All posts filed under “Entrepreneurial

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What I struggle with every day…

Seth Godin truly nailed it on the head today with a short blog post titled “In and out“.

That’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make today.

How much time and effort should be spent on intake, on inbound messages, on absorbing data…

and how much time and effort should be invested in output, in creating something new.

There used to be a significant limit on available intake. Once you read all the books in the college library on your topic, it was time to start writing.

Now that the availability of opinions, expertise and email is infinite, I think the last part of that sentence is the most important:

Time to start writing.

Or whatever it is you’re not doing, merely planning on doing.

I grew up loving reading, loving learning and this has transformed me into someone that constantly juggles half a dozen books, a couple magazines, a never-ending Twitter feed and a truly never-ending Google Reader. ┬áBut as much as I enjoy it, when I step back I realize that I really love doing something about what I’ve learned.

The problem is saying “enough is enough”, stepping back, and taking action.

It feels like I’ll never get the balance right, but I try to get better every day.

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Meet the rockets that will be bigger than Apollo (SpaceX)

I’ve been a big fan of SpaceX for a long, long time. SpaceX has cracked the nut of becoming a viable, commercial heavy-lift aerospace company. They’ve redrawn the economics of the industry, and have a very bright future ahead of them. The last two recent successful launches of their Falcon 9 rocket have been spectacular!

Aside: I got my degree in aerospace engineering because I love the technology and the aspiration; I avoided working in the field because it’s too cyclical, corporate and dependent on government help.

But onwards and upwards…

Earlier this summer SpaceX made a few presentations outlining some of their future plans. And those plans are AWESOME. Here’s what they’ll be up to in the near term as they develop the Falcon X line of rockets:


The current Falcon 9 rocket can get 10.5k kg into Low Earth Orbit. More tangibly, the Falcon 9 puts the equivalent to three and a half Hummer H2’s into orbit. Doing this requires nine first-stage engines and one second-stage engine.

SpaceX currently has the Falcon 9 Heavy rocket in development. This essentially straps on two additional first-stage sections for a total of 27 first-stage rocket engines! This is a healthy additional boost, and gets 32k kg into orbit. So if you ever wanted to compact eleven Hummer H2s and send them into orbit, this rocket can do it for you.

The Falcon 9 Heavy will also be able to lift more into orbit than Atlas V, Delta IV, or Ariane 5. There are only two systems on the drawing board that are potentially larger than this rocket, and they’re both Russian vehicles that don’t look likely to actually be built. (Of course it will cost you; $56million for a Falcon 9 and $95million for the Falcon 9 Heavy.)

But Space X is looking at developing a large new version of it’s first stage engine, Merlin. (These are speculative right now because it would take $1billion to develop the engine, but clearly thought out.) Powered by this engine, the rocket could put 38k kg into orbit.

Suddenly, this image gets very interesting:


This outlines how SpaceX could operate a Super-Heavy-Lift Launch System. The Falcon X Heavy could lift 125k kg into orbit, and the Falcon XX could lift 140k kg into orbit.

Within six months as the Space Shuttle program shuts down, there will be NO operational Super-Heavy-Lift system operational. And the largest consistently successful Super-Heavy-Lift system was the Saturn V rocket that sent the Apollo missions to the moon.

Where the Saturn V could lift 119k kg to orbit, the Falcon XX could potentially lift 140k kg to orbit. If successful, this would be the heaviest payload sent by man into space. (To complete the metaphor, it’s the same as lifting forty-seven Hummer H2s into orbit.)


I love the ambition of SpaceX, and that they’ve gone from nothing to multiple successful launches in less than a decade without any public funding. (Though they have had key public contracts to resupply the Space Station.) That they’ve designed it from a blank sheet, not being required to refit existing infrastructure or deal with an existing bloated bureaucracy is brilliant, and probably part of the reason they’ve been successful. Lean and mean…

Hopefully this gives you a sense of the future of the space part of the aerospace industry in the USA.

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Living and loving live music – thanks to Songkick!

Yesterday I saw The National in concert, and it was absolutely awesome. It was the first of a string of four concerts I’m going to in the next few weeks. I’m seeing The National, Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers (with Neko Case!) and Kings of Leon.

But I would never have known about all of these shows or gotten tickets without Songkick. If you are interested in live music AT ALL, you need to do yourself a favor and register with Songkick TODAY. It takes a minute to register, and another couple of minutes to hook Songkick up to your iTunes library, profile or Pandora profile. Three minutes after starting, you’ll start seeing e-mails from Songkick when the bands that you like are coming to your city… before tickets go on sale.

There are very few sites on the internet I’m truly passionate about, and Songkick is one of them. Otherwise, I would have never been able to see this kick-ass final encore song from The National last night… done completely unplugged in a crowd of 5000 people. Amazing…

Links to specific shows, etc.:
The National last night
Arcade Fire tomorrow night
The New Pornographers next week
Kings of Leon just before Christmas
My profile (you can “track” me to see what concerts I’m going to)
My “gigography”: all the shows I’ve been to since my very first concert in 1994 (Pink Floyd!)

PS – Songkick is a London-based startup, and a Y Combinator startup, so they’ve got a very bright future ahead of them.

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Visiting White Bear Yard in London; Timetric and Smarkets

White Bear Yard, Clerkewell, London

White Bear Yard is a great little entrepreneurial home in North London, just off Clerkenwell Road in Camden. (It’s close to Farringdon and Chancery Lane Tube stations.) There are about 10 startups who have a home there, and they even have a Twitter account: @whitebearyard.

I’m lucky enough to have friends in two of those startups: Timetric and Smarkets. I got to know the Timetric guys back in early 2009 when Andrew, Dan and Toby had just started getting some really great press about their company. The three founders are all PhD’s, so not only are they wicked smart but they’re also really great people. I got to know Jason Trost of Smarkets back when he and his friend Hunter were just setting up the company and getting their gaming license approved. Again, another great guy (and great company.)

Timetric is a data treasure trove and analysis platform. They have over 1 million data series; everything from consumer price indices to FX rates to sports records that you can combine with your own data to mix and mash up.

Smarkets is an online betting platform, going up against Betfair. While they’re not as big as Betfair, they’re much more social. You can communicate directly with other people on the site, and you won’t get overrun with the other games Betfair tries to push on you (poker, etc.) Smarkets is WAY better than going to a bookie, because you’ll nearly always get better odds.

It was invigorating for me to hang out with them at the end of a long week. Both Timetric and Smarkets are at that really interesting stage of a company where they’ve clearly built a great product, they’ve gotten some good early traction, and they’re working hard on ramping up. Timetric is more of a B2B company, so is really matching their product to the needs of their existing/potential customers. Smarkets is a B2C company, so is very hard at work at customer acquisition. Speaking of which…

Give Smarkets a try!

If you click here and make your first deposit you’ll get a £5 bonus! (I get a £5 bonus, too, which is nice.)

It’s great to see a real ecosystem developing there, and it’s a fantastic space with a ton of smart people all on just a couple of floors. Where I failed is not visiting earlier; the building has a fantastic roof garden that you can see in this article. I think there’s some great success yet to come from these guys.