May 21, 2013
GreenQloud Hackathon Winners
In case you have been under the rock or not been following this blog, we are having our Annual Startup and Entrepreneurship Conference in Iceland on June 1-4, 2013. The first two days June 1st in the afternoon to the end of the day on June 2nd, we are organizing a Hackathon. Hackathons are a tradition that we are starting to implement in Iceland, we conducted one last year and found really talented software engineers and developers who created a fantastic solution in a very short period of time. I have gone on record to say that we are very serious about recruiting those who can “Show Us” their skill than “Tell Us” about their skill. Hackathons are a perfect platform for that. GreenQloud sponsored and organized a Hackathon during UT Messan 2013, the annual IT conference in Iceland, the Winner of the hackathon was hired by GreenQloud. The clincher in this is that both the winners are still in high school. I believe very strongly that this is the new interview process of the software industry, no longer are you required to have a piece of paper telling others what skills you have, you can demonstrate it and build something of value that can be launchpad for your career. Startup Iceland Hackathon is that platform, have you made up your mind about participating in it yet? It is free and we provide all the food and drinks during the entire hackathon event. What are you waiting for? contact us and we can get you registered to be a participant in the hackathon.
April 21, 2013
English: Amanda Palmer Live 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I watched the High Schools participate in the Song contest in Iceland last night and I was very inspired to see the talent here in Iceland in the performing arts and through my random video watches I started bumping into a number of videos that I think sum the challenges we face with regard to laws and how it chokes creativity. I want to draw attention to the talk by Larry Lessig below, the main idea around it is Artists choose and I wanted to follow up that video by another one by Amand Palmer who has implemented the strategy suggested by Larry… and I am of the opinion, Iceland can really play an important role this challenge. Check out the Internet Policy Institute setup in Iceland.
Here is a talk by Amanda Palmer on how to fix the challenge of rights to artists:
Brad Burnham, the Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures is participating in Startup Iceland Conference 2013 to talk about these policy challenges and how it can really influence the Startup Community in Iceland. If you have not booked your tickets to the conference this is the time to do it, don’t wait till the last minute because we will sell these seats very fast. We have some fantastic speakers coming to Iceland to talk about Startup Communities. If you are a startup, you can have your booth in the conference, send us a note through an email booth at startupiceland.com
November 16, 2012
Ljubljana, Slovenia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was invited by Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED) Ljubljana, Slovenia as a keynote speaker for Investor Day event jointly organized by American Chamber of Commerce, Department of Economic Development and Technology and the Public Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Entrepreneurship and Foreign Investment. It was great to meet with a number of entrepreneurs and the grass root movement that is happening in Slovenia. It was interesting to me because of the perspective of a number of Slovenians that the country is small. The reason I was invited to talk about Startup Iceland and GreenQloud was because they felt that if there was one country that was definitely smaller than Slovenia is Iceland and they were intrigued to hear my story and why I was investing in Iceland and why I founded Startup Iceland.
It is a complicated story how I got to meet Slovenian entrepreneurs and how I got connected with CEED. But it is worth mentioning that one of my favorite blogging tool Zemanta was founded by Bostjan Spetic, and he is Slovenian and his wife Gaja are big fans of Iceland as they traveled to Iceland twice this year. It was through them that I got connected to Slovenia. I was very impressed to see the green shoots of startup culture and critical mass of entrepreneurs wanting to start doing new things and change the ecosystem. Met with some of the leaders who are running accelerators or incubators or looking to start new mentorship driven accelerator like Startup Reykjavik in Slovenia. This event was very interesting for me as I can see the clash between the two groups, the hierarchical organizations and the small network based entrepreneurial organizations.
The main guest speaker of the event was Dr. Alexander Dibelius, one of the leading investment bankers and investment environment connoisseurs, Chairman of the Executive Board Goldman Sachs AG; Head of Goldman Sachs Germany, Austria, Russia and CEE; and Global Head of Goldman Sachs Industrial Group. I really did not agree with a lot of things that Dr. Alexander was saying, but that is for another blog post. The young entrepreneurial community in Slovenia is at the same early stage as we have in Iceland and it was great to connect with this community. There are a number of similarities and challenges, so it was great to compare notes, get inspired and inspire the grass root to start doing things. Here is the link to the presentation that I gave, it was more about how I got started and why I do what I do etc I was humbled to see so many people inspired by the story of Iceland and what Iceland stands for, it gives me great strength to learn that we are on the right path in creating a sustainable startup ecosystem in Iceland and in my humble opinion we are just following what Brad Feld has documented in his book Startup Communities. I recommended the book to anyone who wants to learn how to build a startup community. I also met with a number of media outlets, TV channels and newspapers… it was interesting to learn about the challenges in Slovenia. I am really smitten by this country and I am sure I will come back again as I volunteered to be a mentor to any of the accelerators that would have me as one.
August 22, 2012
I have written about how Iceland could be the world’s first Internet Enterprise Zone. It is not a pipe dream of a crazy Indian living in Iceland, although I do not refute the fact that I can be crazy . Watch the following discussions in the Hacking Society videos. I really believe that we are embarking on a new world that is governed by networks and not hierarchies. It is incredible to see how the evolution of the Internet is spawning new and challenging problems. I believe the only way anything grows is if it can face the challenge and learn to deal with it. I think the Internet Policy framework is a challenge not just in Iceland, but it is everywhere. I think there is enough evidence to show that restrictive policies and regulation never created any social or economic value to the participants. It was Free Trade that liberated the backward countries of United Kingdom and United States of America. I believe it will be those countries that embrace the Internet and provide an open legal framework for the Internet to thrive that will lead the world in the future. It does not matter how small or how big the country is. I remember a scene from the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke Skywalker gives up trying to lift the spaceship that had just sunk into the swamp. The reason he gives up is that the size of the spaceship was too big to life… when Yoda says
Size matters not… Look at me, judge me by size, do you?
The network is the Force, that is spoken about in the movie Star Wars. I did warn you that I was crazy.
May 19, 2012
Old HP Stock Certificate
Fred has a very interesting post about the Darwinian Evolution of Startup Hubs, it is very poignant and relevant for Iceland. I think there are a couple of things of note in that post. First is the evolution of the companies themselves, if you look at them closely they resemble the hardware to software stack in the technology development cycle. I have written about this before, I believe the next wave of companies that are going to generate wealth are those that are building things on top of the new infrastructure of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple iOS, Android, Twitteretc but this cannot happen in Iceland without the ecosystem that Fred is talking about.
Creator of first semi conductor
I have always felt that the first wave of entrepreneurs and those who created disproportionate wealth in Iceland have just not plowed enough of that back into the system to create the new seeds. In order for the ecosystem to thrive, there needs to be a evolution of industries just like what happened in Silicon Valley and much like -what is happening in New York and other places. The comments section of AVC.com for the above post has very interesting discussions for example the location of Toronto is considered and how RIM has not created a new wave of companies and teams. I believe in addition to the 7 things that I wrote about earlier, it is important for the previous generations of a community to contribute time, money and wisdom into the next generation to create a fledging ecosystem. Silicon Valley is the envy of many regions because the entrepreneurs who started there continue to plow back their money, time and wisdom into Silicon Valley. That in my opinion is one of the secrete sauce of Silicon Valley. Why is this hard to replicate in other places? Who knows? At the least we know one things about Icelandersthat they always come back and I hope that they will invest their talent, money, time and wisdom back into the society that they come from not into the usual suspects but into value creating companies of the future.
April 17, 2012
Iceland has a unique opportunity to lead the world by defining a Internet Enterprise Zone, Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures defined this term to me while he was in Iceland. What do we mean by this IEZ? We mean a Policy framework focused on allowing innovation in the Internet space. There are many policy issues as it relates to Internet, Copyright, Information, User Data, Data Security, Spectrum, Net Neutrality etc etc but as I had written about earlier, IMMI is by far the most inspirational effort towards creating this IEZ. There have been many pieces that are aligned for Iceland to execute on this, what we need is a SOPA, PIPA Resistance like initiative at the grass roots level to drive political will to put a stake in the ground to start the global discussion around this. Fundamentally, what we are seeing is a paradigm shift in terms of value creation. We have a WordPress Economy, a Etsy economy, a kickstarter economy, where an individual could create something of value, use the social media to spread and attract customers and partners and get economic value out of that endeavor. No point in our lives have we had this freedom.
Iceland has many value propositions, I have written about some in previous posts on My Vision for Iceland, Rebooting Iceland and Why Iceland can create the next Google. The simplest is the access to cheap renewable power, well educated young workforce, non-incumbent industry establishments, the recent financial collapse, change in the political order and mandate. All these have provided Iceland with all the right impetus to really change the structure of the economy to accomodate the next phase of our global growth. Not only will this environment be conducive for Icelanders, but it will attract Investments and other innovators to locate to Iceland to truly create a zone where Internet Enterprises can thrive. So, what is needed? to start with we need to push the envelop on the initiatives like IMMI, actually push the initiatives to be law of the land where we provide protection to User Data i.e the User owns his data and no-one without the Users permission can access it. The policy framework should define the governance structure and not the mechanics of it, so innovation in implementing the framework brings value to the innovator.
April 3, 2012
We are at an inflection point, for the first time in our history every single person has a voice. We created a proxy for the voice of every individual through Democracy, rule of law and the voting system, but they are not perfect. Democracy is not perfect, it gives way for many externalities, interest group lobbies, corruption etc but it is the best of the worst we have. I believe with the advent of the internet and mobile devices or internet connected devices, we can really influence how our proxies are used here I mean our opinion. There is an experiment on-going in Iceland, the financial collapse in 2008 has created fantastic opportunities and many ideas have been launched. One of those related to Pubic Service and Governance of Public office. I got notice of Betri Reykjavik, when I was invited to give a small talk by the Web Masters Association of Iceland. The website has been created to get all residents of the City of Reykjavik to participate in governance issues related to the city. Starting with voting on a proposal for a swimming pool in your neighborhood or allocating capital to fund a child care center. It is fascinating to notice how governance can truly reflect “For the People, By the People and Of the People” with the use of the modern technologies. So I did a little bit of digging around and found out about Citizens.is a non-profit organization that wants to expand this model to other cities and countries around the world. I think it is an incredible idea, but you need public commitment to make initiatives like this to work.
One thing that is clear is having the entire nation on Facebook helps, it helps to validate whether the right person is voting or not. But it is painfully obvious when you look at the numbers there are only 1000 likes for Betri Reykjavik. Should’nt all residents of Reykjavik participate? I think this is the next frontier for the Internet. We have solved the trust issue i.e we trust buying things on the internet, can we start trusting the internet for other things? like voting?
The people behind the Betri Reykjavik have now launched Betra Island which literally translates to Better Iceland, you do not get points for guessing what Betri Reykjavik stands for. I will meet with the team behind this concept and learn more about it. I think there is big opportunity to build platforms like this. If you have been complaining about things that the Government is not doing in your neighborhood and you happen to live in Reykjavik, go ahead, sign up with BetriReykjavik.is or BetraIsland.is create your priorities and start canvasing votes to make it into the Parliament of the city of Reykjavik or Iceland. Now, we don’t have an excuse to blame our problems on the Government I don’t know if I feel good or bad about this.
March 23, 2012
Muhammad Yunus in Houston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is not law yet, but yesterday the Senate voted 73-26 in favor a bill that loosens SEC regulations in order to permit small businesses easier access to capital. I am not sure if “easier” is the term that I want to use, I think SEC rules were made a long time ago and we need to constantly review them and see if the underlying problems are being resolved through regulation. The capital raising rules as stipulated by SEC are draconian and demanding and is biased towards those with lots of resources and financial institutions (read money and BIG BANKS!). It is counter intuitive because those with money don’t really need to raise money, but the system is so biased towards those with resources that it is unbelievable. It was similar to the discussion Muhamed Yunus the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh had when he approached a bank to request them to lend money to the poor people. The bank manager said poor people were not credit worthy, it sparked a fuse in Muhamed Yunus and he got the approval to start his own Micro Lending Bank. He found out that poor people are credit worthy and today that bank serves many million customers. If you want to read the story of transformation go read the story of Mohamed Yunus. If you make it harder then you just prevent those without resources to raise capital, i.e small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Forbes has an article that I thought was interesting, the article refers to Carl Esposti, founder of a consulting and market research firm Crowdsourcing.org, who is part of a group that has created a Crowdfunding Accreditation for Platform Standards (CAPS) program “to ensure a secure and reliable experience” for investors. I think the thought of something like this is important but I believe they are jumping the gun. I think more credible sources need to do the auditing of the platforms, should be interesting for the Big 4 Accounting Firms as this what they do, gives them a new product line, market and revenue stream. I need to reach out to my Partner friends in Deloitte, E&Y and PWC, if they have not already started thinking about this.
I am not even sure if we know all the challenges of CrowdFunding Platforms, I wrote about 3 big challenges, but I a pretty sure there are many. In my perspective are there going to be challenges ABSOLUTELY! will there be fraudsters? CLEARLY will people loose money? WITHOUT A DOUBT. These things should not stop us from trying to solve a problem and enable real, sincere and hardworking entrepreneurs from raising money. We don’t follow the rule of Napolean, we say everyone is Innocent until proven Guilty, should that not apply to Entrepreneurs too? No Entrepreneur I know wants to cheat and take money, well 1 maybe I digress… I think this is very interesting and precisely the reason I want to devote my energy towards solving this. If it was easy everyone would do it. I will be pushing the team at KarolinaFund.com to align with the movement and make sure they are trying this out in the local market and scale it globally.