M14 impresses all the dragons in their den

vlcsnap-2017-02-20-00h55m42s512

I have to give a massive congrats to John Kershaw from M14 industries, who took the previoulsy mentioned Bristlr app from niche dating to hosted matching platform (very much selling shovles during a goldrush). Yesterday he appeared on the BBC’s Dragons Den and struck a great deal with Peter and Nick for a reasonable percentage of the business.

Of course John had a viewing party with friends, investers and family. Its season 14 episode 15 if you are looking for it.

John’s written his thoughts up here.

Before Nick showed his hand, and it was looking like I might get investment from all five dragons simultaneously, I started to internally panic. This isn’t how this happens.

After all the Dragons had given their offers, I knew I’d have to go with Nick and Peter; they have the experience and if they’re not willing to share, I don’t have much choice.

And it’s at this point where an interesting thing happens: I forgot everyone’s names.

Certainly another great story for Manchester’s Startup community and the early investors who saw the potential of M14 industries early on. I personally was always impressed with John and although we sometimes disagreed about what should be next on the task list, its great to get the validation that it wasn’t just a silly app!

We need more social and community focused startups

I wrote about a number of people who JFDI and how this may have the ability to make gentrification and other social conflicts a little more easier on a community.

On top of that I’ve been thinking how the traditional business models of shareholders wanting continues growth year on year is causing so many issues (well that and diversity). Anyway it got me thinking, maybe social and community startups are the new (ecstasy! I’m kidding, just following my previous post) thing. Don’t get me wrong theres been social enterprises for many years but this is something slightly more appealing.

ROI Pam Warhurst-10

Just flipping do it already!

Without knowing it, they are embracing the same approaches and plans as startups. Crowd funding, flat structures, lightweight project management tools and an attitude of just fucking do it . All are the hallmark of the following projects. James Headifen who runs the Ancoats Canal Cleanup project. Pam Warhurst  who started something  in Todmorden (still need to visit) by simply doing something  which is highly copyable and makes people happy. Homebaked a co-working space, bakery and the cornerstone of the local community, MadlabUK and DoES Liverpool a hacker and community space, giving room to a number of different types of niche hobbies and activities. Run very much in a JFDI style.

Closing the Deal

Chewing the fat with Chris

Me and Chris Northwood were in Vividlounge having breakfast thinking/talking about where startup culture starts to go wrong. We talked about the built to flip mentality and how that mentality is poisonous. Build your algorithm, get your users and market for me users. Nothing new and interesting for developers or designers to be involved in. Chris thought suggested it might be anti-developer , while I think it might be ultimately anti-human and progression.

Too many entrepreneurs, he believes, have a “built-to-flip mentality, as opposed to a built-to-last, built-to-change-the-world mentality.”

I mentioned this blog post I was writing in my mind, and talked about the examples I listed above. Social enterprises, ethical startups, what ever they are called… We need to foster and support more of them (this links to Adrian Hons talk from TedxLiverpool about supporting those who are brave enough to take up this challenge). But if you were starting a social enterprise, where would you go?

When I show people around Manchester’s northern quarter, I tend to have a story which I tell people. If you are setting up a business, the coffee shops of the northern quarter are a great place to get inspiration and get work done. But if you wanted something a little more focused,there is a co-working spaces in Madlab on Friday and there is the classroom. If you wanted more, the next step would be Techhub Manchester and beyond that you could get yourself a little office.

Dreamy Saturday Morning.

The local spaces on your doorstep

Chris suggested Libraries could have a role in this? University libraries are fruitful places supporting students for hours and hours working alone and together. Why is the public libraries not the same? Unlike Techhub which is driving you towards a more traditional startup outcome. Imagine a library as a co-working space with focused advice on how to run a social/ethical/community business… In return you get a free space and access to more resources including maybe funding?

For example we have our islington wharf residents meetings in the local NHS centre which has plenty of rooms not in use after 5pm. Because we are a local and non-profit organisation, we can rent the rooms for free. Certainly beats trying to hold a residents meeting in bar/cafe or one of our living rooms. There are tons of places like this which are underutilised but we pay for out of our taxes. These places can be the difference between a small gathering in a coffee shop and a place to actually bring people together. The library is ideal in my mind.

I’m aware of things like the Coworking directory but there is something interesting about supporting other non-profits in a public space.

Talking to Davemee one of the founders of Madlab, this blog might seem slightly simplistic, native and may misunderstand the extreme difficulties in getting a social/community/non-profit business off the ground. But I argue it should be as simple as setting up a startup and what a time to do it

If the boot sequence was this cool

Hackers movie

Remember on Hackers when the guys all start up there laptops and your treated to a range of animated startup sequences?

How cool was it to have all those individualised, personalised startup sequences? Certainly beats looking at the Lenovo, Apple, Microsoft, etc logos.

Well someone is thinking along the same lines at least

The slow death of Shoreditch?

Manchester Northern Quarter

Alex talks about the slow death of Shoreditch in a post.

Maybe it’s because during the Olympics politicians were invited to an area of town they wouldn’t have been caught dead in previously. Maybe on those trips to Old Street they realised it’s full of nice post-industrial buildings that would make for the types of fantastic loft spaces they experience in New York. Maybe it’s because they compare Shoreditch to the City and think that housing would help liven it up during weekends. Maybe if they’d lived in Hackney, they’d understand why they should just leave it be and stick to the initial plan to support startups and a tech community not give bankers a chance to live 10 minutes away from work.

One of the many reasons why Shoreditch works for startups is precisely its crap, badly heated, badly connected post-industrial buildings that don’t cost a fortune. That’s why there was an industry there in the first place right? And also everyone’s here, for now. (I’m already starting to hear of friends and colleagues relocating south of the river or even more east, where prices aren’t crazy.)

I do understand where shes coming from but another part of me wonders what she and others, think was going to happen?

Once Silicon roundabout was named and appeared in the likes of Wired magazineThe rest was a forgone conclusion.

Shoreditch featured heavily in the first dot com era too. But that was short lived, too many people using there investment money to buy themselves Audi TT’s it seemed like. This time there might have been something there but it quickly sold its self as the only place to be for startups, which simply isn’t true. London has a lot of space to offer and south of the river there is a lot of unused and unloved buildings just waiting for someone to do something with.

As someone whos lived on the edge of regenerated areas a few times its what happens and you learn to live with it.

In years to come they will say the same thing of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. You can already feel the push into Piccadilly Basin. In the last few months theres been at least 5 new bars in an area which was pretty much canal and housing. I remember when Kate too me there when I first arrived in Manchester. I thought it was great spot for bars and restaurants but up till recently the likes of the Moon have failed. I can imagine the rent is cheaper but there is the influence of the northern quarter heading towards Piccadilly for sure.

Changes is the only thing which is consistent…

Decentralised networking is hard, no really?

Sydney, January 2009

Straight out of the “No Sh*t Sherlock…” book….

Although I think its amazing what developers do, I can imagine how hard it must be to write decent decentralised software. The Diaspora guys spell out how difficult it is… which Adwale likes to make sure I and others fully understand.

  • If you build a decentralized application, you actually need to ship software. You need to package, test, create installers, test on a variety of platforms, write defensive code to work around misconfigurations your customers are likely to create, etc. For a centralized website, you can often edit files in place on the production server.
    Result: decentralized is 10x harder at least.
  • Somebody somewhere will run every single version of your app that you ever shipped. It will be badly out of date, full of security holes (you fixed years ago), outmoded graphics etc. It will cost you additional support, and your brand will suffer. Almost nobody upgrades to the latest and greatest within a life time it seems.
    Result: decentralized is less functional, less pretty, and less secure.
  • Decentralized software is much harder to monetize. You can’t run ads on somebody else’s installation. You can’t data mine your users (because most of them aren’t in a place that you have access to, it’s somebody else’s installation). You can’t do cross-promotions and referrals etc. You can charge those people who install your software, but there’s a reason most websites are free: much better business.
    Result: decentralized produces less money for you, so you have less investment dollars at your disposal.
  • Database migrations and the like for decentralized apps have to be fully productized, because they will be run by somebody else who does not know what to do when something fails 15 minutes into an ALTER TABLE command.
    Result: decentralized is 10x harder at least.
  • Same thing for performance optimizations and the like: it’s much easier to optimize your code for your own server farm than trying to help Joe remotely whose installation and servers you don’t have access to.
    Result: decentralized is slower, more expensive, and harder.

Frankly although I take the points… If you want to stand out in a clearly over crowded field, and one which has a major elephant using up all the space. You need to think differently (to quote someone we all know too well).

This means doing the difficult things which no one understands and owning the platform!

Your business model should/could be charging other developers to build and be creative on top of your platform. App.net have got the right idea, charge the developers who then create the experiences. Your focus should be on managing the platform and supporting their creativity. Anything else is greed and/or lack of focus.

What do I mean by creativity? Think about Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck innovated on top of the Twitter platform and in the end the platform twitter bought them (stupid move). Tweetdeck for a lot of people made twitter usable at long last. The amount of news rooms I’ve been to and seen tweetdeck with a million panels open is untrue. The same isn’t true now… Tweetdeck guys innovated on top of Twitter and instead of sharing revenue with them or something. They bough them…!

A quote which comes to mind is something like…

The train company thought they were in the railroad business, what they didn’t get was that they were actually in the transportation business.

I really like twitter but frankly their control/greed/whatever is getting out of control. While on a panel yesterday at the London transmedia festival in Ravensbourne College. I was sat with Danielle from Tumblr, Bruce from Twitter, Cat from BBC and Doug Scott from Ogilvy. Although its tempting to make a few comments about there change in stance, I passed. Although I did notice say something which could be seen as slightly negative. Doug said how useful Twitter is for understanding users and I agreed but I said,

“Well its important to remember Twitter is only explicit data, implicit data is the stuff people really want to get there hands on…”

Anyway, the point stands and its hard to see how Twitter will get into the implicit data game at this point. If they acted like a platform, maybe someone else would do the innovation for them. But back to the main point why would you do it on someone closed system?

Decentralised network systems are harder but will drive much more interesting creativity… I can see how this might be at odds with setting up a business, startup and having investors etc… But I’m sure I could make a argument that its better in the long run…

TechHub sets sights on Manchester

I always said Manchester is a great city, and there’s plenty of talent not only in Manchester but further a field around the North of England. Well I’m not the only one which says this

TechHub, the shared workspace for startups, is launching a site in Manchester in November. The new space will be the first UK-location outside of London.

The hub has agreed terms with property investment firm Town Centre Securities (TCS) for office space over two floors at Carver’s Warehouse in Piccadilly Basin.

My thought is this has to be a great thing for uniting the many different communities in and around the city. Can’t wait to see it open and where things go into the future. The guys behind it are great, full of spirit. They took the time to thank myself and martin for our talks at TedXManchester2 which may have kick started some of this.

Can I also just say, I called it right 2 months ago when I tweeted something connecting TechHub with Manchester. TechhubManchester it is…

Zuckerberg casts doubt on Silicon Valley

Some interesting comments from Mark Zuckerberg recently

In a rare interview conducted over the weekend at Y Combinator’s Startup Schoool, the brash, young CEO admits he would have stayed on the east coast if he could have his time again.

He said: “If I were starting now I would do things very differently. I didn’t know anything.

“In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it’s not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston.

“But I think that now, knowing more of what I know, I think I might have been able to pull it off. You don’t have to move out here to do this.

“Silicon Valley is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.”

Many others would say he benefited from Silicon Valley’s short-term focused nature and I would agree with that statement. I would like to see if he’s going to now shift Facebook out of the Silicon Valley area? I very much doubt it and that as far as I’m concerned is like moaning about where you live and not lifting a finger to do anything about it…

hindsight is always wonderful

Although I got to say its a very small victory for other places such as silicon roundabout… Hopefully they will read this as a sign NOT to clone silicon valley

The end of #Startupbar, for now…

Startup flyer 1 at Arcadia BarStartup bar AB RemixStartup flyer 3

It started so well but ended quickly when one of the 4 owners of Arcadia bar decided to give it up… Unforgeable we’ve were talking to the owner who decided to pack it in…

So that means no more lovely ladies doing there make up as they start there friday nights… (you got to love Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr) I’m sure they will be back in the future…

Now the future of Startup bar is in doubt but fear not, its not over… We’ll be looking for a new venue to host Startupbar… Till then you can sign up to the growing community on Facebook.

Startup your night in the best possible way

Startup bar AB Remix

Were at it again… The startup bar is back in full force.

This time we have 4 djs, starting up at 9pm and finishing at 2am. This Friday (22nd June) and every Friday (except maybe next week, 29th July TBC).

If your in Manchester and out on Friday night, you can’t do much better than experience the House, Electro and Trance played by some great up-shots in the Manchester scene… Feel free to RSVP here.

Hope to see you all there…

Welcome to mydreamscape.org

a inception poster

I love Inception, there’s no doubt about that….

But what really got me going was the idea of dreams.

So here’s the background

Everyone has dreams but up till now dreams have been very personal. People have them and talk about them all the time to there close friends but up till now its not been something you share socially. Well I say that but actually people do share aspects of there dreams. For example

janeygw‎: @MetsThrifty Are you serious? omg I had such horrid dreams last night too

Clodyyyy‎: You wish you can record your dreams and then watch them later. #DamnItsTrue

collinbeballin‎: I have had so many bad dreams tonight that they have left me praying. And thats some real shit.

PatRobeck1ofHis‎: Goodnight, my friends. Dream good dreams!

ohhdarylann‎: if love is a way out, then please let me in. don’t start, darling, don’t you turn my nightmares into dreams once again

stephalicious‎: Just had a dream @natbat had taken up smoking and I threatened to tell @simonw if she didn’t stop 0_o

Natbat‎: Woke at 5am with panicked dreams. can’t sleep. wonder if I should just get up and have breakfast now. hungry

…. lots more on twitter people talking about there dreams on blogs.

So we share aspects of them with friends, family and even total strangers.

The concept

mydreamscape.org to become the flickr of dreams.

Make dreams social with controls so only certain people can see the parts you don’t want to disclose. Use social tagging to add relevance and additional metadata to the dreams.

The concept in more words

Why not have a place where you can share your aspects of your dreams with other people and of course perform analysis on your dreams?

When I say aspects of your dreams, I mean just that. You should be able to add levels of privacy around aspects of your dream. Bit like how flickr.com only shows you certain photos if your a friend or family. I expect this would be quite difficult to do but it should give you the option of defining certain aspects which are public, private and of course who can see that. Hey would you want your girlfriend to find out you have dreams about a ex-girlfriend every night?

So I expect the gui for that would generate some special but simple xml (I’m thinking about using a subset of XML encryption to hide the information in plain sight) . I imagine it would look something like the modern editors such as Etherpad (colored text to indicate who can see what) but there would be levels of access to tied to the information.

Etherpad

dreams tend to have some sort of structure but its not very defined but there’s no doubt that you can say this is how it started (even if it’s just I’m in a room with no windows) and a middle (a woman talks to me in french which I seem to be able to understand) and a end (she gets up and leaves through a wall, leaving me in the room alone, then I wake up). It may not be clear how you got there or even how it ultimately ends but you could just say I don’t remember to that section.

Obviously there will be the ability to run your dreams through a dictionary of sorts (this may cost) so you can work out what your dream is about. But on top of that there will be tags/keywords will link you to other people’s dreams. So if your dream is about falling off a building, you can see who else has similar dream or even the same dream? Maybe you might find people who are having the same dream but with a unique twist. Heck, you might even find people who are in your dream who happen to be having the same dream! Of course Locations can also be tagged using geo locations, so you can see who else has been having a dream around a certain location. I’d also like to include Times, so you can say if it was night or day. Also people, so you can say I had a dream and he or she was in it. There may be others but that will do for now.

This is really interesting information but when socially put together across many people you got something extra special. Not only can you see trends across dreams but you can also spot how memes start to spread and where they end up.

The other part of this is the ability to write comments or add annotations to your dreams. So certain people (definable list) can add tags or link to other stuff. For example a dream about identity thief might lead back to the new itv tv series “identity” which you might have forgotten about but your friends remember you watched a couple of days ago. A dream about running down endless stairs could be the result of watching inception and thinking/dreaming about the architects role. Basically you can have many people adding analysis to your dream instead of just one so called expert. In actual fact your friends may know you better and where aspects of your dreams come from.

I expect we’ll make the data freely available in the same way Okcupid.com makes stats about its users available.

Hows it going to make money?

  • Pro users – Selling access to the dream dictionary (PRO users) which won’t be a static thing, it will change based on what people say about there dreams. There may also be a limit on how many dreams we hold unless your a pro user which means its endless. Maybe also only pro users can tag other people dreams?
  • Advertising – If your not a pro user, you will get adverts next to the dream your reading. We can also add advertising to the aggregated pages like the one for falling (which I expect will be quite popular)
  • Trending – Although the data will be freely available, there will be different resolutions on the dream data. So if you pay you can get much richer data (obviously depending on the users preferences). I imagine you would be able to work out how many European citizens are dreaming about a certain delegate just before an election. Not only that but if those dreams or positive or negative.
  • Product and locational placements – Maybe a lot of people are dreaming about a certain location or a certain product. If you own that location or product you may want to own that page and make it more like yours? So for example http://www.mydreamscape.org/items/buzzlightyear/ – could be a page about buzzlight year in dreams and have images and links to the item its self. This would also be true of locations too for example http://www.mydreamscape.org/location/europe/london/thamesbarrier – would obviously link to the Thames barrier in London with information taken from Wikipedia.org and other open sources. The information architecture of exactly how this would this work needs to be sorted out.

A Totem

How am I going to build this?

Well I’m not sure. I’ve been looking at things like drupal and existing services such as Facebook to see if I can adapt there system to this purpose. But it looks like it requires some serious development as there some key elements which need work. However I expect once I post this, entry people might think wow nice idea, its got legs I might be interested in either…

  1. Getting involved, so we got a team of people interested
  2. Recommend some software or a service to set it up
  3. Steal the idea and build there own version (fine, but you must give me attribution)
  4. Steal the idea and have me help out on the build process (theres a whole lot more to this idea that what I described above, ask me if you want to know more)
  5. Build a plugin for another service which could supports this

The final word

There are some elements to this idea which may not work such as will people remember there dreams, will be willing to share them, etc but honestly I think its a killer of an idea and deserves to be built. You can just imagine what a resource it could turn out to be… and imagine this scenario…

“you were dreaming about me, but I was also dreaming about you. On the same bloody night? What are the chances of that?”

That would be amazing.

dreams are still very much a unknown or under-tapped process. We all have them even if we don’t always remember them. dream diaries, etc are good but what benefits could come to a dreamers dreams if there crowd-sourced or social? There is a lot of metadata we could add to our dreams, if we had the chance. We could start to really understand our dreams a lot better through the social network of our friends, families or strangers. Heck even if all else fails, it may get people thinking about dreams a lot more and considering what they can do with them. Be it control there dreams or as far as even sharing dreams.

mydreamscape.org and mydreamscape.com could be the start of something massive, remember where you first read about it first…

So who wants to help me make it happen?

Is Design really seedy?

Blackbelt Jones wrote this great post about Seedcamp and the lack of design involvement.

From the Seedcamp about pages:

“There will be a diverse mentor network of serial entrepreneurs, corporates, venture capitalists, recruiters, marketing specialists, lawyers and accountants that will help the selected teams put together the foundations of a viable business.”

How about designers?

Technology plays alone are starting to lose their distinctiveness in many of the more-crowded areas of the marketplace.

Great service and interaction design are on the rise as strategic differentiators for products as diverse as the iPhone and Facebook.

He's right, The only thing desiresable about the iphone is the interface, the technology is under powered or frankly from 2005. Thankfully its not all bad.

The line between hackers and interaction designers is blurring as they start small businesses that are starting to make waves in the big business press.

As I mentioned, my experience of HackDay Europe was that

“It really does seem that the hacker crowd in London/Europe at least is crossing over more and more with the interaction design crowd, and a new school of developers is coming through who are starting to become excellent interaction designers – who really know their medium and have empathy with users.”

This reminds me of my made up position name while at Ravensbourne, Designer/Developer. At the time I design was far too form based while development was far too programming based. Web designer meant you created HTML pages, Information designer meant you didn't actually touch any data or apis and Interaction designer meant you were too focused on art, hanging out in Hoxton and convince your clients they were always wrong. Things have changed for the better. The grey area between design and development
has been intersected by a 3rd force the hacker. So now you get pursuits like hardware hacking, alternative reality games, product user interface hacking. The fact is that its not about the titles, its about what vision you have in your head and how much effort your willing to put in to it.

Business-wise I think we have yet to see what affect the greying of design, development and hacking will have on startup culture.

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What ever happened to Wonderland?

The Dragons, elite business experts standing next to a wall

Update: Although I'm blogging about Wonderland, i dont think much about the content. But I'm not its target audience. I'm writing mainly about the concept and the business of Wonderland not the magazine's content. It would be like me saying Red or Cosmo are not good. I'm entitled to my views but being outside of the target market makes it difficult to judge fairly. aka, do not buy Wonderland just because I blogged it please.

Almost a year ago the BBC series Dragons Den finished its first run. I enjoyed every moment of it and am happy to hear its back on our screens (and online via imp of course). But it makes you wonder what ever happened to those other business ideas which received funding? (Yes the BBC should do a run up on what happened next…maybe even just as a podcast, iptv or something for those people interested) Specially the very much debated Wonderland magazine.

Well after a short dig around, I found a couple of things. A interview after appearing on the Dragons Den. Actually Startups.co.uk has a few interviews with previous Dragon Den entrepreneurs.Then the big news, from this page. Its actually on the right hand side of the site and reads.

By Kate Boulby

Wonderland, the new luxury glossy mag from BBC2 Dragon's Den joint winner Huw Gwyther, went on sale yesterday.

The magazine will initially be priced at £4.95, with a starting print run of 140,000 copies. Publishers eventually hope to sell up to 100,000.

Targeted at both male and female readers, Wonderland will cover everything from fashion, film, music and product design to stage and art. The first issue also features an exclusive interview with The Aviator's film production designer Dante Ferretti.

Dragon Den, which was shown earlier in the year, featured contestants pitching business ideas to the expert “Dragons”.

So I plan to drop into a large WH Smiths and see if I can actually find a copy, get a real feel for it myself. Hopefully I can find a copy and post a few pictures online, till then the flash animation has been updated and restyled so at least its not so ugly, and gives you a rough idea of how the magazine looks.

Finally found it in the local WH Smiths

Wonderland magazine cover

More photos can be found in my wonderland tag stream.

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