Global Medici Effect

There is a wonderful book – “The Medici Effect” written by Frans Johansson that I recommend.

In the book the author establishes how the life in Florence, Italy under this powerful family flourished and gave rise to the Renaissance.  Key is that there was substantial diversity encouraged in the realm of ideas but also in practical matters such as different races and types of people.  Johansson proposes it is the friction between different people, different points of view that leads to extreme creativity.

So I wonder today if this friction is beginning to exist on the internet?

Do the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouNoodle drive the level of creativity higher than in the past.  And if so, what are the benefits as well as challenges this presents?

To me one of the key challenges is that ideas move around very quickly and can move from places where IP is protected to places where it is not. We must soon establish some sort of uniform IP provisions for the world that are able to be enforced and provide benefit to the inventors as well as society.

I will write more on this later.

Posted in Essays, Investing, Singapore Incubator, StartUp Ideas

Long Hauls Lately

Over the next couple of months I have signed up to give a number of talks –

  • a series of lectures for NTC – the Nanyang Technopreneurship Center – relating to how the Venture Capital and Startup process works from my perspective.  The total class time is 15 hours so that requires VERY substantial preparation.  I like using slides that are original, colorful, with graphs, charts, photos … in other words not just titles and bullets.  I estimate it takes 2-3 hours of prep for each hour of class time and that is probably on the short side.
  • a talk for the European Asia Patent Information Conference – larger audience and a field more distant from my daily work so 4 hours prep
  • a talk for NASSCOM in India in early November.  Last year’s speaker was Guy Kawasaki.  There is nothing worse that trying to follow someone who is one of the best public VC like speakers in the world.
  • a talk for the Campden Group on clean tech private equity for wealthy individual investors, family offices and other potential investors in Switzerland on December 1.

You get the idea.

While I have been spending most of my weekend time on these “talks” in preparation, research, idea reduction to clear presentation I was taken with how frequently we spend our days in reaction to what comes in our email boxes.  So much to do that seems urgent.

The time management experts have for many years now been preaching about those things in our lives which are urgent or not urgent/important or not important.  Here is a matrix that combines many of their ideas.

And as I have been doing this, it has struck me how unsocial and hermit like I have become.  Not since the early days of Finisar have I spent this much time alone with my thoughts.

Since that time in the early 1990s, we have had the Internet, email, cell phones, chat, skype all become universal.  And what this means is that anyone anywhere can try to put things on your urgent to do list.  You may think you don’t have a to do list, but what is your inbox?  How about your text messages and voice mails as well.

I suggest you measure for 1 week how much time you spend in answering emails, browsing, on the cell phone in various ways.  And see how much time you spend doing your creative work.  What do you think is the proper balance for you?

Posted in Essays, Investing, Personal Stories

First Fundings for SWG Incubator in Singapore

This past week we submitted our first 2 companies for funding through the Singapore National Research Foundation Technology Incubation Scheme.

We began this journey almost 15 months ago and it had the following steps –

  • Proposal phase – we prepared a written proposal that included our backgrounds, qualifications, investment directions, time commitments (July – Sept, 2009)
  • Review phase – NRF reviewed 34 proposals and short listed 15; these were called for personal presentations; award were made to selected groups on Dec 30, 2009
  • Negotiation phase – NRF and the 7 selected incubators negotiated the working documents under which the incubators would operate.  The major operating agreement was signed on April 23, 2010 and then the company forming investment agreements and investor rights agreements were finished in mid-June, 2010.
  • Even before the “ink was dry” on Dec 30 we began reviewing business plans and startup proposals.  We ended up rejecting many and remembered that “no” is probably the most used VC word.

Finally we saw 4 companies emerge as potential SWG Incubator companies.

Eventually one was taken out because Singapore government entities did not want to allow us to fund them.  This surprising outcome is very Singapore centric as this is a country with a variety of entrepreneurial funding schemes and some internal conflicts exist even though there are no written rules about why this is so.

Two were funded –

  • Optiras which will focus on opportunities in solar thermal applied to buildings in the tropical regions
  • Green Koncepts which focuses on monitoring and control systems for buildings

One is waiting in the wings which is a personal power station for people in the deep third world.  More on that when the funding is ready.

All of our companies will remain in reasonable stealthy modes until their first products are ready for unveiling.  We see little reason to hold a press conference or celebrate funding.  What is important for us is working with customers early, making steady development progress and creating shareholder value.

So look to hear more from our start ups perhaps in the March – April, 2011 time frame.

Posted in Essays, Investing, Singapore Incubator, StartUp Ideas