Posts tagged ‘New York’

July 12, 2013

Startup Reykjavik 2013

Source: GreenQloud Share

Source: GreenQloud Share

Startup Reykjavik the mentorship driven accelerator for Startups organized by Arion Bank and Innovit+Klak announced the new batch of companies in Startup Iceland. Last evening, I participated in the Pitch and BBQ event organized by Startup Reykjavik. It was incredible to see the energy and the number of people who participated. The Startup Community in Iceland is starting to really get formed and this is a great feeling. I dreamed of this day and I am so impressed that it is happening right now. I had written about the strategy to reboot Iceland on December 15, 2011, it is amazing to see how the Startup Community in Iceland has risen from the ashes and is rebooting. It was exciting to see more than 150 people, I know this number because the Startup Reykjavik team ran out of hamburger buns and they had bought about 150 buns :).

It was awesome to hear the pitches of 5 teams that are part of Startup Reykjavik, the positive energy, the optimism and a sense of building something new was all there. I was even impressed that the new British Ambassador to Iceland was participating and seeing the energy. Met with a team from Copenhagen that is part of the Startup Community in Copenhagen and a lot of new faces. I am pretty sure we are moving in the right direction in Iceland, there will be bumps along the way but I am lot more optimistic about the prospects of startups coming out of Iceland from now.

There is still one thing that is bugging me, while we are creating the infrastructure to build new companies, it is painfully obvious that the investors are not present in these gathering. I saw a couple of them but I am pretty sure if you go to a similar event in Silicon Valley or New York or Boston or Austin, half the room would probably be filled with Analysts from Venture Capital firms. We still have a scenario where Entrepreneurs are chasing Investors in Iceland rather than the other way around i.e Investors chasing Entrepreneurs. That is the change I would like to see in Iceland, when that happens we are on solid ground.

May 8, 2013

SI2013 – Speaker Profile – Brad Burnham

Brad Burnham has been a big supporter of Iceland. He has invested quite a bit of time, influence and effort to push the idea of the Freedom to Innovate and Internet Enterprise Zone in Iceland. There have been many channels of talks, efforts to initiate projects and gather support through a research and development approach. Brad has also been providing a lot of leadership to policy makers on how to look at the internet. Union Square Ventures, which was founded by Brad Burnham and Fred Wilson, is a venture capital firm based in New York City. They are a small collegial partnership that manage $450,000,000 across three funds. Their portfolio companies create services that have the potential to fundamentally transform important markets. They can work with an entrepreneur whether she needs $250,000 to test an idea, or $25,000,000 to buy an undervalued asset. They invest in New York, San Francisco, London, or Berlin and most places in between. Here is Brad talking to RUV last year when he was participating in Startup Iceland 2012Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 6.50.13 AM

Here is Brad talking about how Policy matter for Innovation. I am extremely excited to see the developments in Iceland, maybe Iceland call pull it off but I am more excited to see that Brad is still committed to Iceland and has agreed to come back and talk about the Freedom to Innovate. I think everyone is Iceland is going to win big if Iceland become the leader is coming up with policies that foster innovation. We are very fortunate to have access to someone who has been looking at this since for a long time and he believes Iceland is a key player in this transformation.

November 8, 2012

Tolerance, Inclusion and Prosperity

Español: Logo AIESEC

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a bit of a disagreement with Fred Wilson, who is one of my virtual mentors through his blog avc.com. But I think Fred is wrong on this argument. I stand by what Fred wrote in his posts Tolerance and Prosperity and Immigration Reform. I strongly believe we have a number of monsters that run in our heads. We are all xenophobic and neophobic, but we need to rise above that if we are to build a better global community. Even Fred, who lives in New York which is suppose to be the melting pot of the world and a Venture Capitalist, took a stab at “Jobs being shipped to India” stance. It pains me to see this argument. Why do we as human beings always want easy solutions that are not resilient or sustainable? The easiest thing to do is close the borders of every country and make everything behind the closed walls, that way we can create jobs, wealth and what not within the Walled Garden… but is that the world we want to live in? I lived in that world and believe me it was not that much fun. India was a closed economy until about 1991 when the country was broke and had to open its economy to get life blood. We had 2 choices for cars, toothpaste, soaps and chocolates… everything.

I am not saying that having limited choice is bad but I am saying we can do better. Closed systems don’t work, they work for a time but they fail miserably on the long run. I think most Politicians like this closed system because it gives an illusion of control, jobs are created because we have limited demand of jobs and better than limited supply for jobs, so wages become high, we may more in tax et cetra et cetra. The problem with this notion is that it leads to sub-optimal or inefficient results. Closed systems maybe needed when there are huge structural challenges like a War or Technological gap (i.e some companies have superior technology or know how that would squash local business etc), but I believe we are passed that phase and it has been made possible by the Internet. However the old school thinking is actually putting cogs on the wheel of Freedom to Innovate. Brad Burnham, who is the partner of Fred Wilson wrote an excellent piece on his blog with the title “Freedom to Innovate“.

I think the leadership of the 21st century is going to be defined by countries and companies that are driven by leadership that subscribe to the age of Wisdom, as Late Dr.Steven Covey describes in his book The 8th Habit. I want to write against this foolish notion that we need to seek out for a Job, everyone of us is a Job Creator. Lets take the example of a startup, and the entrepreneur who started the venture has created something of value and in order to service those customers who want to utilize the value the startup has to create jobs and when you are in a closed system it leads to people fighting for the same resource and drive up the cost of the value creation thereby making the venture uneconomical and ultimately it fails. This is what I see today in Iceland, everyone that I talk to says that it is hard to find people with skills in Web Design or Programming or Software Development or whatever. I have never found that to be a problem, do you know why? because I take chances with people… I don’t have to have every skills checkbox filled to hire someone because I am totally ok with getting someone on board who has some basic skills and then train them on the job. It has worked very well for all the companies that I have worked for where I had the responsibility to build a team. I found the same attitude in GreenQloud, the company had hired students from Germany, Colombia and Argentina through a program called AIESEC and their Icelandic Chapter. I had a chance to meet Armina Ilea, VP Corporate Development of AIESEC, Iceland and I was surprised to hear that Icelandic startups or companies were not taking advantage of this wonderful program. I plan to use this program to get people from all over the world to come to Iceland as interns work with us and if we are able to make the experience mutually beneficial then they stay back in Iceland and become part of the team. I know a lot of people including Fred Wilson and Brad Feld have lobbied very hard to make it easy for Entrepreneurs and Skilled workers to get Visas to the US. I don’t know why every country does not embrace this philosophy? Yes, I am foolishly optimistic person but I never give up on people because when I don’t they surprise me and go above and beyond what is expected of them. Lets build more tolerance and inclusion and in my humble opinion it will lead to Prosperity not just for those creating the jobs but to everyone in the Ecosystem.

June 17, 2012

The Brads Show – Interview with Brad Feld and Brad Burnham

PanelDiscussion from Innovation Center Iceland on Vimeo.

It was a great privilege and dream to meet with Brad Burnham and Brad Feld. To top that off I had a chance to ask them a bunch of questions related to building startup communities. As Brad Feld mentions in his answers I did have a laundry list of questions. It was great to hear them talk about their experience being part of communities and how the two they are part of is flourishing. I just returned from New York city and I cannot tell you how great the energy is for startups in New York. I know we can replicate that right here in Iceland.

May 19, 2012

Is there a HP or Fairchild Semiconductor of Iceland?

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.

May 2, 2012

7 Things

Brad has a guest post by Jerry Colona in his Startup Communities Blog. Jerry talks about his experience in Slovenia. In the post he writes about the 7 things that are needed for a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem: To paraphrase Jerry – “ My thoughts about what makes a startup community grow from a Silicon Valley-wannabe into a vibrant and integral component of local economy aren’t particularly earth shattering or unique. They stem, though, from having had the good fortune of sitting beside people like Fred Wilson and the dozens of others who helped grow this community in NY into something expansive and exciting.

Put simply, the entrepreneurial ecosystem needs seven things:

  • Opportunities
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Staff
  • Government Support
  • Universities
  • Local Capital
  • Elders

I think the first 5 are more or less available in most places in the world. I think in the context of Iceland I can say that there are a couple of things missing, more specifically #6 and #7. It is understandable why the local capital is risk averse in Iceland given the devastation that has been left behind by the financial collapse. I believe the biggest challenge is that trust in investing has been hurt. I am of the opinion, investing is work, if you want to deploy capital you need to work on it and it is even harder when you are deploying someone else´s capital. I also believe capital is like water, it always finds it way to deployable assets or in some cases crazy assets. Iceland has fantastic infrastructure. Which made me write my investment thesis based on the work done by Carlota Perez. Every bubble leaves infrastructure which moves into deployment phase and monetization phase. I believe that Iceland provides all the ingredients to make this experiment work and function. Never the less, how does one attract local capital to be invested into companies that are leveraging this fantastic platform, I don’t believe in democracy in investing ideas. I like ideas that are scalable and something unique about it that solves a problem, the problem or pain needs to be acute and/or chronic to make my interest level go up. I also like disruptive business models that take established order and make them more efficient, convenient, mobile or remove barriers. I also believe that we need to have a threshold of people who believe in these things. I think there is a reason why Jerry has put Local Capital and Elders next to one another, because I believe Elders or Mentors bring with them wisdom and experience and usually warrants some risk mitigation that attracts capital.

Lets talk about Elders or Mentors, I find it strange that Investors in Iceland don’t want to spend time to be mentors. IMHO, there is no other way. If you are an investor in early stage companies you need to make the time to work with the team and get to know the team. I don’t want to dilute Jerry message about Mentors it is “But, most of all, it needs Elders. That is, Mentors, coaches, Angel Investors; people who can serve informally and formally as guides. Their roles vary…from providing the seed capital to germinate ideas to providing a steadying, calm demeanor making the roller coaster of the startup experience just slightly easier to bear. “An Elder,” I say in my talks on the subject, “isn’t merely someone with grayer hair. It can be the CEO of the company next door who is two months ahead of you in their fundraising process. It can be the CTO of that failed company whom you bring in not just for their technical capability but for their experience in having lived through a failure and knowing that there’s life after failure.” I can see some in Iceland thinking that they may not have the necessary skills to be a mentor to them I just have the following quote:

” Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

March 27, 2012

Entrepreneurial Design – Revisited

I have written about the course being offered in the School of Design in NY with the title Entrepreneurial Design by Christina Cacioppo
Gary Chou of Union Square Ventures. I wanted to take the opportunity to bring attention to the material. I believe the structure, the reading material and all the links they have put together is incredibly relevant and useful. I keep getting back to looking at the syllabus and discovering new things that I never thought about. If you have not visited the site and checked out the material please do. Depending on the startup cycle you are in there is material there that is relevant and valid. I think particular section is valid for the Lean Startup Meetings that we have having with Hugmyndaráðuneytið. The coming week I am going to try something where we will record the discussion and share in SoundCloud for those who were not present. Here is the topic and I think I will go through the Giff’s Slides. Here is the link to the Event on Facebook

Customer Development and Running Experiments with Giff Constable

Week Two Slides

Giff’s Slides

Week Two Recap

Love letters

Readings

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