Protocols, Blockchains, and More Disruption to Come

August 24, 2016 View Comments

On the heels of Cisco's 5,500 person layoff and Fortune reporting that over 350,000 workers in the tech industry have been laid off this year, I was thinking about disruption.

It is painful.

I feel for all of those people who got laid off, particularly because it's relatively easy to believe that if you work in a "sexy" industry like high-tech, you are safer than, say, a manufacturing job.

But the disruption that technology is bringing to the economy is most decidedly moving up the socio-economic ladder. (It's moving down and sideways as well as Uber tests self-driving cars and self-driving big rigs--think about that).

What's potentially troublesome is that just as these companies (and more importantly the people who work at them, want to work at them, and were laid off by them) are getting used to this new era of Digital Transformation/Disruption, the next wave of Disruption is looming behind them.

I've used the term "Blockchain" too broadly, to be sure. It's more than that. It's decentralization, it's a new type of protocols that invert the way software companies are conceived, built, and make money.

Two really solid articles come from the guys at USV and are worth the read.

Joel does a first rate job of showing how this upcoming era flips software on its head in the age of "Fat Protocols."

And Albert expounds on crypto-tokens and protocol innovation. 

It's stand on your head type stuff because it's going to force all of us to entirely re-think how businesses operate.

The big tech companies may, in some way, be the last place to feel the pain of digital disruption because, for so long, they were selling it to others.

Round 1 will have to finish. It's just that Round 2 is coming.

Conscious Testing...Your Personal Blockchain

August 23, 2016 View Comments

Two of my direct reports were facing some challenging inter-personal situations recently.  We discussed it.

I don't have the answers and I am trying to move away from dictating them. 

Instead, I try to help people think through them.

One suggestion I had was this:  "hopefully you are going to have a long career. If you look at this challenge as a conscious, intentional test to learn something about how to deal with these challenges, you win either way.

If it works, you win. And if it doesn't work, you've learned something about how to operate.

Then, this becomes another building block in the chain of your experiences.

Each block forms the basis of the next one and is predicated on the previous ones."

Essentially, the sum of our experiences is immutably written in our personal lifestory blockchains.

Bottom line: every challenge is a learning opportunity. 

I'm just trying to focus on each moment as a learning opportunity and part of a bigger narrative.

The Immutable World

August 22, 2016 View Comments

I saw this idea in a blog post recently. I just can't remember where, so it's not my own. Sorry about that.

Ironically, that very statement, has spurred an idea in this post in a direction I wasn't going to go.

One of the challenges that the web currently has is that Intellectual Property can easily be duplicated.  We all know that if you see an image that you like, you can save a local copy and then publish it...with no attribution to the original creator. 

The same is true in videos, music, and more. It's a challenge to really unlocking additional value and encouraging people to share their best. Well, maybe not sharing it, but enabling them to profit from it.

It's a challenge that people like MediaChain are trying to solve...create a single, immutable, decentralized repository of images so that a creator can always have the attribution s/he deserves.

Imagine if that was the case for ideas (say in a blog post). Maybe tougher, but certainly something that could be done. Almost like certain phrases getting automatic copyright or, more accurately, when we have natural language processors that can pick up tone, context, and framework and attribute it to the author.

That would be cool.

But that wasn't the point of the post originally.

The point of the post was thinking about what happens when we live in a world that is "immutable."

When a company like PeerNova builds immutable databases for large scale commerical applications...waht does it mean for the fact that humans are, by our nature, fallible?

Every religion thrives on giving people a chance at redemption. Also, people make mistakes all the time...that's why credit card chargebacks are appealing.

But in a world where once something is written, it can never be erased or re-written?

That's pretty intense.

And I wonder how people will be forgiving when immutability is omni-present. Or, how will we behave differently when we know that once we do something, it will be indelibly recorded?

Decentralizing the Web...

August 19, 2016 View Comments

I've become somewhat obsessed with the potential of a world enabled by Blockchains, but that's actually a subset of a larger trend...distributed/de-centralized computing.

When the idea of a "data warehouse" or a "server farm' gets called into question, there are other disruptive forces at work.

For example, companies such as Storj and Sia are attacking the essence of storage as we know it (Amazon Web Services, for example).

Then, you look at things like IPFS and Blockstack as well as Ethereum, and you see an overarching macrotrend towards the distributed net.

You're even seeing this in the development of peer-to-peer (decentralized)  applications such as OpenBazaar (think eBay) and LaZooz (think Uber)

That's fascinating, but what does it all mean for businesses or society?

It could mean that fewer large organizations control most of our data or host the data where we spend most of our time.

It could lower costs for people to develop and host their applications.

It could mean a faster web.

It could mean that people in societies that are police states have more access to information.

It could mean lower transaction costs for commerce.

At the same time, it could make it even easier for all the lowlives of society (pedophiles, human traffickers, and the like) easier.

All I know is that it's going to be something.

Blockchains, entrepreneurship, and new business models

August 18, 2016 View Comments

What's particularly exciting to me about blockchains isn't just the improvements in efficiency we will see by implementing them in traditional back office functions.

Nor is it the Schumpeter-like 'Creative Destruction" that will arise within industries that are based upon 3rd party trust services (notaries, auditors, accountants, lawyers, and more) are disrupted.**

For me, it's the immense possibility of things we haven't yet even dared to imagine.  Twenty years ago, who could have foreseen Uber or AirBNB? Now, it's part of the thread of daily life.

At the heart of these possibilities lies the entrepreneur.  

It is the enterpreneur who starts to put things together...customers' needs (whether active or latent), technological possibilities, and business models...and assumes the risk to try something that is new or just different to ultimately make people's lives better.

And the more people we can give the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship, the better off we are as a society.

That's why I'm so excited about the recent move by Bitfinex to use crytographic tokens to make a promise (ht: @avc) on the hack of their system to their depositors.

It was an innovative move (read Erik Voorhees' great post on it) in and of itself and it comes in conjunction with a lot of companies using crowdsourced cryptographic token offerings to fund their businesses.

While some may decry that VCs add value (and as I've seen, some definitely do--I've learned the difference between 'dumb' money and 'smart' money), there are plenty of people with good ideas who just need a bit of funding,  

Kickstarter and the like are first steps in this direction, but giving your investors a crytpographic token as either debt or equity is going to push down the costs for companies to find the capital they need and push down the costs for investors to track and/or trade their investments in companies (private, public, or as Voorhees calls them "auto-public.")

A business model that is, by default, 'auto-public' is already a business model innovation and I think we are just at the beginning of this.

**[Disclaimer: I don't like the turmoil that people will be going through as their jobs are displaced. There's no joy for me in that, but I view the march of technological progress and ultimate implementation as inevitable, not preventable. Therefore, my role is to do what I can to help inform others of what I see coming in this particular niche.  I may be off in timing and in how it gets implemented, but change is life's only constant.]

Blockchains and Job Displacement

August 17, 2016 View Comments

I was chatting with a friend of mine who lives in LA.  His daughter had just gotten a job with a firmly repsectable accounting firm working in the Audit department.

She was beginning her training this summer and I was hit by two emotions.

On the one hand, I was excited for him. He had "launched" a child into a career and the ranks of adulthood.

On the other hand, I was feeling a huge amount of concern.  I had a "flash forward" to a moment at some point in the future when large corporations don't need internal audit services at all.

Would this accountant be able to re-invent herself before the job disappeared? Or would she get caught in the wave of disruption?

Blockchain was on my mind even more than usual as I was poring through a 135 page report on it and its potential disruptive powers by the folks at Credit Suisse. Among many of the reports I've read, I have found this one to be exceedingly reasonable and at the same time, seriously acknowledging of what (in my mind at least) is a foregone conclusion.

And it seems like I'm an increasing minority, which I guess is both good and bad ;-)

I haven't read it yet, but it seems like Reid Hoffman feels the same way.

That's neither here nor there.

What really hit me as I listened to my friend was a feeling of wonder: do he and his daughter even know that this wave of disruption to any trusted service (that's what a 3rd party internal audit is) is amassing offshore?

Blockchains and Kickstarting Entrepreneurship

August 16, 2016 View Comments

I read this post from Fred Wilson about how 90% of Kickstarter projects are actually shipped.

That struck me as remarkable in and of itself.

But then I started to combine that with the possibility for blockchains and tokens to provide immutable evidence of ownership.

So, in a blockchain-driven world of Kickstarter projects, you have evidence that you are entitled to the right level of reward on Kickstarter...and, if you need the cash or the product looks particularly promising, you can actually trade that right to someone else.

That's cool and I think it could actually make it even easier for entrepreneurs to start companies.  They can sell different asset class shares (e.g. common and premium stock) in a low-cost way that was previously only available to larger companies.

This simplifies fundraising and management of shareholder information.

In short, a world where kickstarter is but the tip of the iceberg enabling people to attempt entrepreneurial innovation and fund it in a myriad of ways.

A tale of 2 email pitches….

August 15, 2016 View Comments

Let me share two email pitches I received recently and offer why I think one works…and one doesn’t.

 

Here’s #1

 

Subject: I dare you to watch this video

 

Jeremy,

Thanks for checking out this email. I have been trying to get in touch with someone at Sprinklr for awhile now and today I came across your title and contact information. 

I'm going to do my best to not try to be that annoying sales guy.  However I do have a job to do and that is to generate interest in xxxxxx.  Instead of trying to explain everything we do in a brief email the best way to find out what we do is check out this video demo below.  It only takes about 5 minutes.

Demo for Jeremy at Sprinklr

I'm sure you get many sales emails, I hope this is one that gets your attention and you view our demo.

Thanks,

 

 

Here’s #2
 

Subject: Pitch Book and Hustle

 

TLDR:Link

“That pitch was an un-fucking-mitigated disaster.”

We had just finished an amazing love-fest with one of the world’s most successful non-fiction publishers in the world. Our literary agent’s irritation caught us off-guard as xxx, xxx and I were high-fiving each other when the elevator door opened on the ground floor.

Now confused, we began speed-walking through the lobby to catch a ride to our next pitch in lower Manhattan.

“We cannot do that again.” continued our agent xxxx as he flagged down a cab. The five of us surrounded the cab in the middle of 6th Avenue morning traffic and hopped in.

*BOOM*

We all heard the unmistakable sound of metal crunching metal. Looked at one another wide-eyed, had we been hit by a car?  Anyone hurt?

No. Nope.

xxxx had, however, impaled the cab in the next lane with the corner of his door. The two cabbies began loudly swearing at each other, completely ignoring us.

We abandoned the cab as the cabbies faced off, and we sprinted across the street to ambush another cab headed south.

“Hey. Were you guys involved in that accident?” asked our cabbie over his shoulder.

We shrugged.

“No idea what you’re talking about, buddy.”

* * * LINK****

At the next pitch, I -- may or may not -- have gotten into a shouting match with one of the publishers.

And, well, that’s how Day 2 started in NYC as xxxx, xxxx and I pitched 16 publishers over three days with our agent, xxxxx of Company.

We had a lot of fun, learned a ton about the publishing and closed a fabulous book deal with Company 2.

And that's what I wanted to share with you today: what the three of us, xxxx, xxxx, and xxxx, see going on around us is a small group of people doing well, and this is troubling.

Some of these people are doing exceptionally well—some are even our close friends and clients, people we respect. And an ocean of others, some of them insanely talented people, are struggling to move beyond paycheck to paycheck and keep the promises they made to themselves and their families. We see too many people repressed by irrational and incessant fears, stifled by an unwillingness to take more risk, trapped by tough choices about their futures.

What’s happened to their dreams? Why are so many good, hard-working people going nowhere so fast while so few prosper? What’s the difference between the successful and the unfulfilled? Something is broken here. We want to fix it and in the process help thousands of people the world over become better dreamers and more confident doers.

So how do we possibly find a way to break free and achieve lasting success and fulfillment on our terms?

The only thing standing between us and fulfillment of our dreams is self-imposed friction, a poison that saps our willingness to step out of what feels comfortable.

Our book NAME is the antidote.

--Link

You are receiving this email because you signed up for emails at 
URL1 or URL 2 or have participated in workshops held by xxxx.

Our mailing address is:

Our telephone:
number

Unsubscribe  from this list:Unsubscribe link

Forward this email to a friend:Link

Update your profile: Link

 

 

Why #2 is Better Than #1

#1 is, well, boring. It’s an effort to be personal, but it’s a . It’s common and cliché. It’s almost more about him, “I have a job to do.”

 

#2 on the other hand is a STORY.

It’s long…it violates almost every rule of email today…yet it’s engaging. It’s emotional. It draws me in. I can relate. I bet you can as well.  It taps into an eternal yearning, going below the surface of “I want to sell you something.”

 

Lesson:

If you’re interesting and personal (in the way you’d talk to your friend, not a job interview), you can move people to do what you want while simultaneously helping them achieve what they want.

Estonia: the E-residency killer app....

August 12, 2016 View Comments

....hasn't been invented yet.

Estonia's program is cutting-edge and innovative in its concept. But, to go from the 10,000 people who are very early adopters and innovators, the country has to find a "killer app."  You need to be able to do something with it.

I've had it for over a year and aside from logging on to the e-residency portal, I haven't been able to really use it.

I did see e-residency offered as a form of log-in on bitnation but a fringe, semi-anarchist site isn't going to get the job done.

For some people, particularly those in eastern Europe or countries with poor banking infrastructure and who have a business interest, it is of immediate value.

For many individuals in the Western world who don't operate their own businesses, however, that use case still needs to be discovered.

I'm going to set up a company ($175 fee) and then a bank account for that company (I tried to set up a personal one, but that was a failure)...but honestly, that's more for kicks than practical value and to "stress test" the experience.

I wonder, then, if e-residency is really better suited specifically for small business owners outside of the EU who would use it to run their businesses virtually.

If that's the case, maybe you market via the SBA (i.e. 'how to expand your business to Europe most cost-effectively) and focus on 3rd world countries that want to export.  

That may be the best way for Estonia to generate investment and tax revenues.

Alternatively, the idea of a trusted identity is something that intrigues me a great deal.  Would a company like Facebook or Twitter or someone like that create a partnership that would leverage e-residency to create an even higher level of verfiication (or essentially they could outsource their "verified" work to Estonia-- see 'government as a service') for their networks?

If they did, would that add more value to it? Would it reduce anonymity? Would a place like Reddit or Steem use it to reduce trolling?

Would Amazon or eBay want it to know that people are more likely to pay or deliver their goods so they could get extra ratings or stars in their profiles?

Knowing the seller is verified by Estonia-an actual government- could be a differentiator for these platforms and for its customers.

Whatever it is, to 'cross the chasm' to the 10 million mark, is going to require something that anyone can use and benefit from...and do it quickly. 

Estonia did this already internally when they launched the Digital ID program (a discount on public transport for those w/an ID)...now they need to mirror this for the e-ID.

Estonia: Necessity is the mother of...

August 11, 2016 View Comments

You’ve heard it. Invention.

 

I think seeing tiny Estonia (1.3 million people) in action reminded me of that.  They know they can’t compete globally without it.  They don’t have enough people, land, or natural resources.

 

And, when it comes to national defense, they are outnumbered 150:1 by Russia.

 

They can’t just throw bodies at the problem.

 

It reminded me of Israel.  Same idea.

 

Too small is a problem. But big enough to be small and small enough to be big…that’s the balance.