All posts filed under “Entrepreneurial

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Things making me happy today…

These are the things that are making me happy today:

  • Top Gear! – Top Gear is back on television! One of the best shows on TV anywhere, it started its new season last night. Really funny, and just lots of fun to watch.

    This also allows me to bring up a HUGE pet peeve of mine with British TV. They do a HORRIBLE job of promoting new seasons of shows. With American TV, new shows debut around the same times of year (September, January, etc.) and the channels promote that the shows will be starting soon. On the BBC, I have NEVER heard that the new Top Gear season will be starting, even though I was checking their website every few weeks!

    For a show that makes a tremendous profit for the BBC, you’d think they would try to make sure that people are actually… you know… WATCHING IT?

  • Lewis Hamilton – Well done to Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the McLaren team. (Though I doubt he’s reading, congrats Oli!)

    If you don’t follow Formula 1 (far too many Americans, unfortunately), Lewis Hamilton just won the Drivers Championship yesterday in one of the most thrilling and nail-biting races I’ve ever seen or heard of! Coming into the last race (Brazilian Grand Prix), Lewis Hamilton was leading in number of points, but his only competition (Felippe Massa) has always dominated in Brazil, his home country. Even if Massa won, as long as Hamilton placed fifth or better he would become Formula 1 champion.

    The race was crazy. Rain at the start delayed the race and forced teams to upend their strategy as they changed tires to Wets. Hamilton stayed in fourth or fifth for the majority of the race and seemed to be playing it safe in order to win the championship. But on the final ten laps of the race, rain came out again, forcing teams to choose to either leave “slick” tires on and hope it didn’t rain hard or go into the pits and get their “wet” tires.

    On the second to last lap, Hamilton was in fifth place but passed! He drove like crazy trying to catch up, but didn’t, and the championship slipped out of his grasp… Massa crossed the finish line in first place. But out of nowhere, Lewis Hamilton passed the car that had been in third place! It hadn’t pitted to get new tires, and was slow on the wet track. Hamilton caught up and passed him just seconds before crossing the finish line… in fifth place!

    It was an amazing race. Lewis Hamilton became the youngest person to win the Formula 1 World Championship, and the first black man to win the Formula 1 World Championship. Britain hasn’t had a driver win the championship in twelve years, so the country is deservedly celebrating!

  • Barack Obama – Is Lewis Hamilton’s victory a portent of things to come in tomorrow’s election? I certainly hope so. According to fivethirtyeight.com, he’s heavily favored… winning >95% of the simulations.
  • Prototype – The prototype for my new venture is nearing completion. While it is FAR from perfect, I will be launching it within my MBA class here at Judge Business School soon to start getting feedback from real users. The U/I in particular is rather crude (my fault), but I’ve been talking to a really talented guy (a fellow Jesus College grad student) who’s going to be helping me out on the coding/design end of things.

    I do promise to write more about this soon, but that post will take longer to write than I have today!

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A few random notes

So there are a few things I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but haven’t gotten around to. I’m going to un-clog my mind and post a round-up of stuff here.

  • Stephen Hawking will be retiring from the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Apparently it’s traditional for the person in the post to retire at 67, which he’ll be next year. I didn’t realize he was so old! But he’s certainly still active at the University… a friend of mine has seen him a couple of mornings as he heads to work. For the history buffs out there, this is the same professorship that Isaac Newton held from 1669, as he did most of his pioneering work.
  • Speaking of Stephen Hawking, he dedicated a new clock at Corpus Christi College (the Chronophage, or the Corpus Clock) just a couple of days before I arrived at Cambridge. It’s really amazing; it’s a huge pendulum clock, has a big grasshopper at the top, and doesn’t have any hands. (It uses LED’s instead.)
    CorpusChristiClock.jpg

    Here’s a video:

    What’s perhaps most amazing is that virtually every time I walk or bicycle past it between 2 and 10 times a day people are standing by it, watching it, and taking photos. No matter the time of day or night! I think there’s only been four times in five weeks that I’ve gone by it without someone there! It’s really that captivating.

  • I recently saw an interesting article on Gordon Ramsey. Yes, he’s making tons of money from TV, books, restaurants, etc. But what’s most amazing to me is that he owns:

    1 – Three-star Michelin restaurant
    2 – Two-star Michelin restaurants
    2 – One-star Michelin restaurants

    For my birthday dinner a year ago, LondonAnnie and I went to Maze, his one-star restaurant on Grosvenor Square in London. It was absolutely amazing; the food was incredible, the service was brilliant and we had such a great time. The article mentioned this is his highest-earning restaurant, with revenue in excess of £10million a year!

  • This is a great quote from Evan Williams:

    Starting a company is like landing on the shore of a deserted island

    You have a certain amount of provisions, which you have to make last until you find a way to make the island sustain life—or convince someone to send you more.

    You don’t know how big the island is at first or what predators lie in wait.

    There’s always a chance someone else will raid your island if it looks fruitful, so you need to shore up your defenses.

    Eventually, if you’re successful, you’ll be king of your own prosperous world. If not, you’ll die—or, at least, have to go home.

    Either way, it’s a fun adventure (until you get eaten by a tiger).

  • I really feel for Barack Obama. Just as he’s about to achieve the triumph of a lifetime, his last family member is in her final days. I simply hope that his grandmother will live to see him elected.
  • If you’re fascinated by the current US election, and haven’t gone to fivethirtyeight.com, GO THERE RIGHT NOW. It’s a site run by a legendary baseball statistician, Nate Silver, who has turned his attention this year to the election. In the primaries he made some calls that were well outside the conventional mainstream (in particular Hillary barely winning Indiana and Obama winning North Carolina huge) that were spot on. As of right now, it looks like McCain has about a 5% chance of winning the Presidential election.
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Tim O’Reilly speaks at Judge Business School

TimOReilly.jpg

Today we had the great pleasure of hearing Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media speak at Judge Business School. He was a speaker I was really looking forward to hearing, and he didn’t disappoint. (He’s on the left in the photo above.)

Tim has a very engaging speaking style, and his presentation was 100 slides of great photos, examples, and quotes. (Much better than the 5-6 slides of 13-point that Bob Diamond of Barclays used!)

The topic of the day was “Watching the Alpha Geeks,” which is something he’s been doing for 20+ years. (He’s been giving a version of the talk for about 7-8 years…) The technology and things that geeks and hackers use or do day-to-day is the stuff that becomes cultural mainstream in 5/10/15 years. It was nearly twenty years ago when the first webcam was hooked up to the Internet at the University of Cambridge. This was pre-WWW, by the way, and the sole purpose of the webcam was to show the level in the office coffeepot so that “the hackers” didn’t have to walk down the hall to check it! Now webcams are clearly mainstream. (Tim didn’t mention this, but I wanted to throw in a little Cambridge-specific info.)

The great phrase that Tim used a couple of times was:

The future is here. It just isn’t evenly distributed yet.

That’s a really powerful statement, and so very true. The future of the next 5/10/15 years is in research labs, startups, and homes of hackers right now. It just takes time and cultivation to get society to use it.

Tim talked quite a bit about Web2.0; not about the technology but instead about the principles behind the technology. His thesis was that there is an incredible amount of data that already exists; Web2.0 is the way different threads tie together to change the world. The most prominent example is Google. Google took information that already existed (links between web pages) and used it to provide the dataset for a much more powerful and useful search engine. Mashups that merge public data on crime with webmaps is another example of two datasets that are poor on their own, but very useful when tied together.

As Web2.0 becomes Enterprise2.0, this is going to shift even further. Sensors which already exist are going to be leveraged in new ways. The data that companies have in their ERP systems in regards to their customers, their suppliers, and their internal operations will be utilized in new ways to provide incredible new insights. And most importantly this will be done real-time, without judgement.

He clearly cares about the environment a lot, and spent a good chuck of his talk on technologies and ideas that are at the forefront of changing how we as a global society think and act in relation to global warming.

Another interesting note came in the Q&A portion; he was asked what technologies that he had been bullish about that didn’t pan out. After saying that quite a few didn’t mature on the timescale he had originally envisioned, he was a bit of a loss for words. But then he simply said, “I don’t think about failure a lot.” I think it was important for the room to hear this for two reasons:

  1. Failure’s not bad. While Europe is getting better with this attitude, it’s not quite as acceptable as it is in the US.
  2. There’s going to be lots of failure on the bleeding edge of innovation. Get used to it.

I highly recommend hearing him speak. (You can check out his recent talk at the Web2.0 conference by clicking this link.) If you are fascinated by technology, he’ll lead you on a fascinating journey.

It was great to hear Tim O’Reilly speak today, and highly recommend seeing one of his talks if you’re ever able to.

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And the journey begins

Today was a big day, for a number of reasons.

First Pitch

I’ve been working on a business idea for a few months now, and I pitched it for the first time tonight, at a meeting of the Entrepreneurship Interest Group at Judge Business School. It was really good to pitch it first to friends and peers, especially since they came from a wide variety of backgrounds and had some really interesting perspectives on it all.

Talking about it to them made me realize just how much work I have in front of me, but just how much I could really “change the world” if I’m successful in my quest. Their comments and feedback have sharpened my ideas; they found a few weaknesses in my thinking, but also reinforced a few key principles on which I had based my plans. Next steps are to really start talking to people more widely about this.

First Exam

Yes, it’s only the third week at Cambridge and we had our first exam today, in Business Statistics. I’m a bit of a bone-head… I didn’t realize the exam was open-book until about 5 minutes before it began! Luckily that meant I had studied harder than I probably needed to, which did make the exam seem a little easier than I had expected. Stats can be a bit rough, especially since a number of the things you’re taught in class (particularly how to do statistics calculations in Excel) can’t be examined, which does tend to confuse things a bit.

Speaker Series

I’m part of Jesus College at the University of Cambridge, which has a 500+ year tradition. There are currently five MBA students studying at Jesus this year, and we’re looking at creating stronger links between Jesus and Judge through a speaker series. (There are some tremendously successful Jesus alumni out in the world… we want current students to hear from them!) It’s early days, but we had two really positive meetings today with key people and things are starting to look like they’re coming together. More on this as it develops.

Term Project

As part of the MBA, this term we complete a “Cambridge Venture Project.” Done part-time over approximately 4 weeks, teams of five students (our study groups) work with local small businesses on challenges they’re facing, typically marketing-focused. We received information on our project late last week, and had our first group meeting today. Can’t really talk about it here, but it sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting (and international) project.

Things are about to get much, much busier… should be fun.