Start Up Blog

Spears, Seeds & Spanners

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 30, 2013

Tomorrow I’m pumped to be doing a lightening talk at co-working in the lane way. Which is an uber terrific event being organised by the Hub Melbourne co-working space.

I couldn’t think of a better time to go on an anthropological journey through living and working spaces. The story is surprising and interesting. If you’re in Melbourne tomorrow come along and have a listen – I’ll be on at 12.30pm. No power point, no data, just idea exchange and human knowledge. This is the outline of my talk to whet your appetite:

- Spears

- Seeds

- Spanners

- Cars

- Cables

- Chips

- Challenge

I’m really excited about this one.

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The evolution of luxury

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 26, 2013

Like most human experiences or endeavours they live in a state of flux. They evolve. I’ve been thinking alot lately about the concept of luxury. And while luxury is a relative concept based on location, wealth, opportunity and many other factors, it seems to me as though technology is the most influential factor in its evolution. Most luxuries are temporal and may exit the fray based on technological advances or shifts in social behaviour.

The industrial revolution introduced a lot of luxuries, and invented a particularly well off middle class. Innovations which made life more comfortable would arrive and make their way down the social and economic ladder as civilization forged ahead. But as you’ll see, most luxuries have a limited lifespan with such a status. While some non-luxuries become luxuries as we evolve in other areas.

A non exhaustive list of the evolution of luxury:

  • Settlement: Becoming masters of our domain to the point where we didn’t need to be a species of nomads.
  • Excess food: Learning how to grow plants, trap & breed animals.
  • Agriculture: New efficient farming methods allowed people to exit food preparation as a way of life.
  • Piece labour: Getting paid by how efficient we became. The factory and the industrial revolution.
  • Industrialised homes: Heating, cooling, indoor kitchens, plumbing, refrigeration, washing machines.
  • Annual leave: 40 hour work weeks, salaries and paid leave from work, weekends.
  • Cars: Private motorised travel.
  • Air travel & holidays: Still being further democratised to this day.
  • Conspicuous consumption: Hello 1980′s, competing with the Joneses.
  • Fashion: Clothing beyond both needs, and functionality.
  • Premium food & widgets: Imported artisinal gelato and $100 electric toothbrushes.
  • Information: Anyone with access to the web today has more information on hand than the US President just 10 years ago.
  • Time: A core luxury today, due to humans inability to admonish the superfluous.
  • Privacy: An emerging luxury as we allow government infiltration and lack the presence of mind to think before we publish.

Of course you can think of luxuries which belong on this list, you can see how non luxuries have become luxuries as technology changes lifestyle. We can also guess some which might appear on the list in the coming years. So why am I telling you this?

It’s a realy clue into what might be important for entrepreneurs. Within the new luxury realms (physical or social) lie a number of startup ideas which will change the world and make people rich (for lack of a better word) in the process. The only question is, what might be tomorrows luxury in your community and how can you deliver it to them to make their life better? Or even better widen the distribution of something only the fortunate few currently have access to.

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Memorise this

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 20, 2013

The most outdated form of learning is memorising. Other than the ability to write and speak – it’s hard for me to see a future for memorising anything when I have access to the knowledge of the world, in real time, in my pocket.

So why do we still ask kids to memorise lists, States, Ex Presidents and the first 20 elements of the periodic table?

The really valuable part of computing power is the ability to process the data, the RAM. The hard drive (the storage) is less expensive and I’d say not as important. How often do we go into our files to find that presentation, spreadsheet or file from 2 years ago? – Almost never.

I think it’s a lot like our human brains, the real value is in problem solving, not rote memorising. Ironically personal computers seem to be moving back to the way they began – without the potential to store data locally. The data stored on our hard drive is quickly moving to the cloud and away from our computers. And it’s my contention that we should do the same thing with memorsing stuff and outsource that to the micro chip as well.

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The truth about technology

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 12, 2013

I happened upon this TED talk just yesterday from the ever clever Kevin Kelly. It is approximately 3 years old but it really blew me away. In fact, the thing that it does best is demystify technology. It reminds us that we are all technologist, that we all create different forms of technology as humans and that we all benefit from it.

A great little piece I took from it was my favourite invention from the last 50,000 years – Grand Parents. You’ll see what I mean once you watch it. Enjoy!

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The truth about innovation

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 5, 2012

Recent shifts in technology have fundamentally changed the way we live. Consumer technology is now so pervasive that much more than communication that has been effected by it. It has changed our perceptions and what we think is possible. It has had important cultural and physical implications on consumer culture. New ideas change our physical surrounds and reality. It enables the re-birth of activities that got lost in the industrialised, world. A couple of simple examples include lomography, growing vegetables and slow food.

But all this technology has clouded our vision too. It has created some perceptions which aren’t based in reality. It has made us cluster around specific technologies, to the point that they become the archetypal definition of innovation. The place that innovation must revolve around. The app, geolocating or other technology de jour.

The truth about innovation is that it is not about tech wizardry – it never has been.  Innovation is about finding solutions. And solutions don’t necessarily involve, technology or even products. It might be a simple new way of doing something.

Innovation is really about good thinking being put into practice.

It doesn’t have to be leading edge, driven by industry or assisted by technology. It can be simple and human. And sometimes the best innovations come from ideas that got lost along the way. The re-invention or a reminder of a certain way to do things. Maybe it’s devolution? Or maybe it isn’t the ‘thing’ or ‘product’ itself that the innovation comes from, maybe it’s the things around it or the people using it. What we want to hear from people is “That’s a good idea”, rather than “Gee, I wonder how they did that?”

Innovation is all about what it provides to the end user. The truth about innovation is that it lies in the process that gets us to a better result, something that makes us happier for whatever reason.

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Digital Dialects

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 20, 2012

While it has been reported that many languages are dying via globalisation and nationalised education, language is fighting back. But this time it isn’t geographic. It’s jumping boundaries and hardware devices to find like minds who want to invent their own lexicon. Language likes to be unique. Language likes to treat insiders differently. Language likes to evolve, change and even judge.The connected world is developing an entire cadre of digital dialects in. Most of which are geographically dispersed and happen virtually.

For me it’s another proof point of the world we are all now living in. As soon as we think we understand what’s happening, it evolves. But more important than the change is the fact that it never asks for permission.

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What is possible?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 11, 2012

Every now and again we are forced to re-consider what is possible. Maybe it is due to some form of technology advancement. Maybe it is due to a new scientific discovery. And sometimes it is due to a single person pushing themselves to the limit, and in doing so pushing human possibilities to levels that had previously been considered impossible.

Kelly Slater is a person who has consistently been doing this for 20 years. In fact, I regard him as the greatest sports person of all sports of all time. Anyone who disagrees with this has simply failed to consider what he has done over this period. He has dominated, and reinvented the sport again and again. To the point where we has been world champion 11 times over 20 years and is still competing against and beating surfers who were not even born when he won his first world title. At the age of 40 he is still setting the bench mark. His dominance of the sport is almost embarrassing for other competitors.

He did something amazing this week in the Bells Beach Ripcurl Pro. In fact it is the best manouvre ever seen in competitive  surfing. A full 360 aerial rotation – no hands. You can see it below. Just 30 years ago surfing magazines were full of discussions as to whether a simple 360 turn on the wave face was physically possible. And while every year, we think our sport has reached its limit it manages to forge into uncharted territory.

We should use this as motivation and a reminder of what we ourselves can do. That we are never too old and that the only limits that matter are the ones that we set for ourselves.

Enjoy this visual orgy of surfing goodness.

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Stop thinking about technology

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 21, 2011

We need to stop thinking about technology. Actually we need to stop using the word technology. A chair made from timber is a form of technology. Digital does not equal technology. There is no technology. Only evolution and an increasing rate of change. People just lives their lives with the things around them. If the things are good and useful (new or old) they will embrace them. Lots of these things happen to have micro chips in them. So what. Lots of things have timber and metal in them too.

What we need to be is anthropologists. If we truly want to understand we need to listen and observe without interrupting. If we interrupt, there’s a chance we’ll influence the flow of the previously reality – and change it. So we wont know the truth as it would have been before we arrived. The truth and flow of human life is technology agnostic and there is much much more to it than ‘things’ we use to live.

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The art of iteration – coffee

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 17, 2010

Iterating in business is an art form. It’s how we grow and find a path to establish the features that matter. It’s not about more, it’s about finding what works, which means that as we morph and change, certain features must be sacrificed, left or or purposely cut off. Nature exemplifies this. Nature takes time to roll out new features, and is well prepared to sacrifice old ones which no longer pay their way. Nature takes years to develop the perfect mix, but is in a constant state of evolution.

The coffee market has been one of the most interesting category evolutions we’ve seen in the past decade or so. Especially given the drink has been around thousands of years. What’s most interesting is that it was a commodity market at brand and retail level for the largest part of the past 60 years. Granules in a tin which one mixes with boiling hot water. Large brands then competed on price with occasional soapie style advertising.

Enter coffee culture and in 15 short years everything has changed. Coffee isn’t coffee anymore. Coffee is latte, coffee is short machiato, coffee is espresso, coffee is arabica versus robusta. But it evolved slowly, and the latest trend in coffee drenched Melbourne is cold dripped coffee. The point for startups is simple: we can’t go from Nescafe blend 43 straight to cold drip coffee. We have to take people on a journey with us, chapter by chapter. Shown below is another photo essay of  a coffee haunt on little Collins Street Melbourne called Sensory Lab.

The question for entrepreneurs is what industry can we invent a journey to take people on?

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Inside the minds of others

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 2, 2010

When our genes could not store all the information necessary for our survival, we slowly invented brains. But then the time came, maybe tens of thousands of years ago, that we needed to know more than could be conveniently stored in brains. So we learned to stockpile enormous amounts of information outside our bodies. We are the only species as far as we know to have developed a communal memory, and the warehouse of that memory is called the library.

Something extraordinary has been happening on the planet earth. Rich information from distant lands and peoples , has become routinely available. Computers can now store and process enormous amounts of information extremely rapidly. In our time a revolution has begun. A revolution perhaps as significant as the evolution of DNA and nervous systems and the invention of writing. Direct communication among billions of human beings is now made possible by computers and satellites.  The potential for a global intelligence is emerging, linking all the brains on earth into a planetary consciousness.

The above words were spoken 29 years ago by Carl Sagan (in Cosmos 1980). Well before the personal computer revolution, the graphical user interface, before the internet had left military installations and Universities. Carl was a prophet, with great insight. He’s just described our world so poignantly, well before it arrived.

It makes me excited to be able to share my thoughts so easily, like Carl said we would all this time ago. It makes me want to ensure my digital contribution is positive and leaves a valuable legacy. It makes me want to make sure we all know how important this gift of omnipresent communication is, at a time when our species needs to collaborate so strongly for our survival.

Now that we can so quickly enter the minds of others, we should all make sure our contributions are positive, that we add something of value to this collective consciousness.

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