Archive for February, 2013

February 28, 2013

Accelerator for Investors

I have been thinking a lot about how to get new breed of investors into the fold of supporting the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. I think it would be great to have a mentorship driven accelerator just like TechStars or YCombinator focused on building Investors or Investment companies. I think everyone can learn from having mentors and advisors, even Warren Buffet had Ben Graham, time box the creation of the concept and get validation on a public forum and then go on to raise the money and build a venture firm. I wrote about the documentary “Something Ventured“, it was obvious all the early investors had some mentors and advisors who did not know much about startups or silicon valley but they acted as sound boards, what if we could create that here in Iceland?graham-buffett

I think the current club of investors is a crap shoot. It is an exclusive club of someone having pedigree, a wealthy family or should have been lucky to have been a entrepreneur who cashed in or lucky to be appointed as a fund manager by the government or a pension fund or a bank. I think this model is broken. I am sure there are very qualified people playing the role of investors in all these platforms, but I think there needs to be a better way to build a new generation of investors. Waiting for the new generation to successfully exit and return back as investors takes too much time. What if we could create an accelerator that allows anyone who is willing to go through the troubles and tribulations of an entrepreneur, but to become an investor?

The reason I have been thinking about this is because of all the nays I get when I suggest that we need to have more investors looking at startups and investing in startups. The more nodes we have in the ecosystem the stronger the node becomes and what drives people to take on the role of an entrepreneur is a supporting community that provides the environment but also the capital. I have said it before I will say it again, there is enough and more capital well within the confines of Iceland. I wrote about Local Capital a while back. I have come to believe the reason people don’t want to jump and do this is because it is a lot of work and you need to be willing to become a student even though you may have some money and success.

Now that we have a accelerator for Startups in Iceland called Startup Reykjavik, I think creating an accelerator for investment firms is not such a bad idea. The intention would be to create 10 investment companies, solicit applications, pair the teams with mentors, time box it for 3 months and at the end of the 3rd month run a investor day where the teams can present the idea of how they will run the investment firm. What do you think?

February 27, 2013

Coding

My daughter hacking

My daughter hacking

I have been hammering the notion of Software development for as long as I can remember. I took up Computer Science when I was 14, it was just fun to do but I was never that good in programming what I was really good at was Strategizing on what computing could do to our lives. I stuck to Software through out my career, understanding how computers and software works in a global network is a life skill. Here is a video explaining why this is important to get our kids involved in this exercise.

Kids hacking RasberryPi and GreenQloud

Kids hacking RasberryPi and GreenQloud

I have had arguments with my wife about the utter lack of understanding in my daughters school on what they should be teaching them about computers. Wait for it… WORD!!! yes, they are teaching my daughter how to use WORD! arrg…the humanity! I still cannot contain my frustration. We don’t want our kids to be consumers of software, we want them to be creators and innovators and problem solvers. I am on a mission to get the power of cloud computing to every class room in Iceland. The video is aptly named “What they don’t teach in schools” and that is computer programming. It is understandable but sad. Teachers could learn something from the kids now a days. No teacher that I have met has taken the initiative to understand how the world of software works and included it in the curriculum. That is why I believe Entrepreneurs will solve this problem. I have written about Skema a startup that is teaching kids especially girls about computers and software. I believe this is the future, everything we do is going to involve computers or software or machine language. I urge you to allow your kids to learn this skill, they will thank you for it. The great programmers of the future are going to be the Rock Stars. I am buying a cool computer for my daughter soon, she is every interested and has taken a number of classes with Skema.

February 26, 2013

Disruption revisited and redefined

The word Disruption has a negative context, the definition according to Dictionary.com is

1. ( tr ) to throw into turmoil or disorder
2. ( tr ) to interrupt the progress of (a movement, meeting, etc)
3. to break or split (something) apart
English: Diagram showing overview of cloud com...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel the dictionaries do not do justice to the word. The use of the word Disrupt in the innovation context is more a positive one although it depends on which side of the table you are, are you an incumbent or a new entrant disrupting the established order. Disruption happens due to a number of reasons. I have written about it before, but what is fascinating is that all the things that we use today were disruptive technologies when they were introduced. Think of the Radio, TV, Video, CD Player, Automobile, Air travel etc they fundamentally changed how we perceive the service provided by these tools. I believe we are undergoing a major transformation in disruption, where business models are being disrupted.

Anyone can say what they want about Cloud Computing but it is truly disruptive in terms of the business model. The same is true for Mobile Commerce or for that matter Self Education. All these massive trends are in front of us and the change is not going to be like night and day but it is going to a gradual transition, where one day we wake up and see that 90% of us use Smart Phones not by using the keyboard but by giving voice instructions. I have been very impressed with how good Google Voice Recognition is on my Android. Fred Wilson wrote about it with the title “Simplicity, The Emerging UI and Machine Learning“.

The disruption occurs because of the ability of some entrant to see a new light to an accepted problem. I had a very interesting conversation with a buddy of mine who is in sales for very large network gear company, he was telling me about the conversation that he has with large organizations who basically dismiss the Cloud hype and how he disagreed with that argument. I agree with him, obviously I am biased because of my neck deep involvement in GreenQloud, where we were able to implement a small disruption in how you share and listen to music you own through our StorageQloud offering, it is so simple to do even my grandma can do it, mind you, she was a very very intelligent women. But the facts are facts… these technologies provide tremendous value to those who can embrace them and make the technology work for them, for those who are happy with the status quo it would look like a hype until that day when their competitors have moved over to this new technology and are eating their lunch in the marketplace… think Blockbuster vs. Netflix or Kodak vs. Digital Camera or Nokia vs. Apple, I can go on. You know who else is disrupting Volkswagon… I am sure you have seen this ad

February 25, 2013

Startup Life

Startup Life - Amy and BradI have been reading the new book by Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor on Startup Life -surviving and thriving in a relationship with an entrepreneur. I think Brad and Amy bring a level of conversation that I have not read in a self help or relationship help book. This is one of the must have book as a reference if you are an Entrepreneur or a Startup Founder or working in a Startup. It has many strategies, stories, sacrifices and simple advice on making things work while everything around the entrepreneur is moving at a crazy pace. I have been enjoying the book. I would recommend everyone to read this book. The contents of the book are not just for Entrepreneurs it is for anyone wanting to having a lifelong relationship with a person whom they love, respect and admire. Here are some excerpts from the book:

In a relationship with a hyperrational engineer type of entrepreneur, it can be maddening to have him try to solve your problem or figure out what has caused you to be angry. This is especially vexing when the gender dynamic around solving a problem versus providing empathy is tossed into the mix. Try to recognize when this is going on and shift into empathy mode to calm the savage beast, rather than problem-solving mode, which will likely inflame things.

Which couple has not encountered this before? and how many times have you asked yourself after a blow up what happened? what did I do? I have and I constantly try to remind myself that my wife cannot read my mind and I don’t have to solve all problems. When Brad is visiting Iceland this June we plan to have a small event – a dinner with a group of Entrepreneurs and their significant other. If you want to participate you need to participate in Startup Iceland 2013. Given that we will have a small number of slots for this event, I would like to hear why you believe you need to be in that group. Write to me and we will pick who gets to go… sorry, cannot get everyone on board but everyone can get the book and read it and interact with Brad and Amy when they are here in Iceland the first week of June, how cool is that?

February 24, 2013

Depression

English: Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event.

There has been a lot of posts in the blog sphere about depression and the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz and. Brad Feld wrote about his struggle with this in “Are Entrepreneurs more prone to Depression and Divorce?” and I saw a post this morning by DARIUS “BUBS” MONSEF with the title “If you ever feel alone in this…“. I have to admit I have been through these phases many times myself. This is a serious problem for Entrepreneurs and I wanted to draw attention to this issue. I tend to write more about topics that strategy or business activities focused, all that amounts to hill of beans if the most important resource of all…i.e You the Entrepreneur are struggling inside. I did; I do and I am and have been learning to cope with it. Darius’s post really hit home to me and I had been meaning to write about Aaron for a while but never got around to, anyways better late than never. Depression is a serious problem within the Entrepreneurial and Startup founders. I read an article in pandodaily.com about the depression “why many entrepreneurs are privately suffering, and what to do about it“, it was good description of the problem and strategy on what to do about it. I don’t have any silver bullet, but I can talk about what I do when I go through these phases and maybe those strategies could help you.

  1. I have always found Music to lift me out of an episode of the blues. I listen to all kinds of music Justin Beiber (influenced by my daughter) to Metallica to Beethoven (Hey! dont judge me I just do what works for me!)
  2. I listen to Audio books on Depression, Psychology and Better Habits to get out of the rut like “The Road Less Travelled”, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 8th Habit – Find your voice and help others find theirs” etc
  3. I remind myself about all the love there is in this world, people doing total selfless acts of kindness and the saints and great men and women who have sacrificed themselves for the betterment of others like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela etc I am sure they all went through challenges far greater than what you and I face and they were able to beat the demons so can we.
  4. Run – running has really changed my perspective on what a human mind is capable of, because running is a shear act of will and that is why I run Marathons.
  5. Having a sense of purpose of why I do what I do. I have dedicated my time and effort to helping Startups and Entrepreneurship in Iceland, where I learn a lot from really smart people and maybe help someone along the way. This has really changed my perspective on giving. I have adopted a Give first philosophy to everything Love, Time, Money etc
  6. Watch motivational videos, try searching for it on YouTube some are really good.

Try these things if you believe you have a problem, also note you are not alone… you can always reach out to me whoever you are through the comments section here and I am very good on email (drives my wife crazy but you got to do what you got to do…).

February 23, 2013

Startup Iceland 2013 – Platform to present your Startup

GreenQloud Booth – Career Day Reykjavik University

We had our planning meeting yesterday and Stefan suggested that we should have the startups from Iceland and around the world come and setup a booth during the Hackathon and UNConference event. We all thought that it would be a great idea so we are going to market and allow Startups from Iceland and all over to setup a booth space. This would be a perfect setting where more than 350 people who are interested in Startups, Entrepreneurship and Startup Communities will be present and a great audience to present one’s startup idea
pitch.

Remake Electric – UTMessan 2013

I have felt that it is a great way for people who are starting up to tell a story about their vision. The original idea was to give a 5 min slot to a handful of startups to present during the conference, which is too short a time and does not give enough depth to a startup and the audience will not have time to absorb why they should be interested in the company. So we are calling all startups to contact us by sending an email to booth at startupiceland dot com and reserve your space. This is a perfect opportunity to practice your pitch and who knows maybe you will find your angel investor. Let us know what you think of the idea as well.

February 22, 2013

Sustaining vs Disruptive Technologies

English: Disruptive technology graph

English: Disruptive technology graph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I keep coming back to Clay M. Christensen’s work on The Innovator’s Dilemma. I think the wave of technological changes that is happening as I type this post is quite dramatic. It is interesting to note that HP and DELL both reported earnings where the PC market is declining worldwide at a dramatic phase. HP’s PC business fell by 8% actually all of the business line’s top line revenue fell but of course the headlines in the media reads “At Last, HP Beats Street in Q1 Earning Report“, it only takes a simple look at the year over year trend to see that HP beat the projections of Wall Street analysts by cutting costs and laying off people, I am not sure how you can call this a turn around? anyways, I digress… if you look at DELL’s earning report it is even more dramatic, 31% decline in profits and 24% decline in Consumer business. I really think both Michael Dell and Meg Whitman need to read the book by Clay Christensen, maybe they have and as it states in the book, good well managed companies fail precisely because they have well grounded, established management practices as Clay Christensen puts it

If good management practice drives the failure of successful firms faced with disruptive technological change, then the usual answers to companies’ problems-planning better, working harder, becoming more customer-driven, and taking a longer-term perspective-all exacerbate the problem. Sound execution, speed-to-market, total quality management, and process reengineering are similarly ineffective. Needless to say, this is disquieting news to people who teach future managers!

all the things that the leadership in DELL, HP and to a large extent in Microsoft are doing is futile because they continue to look at the world as a sustainable technological improvement which is incorrect. Maybe Microsoft is doing things a little differently and maybe so is DELL and HP, but the rhetoric coming out of the PR machines in these companies is so passe.

So what is this difference between Sustaining vs Disruptive Technology you ask?

Sustaining technologies improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued. Most technological advances in a given industry are sustaining in character. On the other hand Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, and, frequently, more convenient to use.

February 8, 2013

Exporting Renewable Energy from Iceland

The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þing...

The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a presentation that I will be making tomorrow in UTMessan the annual IT industry conference of Iceland. I strongly believe that value added export of renewable energy is in the best interest of Iceland. There is a lot of debate about exporting the raw electricity from Iceland to Europe, I could not disagree more. What needs to be done is Iceland needs to invest in developing the Startup Ecosystem that focuses on Software based companies, which in turn need to use the Renewable Energy to export value added services… just like GreenQloud

February 7, 2013

Startup Renaissance

Reykjavik

Reykjavik (Photo credit: natematias)

I was invited to give a talk on Career Day in Reykjavik University. I wanted to drive home a message that Entrepreneurship is a viable career alternative. I led with the question “How can we make everyone from being a Job Seeker to Job Creator?” were we not born as entrepreneurs? Is that not our legacy? Anyway. The presentation was a disaster as my Mac refused to work with the projector and I had not done the necessary practice run to learn about all the challenges of winging it on the fly when you had just made a presentation in Keynote and exported it to Powerpoint, I had a bunch of videos embedded in the presentation and none of that worked because the computer connected to the projector did not have the video player or whatever and when I tried to pivot by running the videos from YouTube Firefox crashed on Windows so pretty much anything that can go wrong went wrong! Lesson learnt. The only consolation is that my presentation was not about the slides it was about driving home a point that on Career Day one does not need to get dejected that there are no jobs… there are plenty of jobs out there they have just not yet been created by you yet. If I was able to convert 1 person to that way of thinking then my job was done, I got validation by one who was attending as he tweeted exactly the question that I led with.

I have been spending way too much time trying to embed the presentation to this post and I finally got it to work it still has some audio issues but you can download the presentation from here.

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