Heraclitus & startups

Heraclitus

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

These words were spoken by Greek Philosopher Heraclitus. I think we can all agree that what he has said can only be true.

Therefore:

No person can visit the same city twice

No person can have the same idea twice

No business can fail twice.

While a second attempt at a similar business venture may still fail, it was not the same business that failed. And it was not the same founders, regardless of their fingerprints.

The truth behind economics is people and culture, both of which are in a constant state of flux.  And while the past tells a story of what was, it doesn’t always tell the story of could be.

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The type of thinking needed in exponential times

Busy road with fumes

If you could choose a house on a busy road, or a quiet road in the same suburb, and price was not an issue, the choice is simple – the quiet road wins every time. And we all know why – less pollution, less noise, less danger. Oh, and quieter streets are usually nicer to look at. The prices of real estate reflect this. A house of similar quality on a busier road can be as much as 50% cheaper.

So here’s a question worth thinking about: What happens to those property prices when all cars have electric engines, and they don’t have tail pipes? You guessed it – there is almost no noise and no localised pollution. Surely then, the prices of houses in busy streets will go up and bridge the existing pricing gap somewhat. In the next 10 years significant amounts of money will be made in property by arbitraging the positive impact of electric cars.

It’s economic plays like this that are easy to see once we start thinking about the impact of the technology, and not the technology itself.

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Why I’m using Snapchat

Snapchat Billboard

I got message from Richard on Linkedin regarding my use of Snapchat recently: here it is below:

Steve, I noticed around the time of this post you started posting about the benefits of Snapchat, rather than promoting your book. I get it, especially for connecting to the next generation. I also get that Snapchat is a whole new, exciting landscape & way of connecting that’s diff. to other social. I’d to hear more about why you’ve made the switch and have started on it as a platform. Only so many hours in the day. Pls explain why time on this is good for startups. Listened to https://lnkd.in/bXKk5D4 but would love YOUR take🙂

Here’s my response:

Hey Richard,

Props for paying attention to my stuff and thanks for reading. I started to mix it up a bit at the bottom of my blog posts. Still some book, but mostly snapchat. My book, I promote less because it is getting old and I’m writing my next one… is all. The reason for Snapchat is that Twitter has very little engagement these days. I have nearly 7000 genuine followers on twitter, I never chased a follow ever, all came to me. I get about 300 people with the opportunity to see my tweets, about 7 looks or so click or engage – Pathetic. With Snapchat in just a few weeks I get around 50 engagements. People literally looking at my story. Snap is simply replacing my twitter. But more than that, we need to be nimble and change forums when the disco gets too crowded and noisy and no one can hear each other speak. For me it’s not about connecting to the next generation, it’s more that my generation are now using Snapchat – it’s my old twitter audience changing which nightclub they dance in….Another reminder that we need to be loyal to our audience, and not worry about the forum or the way they want to connect. I was an early Naysayer of Snapchat and it’s value. But their ‘My Story’ feature (24 hours of snaps) changed it’s value proposition for me – and when the facts change, I change my mind.  In fact, I’m gonna blog this…. trust you’re Ok with that…🙂

Steve.

P.S – If this blog disappears quickly, it’s because Richard wasn’t ok with it! 

Software is eating the world – and surfing

The picture below is of surfboard fins. These days they are not permanently attached to the surfboard, but screw in. This allows surfers to change fin sizes and shape for different surf, it also allows you to travel with out busting them.

3D Printed Surfboard fins

The fins on the left come from a company called FCS and they retail for $140. The fins on the right came off a 3D printer and cost exactly zero dollars, well maybe $3 in raw in materials. In general fins sell for between $100 and $200.

Sure the FCS fins on the left look fancy and are made from carbon fibre, the 3D printed versions above are various plastics, but in many ways they are better. I can print fins quickly and cheaply with varying degrees of flex. I can print fins with more flex at the top and less at the bottom, I can even add other technology to the fins like a GPS, to track my surfing without wearing a bulky watch. I can customise my design on my fins, the colour, create personal branding anything, sell my designs to other surfers….the options are endless, and the cost is negligible. That said, I can print fins in carbon fibres, light metals and pretty much any material I want.

It won’t be long before the days of buying expensive fins are over. 

These fin companies are less than 20 years old, and unless they facilitate 3D printing of their product, they’ll be disrupted – maybe me and my new surfing company Sneaky Surf. Mind you this company (FCS) was recently bought by Surf Stitch for $23.7 million. I hope they get their money back quick or it will be a classic diworsification. If they paid a 10 times price earning ratio, they’ll never get their money back. I reckon within 3 years no one will buy fins again.

If you make any widget like the example above, or buy them, then the time is now to move to 3D printed versions. You don’t even need to own a printer – there are plenty of startups on line who can print your designs for you and ship them to you customers. GO – this opportunity to dematerialise a category (like music was dematerialised) is big. We all know that software is eating the world – Make it happen in your industry.

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Imagine if you had all the power in the world

IBM Watson

In 2011 IBM’s Watson an Artificial Intelligence unit famously won a 100 game set of jeopardy against human world champions. It was really the first time an A.I. had beaten humans in a multidimensional association test. Intelligence through inference, cognitive computing and natural language rather than mere brute force calculation and probability sets. That said, there was plenty of brute force behind Watson. Here’s some of stats from how Watson was configured at that time in 2011:

  • It had 3000 Power7 processors.
  • A cluster of 90 IBM Power 750 servers.
  • It could read the equivalent of 1 million books per second.
  • It had downloaded the entire content of Wikipedia.
  • It was not connected to the internet for the competition.
  • It was the size of a small conference room. (above)

But this was all 5 years ago. Now its the size of 3 pizza boxes.

3 Pizza Boxes stacked

Imagine if us mere mortals and startup founders could access such computing power. Well, we can, Watson is already in the cloud.

Anyone can access it’s incredible power through the Watson Developer cloud. It even includes 30 day free trials – 30 days with the worlds most powerful A.I. – I can remember when an internet cafe used to charge $20 an hour for dial up to surf sites like GeoCities and Altavista. You can check out all the ways it’s being used here. You’ll see there are incredible opportunities for all manner of business, data usage and cognitive assistance.

This opportunity simply can’t be understated. Yes, IBM benefit from the work you do (it makes Watson smarter) and it will cost money, but heck, you’re getting access to the most powerful thing of it’s kind in the world.

It turns out that while some companies continue to get stronger and more ensconced in our lives – think GAFA, there’s still a move towards democratisation if we care enough to dig around.

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Low tech jobs in a high tech world

look alike robot

The robots are taking over. Seriously, they are. They are taking a lot of the crappy and dangerous jobs we’ve done in the past. They’re taking a few of the good ones too. So here’s a thought, why not try and own some robots? Maybe save some money with your robot – oh, like your phone which saves you buying music…

Here’s another thought experiment: If a person has $100 in their wallet, and instead of spending 30 of those dollars on a CD, where does the money go? Does it just evaporate? Of course not. Money doesn’t evaporate, it just changes places. It is relatively easy to see where it will dry up and where it will get invested instead. The transition is obvious to people who pay attention to the world they live in. Good news, that new place where old new money gets spent also has new new jobs associated with it – most will be low tech. They always are.

Here’s another little known fact – the worlds most profile tech company ‘Google’ is not the nerd nest of techies you think it is. More than half of its global workforce are sales people. Yep, that same person who would normally have sold TV ads, cars, vacuums, real estate and health insurance is now a sales person at Google.

Humans invent jobs as new industries and technologies emerge. We surround the new thing with people – it’s like a force of gravity. People aggregate around money and commerce. And yes, some good paying jobs do disappear, but some other high paying ones arrive too.

If you want to be on the high paying end of things, here’s what to do, go out and learn some new skills few people have, there are enormous skill gaps in the market today. And these skills are free to learn on line. Here’s a website I love called the ‘No Excuses List’ – which is full of things you can learn for free. Skills companies and people need today!  If you make the effort to reinvent yourself in times of great change, the prize is big, I know I’ve done it myself.

But of course there’s a catch, I can’t do your push ups for you.

Questions established companies must ask themselves

future

“How could our customers do this thing without us?”

“What can be removed from the process and still solve this problem?”

“How could this problem be solved without using a physical product?”

“What technology is likely to be introduced into our things?

“What will happen to prices of the thing we sell when more technology is introduced.?”

“What would a new entrant into this market likely do to meet customers needs?”

Once these questions are answered sufficiently and honestly, they ought go ahead and do these things. They are going to happen anyway aren’t they?

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