The Journal

For those of us that travel…

It didn’t really take much time and always seemed easy. All those business trips in planes, a couple hours to yourself, off the grid. I started when Ryan was 5 and Alyssa was 1. Spending 15 minutes each flight adding another page to a letter on the laptop, each starting “Dear Alyssa” or “Dear Ryan” and following with all that was going on in our lives, what was great, what wasn’t, what Jackie and my fears and hopes were for them at that moment. A snapshot of the past month. Every month or two I would add another page, and over the years it began to transform from snapshots to a time-lapse movie of their growing up. The changes were dramatic when taken in one reading, learning to walk, getting on the bus the first day, struggling through the science fair, first boyfriends or girlfriends. A record of father-mother-son-daughter through the years. They did not know of the letters, and they each became more than 40 pages long.

When Ryan was 15, we had our first trip overseas, just the two of us, to Scotland. The week before I printed out the letter with calligraphic type, and with great care, pasted each page into an old, worn journal, the weather-beaten cover a good match for the content. At the end of our trip, I penned an introduction explaining the honor of being his father, and a final chapter, with the trip high points of this father and son adventure. I slipped the book onto his bed, not knowing when he would find it, or when he would read it.

Not a word was said by either of us for two days, that being the code of communication for father and son. Two nights later, I had reason to take a look at the book again, to check some fact, and when I picked it up, it opened to a new page that I had not written.

The freshly written letter started; “Dad, I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I need to share what it has been like for me these years…”

The time it took to write the letter was nothing. The remembering to add to it every trip was not hard. And the value of the resulting written, shared record of a father and son is hard to measure. I will never forget reading his response.

For those of us that travel, being away is hard. I suggest that you find your own way to take a slice of that time to create something of great value that came from the being apart.


Scott and son, Ryan, in Scotland

Scott and son, Ryan, in Scotland


Beyond Business

“This took my breath away, and this is why we do what we do.”

Katasi attracts talented people because of the nature of the problem set and the business opportunity. The people involved have the opportunity to solve a big problem with an elegant technical solution. The icing on the cake is the reward of a thriving business as we do well. At the same time, scratch the surface and you find we are as driven by the opportunity to do great things as a result of a good business; to stop the heinous devastation to families that distracted driving can be. The import of the mission is not obvious when you walk into the company, with the stunning view of the Flatirons from our windows, the telescope on the patio that we use to spot climbers on Boulder’s mountains, the humor and edginess the company and people exude. But it takes only a simple Facebook messenger post to quickly see what is underneath.

It is unusual for me to be contacted for business on Facebook, but last weekend a message coming from a stranger moved me greatly. “I just heard of Groove on CNN, if Groove were around a year ago I might not have lost my two children…”. The message was brief, told of a loss that a mother was wrestling to comprehend, and closed with a blessing to our company for inventing Groove.

I forwarded the message to a handful of people in the company, with little preamble…just a brief “I received this today” as the message spoke for itself. The responses were similarly short and heartfelt, echoing different versions of “This took my breath away, and this is why we do what we do.”

But the response that moved me most was not from a team member, but from one of our investors in Australia. I was on a video call with Scott to update him on recent progress, and, following our discussion of Telco deployments, and technical successes and various other challenges, I told him there was one more thing.

Video conferencing is powerful for the transparency it provides for the 90% of communication that we see but don’t hear. I pressed send, forwarded the message and simply said “we received this a couple of days back, take a look”. He read the message while I waited.

Scott represents our most significant single investor, without whom it would be difficult to picture how we would have been successful. As he silently read the message, his eyes welled up, and even from 8,500 miles away I could see the impact of the message. With his voice wavering, he commented on how appreciative he and another investor were to be able to help forward the Katasi mission. I similarly teared-up from realizing how much what we did mattered to him, beyond our efforts to provide a return on investment. After a few more emotional back and forth comments, we signed off.

Business gets slammed at times for what is perceived as its relentless focus on shareholder return at the expense of the common good. That has not been my experience. Entrepreneurs and the ecosystem around them are rife with Good People. Maybe it’s the nature of creating something from nothing that attracts these people, but I think that gives short shrift. I’m convinced that rather than attract the good people it simply shines a light on the good in people that is already there.

This is what I believe can be so good and rewarding about business; it is something that goes beyond “hitting the numbers” or showing a return on investment. In this instance, a new technology to prevent distracted driving helped bring together complete strangers, even if only for a few moments, who share a vision or a desire for making the world a little bit better. This mother’s message was a wonderful and yet humbling reminder of the power and serendipity of the journey that we are all on.

Join us in trying to make distracted driving an unacceptable human behavior.

Shouldn’t This Be Legislated???

Groove: Shouldn’t This Be Legislated???

I’m often asked…” shouldn’t this be legislated???” yes, but… for legislation to work, it needs to support the agenda of as many stakeholders as possible…telco’s, government, insurance companies, drivers… and needs to be thought out so that all involved say “yes” … with distracted driving, we are all on the same side … this needs to stop … can legislation be written that everyone agrees with … two suggestions:

  1. During the graduated drivers license period from when a 15 year old has their learners permit, till they are 17 years old, in states where any cell phone use is prohibited, the mobile phone provider shall provide, and the new driver be required to use, a technology that will limit phone use from the mobile phone provider network when the new driver is driving. The telco can charge a fair price for this service, which shall be incorporated into new drivers license fees.
  2. Each mobile phone provider shall be able to limit the capability to limit distractions sent to a phone when a phone user is driving, at a fair price, for customers desiring such a service and willing to pay the fee.

Join us. Be a part of the Groovement.

First Drive in OZ

First Drive in OZ

I’ve always wondered about a vignette that I heard of first in elementary school. The story was that when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb we know today, he had previously tried hundreds of filaments in an effort to find one that would last more than minutes. He knew that if he succeeded, the world would change, as electric lighting would be born in that moment. As he worked his way through hundreds of possible materials, he came upon carbonized bamboo. After painstakingly preparing and putting it in a test light bulb, he pumped the air out of the globe and turned it on. The story described him sitting quietly watching the bulb, throughout the night, clock ticking off the minutes then hours that the bulb continued to glow. As the story told it, he stayed up through the night till morning simply staring at the glowing bulb.

What puzzled me when I first heard the story was that he was the one doing this third-shift work; staying up all night, watching a light bulb…for goodness sakes, he had already invented the phonograph at that point, didn’t he have people for that kind of thing?

Last week I finally understood.

Last Thursday at 9:30 in the morning in Australia, a pilot participant named Neil started a car in Sydney and began a drive. In the car was a Groove module connected via an Australia Telco to Katasi software in Colorado. It was 3:30 in the afternoon here in Colorado and we had five developers at their monitors as the first drive of a production Groove deployment in Australia began. On the monitors in Colorado, numbers filled the screens. A speaker phone in our room was connected by teleconference to the technical team in Australia, simultaneously monitoring their screens. Also on the call was Neil’s mobile phone on speaker, on the passenger seat of his car.

We have had a pilot active with Sprint for more than two years, and have been testing Groove here in the US since then, prepping for an upcoming US launch, but this was the first time that Groove had been deployed with all the bells and whistles; text and voice being blocked, blocked messages saved, distracting data blocked from reaching the phone with navigation and music apps allowed. In other words, the first drive of a fully deployed production version of Groove. It was our light bulb moment. The first drive of what we expect to be millions more.

I was honored to be a part of it. Nothing really for me to do but watch the teams do their work, as I sat in a seat in the corner, ignored by those actually doing the work, but oh, what an honor. We would hear Neil announce…”turned key on”, and then the team watching the screens would announce “I’ve got it! Drive start notice!” and then our developers would say “I’m seeing the flag, Neil is crossing 8 kilometers per hour”, and then almost simultaneously from the other side of the world we would hear Neil announce “just crossed 8 kph”. And then Neil would then pull the car over for a test, and then we would hear “turning off the car”, and within seconds the developers would chime in “end of trip signaled!”.

Neil having pulled his car over, would try his phone, and it would be blocked. And then he would turn off the car, and try the phone again…and it would work. We tried it over and over…our version of watching the lightbulb for hours…start driving….phone is blocked…stop driving…phone is enabled. We couldn’t get enough of it.

It was an amazing experience, listening in on the teams in Australia and the US, as Neil drove through Sydney, with a dozen engineers watching the drive unfold on the screens. Brad, husband of Aprille, our Director of Technology, and Marianne, wife of Eric, one of our developers, had joined us for the event. After the first 30 minutes, we opened the champagne that Marianne had brought and toasted our first drive in Oz. It was one of those strangely warm Colorado February afternoons, with a drop-dead gorgeous sunset over the mountains west of town. A celebratory photo was taken, champagne glasses in hand.

There were hiccups that we identified that will be sorted out in the coming weeks, but in the words of Neil, who weighed in at the end of his drives “Amazing! The performance was delightful!”.

When you know how Groove works…the car connected to the cloud, Groove software identifying the driver and notifying the Carrier, the Carrier turning off distractions, it can seem to lose some of the magic. But when it all comes together…it magically does Just Work. A drive starts, and within seconds of crossing 5 mph, without any “safe driving” app on the phone, the phone becomes safe, not allowing distractions. And within seconds of turning off the key, it returns to full function. It really did seem just a bit magical, particularly given the distances…it took only seconds for Groove to know when to turn the phone on and off.

After a couple hours the screens were turned off, and we all hung around as long as we could justify…basking in the rosy glow of something very special. Roger, Aprille and Eric summed it up best by saying in various ways “that was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened in my career”.

And in that moment I understood. Thomas Alva Edison did not stay up for 12 hours watching his light bulb because he didn’t have someone else available. He watched the bulb because he wouldn’t have traded those moments for anything. For those 12 hours he sat looking at something come to life that was to change the world and he didn’t want the moment to end.

That was also our experience last Thursday.


Join us. Be a part of the Groovement.