The Residents of Wellington

27 04 2016

Thanks to Lucy Revill at The Residents of Wellington for doing a really nice article on me.

An enthusiast, investor and business mentor he can often be found coaching startup companies through the Lightning Lab Programmes or mentoring teams of early-stage entrepreneurs at Wellington Start Up Weekend.

#WhyWellington

Why is Wellington such a great place for startups? It all comes down to scale. “We are not so small we don’t have resources but we are not so large that we fragment into self contained inward looking groups. People really do want to work with each other in Wellington, even with people they don’t like. We all want to make Wellington better. And it helps that you can walk across town in 20 minutes – although it takes you 30-40 because you keep on bumping into people you haven’t seen in a while – it’s great. If I go to the airport and I don’t run into someone I know I feel cheated. It’s like family. That scale is very important and I don’t want to lose it. That’s all.” With Dave on board, I feel confident as a Wellingtonian that Wellington will continue to be a great place to start something up, for years to come.




The essence of creativity

16 02 2016

Creativity is the spark that occurs when you combine seemingly unrelated things, shove an uncooperative idea into an unexpected context, or look at something familiar in a radically unfamiliar light. That spark of creativity is fun and essential, but much more difficult and rewarding is turning that spark into a steady flame or bushfire of enterprise through experimentation, empathy with your audience, and dogged determination. This is the task most start-up founders face

See more quotes on Idealog.




Convince me to invest in your startup

13 12 2015

What do angel investors like me look for in investable early-stage companies?

It’s all about:

  • You and your team
  • Your market
  • Your startup
  • Your progress
  • Your financial plan
  • Your investment terms
  • Your other investors
  • (and a few other things too).

Watch the video of a talk I gave on the subject at CreativeHQ‘s Startup Garage last week, as part of an introductory series for Lightning Lab XX.

You’ll also find my slides below.




Two aerial photos

1 12 2015

I recently arrived back in Wellington from the Startup Nations Summit in Mexico. On my flight from Auckland to Wellington on 29 November 2015, I passed over the Karori Rip just south of Mana Island.

The Karori Rip

The Karori Rip is an interesting phenomenon, basically a standing wave formed in specific tidal conditions in Cook Strait.  In this case, it was high tide on the Pacific (left) side, and low tide on the Tasman (right) side.  In the photo, you can see the wave roiling.

Then, on the same flight, approaching Wellington Airport from the north, I was welcomed back home by this:

Wellington City

I fall in love with Wellington over and over again. After being in the cities of North America with dubious air quality, she was truly a sight for sore eyes.




The New Christchurch – You Beauty!

6 11 2015

There’s only one thing I want to say today: Christchurch, you beauty!

When people ask me what I’m about, I tell them I’m building the future I want to live in. We’re all doing that today, here at Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day.

Look around you. The New Christchurch is filled with diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. We are transforming the brain drain from the quakes into a brain gain.

The New Christchurch was not prototyped with number eight wire and built in brick, it was laid out in a CAD system and is being fabricated in high-tech materials.

In The New Christchurch, the first question people ask you isn’t “what school did you go to”, it’s “what startups are you involved with” or “what countries are you doing business in”.

We’re building the future we want to live in, right here, right now. It’s a job too important to be left to government – they’re an important partner, but it must be led by people willing to take risks. Investors, that’s us!

While we mourn the losses from the quakes, we’re excited about that future.

Cantabs, you’re the most resilient people I’ve ever met. I want you to know that today, the rest of the country is here backing you.

So investors, don’t hold back. These Lightning Lab companies are The New Christchurch, and the future of New Zealand.

Let’s build that future together.

Address to the investors at Lightning Lab Christchurch Demo Day, 5 November 2015

 

#LLCHCH

The cohort at Lightning Lab Christchurch 2015

 

 




Legal Māori Resource Hub

22 10 2015

One of my “day jobs” is providing lexicographical software development for a number of dictionaries around the place.  One project using my Freelex software that’s recently been launched is the Legal Māori Resource Hub, by Māmari Stephens at the Victoria University Law department.

Māmari recently gave a talk about the lexicon, corpus, and resource hub at the National Digital Forum conference this year.

I’m really happy to have been involved in providing the underlying system on which this is built.




The end of money

12 10 2015

So they asked me what TEDx talk I’d like to give in ten years time.

My answer was: The End of Money




NZ Startup of the Week

7 09 2015

I’ve just launched a new blog, NZ Startup of the Week.  Every week, I’ll be featuring a Kiwi startup going global.  Be sure to have a look.

NZ Startup of the Week




Should there be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression?

16 08 2015

Last week, I was invited to be part of a panel discussion hosted by the Victoria University Religious Studies Department on the topic of whether there should be limits to absolute media freedom of expression.

Prof Paul Morris provided an opening statement. Joining me on the panel were Tayyaba Khan, Jenny Chalmers, Tom Scott, Selva Ramasami, and John Shaver.

Here’s what I had to say.

You can download the audio, or play it below.

I would like to begin my talk with a quote from Leviticus 19:18, containing what is one of the simplest yet most important commandments in the Torah: Love your neighbour as yourself.

The question posed tonight is: “Should there be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression?”

My short answer is “no”, other than the limits associated with existing legislation pertaining to defamation, incitement, and the like.

Why not?

We live in an increasingly diverse society. Religion is only one aspect of diversity. If you impose religious limits, you would have to consider imposing limits on other aspects, such as gender, nationality, ethnicity, disability, political philosophy, and so on.

We can’t expect the rest of society to embrace, or sometimes even understand the same standards as we do. Example: The Third Commandment forbids us for taking the name of The Lord in vain. As Jews, uttering the name of God is very offensive. And yet, there is a significant quasi-Christian religious group whose very name incorporates this ineffable name of God. How can we manage this conflict? We can’t – It wouldn’t be right for me to demand that they change their name to God’s Witnesses or something else – it’s an integral part of their identity.

Freedom of expression is essential for the function of democracy. Allowing any authority (other than Parliament as interpreted by the courts) to determine the limits of freedom of expression would potentially be chilling, and the temptation for the authority to cross the line into political suppression could be irresistible. On balance, limiting freedom of expression would likely do more harm than good.

We are free to ignore offensive material, and when we can’t ignore it, we can brush it off. We’re adults. Sometimes we need to endure this pain for the greater good of society, and pray that the offenders might become more aware of the consequences of their actions.

So my short answer is, no, there should not be religious limits to absolute media freedom of expression.

But.

There is a longer answer. And that answer is that we’re asking the wrong questions.

The questions we should be asking are:

What self-restraint should the media exhibit when discussing religion and other personal beliefs?

and

As a society, how do we educate and encourage people to empathise with each other, so that they feel no desire to offend or hurt each other?

When I say “the media”, that’s just about everyone nowadays. Blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and other social media provide a virtual megaphone to anyone who can gather an audience.

It is emphatically wrong to deliberately seek to offend or hurt others.

It is emphatically wrong to ridicule people’s strongly held beliefs or practices.

It is emphatically wrong to drive a wedge between different religions and ethnic groups by saying or implying that they are unfit to live among the rest of society.

It is emphatically wrong to blame an entire religion or culture for the actions of a tiny minority of their members.

All of these things are terribly wrong, and completely unnecessary.

These things are wrong and unnecessary, but legislating against them would create more problems than it would solve for the reasons I discussed earlier.

Unfortunately, as a society, we have not evolved very far beyond the 17th Century European proclivity for burning cats for entertainment. Pain and humiliation gets people’s attention, and sells newspapers in an increasingly competitive market. Shocking people is a lot easier then providing intelligent analysis, easier to understand, and sells more.

I would like to close with two quotes from the Talmud:

From Baba Mezi’a 59a, R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: “Better had a man throw himself into a fiery furnace than publicly put his neighbour to shame.”

From Shabbat 31, quoting Hillel, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.”

Thank you.




Getting the most from your mentor in an accelerator

13 08 2015

I’m planning on being very involved in the Lightning Lab Christchurch accelerator programme that starts next week, mainly as a mentor.  As I look back on both Lightning Lab Wellington accelerators where I mentored in 2013 and 2014, I felt that most of the teams could have used their mentors more effectively.

With that in mind, here’s a brief guide to how to get the most out of your mentors in an accelerator.

  1. Choosing a mentor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the accelerator.  Choose wisely.
  2. Be clear about what you want from a mentor up front, even though expectations may change during the course of the accelerator, as you and your mentor learn more about unknown unknowns. What are the gaps you’re looking to fill?
    1. Industry experience
    2. Specific skills, eg sales
    3. Contacts (NZ / Overseas)
    4. Potential investment, especially someone you can turn into a lead
  3. Be clear about what your mentor wants up front.  Why are they doing this?
  4. Make sure your mentors have read and understand David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto.
  5. Don’t accept any mentor that comes along – even if you’re desperate.  A bad fit is a lot worse than rejecting them.
  6. Do “due diligence” on potential mentors.  Check their LinkedIn profiles.  Ask for references.
  7. Don’t take on too many mentors. Ideally, have one “lead” (or maybe two) that you spend at least an hour a week with, and possibly some others that you use for specific advice
  8. It’s like dating.  Do what you can to attract The Right One (or three).  And like dating, you could end up being “stuck” (or thoroughly enjoying) a long-term relationship with them.
  9. Look after them, and hopefully they’ll look after you.
  10. Be honest at all times.  One porkie can really wreck trust, even if it’s only a minor one.
  11. Keep track of action points for each side from mentor meetings.  Ideally, send out an email after each mentor meeting identifying who is going to be doing what between now and the next meeting.
  12. Hold your mentor to account, and expect them to hold you to account.  If one or both sides is blowing the other off, it’s not working and you should terminate the relationship and invest your time more productively.
  13. Your mentors are probably extremely busy people.  Try to plan meetings and activities well in advance, and establish a regular rhythm if possible.  Here’s a typical week in my calendar:
    dave-calendar
  14. REMEMBER – IT’S YOUR COMPANY, NOT YOUR MENTOR’S.  Don’t hold back on pushing back. Be reasonable, and listen to reason, but your mentor is generally all-care-no-responsibility, and you’re the Founder left holding the baby company.
  15. Timing is everything.  Use your founder spidey-sense to know when to cut your losses and fire your mentor, and when to double-down on their advice.

Is there anything I missed?  Please let me know in the comments.







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