Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the Super Awesome Micro Project. And if you’re not aware I’m about to disclose some of the secret sauce. Mainly because between now and when we launch, it is physically impossible to be copied by anyone. For two reasons – the first is that no one else has Raul, and secondly it took us way more time and money than we would ever have imagined.
In fact, what we are doing has been on line for some time for those who wanted to seek it out – the secret, has been out a while on this Ignite talk I did at a global digital event as linked below:
As you can tell from this super fast talk, we are building a world first piece of technology – a technology which at this point has no commercial goal – and no other reason for existing other than awesomeness. A pressure test of what is possible when the connected world aggregate small amounts of money with large amounts of thinking. To see what we can build using democratised digital factors of production and a teenage genius.
It was made possible by 40 people in Australia, also known as the Super Awesome Micro Project Patrons. Normal everyday people having a crack at creating part of the technology narrative. Our Modern Day Medici. The facilitators of the future.
What is it?
We are buildng a full size car, built entirely from lego, with an engine built from lego, and the engine runs on air. Actually, let me rephrase this. We have already built it. It is done. We have succeeded.
This is where the Silk Road Patron comes in:
We are at the point where we need to transfer the Super Awesome thing and the Super Awesome kid from Romania to Australia for the launch. The cost of transferring our adopted son and our fantastic plastic machine to our fair brown land rounds out to approx. $25K give or take. It is our plan to airfreight both artefacts human and construction – for time & safety reasons. The truth is, I can’t ask any of the patrons to put in any more money than they have already donated. Every single one of these people has already stretched themselves financially. I personally do not even want to talk about how much money I have put into this, other than to say it is 100+ times more than I thought it would be. This is no exageration. And so what we need is the Silk Road Patron.
The Silk Road Patron is the internet version of a silk road trader of antiquity. Someone who is intrigued by the possibilities of exchange from lands afar. Interested in new minds, methods and techniques. Inspired by and for the benefit of a populous wider than themselves. This Silk Road Patron has nothing to prove to anyone, because they’ve already done it – they’ve crossed the globe, trekked the path and already made bank with their own spice trade. They want to give back – be the final player who connects the possibilities of the #SAMP. The Silk Road Patron is a person, not a corproation. The Silk Road Patron’s gift of participation in this arduous project, is participation itself – a personal satisfaction.
This is something wider and deeper than the #SAMP – it is in fact the search for Australia’s most generous entrepreneur. A VC whose return on investment does not involve percentages or ROI. Their drive is ROH – return on humanity. (It is worth noting we can provide validation and proof of our achievements via private digital methods.)
And so our search for this person starts today. Please let us know if this person is someone you know, or maybe, just maybe it is you.
I was recently in Perth for and presented at the Agile Perth MeetUp. The presentation I gave was entitled the 200 year shift. It’s a ‘living’ presentation which I’ve been working on for around 7 years – and it explores the end of the industrial era and the transition into a digital age. An age where most every industry is up for grabs as the rules are reinvented and barriers to entry are entirely evaporating.
I was totally thrilled when local UX legend Gary Barber did a live sketch of the concepts I was sharing. As is by séance Gary managed to visualise all my words into exactly what was in my head. He then shared the results on Flickr and posted in his twitter stream. What is amazing is that he did it all live, and some the the pieces I spoke about for a mere minute, and yet he managed to capture the essence. I later found out that he has a habit of creating such cool visuals. A picture of it is below. But before you have a look at it, here is a simple idea:
Next time you are running an event or conference with thought leading ideas: Get Gary on board to draw up some live info graphs for everyone to take home and remember what they learned, to pin on their offices walls, and just appreciate the power of thought and poignant art work.
Nice job Gary – and thanks!
In what seems like a century ago I built and launched one of the first peer to peer websites – rentoid.com
In order to build the site, I outsourced the coding on a site called oDesk. This site and others of its ilk are a great entrepreneurial equaliser – for they reduce the barriers to entry. Not just in terms of price for the services, but also by allowing non techies gain access to techie services. They also allow eco systems to flourish across international borders. But they have an added benefit… a real benefit which isn’t spoken about all that often.
They facilitate an important cultural exchange.
Meet Vasilii Racovitsa – Pictured below – sharing a meal with me in my home. Doesn’t seem like such a big deal…
… Until you know that I first met Vasilii via oDesk as a freelanc web developer back in 2007. And that Vasilii was born during the cold war in the old USSR in a province called Moldova. [Moldova is now an independent country] While the relationship with Vasilii started as a commercial one, it is much more than that now. In fact, it has been much more than that for many years… he is a dear friend and business confidant for whom I want family and financial success as much as I want it for myself. But I just met him in real life for the first time last week.
Besides the fact that he made my first web play rentoid.com come to life, he also taught me more about technology than anyone else. The truth is that the lower labour rates in Eastern Europe allowed me to arbitrage my way into techie / startup land. But most people falsely believe that lower labour rates in developing economies are a one way street. The the people in developed economies are the only beneficiaries, and that we ‘take advantage’ of those in less developed markets. In truth we’ve both benefitted dramatically. Through my local connections Vasilii now generates more that 50% of his business from Melbourne, a mere 14,854km from Moldova. Which is why he is here. He is here on a large project totally independent of me. A project which dwarfs anything he ever did for me. But it was facilitated through the network I was introduced him to. What’s more interesting is that his business employs more people in Moldova than rentoid ever did here in Melbourne. And his development team now work in every form of coding / language / mobile dev you can think of.
Since he’s been here, it is like hanging out with a long lost relative. He’s just like the guy I used to speak to every day on skype… Which is a great reminder that the on-line and real world should only ever be pre-ambles to each other – seamlessly interchangeable.
I’m keen to introduce him to everyone in our local startup community who likes to meet amazing, smart, helpful people. In the time and multiple projects I’ve worked with him on, he has never once gone over budget and always delivered to spec. Put simply, he keeps his promises.
This week I’ve shipped him into the abode of big Scott Kilmartin, who he has also done some work for. But if you’re keen to offer:
“a bed for beta”
“divan for development”
“a cot for code”
“a hammock for HTML”
…or a simple welcome to someone from our global community, then just let me know.
While the tools this digital revolution have provided us are amazing, it’s the connection to our world that we should be truely thankful for.
The point was this:
“What we do after 10pm has a bigger impact on our tomorrow than what we do during business hours.”
Admittedly it is a bit confusing. It could even be read as the need to get enough sleep for an energetic tomorrow. But what I was actually talking about was the ‘long term tomorrow’ and what we do late at night… the stuff we can only do once our daily tasks and family commitments are accounted for.
First of all, we must get our job done, earn our way, eat, cook, clean, be with family and friends, and generally live the tasks of life. This takes time, in fact it takes up most of it for most of us. So we know that in reality there may only be a few short hours left. But we also we know that education is a process and and not an event. And this statement is about that process. The only difference being that the most important educational process these days is not studying for an MBA at nights and weekends, it’s experimenting with the ideas, tools and technology which universities don’t have in their curriculum yet. Mind you it’s not their fault, the world just happens to be changing too quickly.
While others settle in for a night of TV, I prefer to get busy on projects. Read about technology, write an article, build a new presentation, help a startup, work on an upcoming lecture at Melbourne University, go to a hackers event… but most recently work on the Super Awesome Micro Project with Raul. We skype chat every night and plan our next steps. Not only is it inspiring, but it is building new skill sets which make me anti-fragile. More valued to the market and most importantly differentiated. The problem with traditional education is that most people have it. The problem with corporate experience is that most people have it. The problem with industry knowledge is that it ties us to a location and is probably going to become irrelevant. Technological disruption means we need to be wide in our skill base, not thin and vertical. And the best way to get a wide base of skills is the become a night time projecteer between the hours of 10pm -1am. (or whichever hours work for you). We need to be pyramids, not sky scrapers.
Not only are broad skilled business people now in greater demand, they are much harder to knock over.
Most everyday products we use and take for granted have a deep story of innovation underneath them. Once such product is that of simple household ice. What’s interesting about ice is that it went through a number of disruptions. New methods and players arrived to usurp yesterdays heroes. Much like the industries did in this post.
The original startup thinker and bootstrapper Guy Kawasaki tells the story of ice and how it pertains to curve jumping. I’ll do my best to remember how the story is told.
If you truly want to be an entrepreneur or an uber innovative intrapreneur, you have to jump curves. You can’t do things 10% better, you must do things 10 times better. Originally ice was sold through an ice harvesting business. In the ice harvesting business in the early 1900’s, this meant that Bubba and Junior would go to a frozen lake or a frozen pond during the winter time and physically cut out large blocks of ice. And in 1900 over 900 million pounds of ice was harvested in the USA. Then 33 years later was the beginning of the first curve jump in the ice industry. This was the start of the ice factory era. Operating on the ice factory curve then meant that ice harvesting didn’t have to happen in the winter and it also meant that you didn’t have to be in a cold climate. You could freeze water centrally any time of year and any place you decided to set up an ice factory. (In fact, ice factories for obvious reasons did a better trade in warmer climates – a counter intuitive shift) And then once the water was frozen in the factory, the ice man would deliver ice to your house or business. So imagine the advantage of going from ice harvester: a cold city in a cold time of year, labour intensive – to moving to an ice factory, any city, any time of year, with dramatically lower labour costs.
Fast forward another 30 years and we move into the second curve jump. The refrigerator ice curve. This becomes ice 3.0 where an ice factory becomes a legacy cost infrastructure. People started to have refrigerators in their own home that could create ice on demand in a matter of hours, with no wastage, at the cost of a small amount of electricity. No need for factories or deliveries to your home when you have a personalised ice factory.
So if we look at this closely, the great value that was achieved was because the new method jumped across to the next curve. Incremental innovation was entirely usurped. It didn’t matter if you improved your efficiency dramatically on the previous curve because the entire market moved. And very few (if any) producers went from ice harvester, to ice factory, to refrigerator manufacturer. As you can imagine most ice harvesters didn’t see the disruption coming. So too with the ice factories and their owners. And in all probability refrigerator companies are not looking at bio tech or what is likely to come next in freezing water or ‘things’.
So the lesson for entrepreneurs (and more so for business owners & industry stalwarts) is that we simply cannot and will not change the world on the business curve that we are on. We have to jump it, and if we don’t someone else will. Incremental improvement is just not enough. Sometimes we must jump curves to merely survive. Makes me think that car companies are playing a very incremental game with their hybrids… What I really want is a self driving electric car or personal transport drone!
Worth Noting: In many ways all industries move from the macro to the micro. We’ve seen it with computers, music, many forms of manufacturing. We can only assume that the future will be continue the current trajectory to ‘personal’. Most curve jumps involve taking the macro to the micro.
Startup blog says: Get out there and curve jump!
It’s not that difficult to be an expert on yesterday. The way it was done. The story of who won and why, or even the implementation of the known formula that works (worked?). Experts on yesterday have the rational and believable viewpoint. They can support their position on that pesky little thing called evidence. Of course evidence is always historical. We tend to find experts on yesterday in senior positions in organisations and they tend to proliferate and thrive in legacy industries. Places where protecting revenue is more important than growing it.
Ironically there is no such thing as an expert on tomorrow. There can only be viewpoints on possibilities and the willingness to experiment with those possibilities. What this means, is that the ideas presented by the tomorrow guy are often met with doubt and even derision. I guess we should expect this because most of what they predict simply wont happen. Statistically the tomorrow crew will be wrong more times than they are right. But within those ten crazy ideas they present one of them is usually what eventuates. And this is the time when what works quickly becomes what worked. Just ask Kodak management.
One thing I know for sure, is that experts on yesterday rarely invent tomorrow, and in times of significant change it pays to have a couple of tomorrow guys in your corner.
I was asked by a respected colleague from the technology world this question: What is marketing? Mind you, this is a guy who is involved in, and gets marketing. As anyone who works in marketing knows, this is a difficult question to answer. But when I provided some thought on the question, I found that my answer is now longer than it used to be. Hence, I thought I would share it here.
I’ve broken it up into 3 parts. The first in order to provide a baseline definition and context.
General simplified thought: The development, distribution and promotion of products and services to suit a specific audience in order to achieve business objectives.
Unlike what many lay people believe it is neither about selling or advertising, and is much more about business management in totality. Or even more simply, marketing is a fancy word for business.
Marketing Then: The tools of marketing which flowed naturally from this were known as the 4 P’s.
- Product – Solution
- Price – Value equation
- Place – Access
- Promotion – Communication
Historically the job of the marketer has been to strategically organise the 4P’s of marketing (the marketing mix) in order to deliver a sustained commercial outcome between the brand and the audience. But it does feel like this is just not enough…. especially not when all of the factors we deal with are being disrupted via technological revolution.
Marketing Now: If we want to be a great marketer in 2013 then I feel like there is much more to it today. With the process being non-linear all the forces interact more strongly. Our interests need to be broader than that of the marketer from 1950-2000. I feel there are 4 areas we need to be interested in. And only when we are interested in these areas, will we have the intellectual arsenal to develop an effective marketing mix, regardless of which industry we are involved in.
Anthropology: A genuine interest in and study of modern day human movement and historical evolution. The ability to understand and spot patterns based on changing macro behaviour. Being able to see the movement of the collective sentience.
Technology: A solid understanding of where technology is taking us in the medium term. Not just understanding how to use what has already arrived, but knowing what is coming next. Knowing the implications of disposable technology, ambient computing and internet everywhere. Believing in this and integrating it into everything you market. In an age of exponential change there is no choice.
Finance: A solid understanding of what makes industries and the economy function. A financial brand which goes beyond COGS (Cost of goods sold) and marketing budget parameters. We need to be adept in raising capital, investing and ratio analysis…. all forms of finance are integral in what A grade marketers need to know.
Commerce: A true understanding in the art of connections. The why and how do certain parties transact with each other. How are they connecting now, and how will they connect tomorrow. It goes beyond distribution points and pricing models. It digs deep into need scopes and relative utility. It’s the real side of human interaction where commerce facilitates life goals and money is just the way we keep track of who is doing what.
A lot of this might sound meta physical, and it is. But like all forms of evolution, new layers get added – and these four elements are the layers which will define how the successful entrepreneurs and business people of tomorrow need to think.
I’m totally in love with Modern Seinfeld on Twitter (@seinfeldtoday). Each day I tune into the stream hoping for some more tweets which serve up 140 more characters of Seinfeld goodness. For the uninitiated, Modern Seinfeld is an ‘unofficial’ tweet stream in which each tweet is the synopsis for a fictional modern day Seinfeld episode. It really is the stuff of genius.
But it has another possibly unintended benefit. It’s also a short cut to an understanding of the world we live in. For anyone who has been asleep for the past 15 years, and missed out on the revolution, then all they need to do is tune into this twitter feed. 397 tweet reads later and they’ll be all over digital pop culture. Check out these doozies below as examples:
The other cool thing, is that the real Jerry hasn’t done anything ridiculous like asking them to take it down due to copyright infringement. Which is exactly what we’d expect from many old world media owners.
We probably haven’t been as obsessed with gadgets the way we are now at any point in history. Every other day there is a new contraption or Kickstarter project spruiking some microchip enabled object of desire. What’s interesting is the shift that gadgets have made in the past decade. Rewind back to gadget innovation of last century – the good old 1900′s and we’ll see a different story from what we see today:
Gadgets from the industrial era invented time:
- The washing machine: No need to hand wash, or go to the laundry mat. Set and forget. Go do something else.
- The refrigerator / Freezer: No need to go to the market and buy fresh produce.
- Gas & electric heaters: No need to chop or collect wood, just flick a switch.
- Electric iron: No need heat it up on the fire place.
- Clothes dryer: No need to hang the washing on the line.
- Dishwasher: Less time needed slaving over the sink.
Gadgets from the digital era steal time.
Now lets take our minds into the gadgets we employ today: ipod, nintendo DS, smart phones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, TiVo and so on. Sure, some have extreme utility, yet they tend to take more time away than they invent. They first give a little, then they take a lot. It’s almost as though they takes us into a worm hole of exploration that eats up more than the efficiency they create.
It’s started to make me wonder about the time we give to our gadgets. Do we own them or are they starting to own us? I think the challenge of technology today is about understanding how we use the tools. Are we using them to consumer or create? Will we use them to create output, or be constantly giving them all of our input? For me this is a vital question where time is our most important asset. It’s an even bigger question for entrepreneurs, where the difference we make is largely a function of what we create. And in order to create something we increasingly need to pay attention to the devices around us and ensure we are in control of them, and it’s not the wrong way around.