Month: November 2012

The FBI recently did a risk assessment on bitcoin that was published in luanch.co by @jason that is shared below along with my original assessment published on the coinr blog 18 months ago.

FBI risk assessment of Bitcoin:
— 8.8m+ Bitcoins in circulation, avg. market price $4-$5
— As of April 18, ’12, $8m+ trans. occured over past 30 days
— From May ’11, prices fluctuated from $30 (June ’11) to $4 (Dec. ’11)
— Obstacles include no laundering software, no ID of acct. owners or location, no historical records with actual identity
— Law enforcement can’t target one central company for investigative purposes
— LulzSec reportedly received $18k in donations, tried to purchase botnet
Link

Coinr Blog

A new ‘virtual currency’ seems to have taken the financial and technology worlds by storm in recent months.

Google the phrase ‘regulatory response to bitcoin’ and watch the hit counter climb over time, expect this trend to continue as the total traded value of the bitcoin ‘currency’ continues to grow and regulators around the world start to understand the significance of this new decentralised transnational virtual currency.

While bitcoin appears to have solved the double-spending risk problem of purely virtualised currencies it has more problems than positives.

  • Being decentralised it has no regulation other than that set initially, so if it is changed over time there is little control for current or future investors. Sure this is unlikely now but once momentum is gathered (as it rapidly is doing) then the temptation for those able to bias the system will grow.
  • Being devoid of a home nation (or nations) it…

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Different. An Essay By James Cooper

My son James wrote this a couple of months before his 13th birthday, I found it highly evocative and insightful. He picked up the style from some school reading and I think it shows remarkable empathy for sufferers of all sorts of conditions.

The formatting is his and I think adds to the sense of urgency in the mind of boy his story depicts.

Different.

An Essay By James Morris Cooper.

Running. Pushing. Shoving. Don’t trip, get up. Colour, black and white, in and out of focus. Can’t see.

“Hey, watch it mate!”

“Oi! What’s your problem?”

Mustn’t be late, can’t be late. Need them. Need them now. I burst through the doors, tearing away from those people. The normal. I’m different from them, can’t be like them ever. They won’t let me.

Can’t be late. I need them now.

I see him. The man. The nice, friendly man. He takes care of me. Must get to him.

Too different. Must get to him so I’m not late.

“Hey kiddo. Why are you running? We’ve got fifteen more minutes,” he says to me, “Want to get a milkshake?”

No no no no no. Can’t be late. Must get them now.

“Well, I’ll take that as a yes. Hop in.”

I hesitate, and then step into the metal machine, screaming inside. The fast, moving machine. It’s evil, but the man doesn’t listen to me. Ever. Need them now.

“How was your day? I see you went to the library. Those books are good for you.”

I remember the books. I love them. They are my escape. My refuge. My home.

They understand me. Can’t be late.

“You know, the doctor says you should talk a bit more.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Only talk for woman. Nice. Nicer than the man. Makes me feel like a normal. Too different. Must get to them.

The machine stops. Too evil, must get away from it. I drop my books and rip the door open, slam it shut to hurt the monster. Run inside. Hide behind counter while the man orders. Only chocolate. Never vanilla. Mustn’t be late.

“Whoa, slow down there! You’ll get a stomach ache before you know it”

Block out the man. He knows nothing. Chocolate so soothing. Like the books. My friends.

We get back into the machine and roar away. It’s evil. It try’s to hurt us, but the man has to control it. Turn the wheel to escape the danger. Too fast. Must slow down. Screaming.

“Hey, hey, hey, take it easy! It’s all right, I’ll slow down. I was just having a bit of fun, that’s all”

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Too fast. He’ll hurt me if he crashes.

I see it. The house. The big one. The woman is there. Must get to her. Must get them.

I open the door and step out onto to the rushing floor below. Pain. Spinning.

Blood. The machine stops rolling away. The man steps out and runs to me, screaming.

I get up, push away the pain and limp to the house. To her. To them. I must have them.

The man grabs me and shouts again. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He won’t let go. Too loud. Punch him. More blood.

He falls and I keep limping. I reach the door and open it. Moan as pain hits me. Silence. No woman. Screaming again. I must find them myself.

“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing! I know its time, but could you calm down? You’re over reacting.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I’m searching for them. Climb the tall chair to top of fridge.

Open cupboard and pull it all out. Falling. The pain hits even harder. Must get them.

“Mate, just calm it down. I’ll get them for you.”

Too much pain. Must let man get them. He’s moving too slow.

“Here they are.”

He holds up the container. I lunge for them. Open it and they fall to the floor. Pick them up. The pills. Hands shaking. Swallow them.

Calm.

“Sorry dad.” I say. I pick myself up and walk to the bathroom to wash off the blood.

“Your mum and I are used to it,” he says, sighing. “You’re just different, that’s all.”

The Australian Tech Startup Ecosystem – Complete Collection of Maps and Lists

Numerous people have made attempts at mapping the Sydney and wide Australian Technology Startup Ecosystem. This is ours and we aim to be the most comprehensive not in duplicating the data but in pointing to the major hubs or collation efforts by others.

We also have our own internal data at Cooper & Co which we share with paying clients and use for for-profit investment profiling.

Rather than further muddy the waters I thought it was worth while laying out the current landscape so everyone is aware of the major lists/maps etc..

  1. Angel List – a US based database service used globally by angel investors originating from the 500 Startups group founded and funded by Dave McClure it is founded and operated by Naval Ravikant that has company profiles from a very early stage as well as inbestor profiles and incubator/accelerators, jobs and more, it is probably the largest and one of the fastest growing in recent times. Constantly updated by the global community. Freely available, difficult to visualise connections.
  2. F6S – a US based database service used globally by accelerators, incubators and education programs and other groups, it is probably the fastest growing and overall has the average earliest stage list. Constantly updated by the global community. Freely available, difficult to visualise connections.
  3. Startup Compass by Startup Genome – a US based database  service based on the lean startup principles which standardises the profiles of companies by stage, it is probably one of the largest in terms and listings and probably the largest in terms of details and that are standardised and able to be used for benchmarking. Founded by Max Marmer and Bjoern Lasse-Harmer. Fairly freely available. difficult to visualise connections.
  4. Startup Nation by FloqApp – an Australian based startup which bothered  to create a very nice looking database with map visualisation that is easy but a little light on detail, useful for finding ones near you and probably the most complete single list of australian startups done by an australian firm. Has a current bias to Brisbane which is incorrect statistically but will no doubt correct it self over time as coverage improves. Also attempts (with only partial success) to subjectively analyse helpfulness of various ecosystem stakeholders (.e.g family, investors). Freely available. Difficult to visualise connections. Good map format with drill down and slicing.
  5. Pollenizer Startup Map – a mind map created on Mind Meister by the Pollenizer accelerator founder Phil Morle with help from his team including co-founder Mick Liubinskas (aka Mr focus). One of the oldest and has some good insights.
  6. NICTA Startup Map – a mind map on Mind Meister created by NITCA staff led by Paul Hoff. One of the more recent ones and has a reasonable coverage and offers some government/research insights not provided by others. Freely available.
  7. Blue Chilli Startup Map – also known as startrail – a london underground style map of the startup ecosystem developed by Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin and the Blue Chilli team phased by growth stage. A  useful high level view. The growth stage attributes are a little limited but it offers useful grouping and has gained some traction because of the ease of representing a difficult topic in one image. Updated fairly regularly by Blue Chilli in consultation with industry leaders, currently up to release three. Freely available. Stage based visualisation with some connectivity by ‘railway line’, no map visualisation.
  8. Cooper & Co Startup Database – an internal database for Cooper Sydney customers, closed (ie private) and for profit. Disclosed selectively according to need. Various formats prepared on request as part of paid engagements. Collected from various sources including SydStart.
  9. 8sx.co – a public database by Cooper Sydney which is in the process of being established and will focus on bridges to asia. 8SX is an abbreviation for ‘Great South By’ inspired by the large conference ‘South By South-West’ aka SXSW held in the Austin Texas USA each year.
  10. Represent Map – A globally distributed set of communities powered by a US developed platform (seeded with a community called represent.la). This series of excellent database driven map visualisations is a community of proprietary data which includes a national Australian map called OzFounded from Sydney which is the largest by far (ten times the size of the others) as well as a slightly duplicated more localised South Australian one called Majoran Distillery co-working space from Adelaide and some others such as NZ Startups for New Zealand.

Are there any others out there? There are obviously others like tech crunch but they are so main stream they have been excluded.

In terms of tools used to build this ‘maps’ the main ones seem to be

  • mind meister
  • google docs (usually spreadsheets)
  • google maps via API
  • customer web site software (e.g. ruby on rails, representmap)

In terms of approach to updating the main ones seems to be

  • Owned and updated by vendor (free or paid access and typically free updates)
  • Community updated (own profile)

Would warmly welcome suggestions and pointers to other lists out there.

Transclusion In Startups

Most technologists are familiar with the concept of transclusion, but this is not necessarily the case for entrepreneurs.

It is another example of why innovation happens at the intersections of life or business.

  • Cut across traditional boundaries and you will find places, people, products and processes that are often central to where or how new improvements are found.
  • Tech startups founded by one or more geek entrepreneurs would have awareness of transclusion from their technology (usually software) training and naturally apply it to their business design.

Basically, to me (with my geek hat on), transclusion means avoid duplication or reuse existing code or apply use best practice PLUS be open to how these are employed or integrated.

  • Why copy a piece of code from another place when you can refer to it (or call it in at run time or integrate it) and hence benefit in both places if the original source is improved.
  • The downside is it introduces a new dependency into your software or business but usually it creates a new network effect or shared upside incentive to collaboration too.

As an entrepreneur however I think we can interpret transclusion to have other wider meanings, hence the reason for this article.

Why Apply Transclusion?

  • Speed to market. Stop reinventing the wheel. Reuse an existing thing rather than rebuilding it.
  • Confidence. Usually the original has been tested and used by others already.
  • Best practice. You spend your time picking the best code (or service) to reuse rather than design, build and test your own.
  • Open Innovation. We might have started talking about code here but in reality you should be looking at services (e.g. payments, reputation, social network connectors, analytics), communities and marketplaces (especially integrity and liquidity). Others are relying on and often improving these services so you get benefits.
  • Focus on Outcomes. As above, you start looking at wider benefits (e.g. is it easier to login with social APIs like linked/facebook/twitter) not just code.
  • Adaptability. If I reused an existing (e.g language translation) service rather than build my own, when I want to add another option/feature (e.g. new language to the list of supported translations) it is a standardised step that has been done many times before not a hardwired stove pipe built only for one set of situations.

How to Apply Transclusion?

  • Example implementations out in the wild are extensive and go by many names such as include files, include scripts, application programming interfaces (API)s, service orientated architecture (SOA), service design, functional partitioning etc…
  • The purists will comment below and point out to me the subtle (and sometimes dramatic) differences between each of the above technical terms, they are not lost on me technically (I did do comp. sc. at university) but today we are talking about transclusion in a entrepreneurial context and hence include business growth considerations more than pure technical definitions.
  • The gist of all this to me is simply thinking about reuse from the outset so that your technology or business is architected to allow the use of open innovation ideas AND techniques including transclusion if the opportunity arises and more importantly you make sure your culture keeps it in mind each time you do something new, make the decision to allow a considered decision where you evaluate options rather than just diving into a particular path.

Why not use Transclusion?

  • Risk. New dependencies you could otherwise avoid and might fail. (e.g our project management system we use in Sydney Australia was recently taken out by a hosting provider to one of our information management tools when New York City was hit by a hurricane but the productivity benefits of the tool outweigh the risks and longer term they will fix that issue for all current and future clients).
  • Over Analysis. You could spend more time looking around than it takes you to build one or grab the first alternative that comes along. Usually people use this excuse. But often it is the area of greatest upside. e.g. Would you prefer to build you own card payments connector or reuse an API that give access to hundreds of millions of existing customers than not only can pay with it but are familiar with the user experience, you are getting additional trust and confidence in your customers mind – something that is very expensive and time consuming to build/acquire.
  • Lots more but they are the main ones.

So how to decide?

  • Buy?
  • Build?
  • Integrate?
  • Which technology?
  • Which service?
  • Which vendor?
  • Which options?

Often it is all just made a lot easier if you ask these questions –

  1. Is it my core business? ie is it one of the things you plan to differentiate on or is it a marginal side service that is needed but not core to our unique offering. Another way of looking at this is can I leave it out all together (focus) or can I change it easily (later if in the unlikely event our decision was wrong and creates a problem) or do our key stakeholders already have a certain expectations (e.g. email and phone as obvious contact methods with acceptable costs).
  2. Is it available and acceptable to all my stakeholders (i.e. can I buy it at the right price and service/risk level to keep customers, investors, team, regulators, community) all happy?
  3. Is it going to add other benefits? e.g. a network effect of other users that already know how to use that payments system or a cost reduction trend because leading cloud computing providers are dropping prices.

So next time you are considering a feature, think about transclusion.