boston to catch the flight to Munich.

I won’t spin that into a further tale of contingency and luck or spontaneity– all things that are important in the entrepreneurial world.

Read more

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Chestertown Idiots

The Chestertown Spy posted a video profile of Matt Swanson and Robbie Behr ’97. All I know is, someone needs to design a man-sized version of that thing the baby is bouncing around in, because that looks awesome.

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Venture Maps

From the blog of David B. Lerner ’90, here are some nice visualizations of the early stage venture capital ecosystem in Silicon Valley and in Boston (click for larger versions, or here and here for discussion and comments):

This is useful info, and I like how Lerner has included Twitter handles for most of the individuals on his maps. How many Eph VCs can you identify? I see Greylock Partners…

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Looking for something to do this summer?

If you’re in NYC, you might want to check out Brooklyn Brainery, a collaborative learning community organized by Jen Messier ’06 and others. This summer, they’re offering inexpensive classes on American Sign Language, Denim, Typography, Foreign Cuisine, Urban Planning, Whiskey, and Coffee. You can also suggest a class or a teacher.

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MobileEd

Most teachers I know see mobile phones in the hands of kids as a distraction from class. A local, Williamstown-based startup named MobileEd thinks they can change that. Their thesis is that mobile phones, as computationally powerful tools that most kids already have, can be integrated into the learning process and the curriculum in useful ways, without much additional expense.

Their proposal, to provide resources and curriculum development tools for teachers interested in integrating mobile phones into the learning process, is currently a finalist in the Macarthur/Hastac Digital Media and Learning Competition. Their proposal video features a pilot project held at Williamstown Elementary, where kids used mobile phones to collect data, gather photographic documentation, and record interviews and podcasts.

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The Brooklyn Brainery

A wonderful project from Jen Messier ’06:

Hi all,

I wanted to share a project that a friend (unfortunately not a Williams grad!) and I started, with the hope that it might be something fellow alums might be interested in learning more about or partaking in.

The easiest way to describe our little project, the Brooklyn Brainery, is perhaps as a book club on steroids. We host cheap collaborative classes on anything and everything, from brain science to paper to bikes. Class leaders aren’t necessarily experts on their subjects, but instead they act as a guide, setting up a general direction in which the class heads. We try to actively engage all class members, whether through little research assignments or hands on projects, allowing them to become the expert on a certain piece of the class discussion. Our courses are typically either two or four weeks long, as we like the ability to dive into something more in-depth than a one-time session allows. The longer course length also lets people get to know each other better, which helps make it all more fun.

As we’ve grown, we’re actively reaching out and engaging more and more teachers from around Brooklyn and New York. The great thing about the city is that nearly everyone has an interesting gig or side project they’re willing to share, and they’re equally willing to try all kinds of new things. We’re always on the look out for new teachers and would love suggestions for class topics as well!

You can find out way more about us on our website or our Kickstarter page (which probably summarizes our mission much more coherently!). Thanks for reading – I’m happy to answer and questions or clarify anything as well!

Best,
Jen Messier ‘06

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Eph Booze Mafia

This may well be the most important [non hoops-related] post I ever contribute to Ephblog … a summary of Ephs who are accomplished / newsmakers in the delicate art of creating, marketing and discussing beer, wine and spirits.   I was amazed by how many Ephs turned up in the world of alcohol after a quick Google search, and I imagine I have omitted many.  Might we someday speak of the Eph Booze Mafia?  Were the Williams alumni office to sponsor an event featuring, for example, a panel of distinguished Ephs in the wine industry (and, it goes with out saying, they’d bring samples), I am confident it would be enormously popular — and maybe even teach undergrads to focus a bit less on alcohol content and a bit more on quality.  [Ironically, so far as I am aware, Purple Cow Vineyards lacks any Williams affiliation].

  • Karen and Brice Hoskin (both class of 1990) are looking to bring their award winning Montanya Rum to the Berkshires.  Read reviews of Montanya here and here.
  • Mike Rabiner ’03 and Blake Morgan ’04 recently organized the Cincinnati Beerfest.
  • Current students Tim Marrs ’11 and T. Sam Jensen ’11 are off to an early start in pursuing their brewing ambitions.  Note to Tim and Sam: there is an awesome, currently vacant North Adams venue perfectly suited to a brew pub.  Tim, Sam and other aspiring brewmeisters can even learn their craft during Winter Study.  Ahh, to be in college.  Tim and Sam may want to chat with Pete Kirkwood ’99, owner of ShawneeCraft Brewing Co., who has received acclaim for his fledgling brewing efforts, as well as Christopher Ericson ’93, owner and head brewer at the similarly-esteemed Lake Placid Pub and Brewery.  Ericson’s Ubu Ale is apparently one of Bill Clinton’s favorites.
  • The list of Ephs in the wine industry is particularly voluminous, and particularly impressive.  Selim Zilkha ’46 (yes, that Selim Zilkha) owns the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery.  Graham Wehmeier ’99 is a winemaker at Merryvale Vinyard.  Tim Snider ’92 is the General Manager of the Fess Parker winery.  Eric Dahlberg ’85 is the President and Founder of Winesecrets, a wine filtration company.  Sam Landis ’98 helps run Vynecrest Vinyards.  Tom May ’56 owns, with his wife, Martha’s Vinyard.  George Vare ’58 owns (or owned, the website seems to be defunct) Vare Vinyards, and was the co-founder of Luna Vinyards.  Tad Drouet ’90 is an instructor at the Sommelier Society of America.  Eric Hagyard ’06 is an assistant winemaker at Pott Wine (the interview with Eric is particularly interesting).  Jason Haas ’95 is the General Manager of the Tablas Creek Vineyard.  Tom Geniesse ’86 owns Bottlerocket Wine in Manhattan, while Mei Ying So ’93 owns the Artisan Wine Shop in Beacon, New York.  W. Reed Foster ’54 is the President of the Coalition for Free Trade, which advocates direct-to-consumer wine shipments (now who in good conscience can oppose that)?  Reed co-founded Ravenswood Winery (the one with the “no wimpy wines” slogan).   
  • Of course, the most prominent Eph in the alcohol industry is Edgar Bronfman ’50, formerly President and CEO of Seagrams.  Sam Bronfman ’75, formerly a Seagrams executive, now runs Bacchus Capital Management.
  • Last but not least, Commencement speaker Jay McInerney ’76, who has been called the best wine writer in America, has published two books on wine (Bacchus and Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar), and was recently named the new wine critic for the Wall Street Journal.
  • A few additions since this was first posted: Chris Sweatman ’00 is an operations manager at Harpoon Brewery, and Bryan Baird ’89 runs Baird Brewing Company in Japan.  Connor O’Rourke ’97 sells wine via Candid WinesJill Bernheimer ’93 runs wine club and retailer Domaine 547
  • In sum: the sheer amount of, ummm, first-hand knowledge of alcohol collectively gathered on the Williams campus has sparked some truly stellar careers.  Good thing that consumption of Beast, Natty Light, Miller High Life, Mad Dog 20/20, wine-in-a-box and “Ephman” brand spirits did not prejudice the now-discerning palates of this talented group of Ephs.
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Professor Pacelli’s “Zucchero Dolce”

Allow me to draw your attention to math professor Allison Pacelli’s baking blog, and her new business baking cakes and other pastries. She taught a winter study class on “The Art and Science of Baking,” and her students’ final projects are pictured below:

Warning: do not click on any of the following links if you are hungry.

Here are all the delicious things that her winter study class baked, with many photos of students in action. Oh, to be the roommate of a student in the class and “have to” help eat the products! The students apparently had to give a Power Point presentation of a step-by-step explanation of how to make their final project; for instance, how to make a French Buche de Noel.

Pacelli recently turned this into a business, Zucchero Dolce. Current Eph parents, take note: You can order care packages (such as cookies or birthday cakes) from Professor Pacelli, and have them freshly baked and delivered to your student! A Zucchero Dolce care package would be WAY better than the care packages that ACE sold to parents back in the day. I once ate cake baked by Professor Pacelli, and I can vouch for its deliciousness; highly recommended.

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Scanning the CPD

Evan Miller ’06’s new iPhone app is featured in the Chicago Tribune:
evanmilleriphoneapp

Anyone with an iPhone or iPod Touch can listen to Chicago Police Department scanner traffic on their Apple device, from anywhere in the world. It’s a technological upgrade to a decades-old hobby.

Evan Miller, a 25-year-old University of Chicago doctoral student, created the iPhone/iPod application, which was released Sept. 27. It sells for $4.99 on iTunes and is the only application that allows users to exclusively tap into the Police Department’s 13 neighborhood dispatch zones, said Miller and other scanner experts…

“It can make for an action-packed listening experience,” said Miller, a former software developer. “It’s a great way to get a sense of how things are working in the city.”

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Eph Venture: Snazl

From time to time, I will be highlighting interesting projects and businesses started by Ephs. The site being featured today, Snazl, was started by Ameeda Chowdhury ’07 and Bo Zhao ’07:

Ameeda explains the site –

A Snazl is an interactive multi-media viewer that you can post on your social networks, blogs, webpages, and start pages.

  • Snazl immediately updates video, audio, and images to all of your webpages, social networks, blogs, and more from one source.
  • Snazl lets visitors across your sites have real-time dialog with each other about the content you post and add their own related content.

To create your own Snazl:

  1. Make an account
  2. Click on the orange Make a Snazl button – add media, name it, customize, grab the code
  3. Post the Snazl code to the sites you want to link, invite friends

You can follow developments at the Snazl blog.

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Peter Currie ’78 to advise Facebook

The big news on the tech blogs over the last 24 hours was the departure of Facebook CFO Gideon Yu. He will be replaced, at least temporarily, by venture capitalist, former Netscape CFO and Williams alum Peter Currie. All Things Digital has a good writeup about him:

Meet Peter Currie, Facebook’s New Money Man (For Now)

Back in the heyday, Peter Currie was the money man to see in Silicon Valley.

As CFO of Netscape Communications, he led the start-up into history, as the first great Internet rocket ship, when it went public on Aug. 9, 1995.

[…]

Rising to insane levels, the stock was ground zero of the Internet gold rush too, despite the fact that it had no profits to speak of.

But it did have a 23-year-old co-founder and tech wunderkind in Marc Andreessen, and a growth trajectory that was astounding.

If you think it sounds somewhat similar to Facebook today–where Currie will now help out as temporary financial adviser after the social-networking site parted ways with its CFO, Gideon Yu, yesterday following mutual disagreements and announced a search for a replacement–you are correct.

In that job, the 53-year-old Currie will be helping Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, 24, navigate–albeit temporarily–through some stormy economics [sic] seas on a journey that will hopefully end in an initial public offering.

The search for a new CFO will also involve Currie, obviously, and will be conducted by Jim Citrin of Spencer Stuart.

But until a new CFO is in place, Facebook’s quest still entails sorting out a substantive advertising monetization strategy while also keeping up its speedy growth rates and managing the high costs that mount with its popularity.

That certainly was Netscape’s major challenge, which it never met successfully and which was made worse by intense attacks from Microsoft (MSFT) on Netscape’s core browser business.

[…]

Andreessen, many sources said, was a shadow influence on Zuckerberg’s decisions related to Yu, with whom relations had gotten tense, and to bring in Currie (pictured here).

Currie is certainly a great choice, in terms of the close-knit tech sector’s respect and experience.

Currie is also unusually tall, aggressively avuncular and laid-back, loves Elvis and enjoys pranking reporters like BoomTown. (Case in point: He once tried to spread the rumor that I am short due to a medical condition.)

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MediaCloud

Ethan Zuckerman ’93 blogs about MediaCloud, a new project to visualize flows of news and information on the internet sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society:

Media Cloud is a platform to help researchers find quantitative answers
to questions like:

– What type of stories are covered more heavily in blogs than in newspapers?
– How does coverage of a topic like Iran differ between national newspapers, local newspapers and political blogs?
– How much overlap in coverage do two news sources have? If you’re reading the New York Times and the Boston Globe, how much topical difference do the sources have?
– How do news stories move between bloggers and mainstream journalists? How common or infrequent is it that bloggers “break” stories or introduce new analytic frames?

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Captain A-OK Fights Blug-Glub-Glub

Matt Swanson and Robbi Behr (both class of 97) run Idiots’Books, “a (very) small press that publishes odd, commercially non-viable illustrated books and distributes them through a mostly monthly subscription service“.

A few months ago, they were approached by a major sci-fi publisher about doing a series of original works for publication on their website, tor.com. The first installment of these “One-Page Wonders” was just published and recently featured on Boing Boing:

Captain A-OK Fights Blug-Glub-Glub
(click through to see the whole thing)

The project represents an interesting new direction in story-telling/publishing, because it hides a dozen different stories—all of which can be unlocked with a pair of scissors and a few deft folds—in a single sheet of paper. Basically, you can download a single sheet of paper from tor.com, which you then print out. The printed sheet is then folded three times and cut once to form a “book” that may be reconfigured and realigned to form 10 separate illustrated narratives. They have contrived an elaborate “how-to” sheet that is also posted on the site, as well as a short film (with soundtrack by Williams ’97 alums Drew Bunting and Brian Slattery) that shows the reader how to make the various versions of the story.

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Eph Venture: Jobaphiles.com

I’m going to be starting a new series profiling Eph entrepreneurs and interesting projects that they are working on. First up, Jobaphiles, a free job search/recruitment site recently started by Scott Tamura ‘09 and Thai Nguyen ‘08, which seems to have really attracted some interest (at least in the Boston area – though they intend to expand nationwide). Thai was recently interviewed on FNC:

If you or someone you know is working on an interesting new project or venture, let us know.

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