Category economics

Mobile is eating the world (and that’s just the beginning)

This deck isn’t about phones. It’s about looking backward to understand the context for where we are today, how mobile is the current bellwether for technological proliferation… but perhaps more important than all that, what this all means for the next 10 – 15 years.

Must watch. 30 min.

Mobile Is Eating the World, 2016 from Andreessen Horowitz on Vimeo.

Farm-in-a-container

Really interesting concept. Take an almost disposable, yet ubiquitous structure and turn it into a farm.

I love how this can play in places like Brooklyn (or any major city) and add urban farms into the mix. It’s also an interesting idea in drought regions like Southern California. And of course it offers a really interesting disaster-relief idea for… pretty much anywhere in the world.

 

Norway’s new museum-worthy currency

Snøhetta-Design-Beauty-of-Boundaries.

We’ve all been so heads down, focused on ecommerce for the past decade, that maybe we’ve missed a quite little evolution… revolution in physical currency.

The-Metric-System-Norwegian-Living-Space1Sure, we hear about changes in currency connected to the cat-and-mouse game of counterfeiters and money laundering but when was the last time you looked at, really took some time and looked at, the currency in your pocket.

Many of us don’t even carry physical currency around any longer. We buy off the internet, pay for coffee with our phones and count the days until we don’t have to carry credit cards around any more.

But… look at that 100 Kroner bill from Norway.

It’s… gorgeous.

The top note could be in a museum.

It reminds me of how wonderful it is to be in a foreign location with a pocketful of unfamiliar, beautiful colorful paper. Ah, the joys of foreign currency.

Love this execution.

 

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes

The title of this blog comes from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, restates it in this video.

When it comes to vision, Yvon has it… and it’s a simple vision. Make clothes that work and that last.

Beautiful brand manifesto video. Kudos to the Malloys for their work on this.

Many small bets are less risky than fewer large bets

betsWhen innovators talk about failure they are really talking about innovation. I.e. the road to ultimate traction with customers is the result of small iterations, constant evolution. They are talking about lots of small bets.

Larger, or more legacy-oriented organizations, sometimes hear “failure” and hear something “going out of business.” The simultaneous ironic and tragic point is that without constant, smaller risks a company is forced into a situation to make a single, company-betting decision.

Placing many small, early bets is less risky than fewer, later large bets.

A recent, pithy Jeff Bezos piece succinctly captured this point.

Bezos said “If you place enough of those (small) bets, and if you place them early enough, none of them are ever betting the company. If you invent frequently and are willing to fail, then you never get to that point where you really need to bet the whole company” (on any single initiative).

He’s building on one of my favorite thinkers, Peter Drucker is another. Peter also summarized this point with the following…

“The innovators I know are successful to the extent to which they define risks and confine them. Successful innovators are conservative. They have to be. They are not ‘risk-focused’; they are ‘opportunity-focused.’”

Of course there is nothing new here, this is a summary of how the venture capital industry lives every day. Still, there is wisdom here for all of us.

 

America, 19% of the world’s gross domestic product

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Don’t cry for me Argentina… on second thought maybe we should cry for Argentina.

America, on the other hand, is doing fine.

A few years ago there was a lot of chatter related to America’s decline. People were saying our glory days were behind us. Sure, it was election season… the season when every message acts a calculated lever. That’s why I’m posting this chart.

The chart delivers a nice, comprehensive picture of the US health as it pertains to gross domestic product over the past century.

It helps to keep in mind that the US, China and India’s percentages of the global population are 4.5%, 18.6% and 17% respectively.

Good chart.

Best annual update out there >>> Mary Meeker’s State of the Internet

Spend an hour with this. You’ll be glad you did.

George Washington would have loved Kickstarter

It’s hard, maybe impossible, to look at historic figures without a large dose of presentism.  Let’s acknowledge that fact and move on.

If we plopped our founding father, George Washington, into late 2012… what would he like… what would he admire?

In my opinion he’d love the internet and more specifically… he’d dig Kickstarter.

Among Washington’s greatest strengths was his ability to see a few years down the road and embrace the early stages of large-scale, potentially radical change.

His early life was the same as most people born in the 1730s, he wasn’t born into wealth and didn’t go to a private school. He didn’t even go to public school. George was tutored by his father and trained to survey land.

Where he was different, like many of today’s entrepreneurs, is with his ability to read the winds of change.

Washington, like Edwin Land or Steve Jobs, didn’t wait for an idea to be fully fleshed out or a product to be fully baked before engaging the public with it.

About halfway through Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life it hit me… the story of George Washington’s role in the creation of the United States parallels that of today’s entrepreneurs.

His life during the American Revolution offers an illustration, complete with wobbly early periods, of a modern day startup. Washington was more than a big thinker and calculated risk taker… his life was dedicated to transforming culture.

So how would Washington view the concentration of power in distinct regions and niche population groups? I think he would understand these as inevitable but also see the inherent limitations.

And that leads me to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter, and similar organizations like Kiva, are democratically transformational. That is… they enable unfiltered access to numerous, unconnected, small pools of capital. They assist by organizing the potential value and overseeing the transactional needs. Simultaneously they deliver a templated, scalable platform for ideas that need capital but until recently had fewer places to find it. The connection of these two forces… changes the world.

Washington’s leadership in the American Revolution from 1775 – 1783 is a similar story. He understood that if he organized numerous small pools of soldiers and optimized best practices (their ability to organize and fight) then he would be able to amass the needed power to take on the largest military in the world. He crowdsourced a revolution. He templated training regimes, drew on innovative fighting approaches from indigenous cultures… he focused the cultural chaos of the day into a collective energy and… changed the world.

George Washington would have loved Kickstarter

The $9 cardboard bicycle

I’ve always been smitten with alternative materials… including cardboard.

Cardboard has very high strength-to-weight characteristics, wide-scale availability and even looks great. It looks natural… almost like the wood it came from.

Years ago Frank Gehry’s cardboard chairs captured my imagination for these reasons. They are fun, light, surprisingly comfortable… but they aren’t exactly “design within reach.” It’s this last point that always rubbed me the wrong way. $1,000 for a chair made of cardboard feels extremely exclusive… not exactly an option for a person looking for an alternative to Ikea.

I love everything about the story told in the video below.

I love that everyone told him it couldn’t be done. (why do we do that… why do we have such a tiny amount of imagination for what is possible?) I love that he didn’t listen. I love that his wife supported his exploration and his vision. I love that he struggled with process. I love the price point. I love that there is a kids version.

I love… this story.

Izhar cardboard bike project from Giora Kariv on Vimeo.

If the product is free, you’re the product

One of the more interesting elements in the ongoing debate over free content is the generational element… i.e. the increasingly large group of young people who have never interacted with another business model.

Music and other content have always been free…

Why would kids start paying for music, content or entry-level apps when they’ve never had to?

This conundrum has stymied many legacy-content providers… including news sources, music labels and software providers.

Some providers have made content free in exchange for massive amounts of personal data (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). We use these products freely (with “no charge”) but we miss the larger point that “we ARE the product.” I.e. Our posts are the fuel that runs those engines.

The concept is pretty simple, our data is more valuable than our cash.

This is all why I like the idea of Google’s “surveywall.”

Consumers gain “free” access to content via, once again, becoming the product.

Let’s say you want to read a piece on WSJ but you don’t have a subscription. Your cookie tips off WSJ and essentially says “this person isn’t a subscriber.” On-the-fly you’ll be offered access to the article if you take a one-question micro-survey like the one to the left.

Simple, scalable, personal and valuable to all connected parties. More.