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Celebrating 4th of July Beyond BBQs and Beer

Folks, it’s critical that we remember why we're celebrating Independence Day. Lots of people tend to forget the real meaning of the 4th of July while having a beer or enjoying a cookout.

Photo: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Photo: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

This year, take some time to think about our active service members, vets, and milfams, as well all the orgs supporting those people who really have their boots on the ground making a difference for our country.

Here are 5 ways that you can take action this July 4th:

1. Say Thank You. Let a veteran, service member, or military family know that you appreciate them. It seems simple, but it shows that you care and that you remember why this holiday exists. It's really the least we  can do for someone who volunteers to risk their life for us. is a site that allows you to send letters to soldiers, especially those who get little or no mail.

2. Give Back. Check out this list of military and veterans organizations that I support. Please give back to 'em, if you're able. Even small contributions really help. (You can even check out the list of 5 Veterans Groups Who Deserve Recognition on Independence Day.) Charity Navigator does a great job of weeding out the bad actors when it  comes to making a donation.

3. Register to vote. Hey, people across the world really do feel we're the "shining city on the hill," that, seriously, we're the leader of the free world. I feel we need to live up to that, every day, and that means to passionately commit to voting, that's the whole "consent of the governed" thing that the Founders established. Our troops fight for that every day; Dr King gave his life for that. It's up to us all to ensure the integrity of our voting process by getting registered right, and to encourage everyone to vote, regardless of age (18+), ethnicity, or gender. You can register here.

4. Be aware of those around you. As Susanna Speier noted, regarding fireworks:

For soldiers dealing with combat trauma…the explosive
blasts can trigger a more visceral fight/flight response because of
their similarities to the blasts and explosions experienced in Iraq
and/or Afghanistan. Being surrounded by explicit and implicit displays
of patriotism and anti-patriotism can further augment a shell shocked
combat vet’s sense of displacement.

What will you be doing this 4th of July? And what are your favorite ways to give back?

Big News: $50K Awarded at Women Startup Challenge

Last night the first-ever Women Startup Challenge Pitch Competition was a huge success in Washington, DC. 12 women-led startups pitched their innovative and disruptive ventures to a panel of tech investors at General Assembly/1776.

The judges consisted of:

  • Lorine Pendleton, Business Development Executive, Angel Investor, and Advisor to Startups
  • Kelly Keenan Trumpbour, Founder of See Jane Invest
  • Jeffrey Cherry, CEO and Managing Partner of The Porter Group and Founder and Executive Director of Conscious Venture Lab
  • Dr. Steve Davis, Director of Advanced Projects at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX).

I supported Women Who Tech, with Joanne and Fred Wilson, to help ensure that women-led startups get funded.


The event sold out at 340 tickets, and the line to get in wound around the street. Here's some good updates (and this Storify's pretty accurate…).

After the 12 startups pitched, the judges chose 3 winners:

  • Third place went to Kicker (, an independent digital news startup co-founded by Holly Holly Epstein Ojalvo and Lisa Vehrenkamp, based in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Second place was Fam-ess (, which stands for Family First, Earn Always, Save Often and Spend Wisely, founded by Michelle Salsberry, based in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Fam-ess –, is an app that teaches kids ages 3 to 15 the discipline to make spending decisions based on their willingness to earn and save, so that they are better equipped to side step debt as they grow.
  • The winning startup was On Second Thought ( co-founded by Maci Peterson, based in Washington, DC, an innovative messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they are received on another person’s phone. Replacing the phone’s native messaging app, users can eliminate awkward or damaging text situations.


Here are the twelve finalists from the Women Startup Challenge.

  • Amplify Loud – a DIY website and online marketing toolkit for small and mid-sized businesses on a budget.
  • Fam-ess – which stands for Family First, Earn Always, Save Often and Spend Wisely, is an app that teaches kids ages 3-15, the discipline to make spending decisions based on their willingness to earn and save, so that they are better equipped to side step debt as they grow. Fam-ess has a mission to teach kids financial discipline long before going off to college or get their first job.
  • GeoHealth.US – their goal is to help ignite kids with a sense of curiosity & excitement about STEM. They also work to share hyperlocal info with those interested in the impact of their environment on their health.
  • Kicker – an independent digital news startup. Kicker provides snappy explainers with tweets, pictures, and videos that help you get informed and make a difference. They do relevant stories with substance, not clickbait. They note that they never drone on or screech–they curate and explain news and put it into helpful context.
  • LGBTQutie – a progressive online dating and social networking platform that allows people to find meaningful connections, romantic relationships, and friendships. They note that they're the only site that exclusively caters to the full spectrum of LGBTQ sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • MYOLO – considering that nearly 1/2 of all borrowers don't shop around for a mortgage, leaving thousands of dollars on the table, and women heads of household pay 0.4% more on home mortgages on average, Myolo's here to change that.  They say, "we make it simple, easy, and dare we say it, fun, for anyone to apply for a mortgage."
  • On Second Thought – an innovative messaging app that lets you take back text messages you regret before they are received on another person’s phone. Whether Autocorrect is waging a war on your phone, or you’ve just had a little too much to drink, On Second Thought has your back. Replacing the phone’s native messaging app, users can eliminate any awkward or damaging text situations with this app.
  • PeerSpring – a civic-tech educational platform that helps students understand, apply, and master core skills through the practice of good citizenship and passion based learning.
  • Primary Book Club – an e-commerce discovery platform and resource for parents. They currently offer a subscription service for parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Each month, members receive a set of age-appropriate children’s books selected by their team of early childhood development experts.
  • Vijilent – Vijilent strives to create technology that gives individuals and businesses impartial and informed opinions of peoples’ fitness for sharing economy transactions. Unlike other opt-in or subscriber-based trust services, a Vijilent ‘V-Score’ is based on predictive analytics of anonymous peoples’ public records and public social media data – much like a credit score, only tailored for particular social transactions instead of financial ones.
  • Virtue.Us – Virtue.Us takes your purchasing data (from your email inbox), and maps research done by NGOs and sustainability experts onto it, giving you a distinct sense of how your purchases are impacting the world. You can think of it as "social impact analytics about your purchases, straight to your email inbox."
  • Zidisha: P2P Microlending Without Borders – an online microlending community to connect lenders and borrowers directly across international borders – overcoming previously insurmountable barriers of geography, wealth and circumstance. Zidisha borrowers pay one lifetime membership fee when they first join, and thereafter only 5% for each loan. Lower costs mean profits from the loan projects go to the borrowers, instead of to the banks’ administrative expenses.

Helping people build businesses should be about investing in women the same as men. It's how we’ll find the best startups with the potential to change the world. Stay tuned…

A Nerd's Summer Reading List

**Correction, with my apologies: I've read maybe 1100 books, I think, since I started buying through Amazon. Lifetime total, so far, probably over five thousand.

Folks, I read a lot of books, about eight novels per month, so finding enough isn't easy.. I currently use the Kindle app, even though it can be buggy.

(I've read around 1100 books, mostly science fiction. Note: 1. I'm a nerd, and 2. it's how we roll.)

reading list

Please note: My reading habits are always the same, regardless of summer.

Some of my favorite books, among the unexpected, include:

  • The Jefferson Bible (Thomas Jefferson, himself)
  • Rabbit Boss, Zoot-Suit Murders, and Mile Zero (Thomas Sanchez)
  • Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was (Barry Hughart)
  • Book of Mercy (hey, Leonard Cohen's my rabbi…)
  • Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)
  • A Secret History – Book of Ash, #1, #2, and #3 (Mary Gentle)

Authors whose work I read the most include:

  • Charles Stross – 21
  • Elizabeth Bear – 17
  • Jim Butcher – 16
  • C.J. Cherryh – 16
  • Glen Cook – 15
  • John Maddox Roberts – 15

Check out my up-to-date Goodreads list here. What do you suggest I add? Thanks!


We Need to Give Back to America's Heroes & Here's How

Hey, it's important that we support veterans and their families. One way I'm doing that is by giving to the Veterans Charity Challenge 3. The Veterans Charity Challenge 3 is a fundraising competition where organizations benefiting America's heroes, such as veterans, military families, police and firefighters, compete to raise the most money with the top teams winning grand prize cash donations from craigconnects.
vets charity

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Radio Provides the Suba Community a Rare Voice

Hey, I'm sharing another blog post I just received from the good folks at Organic Health Response in Mfangano Island in Kenya (see map for reference). This post was written in May, but publication's been delayed as they've been trying to track down this Mzee (a respective name for an older male in Swahili!) for a photo (pictured below).  He was out of the island for some time.

I support the Organic  Health Response, and think it's really important to continue supporting orgs who are helping others.

Now, here's the latest story from the Suba community:

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