CategoryPeople

RIP Doug Engelbart

Farewell to a true technology pioneer. In 1962, years before the famous demo, he was speculating about life with iPhone-like devices:

…we might imagine some relatively straightforward means of increasing our external symbol-manipulation capability and try to picture the consequent changes that could evolve in our language and methods of thinking.

For instance, imagine that our budding technology of a few generations ago had developed an artifact that was essentially a high-speed, semiautomatic table-lookup device, cheap enough for almost everyone to afford and small enough to be carried on the person. Assume that the individual cartridges sold by manufacturers (publishers) contained the lookup information, that one cartridge could hold the equivalent of an unabridged dictionary, and that a one-paragraph definition could always be located by the average practices individual in less than three seconds.

What changes in language and methodology might not result? If it were so easy to look things up, how would our vocabulary develop, how would our habits of exploring the intellectual domains of others shift, how might the sophistication of practical organization mature (if each person could so quickly and easily look up applicable rules), how would our education system take advantage of this new external symbol-manipulation capability of students and teachers and administrators?

via Howard Rheingold.

full Engelbart 1962 SRI paper, AUGMENTING HUMAN INTELLECT: A Conceptual Framework

UBC Sauder Alumni Mag Profile

I am thrilled and honored to be featured alongside Ryan Beedie, Gregg Saretsky, and Livia Mahler in the current UBC Sauder School of Business alumni magazine cover story on entrepreneurship and innovation. What company! I hope to accomplish half of what they have been able to achieve in their careers. Here’s to the many other Sauder entrepreneurs out there!

Chris Coldewey – UBC Sauder Viewpoints Profile

Chris Coldewey – UBC Sauder Viewpoints Profile PDF (alt link)

UBC Sauder Viewpoints site

Full text of the article:

UBC SAUDER VIEWPOINTS – FALL 2011

Red Rovr, Red Rovr, We call Chris Coldewey over

BY ALLAN JENKINS AND JENNIFER WAH

With half an eye on the Twitter stream scrolling by one night a few years ago, Chris Coldewey realized with a start that a favourite band, Fleet Foxes, had not only slipped into town for a concert unbeknownst to him, but were playing another show that night just down the road in Seattle.

The MBA 2010 graduate had built a solid resume around futurism and corporate strategy, and felt attracted to the entrepreneurial energy in Vancouver. “With a lot of strategy consulting and scenario planning under my belt I wanted to get experience in the tech startup world and build something myself,” Chris recalls.

Drawn to the idea of a shiny new object in the form of a company, Chris conceived the idea of RedRovr in 2010, a tool to help fans bring the people and the bands they were interested in to where they live. Originally focused on bringing musicians and their followers together, the idea quickly grew to include speakers, authors, and other celebrities.

(Pull quote) “The seed came out of social media tools such as Twitter, which is a fantastic power tool for people who are thought-leaders in any area, allowing them to directly interact with fans. I noticed people who were starting to use these tools in new way, including connecting with fans from around the world.”

AS WITH ANY NEW VENTURE, ESPECIALLY ON THE
web, Chris has course-corrected as he learned more from his users and customers. “I initially focused on helping fans request speakers and bands to come to town. But I found that venues and event organizers wanted to use RedRovr to ask fans who should play at their club or speak at their event, so I am developing that now.”

Chris cites the example of bestselling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, who started reaching out to his readers and fans, to ask them where they thought he should come and speak. Less formally, luminaries such as author Guy Kawasaki have been known to ditch hotel room service and evening email, in favour of adding a tweet-up (when an online conversation evolves into an informal real-life gathering, usually between people who have connected on the social media platform,Twitter) on to a major keynote presentation.

Chris describes an emerging trend of social networking online—the “interest graph”: not only are you and all your friends connected on Facebook, but others you might be interested in, for reasons other than personal, are also there. These are people you may be connected to incidentally through real-world friendships, work, or geography, but primarily—and perhaps only—because you share similar interests. He sees it as a nexus, where different interests and fields come together—an intersection of real-world event planning, trends, and people. “RedRovr is about activating your interest graph—helping you discover other people in your city who share your interests in people or bands and make something happen together.

“Part of my ongoing strategy consulting work has been paying attention to these sort of early indicators of an unfolding future. Sometimes that’s a data point, but often it’s people who are pointing the way,” reflects Chris, mentioning thought leaders such as author and futurist Kevin Kelley, and social media consultant/author Chris Brogan, as examples of those living in the future. “You can see these outliers interacting with tools differently, making different kinds of choices; harbingers of where we are going.” He references Seth Godin again, who is walking away from the publishing world and trying to reinvent publishing in a more participatory manner.

An entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word, Chris has seized an opportunity out of the democratizing force of the Internet, where the voices of customers can now be better heard by companies. “Social media is all about learning from customers, trying to engage with customers. RedRovr is about giving people a platform to tell you what they want. I had a lot of conversations to get me to that point!”

Alongside RedRovr, Chris advises organizations on innovation and technology strategy. “I am currently working with one of the UN aid agencies to develop an internal innovation system—surfacing needs and ideas from field operations and connecting them with external partners and resources. One of the greatest challenges large organizations face now is how to operate lean, fast, and creatively—essentially like a web startup. Having a foot in both worlds lets me apply expertise from one to the other.”

When he is not dreaming and scheming about RedRovr, or a quiver of other ideas, Chris spends time with his wife Beth, one-year-old son Obie, and says daddy Chris has learned to operate on very little sleep, if he has to. “When I can get away, I go mountain biking on Vancouver’s North Shore, snowboarding at Whistler, or do a CrossFit workout,” he says. ”My best ideas come to me when I am outside, so it’s good for my health and my work.”

“Sauder helped me solidify a toolkit of operational and critical thinking skills that I bring to bear on my work every day.Through the MBA program I met some fantastic people— both students and professors—and got plugged in to the Vancouver tech community.”

//

Start me up

Entrepreneur Chris Coldewey offers his tips on web startups.

1. Get a team you feel comfortable with. That can just be two people, but in areas where innovation is key, you want a team with capacity. The dynamic partnership is helpful for developing new ideas, products, services and business models. You can bounce ideas off each other and take advantage of different skill sets.

2. Connect to the resources around you. Sauder has a great network, in alumni, and as a school. Professor Thomas Hellman’s technology entrepreneurship classes were fantastic for bringing engineering graduate students together with MBA students in an intensive class to create new products and new businesses. Then they brought in a who’s-who of BC venture capitalists, angels, entrepreneurs, and successful company CEOs to react to these ideas and potentially fund some of them. Vancouver has tons of resources for startups, from Meetup Groups to coworking spaces to startup accelerator GrowLab.

3. On the product side, be ready to reiterate. By definition, innovation is an experiment. Nobody knows the right answer, and it’s rare to hit the nail on the head right away. Being good at innovation means figuring out how to experiment in smart ways. You have to reiterate your product vision: engage with customers, find out if there’s a different customer segment that’s actually much more profitable or much more engaged with your product. Or look at innovations in other sectors and see if you can bring those into the one you are trying to enter.

4. Bring your Sauder skills to the table. In economics class we studied two-sided markets— platforms with two different user types where network effects increase the value to each as the two sides grow. Think about the challenge of marketplaces in general. In the case of RedRovr, fans want speakers to be on the site, and speakers want fans. So I have to design features that attract the segment that is harder to get, so that the easier-to-get segment will just follow along.

Port 2050: Vancouver scenario planning

Robin Silvester, CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, gave the annual address at the Vancouver Board of Trade and wrote an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on the subject of long range planning and the implications of four future scenarios for the Greater Vancouver Gateway region.

The scenarios were part of a Port Metro Vancouver initiative called Port 2050 which I worked on earlier this year with strategy firm Adaptive Edge and the PMV leadership team. We engaged hundreds of stakeholders and PMV employees to co-create four different visions of how the Vancouver region’s future might unfold over the next three decades.

It is fantastic to see the scenarios in print, and to see how the Port has already used them as a tool to interpret recent events and to drive further future planning. Kudos to PMV!

Port 2050 participants agreed that we need to develop the policies, programs and mechanisms that allow us to adapt to local, provincial, national and global change. In fact, we had begun contemplating various avenues required over the next few years to allow all of us to do just that — to adapt to future and as-yet uncertain global events.

But then things changed. The Greece crisis. The Italy crisis. Monetary and market upheavals. The Occupy movement, and the questioning its early hours provoked in the public about fundamental and important issues. In a flash, global shocks and economic developments indicating that the changes and volatility we collectively envisaged in the Port 2050 process were real, and closer than we thought.

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Sun op-ed, November 23, 2011. Future Jobs Need Planning Now. (PDF)

Robin Silvester, Vancouver Board of Trade Annual Address 2011. A Time To Plan, and a Time to Act. (PDF)

Port Metro Vancouver: Port 2050 Summary Report (alt PDF)

Engineering Serendipity with Kris Krug

Kris Krug is a photographer extraordinaire, social media documentarian, and global nomad who splits time between Vancouver, nearby Galiano Island, and the rest of the world. He was most recently in the South Pacific, documenting videographer Chris Jordan’s film on plastic pollution in the oceans, Midway. We met up on one of the rare days when KK is actually in Vancouver, and had a conversation about life on the web and life on the road, and how he connects with interesting people and projects wherever he goes.

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I was interested in his perspective as input to my projects RedRovr — a site for fans to request artists, speakers, and performers to come to their city — and 99speakers, a site for finding and booking long tail speakers. But the more we spoke, the more universal his advice seemed.

I’ve condensed our conversation into four principles from Kris Krug for “engineering serendipity” in your life and work — a guide to stacking the odds of good luck in your favor.

1. Send out a signal

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KK makes a living documenting others with his photography, but he is also a pro at documenting his own life, activities, and work. He attributes this near-constant stream of tweets, location updates, blog posts, and photos with landing photography gigs, meeting up with friends old and new, receiving referrals from friends orienting him to opportunities or people in the area. KK lives more online than most people, but the principle remains — you need to communicate about what you are up to and interested in in order to be found.

2. Scan the horizon

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KK doesn’t just send out his own signal, but makes sure to maintain an awareness of what people in his orbit are up to — “persistent scanning of infinite noise.” This scanning is an opportunity for pattern recognition — whether that is seeing an emergent idea, person, or thing, or noticing that different people are looking for or talking about complementary things.

3. Reach out to people

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The flip side of scanning is actually acting on the patterns you see — reaching out to people you know as well as people you don’t — someone who is visiting your city, connecting people who don’t know each other, amplifying someone’s call for assistance, etc. KK is nonstop with this, which is a key ingredient to his success.

4. Give more than you take

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This principle underlies all the others — giving more than you take from any given situation. KK talks about going camping as a kid, where his dad would advise them to leave the campsite better than they had found it, whether tidying up a tent site or replacing a rock in a fire ring. KK extends this idea to relationships and projects, and tries to use any media attention or time he has in the spotlight to shine light on other folks doing great work. Beyond specific actions, it’s an attitude he tries to bring into all his interactions.

Despite all this advice, serendipity remains largely resistant to our efforts to engineer it — this is one of the qualities of serendipity. However, some have said good luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity — and Kris Krug’s four principles are an excellent way of making sure you are prepared.

Thanks KK for a great conversation.

A Few Key People

I keep coming back to Mark Suster’s Techcrunch/BothSides article — just great advice about new venture management and jumpstarting regional technology ecosystems. I finally decided to just reproduce the whole thing here for my own easy reference.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Mark Suster (@msuster), a 2x entrepreneur, now VC at GRP Partners. Read more about Suster at Bothsidesofthetable

I’m in Seattle this week.

People keep asking me if I’ve “seen anything interesting.” Of course I have. I’m an entrepreneur at heart so I’m always inspired when I hear stories about innovation.

I really liked BigDoor, MediaPiston, OpsCode, BuddyTV, SEOMoz and much more. Can’t list them all.

But I’m not here trolling for deals. I’m here to build long-term, stable relationships that I hope will pay off over a decade, not a week.  I’m looking to turn dots into lines over time.

I’m inspired by the enthusiasm of the young, emerging startup ecosystem that is here. It has all of the components for success: a steady inflow of smart, CS graduates from UW who prefer to stay local if they could, a smattering of local VCs & angels, some “patron” companies like Microsoft and Amazon who provide new talent as well as the opportunity for company-defining partnerships and it has “elder statesmen” like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

The ingredients are all here. Seattle should be the envy of any non-Silicon-Valley tech community in the country. Great lifestyle, great cost of living, motivated people and only the crap weather on the negative side. They have their successes; yet somehow all of the neurons don’t yet seem to be firing as powerfully as they need to be.

As I gear up to give a keynote at the annual Seattle 2.0 awards dinner on Thursday night I started to reflect on what it would take to “change the trajectory” for Seattle or for any regional market, really. It really wouldn’t take much to turn a great technology ecosystem into a truly electric one.

And I think about the “Seattle issue” as a metaphor for startups and business in general. I’ve always been a big believer that just a couple of key individuals make all of the difference in a company’s success. It’s why my investment philosophy is called, “the entrepreneur thesis.”

I was meeting with a first-time CEO of a very promising young startup recently and offering my advice on what his priorities should be. He listed all of the product releases that were upcoming, the customers that were in the pipeline and where he saw his competition moving. I gave him the same advice I give nearly all over-worked, control-freak, do-everything-yourself startup founders:

“Your number one priority isn’t any of these things. Your highest priority right now is hiring the 1 or 2 people that are going to join your company and make a difference. There’s you and your killer CTO co-founder. But who else is going to get out there and close your big biz dev deals with you? Who’s going to help you with improving your marketing / positioning to become a clear platform category leader like Twilio?

Are you going to do all of this? Evidence over the past year would suggest otherwise. You have too much on your plate.

A few key people really can make a huge difference.”

Him:

“I know, I know. I will start recruiting soon. But I need to get our next release out the door. I need to take some VC meetings. I just don’t have enough time to focus on it right now. It will be a bit easier when we have a little more progress to show.”

Me:

“Bullshit. It never gets easier. There are always the next 20 tasks. The reason you’re not getting to the next level is that you’re not prioritizing the precise thing that could take you to the next level. I would say recruiting at least one superstar would be your priorities 1,2 & 3.”

I don’t care if you’re a 10-person organization, a 1,000 person organization or a multinational corporation – often it is the few key players that change the dimensions. Imagine Apple without Steve Jobs. Or less obvious, imagine Facebook without Sheryl Sandberg.

So entrepreneurs need to think the same way some VCs do – because markets change, competition changes, innovation & technology cycles move so fast that only by having a few truly outstanding leaders in your company can you sustain any sort of advantage.

And that is precisely my thoughts for Seattle and what I plan to deliver on Thursday night: Which few key community leaders are going to step up and get those neurons properly firing and connected?

My recipe for Seattle or your community:

1. Community Leaders + Organizers
You need a good mixture of both.

Look at what Brad Feld has done for Boulder. I know it’s not single-handed as he has both fantastic partners at Foundry Group and many other community leaders. But he has helped put Boulder on the consciousness of so many young, aspiring entrepreneurs in search of somewhere other than the San Francisco Bay Area to work & live. It is possible and he’s showing people that.

David Cohen deserves much credit for building TechStars into an internationally recognized brand name for innovation. If you can attract people to Boulder for a session to be part of the magical mix of people at TechStars then some will naturally stay put afterward.  But it did take Brad as a public spokesman, consummate networker and successful VC to help create legitimacy to let David’s ideas flourish.

It takes both to build a community. The business leaders need to do their parts. The people with the time, energy & creativity to build organizations like TechStars need to bring their ideas to fruition.

I see this emerging in Seattle and the passion of “a few key individuals” who can help shift the game. Chris Devore & Andy Sack have created Founder’s Coop with the goal of funding, incubating & launching more early-stage ventures in Seattle. If you could convince a few young “wantrepreneurs” that there is a community that can support them & a safe landing if they’re not immediately successful you might have your next Amazon in the works. It’s a very cool vibe at Founder’s Coop. These two guys are part of the recipe for Seattle’s growth.

2. Passionate Entrepreneurs & Ambassadors
Stating the obvious but you can’t will a region into success. You need to have passionate tech entrepreneurs who want to build businesses locally. They have the same trade-off decisions that you do about packing up and moving to Silicon Valley vs. staying and building locally. The answer seems obvious (to move) but it’s not. When you account for competition for talent, the difficulty of retention, the cost of living and the difficulty of rising above the noise – there are many advantages of staying put. The advantages of moving are more obvious.

So you need Dave Schappell who is building an interesting business in Seattle called TeachStreet, a local-community initiative to connect teachers & students. Dave is ex-Amazon and is a tireless advocate for the Seattle community. He’s been steadily emailing me for the past 18 months with ideas for local entrepreneurs I “have to meet” and has been egging me on to spend more time in Seattle. He’s why I came this week.

Dave Schappell & Daryn Nakhuda rally the troops

He helped me organize a set of meetings with high-potential individuals and a dinner where we all debating how to increase entrepreneurial velocity. I re-connected with Andy Liu the founder & CEO of BuddyTV – the largest destination for social TV enthusiasts on the web. When I saw what BuddyTV is working on and how long they’ve been the market (since 2005) I realized that this has huge potential to help disrupt the television market. They haven’t launched their next gen product – watch this space. No Dave S. = no knowledge of what BuddyTV is up to for me.

Every community needs their “ambassadors” who build relationships with leaders from other communities, who convince these people to come visit the community, who help organize events with local teams to get the cross-city interactions and who create awareness for the local talent.

Dave is a potential key ingredient in the recipe for Seattle’s success.

3. Patron Companies
Seattle has something that many communities don’t have. It’s what I call “patron companies” and the local giants are Microsoft & Amazon. When you think about the success that is Silicon Valley, the unfair advantage is not just the huge amounts of available venture capital. When you start a company in the Bay Area you can often get your first biz dev deal done with Google, Facebook, Salesforce.com, eBay, Yahoo! or the countless other successful startup firms.

A key deal not only helps you raise venture capital but it can help attract employees, garner press attention, help with product focus & importantly drive customer adoption and/or revenue.

In Los Angeles we don’t have “patron technology companies” that are big enough to matter – we’re still hoping to see them emerge. But every time I talk with senior executives a the big studios or talent agencies I tell the same story,

“You know that your industry is being disrupted. What industry isn’t these days. You can be part of the creative destruction. You can help local entrepreneurs get their first deal done and the innovation ought to benefit you.

Sure, it might mean some of your employees or colleagues go to join the barbarians at the gate, but would you rather that innovation happen in your home town where you can play to your strengths or do you want your entire future industry to shift to Silicon Valley?”

This message is surprisingly well received. People do want to help. They just need a few key individuals who are willing to go out on a limb, take some actions and make things happen for them. They need somebody bending their ears. They can then direct staff, allocate budgets, talk to the press, connect you with politicians and attend events. A few key people really can make a difference.

And that is what is most disappointing about the feedback I’m getting about Seattle. It has the dual technology patrons and yet the consistent story I get is that they’re not actively out embracing the startup community, helping local successes emerge, getting comfortable with the symbiotic benefits of some employees going to startups that innovate at a different pace and then buying up local teams, talent & IP. They’re doing stuff – just not enough.

Seattle has its patrons. The neurons aren’t connecting to the startups. Somebody needs to make this happen.

4. Elder Statesmen
This is where I think the action on connecting neurons has to come from. Jeff Bezos (and executive team) have to recognize that it’s in their best interest to see the community thrive and the benefits to Amazon (not to mention Seattle) are far greater than any negatives of employee flow. Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and other senior teams from Microsoft need to want to promote local startups. These kinds of connections seldom emerge from middle management who view the immediate threats more than the long-run benefits.

But Jeff, Bill, Steve and well as Howard Schultz, the executive team at CostCo, etc. are not likely to spearhead this movement. They’re too busy running their companies and literally changing the world. Who from Seattle has their ears? Who can get help get access to their capital? Who can get them to communicate the bigger picture message top-down to their teams to embrace the startup community and unleash local partnerships?

Without this – it’s a totally wasted patronage. Who will step up the way that Steve Case (founder of AOL) has done with Startup America to promote this initiative to politicians, business leaders and the press. Actually, who will get Steve Case to spend time in Seattle helping communicate the message to local leaders? It’s clear that America has a vested interest in promoting entrepreneurship in many regions in the country to stimulate innovation & job creation.

Who will be those key leaders who will step up and make a difference?

5. Playing to Your Advantages
Every region has its advantages and while not limiting innovation to local themes it seems to make sense to at least consider local advantages. It’s no big surprise that I spend a larger portion of my time in LA working on: disruption of television, performance-based marketing, games & mobile. We have unique skills, teams, experience and regional assets that give us a better chance of success than other regions.

In no expert in Seattle but when I look around I see: enterprise software (Microsoft), the market leader in cloud services (Amazon AWS), games (Xbox), some of the most innovative retailers in the country (CostCo, Starbucks, REI) and what is left of Boeing (HQ moved to Chicago). I’m sure there’s much more.

I’m not sure it makes too much sense to have check-in applications for restaurants here. That seems likely to be dominated by a more urban startup from NYC or from San Francisco. But who know? I’m just saying’ … what local assets do you have that load dice in your favor?

6. Marketing Muscle
It’s great to see an initiative like Seattle 2.0 because every community needs its local tech press to report on companies and run conference. Consider just how much exposure the Austin community gets every year due to SXSW. It’s awesome.

I’ve often talked about the NY advantage of having the NY Times, WSJ, Silicon Alley Insider, New York Magazine and even the editor of TechCrunch based there. Not to mention every major agency, many PR firms, etc. There is no question NY startups get disproportionate press.  That’s natural. Not to mention they have the highest profile VC / blogger Fred Wilson of AVC.

It was great to hear that in Seattle John Cook and company are solving this at GeekWire.  Every region needs its local media & events. In LA we have SoCalTech, for which I am grateful. It’s an awesome source of regional news. I’d LOVE to see it become more of a national vehicle. How do we make that happen?

I’m now getting about 400,000 views / month at BothSidesoftheTable. I don’t write about LA but I write from LA. It’s important. A few key people can really make a huge difference.

7. Local Angel Community / Recycled Capital
Fred Wilson wrote an eloquent piece on his blog about “recycling capital,” which every regional community should read. The magic that is Silicon Valley is that every tech entrepreneur who has made a bit of money chooses to “recycle” it by investing back into the startup community. There is a long tradition of these and it’s what formed the original angel network groups.

As I look at LA I see a lot of this reinvestment going on. There are great entrepreneurs like Evan Rifkin, Tom McInerney, Paige Craig, Diego Berdakin, Brett Brewer, Kamran Pourzanjani, Jarl Mohn and many, many more who have done several local Los Angeles tech investments. There are several “club deals” where you see the same sets of people “passing the hat” around on deals.

I know from all of my private conversation that they aren’t seeing this as a “get rich quick scheme” – they’re giving back to the community. And the truth is that they know $25-50k from them on a deal that they can help influence returns on is a lot better than handing it over to a money manager who is parking your cash in a vehicle you don’t understand.

I have done the same. I had the good fortune of doing one small deal that returned 6x in a year. So it was newfound capital I wasn’t expecting. I plowed it back into 9 deals. I prefer not to do any angel investments because I focus on my VC funds but it was gratifying to write some small checks to support local teams.

I know there’s tons of money in Seattle. Perhaps somebody needs to organize it a bit better to go into more angel deals. I know that Founder’s Coop has a fund as does TechStars Seattle. That’s one model. Perhaps some experienced tech entrepreneurs could formalize more of the Amazon / Microsoft money into a higher velocity of angel deals.

8. Venture Capital
And of course you need a mature venture capital industry. There are several local firms in Seattle like Madrona, Maveron, Ignition and others. But the consistent message I heard was “there’s not enough.” That’s why more VCs ought to be spending time in Seattle. It’s similar to LA in that there are a highly motivated cadre of tech savvy entrepreneurs wanting to create companies and a lack of funding. I’d bet if one is disciplined about investing here you’d see significantly better pricing than chasing deals in the overly competitive Bay Area corridors.

It’s not an either / or but both / and. But as I look at the GRP Partners returns we’ve made a lot of money investing in companies in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Arizona and Seattle. We won’t rush into the market but we’re very open to finding teams with the ambition to build big businesses. We know it can be done.

9. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
The other message I delivered to the room of entrepreneurs & investors at dinner the other night was that you need to think about equity from outside the region the same way that countries think about foreign direct investment. The inflow of capital can be transformative.

But what is often not talked about is that those investments lead to 8-10 board meetings every year of which it would be hoped that the “outside the region” VC would attend 6-8 of them in person. I think a series of brand ambassadors should find out when these VCs will be in town and organize evening events for them the night before so they don’t do a fly-in, fly-out visit.

Imagine if the ambassadors from Seattle organized a dinner with 8 entrepreneurs, the CTO of Amazon, the head of Xbox and the head of marketing for Starbucks. You mean to tell me that the VC wouldn’t fly in early for that?

With VC FDI the community gets more than money. They get time, commitment & attention. One deal begets more deals. If you’re already on a plane to Seattle 8 times a year picking up a second investment there is trivial. Get them over that first hurdle.

10. Time
And finally, it’s clear that to really build a regional community you need time. LA and Seattle are in the second (or third) major wave of technology innovation. We have all of the 2nd-time entrepreneurs from Overture, CitySearch, MySpace, etc. on to their next companies and that produced Demand Media, a public company who even with a slight recent reduction in share price is still trading at $1.3 billion.

Over the past 15 years Seattle has built one of the most interesting technology companies in the world. I’m still amazed at how forward thinking Amazon has been in cloud services – years ahead of Google, Salesforce.com, IBM, HP, Oracle or the countless other companies that should have been strong in this space.

It’s a shame that hasn’t translated into more local break-out successes, but if a few key people really wanted to put in the effort to make it happen I’m confident that Seattle could be a major force in the decade to come. That will be “the decade of the cloud” where it really starts to become a truly connect resource that continues to accelerate innovation.

Who’s in?

Adapt

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Tim Harford is a Financial Times columnist and the presenter of Radio 4’s More or Less, which won the Royal Statistical Society’s 2010 award for statistical excellence in broadcast journalism. He is also the author of several books, including The Undercover Economist. His latest is Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.

Cory Doctorow: First of all, some context — what’s the thesis of Adapt, and how does it refine, extend or improve upon The Undercover Economist?

Tim Harford: The Undercover Economist was a book about the economic principles behind everyday life, from the way Starbucks prices drinks to the rise of China. Adapt isn’t primarily an economics book at all — it’s a book about how complex problems are solved. (If ideas from economics help, great. But sometimes they don’t.)

That said, the two books start from a very similar place: describing the amazing complexity of the economy that produces the everyday objects which surround us. In Undercover it was a cappuccino, and in Adapt I describe a memorable project in which a student called Thomas Thwaites attempts to build a simple toaster from scratch. But in Adapt this complexity isn’t just a cause for a “wow, cool” moment — it’s a headache, because it’s a measure of the obstacles facing anyone who wants to solve problems in this very intricate, interconnected world.

Ultimately Adapt argues that the only way forward is experimentation, which can either be formal or ad hoc. Whether we’re talking about poverty in Nigeria or innovation in Boston, solutions tend to evolve rather than be designed in some burst of awesome genius. And then the question is — what do we need to encourage those experiments?

via boingboing.net

Connecting Social Innovators in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland

I facilitated a session at the Wiring the Social Economy unconference in Vancouver yesterday about connecting social innovators around the Cascadia bioregion. Specifically, the discussion focused on how best to connect folks working on similar issues in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. Lots of great folks showed up and offered their thoughts — thanks to everyone who participated!
Here are my raw notes from the session. Notes from other sessions can be found on the conference wiki.

Connecting Social Innovators in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland
Wiring the Social Economy
Vancouver, BC
December 4, 2010

Session facilitated by: Chris Coldewey – coldewey AT gmail – chriscoldewey.com

Session premise:
Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are culturally very similar, and are filled with people tackling similar problems. The border shouldn’t be such a hindrance to communication and sharing, but it is. How can we connect social innovators across these three cities so that we can learn what’s working in each city, share best practices, and inspire each other?

Raw session notes:
  • Why
    • Need to create learning community that people in each city can sign on to
    • One benefit could be getting a better understanding of cultural/political diffs
    • Not just about sharing, but BC can project its influence for the larger benefit of the region
  • How
    • Rallying meme: Republic of Cascadia. Create a unifying glossary of terms to brand the movement
    • Tedx as inspiration: Create a “TedxCascadia” or “ChangeCamp” that brings together people from Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.
    • Create a “Sister Cities” one-day event framework (like Tedx in general) that could be franchised/replicated by people wanting to create similar “sister cities” types of conferences around the world
    • Collaborative organizing
    • Include Victoria too!
  • Kinship areas btw YVR/SEA/PDX
    • Housing
    • Composting
    • Open data
    • Transportation
    • Small business
    • Food carts
    • Community-based broadband
    • Startup tech cos
    • Possible themes: Environment, Culture, Economy
  • Offline vs. offline issues
    • In-person conferences are great, but are expensive and by definition can only include a few people
    • Could have simultaneous conferences and stream video from different locations to each other (like when Tedx confs show videos)
    • Unconference format can be useful, but there may need to be an alternative for more in-depth discussions
  • How to keep the momentum between annual conferences
    • Regional awards / award ceremonies
    • Big event annually, smaller events throughout the year. E.g., Compost or Housing get-together / field trip / mini-conf
    • Online/offline: Universities like Emily Carr are good at connecting offline and online learning
    • Online tools: e.g. Maestroconference (conference call service that enables facilitators to break listeners into groups)
  • What exists now

Whole Systems Design

Focusing on fixing small things, and not looking at the whole system, is a chronic issue among humans. Engineers and designers just happen to be the ones who make decisions that determine the energy used in your house, your transportation, or the materials in your electronics. Our partners at the Rocky Mountain Institute have been talking about whole systems for years. As Amory Lovins put it, “Optimizing components in isolation tends to pessimize the whole system—and hence the bottom line. You can actually make a system less efficient while making each of its parts more efficient, simply by not properly linking up those components. If they’re not designed to work with one another, they’ll tend to work against one another.”

via livingprinciples.org

Fellow Worldchanging alumni Dawn Danby and Jer Faludi created this great video (with the help of Free Range Studios) explaining principles of systems thinking as they relate to design and manufacturing — part of Autodesk’s Sustainability Workshop series.

The Worldchanging Book: Revised and Updated

We are extremely pleased to be able to announce the new edition of Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century, to be released this spring (and already available for discount pre-order at Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon).

The new edition of the Worldchanging book is out — congrats to Alex and the team.

Marine conservation area boundary proposal is based on Inuit oral history

Now, in a bid to assert Inuit interests in protecting Lancaster Sound as both a species-rich ecosystem and as an important hunting resource, a group representing several Baffin-area communities — in collaboration with federal archivists and the Montreal-based environmental consultancy Strata360 — have converted mountains of recordings, interview transcripts, hand-drawn maps and other documents into a set of proposed boundaries for the marine park.

The information, gathered by university researchers from Inuit hunters and elders in 1972 and 1973, was collected partly to ensure the accumulated wisdom of a people would not be lost amid wrenching social changes then unfolding in the North.

My old prof, cultural geographer Bernard Nietschmann would be proud.

© 2019 chris coldewey

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