How I succeeded in Angel Capital is not a children’s story, but rather a long and convoluted history of innovation, resilience, and smarts — and their application in a setting of a garden — and it has to be told as such.
It is not a talk about returns, about wealth and jobs creation either. Nor is it a romantic soap story about superheroes and villains, or a damsel in distress and the knights of the round table coming to her rescue.
It’s not my story about building wi-fi, or any of the great innovations that I happened to have worked upon, either.
It is not a corporate IPO story or a boast about my multiple exits, or the myriad of StartUps that I created, or helped built either.
Neither it is a story about a Mars-shot a Moonshot, or a Venus-shot.
It is not even about the Uberization of our shared Economy, or about the non sensical Silicon Valley landscape that I helped torment.
But it is a full accounting and a story about the many people who crossed the path of my Life and helped me create a plentiful garden that inspires and delights all who enter into it. And it is the story of a plentiful garden of Eden that has borne fruit for all who needed it, or wanted to partake in the feast – slithering animus included.
And yes it certainly is, an account of Ivanhoe speaking about Reason, Innovation, and Gardening, to those princes, knights, and nobles, seated around my “non-round” table for our communal gatherings of joy, troy, and laughter.
To be a real gardener is no small potatoes… and to make a wild garden with a few seeds, a few straws, some clippings, and the habits of nature — is truly a Great Thing.
But the most important thing is to have water. Water makes all Life possible and is certainly the pivotal feature of all great plantings and is also what allows the living skin of our planet to exist: The great forests like the Amazonas rainforest.
Now let’s simply start from the start:
When you go starting out as a gardener, you have to learn your seeds. Then your styles, and plant varieties. Then you ought to learn all you can about the soil, the seasons, the weather, and the pairing of plants and ecosystems. Gardening involves creating the young shoots in a hothouse, choosing carefully the plants we want to rear, having the strategic design ideas, and also planting seedstock strategically all around the young plants — is the start. But keep in mind that one straw alone can cause a revolution. That is, if you are keen on it and you engage nature’s ways of natural growth and seasonal harmony. Because only when Nature is allowed to help your growth, you shall succeed. Of course never shy away from planting and watering your seeds, and your long straws, along with your green shouts, in a friendly sort of way.
This is all you need to know as a Good gardener, whether you set out to built a backyard vegetable and spice garden, or you have the luxury of creating an English garden with wild areas, forests, meadows, water features, streams, and rivers, or maybe you get lucky to design an Amazon rainforest, or the Yellowstone park. Any one of these requires some measure of intelligent design and then all the other particular skills of a humble gardener who always remembers Ezekiel’s admonition, because growth has it’s seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again… and we ought to plan and plant accordingly.
But now let’s take some things from somewhere towards the end, and we are gonna circle round, and work our way back and forth in time so that we can have a view of Life like a post industrial film — like the film scripts written and staged by the inimitable Coen brothers, or Michael Tarantino, or even by the infamous Wachowskis. You see, I like films, and I like movies too — and if you know the difference between the two, then you can be my Friend as well.
I set out to be a green thumb early on because I liked to travel and experience different things. So I set out to tinker all the way as a young Hamster tinkering with radio frame and transceivers and communicating with people all over the world when I was going to boarding schools as a child. Ham radio is not a lost science although it’s esoteric enough to be especially useful to all communications protocols. And going back in time I always built communication companies starting back in 1979 to 1985 when I had my first successes in company building. That is when I got to built single product companies that solved major problems in the budding Mobile Telephony that was starting out then. So I built the solution and I went to sell it to the top bidder among the first builders of the mobile cell networks, and the very first mobile telephone manufacturers and technology providers. And of course I did that while going to University, and naturally dropped out of it, still taking full advantage of the engineering and the computer labs there…
By the time I got back to school, I had already built six (6) startup companies and successfully sold all of them, ix in total Startups, that helped finance a couple of “round the world” cultural exotic travels that took far too many months, and perhaps many years, because I went “native” in all the right places like a modern day Ulysses — before I went back to my Penelope in my chosen “Ithaca” in order to finish my first University degree at the University of Washington in Seattle, to spawn upriver like the returnign Salmon, and to resume my company building days and my social enterprise endeavors. Meanwhile I helped and invested in the first Mobile Chinese company because I had seen the movie in the US and it was inevitable that this is how it was going to play in this centrally managed economy too.
Yet in 1985 we had already started working the early stage of the software business for consumers and the web because we saw what is coming down the pike in terms of “Convergence” and Communications Revolution through the Internet, and back in 1991 we started the first web ventures, through Satori Software and Internet, through the first web Auctions, being the Pioneer in that Internet Auction space, well before E-Bay was even a glimmer in the eyes of my friend Pierre Omidyar who developed Ebay into the great company it is today.
But before all that, we worked on the first mobile telephony technologies, and that is where I learned that whatever I knew from the Non Profit and Anarchic Pico-Radio and Ham-Radio world, could easily be reapplied to the hugely For Profit, and amazingly Profitable Mobile Communications Telephony world.
The point of all this is that Innovation and Disruption comes in great cyclical waves like the regular tides, and that advance in Innovation, and Society’s appetite for that fruit, waxes and wanes very much like the incoming and the retreating tides following the phases of the moon. That is where the Good Gardener understands the seasonality of the growth and planting seasons and the appropriate actions needed to succeed in your garden design.
You see, more recently in 2008, when developers were fighting to make ringtones, phone trivial games, strange new massively multiplayer games, and short lived comet-like successful game played stories, like Zynga going from failed game maker in 2007 to runaway success in 2009 with Farmville, and all the other wannabes — we had already figured out all the units and all the user experiences, and the ways of leveraging the smart phones, and monetizing on the Apps of the mobile world. In short — we were already seeing the tides shift in another direction, and we were focused on riding that next wave. And things like Ten Cent, and Youku Tudou, or Baidu, AliBabapay, Applepay, digital wallets, and the digital currencies, in China and the US.
Yet, what with the explosion in the Apps space between 2008 and 2014, and what with the amazing rate of conversion from the stupid old phone to the new Smart phones — consumers could barely keep pace with all the fun and productive things one could do on an iPhone and the legion of other smart phones out there and we stuck with it for a bit longer. The development of Android in late 2008, and in 2009 occupied some of our time during that period so that we were recognised in that crowd sourced development too. This gave us pride but also gave us great profit, and earned us knowledge, and recognition on being able to contribute all over again in the wireless technology revolution at it’s nexus of Innovation.
Getting street cred as an Innovator is what’s all about because this is how You get invited to all the cool new things going on out there in the Big World. That is also how you get invited to all the cool parties with all the cool people and get to speak at Great Conference out there. But more importantly this is how you get to have friend in low place where the green hoot of innovation happen at the grassroots level.
So stay low my friends, and don’t let your nose point sky-high or get any exalted idea about yourselves, because only when you are glued with your ears to the ground and with your eyes scanning the Universe you can feel as if you are goon fall off this Earth. And that’s what it takes, if you want to be part of the next wave of Innovation that hasn’t arrived quite yet.
This was also the same way and about the same time back in 2009 that Bitcoin came into existence along with a slew of innovations around the block chain and algorithmic encryption and a hacking renaissance emanating ostensibly from Japan and beyond in Ozzie land.
And once you’ve been around since the time of Pico-Cell Ham Radio revolution that ostensibly in some very real ways allowed “people to people” P2P unfettered communications inside the Top Down Hierarchical and Hugely Controlled Communications of the Soviet Union — and thus hastened the demise of the old Stalinist dark Empire. When people know what is going on by being informed that there are famines not only in the extreme of the Empire but also in Moscow, in Leningrad and in Stalingrad, all at the same time… It is then that the world recognises the Emperor has no Clothes, and when this becomes the accepted reality — that’s how all the revolutions get started.
We’ve done the same things today and for the lat twenty years, with priding Wi-Fi communities with the P2P communications technology that my Foundation gives to all those people in places with authoritarian governments and oppressive regimes. And then you sit back and watch the people sprouting communications networks that are free and untrammelled by the Dictatorial regimes and thus we help people regain their “Voices” and hopefully regaining their freedom at long last… From the Middle East and Iraq, to Tibet and the Myanmar, and from Cuba to Belarus, and Iran, from Uzbekistan and Caucasus, to Dagestan and Chechnya, and from Saudi Arabia, to Bahrein and beyond — we take our smiles where we can find them.
We do this because we believe that when People communicate “freely” You know fully well, that the State of the World is all about peaceful revolutions and thus creative disruption and detraction at the Political status Quo level becomes possible. Communications have a corrosive effect on totalitarian governments mainly because the status Quo does not want to go against a well informed Citizenry since it knows that will be a battle that it cannot win. In the same way we should know who we are choosing for our Leadership positions — we ought to know that we have all the right information in order to make this informed choice. And that “Political Creative Diruption” takes a healthy dose of free communication facilities for the people. That is why in our World view, all the whistleblowers from Daniel Ellsberg who released the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, to the Watergate’s “deep throat” that the Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein used to bring down Richard Nixon, and all the way to today’s Wikileaks through which Julian Asssange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden have all given us a view of the shadow government operations and the dirty dealing and wanton killings that people like Bill Clinton, Chenney’s bush, Hillary Clinton, and all the other NeoCons have used to discredit America and enrich themselves. These whistleblowers are all hugely important to our Democracy, and are all rather helpful because they give us the tools and the permission to not be wilfully ignorant anymore, so that when we go to the polling booth to cast our Vote — we know Why we vote the way we do.
And that’s how I do my job too. With a healthy dose of Transparency and Crowd sourced wisdom because she you become famous, like me — you also get the posse of sycophant, the entourage of professional accolades, and the too visible public love that comes with the crowd of Golddiggers and the Easy Money crowd. And yet a if that’s not all welcome — you also get the people throwing “Shade” and some haters and the jealousy foxes, and of course you also attract the troll population of lunatic millennials who want to do the same old thing and somehow produce new results all the while chasing the latest and rarest indigoglow Pokemons through traffic. Invariably through successful jiu-jitsu, and Darwinian selection these folks get offed — and You also get rid of the rabid fans, the gold diggers, the millennials, and the crazy bitches hanging all around you hoping that some glitter gonna rub off and stick to them by association.
Some Fans are truly Rabid, so Please try to avoid the aforementioned animals, and dank species like the bacteria infections that presage the plague, or just make use of powerful disinfectants in order to extricate them from your “skin” along with the other vermin, that species of sycophants that stick to you like the deertics that suck your blood when hunting for big game in Scotland, Alaska, or even in the Northern reaches of the mountians of Washington state.
And the best method to avoid these pitfalls is to focus on giving back to the community and that is exactly what I did with Wi-Fi when we decided to turn it on to the fully open Source community that the world paired for, and that is how a Thousand Companies came to be born out of that one Innovation of Wi-Fi alone. Open source Wi-Fi came to be my epithet, and even though at the early days of forming the IEEE 802.11G tankard it was neither fully wireless nor did it have any Fidelity at all — you must admire my marketing genius in naming it Wi-Fi in a simulacrum with Hi-Fi that has always been the rage amongst the hipster and the cognoscenti of our big spending world of early stage adopters that are so crucial for the support of any new technology and technological innovation out there.
And ever since the early days of my StartUp company building I’ve invented the Master Class StartUp Weekend where we build a bunch of companies in one weekend with good Human Capital from College and Universities. That Innovation also created hundred if not thousands of early stage StartUp companies and Social Enterprises the World over. Add that to the cache of Citizen journalist that we have been nurturing through the early days at Panos Institute from London, and at the “Voices” and you get the idea. Because what makes all the difference between my kind of Intelligence and Innovation and all the other wannabes out there, is a record number of StartUps out there that have weathered the test of time and the trials of competition in an uncertain world.
Still some key strategic technologies and Innovations like Wi-Fi and Stem Cell Life Science, have kept us in a posh style, and for a few years we have milked that cow for all she was worth, all around the world, and especially in China and the developing world where we could put the standard of Wi-Fi and other stronger signal Radio communications to the extreme lengths of propagation and signal radio frame reach to consumers in all distant communities and also in the most crowded cities of this earth. Similarly when we were doing Genetic research and even CRISPR stuff or Heart rejuvenation Medicine, and Immunotherapy — we were keen to observe the same standards of quality and Ethical responsibility that we have to observe in the developed con tries that have competent FDA requirements and strict Medical Association protocols for Medical experimentation and Immunotherapy development.
Much later and many years of other Innovation and cycles of technological development with the advent of the dark web with all of the Silk Road drug dealings and the blooming trade in illegal offerings, and even in the blooming Human Services and the advent of Bitcoin — we were one of the few that endeavoured to understand and even invest in that World, we simply seemed to have our hands full of junk instead of gold for the longest time. Yet because of the massive Media reception we were inundated with offers and thus we chose Exit after Exit after early Exit without having to wear out the Maturity of the technology curve of the blockchain. It is always good to take the early returns and in the anarchic development of New Markets there have been quite a few precedents for this evolution of events.
It is something that needs to be said because it is easy to forget that every development in the history of the information industry, from the smoke signals, to horse and baggy postal service, to Telegraph, then the telephone, and wireless; and from radio, to mobile, and from film, and the Telly, to digital TV, and streaming mobile and satellite Internet and Wi-Fi and beyond — all were an anarchic ecosystem in the beginning of it all. And yet whatever once existed in this open, self forming, and chaotic marketplace that was inhabited by entrepreneurs, utopians, and knaves — just as much as ordinary consumers, and digital citizens — just as the Internet does today, always entered an era of Conformity to rules and regulations and it became a safe place to transact and inhabit through our virtual selves.
And yet in the course of time each of these disruptive innovations, grew to be dominated by a few barons, or oligopolists, or even a monopolist, or a cartel of folks. And the Question always is asked of me: Is this the path that the Internet will follow some day not far off from today and is it going to have the same fate like the Telcos have reserved for the communication world and the Cable and Channel companies for the Media and Entertainment world? Could the Web that contains the entire flow of World Information and the Wisdom of the People, ever come to be ruled by a Cartel of corporate leviathans, or by an Oligopoly of massively connected Companies? Or is it that the World Wide Web, will ultimately come to be controlled by an organisation like the UN or it’s environs like the Security Counsel? What about the inevitable bureaucracy and the corruption that comes with it that stifles innovation and abhors disruption? What about the Status Quo the kills all the young ones for fear of usurpation of power?
Could we live with that? Or not?
My mind tells me that it is best to ask a different question: What about trusting the future? What about fully trusting that new innovation will always come around at the right time to disrupt and make the Status Quo obsolete — provided that there are no artificial barriers built to protect against innovation and the human progress that this innovative disruption represents?
Maybe that is the answer to all of our concerns and we should be careful to not deed so much power to those foolish enough to want to cater to the past with nary a view to the future. And that is why we would like to see a more Humanitarian approach to that subject of governance of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and not the type of corporate Oligopolies, and Top down control for the Web, that some global treaties and some governmental power adherents dictate today like the strong supporters of TPP and other treaties that limit our Liberty and Natural Freedom to innovate our way out of a jam.
Perhaps we could even be more militant about Democratizing the Web for the long haul, or perhaps we should hold on to the idea of the Anarchic Free for All Web and do just that. We should join the fray in this looming battle that s being fought quietly amongst the Big boys as if the people have No Say in anything of all this. We need the Amazonas and the unsullied rain forest just as much as we need water and the sprinkling of rains and regular moisture in our own garden of delight….
But we have a battle ahead of us.
Methinks we should go ahead and fight this battle with the best of them, like volunteer for the Republican Army fighting the Fascists in Spain in the 1930’s. Because that is where the International brigade first came into existence, and that was the one crowdsourced battle for Democracy and Freedom. A suicide brigade, full of volunteers that came from all over the world for one simple aim: Save Democracy and Liberty. This was the best moment of last century and the finest hour the Free World has ever known. And it was just a moment of a glimmering hope a little light in the long night from people who promised to not go quietly not the log night — just before the heavy curtain of Fascism fell all over Europe putting out the lights for all of the People, and snuffing out fifty million lives across the world.
And today I say we should all become volunteers and join this battle for the soul of the Web, because by analyzing the strategic maneuvers of today’s great information power players – the likes of Apple, Google’s Alphabet, Facebook, Verizon, Comcast, and an eerily resurgent AT&T, we uncover a time-honored pattern in which invention begets industry and industry begets empire. And empire begets “Lights Out” for Innovation, Freedom and Democracy, because they don’t tolerate disruptors, contrarians, or non-orthodox types of thought or action.
For the non believers I’d like to show You how a big war like that is waged for the future of the Internet — in total secrecy. Here the winner takes all, because that is the mentality of the Empire builders, and that is the nature of the Empires of the Mind too. And that is who makes this war a zero sum game with the Big Winners “owning” all of the Internet, along with your digital self, the Apps, and with all the digital Currencies, and all of the collective’s utilitarian & semi-democratic tools, that will in turn become monetization opportunities for the Internet serfs and microserfs to come amongst all of us.
Mark my words, this war is being fought behind closed doors, yet this is one nasty and expensive war , with incredibly powerful spoils of war for the Winners to behold.
And it is because of the value of “What’s at stake” here, that we need to volunteer to fight and to observe this War carefully by bringing it in the Open. We need some Transparency and some Clarity here on this war too. Because as much as we all “voted” for an Open Internet — we should now “vote” again with our fighting spirit for the visual tools to be given to us in order to watch this nasty war unfold and play out fully. Surely it is a bloodless battle and an antiseptically clean war, but nonetheless it is an intriguing conflict with no parallel in our History, and in the long term there will be conflicts that are far reaching because of the outcome of tho war and the victims will be people and the blood will run out for real when the lives start getting lost, and the bullets start flying because of lack of Freedom in accessing that Big Global Brain.
So perhaps this is the one War we need to volunteer for and go fight in earnest, only in order to win. And what Victory means, is the chance to keep the Internet Free for All the People for a long time to come. Like Wi-Fi and like the Air we breath, and the Democracy some of us happen to live into…
Am saying so because methinks that this is the Big One… and we need to go out and fight for what’s Right and Proper. Fight for our Rights before these rights become wrongs, as it so often happens.
And os it is with the business of building businesses on the Internet because at the end of 2014 it came time to write our closing reports related to the ending funds I was still running at that time and the saw the carnage of the early investment we had in these captivating and yet far too early pioneering areas of Internet commerce.
Looking back today — I am very grateful for having done that.
Today we are no longer interested in the world of phone Apps, where the average number of apps that a US consumer downloads per month has dipped to somewhere between zero and one. The interest on Apps has waned, and yet the Bitcoin and the Blockchain have erupted in popularity and waxed in the spotlight. Indeed they have jumped across the threshold of illegality, to the early adopter mainstream consciousness, and on to claiming a seat for the future…
Success here is eerily difficult because even on the recent App world circa 2016, there have been one or two hits along the way — like Musical.ly and Pokemon Go amongst few others — but the mainstream Apps today, are all dogs. Clearly delivering something to mobile users today, that they lack, although we have been for more than three quarters of a decade into the App Store — is a challenge, and yet the plethora of newly released and successful Apps out there, seem to be doing just that.
But having discovered the right form for delivering the units of information on the mobile phone in the form of an App — I think — that we’ve essentially reached attention capacity limits and saturation levels of App on the mobile phones.
And so lots of things gets gobbled up by today’s incumbents — Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon — before it gets mashed in the compactor. Further, in today’s mature market, those successful yet independent apps, get eaten by those Tech incumbents who vie for the steady same growth world of predictably happy Wall Street Analysts and a throne amongst the financial result dividend driven Equity Value Universe.
Yet my story is also the story of how decentralized communications networks are initially developed by independents, only to be swallowed up by hegemonic economic corporations as the market matures. In the context in which we find ourselves today, approximately 12 years after the rise of the consumer web, a decentralized network, and eight years after the birth of the App Store, a centralised marketplace — we need to seek the next wave.
Surely the App Store has delivered tremendous value to developers and society; it has moved the world forward; but what with the App Store charts that extend the leads of the leaders — fewer and fewer of the top apps in the US are owned by new companies or don’t rely on old IP — and the spectre of eventually competing with one of Apple or Google’s own first-party services — think Spotify and Soundcloud competing with Apple Music, or any of the would-be A.I. assistants that need permissions for all the data that Apple and Google largely get without asking — this is a challenge for Entrepreneur and VCs alike. Now of course the Venture Capitalists have seen the wave crushing and the tide going out, but the young entrepreneur haven’t, and are still getting pounded in the surf…
I don’t begrudge the success of the App Store at all — quite the opposite — because it has done the world an incredible amount of good, but as the explosive early era of the App Store has waned, this has affected the role of a venture capitalist, more than it can be quantified in the returns we see or the lack thereof.
I believe the thinning of the air in the consumer app environment and the return of the Tourists to their own Cutural Zones — is what has driven much of the enthusiasm amongst developers and investors away from the Mobile Apps and toward the sunny upland of Artificial Intelligence, and in the world of bots, and in the seemingly endless world of virtual reality, augmented reality and beyond. This enthusiasm which currently exceeds all consumer interest, and is rather a hobbit paradise, is the hottest actor of the day. I was a thriving investor back in 2006, but from the crash on I had managed to ave all of my position from liquidation because of what I had drawn from the institutional memory of the earlier crashes of Internet stocks and the terrifically terrifying financial environment of the after 9/11 year and a half. This was happily not the case during the rise of consumer internet media, the web development years or even the mobile time development, but it was certainly the mass of failures n the Mobile Apps space in the beginning of the field. For one, reason or another all the news sites, the Huffposts and the Internet media, as well as blogs, were actually being eagerly consumed. For another reason, the consumer media is a permissionless environment, whereas bots and AI sit on top of platforms like Apple, Facebook, and Google which will extract much if not all of the value, and currently there’s little reason to see how the incumbents will not own distribution of virtual reality or augmented reality and the assortment of crazy offerings out there.
Which is not to say that there won’t be a few valuable new bots, or virtual reality companies, but rather it will be the AI interfaces that they’re really additive interfaces to current internet paradigms, and so opportunities will be fewer and further in between. The excess enthusiasm for bots and virtual reality, I believe, is borne from a longing for the kind of wide open opportunities brought on as networked computing moved from the desktop to the browser to the phone, and digital photography moved from the standalone camera to the phone.
Still that wide open new paradigm does exist in the fringes, and in the borders of our Innovation society. What’s happening today on the Bitcoin blockchain and other new blockchains is incredibly exciting and intellectually consistent with “Schumpeter’s gale” or the model of creative destruction that explains fully the economics of the cyclical history of the evolutions and the revolutions of the human communications networks, from the mountain top fires to signal visually the Enemy’s approach — to the mobile telephony, and from the satellite based Internet to the mobile SMS and the IM of today, all the way to the signalling proteins inside the body and the signals of cancer cell apoptosis that give us early detection capability for various kind of Cancers, same as the presence of certain inhibitors like polyamides that are fooled to go dormant under the influence of highly intelligent cancer cells.
Disruption is what I often use as an expression of the experience due to the process of “Creative Destruction” taking place across all industries each and every day. The creative destruction that is not allowed in the dominant ideologies, or the dominant religions, or even in the dominant economic market mechanism — has been given free reign only in the imagination of the Business Innovators, the Mavericks, the Disruptors, and their brethren the Young Capitalists.
Destruction, which is the term that Schumpeter used and it was echoed by generations of economists, Business Gurus, and MBA school teachers, advising budding entrepreneurs, or rather future consultants for McKenzie and the Big Accounting firms, as well as Managers getting MBAs and even clueless policy makers, who have adopted this Schumpeter’s Gale, as a shorthand description of the free market’s messy way of delivering progress. All this because Schumpeter wrote his book “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy” in 1942, in the mist of the Great World War, and he offered it as an overly enthusiastic economics school textbook.
So this good Austrian man wrote this explanation of Creative Destruction: “The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft-shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel, illustrate the same process of industrial mutation — if I may use that biological term — that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”
He went on to self assuredly say this: “This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
Am afraid that the old saw is not true anymore than any other grandiose pronouncement from another famous Austrian little man. Destruction is not at all the process by which Innovation happens. Innovative disruption is far more relevant as a process of Capitalist tools at work, and I shall prove it to you because today my friends, you need to view all the new innovations in our mediums of exchange — things like Euthereum, Bitcoin, and the Blockchain currency and cryptography for the Internet and Mobile, as the new crypto currency for consumer payments, or for untraceable exchanges and something in between those two worlds.
Yet the prevailing suspicion about block-chain innovation, and crypto-currency development, also supplies one retort to the question of where have all the killer apps for Bitcoin gone?
Ethereum now is killing it, and Bitcoin has been killing it for quite a while too. And yet surely we can all see that Bitcoin has remained a resilient, growing network in spite of the lack of consumer applications, and despite the constant assault that has been orchestrated and waged against it by the big governments, the central banks, and by the judicial branch, along with the institutional Status Quo actors like the Big Banks, and the Big Financial Institutions fighting blockchain innovation tooth and nail. Further I suppose that the cynicism around the lack of killer Bitcoin applications is also related to the current overenthusiasm for AI, for bots, and for virtual reality, because the latter truly suffers from overextending the model of creating valuable consumer services, whereas the former suffers from impatience for those consumer services to arise. A dilemma by any other name remains just that…
Another practical retort is that blockchain companies today are creating systems that are more resilient and even natural than current internet networking paradigms. Theoretically they are also exploring fundraising models that are in many ways more meritocratic than the models that today’s incumbents followed, so there is HOPE that we’ll see some magnificent EXITs soon enough. Sure this developments may be happening on the fringe, but that’s also the view of what wireless telephony looked like around the turn of the twentieth century, and look where thing are now. Back then it was all homebrew, rural, makeshift, and nothing if not fringe development, and yet today thing are on a Quantum rate of development in our present and future Telecomms. Back then it was simple stringed wire leading the voice from one farm to the next… and to the witch board with the girls hooking up plugs on switchboards to patch calls through. Automation took swift care of those jobs and those services… We expect the very same process of Progress to happen to the Bitcoin development as well.
The very same patterns appear also in the history of radio, television, and the internet. Similar is the story about the development of early aeroplanes made from bicycle parts to the development of the latest space ships… It all starts at the edges and it gain a foothold before it become part of Life, or rather becomes New Life and enters the Mainstream.
This is certainly not to say that in this mature market, the only great opportunities are in block chains, or bots, or AI, or Life Sciences and Genomics, or BioInformatics, and Shared Economy, but those opportunities are all also found on the fringes of our developments in a significant new way.
This is what I call Emergence and Creation of New Life, through Gardening but not destruction or even disruption because this new Life happens in the pursuit of building a New English Garden with wilderness and forest and grasslands fully factored in between orchards and valleys of green jungles with meandering rivers and streams full of otters and wild life crossing through like wolves and elk and all other wild things and animals, like wild horses, deer, and even bears, that a big park can support.
Imagine Yellowstone without the rangers. That’s what the Internet used to be and that’s what the Blockchain is today, and certainly that is the world of advanced communications and New Life Science. And that’s how we create new Life on the edges of Emergence through technological and ethnological edges and life advancement niches, that also happen to represent our current focus on market-specific networks. Only a few years since decent smartphones fully saturated Western markets, we see networks springing up in industries that were once poorly networked, like trucking and medicine, or enabling new behaviors, like digital nomadic life, or enabling new ways of financing one’s life or business.
Fringe or not, new content and context are in many ways vital to the business of Gardening and Angel or Venture capital that supports new ecosystems that will bring us all kinds of new species of Life. And yet surely there are large segments of gardens, parks, and even forest designs, where there is a large segment of plants and animals (see=investments) that can thrive from the start, and can become successful by some combination of being in the right place at the right time, and having been planted at the right season — come to be excellent opportunities through good gardening (see=execution). Companies such as Google, Twitter, Uber, AliBaba, TenCent, WeChat, AirBnB, etc were created in this fashion and in turn they go on to create their own ecosystems as leaders of their respective industries.
And a Good Gardener always mixes their successes with the ones that are not so successful, because we need to inoculate the weaklings with the powerful members of the species too. Still there is a large segment of my focus today that capitalizes on the Arbitrage of plants (See=Ideas) and Designs (See=Thoughts). I like to cross-pollinate things that will make us a great garden, and that is why I arbitrage science, culture, and the latest research to read my successful plantings. It is through this lens that investments like AirBnb, sketchy and fringe at their inception, seem so obvious in hindsight. Having known and used Couchsurfing in it’s peer to peer and non profit mode, I was always expecting and speaking out and encouraging entrepreneur so that someone will turn it into a killer business For Profit.
Same with the COOP organic food stores that got a second lease on Life after seeing their business model commercialised in a pure Capitalist way through Creative Destruction and Business action that aw the rise of specialty organic food stores, and the advent of the supermarkets like the Whole Food Markets, as a for profit model of the same old community based and fringe thing.
The example of that transformation from the non Profit model (by design or by default) taking the disruption from the Pioneers, and bringing the innovation all the way to the “For Profit” StartUps and to the uber-successful Capitalist “For profit” model — we see that both the time gap is getting narrower, and the money chasm is getting shorter and shorter every day.
Yet from the standpoint of a VC or an Angel Investor — I view this process of creative destruction as an arbitrage opportunity because investing, isn’t merely the business of putting money in great companies, but rather putting money to support great entrepreneur and visionary leaders who can built great companies that Innovate and the bring to market great products and much needed services and in turn the Market reward them by keeping score of their success and thus helps them achieve great valuations. Inasmuch as every Venture Capitalist has developed ideas and convictions about how the world will develop — hanging around the fringes of the commercial world and in the deep corners of the Internet — is still an opportunity to participate in big opportunities that are not yet visible, not yet viable, and certainly not yet priced. And even if one wait for the right time — you can catch plenty of fish down stream at prices of investment that are at the earliest company building level and well bellow par for the play we invest in, simply because the vast majority of other investors haven’t caught on yet, or simply have discounted the opportunity due to their particular myopia, or complete lack of vision.
And now if I were to offer advice — it would simply be that you must challenge yourself and isolate the trends, and the Innovators, not by observing the early stage investors with whom you want to keep up with, but by hanging out with the tinkerer and with the maker of stuff. If you don’t do that, and if you fill up your calendar schmoozing, networking, and having drinks with everyone and anyone, you’re at best costing yourself time that you could potentially use for research and understanding of a new niche market, and at worst you are filling your mind with ideas and trends that won’t help you arbitrage any unseen, or unrealized value in the world, because you hang out with the “Me Too” crowd out there.
Yet the most important ingredient here is TIMING for planting and harvesting from your garden, your park, or from your forests. Because a Good Gardner is able to consider moving with the seasons and with the weather appropriately. After all isn’t that what any good businessman is? A good gardener. He works on flinty soil to make it productive with the labor of his own hands. He waters it with the sweat of his own brow. He makes a thing of value for his family and for the community. Yes, indeed, a productive businessman is a laborer in the vineyard of Life.
Sure, I know that finding the right balance is not an easy thing to do, and I can attest to that as I find myself praising the wisdom of other investors who agreed with my ideas while questioning the foresight of those who didn’t. This, is not altogether different from re-affirming the politics of those who are already in your Facebook and Twitter feeds, or from agreeing with the majority opinion of your own brand of the Network and your posse, or with your religion or your own politics.
But you must also admit that although this is comfortable, this is tunnel vision, and in my estimation drinking your own Cool-Aid has never helped anyone, besides the Nazi party, the Religious fanatics, and the professional illusion manufacturers, the Mass media, and the politicians that sell us on them and vice versa.
To break this Cool-Aid drinking syndrome and to get rid of the affirmation cycle, let’s look for historical analogies and business patterns that will help explain, validate, or invalidate, the NEW ideas you might come along in those moments of ideation, EXPLORATION, clarity, and vision. Let’s hear it for new plant varieties for our garden, and for our lives as well.
But more importantly, if you want to learn how to be a Good Gardener, go talk to people who are planting things, tilling the garden, and working the field. Sure, let’s talk to the famous gardeners, same as we talk to serial entrepreneurs, and let’s talk to arborists, same as we talk to the early stage founders of the great startup companies.
Let’s talk to the people who believe in rewildening our Commons. Let’s talk to the gardeners who believe in the One Straw revolution and the One person that can bring about structural changes i our Societies and in our Economies simply because they believe they can do it… Think Steve Jobs with a green thumb.
Let’s do this, but also let’s talk to the other people outside of our immediate circle of value. Let’s talk to those who are experts in their own fields, or who have deep domain expertise, or to the people who are following modes of thought that contravene our placid and fad based mainstream thinking. These are the most important people to talk to. The Contrarians, because they are the ultimate disruptors and the ultimate Change makers of our world. So let’s talk to the people at the edge of our networks and especially those who allow use to play with their API’s, and those who invite us to go deep in their thoughts, even if there’s no investment in sight, but just the prices of planting a few seeds before winter rolls around and the snow comes down.
Because inevitably winter follows Autumn and Spring follows Winter, each and every year. SO let’s go underground and get to hibernate and incubate like all species do during the winter months and that is when we have time to mess around in the corners of Science and Life. Or in the extreme edges of Genetics and Life Sciences and the Mobile Internet, and that is how we push the edge of Emergence of New Life in our empirical world.
By framing this exploration on the fringes of Society and in the edges of the Non profit world, and in the NETosphere, or where hobbyists marvel at the latest new trends of Social Enterprise — will help you identify the opportunities that others don’t appreciate yet, and that will help you to invest early by potting Entrepreneurs and Founders and also strategic plays that will help us make a killing getting in the game at the earliest stage. That would be the stage of Emergence. Not Emergency but Emergence. Go look it up… Emergence is a thing, and it is a whole science, in and of itself.
Emergence being the first moment of New life Emerging at the earliest stage of conception and its wellbeing, before the stage of ideation, incubation, and/or materialisation. And today ass we are moving towards a world where machines not only recommend human-created creative work, but we are moving fat toward a world where machines actually do the creative work — we best be able to understand Artificial Intelligence for what it is. The Artificial Intelligence of today is the Real Intelligence of tomorrow. Simple as that… Knowledge is the power that propels progress in the world. And it is this always ON knowledge of AI that evolves in software and hardware, in organisms and machines, alike. So allow me tell you how to harvest that…
Here it is also important to emphasise that you should always benefit from having established networks of friends, humans, and even AI, and Human Intelligence too, because the biggest NETWORK out there is not the World Wide Web, but it is that network that will offer all the most interesting, valuable, and pioneering opportunities for You. I take it that you can discern that this is the Human network or rather the Global Brain. Take for example the affiliation with scientists, with the rise of “Science as a Service” products and services in the era of Genetics revolution and all the other Sciences. Now we can all surmise that when “Science as a service and not just as a product” will graduate into worldwide networks, science itself will change in dramatic way too. And that will be some amazing creative disruption too but with potent benefits accruing from Academia to Society and to Business too.
Your job then as a VC is to simply complement those ideas with your investment outlets that the other VCs, and the typical Angel Investors out there, along with their white-boy networks, would not even dream of touching. The other VCs out there couldn’t even see these opportunities even if they were staring them in the face, because they are not going out in the dark corners of the Web, or because they don’t listen to “Niggah” music, or maybe because they don’t hang out with the Angry and Plebeian masses of the great unwashed.
Or even worse — the established white glove VC boys and girls of the established firms, don’t invest at the edges of Emergence, because these newfangled “things” don’t fit the patterns of the Country Club, or the Personal Trainer gyms, or of the SV network where they are all accustomed to thrive in the abundance of the fat tail of the Network, and thus they tend to forget the skinny curvy and short tail, before the long tail of the Network effect arrives.
Contrast that with me, where as part of my American Angels network, you are invited to the deal from the beginning and you can thus become part of my syndicate and also become my friend, so to have more access to the “edge” and to the ’emergence” with all the more freedom to invest at the earlier level in the StartUps we develop. You’ll also get far more room to manoeuvre the deal towards an exit, and you’ll get the means to mess around on the fringes of our Universe, and extoll the virtues of Innovation by getting your hands dirty when throwing clay in the potter’s wheel, and when burning your fingers pulling the pots from the kiln of our constant fire.
So come play with us and don’t waste your life, doing the same old thing, all over again. You know that expecting different results from doing the same thing is schizophrenia — So please, don’t do that.
In my book, to be a Winner you’ve got to be a Leader.
And no Leader I know of, can lead from behind… You’ve got to get front and centre and ride ahead of all the others. That’s how you lead.
So come here with me to learn How To Lead the world towards the future now.
Because the Future is already here — it’s just that you haven’t noticed…
Here, here it goes.
Dr Pano Kroko Churchill
Come along because I cultivate fresh leaders every day and grow them like a I grow sexy …tomatoes. Plentiful and mighty tasty too.
Sure — it’s a difficult job, but somebody’s got to do it.
We’ve got a green thumb, and mind you — we are not exactly working like dogs either.
Because regardless of what you might have heard — dogs sleep all day, and occasionally wake up to bark, eat, piss & poop, and that is about all of what they do, except when they go out for a walk with their boss, and get some play in the yard.
The days of chasing smaller animals, birds, and game for food — are over for the house dogs of today, because the 60 pound bag of dogfood is available everywhere and is reasonable priced too.
Yet some of us still love the CHASE and the THRILL of the HUNT and so we work like modern day hunters & gatherers, intelligent yet highly evolved Humans, and we lead full lives of culture and enjoyment, yet we are richly rewarded because we’ve got the license to “kill” and that indulgence is ours, and ours alone. And most of our brethren accidentally “kill” themselves, because there is a huge turnover in this industry since it is very difficult to survive the extreme risks that are inherent in this world, and to provide reasonable returns to compensate for the bleeding losses that we all incur daily.
And as you probably surmise the bowl of the hunter and gatherer or the fisher is always between feast and famine and with the famines outscoring the feasts three to one… Can you live like that? Those are the breaks and the risks that are inherent in the professional judgement that every Angel has to take too.
Or so we like to think…
And yet we persist because we dream.
We live because we dare to dream, and dream big hairy dreams, and we go on to execute on that vision too. We choose to be lifelong learners and experimenters, with the ability to indulge in the constant study of the Culture, the Content, and the Current of our Times — because this is what makes a success and a privilege to allow us to keep working in the very risky world of Early Stage Venture Capital finance.
That’s the current running through me and it’s also our Business in a a nutshell, and from the days that we participated in the Invention and the Innovation phase of Citizen Journalism, Pico-Radio, Wi-Fi, Financial Innovation and Clean Energy — we’ve always stood at the forefront of the Bleeding Edge.
Staying on the Bleeding Edge has become a habit of mine, from early on when I was a young pioneer of even years old messing around and getting in trouble with Ham Radio messaging, to the days of building companies to solve problems of radio technology for the first mobile phone company in the world — to the days of working in Mobile Telephony and Internet Auctions, block chain security, and the currencies of the future — all the way to the Environmental Parliament, and the Clean Energy Initiative, to the FinTech of Green Bonds, to Crowdourced Innovation and Investment, to the Life Science Genetic innovation breakthroughs, to Heart surgery Replacement, to Internet Gold, to great consumer Mobile Apps, and to many other new plays, and all the way to the other end of the spectrum investing in the serious Non Profits, and Social Enterprise and Political Innovation of new decentralised political parties — Innovation and Philosophy of Experimentation has alway been my Modus operandi and in return it has given me the Philosophy of always staying fresh and the amazingly funny Mojo of my Life.
So we are now still staying the course and having fun all the way — even when the dogs take us out for a walk each and every day… we still focus on Water and all that is needed to water our garden of Eden that we all sloppilly try to buil our lives around of. These clumsily built lives of ours are always built around the great waters of our world and that is why almost 97% of all human populations live near the rivers, the streams, the rivulets, or the estuaries, the rainforests, the temperate rainforests and the great water ways and the sea that carries all of us here and there and everywhere.
So I like to share water and spread water too and to be carried by water equally well. And in the world of compassionate Leadership where the Great Leaders are defined always by their last Great Battle — I am ready for the next one: The Battle for the Soul of the World Wide Web, or better yet the battle for what I call the Global Brain.
Because the great web represents the web of life and the great river waters of our greatest of all rainforests, that of the Amazonas that has given rise to so much biology and biodiversity that has enriched all of our lives and if we keep it that way ALIVE it will in turn give us a great measure of Life back that we surely need now more than ever.
As for Angel Capital, it can be covered in a few words: I like to watch the young plants grow. Young plants do much better if a person helps them, and that’s what I do.
And that is the subject of my next book from which You already had a glimpse, and the first dibs…