How many functions can you carry in a cell phone?

It is reported that Bill Joy was one of the first to see that smart cell phones could incorporate so many different functions in to a single device.

So it is that today we don’t carry separate digital camera, PDA, music player, video player, compass, GPS/maps/route planner.

So what’s left?

For many people … very little. But for those that create content, they still carry about a laptop so that they can use this tool for their creative amplifier.

So how close are we to dropping that? Closer than you think.

The iPhone 5s has the Apple designed A7, dual core 64-bit processor which is very close to what I am using to create this blog. Now my workstation is a MacBook Pro, has 4 cores instead of 2 and has quite a bit more main memory but the rest of it is ready to fall. If I travel with the iPhone 6S in 2 years how close will they get? Convergence.

I used to need large HDD (hard disk drives) for local storage but the cloud has nullified and made that obsolete. I used to like having a CD/DVD player burner but that too is dying. I do want a keyboard and I need a mouse instead of a touch screen to make many tasks optimal.

But …

Soon we can kill off the laptop complete because it will be integrated into the phone or tablet maybe.

How will this be done? I suspect we will see a phone what can run both OS simultaneously. iOS will be for real time functions including voice and video comms, maps, chats, navigating the real world in real time. And OSX will be there when we drop into creative mode and want big screens, more precise formatting, placement and the tools whereby to explain ideas.

Both could exist and run simultaneously on what I would project would be the A8 but by the A9 it will be fully complete.

Imagine a world where hotels have digital displays where hooking up your phone in some docking cradle that includes charging … oops the rooms today already have that … you only need to make the digital connection. And the Display Share of Apple TV gives you that without any cables or other claptrap. You might still carry a mouse and keyboard but these are light and do not require heavy support on the road. At home you have these 3 elements to transform the phone into the workstation.

But in general you are carrying your workstation with you all the time and it is always there to support your creative moments.

All this has one HUGE benefit for Apple. As they dump Intel, they will reinstate their lost element of surprise pretty completely. Right now all of their workstation Macintosh computers have their roadmaps published essentially by Intel. You want a Mac, today it is basically the Haswell specs. Right?

When a technology is so clearly able to benefits the users and the makers of it – win-win – it will show up. Only question is how quick?

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Investing

Thoughts on Water and Startups

This past week I gave a talk on  water to a group attending TechVenture 2013 in Singapore.

This is a conference centered on startups in Singapore and SE Asia.  Perhaps about 1000 people were in general attendance, but my talk drew about 50 people.

Here is the presentation I gave.

Generally, the problem with innovation in the area of water technology is that the basic inventions can be made and that is where papers get published, ideas can create buzz.  But water is so basic, so important and so prone to being difficult over time and under different circumstances that  companies mistake innovation for the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of making a solid long lived product.

Finisar makes fiber optic transceivers and these sell today for well below $20 even at 10 Gb/s.  But what makes these parts so remarkable is that when the end customer gets them they are plugged in, and run 7/24 for up to 20+ years and it is quite likely that every single bit they transmit is received error free for the life time of the product.  They are inexpensive, reliable, accurate and all beyond any normal standards we see in ordinary life.

And it has to be the same for water.  1B, yes one billion, people are without clean drinking water on a daily basis.  And no shiny idea from a small company installed in a village will likely stand the test of time working under mishandling, bad weather, changes in water input quality, etc. that is required to deliver trusted water for drinking to the village year after year.

If you think you know how to do this at the same level Finisar delivers transceivers, then give us a shout here at Small World Group.

Yeah.

 

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Singapore Incubator, StartUp Ideas

Welcome to the NEW Small World Group Website

OK, now you see us differently we hope.

We are the same people generally we were for the last 5 years but we have more experience.

Over the last 5 years we have helped start more than 15 companies.  They are all generally in the areas of clean tech, optical systems and novel materials.  Nearly all of these companies have been able to complete their MVP or minimum viable product and they have sold the product to a few early customers.  Some have gone on to make 2nd or 3rd generation products that are better and where improvements are based on customer feedback.  Some have engaged in licensing deals or raised more money from new investors.

What is key?  What is different?

We feel that our model of strong engagement with our companies, where we help them with technical, financial, sales, market decisions and not just listen and give advice at periodic board meetings is working.

We have closed some companies but in nearly every case the companies reached the MVP and revenue milestones but the revenue did not scale or grow as their plans thought it should.  In these cases we could not justify additional funding to chase what was a failed plan.

This is what venture capital is about … testing technically based, scalable ideas.  And accepting the decision of the market and customers.

We hope you will find this new site more open, empowering for you to share your ideas for businesses with us.

Maybe we can make magic together.

Posted in Essays, Investing, Singapore Incubator, StartUp Ideas

What Cost Freedom?

I am reminded that as a young fellow I loved Crosby Still Nash and Young.  On their early live album – “Four Way Street” – one of the tracks is a short 2 minutes entitled “Find the Cost of Freedom”; connect with the lyrics here.  And watch them perform it (longer and very beautiful version) here.

At that time I was first hearing that song, the Vietnam war was raging and people my age were being drafted and going off to fight far from home and increasingly without purpose.  But it was a time of confusion not clarity.

Still what was clear then was that “freedom” was something that we valued dearly here in the USA.  It was part of our founding DNA and something upon which we had never wavered.

But today, I am not so sure.  For example what level of privacy and true secrecy is good or bad going forward.  In the past, we believed that an individual had a constitutional right to privacy that was very extensive and pretty absolute.  If you were writing a journal in your home, it was yours and its contents protected under privacy laws.
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But increasingly, we find ourselves facing more complex issues of freedom and privacy.  Today if you keep that same journal but use software and keeps the journal in Google Drive do those same laws protect the privacy of that journal?
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Let’s take a couple of extreme cases.  As recently as 200 years ago the level of powerful weapons in the world were not very effective guns (“don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes” was really an admonition not to shoot until you could have a chance of hitting the target; guns at that time were not accurate at all.) and some cannons that could shoot limitedly effective shells (cannon balls).  So the devastation of a powerful figure in a single moment had a range of a less than 1 mile and the damage to human life was limited to probably 100 meters or less.
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In the last 100 years we have reached the point in technology where damage from weapons of mass destruction can be launched to any point globally from the most distant point and where the devastation unleashed from a single such weapon can be the killing of tens of millions of people.
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What if we look another 100 years and calculate that such changes in destructive capability continue to grow at the current rate?  Is this absurd?  Not really – the game changing weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan was the USA drone fleet.  Today you can purchase capable drones that can use GPS to fly nearly 50 miles and land to within 25 feed for less than a few thousand dollars.  They can carry a reasonable payload and once launched with a program they cannot be stopped unless shot down.  A young person who does not even have a drivers license can buy one for about the cost of 2 video game systems.
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They are available and so are nasty things to put inside them.
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So then the question naturally arises – is Earth and its inhabitants a collection of individuals who deserve perfect privacy and personal freedom?
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or …
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is Earth and its inhabitants more like a single human body where all must agree to work together at some level for the survival of the whole?
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Carried to the ultimate extreme of a single weapon of massive power created by single individual at next to nothing cost using only simple tools … do we believe that deserves privacy or freedom?  When is the protection of the collective worth more than the freedom of a single individual?  And how do we agree to balance freedom/privacy on the one hand and global safety/security on the other.
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We have been asking that question in Guantanamo, inside the NSA and outside recently in the revelations by Edward Snowden.  Many Americans believe very strongly in their “Right to bear arms” and yet this results in approximately 15,000 deaths per year, most of which would be prevented with gun laws like exist in most of the rest of the whole world.
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Today things are so different from the past when the biggest WMD was a sword and armor and people barely knew geometry and algebra and pre-newtonian physics.
interesting speculation.
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How will we today “Find the Cost of Freedom?”

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads

Next Steps for Apple

If you have been reading the tech news there is much speculation about Apple’s next product steps –

  • iPhone 6 or iPhone 5S with features like larger pixel count camera, maybe NFC comms for iWallet functions, faster, lower power
  • iPad 5 with many of the same questions
  • iWatch – something akin in people’s mind to Google Glass but more fashion? (here I think it will be more for health and fitness
  • iTV – some 50+ inch flat panel TV with appleTV built in and probably voice commands to replace the remote

All of that is probably coming and some of it may make a real impact on their top line (how can the bottom line get much better anyway).

But if you are Apple and want to still do the next big thing, what could it be?

The answer is to make an iPhone “for the rest of us” … the other 6 billion people on planet Earth.  But this bottom of the pyramid has not traditionally been a play ground for Apple.  They like higher end products and the high gross margins that accompany.

An iPhone for the rest of us would have to probably sell for below $100 or maybe $150. And at that price it would need serious subsidy from any carriers as well.

But I think this is possible and if under consideration is a game changer!

What would be the features –

  • smaller DRAM (500M), smaller Flash (8G)
  • 3 MPxl camera
  • only GSM radio no connecting to CDMA (won’t be missed in these markets)
  • non-Retinal display but still color
  • maybe no GPS so that battery drain is minimalized (get position from cell tower or WiFi location only)
  • limited WiFi (b/g only?)

This will be a phone that looks like the iPhone 4 or 5 in screen size but in every other way trimmed down.  To do this they might have to integrate everything except flash and DRAM into one chip; very possible.

And what would be the outcome?  A powerful affordable computer in everybody’s hands.  Features could come onto this platform that would spawn revolutions in education, politics, commerce … practically everywhere.  Still all anchored in iTunes store and through Apple’s commerce engine.

Heck, Amazon practically does this today with the Paper White Kindle …

If Apple can think out of the box … and now they are led by a manufacturing genius – Tim Cook – who can really focus a sharp pencil on costs and function list – and he is just the guy to think this way – then they could be the first company to produce a product family with truly world wide appeal.

time to think differently Apple.

 

Posted in Essays

Music and Stayin’ Young

I turned 60 this past weekend and it was a series of celebrations with friends and family.  I have never celebrated better and with even some ease.  Birthday’s have not been my thing in the past.  I am reminded of one of the 25 Great Questions … “How old would you be if you didn’t know?” … Yeah …

One of the things that I find keeps me feeling younger is to keep engaged with young people and not as some sage or wisdom dispenser but as someone who gives them freedom to lead and who tries to appreciate new things.

And one way I do this is to keep open to new music.  I so love music generally and am always delighted when I find some new musician or song that I did not know before.

There is been so much over the past year that I want to share some of it with you all and then make some observations –

  • Foster the People played the 2012 Bridge concert and they clearly blew away all the other groups playing there.  Wow!  And FTP are clearly is a band that I would not have encountered without going to that annual event.  They played it acoustic which was different for them.  Mark Foster played 6+ different instruments (guitar, marimba, piano, pump organ, drums, some middle east string instrument).  If you want a feel for their acoustic side watch this.
  • Sons of Bill have a terrific Christmas concert that I have attended the past 2 years and in the spirit of full disclosure, my newest son-in-law is their lead guitarist.  Still they now play to sold out mid-sized venues pretty frequently so I am not alone in my admiration.  Really like “Radio Can’t Rewind” among others, you can see Sam play it here.
  • Gillian Welch is one that I added from a suggestion by my daughter Alana.  I especially like “Look at Miss Ohio” but the Revelator is more well known.  You can watch her play in the same tiny venue as Foster the People above here.
  • Susie Stevens was sent to me by a friend from the mountains in Southern California.  You can listen to some clips of her music on iTunes or here.  I especially like “Anywhere” and “Silk and Steel”.
  • Last but way up there is Kristin Erickson.  I like so many of her songs – but for starters I recommend “Take a Breath”.  She is a person who has traveled so far in life and experienced so much and it clearly shines through her music.

There are more but this list can make the points needed for this essay.

First is that except for Foster the People, much of this music you have likely never heard before … and it is all great, unique, inspiring.  We get spoon fed so much of what we listen to, that becomes overplayed by radio and hyped by labels and media that we forget that there is an amazingly rich culture out there for us to experience.

Second is that I find that many people my age keep listening to music that is from some past time and they forget that creativity is happening by so many people around them right now.  As we all stay engaged and recognize this wonderful fact, we will be more open to new ideas and especially those coming from young people.

(I know I probably should be using Spotify or something like that to do this sharing better … still learning new things but often takes longer for this old dog.

BTW, we are updating the SWG website to something much better so stay tuned …. and then I promise to post more frequently!)

Oh, and while I just turned 60 about 1 month ago, I choose 45.

 

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads

Photo Fun and Insights

 

 

 

Iraq Power System - Click to Enlarge

Iraq Power System – Click to Enlarge

I recently traveled to the Kurdish portion of Iraq and was able to see many interesting things.  I was in the town of Sulaymaniyah which is about 1M people.  they are all VERY nice and want to bootstrap themselves into a collaborating part of the rest of the modern world.  I visited the American University there which is independent but similar to the ones in Cairo and Beirut.

The Kurds are the largest distinct ethnic group in the world without their own country.  There are Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.  I learned that the Kurdish language was for a long time primarily used as a way to transcribe Kurdish poetry.  These are an art-filled people with the ability to express themselves beautifully.  While there I attended a poetry reading by one of the most prominent living Kurdish poets.  Fun.

On the last day I was there, I walked around the town with a knowledgable guide who walked me into the oldest part of town where the buildings were constructed using older techniques – mud and straw as building materials.  And there I was able to see a unique electrical power system that is pictured in the photo above.  This post is about that photo.

I took the photo with my iPhone using its new “panorama” feature.  So the photo spans probably more than a 180 degree view of where I stood.  First notice all of the wires.  They are all headed back to the back upper right hand corner of the photo where you can just see an orange fuel tank, probably diesel.  At that location is a internal combustion generator for the local electricity.  All of the individual users of this generator have separate power lines that lead from the generator to their homes!  I believe this is the case because the power meters on the homes may be compromised or even power vampired before the meter so … each individual line is billed based on a meter back at the generator that cannot be compromised. And the people using the power must pay what the meter there says so they police their own power lines for cheating.  Ha.

Now look at all of the power lines, there are hundreds in this photo alone.

Also this photo has 2 artifacts of the panorama software.  A person with a ladder walked through the photo as I was taking it and you can see the ladder but in pieces towards the left side of this photo.  Also a young person dressed like in the USA in jeans and sort of a hoodie walked through and he is at the far right but only his shoes and lower legs and his hoodie.  Ha.

Hope you enjoy all that you can see in this photo.

Write me if you have questions or ideas you want to see discussed.

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Personal Stories, Spiritual Threads

Natural Gas and Carbon

Rupert Murdock, that scion of conservative publishing actually types his own Twitter feed.  Here was a recent one –

LNG halves carbon emissions. So stop wasting billions on windmills now! On climate change, China is the whole game.

(note – LNG = liquified natural gas)

Its true that burning natural gas saves substantial CO2 emissions over burning coal.  And its true that China is the whole game … to a point.  But let’s dig a bit deeper.

Gas is burned in turbines to transform that energy into electricity; these turbines resemble jet engines so it is not chance that GE is one of the biggest natural gas turbine suppliers in the world.  GE is just releasing new turbines and their key new feature is that they start up and reach full power in 6.5 minutes.

How are these facts related?

Murdock and others around the world are going to push that we now have discovered so much new natural gas that we don’t need to invest in renewables.  You will see that on the USA political agenda too.  For example, we have begun using more natural gas ourselves BUT shipping our coal to Europe to burn.  So that our CO2 numbers improve while Europe’s efforts including all their renewable efforts are diminished due to the burning of our coal.

Markets value materials based on supply and demand but this economic equation has little way to value things in the somewhat distant future.  Natural gas may be plentiful for a few decades even.  And we can burn it in turbines for electricity and in buses for transportation and so forth.

But if we do that we will only postpone the challenges we have today with regards to sustainability.

Natural gas is a VERY good fuel to help manage peak loads and that is a big problem longer term.  Renewable energy will always be unstable in terms of its supply.  The sun shines or does not depending on time of day, weather.  Wind blows with high variability as well.  And we will build storage devices (Small World Group has substantial investments in this ares) that can help balance the grid but standing behind all of this technology, probably for more than 100 years, will need to be natural gas fired turbines.

We will need natural gas to be the final smoother of our power infrastructure until we develop base load power that meets all of the political tests for safety in terms of environment and fuel availability.  The only technology today that is an alternative to natural gas is nuclear – probably thorium fuel and not uranium – and for the moment that is unacceptable.  This will change but it may take many years where we will need to use natural gas carefully.

So in my opinion, Robert Murdock is wrong about mass burning of natural gas today.  We should supply energy from wind and solar on a steadily and strongly increasing basis and let natural gas fill in the differences.  China should do the same.  We all should because there is no other practical way forward.

Posted in Essays, Green Perspectives, Investing

World View

On my flight back to Singapore a few days ago, the plane ride from San Francisco to Hong Kong took me pretty directly over earth’s northern polar region. It is a very empty and cold region, of course, but one of enormous beauty as well. So this post is just a simple photo I took from the 747’s window at the right time. The photo was taken when the sun never rises much above the horizon so the lighting is good to show contrasts on what would otherwise be a very white and contrast-less landscape.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Enjoy!

Posted in Essays, Personal Stories

Best Practices Even MBAs Might Overlook When Founding a Startup

In this essay, business education writer Juliana Davies explores many of the common mistakes entrepreneurs make when getting their startups off the ground–and how these pitfalls can be avoided. Small World Group has written about various aspects of a successful business model before, and Davies’ insights contribute to this conversation. More of her work can be found on http://www.mbaonline.com, a website dedicated to business scholars, prospective students, and recent graduates.

Small World Group’s Blog welcomes other authors to contribute to our discussion.

 

The current economic climate has spelled doom and gloom for nearly all industry sectors, with one notable exception—small businesses and start-up ventures. Barriers to entry are lower today than they have been in decades, which is likely part of it. The flexibility entrepreneurs have to nimbly work around problems, roll with the market’s punches, and innovate new strategies is also key. Many economic scholars have recommended that, if the country is serious about economic recovery, more federal dollars should be allocated to small business training and stimulation. Financial incentives and tax breaks can go a long way when it comes to helping a business get off the ground. In order for a venture to remain successful, though, its leaders must be strategic—they must avoid common pitfalls and be efficient and adaptable enough to pull through rough times.

One of the first mistakes many entrepreneurs make is failing to follow a coherent plan. Having an idea or basic concept is usually enough to get a company off the ground—but going further usually requires concrete direction. This most often comes in the form of a written business plan, but any hard and fast goals or vision statements can serve a similar purpose.

At the same time, though, entrepreneurs cannot be so married to their initial vision that they end up unable to adjust to a changing market or clientele shifts. “Just as lack of planning can be a problem, adhering blindly to your plan is a surefire way to steer your company off a cliff,” British business magnate Richard Branson said in an Entrepreneur magazine article exploring common startup mistakes.  “A successful entrepreneur will constantly adjust course without losing sight of the final destination.”

Fixating on competition is another early misstep. “Much better than fighting for scraps in existing markets is to create and own new ones. Sometimes you have to fight. When you do, you should win. But conflict tends to be romanticized, and people tend to get sucked in,” Forbes said in a 2012 article outlining tips for new start-ups. “It is worthwhile to think about how to run away from the fighting and build a monopoly business instead,” the article said.

Setting the right foundations is essential for success. Once off the ground, though, entrepreneurs often struggle with keeping processes efficient, and staying the course without distraction. Following best practices for start-up efficiency are often just as important as avoiding early mistakes. Expert recommendations typically include the following:

  • Appropriate leveraging of technology. Many young entrepreneurs treat e-mail, tweets, and instant messages as something of a given, but creating a plan or policy for how messages will be answered and when can save a lot of stress later on down the line.

  • Participate in social networks and online communities. This is obvious for most web-based businesses, but is something that other companies can have a tendency to undervalue. Web interactions drive traffic both on or offline, and many consumers expect at least an informative website.

  • Commit to an in-person networking plan. Just as eschewing the online space can spell trouble, so can relying on it exclusively. Many small businesses grow through word of mouth and personal connections. Reaching out to industry leaders, attending conferences, or speaking on panels can all come within this category if pursued for purposes of making new connections and forging professional relationships.

Many scholars believe that a resurgence of small business strength is a country’s best path towards any economic turnaround. Over the last few years, start-ups have created more jobs than big industry in nearly every sector. Investing in entrepreneurships will doubtless help spur innovation, but cannot alone fix the situation—long-term stabilization is in the hands of owners and executive officers who must manage what they have and turn it into something with long-term sustainability. 

 

—  Juliana Davies

Posted in Essays, Investing, StartUp Ideas