Hacking Sleep (Part 1)

My sleep habits for all practical purposes are about as perfect as real life permits. I excercise almost daily, I eat well, and I follow the old “early to bed early to rise” philosophy. I travel frequently, but if I’m at home, I’m dialed in.

However despite doing everything “right”, I noticed I was dragging in the mornings. Day after day. I would go to bed early and wake up before my alarm could go off. Solid 8-9 hrs of sleep. But still felt tired.

So I started doing some detective work:

Going to bed early (10pm) – check
Limiting screen time 1hr before bed – check
Limiting caffeine to before noon – check

These are the biggest items that can disrupt sleep, so I got my Sense sleep tracker set up again and started monitoring my sleep. Sense’s scale is 60s= Red 70s= Yellow, 80s+= green. The sensor looks at room conditions – temp, light, noise, humidity, sleep duration, deep sleep duration and agitated sleep. And it seemed like a fair reflection of my sleep. Since I was seeing red and yellow I wondered what it take to boost me to green…

So I started tinkering.
5 days with no changes. Yellow and Red.
Day 6, add ZMA. Green.
Day 7, remove ZMA. Yellow.
Day 8, no changes. Yellow.
Day 9, add ZMA. Green.
Day 10, add ZMA. Green.
Day 11, add ZMA. Green.
Day 12 – Travel –
Day 13 – Travel –
Day 14, add ZMA. Green.
Day 15, add ZMA. Green.

Seeing a pattern here?

Simply adding ZMA boosted my sleep score by 10+ points almost instantly. What is ZMA you ask? It’s Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6. It has a host of benefits you can read about here, but the most important one for the purposes of this post is SLEEP.

Now, do I sleep *perfectly* every night? No chance. The real world intervenes but I have more green dots than yellow dots now and no reds.

I wake up after 9 hrs of sleep and I see I got 4.5hrs of deep sleep. No wonder I feel great.

Sleep is one of the most important things in our lives, yet many people often don’t focus on it. If you’re not sleeping well, run through the brief checklist above. And if you’re already doing these things and want to make further improvements – grab some ZMA. (I buy Phd ZMA in the UK, but if you’re in the US I’d recommend you get Jym ZMA)

Investing in Yourself

I gave a brief talk at Slush 2013 on “Taking Care of Yourself”, (slides here). Slush is just around the corner, so I’ve stopped to reflect on which of these habits I’ve kept, lost or added to. This post is an extension of that talk, and focuses on the same fundamental building blocks: Mind, Body and Spirit.

The most important asset in any business is you: the Founder (or co-founder). Without you, the company loses it’s spirit and character. As an investor, I’d kind of like to keep the spirit and character of the companies I’m investing into in tact… Running a start-up is not the lowest stress job on the planet. Long hours, late nights, travel, etc. so, I always encourage the entrepreneurs I work with to take care of themselves – both for themselves and the people around them (friends, family, employees and investors)


You probably read a lot of stuff. You’re short on time, so quantity over quality is going to be optimal. I’ve spent the last few years trying to refine where I get my information. I discovered AI driven RSS readers ages ago, and never looked back. Zite was my go-to app for getting a personalized news feed. That’s now been bought by Flipboard, which I’m using daily now. I’m not sure the recommendations are as tech-centric, but I still get interesting articles that are relevant to me. Another great source of news is Wired UK’s AWAKE, with 10 recommended articles for the day.


Fuel: A clean diet is the best diet, but not always the simplest. This site, the Whole Life Challenge, is a great place to start if you’re serious about overhauling yourself. I started eating (mostly) paleo about 2 years ago and managed to shed 15lbs over a 9 month period. If you don’t want to do that, try to focus on eating more vegetables and more fish, and cutting booze. Especially if you travel.

Exercise: If you’re working in a start-up, it’s likely that you’re not getting regular exercise. At a minimum, get some type of fitness tracker (or just use your phone) and make sure you’re walking those 10k steps per day. An Apple Watch is a nice one to use since it also tells you when to stand if you’ve been sitting too long. Once your past that, I would recommend bodyweight exercises because you can do them anywhere (home or work). Beyond that, I’m sure you can break the internet looking at training options. The key is to do something active, and track it.

Sleep: We spend 30% of our lives sleeping. How you treat this major component of your life impacts everything else. I started using a sleep tracker to better understand how I was sleeping (Jawbone UP is my favorite – I think it tracks deep sleep the best, and I like their app). Again, you can use your phone to get started with sleep tracking, but there are a few tips that will really help improve your sleep: 1) Get to bed early. Like you’re a kid. I targeted 9:30pm initially. This meant I woke up with no buzzing alarm clock. That alone makes you feel amazing. 2) Turn off your phone and laptop at least 1hr before bed. The blue light is wrecking your circadian rhythms. You can cheat if you use flux – but still, try to turn screens off and read a book on happiness or call your mom instead.


This one can take a few different forms: religion/prayer, meditation/yoga, charity work, etc – anything to develop your inner self. Meditation 2.0 became a buzz word in the valley a few years back, but industry legend Steve Jobs was a long time practitioner of meditation. If it’s good enough for Uncle Stevie, it’s good enough for me. I started with meditation actively a few years ago to try to settle down my hyperactive, information overloaded mind and attempt to improve my ability to concentrate, focus and genuinely listen when I’m in a conversation (not just waiting to speak). As a result, it’s improved my social skills, my relationships and helps me with my day job. I try to have some form of meditation daily – I find Headspace to be easy (it’s guided), quick (20 min) and progressive – so it doesn’t get boring, and you can see you’re making progress. There a many options on this front – the point is that you find what works for you.

That’s it – Mind, Body, Spirit. I really encourage you to make these three parts of your life a top priority, and everything else will fall into place. These are essential ingredients to a happy and productive life – if you neglect them, your performance (and happiness) will suffer. We all skip the gym, eat badly, cut sleep etc – but that needs to be a short term exception. Life (and startups) is a marathon – not a sprint. Sustainable, healthy habits form the foundation of success – take the time to invest in yourself – it will pay dividends several times over…

Good luck!

Google Chrome Tips

Ok, this may not be the newest tip on the block, and I’m not sure how I ever overlooked it: Pinned Tabs.

I migrated to Chrome on the PC as soon as it was stable, and on the Mac as soon as it was available. Somehow I missed pinned tabs though…

You can pin tabs inside Chrome (just like in Firefox) by control clicking (or right clicking for PC users) on the tab.

I always have the same 4-5 tabs always open, always running. You see the first one is Gmail. I don’t use local email clients anymore (and haven’t for a while); same for my calendar. Pinning the tab saves space and clicks when you fire up Chrome (the pins reopen when you restart your browser…).

If you knew this, thanks for letting me know sooner. If you didn’t know this- enjoy!


Age of Abundance (The Dedicated Device Rule)

There’s a fresh article in this month’s UK Wired- “Watches are the ultimate proof that we are not rational“, which applies directly to me (and an increasing number of my VC friends.)

It reminded me of a discussion that happened during my MBA – we were asked to envision what “the watch of the future” would be- ideas of mini-computers embedded in watches, internet connected glasses, etc populated the conversation. I suggested that the watch of the future was no watch- time was all around us and on every phone (this was when my Ericsson T29 constantly showed the time, not my black as night iPhone), and for a long time I lived by my prediction- no watch. Just my phone. My personal philosophy for many years has been one of simplicity- having just *one* of anything…

But days have changed, and on the watch front, I now own more watches than ever before… my three favorites are my Suunto T3 heart rate monitor- my trusted companion as I pedal away on my bike for 100+ miles a week, my Casio CA53W-1 for splitting up the dinner tab, and my Explorer II because it needs to be worn to be wound-  I love the idea of a self sufficient, kinetic watch. The one thing the three watches have in common is that they all offer dual time; as an expat that’s one point that never crossed my mind during my MBA (even though I was sitting in Spain at the time)- how important knowing what time it was in more than one city at any given moment. Instantly. But they are all very different watches, designed for different purposes or occasions.

Yes, my iPhone shows me the time (and weather) across the globe, but having a dedicated item on my wrist has taken on more importance over the years- and I’ve had a proliferation of watches in the interim.

I think the same applies the digital devices world. (I’ve had device creep without even realizing it.)

My iPhone was the holy grail when I bought it (and gets more powerful with each generation and app release), and I thought it would be the only device I needed… but I carry an iPhone and a Blackberry daily, and if rumors are to be believed, will probably add an iTablet to the mix soon. In the computing world, I also own 3 computers (iMac, Macbook Pro, Lenovo PC) but will also be getting a cloudbook next month. I tend to travel with both my Macbook and my PC. A cloudbook may replace my Macbook, but that remains to be seen… (I imagine it will end up being for checking mail and social activities online from the couch more than as a road warrior…)

I was even handed a dedicated wikipedia device last week as well- which is designed to be used by school kids.

All of the devices mentioned above are designed to perform one core function, with overlapping functionality in other areas. For me, I believe the future of devices will be exactly the same. Simplicity and function will drive this proliferation of dedicated devices-  the kindle, the flip, etc indicate the future… all in one devices means lowest common denominator. Dedicated devices mean optimal design and performance….

Critical Mass London- Get out your Bike [Updated]


After further thought, I won't be attending. Possibly the most dangerous vehicle on the roads is the Irresponsible Cyclist. 

While I agree that more cycle awareness and support for cyclists is needed, I don't think breaking the law, clogging traffic and generally causing mayhem is the best way to advance cycling in metropolitan areas. 

One of the key criticisms I always hear about cyclists in London is that they "always break the law"- which is something I make a point of not doing. Responsible cycling is really the best way forward… with awareness and respect from motor vehicles- I can't see that Critical Mass promotes that type of protest, so won't be joining. Ping me or leave a comment if you know of any "positive protests" in the City…


Conditions for cyclists in London can range from pretty poor to extremely dangerous… I literally have *very* close calls on a daily basis. Luckily I haven't eaten any pavement yet, but I'm sure it won't be long, despite being pretty defensive out there.

If you'd like to join an awareness event for cycling, the next Critical Mass London is next Friday at 6pm on the South Bank under Waterloo Bridge, by the National Film Theatre. 

What's Critical Mass? Here's a recent video from the WSJ on its origins:

Up, Up and Up

It’s earnings season on Wall Street and the news is very good:

Amazon- Q1 profit up 29%
Apple- Q1 profit up 36%
Google- Q1 profit up 30%
Broadcom – Q1 profit up 22%

Most of the results are due to non-US strength, but they are very stong results across the board…

Should I stay, or should I go?

This is the eternal question every Londoner (or any urbanite) faces:

You’ve missed the bus- do you walk to the next stop to try to catch it, or do you stay put and wait for the next one to come along?

There is a precise mathematical equation that can be used anytime you’re faced with this dilemma:


The long and short of it is, if you walk to the next bus stop- chances are the bus will pass you by, and you’ll end up waiting even longer…so stay put.

You can read the full proof here, Walk versus Wait:
The Lazy Mathematician Wins
, if that’s your thing.

Quote of the Day- Gordon Brown

Responding to criticism that the UK property market is crashing, Gordon Brown stated:

"We’ve seen house prices rise by about 180% over the last 10 years and
they have risen by about 18% over the last three years, so a 2.5% fall
is something that is containable," Brown said.

A quick check shows that Bear Sterns was up 150% over the last 10 years as at Dec 2007 ($90/share)…

Then, the bottom fell out and the stock is trading down (87%) YTD ($10/share). What destroyed their share value? The credit crunch.

Guess what’s about to crack the UK housing market?