“Twas quite a year for tech, innovation and passion

Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, December 19, 2016

This is the last column for 2016. What a year! All I can say is OY! to the world.

But rather than recount the real and imagined sins of the last 365 days, I thought I would try my hand at some poetry, with appropriate respects to Clement Clarke Moore.

’Twas the night before Demo Day, when all through the incubator not a creature was stirring (but every hand was writing code, and the team was worrying about would the damn thing actually connect and work and would the judges laugh them out of the room) — not even a mouse (OK, let’s get real here, everyone needs mice or mouses or meece — thank you Steve Jobs).

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care (the guys wear flip-flops, and the women geniuses certainly do not wear stockings, so I think it would be better to hang headphones or skateboards — this is called knowing your customer).

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. (I think the hopes should be more along the lines of Andreessen Horowitz — seems only appropriate for a couple nice Jewish boys to be working the room — Hanukkah and Christmas come on the same day this year.)

The children were nestled all snug in their beds (the team has not made their beds in three months), while visions of sugar plums dance in their heads. (I get the vision thing, but I think it is less sugar and more Mary Jane.)

And mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap. (kerchief — think Google ad word — Victoria’s Secret). When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. (It was Peter Thiel offering them $100,000 to quit college.)

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash (if the demo crashes, “threw up” will be the operative phrase). The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below. (Space X owns the moon, pick another planet).

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. (This was the beginning of nano-technology.) With a little old driver, so lively and quick (think Uber with a Tesla S P100D), I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

In our city, St. Nick exists in hundreds of companies, big and small, seasoned and nascent, with cutting-edge technologies, crazy innovation and deep passion and spirit.

I was at CONNECT’s Most Innovative New Products Awards last week — and wow. The stuff was terrific. The room was packed with the ancients (like me), and the millennials and all in between. It was alive. And I can feel this spirit in many areas of our body politic as well. This city has talent. And with that talent must come engagement. Engagement is contagious. I love the idea of being “all-in.”

On a personal note, I am pleased to announce that my foray into the prison system, Defy Ventures and Donovan State Prison, has been successful. Over $110,000 was raised (much of it from people who read the original column), and the program starts on Jan. 27. I will keep you posted as it evolves (assuming they let me out periodically).

The end of anything is difficult. It is both a celebration for the distance covered and a sadness for the opportunities missed. My shrink shared a personal story the other week about grieving. He talked about a professional disappointment and his willingness to “grieve” to truly have the feelings. It moved me, because sometimes in the frantic moments, in the rush to demo day, we forget to allow for the feelings — and to not just allow, but to embrace them.

It is a scary idea in some ways, but as the year ends, I think it would be nice if we could all find the balance between the hip-hip hooray and a few tears. It is this thing we call living.

I am in awe of our city and its people. I am not sure we are America’s Finest City, but we are definitely in the running. And when our own Demo Day comes around, I am reasonably convinced we will grok it.

Rule No. 491:  Ho, Ho, Ho.

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