Why diversity matters for startups

A great challenge in this talk by the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal urging startup founders to make use of all the amazing technology now in our hands to solve real problems. He says if we’re to solve those problems, we need to widen founders beyond 24-year-old white guys:

Diversity isn’t going to be something that is nice, diversity is going to be something that is necessary.

Alexis Madrigal: Why Startups Need To Solve Real Problems Again from 99U on Vimeo.

Guy Kawasaki’s 10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make


Here’s a great little video of Guy Kawasaki speaking at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley on 10 mistakes that entrepreneurs make — particularly if they’re rockstar engineers trying to disrupt the pet food industry.

  • Multiplying big numbers by 1%
  • Scaling too soon
  • Partnering
  • Pitching instead of prototyping
  • Using a font smaller than 30 points
  • Doing things serially
  • Believing 51% is control
  • Believing patents = defensibility
  • Hiring in your own image
  • Befriending your VCs
  • Thinking VCs can add value

Getting Things Done for startups

Eze hosted an event at Campus London on Friday with one of my heros — David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. I read the book in 2002 I think and have been experimenting with different ways of making the system work ever since. It’s no surprise that it’s sold 2 million copies — it’s a self-help book that works and has helped create a whole industry around supporting ‘GTDers’.

If you’re working on a startup and don’t know about GTD, you’re probably best stopping what you’re doing and taking some time out to learn about it. Get your co-founders to do the same because if you all have the same framework for personal productivity you’ll understand each other much better.

There a few bits to the system:

  • Get everything out of your head — the first step and a habit that you need to get into is writing everything down that you want to do. When you have an idea or when you remember you need to do something, write it down and find a system you trust for doing so.
  • Sift all of that down to actionable tasks — an actionable task is something that you can do in one go. It shouldn’t need you to work out what you meant and it shouldn’t have multiple dependencies. If it does need something else doing before you can do it, work on that task first. A project is just a series of actionable tasks.
  • Sort into contexts — when you know what you have to do, you need to work out when to do it. A context is just a way of allocating tasks to a suitable time, so you put all your calls into a context called ‘phone calls’ or emails into ‘email’ or errands into ‘out and about’.
  • Review regularly — this was the bit that came through very strongly in David’s talk on Friday. He even said that the most important part of the system for him now was his weekly review when he takes a step back and works out whether he’s working on things that matter to him.

Huge thanks to the Campus team for organising the event. Really enjoyed it.

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The other part of the 3D printing equation


Just spotted that MakerBot have announced that they’ll be launching a 3D scanner later in the year. Not sure whether the choice of object to demo it on was significant but, for those who remember a particular South Park episode, it does bring to mind the problem that the gnomes always had was ‘step 2’. That’s going to be the key to 3D printing taking off I think.

Image from Makerbot Inc.
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Two great pieces of news for London’s roads

There were two great pieces of news for transport in London last week which I think deserve a mention.

First was the announcement of the Mayor’s cycling plans, which include developing the cycle super highways and quiet street cycling routes but also noting (finally) what it is that works about cycle friendly cities like Amsterdam — separation of bike routes from other forms of traffic. I’ve never got why we combine them with bus lanes. Personally, I can’t wait for the switch away from petrol and diesel in road vehicles. Quite apart from the CO2 issues, I think the air pollution issues swing it for me. I’d like to see a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles large and small in urban areas in five years.

Second was the announcement that a Formula E race will be staged in London in 2014 which is also fantastic news. I’ve written before about electric racing and how I think it will spur innovation. As in Formula One, the key is to create a revolving door between motor sport and the car industry. Even just the introduction of KERS into Formula One has pushed the technology forward very quickly. Next season the electric units will be capable of producing 120 horsepower which is about the same as a middle of the range saloon car engine and doing all that from reclaimed energy.
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Steve Wozniak on how to choose what to do

This is a lovely email exchange between a Korean student and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. There’s lots in there but I liked this bit best:

Early on I decided that I would never want to tell one story in different ways. The truth always comes out one way. I decided that telling 2 versions of the same thing is often hypocritical. The teller doesn’t feel that the truth about how they are and how they act is not good, so they hide it with deception and falsehoods. It‘s like having 2 different personalities in your head and can lead to psychological problems and neurosis. I did not want to be like that.

5 hours a day

It’s one of the most remarkable statistics I’ve heard about social change for a while: life expectancy is growing by 5 hours a day. Put another way, average life expectancy increases by over a year every five years. Nesta have a new report out about the risks and opportunities of an ageing society which argues that the implications are far from simple. As Halima writes:

We must avoid jumping from one ageing stereotype to another: from an image of quiet, incapacitated people sitting in care homes, to a new stereotype of hyper-wealthy, hyper-healthy Baby Boomers reading tablet computers while pedalling in their home gym. The reality is much more complicated.

It’s fair to say that our institutions haven’t kept up with the trend. Pensions were designed for an era when people were only expected to live a few years beyond retirement. Old peoples’ homes were designed to be the exception rather than the norm.

Through Social Innovation Camp and Bethnal Green Ventures we’ve always been interested in how technology can help us adapt to an older society. It’s partly because people don’t associate digital technology with older people that we think it’s an interesting area. Projects like Good Gym, Room for Tea and Here’s a hand have taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t. And when we open BGV applications tomorrow, we’re really keen to explore the way that tech can help reorganise systems of support for older people.

Self-organised learning

Sugata Mitra won the TED Prize this year and his acceptance talk was interesting. His main point was that education isn’t broken, in fact it’s very good at doing what it was designed for (creating standardised bureaucrats in an age of empire), it’s just not very well suited to the needs of a modern economy or society.

The implication is that the way we measure attainment is very misleading. It enables ministers and columnists to keep arguing for a Victorian approach and to be honest it probably is the best way of getting young people through Victorian exams.

Mitra thinks that young people learn best when they teach themselves and he’s been experimenting with different ways of helping them self-organise their own learning. Educationalists will argue about whether Mitra’s approach is the best one but I think he’s probably in the right area. I hope more people keep exploring it.