“Revolutions are, by definition, unpredictable. A predictable revolution never erupts. “ - Sapiens by Yuval Harari. (HT Andrea Nhuch for the anniversary gift!)
Sapiens is filled with beautiful insights along with thoughtful explanations. And many are relevant if you’re interested in how small ideas and prototypes cross into wide adoption and impact. As Harari frequently points out, in history we know what happened, but very little about why. Further, we tend to overlook the lack of clarity as history is being written, versus the clear narratives that are offered, after the fact, most often by the “winners”.
Meerkat is an interesting current example to contemplate. Will the SXSW success cause the revolution not to happen? Twitter is taking aggressive steps to limit Meerkat’s ability to leverage their social graph and has already purchased a competitor. Twitter should be able to crush this revolution, but what if a small band of influential investors and celebrities decide that they’d rather support the underdog?
What makes Sapiens such a great read is the constant reminder that at any time there are many possible paths towards the future and we’re not always sure why the new prevails or the old remains. It’s worth keeping in mind when investors say no, particularly early stage ones. ALL early stage investors have bet on the wrong futures and ALL investors have passed on opportunities that go on to be huge. That said, beyond a certain time, usually as you approach series A, investors ask for some evidence that you are on a promising path.
Nothing like numbers to F up a good story - While it’s true that many futures are possible, many A-rounds are being wrecked by numbers that suggest that the startups is NOT (or not yet) on the right path. Sound advice from First Round’s Josh Kopelman on why you might want to do a second seed versus an A round.
Multiple failure modes for logistics empires - Again echoing Sapiens, CBInsights offers a fantastic illustration of the many ways in which the empires built by Fedex and UPS are (possibly) under siege.
[Startup Candidate] Roost - Roost is using the easily forgettable 9V battery to give superpowers to any existing fire alarm. The low cost approach to connecting devices could have big implications.
The perfect business model for hardware startups - The popularity of cafes hide the enormous progress of robots in our homes. Sure they don’t speak or move around, but if we give these robots specially packaged consumables, they perform very well. Bolt explains why the robot plus consumable model is makes hardware startups more attractive.
User experience matters so much because we are experiencing so much - This is a fantastic exploration of how design is impacting tech and why design co-founders (or early hires) have become critical. Also any material that has a shout out to Thonet Chairs, the US Federal Highway System and the Eye of Sauron is worth your time to read. (HT Saneel Radia).
Smart City Startups is only a month away, so we’re going to make a few changes to the next 2 updates. First, we won’t be making new startup introductions primarily we’re not able to spend the time we need to follow up and collect feedback. Second, while we have programming for the Festival and the Summit, we’ve deliberately left a number of session slots open. So over the next 2 updates, we will focus more on what you think we should cover in those session.
We don’t have much room left till the Summit, so if you’re still considering joining us, please RSVP.
- Shaun & Stonly