Sapiens: My review of a book about humans

The cover of Harari’s book reads “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. In fact, the book is more a philosophical meditation on the past, present and future of humans than a historical account. The author takes questions including: what is a human?, and, what makes humans happy?, and explores them through the lens of hunter-gatherer, … More Sapiens: My review of a book about humans

Death by bcc

(Metaphorical) Death by bcc is the ultimate of all e-mail deaths. It ranks at the very top, above the basic e-mail blunder, and above the dreaded “reply-all”. For those that are too sensible to have fallen foul of these errors, let’s kick off with a baseline example of death by “reply-all”: You get an e-mail, from … More Death by bcc

Pure Decent Books About How the World Works – May 2016

1. Debt: The First 5,000 Years, By David Graeber. Great book because it gets us out of our very modern and restricted understanding of how money and debt work. Perhaps, most interestingly, it debunks the idea that financial crises are a modern phenomenon – rather, they have existed for millennia. The book also suggests that … More Pure Decent Books About How the World Works – May 2016

Part 9: Entrepreneurship = Luck + Talent + Wisdom

Based on what I know today today, I estimate that entrepreneurship is one third talent, one third luck and one third wisdom. Talent is not teachable and, at present, is very hard to identify in first time entrepreneurs. Luck cannot be taught nor bought but plays an important role in success, and, unfortunately, is often misinterpreted … More Part 9: Entrepreneurship = Luck + Talent + Wisdom

Can you teach entrepreneurship? Part 8: When to sell?

Sell when your company has achieved its mission. Sell when you have run out of ideas. Sell when the buyer offers a price that you feel reflects the company’s full potential. Theories on when to sell vary from the philosophical to the economic. These three mental models, gleaned from the work or writings of Elon Musk, … More Can you teach entrepreneurship? Part 8: When to sell?

Can you teach entrepreneurship? Part 7: Be a master of big sales

Success in a startup requires skill in big sales. It is not widely known or accepted but big sales (e.g. which include hiring employees, getting investors and selling expensive products), require a set of skills that are very distinct from selling low price products (say, for less than $100). Sales is often something that we think of … More Can you teach entrepreneurship? Part 7: Be a master of big sales

Can you teach entrepreneurship – Part 6: Mastering Market Size

A startup’s market size must be big enough to justify any upfront investment. Applying this logic suggests $5 million is a very minimum empirical market size for software startups. The same logic suggests very minimum market sizes for hardware should be larger, and, for pharma, much larger. Rigorously validating market size requires time and money and this … More Can you teach entrepreneurship – Part 6: Mastering Market Size

Part 5: The Dream Team

Raw entrepreneurial talent and a diverse founding team correlate strongly with improved startup success rates. In this blog, I’ll provide evidence for this claim and propose a way to measure the quality of a startup founding team by looking at prior startup successes and also the number of roles within the founding team. Data show that raw entrepreneurial talent has … More Part 5: The Dream Team

Part 4: Prior startup experience may not help much

Over the last while, I’ve frequently heard that serial entrepreneurs have a higher probability of success. Mistakenly, though, I’ve taken this statement to mean that entrepreneurs improve by learning from past experiences. Serial entrepreneurs do have a higher rate of success, but their success may have more to do with them having the raw talent than learning while on the … More Part 4: Prior startup experience may not help much

Can you teach entrepreneurship? Part 3: How to make better decisions

Have you ever tried to make a decision by writing down, weighting and then rating a few different factors you felt were important? Maybe it was while picking a job, maybe it was picking a university course or maybe it was deciding on an employee to hire. If so, I think there’s a better way … More Can you teach entrepreneurship? Part 3: How to make better decisions

Part 2: Check-boxes for startup success (inspired by Peter Thiel)

In this part, I’m going to combine some rules of thumb to predict the success of a startup. The model will be based on three of the four characteristics that Peter Thiel feels are important for a startup to achieve a monopoly (take a look at chapter 5). The model may give some insights into why it might be that venture … More Part 2: Check-boxes for startup success (inspired by Peter Thiel)

Part 1: Entrepreneurship is like evaluating a fancy bottle of wine

Based on taste tests, it turns out that experts are very bad at predicting the future price of fine Bordeaux wines – so realised Orley Ashenfelter, a Priceton economist. As told by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow, when Ashenfelter built simple rules of thumb to predict prices he was able to achieve accuracy far beyond … More Part 1: Entrepreneurship is like evaluating a fancy bottle of wine

Can you teach entrepreneurship, part 0: The importance of seeing things much more than once

Giving advice on startups is really hard and I think this difficulty is frequently overlooked. It’s hard to advise on startups because, in the startup environment, you rarely see the same thing much more than once. To give good advice you need accurately recognise patterns, and, to accurately recognise patterns I think you need to have seen things dozens … More Can you teach entrepreneurship, part 0: The importance of seeing things much more than once

Marketing is the solution to our world’s water problems

It’s not technology! it’s not finance! Advertising, or perhaps more correctly, marketing is the solution to our water problems and here is why. There is a great solution out there to improving our water supplies. That solution is to reuse the waste-water we produce. As Paddy Padmanathan of ACWA Power pointed out today at the world congress in San … More Marketing is the solution to our world’s water problems

The Dirty Secret of Entrepreneurship

The dirty secret of entrepreneurship is that, to be successful as an (for-profit) entrepreneur, you need to excel at something that is useless in itself. In short, to be successful you need to excel at capturing the value you create. While, value creation can be productive for society, the efforts needed to capture value are, in themselves, unproductive. They … More The Dirty Secret of Entrepreneurship

The best way to make a fortune investing in startups

The strategy of investing in hundreds of early stage startups per year appears, at least in one case, to allow a return of more than 80% year on year. This is the first of a series of blogs addressing this type of strategy, pioneered by Y-Combinator, Techstars, amongst others, and known as the “Accelerator” or … More The best way to make a fortune investing in startups

Taking out the Salt

The large amounts of water required in the hydraulic fracturing of shales for oil or gas is a pressing concern. In hydraulic fracturing, water is sent  down underground at high pressures to fracture the rocks below, allowing gas or oil to be released and captured. When water returns to the surface it often contains large amounts … More Taking out the Salt

The benefits of hybridising electrodialysis with reverse osmosis

In a recently published paper in the Journal of Membrane Science, Prof. Syed Zubair, Prof. Lienhard and I reported on how the cost of achieving high purity water with electrodialysis, an electrically driven technology, can be reduced through hybridisation with reverse osmosis, a pressure driven technology. In reverse osmosis, water is pressurised and forced through a membrane that … More The benefits of hybridising electrodialysis with reverse osmosis