Yesterday I attended the release of Don and Alex Tapscott’s new book “The Blockchain Revolution”. There are very few books worthy of a must-read recommendation. This is one of them. If you are an innovator, entrepreneur, or simply interested in the future of the world economy, this one’s for you.
As far as I can tell, the greatest single innovation the blockchain represents is the introduction of distributed, independently verifiable authenticity to that thing we call the Internet. Authenticity used to be provided by intermediaries or authorities, and has been notably absent from much of the development of the public Internet. I like the term authenticity because it harkens back to Walter Benjamin’s seminal 1933 paper called “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. In it, Benjamin pointed out that machine reproduction separated originality and authenticity from instances of things. For example, there any number of prints could be created from one original oil painting. The advent of mass digital duplication in the Internet age went even further. It rendered the very idea of authenticity almost meaningless- no one asks if they have the authentic version of a song downloaded from iTunes because they’re all identical.
Blockchains can change all that by creating trustworthy, authentic versions of digital things without recourse to an authority beyond blockchains themselves. While these features may be immaterial to an everyday music listener, authenticity, uniqueness and trustworthiness are essential qualities for things like land titles, bonds, equities, and money itself.
This book is an excellent primer of what blockchains really are and how they can be used to make our future world.
This one could be good. It’s a new $30 million regional fund earmarked for expenditures in Ontario. Nice. Gotta wonder who’s doing their web design though, because their cover image is one of the worst collages of tired Canadian tropes I’ve seen in years. I hope their investing skills are better developed than their art direction skills. Still, a very interesting potential new resource for us Canadians, eh?
April 7th, 2016
500 Startups Announces $30M Canada Fund
The following tidbit from our article today is more than interesting trivia. It’s an economic fact, and one you won’t hear very often, to wit: “…the annual contribution of our arts and culture industry is 7.4 per cent of real GDP (as of 2007), accounting for 1.1 million jobs. As a gross total, that’s more than our mining, forestry and fisheries sectors, plus the Canadian Forces, combined.”
So much for hewers of wood and carriers of water, eh? Does that make the idea of an arts or culturally related startup more interesting from an economic perspective?
April 6th, 2016
Well, the word ‘dream’ is right there, isn’t it? Before you quit your consulting gig and go jump into your lean startup machine, it might be good to read a few articles like this one so you’re a bit prepared for the changes to come. The whole thing is much more likely to succeed if you can managed to be awake while you dream.
April 5, 2016
View story at Medium.com
Many MBA’s plan to go into consulting after graduation. Others plan to simply get a management job. A hardy few plan to become entrepreneurs. This HBR article outlines another way: Acquiring a company and running it. A worthy read.
April 4, 2016
Under current regulations in the US and Canada, companies do not have to label their products if they include GMO ingredients. They also have a lot of latitude on what they do list in their ingredients. One of the silliest is that ‘water’ as an ingredient can be listed as ‘aqua’. I don’t know why companies would want to do that, but if water can be relabelled as something else to influence you, what the heck else is going on with less benign ingredients? We literally are what we eat, and philosophically at least it seems self evident that we can reserve the right to know what we are- or are going to be- made of.
So if manufacturers aren’t giving us the unvarnished truth and they aren’t being compelled to do so, what can we do? One possible answer is lobbying for change. Another is to buy one of these handy products: A handy optical scanner that can tell you what chemicals are- or aren’t- in your food.
Nice work, Target. No fooling.
April 1st, 2016
Batteries have come a long way. I remember back in the day… Okay, maybe I’ll spare you the trip down the NiCad memory lane. The interesting thing here is how developments in battery technology have transformed businesses in the last 20 years. When you take into account the energy sequestration market as a whole, this group is definitely changing the world.
So why should Tesla be paying attention? Well, because it’s going to take them longer to develop their factories to scale their current fuel cell and battery technologies than it will for better batteries to come along. Let me qualify that: WAY better batteries.
How do I know this? Well Tesla is scaling now to produce their model 3 and graphene batteries are here.
Want to know more about graphene? Give this article a read. If I were Tesla, and assuming that Tesla is actually serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and all that, I’d be designing these cars so that the battery packs could be *easily* changed out when new battery technology comes along. Because it will.
March 31, 2016
Sometimes it’s important to hear the contrarian opinion. Disruptive technologies and unicorns are all the rage in the tech startup space, even though the unicorns are clearly not going to all pan out on the positive side of the balance sheet. The gist of the standard point of view is pretty much that if a company doesn’t have a shot at having the first or second largest market share in a billion dollar market, its founders shouldn’t even bother to get out of bed in the morning.
Well, if you’ve been immersed in that way of thinking, read every word of this article by the founder of Basecamp. He basically points out that he built a successful business over time, not a venture capital flash in the pan that fizzled out once the post IPO suckers bought into the play. His business has grown over the years and some of its customers have stayed with the company for over a decade.
It’s possible to be an entrepreneur, build a strong company and a good life. And there’s more than one way to do it. Think about it.
March 30, 2016
Here comes a new twist on the tiny house- the tiny office. North Americans are coming relatively late to the party when it comes to architectural space efficiencies compared to, say, just about everybody elsewhere. We North Americans are making up for it with enthusiasm though.
‘Shedquarters’ is a neat monniker. Think of it as a shed that stores you and your laptop instead of a rusty old lawn mower and some random garage sale gaak. Several entrepreneurs and building outfits are riding on the tiny office bandwagon by now. A few US ones are surveyed in this article. Tiny houses and offices certainly can end up costing less to operate in the long run, so that’s good. Any decent builder can tell you that some smaller building footprints can end up costing more per square foot to build than larger ones, but maybe that’s not the point for those who want these luxe sheds. Besides, who am I to get in the way of fashion?
March 29th, 2016
A good idea is easy to find. One that could disrupt an entire industry subsector, reduce greenhouse gases and make a tasty snack? A rare find indeed. This startup in India has all those attributes and more- they’ve developed edible cutlery in a variety of flavours. Given the opportunity, I’d use these every single time instead of disposable plastic.
Often these small things seem like they’re insignificant improvements, like they wouldn’t change things much. If you’re tempted to think like that, read this then think again: “Worldcentric.org estimates 40 billion plastic utensils are used every year in just the United States.” (from reuseit.com, linked below)
That’s right. It’s a 40 billion annual unit market in the US alone. Changing this one small thing could make a big difference. Properly managed, it could also make some people a lot of money.
Eat with It and Then Eat It – Meet the Man Who Introduced Edible Cutlery to the World
March 28, 2016