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How long ago did you use a GPS-powered app to find your way somewhere? Google Maps, Citymapper, Lyft, Uber, Zipcar, Lime, Jump, Skip…if you live in a city and get around on your own, chances are you used one of these apps in the last week. So you need satellites to get around town. We need satellites for other purposes, too, like predicting earthquakes and tracking wildfires. But there’s something simple and seemingly innocuous that’s actually threatening your way of life.

It’s orbital debris — space garbage — pieces of metal, paint, and electronics that have sloughed off of satellites and spacecraft over the last 50 years or so. It’s spinning around Earth, alongside mission-critical and business-critical systems that almost everyone in the world depends on. And if we don’t clean it up, orbital debris will cause trillions of dollars of damage to our hard-won space infrastructure.

For humans to continue to innovate on and off-world, we need to commit to maintaining our satellite environment. It’s important that we increase public awareness of the dangers of orbital debris and enable people to take action.

Most people think of hackathons as almost exclusively the domain of coders, programmers, hardware developments, engineers of all stripes, and other types of technologists. Stretching a bit, people can imagine a need for 3D designers, video game artists, quality professionals, and similar. But the fact is that professionals who might be considered working on the business side of technology should attend hackathons too: marketers, account executives, business development professionals, customer success managers, product managers, and more should all consider participating.

And me? I’m a marketing manager at a company unrelated to the space industry, and I don’t code much.

Recently, I participated in the NASA SpaceApps Challenge, a global hackathon and competition where over 29,000 people from 80 countries came together to solve some of humanity’s biggest problems. I joined the NASA SpaceApps Challenge because I love the space industry and believe it is key to unlocking a long-term future for humanity. And I not only joined a great team that did very well at the competition, but I learned a lot and had a fantastic time too. (If you want to learn about that experience, read this post.)

So I believe any business-minded person has something to offer and get out of a hackathon, if you’ve got a bit of passion for the topic. 

Read on for my tips — and don’t miss the important tip at the end.

Before the hackathon: Understand your motivation

At the hackathon, is it more important for you to: 

A) Learn about the topic and have fun 

B) Win a prize and get noticed

Your answer changes how you prepare and how you choose a team.

  1. If you want to learn and have fun, keep an open mind. All participants have something to teach you. When it’s time to create teams, first look for people who are different than you — try to stretch a bit. Don’t go with people who seem similar to colleagues from other contexts. If you are over 35, I especially encourage you to try to join a team forming around younger team members. 
  2. If you really want to win a prize and get noticed, you should invest time in preparation. Read the complete introductory materials and all the topical challenge areas (if the hackathon has pre-scoped challenges for you). Choose your favorite two or three challenge areas and consider your contribution to that. When it comes time to form a team, look for technologists who have a bit of prior background in those challenge areas. 

At the event: Add value and help your team succeed

Regardless of your intention for a hackathon, here’s what anyone with a business background can contribute to a successful team: Read the rest of this entry »

Here are the events I’ll be attending this fall:

9/26/2019: “Space Entrepreneurship: Founder Challenges” in Bellevue, WA – Looking forward to understanding some of the strategic challenges in creating a commercial space company.

10/18/2019: “NASA Space Apps Challenge Seattle” – I will provide marketing support to a group building apps at the hackathon.

11/15/2019: “Techstars Startup Weekend Seattle: Space Edition” — I will participate as chief marketer for one of the concepts at the event.

Hope to meet you there.


share-imageThe Soviet Union built the first spaceport, Baikonur Cosmodrome, in 1957. In October of that year, Sputnik 1 launched and stayed in orbit for a few months. Since then, about 30 more launch sites were built around the world, and over 1,000 satellites are currently orbiting Earth.

Click through to learn:

  • When (and where) humans started building spaceports [interactive map]
  • Why Italy and France built spaceports in Africa instead of Europe
  • How to choose a site for a spaceport
  • Commercial applications of satellites

Wonderfully fun show!

Presented at Ignite YxYY on July 13, 2014.

Talk track for the deck

You’ve heard of startups needing an “exit strategy” when they take venture capital. Like these guys from WhatsApp, who sold their company to Facebook for $19 billion.

But humanity needs an exit strategy too. Ultimately, we have to get off this planet.


5 billion years from now, the sun will be way huge and probably engulf Earth.

That’s a long time from now, but other stuff will happen in the nearer future:

  • Like an ice age in 100,000 years.
  • Or a massive volcanic explosion, which is also likely within 100,000 years.
  • It’s highly likely that within 500,000 years, a meteor at least 1 km wide will hit. Which would be devastating to life on Earth.
  • If you want to freak yourself out, consider that within 800 million years, there will no longer be enough carbon dioxide to support photosynthesis. That means no kale.
  • And even if we only have McDonald’s by then, all water will evaporate from earth about a billion years from now, because it’ll be too dang hot. An average temperature of 47°C means no more oceans.
So if we want to carry on breathing, we need a place to go that will support our life functions. Stuff like:
  1. Air to breathe and water to drink
  2. Agriculture for renewable food
  3. Mining and manufacturing (we need to put China in space)
I think the key to this is getting more business going in space, so more people are drawn to work on the problems of relocating part of the human race. So far we’ve got entrepreneurs working hard on rocketry, asteroid mining (kinda), and a Mars colony [edit: this was before SpaceX announced their Mars plans, but I was confident]. And I want to help however I can. Hit me up on Twitter if you’d like to talk about it.



“Yesyes.js” refers to a tech talk I hosted at the event featuring three JavaScript developers.

The “nametags” were temporary tattoos to make poolside introductions easier. (No shirt? No problem.)

One of the slides is repeated because I needed more time during that portion of the talk.