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
April 14, 2013
I was at the Seed Forum this year, but I could not participate for the whole day but I attended the cocktail hosted by the British Embassy in Iceland. It was fascinating to see the British Ambassador pitching to the startups to look at UK to locate or move their startups when they scale out of Iceland… he even went to the extent of saying moving to the US was not a good idea :) I am happy to see different countries pitching to startups and entrepreneurs in Iceland to move to their country, it is good for the Entrepreneur and it is good for the Startup Ecosystem that there is growth path out of Iceland. I got a good impression of all the teams that were pitching. I have written about why Startups should not be focused on raising money. I am going to repeat this until I turn blue, the focus of the startup should be to solve a really itching problem, win customers and raise capital from the customer first. As much as I support the initiatives like Seed Forum, I really believe that it muddles the real issue facing startups and entrepreneurs. The Seed Forum this year had a famous Icelandic Entrepreneur and Cofounder of Opera, Jon Von Tetchner, actually he lived and worked in Norway but he is Icelandic. He had a very good talk and Q&A session about being an Entrepreneur. His advice and the advice given by Brad Feld and every other entrepreneur who has walked through the fire of creating a company and successfully transitioning says the same thing – Delay taking money from Investors as much as you can. Sometimes it is not possible i.e if you need machines, or equipment or buildings you need Capital but with startups in Software you dont need any of that or Capital to get started… that is one of the reasons that I am so bullish on the fact that Software based companies that are building solutions on top of the new Infrastructure of Cloud Computing, Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc will be able to bootstrap much better, faster and get through the valley of death without pledging your soul to the devil, no, not all investors are bad but there are different incentives if you are an investor vs if you are an entrepreneur.
In other news, Klak and Innovit merged into Klak Innovit… I am happy to see some movement in the Accelerator, Incubator and Institutions that help entrepreneurs collaborate and optimize in Iceland. Accelerators are a key ingredient in the Startup Community development and I believe Kristjan Kristjanson the new CEO of the merged organization has his heart in the right place. He also runs Startup Weekend, Startup Reykjavik and has been of great help to many startups since he started working with entrepreneurs in 2007-8 I think.
March 4, 2013
Cover via Amazon
I usually get really worked up when I am speaking with some employees in a bank about Startups and Entrepreneurship, they immediately say that it is Risky. I always ask them could they please tell me why they believe Startups are risky? Their usual answer is well 90% of all startups fail, which is anecdotal evidence because there is no way anyone has documented all the startups in the world and calculated the failure rates. I have written a lot about how we as humans are wired to be fooled by statistics and we just underestimate the risks associated with many things. What is even fascinating is that those same people from the bank were still working in the bank when the entire financial system in Iceland collapsed. I think banks are bigger risks than startups, atleast with Startups you know the risk of failure will only wipe out what you invested, whereas with Banks it can wipe out the entire equity base of Iceland. No wonder, Warren Buffett called Banks sit of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The risk on banks are exasperated by leverage, were as Startups run on equity which means what you put in is what you loose if the company goes under. Typically Startups that I have been pounding the table on require very little capital to validate, build a Minimum Viable Product and get market traction.
I have written about the books that really changed my perspective on Risks and I have Nasim Nicholas Taleb to thank for. I listen to audio books all the time and I think this is the 100th time that I am listening to his classic book “Fooled By Randomness“. There are so many pearls of wisdom in that book that I discover something new every time I listen to it. The only positive aspect of risk taking is in the Startup world because a black swan event ie. the chance of finding a Google or Facebook or Twitter or Amazon is very low but when it does happen it usually results in such a positive impact I don’t know why not everyone invest a small portion of their investment egg in this asset class. The monstrous returns that are possible can only be achieved if one takes enough bets but the size of the bets are usually very small and thats the point of doing this.
February 23, 2013
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
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 8, 2013
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
November 4, 2012
Here is a mashup of three ideas that prompted me to write this post. First, I was part of the group that participated in UnConference organized by Landsbankinn a conference without an agenda but the group present decides the agenda and goes on to discuss and get a wrap up at the end of the day. It was very interesting and I also took some office hours during the conference as I volunteered to be a Mentor. Two ideas that I was interested in and we discussed in a small group and maybe we will launch two companies to solve these problems. Let me start with the two ideas that I was interested in:
- Building Sustainable and Resilient Startup Ecosystems
- Solving the talent problem
The first one I have written about extensively, but the discussion yesterday was centered around how to free up capital tied up in Iceland so we can invest in new and innovative companies to create more value and better community here in Iceland. It is close to my heart as I believe there needs to be an efficient mechanism for investors to exit their successful investments to reinvest their capital. Icelandic capital market is dead and the stock exchange is a very inefficient and archaic model for today’s world. The rules and policy choices of the current capital markets were discussed and I have to say, it is quite obvious it has been made to keep the small investors out. In addition, it only makes sense to go to the Stock Market if one needs to raise substantial amount of capital, which is not needed in the current world. For example, there are companies that are profitable with 15 to 30 team members and are able to grow the business without adding more and more people due the economies of scale offered by the Internet and Software. However, adding more people to adhere to the rules of the stock market will only slow the small and nimble organization. This is a current problem and solving this would enable more fluid flow of capital back into the new and innovative startup companiesthat are creating more value in Iceland.
Source: New York Times
The second problem was little different, Frosti Sigurjonsson led this discussion… the problem was those unskilled people who are not educated, dropped out of school but could still possess some talent that could be utilized by someone to create value. The example that was suggested was, if there was an entrepreneur who wanted to go and collect 10 tonnes of Blue Berries in the mountains in Iceland and sell them to the WholeFoods market in the US. The entrepreneur needs 100 people to help him, it is not easy to get or gather enough people who can facilitate that. What if we had a database that was simple to use, runs on the Internet and does not have the same metrics ie. education, background, university degree etc but more rudimentary skills? i.e I have strength in my legs, and arms, I can do household chores etc Currently, the Unemployment Agency in Iceland has 7000 unemployed people who are on Unemployment benefit but no employer is using that to find the talent they need because the system is unusable and to make minor modifications to it costs the state an arm and a leg. This system was build for the past and has not be brought up to the 21st century. The idea was to create a Internet based system that allows for easy and simple search for talent kind of like a talent search engine. I think there is merit to solving this problem, we could use this in Iceland and given the level of unemployment in mainland Europe, it is bound to have broad appeal. The group decided that we would meet again to discuss how to take this forward.
What is the above two got to do with the Capitalist’s Dilemma and Return of the Capital Intensive Startup? well, the first one is an article that I read in New York Times by Clay Christensen and second is a blog post by Albert Wenger. Both of them from different perspectives are more or less talking about the two ideas that we discussed yesterday. The Global Economy has a problem, we have transformed the challenges but we are still using the same tools and policies to solve them. I quote Einstein generously, and I think the most profound quotes of his is this
The significant problems we face can not be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them
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.
June 20, 2012
Startup Iceland Channel in Vimeo has been created thanks to the Innovation Center of Iceland which sponsored the whole video shoot and the channel. It is a great archive of talks related to Entrepreneurship, Startups and Building an Ecosystem. For those who could not make it to the conference this is an awesome replay of the events, although we cannot re-create the positive energy that we felt in the Andrews Theater on that day, the knowledge and experience that was shared on that day is now freely available for anyone to absorb. Please feel free to share the content to your networks. I am very proud of the team that worked on this conference. I have catalogued as much of the journey as I can on this blog. It has been one heck of an experience and I cannot wait to start putting the team, the program and the list of speakers together for the next year, so watch out for the blog posts and the emails that I will be sending out shortly. If you have any feedback or comments please post them on the blog post or contact me and I will be more than happy to respond.