Showing posts from 2011

Software design vs Hardware design

Recently, I designed a circuit for a home project. It got me thinking about the differences between circuit design and hardware design. In hardware design, we operate with a set of discrete components, furthermore our design is constrained by: time, money, space, availability and power. Based on these constraints we would find well defined functional building block (components) and function by function construct a device that produces the desired output, given a particular set of inputs. This process is iterative, the design of the system follows the same process and any of the sub-systems. In some ways the constraints and the fact that inputs and outputs are well defined (making system design the same as that for sub-systems) makes the design process uniform and relatively easy. I was amazed at how deterministic my circuit design was as compared to software design. In software design, we have become overwhelmed by the number of components, the complexity of the inputs and outputs,

Does Entrepreneuship Stimulate Economic Growth ?

Most people I speak to, seem to think that it is obvious that entrepreneurship is one key to economic growth. This is a very modern view-point in that the entrepreneur was never really considered in neo-classical economic theory.  I don't however believe that the answer to this question is as obvious as most people may think. Economic growth is measured by a nations Gross domestic Product (GDP) which as the name suggests measures the economic output of the nation. So there must be some production or output for this domestic product to grow, this implies that the workers of the nation are adding value to some resource which previously had a lesser value (if any). This might be digging a huge whole and extracting diamonds, which are then polished and sold, or it might be using intellect and some intellectual property which is then sold around the world. Either way, no matter how you look at it, something has to be created or some value added. If a nation has a large percentage of

Mobile, past, present and future

There is always a debate whether one can predict the future looking at the past or whether the past simply constrains our future thinking. I think both future looking and analyzing the past are useful activities in prediction. Thinking about my career working as an engineer with mobile technology, starting in 1997 with the Motorola M301 A number of key technological elements have improved significantly over the last 15 years: Battery The m301 had a stand-by time of a few hours and talk time of about 20 min, the battery was large and heavy and had memory - charging a not-fully-discharged battery would lead to loss of performance. The official specs quoted the battery as " Included NiCad battery gives 12 hours standby or 70 minutes talktime ".  NiCad batteries soon gave way to NiMh which had twice the capacity of the Nicad. Then came the Lithium-ion which produced the same capacity with about 30% less weight. These technologies all served to increase the battery perf

Beware of the pivot

A new term that is bouncing around the start-up world, is the term "pivot" which basically means to change direction or concept. Most entrepreneurs will change their initial ideas in some way at some time - this is in general part of the process of realising an opportunity. As one starts in the quest to develop a business, all the answers cannot be known prior to starting, for if they were known it would be easy - like following a recipe. Alas for most of us this is not the case, we have some notion of what things will look like and then embark, perhaps with a degree of ignorance on a journey. Lately, I have had a number of clients or colleagues ring me up and exclaim with great exuberance, " we have pivoted !". I must say that this alarms and surprises me, changing direction should be part of the entrepreneurial process, but not an end in itself. The goal is not to pivot, the goal is to make your business a reality and if you should have to change direction along

Monetising a website

The question of how to monetise a website often comes up. In most cases my clients have interesting content and have gained reasonable traffic in the order of 30 - 100 k unique visits a month. The issue then arises, how to take the next steps to monetize the website (generate revenue). I categorize monitization into a series of categories, each building on the previous in terms of time and complexity to achieve and manage: Lazy day, dream away Here one the website generates revenue simply by placing adverts from one affiliate network or something like Google AdSense. Once the correct code has been added to the website and the account set-up there is little or no work (aside from maintaining the content - and making sure one gets the traffic). The returns here are typically low. However, one can expect to generate 100`s of pounds a month, if not more. Lazy day, optimize With some work on making sure your adverts are as relevant as possible to your target audience, some additiona

The start up eldorado

Many blog posts I read and forums on entrepreneurship are filled with hype and half-truths. In many ways it reminds me of stories of gold digging over 100 years ago. Lured by the promise of fortunes, thousands of young men (and I assume woman) trekked in search of riches. Myths became reality, and the very few success stories soon fueled an entire industry around prospecting. Suppliers, transport, gold-exchange etc. In many ways, I see the same thing happening around me - there are pitching events, workshops on how to attain funding, buzz-words and book-lists. The hype also elevates otherwise ordinary people to god-like status - a twenty something VC worker, a pitch event organizer etc. I recently saw a post asking for the best book on start-ups. Thats like asking what is the best TV program in the world. For one thing, the conception of what a start-up is and in fact what an entrepreneur is differs from person to person, from economy to economy. If you trawl the academic literature

Microchip Android development kit part 1

I recently obtained the Microchip Android development kit, this is the fist part of my attempt to get my development environment working : You can join the debate and knowledge on Android and mobile peripherals, development, potential, business models etc at AndroidGizmo . My Attempts at developing an application have come to a temporary halt as I try to find a way of getting Android 2.3.4 or above installed (currently 2.1). I am trying to find a solution on  villainrom

The inner game of business - 3 lessons from tennis

I recently read "The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey. I found the book very interesting and the results on my tennis game have been profound. The basic thesis is that our conscious mind in being critical of our own performance is actually hindering our game. We should work at developing confidence, eliminating self-doubt and internal criticism. Unlike most books on betterment, this book does not advocate positive thinking, which according to the author is the other-side of the negative thinking coin. Positive thinking, can lead to disappointment or a sense of needing to maintain an unsustainable rate of success. What is needed is calmness, and a quiet mind. Having started a number of business, I wondered how the insights from this book could be applied to the entrepreneur or existing business. Although I do not believe there is a set of personality traits that make an entrepreneur successful, certainly if we view the process of starting a business as a game ther

The return of the 6 dimensions for a Online start-up

I am still pondering the usefulness of this developing model. The six dimensions which I beleive are the key to attaining some traction online are: co-operation communication incentives standardization co-ordination collaboration  If we take a look at facebook, as an example: co-operation : the interface encourages people to comment, discuss, help and share information and events. communication : at the core of the website there are different forms of communication. incentives : there are a number of non-monetary incentives to participate ones facebook communities - recognition, acceptance, social-connection, sharing etc. For businesses there is branding, reach, connection to the client base. standardization : the experience is standardized, moreover via the API other platforms can connect and facebook applications can be integrated. This promotes diversity and growth. co-ordination : this is perhaps slightly more obscure, but lets say the platform facilitates the co-

Internet start-ups dog or cash cow

My dog Max might take offense, if he could at being associated with failure. In particular he may take offense at being associated with failed Internet start-ups. Having said that, he has a lot in common with Internet start-ups. He is undeniably cute, as are many Internet start ups, he attracts a lot of attention - especially when out and about (in the park) and dispute all th attention and fans that he has, he costs me money and does not generate a penny ! Luckily I have invested in him as a companion rather than a business ... Max the puppy     The debate is on, are we in another tech bubble or not ? I agree with Steven Blank we are certainly in a bubble. For me the indications are more heuristic than scientific. I see young "entrepreneurs" running around using words like "social media", "traction" and "pivot" - most of them cannot define these terms and when I ask "what is your business model ?" - I get either a blank stare or

Delivering a website

From my years of consulting, software development and start-up businesses I have noticed common pitfalls that organizations have in designing, developing and delivering websites. Here are some common pitfalls and my suggestions for how to avoid them. 1. Web is fashion One of the great advantages of the web, aside from dynamic content, is the ability to easily change layout and branding. This, however also creates some challenges. Organizations should realize that a web presence is an ever evolving thing, and websites themselves will come in and go out of fashion. Each industry has it's own fashion and it's own fashion cycle. Some industry web fashion cycles are faster than others. 2. Change can be managed, if you keep the pieces Since website will change over time, it is very important to understand the process by which a website should be designed and understand the key artifacts that should be delivered. If the process is not understood, delivering a website can be extr

The Mobile/Tablet future as I see it

This is a piece I posted on I see a future where everyone has a tablet/communication device - which is in some way biometrically activated, i.e can only be activated by a single individual. This device is used for everything, from communication to setting devices in the home, plotting car journeys and paying the bank. Due to increased electricity and gas prices, not to mention fuel - algorithms run that ensure efficiency, heating, cooling and water usage. Traffic is routed in optimal ways via communication with centralized control centers through the tablet/communication device. Travel is very much a recreational activity with remote working and login standard practice. The tablet/communication device forms tha basis for work, social and home life. Plugging the tablet into one or more controller interfaces opens communication with the car, the home or the work place. The Internet as we know it, is onl

What is the potential market for Android Peripherals ?

This is a recent thought I posted on AndroidGizmo Whilst it is still early days in the Andorid peripheral space - there are only three listed manufacturers of development kits - which are needed to prototype and device. And furthermore, it seems as if these devices are either sold out or not available. It is still interesting to speculate on the types of devices that may emerge. Could we even have Android devices dispensed from a vending machine as in the  Arduino vending machine  ? Firstly, we can expect to see standard PC peripherals now made to support Android devices. this includes: External Disk storage Joystick controllers Webcams and multi-media devices Mice and input devices Wireless controllers for other devices Consider that for the first time we will be carrying a fully fledged computer running a very mature Linux operataing system, in our pockets. This means that we could use this device to control a whole range of things that we previously needed expensive co

Patterns in Business

For many years as an engineer, I have used patterns – which loosely defined are common approaches to solving common problems. For example the MVC (model-view-controller) pattern is commonly used when trying to solve the problem of separating data from functionality and the view of the data (whether this is the best approach is questionable, but it is one common approach). Patterns appear in an organizational context in for example “ Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development ” by James O. Coplien and Neil B. Harrison. In this book, they set out common problems that occur within software development teams and present common patterns for solving these organizational problems. When starting a business, we are often confronted with a series of problems to solve. What business model should we adopt ? When should we look for premises, how and when should we grow etc ? One way of tackling these issues is to look at how others have done the same in the pa

Dimensions of successful tech start-ups

I spent some time in the past studying growth in business, of course there are a continuum of opinions on this topic, however, seven dimensions stood out for me. Growth (economic or otherwise) happens when these dimensions are in place: cooperation, collaboration, communication, incentives, standardization and co-ordination. Successful Tech start-ups, consciously or otherwise have elements of these six dimensions in their business model (or user interface ). Take Facebook, for example, the interface fosters cooperation and collaboration it facilitates communication and in some ways stimulates competition. The incentives are physiological, but exist and by allowing developers to plug into their platform they have standardized the platform. All this is well co-ordinated and hence it is not surprising that they are on a growth trajectory.  The same dimensions can be found if we analyze Groupon, Twitter, FoureSquare, Google and others.... Whilst I realize this model is not complete, I

Beware of Myths

Some years ago I shared a house with a group of day-traders. They operated on the NASDAQ every week day, playing the day trading game remotely. The deal was they traded and received payment for profits they generated and the number of transactions they made - they company providing the system and the funding took a percentage of profits and cut them off when losses where too high. Most days these guys lost money, occasionally they made some. I became interested and realized that there was an entire industry of websites, books, DVD's and training around how to make money. I kept hearing about this "one" guy who was making a fortune. Each day there were new stories of the heroics of this individual. I began thinking, if I was recruiting day traders and building an industry around the promise of riches, what would I do ? The answer of-course is "I would create a myth" - create some super-hero figure who achieved magical results and all those that follow aspire t

Web2.0 and beyond , productive, unproductive or destructive ?

I have had a great week. I have been an investigative reporter, spotting such anomalies as gravel for the train tracks in B&Q packaging and misleading statistics on the train (see posts below). I have also been playing with some fantastic technology. The wonderful augmented reality browser for smartphones called Layer . I sat through a great presentation of a new consultant for hire/resource type company called MinuteBox which I thought was a truly great idea, I have just finished playing with Lockerz , what a great idea ! Having done all of this, I lay in the bath and began to feel slightly concerned. Because not only have I not really been very productive (whilst playing with these new found ideas), but I began wondering how productive some of the great Internet start-ups really are ? It reminded me of a paper I read some time ago by the economist Buamol, who looked through history and found that there were really three types of entrepreneur in any given society. One who is

A Bibliography on business, entrepreneurship and thier economic relationship

Acs, Z.J, Audretsch, D.B, Springer, 2005, Handbook of Entrepreneurial Research: An Interdisciplinary Survey and Introduction. Adler, Paul S; Borys, Bryan, Two types of bureaucracy: Enabling and coercive, Administrative Science Quarterly; Mar 1996; 41, 1. Ahlstrom D, Bruton G.D, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, March 2006, Venture Capital in Emerging Economies: Networks and Institutional Change. Aldrich H.E., Marlene Fiol C ,The Academy of Management Review, Oct 1994 19, 4,Fools Rush in ? The institutional context of industry creation Aldrich, H.E, Entrepreneurial Strategies in New Populations, in Ed., Swedberg, R, Oxford University Press, 2000, Entrepreneurship: The social Science View. Aldrich H.E., Argelia Martinez M ,Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Summer, 2001 Vol 25,Many are Called, but Few are Chosen: An Evolutionary Perspective for the Study of Entrepreneurship. Aldrich H.E, Ruef M, Sage Publishers, Second Edition 2006, Organizations Evolving. Austin J, Stev