startups

Lost and Found [in Town].

Last Sunday, I dropped my phone outside a restaurant in Andersonville. For the record, I’d had one drink. ONE. (We’ll blame the Angostura bitters here, but really, I need my head examined.)I noted that I had dropped it. I chastised myself for being clumsy. Then I walked off without it.

Who does that?

I didn't realize until half an hour later that I hadn’t picked it up, and when I returned to the scene of the crime to retrieve it, my phone was gone. My Android phone worth hundreds of dollars, swiped off the sidewalk by some stranger, never to be seen again. There’s a joke in here somewhere about fiscal responsibility and generally being a damn adult. But I was in no mood for jokes.

I locked my bike up when I got home and trudged upstairs, already calculating which would be less expensive and more worth my efforts: cashing in my insurance policy yet again (the first time, I drowned my phone in a toilet… because I’m awesome) or canceling my contract, paying the early-termination fee and running back to my mother’s family plan. Tail. Between. My legs.

MEANWHILE, IN CYBERSPACE…

A lovely, law-abiding man — not some hoodlum with black-market motives — and his wife had found my phone, and they were looking for ways to get it back to me. Enter Found in Town.

Zach Haller, a friend of mine from Chicago’s amazing tech startup community, had me on board with his universal lost-and-found program almost immediately. Here’s how it works: Users prone to losing things sign up for a set of FiT tags, which come with a unique code and can be affixed to anything and everything that is able to be lost.

When your tags arrive in the mail — branded with the logo of one of FiT’s community partners, who help fund the program — you activate them, attach them to your stuff and wait patiently for the day you can put them to work. (You know, or not, if you're not like me.) For me, that day was Sunday.

When I got into my apartment, I had every intention of sending a series of frantic, futile text messages to my phone with the vain hope that I would get a response from whoever had fled the scene with my link to the world.

Instead, I had two e-mails waiting for me. The first: an e-mail from the resourceful man who found my phone, which I love him for, even if it did mean he had to go through my phone to find my contact information. The second: a notification from Found in Town that someone had found my phone. A little redundant at that point, but…holy crap, it worked. I had my phone back less than two hours after I went braindead and left it on the sidewalk.

Found in Town doesn’t guarantee that your stuff will be returned — if I’d left my now-vaguely-infamous iPad lying on the ground, I don’t expect some good Samaritan would have returned it — but it does make it easier for the stellar human beings among us to do their thing.

I may not be so lucky next time I go full-on bonehead, but I definitely have a little more faith this week in humanity…and technology.

So THANK you, Zach, for having this idea, and thank you to a stranger named Noel for wondering what to do with a silly sticker on the back of a stranger’s phone.

Also: I am including a handy CALL TO ACTION here. Sign up for Found in Town. Spread the word about it. Help an entrepreneur with a fantastic concept take his idea to the next level. Today, Chicago…tomorrow, the world!

My new favorite person: Jill Salzman

New term: "Impostor Syndrome."Coined in the late '70s by a pair of psychologists — and not to be confused with this, which is actually the belief that a loved one has been replaced by an evil doppelganger — Impostor Syndrome an inability to internalize your accomplishments. Basically: Attributing your success to blind luck and good fortune instead of the hard work you did to get yourself there.

Jill Salzman does not have Impostor Syndrome.

She's the real deal. Jill, a self-professed serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is a resource for "mompreneurs" called Founding Moms, understands that the success that’s come to her has been a result of her determination and infectious enthusiasm for every cause she's thrown her weight behind. Jill knows, plus or minus a few butts, exactly how much ass she kicks.

I'd been reading Jill's tweets and Facebook postingsfor months before I saw her speak at the SPARK Women conference during TechWeek, and I'm not sure what I expected going into it…but she surprised me. The woman had me in stitches the entire time, and gave me a whole lot of think about. She told the packed room stories about her ventures — using maybe the simplest PowerPoint presentation I've ever seen; bless you, madam — including the time she invented a publication to get press access to an event she was dying to attend. (She got it, by the way, and rubbed elbows with Eddie Vedder. Rule No. 1 of Entrepreneurship: Make shit up.)

Her utter superiority as a human being wasn't off putting, even for a second, because she somehow balanced it with this grace and humor and self-deprecation that were so completely charming I could hardly deal with it.

 

SELF-LOATHING SIDEBAR. When Saya Hillman invited me to talk at a CRAVE Chicago event back in early June, I knew I wanted to speak off the cuff, tell my story in a way that people would remember. Well, people do remember me, but I think it's because I was a basket case. And I'm not being self-deprecating — I actually remember my inner monologue screaming, "Paige. SHUT UP!!!" as I babbled on and on about God only knows what. The number of time I mentioned boys in front of that room full of female professionals… Oy.

 

Jill did not ramble. She gave a talk at SPARK Women that I dream of giving one day. She has the confidence I dream of having and the results to back it up. (She also has the husband, the kids and that life I dream of…and despite the fact that her newest business caters to mothers, none of her stories revolved around that part of her life — something I can admire in a culture of "LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME" mom bloggers.)

And I think everyone who heard her speak that day was feeling some version of what I was. The woman's got balls, something every woman could use a bit more of. That entire room of women wanted to be Jill Salzman — until she made them realize what they really wanted was to be better versions of themselves.