Startups – Focus on the Business Model

Small World Group Incubator is now up and running in Singapore.  As we go about our formation actions, we keep reminding ourselves that these “businesses” we are starting up are going to have to really discover their own functioning business model during their first year if possible.

So often in Universities and other places the focus is on writing a good business plan.  But that is often quite futile in hindsight.  Plans are for when the business has established customers, long term relationships and so when a plan is executed it will produce an agreed upon result typically between the customers and the company.

But in a startup, you don’t have customers you have “potential customers” and that is very different.  A startup cannot offer their first customers the same things that are offered by others that is the road to disaster.  Existing companies already compete on that basis.  What they must offer is something radically new and better.  Better performance, better reliability, better sales model …

And that is most often discovered as a part of the process, it is typically not something that is planned.  Planning is still important before starting up but only so far as it guides efficient first steps but the plans must allow for pivots in direction based on customer feedback or product development unexpected outcomes.

The best version of this I have ever seen is in the following video by Steven Blank – watch it here.

Be patient, about 15 minutes into the talk he has set you for his take on business plans.

After you watch that, then take a look at his Blog … here is a particularly interesting post.

All this resonates with me and it well describes how we are approaching the Incubator over here in Singapore.

Posted in Essays, Investing, Singapore Incubator, StartUp Ideas

Big Picture

Every once in a while, there is something on the web that knocks my socks off.

As many of the readers of this Weblog know, I was once an astronomer; my PhD is in that field from the University of Virginia. During that time, I studied the structure of spiral galaxies (1), (2), (3) like our own Milky Way.

Our galaxy is a disk of stars with a very weak, perhaps only 5% mass enhancement in a spiral pattern. Gravitational disks are susceptible to such modes but such a mass enhancement if only that would not give the spirals such a striking and beautiful appearance. What makes the spiral pattern so very visible is the fact that with only such a small mass variation across the disk of the galaxy, the gas in the galaxy between the stars gets whipped into a spiral shock wave pattern. As the gas goes through this shock wave clumps of gas get compressed sufficiently that single and groups of stars are born in a spiral pattern. Most of the new star formation in these galaxies happens this way.

Stars that are born this way can have various sized from 2-3x bigger than our sun to perhaps only 60% the size of our sun. Small stars burn very dimly,are more reddish in color and live VERY long times compared to our sun but big stars burn blue, are very bright and live very short times compared to our sun. The largest stars have lives of perhaps only 1,000,000 years compared to the expected life of our sun which is 10,000,000,000 years. So these young bright blue stars are essentially born and die in almost the same place.

In a spiral pattern. So it is these big bright blue stars that give the spiral galaxies their striking visual appearance.

Seeing our own galaxy’s spiral pattern is tough because we live (our sun’s position) in the galactic plane so we see the spiral edge on and not from the face.

One more point about the blue stars … when they die, the blow up in an event known as a supernova and for a short period of time during the explosion they burn with more light than all of the 200,000,000,000 other stars in the galaxy. Wow. After the supernova dims down that explosive event can be seen as an expanding bubble of gas in our galaxy.  As these bubbles cool they can be quite visible in the infrared portions of the light spectrum.  And that is the end of this lecture.

Now for the striking picture. If you got here –>

This shows what we can see from earth of our galaxy in various colors of light.  If you move the slider from the starting “visual” position to Hydrogen Alpha you can see the gas in our galaxy and then you see many gigantic bubbles.  Each of these is the product of a supernova that happened some millions of years ago!


Posted in Essays, Optical Technology, Personal Stories

Life and Thought

Time for a thinking piece. If you don’t like mushy stuff, skip this one.

Several people I know well have passed on in the last few months. And times like that make you reflect on their lives and your own.

I also urge you to reflect on how each of us must work to live a life well.  It is the most amazing and precious gift in the universe.  Life.  The fact that our thoughts can change matter is very deep.  We think and the earth changes even now at the macro level (= climate change) but still it is thought that moves chemicals at the most minute level and eventually my fingers move and type this to you.  What about that?

Lew Aronson was Finisar’s Chief Scientist. He had cancer for about 8 years, and it was through his thinking that he lasted so long. He learned all he could about his disease and even started a foundation to find a cure. It was a rare form of cancer so not much was known. Normally people have a couple of years but Lew lived to see much of his children’s growth years.

During most of that time, Lew continued inventing. He was the father of the SFP+ and laserwire to name 2 current products that are still in prime production and that carry a significant amount of the Internet’s traffic today. His thoughts now embodied in to products bring you this web page, at least for some of you. His thoughts.

Not convinced?

OK then listen to the astronomer … there is no body in the known universe that looks like earth at night. Lit up, showing our coastlines and major cities and major highways. We thought and we invented and we built and we tore down and built again … and it can be seen today from VERY far away. We thought … and evolved.

So it is with the thoughts that a Grandmother or Dad shared with you that are no longer here.  They have made you some of what you are today.  Maybe a bit taller, smarter or more joyous or a love for a certain kind of food, sport or music. They thought and yet is you who still act out the outcome of those thoughts. Are they dead if that thought still drives you?

And so Dean and I hope it will be with the Singapore Incubator we have started. We are thinking how to make a 1% difference in our world. We are working on crazy ideas to bring power and elements of modern life to the poorest of people. We are helping to start companies that will use the sun’s heat to make more efficient air conditioning. But through it all it is our thoughts that will make the difference and the thoughts of those who we encourage to work with us to start these companies.

Think and live … guess that is the point.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.


Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads