Panama Canal crossing video

I got a kick out of seeing this video. It’s a timelapse video taken of a cruise ship going through the Panama Canal. The fun bits with locks are at the beginning and end; in the middle there’s quite a large lake that needs to be sailed across.

My old boat (the USS Hartford, SSN 768) sailed across the Panama Canal a year or two after I left; I’m still a bit jealous that I missed it. Going through the Suez wasn’t nearly as interesting, and I did that twice.

University of Michigan — 2 out of 3 ain’t bad

I’ve long had this theory that at any given time, the University of Michigan can only have two successful sports of the three top sports: football, basketball, and ice hockey. (Aka, the sports where Michigan has traditionally excelled.)

A key data point has come this year: Michigan’s football team collapsed. But to even out the cosmic karma and keep the 2 of 3 rule alive, Michigan’s basketball team has made it to the NCAA tournament!

Just something to keep in mind…

Go Blue!

Kevin Roberts & his challenges

Kevin Roberts, the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, is also the CEO-in-Residence at Judge Business School. He came in to talk to us recently about Winning with an MBA, which was particularly useful considering the somewhat dismal job market that we’ll be entering later this year.

First off, he’s really an incredible speaker. His staff has a virtual command center to run his presentation, with multiple laptops and a sound mixer! Impressive, and it certainly created a good first impression toward Saatchi & Saatchi. I’m really, really looking forward to the Creativity Workshop that he’s going to be running for the MBA class later this year. From what I’ve heard, it’s a very unique experience.

I don’t want to write too much about his talk with us, but do want to point out three challenges that he set out for us. I think these apply no matter who you are or what stage in life you’re at. We’ve been tasked with thinking about these and writing the answers down; you should do the same:

  • What’s my 5-year dream?
  • When am I at my best?
  • What will I never do?

Particularly on the 5-year dream, he pushed us to push ourselves. He called the 5-year dream of running your own business, etc., “pathetic.” It was a bit of a shock, but a fair point. That’s not much of a dream; we can do that right now if we chose. What’s our real dream, something that seems completely impossible right now? That’s what we should be aiming for.

The other two questions are more straightforward. Still, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves when we answer them in order to really get an insight into our own abilities and preferences.

I went out to dinner with some of my classmates straight afterward, and we started talking about these questions — specifically our dreams. It was interesting to hear what people thought. Perhaps it’s the current job market, but it was generally difficult for everyone to really expand their horizons to answer the question.

While I think I’ve come up with my answer, I’m going to hold off from writing it publicly. But I invite you to really think (and feel) hard and answer the questions above for yourself; it could make for an interesting revelation.

Cambridge — putting the pieces together by opening up

Cambridge is an incredible city for science and technology. For the Americans reading this, imagine if you put Harvard and MIT together and you’ve got a good idea of what Cambridge is like. (With a short note to point out that both Harvard and MIT are in Cambridge, MA… named after THIS Cambridge!) It’s the Ivy League of the UK and Europe, with scientists and engineers that are on par with anything MIT, CalTech, Stanford or Michigan produces.

I’ve been talking with a lot of people about the Cambridge startup ecosystem recently, and it’s been both very frustrating and very invigorating. Invigorating because there are a TON of cool ideas and startups getting going. Frustrating because we still aren’t building links amongst all these companies in order to take full advantage of what’s being developed.

Opening up

One of the themes I keep hearing about the area is that so much of what is done in Cambridge is silo-ed. The University has not just one or two, but a half-dozen groups dedicated to entrepreneurship! (CfEL, Cambridge Enterprise, CUE, CUTEC, etc.) Cambridge Enterprise and St. John’s Innovation Centre provide office space and serve as hubs for startups. The criticism I hear is that even in the “hubs,” most people/companies just work in their own offices, and there’s not a lot of interaction between them… a huge missed opportunity. There are lots of high-tech hardware startups that come out of Cambridge labs, and there are a lot of scary-smart computer scientists building crazy software in their labs. Rarely do these people even talk to each other, but imagine if they did!

We need to start systematically work on opening up the Cambridge startup community. (OpenCoffee Cambridge is just the first step in doing this, though I think a valuable one. But why, as just one example, doesn’t St. John’s Innovation Centre host startup-only BBQ’s in the summer?)

Putting pieces together

Part of the solution to solving this is to get people talking. OpenCoffee helps to connect people and companies, but that’s just once a week. Working in the same space with others would be another great step. I know that Martin Kleppmann has been working on a Cambridge CoWorking space to do exactly this, and look forward to hearing more about that. Let’s face it… all we need is a covered room with power and a bathroom, and internet/wireless access. In today’s market I’m sure there are some offices going spare where the owner would appreciate any kind of income. (Again, this would be even more ideal if both hardware-focused and software-focused startups came together under the same roof!)

Phase 1 — Full Moon Madness Demo nights

The first phase I’m working on is Full Moon Madness Demo nights. These would revolve around themes, and involve demos from both hardware startups and software startups. Five to six companies would have 5 minutes (strictly limited, once decided) to demo their technology. After that ~30 minutes, the rest of the evening the demo companies would be available to do in-depth demos, and the audience could network.

Startups would NOT be pitching their business idea, they’ll be DEMOING their technology/product. Powerpoint will NOT be welcome. By seeing all the technology in person, I hope to build links between these hardware and software companies to build very powerful businesses.

The event would be open to everyone in the tech scene. I imagine that it will start out being Cambridge-focused, but I hope that it will grow to be an event that people come to from across the UK to see the future of technology early.

On a more practical note, as I mentioned in my last post I think it would be interesting to switch around the days of the week. A favourite pub of mine in the US held “Full Moon Madness” specials every Full Moon, year round. I suggest that we hold demo nights on the same schedule, though anything that fell on the weekend would move to the closest weekday night.

Based on that, here are the suggested dates in the coming months:

  • Thursday, April 9th
  • Thursday, May 7th
  • Monday, June 8th
  • Tuesday, July 7th
  • Thursday, August 6th
  • Thursday, September 3rd

I’m thinking of centering the first night around the theme of new media technology. Based on that, I have the following questions for you! –

  • Does anyone have any recommendations for companies that are ready and able to demo next month?
  • Or recommendations for other themes?
  • Does anyone know of good venues to hold a night like this? (I’ve got a few in mind, but would appreciate suggestions.)
  • Does a 7:30pm start sound reasonable?

Future plans

I’m interested in your thoughts of what Cambridge can and should do to invigorate the startup scene. I’ve got a number of things simmering in my mind, but want to hear what you’ve got to say first.