Living in an AR world

Hyper-Reality

Hyper-Reality

This video caught my eye this week. It’s a short film made by Keiichi Matsuda. He describes it as “Hyper-Reality presents a provocative and kaleidoscopic new vision of the future, where physical and virtual realities have merged, and the city is saturated in media.”

I think the biggest innovation in the coming decade will come out of display technology. I don’t know how it’s going to look like – that’s like predicting the smartphone in 1990. We know where it’s heading, but do not know exactly how it’s going to look like. There’s certainly a lot of technology developed which is going to help shape that future. We have AR, VR, OLED (most notably flexible displays) and a slew of other more niche display tech like holographic displays, short throw projectors, and plasma emission displays.

The question is how we’re going to use that technology in the real world. This video is inspiring potential vision on how that future can look like. I’m taking an optimistic attitude even though it might look a bit overwhelming.

 

Keep your eyes on the prize

The road not taken

The road not taken

A long time ago, I was chatting with an HR manager at Philips. He was a veteran. At the time Shapeways was a Philips venture and we were located on their campus in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

I asked him what in his opinion the biggest mistakes was people make in their careers.

His answer was foregoing opportunities because the opportunity did not fit the career path they set out for themselves.

Employees come in from college with a general idea on how to they want their career to progress and they are laser-focused on following that career path. In their minds it is the path which they laid out for themselves is the only way to get where they want to end up.

In reality this often not the case and the path is not always as linear as you think it is. According to the HR manager, it often led to people getting stuck in a position without a clear path forward. For instance, their business unit might be showing neutral growth or – worse – negative growth. In the past, they passed on lateral moves because they were not upward nor fitted the path they set out to walk on.

His advice was to always seize the opportunity. Opportunities often arise out of success. In his career, most successful careers were people who took every opportunity which was presented to them – lateral or not.

The lesson is that whatever you do, keep your goals in mind but don’t worry too much about the path.

Keep that in mind when you fundraise

VCs are not always on your side

VCs are not always on your side

Last week, there was much debate in tech about an article from the NY Times. It was about a movement of not taking money from VCs because of the pressure on valuation and growth. It’s a valid point – not sure if I would call it a movement at this point but alas.

It did remind me of something else which I tell people who are fundraising for their company. It’s a word of caution specifically for people fundraising the first time.

VCs invest in your company. They expect a handsome return. Their interests are aligned to that sole goal.

People like to talk about how well they connected with a partner of a VC firm, but ultimately it’s not about you. Of course, in early-stage companies the company is you. But as the company grows that’s no longer the case. You’re the founder and often a C-level executive, but you’re not irreplaceable. If your company is doing well, they’ll keep you on. Otherwise, they don’t hesitate to push you out of your position.

When push comes to shove, they’re not your friend. They’re the friend of the company. They want the company to succeed. As long as you’re 100% part of the success, they’re your friend too. Over time that dynamic changes.

Is that a bad thing? No, it’s not. It’s healthy and what supposed to happen. They’re investors in your company and expect a return. VCs raise their funds from LPs who expect a return on their investment. It’s the cycle of venture funding.

But it’s good to realize they do not always have your back. They’re not your friend. Keep that in mind when you fundraise.

Blockchain and crypto can be a solution

Decentralization to centralization

Decentralization to centralization

This morning I was reading an article by Chris Dixon (VC at a16z) at Wired. I wholeheartedly agree with his reasoning. This is my take on it.

The basic internet technologies like HTTP (to run websites), TCP/IP (to let devices communicate between each other) and DNS (to map domain names to a server) are all open. It’s one of the major reasons the internet could grow as big as it did.

Most of the service layer of the internet like servers and routers, run open source software or are mostly built on of open source software. Android and many other devices out there run on Linux which is an open source kernel – the heart of the operating system.

But the application layer where we interact on the internet has gone closed. Platforms like Facebook, Amazon, and Google are all closed. The push for the decentralization stems from this and the excitement around blockchain and crypto is because of the promise to open up these platforms.

The problem with these closed platforms is the arbitrary nature of governing of access to these platforms. I call it arbitrary not because there is no reason for the way they’re governed (mostly to maximize profit), but the effects the governing has on the users of those platforms.

Facebook has changed their strategy around the newsfeed a few times and the fall out among the business users was significant. Take for instance Zynga which went big on social gaming on Facebook and then Facebook decided to deprioritize social gaming in their feeds.

Amazon is battling with their marketplace suppliers on multiple fronts. One of them is the absorption of successful staple items into their AmazonBasics brand taking away market from their own suppliers. Also, they’re battling with fraudulent behavior on their platforms like fake reviews which lead to suspension and withholding of revenue. In turn that got weaponized where vendors leave fake reviews with competitors to push them out of the marketplace.

Google changes their search algorithm all the time. In Europe, they’ve been accused and fined for deprioritizing search results which compete with their own.

Apple has a tendency to do the same by leveraging to their platform to push their own services while making it hard or impossible for competitors to get access. The HomePod only supports Apple Music for now.

The problem is that these large platforms see the innovation happening on the edges of their platform and absorb them into their own business while pushing out existing companies. This makes perfect business sense but it also makes them unreliable business partners.

But most of all, it absolutely kills innovation. Why put effort into building and launching a successful new service when you can predict that in the future the internet giants will take it away. It’s not a premise for success and it’s hard to raise funding for that.

Blockchain and crypto might be a solution. Time will tell. As Chris Dixon writes, “It took twenty years for open source software to supplant proprietary software, and it could take just as long for open services to supplant proprietary services.” Regardless, this problem needs to be solved. Internet regulation is never fundamentally going to solve this problem, it just stems the tide.

The promise of decentralization makes the tech community including myself so excited about blockchain and crypto. It’ll free us from the grasp of these internet giants and let us innovate again.

It’s complicated

Holland != Netherlands and that’s fine

Holland != Netherlands and that’s fine

The Netherlands is a tiny country with only 17 million people. Most people in the US would not even be able to point it out on the map and that’s understandable – most Dutch people won’t be able to pinpoint South Dakota or Wisconsin on the map either.

The confusion is about Holland and The Netherlands. It’s not helpful that the Dutch government promotes The Netherlands as Holland. Also, most people in the US do not have a real idea what Holland or The Netherlands is. Usually, I just say I’m from Amsterdam and that works much better.

On Saturday, I was chatting with an American friend and another American friend from across the table yelled he could not follow the conversation. My friend said that’s ok, “we’re speaking European.” I brought this up because Americans see Europeans as more European than Europeans themselves.

Europe is complex and the countries even more. Did you know that France and The Netherlands share a border? That many European citizens are born, raised and live in the Caribbean but use dollars instead of euros?

This video explains it perfectly – and it never ceases to crack me up:

That’s just The Netherlands. You could make a video like this of many European nations.

Street view of the space station

Explore ISS

Explore ISS

I’ve a fascination with the ISS and I just discovered that Google Maps has a custom street view of the ISS. You can explore the space station like any street (with street view). It’s pretty cool. The images were taken 2 years ago.

When I wander the ISS, I constantly wonder what everything does and why it’s there. In a place like ISS, everything has a purpose. Space is at a premium and it’s expensive to bring stuff on board. Thoughts run through my head; what happens if I push that button? Who are on the photos in the Russian module? Why is that cross there?

I recommend using full-screen and the arrow-keys to move around (if possible).

Gaming was never the same

Retro gaming: DOOM (1993)

Retro gaming: DOOM (1993)

This is my favorite post to write every week. Initially, I wanted to post this series on Fridays but it turned out to be a most time-consuming post. Mostly because I’m playing the games for far too long. It’s so much fun.

This week’s retro game is Doom. It’s a classic. It first came out when I just started college back in 1993. I had a brand-new computer for school which ran Doom perfectly.

Even though Wolfenstein was technically the first 3D first-person shoot, I see it more as an MVP for Doom. Doom brought a more varied world and a stronger storyline.

From a Wikipedia:

“In the year 2022, an unnamed space marine has been punitively posted to Mars after assaulting a superior officer, who ordered his unit to fire on civilians. The space marines act as security for the Union Aerospace Corporation’s radioactive waste facilities, which are used by the military to perform secret experiments with teleportation by creating gateways between the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. Deimos disappears entirely and “something fraggin’ evil” starts pouring out of the teleporter gateways, killing or possessing all personnel. The Martian marine unit is dispatched to investigate, with the player character left to guard the perimeter with only a pistol while the rest of the group proceeds inside the base and is killed.”

Here’s the full gameplay completed in 134 minutes.

Of course, you can play it online. I chose the Gameboy Advance version because this version performs the best in your browser. It has fewer details than the original though to keep up the frame rate on the underpowered GBA. For instance, the support pillars in level one where you pick up the armor have been removed.

Notes:

  • Only works in desktop browser
  • ENTER = start game
  • X = select, activate switch, open door
  • Z = shoot
  • Move = arrow keys
  • Strafe = Q + E

Email bankruptcy is no excuse

Inbox zero vs inbox infinity

Inbox zero vs inbox infinity
An article from the Atlantic was making the rounds this week. It makes a case for letting go of inbox zero and just accepts that your inbox has tens of thousands of emails. The author goes even as far as setting an out-of-office responder on his email.
 
Now, most people I know already do this – without the auto-responder. They handle email like Twitter, they jump and in and out, they read some.
 
Most personal conversations have moved from email to text. I think part of it because the newsletters have made email impossible to use. Their mailboxes are flooded with newsletters from every company who ever got their hands on their email address. You can beat this problem, I’ve done it.
 
I can imagine that people with public facing jobs like journalists or venture capitalists suffer from an overload of inbound email. But it’s not really an excuse to declare email bankruptcy. There are plenty of ways to reduce inbound of managing it better.
 
I think the lesson here, you need to manage it. It’s like every other part of a business. Without active management, it’ll run out of control. It’s like building up personal debt as opposed to technical or organization debt.
 
Last night, someone said to me they feel the same about Slack. It’s too disruptive and requires too much attention. I remember we had those problems at Karma and we put in place some rules and re-arranged the channels. Like everything else, it needs management.
 
Declaring inbox infinity or email bankruptcy is just an excuse not to solve a problem but just accepting you’re going to live with it. I refuse to accept that

You could just use a mailinglist

Alternative to Facebook

Alternative to Facebook

I’ve written about this topic before, but we lost something powerful when social networks turned into social media. Yesterday, I was reading a blog post by Chad Dickerson on the topic. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times when he was still CTO at Etsy and I was CTO at Shapeways. He’s a very thoughtful and soft-spoken leader.

In this post, he highlights much of the same sentiments I had about Facebook. In a way more eloquently than I ever can, he writes:

“This environment is incredibly WEIRD. It’s supposed to be about human connection yet so much of what occurs is dehumanizing. Why do we do this to ourselves? This whole thing is very unhealthy.”

His chosen solution is to use email and specifically a newsletter to keep the people he cares about up to date:

“There is very little performative aspect to writing an email to a known list of people since you’re not (consciously or subconsciously) fishing for “likes” or other comments.”

“The replies I get are much more personal and informal than what I used to see on Facebook.”

“I don’t sit there and think about what other people might think about what I’m writing — just the person who emailed me. To me, this is closer to what true friendship is like.”

I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve done something similar with a finsta after Path got shut down, but the outcome is the same. The conversations are personal and the lack of the act of performance is liberating.

I feel there’s an opportunity for a real social network again.

Funding the crypto economy

VC as central bank in crypto networks?

VC as central bank in crypto networks?

This morning, I woke up with a post from Joel Monegro of Placeholder VC on funding crypto networks. It’s interesting exposé on how they approach investing in crypto networks.

You might remember a couple of a days ago where I mentioned him in my post about crypto economies.

The interesting tidbit for me was this:

“Funding networks involves working with OTC desks, brokers and exchanges to buy tokens in the open market and support different price levels. Through the lens of the cryptoeconomic circle, it’s a way to capitalize the network as a whole – and in particular the supply side – rather than directing capital solely to core development.”

In my post about the valuation of crypto companies and the effects of the tokens on their balance sheet and the valuation of the token and network as a whole. Joel writes:

“But when entrepreneurs are selling tokens directly, we recommend they do so in stages to optimize the longevity of their capital – just as traditional startups learned to sell their equity in “series” as the value of the company grows.”

So the VC, in this case, acts as the central bank and the tokens on the balance sheet are expected to be used to fund further funding of the company post-launch of the network.

He basically sees the role of the VC to jump-start the particular crypto economy by capitalizing all the players in the market. This is interesting because it increases the complexity of the investment theme enormously. It’s no longer an equity-for-capital transaction, but becoming an active participant in the crypto economy of that particular token.

I wonder how that changes how VCs work and organize themselves. Participation is becoming much more active and goes beyond the board meetings. I do wonder if they’re really interested in actively managing the liquidity of a token market or that they would like to outsource that to a third-party – let’s say a token bank who takes charge of the liquidity in their name.