musings & critique about hi-tech, academia, building startups, and a journal to building eKita
Friday, August 31, 2012
I just have to make a short post here - a bit off-topic, about how amazing Singapore is.

The city itself is definitely a spectacle alone.
More beautiful skycrapers huddled together in seeming synchronicity I have never before seen.
The city is very new, obviously. Singapore itself is now 47 years old - something that is currently being celebrated with banners and flags all over the city.

I will definitely have to be here for its 50th birthday. Perhaps by then eKita will be based here and so will I.

A common phrase here that the locals seem to have ingrained into them goes "everything just works"...and it does. Busses, subways, everything is on time. People queue automatically for even the smallest things - like waiting for a taxi.
In fact everything works so well here - that people dont actually need to think all that much. Not to be negative, of course. I'm sure many people use that brain power to think of other things instead of the mundane trivialities in life that aught to be automated anyway.
It is a high-tech city with an efficiency level rarely seen anywhere else, and it is also very green. Singapore is indeed the garden city. With penthouse gardens and garden balconies even a common sight amongst the city skyline.

Singaporeans also seem to be incredibly happy with their fair city - which of course they should be. I havent actually spoken to a single true local here yet who felt like they wanted to move elsewhere - and yes, they do travel quite a bit. When you live in a country that is in fact a city (and an island) - taking even a short vacation means a passport and flight is involved; so might as well go anywhere. It appears quite common that Singaporeans go to essentially all random corners of the globe - so they have a good deal to compare to: and yes, they definitely should be happy with their fair city.

The SG startup scene is also quite a-buzz. Though it seems the majority of startups are built by foreigners, the city provides quite the benefits for both locals and foreigners (especially if they become permanent residents). Government matching 1:1 for investments into startups is available for angel-type investments. There is also an entity called the NRF ( which provides a clean $500k for startups that get verified and invested into for a mere $89k by one of the accredited incubators.
In Singapore the term incubator is not the traditional incubator either - it simply means it is some sort of fund or partnership of investors.

It seems almost too good to be true actually. There are a few catches - for example one must have an SG-national or PR (permanent resident holder) as local director of your company. There are easy ways to sort this out however, and it just takes some time to find the right local partner and make a good friend and ally. Which is actually what I am currently doing myself.

People here are quite friendly, fairly occupied in their own lives, and to sum-up life in this city in 3 words I could most properly offer up: safe, clean, & quality.

Sunday, August 26, 2012
Apple has finally let the cat out of the bag.

The carnivorous giant has finally showed its teeth with seething aggression.
This day we should rejoice. For it is the beginning of the end of this Edisonian vulcher.

With it's market share shrinking and long term prospectus without Steve at the helm diminishing its cult status (that it worked so hard for so many years to brainwash followers into!) - its only prerogative left is to show its true colors and lunge bloodthirstily at all it's counterparts who under it's thumb have slipped free to create humanity's real innovations and progress.

As my grand father always said: progress its inevitable, those who resist it are not only doomed to failure but are the bane of humanity. For humanity strives towards progress. It is our nature and what makes us great.

So long Apple. your treacherous ways are revealed for all to see. You've set your own doomsday clock in motion.
The only pity left for your carcass will be that you werent fortunate enough to be raised by someone as noble as my grandfather.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

I rarely do this: but a facebook thread just really piqued my interest and I think this bit of info is a valid article in itself.

The problem?
Most places in the world trying to build innovative knowledge-based economies are struggling with the actual understanding of what those economies look like.
(I'll give you a hint: it doesnt look like this)

I'm going to use 3 scenarios to prove a point here:
Luxembourg - which will act as the extreme case of basically all of western Europe. (All of western Europe is similar enough - so read Luxembourg as Europe if you want.)
Thailand - which is one of the only places now in SE Asia without a startup scene. (Even Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia are sprouting - and of course the local 800-lb gorilla Singapore is way ahead: one of the top 6 spots in the world.)
And India - which has a HUGE tech industry, LOTS of engineers, and enormous amount of capital and connections.

So whats the problem? Why are these places - which are as I said simply examples out of hundreds of places in the world - who are trying to build innovative knowledge-based economies, not succeeding in doing so?

First I'll tell you why NOT...
Its not a financial issue - as I saw in Luxembourg a few months ago (highest GDP country in the world, people still live in Chateau's and Castles, it's a private banking haven)...Thailand has investor permanent residency visas for foreigners who want to enjoy one of the highest qualities of life that Thailand currently offers, and all they have to do is invest. Theres lots of em here from Chinese to Americans and Europeans. India has some of the wealthiest people/families in the world - and especially in Asia, who also have some of the widest range of funds and capital available.

It's also not a technical ability issue - Luxembourg is in the middle of a cradle of the best scientific and engineering schools in Europe - Bangkok has close to a dozen technical universities pumping out 100,000 skilled engineers per year - India? yea dont even get me started.

It's not either a legal issue - Luxembourg has the "best IP model in the west", and very efficient tax and business reforms. Thailand has very easy laws to work around if you have only a minimal amount of solid backing. India...they dont even make copies of the paperwork. (OK - not literally, but I know companies operating there for close to 10 years who dont actually exist on paper in India. Theyre doing fine. Never had a problem.)

So why is it that startups simply - dont exist (for the most part) in these environments which are actually incredibly supportive for them?

I answered this discussion thread on facebook as such:
I read a very good article by Dr Jay Chunsuparerk last night concerning this topic exactly - which I actually am glad to hear because this is why I moved our company out here.
The potential and eagerness to do something *BIG* and meaningful - not just outsourced consulting or web-dev shops - but actual PRODUCT companies - is where we need to drive things in order for a true startup scene to flourish here.

It is a very wide misunderstanding here (and I've seen it all over the world - its not unique to Thailand) that starting up a business, filing for a tax number, and selling your SKILLS or SERVICES = a startup.

That is not at all what a startup is - that is a services company.
A startup, by definition and purpose, is NOT a services company.
An entrepreneur, likewise, is NOT someone who builds a company that sells services (at whatever scale: large or small). An entrepreneur is someone who INNOVATES a new kind of business model, and VALIDATES it.

Taken from Paul Graham himself:
A *startup* is a TEMPORARY human organization that is actively SEARCHING for a SCALABLE, REPEATABLE, business model.
A *company* is a DEFINED human organization that has already FOUND, and is EXECUTING it's repeatable business model.
...and I'll add one of my own which I've used for awhile now:
A *consultancy* is a TEMPORARY human organization that provides SERVICES and SKILLS to a startup or company - but has no business model of its own - a consultancy's business model is created by the market - not itself.

What we are actually seeing in Thailand - is service companies or consultancies (whichever you like to call them).
Service companies are selling SKILLS, and ABILITIES - these are intangible, non-physical products which are only put to use by OTHER organizations who actually come up with the INNOVATION to building new products.
Service companies are outsourced labour.
Consultant/service companies are therefor very crucial - as there is always going to be holes in companies that need filling; and there will DEFINITELY always be holes in startups that need filling.
Consultancies fill these holes.

However, it is completely wrong to call a consultancy or service company a startup. Likewise just as wrong to call the people behind it entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs = innovators. Service companies are not.
I - for example - outsource my financial services as long as I can when I build a startup. I outsource CFO roles completely. I am currently using E&Y to take care of all my financial needs. I wont hire an internal CFO until we absolutely have to - or until a great opportunity crosses our path to do so.
E&Y cannot be called a startup however. (Even if it was a smaller, newer, firm that I used instead)
It is a services company.

Likewise - a website dev shop cannot be called a startup.
If I'm a business and I need a website, hiring a company to build it is the exact same thing as hiring E&Y to do my books as a tech business.
They are both service companies.
They are not startups.

Service companies are very needed, of course - startups cannot survive without them! They are the first crucial part of building a startup ecosystem. So - would-be-entrepreneurs, take this lesson to heart: treat your service companies well! They deserve our respect.

I've been training budding entrepreneurs for a long time. Either directly involved in their startups investing/advising/mentoring (sometimes even coding) or even just by academic means..... But it never ceases to amaze me that everytime I go somewhere new - I have to repeat myself all over again. "Service companies are not startups"

Here in SEA the very definition of a startup is still something that needs to be grasped.
That is why there are, just like Adrian stated: not very many actual startups to invest in.
Its not about substance - its about actually understanding what a startup is.
So many people dont understand that yet - and therefor, their companies appear to be "not so substantial".
It's because they arent really startups to begin with.
(...and they shouldnt be needing investment anyway unless their services are simply so bad that nobody will hire their labour!)

Of course - there is also the problem of helping those few startups who are innovating something new - to understand how to build products for a global market.
Thailand is in a very good position right now though. I am excited to be here. I am fairly positive I will build my company here. Because the people here are respectful, willing to learn, and easy to work with.

So - lets get busy and fill these holes. and many other things we are rolling out are here to do just that. They work. Lets get busy.

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Friday, August 17, 2012
I've known a long time about the Finnish Model of education - as I am not only Scandinavian as well - but from Finland's closest neighbor: Sweden.
A fact that bears more semblance than just geography, too - (secondary national language of Finland: Swedish; and Finland itself used to be Swedish territory).

But history or national prestige isnt why I am writing this - in fact the real prestige out of this article will undoubtedly go to Finland, and you will soon discover why.

I will take a moment to divulge what was written at the bottom of this post however:
Thirty years ago, Finland’s education system was in the same sorry state that America’s is today. It was mediocre and inequitable and relied on many of the same measures of success that we use here, like standardized testing and teacher tracking. Teachers had varying degrees of education and students didn’t have access to equal education resources. They’ve managed to change all of that in just a few decades. Regardless of whether the U.S. can import some of what makes Finland’s schools so successful, they can get hope from the rapid changes to the Finnish education system that show the true and lasting impact smart reforms can have on a country’s educational potential.
I highly suggest reading the entire article, too. So here it is again...

To continue onto my point however, with the article above in mind, the whole goal of educators wherever they are is to in fact improve their models, efficiency, and results - is it not?
So - call it obvious if you will (though it is apparently not obvious enough that it's happened - food for thought) - but: why not create a platform or channel of communication whereby educators can share those methods that in fact work the best? And the content created by them?

I'm touching again, of course, on the crucial goal we at eKita have to creating a global platform by which the world's academic standard will be increased by simple means of exposure, collaboration, and sharing of resources, tools, & methods by the worlds teachers.

When teachers are able to share across borders seamlessly - which of course is the reason the WWW was invented in the first place - there is a drastic measure of improvement in student results. I argue that this improvement can even take place when local policy isn't the same on both ends, and can in fact pressure local policy to adopt the more successful model.
Obviously - some teachers have better tools, training, and resources than others; but in our current information age where we can assume every teacher has internet access: a platform to easily share information, content, methods, and back it up with results is highly in order - dont you think?

The reverse affect also takes place which those same teachers (with more tools, training, and resources) are also able to share more of their results, methods, and successes so that teachers in less fortunate areas can learn how to improve their methods.
With a look at platforms of communication like Quora - which are educational as a by-product - isnt it obvious that something similar, with vetted input from the world's teachers and academia, will eventually make a strong showing to - well, the entire world - which models are the best, and most successful?

I believe quite strongly that it will.
And that is exactly what we are building into the architecture and vision of eKita.

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This one got me fired up.

Before reading this post, you'll have to read the article I am actually responding to.
Which can be found here:

And my response-with-vengeance

All of your reasons for why online education is apparently flawed and doomed to failure - whereby people will somehow conform to your opinion, realize their mistake at even caring about it, and revert to old institutional models of ivory tower education - are nothing but biased opinion from a very institutionalized worldview attempting to attack the new in order to cling to the old.
Read: your reasons make no logical sense first of all and are simply an unsupported (in reality at least) attack on what you view as a threat to your comfortable existence of fascist-styled "education".
Conclusion: your time is over, either adapt or get rolled over. It's obvious from the sense of desperation in your post that you, too, understand this. So why the charade?

While I agree with the original statement: online classes cant replace universities - as an actual academic I have much more valid reasons than you do (are you an actual academic? I find it very hard to believe from your post).

For example, just to give you some real, actual reasons:
1) Labwork: how will a physics student get access to physics labs and actually do the hands-on work needed to learn physics?
Universities will always exist for this reason alone: they are able to pool resources and be centers of RESEARCH and actual ACADEMIA.

2) Accreditation & Accountability: What you briefly - almost - touched on but fell a bit short and failed at was to analyze how universities (schools in general for that matter) bring accountability for people's learning AND teaching - both of which are incredibly important.
Likewise via that very accountability comes the true merit of accreditation.

Your reasons are actually meaningless to your original argument - in order - because:
1) It is already too easy to cheat in regular schools - and being online or not really doesnt change that at all.
Cheating, and likewise protecting against it (ie: policing) isnt the role of an institution of learning. The role of an institution of learning is to MAKE SURE ITS STUDENTS LEARN!
How can you call yourself an academic when you openly have no understanding of this?

2) Star students can shine even moreso using social media and global connectivity. The entire world can know of their status. Look at code-sharing sites like github and stackoverflow: those are still students, people are still on there to "learn how to code" just as much as teachers are there to teach how to code. Those who achieve the most are known around the world and their advice and participation is eagerly sought after.
Github is actually becoming the new CV. I dont want to look at a piece of paper when I hire an engineer - I want to see her/his work.
Just like artists, architects, and designers have used portfolios and examples of their work for decades (centuries?) to provide confirmation of their skills - now so too are engineers, writers, and yes - even economists like you claim to be: real ones have actual tangible evidence of their abilities. Not a CV.
Your view of how the working world works seems to be incredibly far behind the times...

3) This one made me laugh out loud - no really. Employers??? Have you ever employed anyone? I have built the teams behind 7 companies, selected participants for events, & hired employees for many NGO/NPOs. In these spaces throughout my life, I've hired roughly 300 people - and interviewed well over 4000. I'm not an HR person either. I'm a serial entrepreneur. Contrary to your very opinionated article: I actively EMPLOY people who DO think out of the box, who DO question authority, and who DO prove their skills and ability, and more importantly: teamwork ability OUTSIDE of the traditional model. Why? Because the traditional model produces factory workers.
I dont hire factory workers, and the future industry wont need to either as we are increasingly making technology to do all our automation.
Employers - that is, REAL ones, like me, actively look for people that do not conform to your fascist mentality of obedience. We build robots and automative tools for that.
Humans are not robots. Despite people like you who want to make them that, humans will always resist such work ethic and pressure to conform them.
Reistance is futile. You cannot win. Human potential will never be satisfied with repetition & structured trivialities.
The fact is that each generation is increasingly smarter than the last.
If you are aging, and arent tirelessly pushing yourself to learn and stay on top every day of your life - then your 20 year old students are much smarter than you, and you dont even have the slightest justification to be deciding what their lives should entail.
You should be listening to them. Engaging them. Stimulating them to help them learn - and guess what: you just might be surprised - because in teaching this way (which is now proven to be the most effective model of pedagogy, btw) you just might learn alot yourself.
So - about being an academic - Stop Lying.

4) This reason alone is the only argument you posed that actually holds valid for the reasons you mentioned, eg: PhD or masters thesis - how can a computer properly grade one? Even an essay or presentation should be given human attention, otherwise the grading (ie: feedback loop) mechanism isnt effective for the student. +1 there.
Though you understood the underlying issue of skilled-human necessity to evaluate other learning-human work, you still dont understand why.
This reason has nothing to do with online - or offline - education.
Online education can in fact automate and make the process of grading much more simple and easier for teachers. That is in fact a primary feature of well designed online learning platforms.
So you just lost this argument by fact of not understanding the actual argument.
Because you arent an academic. -1 there.

5) Wait - you are arguing that because students will buy dishwashers to free up their day TO STUDY MORE - it is a bad thing? That the "arms race" of students actively PUSHING themselves, and even SPENDING THEIR OWN POCKET MONEY to IMPROVE themselves is a bad thing?
Are you seriously going to continue pretending that you are an academic? Seriously???

Quite honestly if that is the view of you and your colleagues and your college/institution, then I will immediately make note of it and black list any student or prospective hire I ever see coming from your institution. Simply because of proximity to "teachers" as delusionally bent on fascist repression of progress and student potential as you have quite clearly explained that you are.

One brunt issue here is that you also failed to understand the underlying PURPOSE of the entire internet, and where online education is going.
Crediting students via online platforms is actually a whole lot easier than it is in the classroom.
Furthermore - online platforms provide so many bonuses - none of which we have discussed here (that completely overshadow in many regards anything that traditional institutions can provide); and we are ironically only arguing one side of the story, yet: you are still completely losing your own argument.

But let me just interject one facet of online learning platforms that a traditional school will never be able to match: *an increasing standard of global education*.
Thats right - online platforms reach people all around the world, continually providing content to a global audience who - on the right platforms also have a voice and ability to contribute to that content. This global collaboration is what is happening all over the world and has been for a long time - its what the internet is all about.
Are you going to actually proclaim that WIKIPEDIA is a BAD thing because it provides a platform for people to collaboratively SHARE KNOWLEDGE???

Because that is what you are in essence doing here.

Please dont call yourself an academic.
You are obviously more interested in your ivory tower position than the progress and potential of your students.
I feel deeply insulted by your ignorant and short-sighted post.

It always starts out this way. Slowly, the resistant antiques of us begin to accept the inevitable.
New technology is always laughed at first,
Staunchly resisted second,
and finally when they realize it is inevitable they become your cheerleaders.

LMS or CLMS systems - whichever you prefer to call them - are becoming more widely accepted as cloud-destined platforms, as the obviousness sinks into even the mainstream mind.
However, from a mainstream perspective it is still taking awhile for ERP and other fully fledged systems to make their appeal to this technologically unsavvy crowd - until now.

A good article on just this topic here:

...which has some excellent points I have long been pushing for the industry to realize.

Not least of which is the actual architectural design concept of cloud computing itself - which is not new by a longshot, actually.

Cloud is essentially the extrapolation of what institutions have already been doing for the last 5 to 10 years: co-locating resources to servers within their institution.
And if any of you were involved with institutions 10-15 years ago when this was considered a "new technology" - you will recall the huge amount of resistance and name-calling we future-thinking technologists got for pushing that agenda too.
Of course - thin clients coupled with robust server farms and remotely located resources are now the standard across most academic institutions.

Cloud simply does this to a global level - effectively outsourcing that co-location and all the services required to run it to an external entity (or - well - nobody is stopping you from building your own cloud, too...but thats rarely necessary - and much less cost effective of course).
This global mindset of course allows much more power in terms of connectivity and sharing of resources than did the precursor architecture of thin clients + server farms locally. It allows connectivity, sharing of data, content, and applications on a global level. No longer institutionalized.
The result of which is that there needs to be new software which captures the benefit of these new powerful channels of possibilities.
That is, not-at-all-ironically, still where education technology is far, far behind. It is also where the institutional education model is being disrupted on a pedagogic level. However, the software to support this process is still non-existant.

At eKita we are building something for the future where cloud based architecture for institutions is considered standard. Our global education platform is software that is designed to not only take advantage of this paradigm shift - but in fact facilitate it, as we will offer hybrid and private cloud services to institutions who need the most customizable and controllable features - simultaneously facilitating the disruption of the current academic model which is already happening.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

This one is part rant, part accurate analysis, and part cool-aid.

A recent workshop in DC on lean made me start thinking about this issue again and I spent a good deal of my time there investigating this question with a wide range of people (both involved - and not involved).
It all began with an opening-day pitch by a participant who wanted to work on a project, briefly described as:

"Lets help solve the education problems of the USA - lets build a tool to help facilitate learning by students and make it fun and social - to help stem the rapid decline of the US in the world education rankings (USA currently #22 in education)"
...this excellent, passionate pitch with an already working idea behind it - got no votes.
Which really by itself cried out one singular fact: education still just 'aint important/cool/fashionable/{insert whatever} in the USA.
This actual problem in itself ended up becoming the project that the only 3 people present at the 50+ workshop who were even so much as interested in education, worked on. The problem was quite simply "making educational achievement cool" - and an attempt to solve it was built over the weekend, turning into something called

Back to the main issue though: is education a serious topic yet for the USA? Because until education itself is a serious topic - education technology never will be.

I dont believe it is. In fact I'm not sure if it ever will be.

There are of course the evangelists, and champions of the cause - but we are far and few in-between, we are marginalized, we are often used for political points, and there is no interest by the people in positions to make positive changes to actually do so - or even so much allow it to happen.
"Red Tape" (ie: bureaucracy) is still a predominant force to be reckoned with in doing any educational based project, and it seems to only get thicker.

I spoke with Brainscape CEO Andrew Cohen and his team of 4, huddled in a small office space of about 10sqm, at a local shared office space called TheAlleyNYC about what his views on this were and why he chose to startup a company in the education tech sector in NY.
The main answer was that this was his community, and it seemed like the connections to doing something locally for him was the only question needing answering.
OK - understandable...and I fully admit that not many people are as dedicated as we are at eKita to making sure this works on a global scale - and we are pulling all stops to make sure we are in the right environment and market to do so - but the sheer resistance factor of doing this type of project out of the US - and especially NY (which has its own little ecosystem/mentality and behaves very incubated to the rest of the world) - should be a pretty heavy concern, or at least I would think - of aspiring edu-tech companies looking to setup there.
Apparently its not, and I believe this is more due to lack of experience and/or exposure internationally for at least the ones I've talked to.
I also talked with a few other startups and even long-established companies in edu-tech while out there - including TLC, Chalkable (ironically trying to do something similar to us), and I even noticed there is Socratic Labs out there too - a purely edu-tech focused accelerator (incubator?) type deal (no website yet, ironically).

At the end of the day it begs to question the differences between the US and basically everywhere else (OK - Europe and Asia at least) when it comes to education.
In Europe, where I have already ample experience in edu-tech both within institutions and now a growing experience outside - when tools and platforms are built for education, they are done quite seriously. When Lund University needed a new, cutting edge labratory toolset in 2002 to integrate with their already cutting-edge custom Linux OS for the science faculty - they pulled all stops and built an entire inhouse development team of software engineers (including me) and network experts to get it done. With a budget that would float your current day typical startup for 2 to 3 rounds of funding.
This is what I mean when I say serious.

The governmental ministries in education also have departments dedicated to advancing edu-tech within schools in general. Something the US does not have - and it is one of the only western countries that lacks it.
Israel even has its own private sector CET (Center for Education Technology) which has strong support and full collaboration from the government. They are also building an edu-tech incubator to help fund & build more edu-tech startups with support from their entire network of schools and infrastructure - which eKita was actually invited to join as one of the first 5 companies, but unfortunately it didn't quite fit us.

In Asia its even more intense. With the highest ratio of spenditure per capita on education (up to 70% of household income in some parts of Asia is spent on education) - and full government (federal and local) support as well as institutional interest in being truly cutting edge - the reality of it is that when doing something which has an obvious advancing factor for education tech in Asia: they roll out the red carpet.
Bureaucracy becomes a thing long distant, even in typically bureaucratic countries, and the funding for educational improvements is easily regarded as a highly lucrative sector by many (not nearly all, yet - but many).

So back to the original topic: will edu-tech in the US ever really become more than a ploy to gain political points, or a passionate ambition of the few, marginalized, evangelists and social champions?

Like this picture here undertones: staged "technical classrooms" posing for a picture that are rarely seen mainstream and are more commonly used for promotional brochures than actual learning.

I'm optimistic - so I'll leave my answer open, but I believe the facts speak for themself; at least for now.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Yes my doggies I know you've been waiting for it - the report of the final day @ LSM D.C.

The final day was indeed the most intense of them all. The air was buzzing all morning as teams wrapped together last chances at (in)validating assumptions by going out onto the streets, then mapping out the results and pivoting one last time based on what was learned.

Quickly after lunch the teams were all required to upload final presentations that they'd put together based on all things learned over the weekend. It was damn incredible how drastically every single project changed from the first day pitches. Some projects did not even remotely resemble their original counterparts!

With exactly 5:00 minutes each to present their projects, and an additional 3:00 minutes for Q&A (and I mean exactly!) - teams were anxiously practicing their pitches and putting together their presentations.

At roughly 15:00 everyone cornered into the presentation room - with quite a few more guests, investors, and interested attendees - making venue pretty packed and focused on that little pull-down presentation canvas.

Check here for all the photos in instagram fashion

From start to finish:
 Sporting their DIY company T-Shirts pre-pitch time, LOLDreams...
Pat Sheridan, CEO of Modus Create, a very interesting development team of industry experts pushing agile development to its limits.
A shot from behind of Jonathan Perrelli, one of the damn coolest incubator directors and investors I've met.

So - what you've all been waiting for: Final Pitch Day!

Starting off with team, who started the presentations with a bang! (Sorry but I love seeing women founders up on stage kicking ass)
Factsheets solve a huge pain button for the US government (and entire public) by providing straight-forward-simple factsheets on how government policies affect YOU! One of my favorites!
Team EventKick pivoted quite alot during the weekend, starting from something resembling a wedding planner and invitation/RSVP tool to an app that helps remind you and your connections of the meetings you promised to show up at. Lots of features and integrations planned forward, and lots of things (in)validated!
Team IAGOZ pivoted wide circles around their target customer/user (yes - same target for both) of the "professional male" demographic. Ultimately resulting in a service which will clone your favorite shirt that fits you the best, into an exact copy (without trademark tags of course) or any other fashion you want...
Up next - Crowdfinder, which aims to help you find the crowds that you might want to avoid - or join.
With location based tracking and a few other features planned, the pressure point for them was to solve people's wasted time waiting in lines by helping people find the stores less crowded...
This next one won a cool factor - LeapList.
Ever get a gift you thought was crap? What does one do? Ever not know what kind of gift to give someone?
LeapList makes it easy: make a profile with the things you really want to do before you kick-the-bucket, and have your friends, family, whoever - help fund it. One little bit at a time...
Ready to take a trip? A tour? Thats just the beginning of course - with the next team that I was actually the one to give them their name: Groovl. Group Travel For Less is their motto - find trips that others also want to take and consequently the group buying effect lowers all of your prices! Groovl will soon expand into other areas of group buying as well!
Ever need a Taxi and cant find one? How about the opposite that you need a taxi and can find 100's but they are all full? How about seeing those long lines of taxi's outside hotels waiting for clients?
Big problem, Simple solution, with Concierge: help taxis and taxi-seekers be in the right place at the right time.
The next team didnt actually come up with a final solution for anything - but what they did do was definitely win the prize of most invalidated assumptions - aptly named: Invalidator, had a long list and chunk of data on products that really wouldnt be useful, which they had a few new ideas on to use for something that would be...stay tuned I guess??? :) was up next with a solution for everyone who ever wanted to find a specific spice, herb, or special cooking item and just couldnt manage to find it. Look it up, find it in your local area, and help others by tagging those rare ingredients where you do find them.
This next team definitely got the laughs. LOLDreams, an entertaining portal where people share their craziest dream stories and get to enjoy those of others - already launched and active by day 3 with users posting their dreams online and ranking other's. An energetic team with very friendly demeanour, check it out at
This group was after my own heart: started with an attempt to solve the US education decline (US now ~#22 in education) by figuring out the real problem.
It ends up, the real problem is that being smart just aint cool in the good-ol-US-of-A. So to fix that, students can now aim high, achieve their goals, and get rewarded for it - like, a personal channel and getting to know your favorite celebrity perhaps? Smartly won the top LSM prize by actually not only finding tons of young students and their parents who loved the concept - but actually getting a local celebrity (Jonathan Perrelli) to make a personalized video for a local who had only dreamed of meeting him.
Smartly is also going to integrate with eKita to provide them with the full academic workflow statistics and social graph data they need to systematically reward students for over-achievement. Many celebrities are already eager to help out.

Last but not least - another team after my heart with another education based solution: Quume, where your academic & professional accreditations, achievements, and merits are verified and organized. A great team motivated to solve the process of continuing education and knowledge seekers in providing a simple platform for everyone to prove they know what they know.
To boost their project up they also received a LOI from yours truly (thats me), as eKita will very much support them by hosting their application on our platform.

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Monday, August 6, 2012
Day 2 of LSM @ DC was intense!

A very, very long day full of action packed lean learning. Some good workshops, one by myself on ideation and techniques of how to use it in customer development; but otherwise a day full of participants getting out of the building and talking to customers, learning, and pivoting fast.

We've got everything from an educational project to help make education cool - a realization after attempting a learning platform that nobody would really use it because getting high grades and being smart in the US culture isnt considered cool. So the pivot is now working towards making high-grades and academic achievement highly rewarded by being able to have private channels of communication with student's favorite celebrities. Want to meet your favorite celebrity? Get straight A's and you will, on!

Obviously this is a very interesting project for us at eKita.

There's also group travel buying project Groovel (name change imminent: there's already a who help people looking to travel in groups get it that much cheaper - by group buying the travel and tour packages.
A similar concept to what Elan is doing over at

Overall we've got about 8 projects here, with some very interesting ideas here that are evolving into solid solutions for painful problems - right in front of our eyes.

With its hyper-drive model of invalidating and validating assumptions about product->market fit and customer->product fit, LSM is definitely a success at making you learn lean!

The only cave-at I have so far about the intense 3-day approach of this is that there are lots of false negatives and false positives in the testing process. Something that I've seen happening here quite alot with teams, and have mentioned to them to keep this in mind: dont necessarily throw away an assumption simply because of a quick street-test that invalidates it!!!

All in all though - learning the techniques and methods is the goal of LSM - and at that, it is excelling incredibly well.

Participants are quickly becoming lean startup machines!

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Sunday, August 5, 2012
Trip to New York & DC: arrival just on time for Day 1 of Starting Bloc ( conference, located in a very cool venue called AlleyNYC smack dab in the middle of Manhattan.

StartingBloc was definitely a cool thing to see - with a jam packed venue of roughly 100+ people coming in from all over the country (even a few from outside) to partake in their 5 day event focusing on the creation of social enterprises. AKA Social Entrepreneurialism. Something I'm quite a fan of myself as a model for sustainable business.

In the evening, LSM hosted a session of a new 4-week accelerator program in which they hold evening sessions of leanstartup practice, teaching, and hands-on work with a very low ratio of participants to mentors.
It is an interesting take on LSM being able to cater to people who want to learn the principles and put them to work but in a more casual and less intense compact manner that their 3-day intensive weekend workshops offer.

I will update with some photos when I'm back in NY, as I was so exhausted and at the same time excited to see all that stuff going on (and people to talk to) that I didnt actually take any shots.

But I did take these from the place I stayed the night, a cool French guy named Arthur who works at the U.N. and has an absolutely beautiful view from his really nice flat.


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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day 1 of LSM ( in Washington D.C. was quite a thriller. Hosted in a fairly interesting (and relatively new) incubator in central D.C. called, the D.C. startup scene looks to be growing and thriving.

I came over here (all the way from Bangkok) to learn what they are doing and start working with them as an MC (master of ceremonies; role description: run the show). It is indeed different than expected but in some quite positive ways. They definitely seem to have nailed down a very functional leanstartup method and even after the first day - which was actually less than a half day (started at 18:30, ended at 23:00) I could see teams grasping leanstartup methodology and techniques actively.

LSM looks like a very hands-on, learn by doing workshop. Which is great because the learn by doing philosophy is of course what I'm all about (its even our 3 Day Startup signature). The team running  LSM is also really fun. A young group of people who have really researched leanstartup well and as the saying goes they do what they preachLSM itself is a startup that very visibily uses its own techniques - and has done a fairly impressive job at scaling and executing new projects that adapt and improve in real-time.

Day 1 of LSM@D.C. saw participants come together, get an introduction presentation by Trevor, after which they are all required to sign a pledge that helps to break them out of the mental mold and contributes to forcing them to adapt and learn leanstartup techniques over the weekend.
From that point, quick idea pitches are given by participants, of projects they want to work on.
A typical voting mechanism takes place and teams are formed.
From that point, a bit of information is given and a plan of action (assignment) is given to the teams: to start using LSM's custom leanstartup canvas (components taken, customized, and added from the Business Model Canvas method) to start learning fast by failing faster (a very interesting and well-branded slogan for LSM indeed).

Owly Images

Brant Cooper, a fairly active evangelist of leanstartup also skyped in to give a nice Q&A session a bit later in the evening, while iconically sipping a beer in his backyard out in California.

Stay tuned...there's 2 days left, and more to come! (and here's a nice arbitrary photo of a view from TheFort;)

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