What makes a good startup?

19 05 2012

After my stint on Radio New Zealand Saturday Morning with Kim Hill this morning, I was asked to provide a list of the attributes of what I consider to be a good startup.

You can listen to or download the audio:

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Here’s my shopping list of criteria for good startups:

1.  Market
a)   Global
b)   Clearly articulated market problem description
c)   Significant addressable market size
d)   Clearly identified market need (for the problem that is being solved)

2.  Team
a)  Has both sales and engineering
b)  Domain experience
c)  Clean capital structure (if any)
d)  Track record that demonstrates achievement and integrity
e)  Vision
f)  Passion
g)  2-3 People
h)  Pragmatic approach
i)   Articulate
j)   Coachable

3.  Product
a)   Web and/or mobile based
b)   Scalable
c)   Addresses significant pain
d)   Disruptive
e)   Simple
f)   Feeble competition
g)  Sound business model
h)  Capable of generating revenue quickly
i)   Can exploit network effect
j)   Novel and/or Freedom to Operate

Thanks to the RNZ team for a great on-air experience!

Keen to take your own idea for a spin?  Come along to Startup Weekend in Auckland (15-17 June) or Wellington (27-29 July) – I’ll be there facilitating, and you’ll meet some great people to collaborate with!




Digital Literacy at NetHui

11 07 2011

InternetNZ held NetHui this year, a multistakeholder conference in which we tried to take the Internet out of the server room and to the nation.  After all, just about everybody is a stakeholder in the Internet, and there are big opportunities to be uncovered in getting together to discuss how the Internet is governed and used.

There is plenty of information about the fantastic conference on the NetHui web site; for me the real highlight was Lawrence Lessig’s keynote in which he makes the empassioned plea for New Zealand, as a “high-functioning democracy”, to save America from itself, arguing that free information and checks against abuse of corporate power are critical to maintaining a free society.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the willingness of those present to explore alternative models to intellectual property protection, given a general disdain for current copyright and software patent law.  I hope to see some real progress in this area in the near future; my contribution to this initiative is to organise a Wellington Creative Commons Meetup where we can work together to explore positive change.

I played a small part in organising the conference, focusing on the Digital Literacy session of the Access and Diversity stream.

The session highlighted that there is a great gulf between those who believe that Digital Literacy is chiefly concerned with teaching underprivileged students how to drive Microsoft Office, and those who believe that it is the duty of our education system to teach people how to analyse information and use the broad range of online tools imaginatively, sensibly, and safely.

I hope to be involved in a full-day session later in the year exploring these issues further with practitioners in the field, encouraging the players to collaborate and work together toward shared goals.

Here is the content of the Digital Literacy session for your own viewing pleasure.




The Online Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language

24 06 2011

The Online Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) went live today at http://nzsl.vuw.ac.nz/

This online dictionary is the culmination of over twenty years of work, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been involved since the beginning.

The dictionary is an extensive resource for people who use or want to learn NZSL. Videos accompany line drawings and text to describe the signs. The site can be used as a monolingual dictionary (search for signs by their features, eg handshape, location etc) or a bilingual dictionary (search for signs by their corresponding English words). Explanations of NZSL grammar and usage as well as tutorial material appear in both NZSL and English.

One of the coolest features of the dictionary is the large corpus of usage examples that was collected for use in the dictionary. Each example sentence appears as a video, with glosses for each sign in the sentence along with an English translation of the sentence. Clicking on a gloss will take you to the entry for that particular sign. A tremendous amount of analysis work by the team went into collecting, videoing and glossing the usage examples. Aside from making using the dictionary useful for learning how signs are used in context and exploring unfamiliar signs in detail, I have no doubt that this linked corpus will form an indispensable resource for future linguistic analysis.

3months.com built a really lovely front-end (Rails) for my back-end Freelex (Perl / Catalyst / Postgres) system.

This work is a taonga which will be loved and habitually used by many people over the coming years.




InternetNZ Council Candidacy

23 06 2011

Last year, I was elected to the InternetNZ Council for a one-year term, as the result of the early resignation of Chris Streatfield. After one amazing but short year in office, I’m pleased to offer my services again as a councillor.

In the last year I have

  • Made significant contributions to the development of the Investment and Charitable Grants policies
  • Organised the NetHui session on Digital Literacy as part of the Access and Diversity stream
  • Encouraged a wider group of people from my diverse networks to join InternetNZ and participate in the conversation
  • Pressed for the widening of InternetNZ’s brief “up the stack”, so that we focus on the usage and impact of the Internet in wider society, rather than just the pipes
  • Connected InternetNZ staff and other councillors with appropriate people in external organisations where we can make a difference, such as the Wellington City Council’s Digital Strategy Development forum
  • Made myself available to members through Twitter, LinkedIn, and email to raise any issues of concern to Council
  • Promoted a culture of creative entrepreneurship, shared purpose, and respect around the council table

If re-elected, I will continue to work hard to ensure that:

  • The NZ Internet (in the widest sense) remains open and uncapturable
  • Council focusses on its responsibility to its members as well as wider society in its full diversity
  • InternetNZ gets the best out of its staff and operating companies, supporting our excellent Chief Execs to achieve the strategy we set
  • Strategic opportunities are recognised and seized as they arise
  • I am available and approachable for members to voice their concerns and act as a conduit to Council.

I look forward to continuing in my role to keep InternetNZ the great organisation it is, and expand its impact and the good it does in society.




Rave reviews for Freelex / Mātāpuna lexicography system

24 12 2010

Some things just take time – especially recognition.

My Free and Open Source Freelex / Mātāpuna Dictionary Writing System was just reviewed by Oumar Bah in Language Documentation and Conservation. (Download the PDF of the article).

Bah writes:

It is a DWS much like Toolbox, iLex or TshwaneLex, but uninke the others, it is entirely web-based.  This means that its interface can be opened with any usual browser, which is a huge advantage if we consider that most users are now familiar with the Internet.  Furthermore, its network feature makes it well-suited for collaborative dictionary projects, either in a Local Area Network or on the Internet …

Matapuna is a dictionary tool I warmly recommend, especially for collaborative small or medium scale projects with little funding…




Domain names, now with mācrons!

22 07 2010

From next week, .nz domain names will have the ability to contain macrons.

I’m really pleased to have lent a hand to the process which has enabled the complete Māori alphabet to be used in .nz domain names; I was on the “IDN” (Internationalised Domain Name) committee at InternetNZ which set up the policy and process for making this happen.

Here’s the InternetNZ media release:

Media Release – 22 July 2010 – The beginning of next week marks an exciting new phase for the .nz domain name space. From 10am on Monday 26 July 2010, people will be able to register .nz domain names using the macronised vowels ā, ē, ī, ō and ū.

Registering a .nz domain name with macrons will take place in exactly the same way as registering any other .nz domain name – through a ‘registrar’ – and registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

New Zealand Domain Name Commissioner Debbie Monahan says the launch date for general registrations has been timed to coincide with the start of Māori Language Week, which is significant because, for the first time, New Zealand’s indigenous language, Te Reo Māori, can be correctly represented online.

“Thanks to the successful completion of the global Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) initiative the New Zealand Internet is now more culturally representative.

“The addition of macrons to the .nz domain name space is a step forward for online identity and the Internet in New Zealand and I encourage those interested in securing a macronised name to take note of the opening of general registrations on 26 July.

“This is the culmination of years of hard work at both local and international levels, and I would like to thank New Zealand’s IDN working group and .nz Registry Services for their valuable contributions.”

More information about .nz domain names with macrons is available at www.dnc.org.nz/story/nz-domain-names-macrons

For further information contact:
Debbie Monahan
Domain Name Commissioner
+64 4 495 2114




Poetry in Hell

15 07 2010

I’ve just finished helping my Mom (Dr Sarah Traister Moskovitz) publish a web site containing what might be considered to be her Magnum Opus.

Poetry In Hell is the culmination of ten years of research into the poets of the Warsaw Ghetto, and their poetry rescued in buried milk cans from the Ringelblum Archives.  My dad spent years restoring and cleaning up hundreds of microfiche images of the original Yiddish poetry, which my Mom translated into English.  A Professor Emeritus in Educational Psychology, she received assistance for the project from the The California State University at Northridge Emeritus and Retired Faculty Association, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

I built the framework for the web site, and it’s hosted on the same WordPress engine as this site.

Poetry in Hell is an amazing project that provides insight into the daily lives of people living in the ghetto.  The Internet is the perfect medium for this kind of archive project; it would be a real shame if it were restricted to books on shelves in niche libraries that were accessible only to researchers.

To the people with family who died in the Ghetto; to people who can’t imagine how humanity can express itself under such conditions; to people craving a window into the final days of Yiddish culture as it existed in its heyday; to historians, and especially to the holocaust deniers – Poetry In Hell is an ongoing testament to the depth of artistic expression, the complexity of human interaction, and the intricate perception of Yiddish culture that Hitler could not extinguish.

Do have a look at it, and if you like it, let your friends know about Poetry in Hell.




Team MusicHy.pe

11 02 2010

Left to right: Thomas Schickedanz, Hannah Schickedanz, Mike Penhall, Dave Moskovitz, Nick Rowney, Stefan Korn, Jeff Mitchell, Annabel Youens




The Manawatu Standard gives The Klezmer Rebs rave reviews

20 01 2010

Stephen Fisher posted a fabulous review of The Klezmer Rebs playing the Palmerston North City Library in today’s Manawatu Standard:

While we may have become used to the sounds of live music drifting through our city library, it is a long time since we have been treated to such a lively and spirited performance as that which the Klezmer Rebs provided yesterday afternoon.

Undergoing a revival, Klezmer is traditionally celebratory Jewish music, and, although frequently instrumental, vocal lines and song titles are usually in Yiddish. Flexible in its lineup, yesterday’s concert was by seven members of the Klezmer Rebs, who are largely Wellington based.

It was an evocative mix of clarinet, violin, trumpet, trombone and helicon accompanied by piano and guitar or mandolin, giving us a characteristically authentic sound that set one’s primal musical spirit a dancing.

All of the group joined in with vocals as appropriate as they selected much of their programme from the established Klezmer repertoire, their arrangements reflecting traditional style, while allowing the creativity of these talented instrumentalists to add their own distinctive interpretation to the music.

The music celebrates the many facets of life itself and the Klezmer Rebs brought joy and vibrancy to the performance, giving the music a captivating urgency that could not fail to set the heart and soul soaring.

While there was musical excellence on display from all members of the group, the clarinettist was Urs Signeur, who made a significant contribution to local music during his year as an exchange student in Palmerston North nearly 10 years ago. Apart from giving us some stunning clarinet solos, this talented young man also composed several numbers for the group, his work characterised by much inventiveness while still capturing an authentic style.

While it must be expensive for such a large group to travel around the country, I hope it is not too long before the group makes another appearance in our city as it was obvious that the infectious joy of this music captured the hearts of the large audience gathered in the library.

Can it get much better than that?




Klezmer Rebs get two great reviews in print

4 10 2009

Our Just Add Shmaltz CD was reviewed recently in The Listener (26 September 2009, page 43) and The Dominion Post (2 October 2009, page B6).

Who ever thought that we’d be mainstream enough to get critical acclaim?







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