All posts filed under “Announcements

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My newest project (tentatively … IdeaGreenhouse)

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I believe strongly in transparency when starting a business. While some people try to keep their “secrets” locked up, all it really does is lock those entrepreneurs away from valuable feedback. Business is about execution; if you’re working on something you’re passionate about and actually executing, you have nothing to worry about.

So I’d like to explain the project that I’ve been working on for a while more to you here. In a sentence, it’s a business devoted to helping you collect, develop and most importantly implement great new ideas. Tentatively named IdeaGreenhouse, it’s web-based software and optional advising services for companies, clubs, community groups, interest groups and any other organization to use internally to help them do things better.

What does it do?

This software allows anyone with an idea to submit it into the system. Any other user can comment on it or support it through a voting-type system. Most importantly it lets users create and volunteer for micro-tasks to take the idea forward. Instead of relying on a small group of connected people in the heart of a business or organization to evaluate ideas and implement them, it connects the people in the company that are really interested in the idea and that have the skills to make it happen.

I’ve been thinking about the software and sketching it out for quite a while. Earlier this fall I worked with an outsourced developer to get a prototype established, which is now up and running. I’m taking advantage of my MBA class to help get comments and feedback on the prototype by using it to help find ideas that will improve the Cambridge MBA. It’s at the point now where I can clone that initial site fairly easily for new alpha-testers. If you’re interested in becoming an alpha-tester, please contact me!

Who is it for?

Who is an ideal customer? One example is my rowing club in London. The club has several hundred members, and over a hundred active rowing members at any given time. There’s also a lot of excitement around the club’s 150th anniversary next year. A lot of members have tons of great ideas to raise money, make improvements to the facilities, run the clubhouse and rowing program better, etc. But it’s virtually impossible for one person with an idea to press ahead and make it happen. Right now all the ideas come through a small group of volunteers (all overloaded anyway) for evaluation and implementation. It “doesn’t scale.”

Another use? Potentially as an political interest-group tool. While change.gov is great in that you can submit your questions/ideas to government, what you’re really doing is throwing them over a wall and hoping the people on the other side can see what you see. Instead, a group like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) could establish a site to develop the best policy ideas and marketing ideas to bring about those policy changes. They could connect lawyers, tech stars, business types, video producers and who knows else to work collaboratively to develop the best policies going forward.

The biggest revenue-potential is companies that are looking to constantly improve and innovate. Software like IdeaGreenhouse can connect people across silos in an organization to find solutions to problems, new innovations, or simple better ways of doing things across a business. Instead of relying on approval through a “chain of command,” the people in the company that are passionate about an idea can connect and move it forward themselves.

While the traditional method of “throwing ideas over the wall” for someone else to review and approve is great (it’s not too much work), implementing ideas is about a thousand times better. It’s a heck of a lot harder, but it’s incredibly satisfying when it does. IdeaGreenhouse is a tool that will help get businesses and organizations do that.

Competitors

There are a ton of competitors in the “submit ideas and vote for them” category. Starbucks and Dell have both used SalesForce.com’s ideas application, with lots of publicity. Change.gov uses Google Moderator, and there are more commercial solutions like GetSatisfaction and others.

Where IdeaGreenhouse is different is that it is an internal tool, to use the knowledge and experience of your employees/members/organization. It is NOT a tool to get feedback from your customers. The users don’t just submit ideas, they work to accomplish the ideas, too.

There are some enterprise-level software applications that do this, but they all focus on large companies exclusively. IdeaGreenhouse will scale to work with any size company or organization.

The Team

The team working on this consists of me and Dom Orchard, a PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge. (Really smart, and a fellow Jesuan.) Dom also drafted the logo above.

Feedback

I’m creating a “landing page” to detail this more soon, and will post that here when I do. I’ve got a few different names I’m going to try out, and will use Google AdWords to hopefully find the best one of the bunch. (See here for more.)

If you have any feedback, please contact me, or submit a comment below. This is what I plan to spend much more time talking about this year, and look forward to any/all of your thoughts.

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A short personal note

My apologies for the lack of posting recently… LondonAnnie and I moved!

We’re just down the road a bit from our old place. For the same rent we’ve got a much bigger flat that even has a view of the river. It’s a 2 bedroom, which means it will be much easier for family and friends to stay with us, too. (Hint!) It’s not for the superstitious… we’re #13 on our road in SW13.

Unfortunately, moving around the holidays means that our internet won’t get hooked up until sometime in January, and none of our neighbors has an unlocked wireless signal. Unless I can get Netshare up and running on my iPhone soon, don’t expect much posting from me until after my exams in January.

But Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to everyone. I hope 2009 is even better than 2008 for you all.

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Off to the 2008 Beijing Olympics!

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This week my wife and I are flying out to Beijing to attend the 2008 Beijing Olympics! Needless to say, we’re getting really excited.

We had to order our event tickets well over a year ago, and recently purchased a couple more tickets from a friend that couldn’t go. Over the course of twelve days we will be attending: Rowing, Athletics, Gymnastics, Triathlon, Beach Volleyball, Wrestling, and Weightlifting.

Key tickets for us are everything rowing (as you can guess by my previous posts), the Women’s Individual All-Around gymnastics final, and Athletics (to include Men’s steeplechase and long jump, Women’s 800m, Discus and Pole Vault). Provided we’re able to swap one of our two pairs of Saturday rowing finals tickets for a pair of Sunday finals, we will see 26 different finals and medal ceremonies.

Why we’re going

The main reason we decided to go to the Olympics over a year ago was to support our friends from Thames Rowing Club, where we’ve been rowing for four years. Elise Laverick is rowing in the Women’s Double Sculls with Anna Bebington, and Ali Knowles and Beth Rodford are rowing in the Women’s Eight. Last year Annie Vernon rowed for Thames (she’s since switched clubs), and she’s competing in the Women’s Quad Sculls. Oh, and Al Heathcote is rowing in the Men’s Eight; he’s the brother of a guy on Thames men’s squad.

Getting ready

It’s only been in the last few days that I’ve started to get really excited about the Olympics. We decided to do a Homestay, which I was initially unsure about. But now that we’ve been in touch with the owners of the flat (a Canadian man and his Chinese wife) I’m stoked. We’ll have wireless access, so we should be able to upload photos and blog on a daily basis while we’re there.

The Olympic Committee also recently released their visitor’s guide, which finally gives a little more information as to how we’ll be able to get in between venues. Considering the Rowing and Triathlon venues are well outside Beijing central, this is key for us. It took a bit to download the 100 MB PDF (!), but it’s packed full of information. As long as we have a ticket for an event on the day, transportation in the city that day is free.

By the way, I’ve been using TripIt to organise our whole trip… I highly recommend it!

Visiting Beijing

I also hope to see a bunch of Beijing while we’re there. The Great Wall is a trip that we’re trying to fit in on one of the days, but since it’s a little way outside the city we may need to skip one of the event sessions; we’ll see. To be honest, I’m treating this as a secondary part of our trip. We want to see the spectacle of the athletes and competition, everything else will be a bonus.

Subscribing

If you’d like to get all of my Beijing blog updates, you can subscribe! Just click here to get new posts by e-mail, or click here if you’d like the RSS feed.

With wireless access, I hope to be posting daily with impressions and photos from the day. I may also be able to post occasionally from the venue with photos now that I’ve got my iPhone! Oh, and I hope to be sending updates to Twitter, too. This is going to be great!

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Iraqi art exhibition in New York City – Opens Thursday!

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This Thursday, May 22nd a very unique art exhibit will open in New York City. It features art from Iraqi artists, most of whom cannot even be publicly identified for their safety. It was a Navy Lieutenant serving in Iraq that found this art and worked to bring it over to the United States to exhibit and sell for the artists. I served with that Lieutenant, Chris Brownfield, for about two years when we were both stationed on the same submarine. He’s a very unique guy, as this initiative suggests!

From 2006 to 2007, a military liaison officer in the U.S. Embassy of Baghdad worked on the sidelines to develop relations with the artists of Baghdad. Under extremely unlikely circumstances, several of Baghdad’s artists trusted this military officer to share their art with the world. It is the first collection of art in the United States comprised entirely of works from wartime contemporaries of Iraq. The scope of the exhibition is unprecedented, including works on Iraqi refugees, the children of war, genocide, and an Iraqi perspective on Shock and Awe.

The exhibition is taking place at the Pomegranate Gallery on 133 Greene Street in SoHo (see map here). The opening reception runs from 6-8pm on Thursday May 22nd, and the exhibition will be open through June 21st.

Jake Halpern wrote a great article about the exhibit in New York Magazine. He even managed to speak (via phone) to a couple of the artists involved. One of my favourite parts of the article describes how Chris had to pull rank with the military postal clerks in order to send the 100+ paintings back to the US!

If you can’t make it to the gallery, Chris has also produced a book that includes much of the same artwork. It’s tri-lingual in English, French and Arabic. You can buy it from Amazon.com here: Oil on Landscape; Art from Wartime Contemporaries of Baghdad.

If you live in or near New York City, I hope you get a chance to drop in on the exhibit; it should be interesting.