Calibrating my Raspberry Pi – my own ‘Outrage Meter’


I don’t need the Press any more: I have found a computer which I can Programme to deliver just the items I want that will give me my regular dose of outrage instead of reading the media!

With my very wide-ranging abilities, I have at last managed to fix my new Raspberry Pi, the new cut-price teach-yourself-to-code computer, so that it has a feed from the various media in which I might be the subject of personal abuse; and now I am starting to calibrate what I and my fellow critics of the press might call my own ‘Outrage Meter’.

The bottom end of the scale was reasonably easy: to be accused of breaking Health and Safety regulations – a rather old joke; to be lampooned, like ‘Dominic Horrid’ (Harrod), by Private Eye – just an annoying, though slightly amusing peccadillo.

The top end of the scale is more difficult. There is a number of candidates for what David Cameron, I am certain, is considering, namely the setting up a Commission of Enquiry into Personal Abuse – lest once again we be beset by McCarthyism – being jailed for opening our mouths. What about being accused of being politically correct? – too boring. Being accused of improper behaviour? – too popular, though quite high on the meter. Being accused of personal abuse? – too common a disease. Being unjustifiably accused of abusing someone’s human rights? – too flexible a concept: much would depend on the case – someone’s right to peace and quiet hardly on the scale, but someone’s right to justice much more significant. I’ll have to fiddle with the knobs a bit more before I decide about the top end of the scale. I think that the prime candidate is probably being unjustifiably accused of double-dealing or criminal activity by Private Eye.

People say there is no smoke without fire; and mud sticks, so if I am unjustifiably accused, should I then wash my own face in public, counter-attack, or just ignore it all. Max Clifford isn’t the right man to ask any more, so perhaps I should take advice from Private Eye’s own lawyers!


‘Supporters’ becoming more integral to Accelerators


Advisors, Speakers, Mentors and other specialists are getting more and more involved in Accelerators; but generalists, polymaths or iconoclasts should not be excluded. Regular mentors are the foundation of the mentoring process, as is a good manager of mentors.
Discussions at the Accelerator Exchange Forum that we held recently in London showed how ‘supporters’ were becoming increasingly involved in Accelerators (see, so it was no great surprise to read in a recent e-mail how Telefonica’s Wayra Lab Accelerator was defining these different roles.
“The role of the Board Advisor is to act as in an advisory capacity for a specific team or project. We ask Board Advisors to be active participants in the acceleration of the specific team; being available on an ad-hoc basis, attending Board Meetings and facilitating network opportunities.
The role of the Masterclass Speaker is to provide inspiration, expert knowledge and opinion on a specific subject matter.
The role of the Mentor is to be available to act as a sounding board for the start-ups, pitches and new ideas.
The role of the Surgery Mentor will be to run at least one half-day open surgery per year on a specific theme/topic to which the project teams can book face-to-face consultations.”
            Among the most popular speakers are those who tell the story of their adventure in their own early-stage business – whether it was a miserable disaster or a grand success.
The analysis above omits one role that is capable of lifting the whole process, of breaking the mould, of creating genuinely disruptive innovations: that of presenting ways of looking at similar problems in different contexts, epitomised in EPSRC’s Sandpits – by sessions with poets, ethicists, IT experts et al, but also for example by people who simply work in different fields such as theatre, sport or art (‘Ideas via Intermediaries’ is a collection of nineteen brief stories about breakthroughs of this kind – available on request).
The conventional idea of a mentor is someone whom you might meet from time to time to discuss whatever you choose – on a one-to-one basis. But there are several different roles for mentors: one is to provide regular ‘supervisions’ – the three facilitators at Accelerator Bethnal Green Ventures meet each team individually every week, and ask four questions: what have you achieved this week; what do you plan to achieve next week; what is stopping you; and what have you learned. Another role is to act as confidante; a third is to be available for your particular knowledge or skills (market, strategy, design, technical, marketing, financial etc); and the fourth is to be able to provide contacts and introductions. And different roles have different places in the course of Accelerator programmes as the business concept reaches different stages of evolution.
      Another correspondent tells me that he became concerned that as a mentor he was simply beingused by a certain Accelerator. There clearly has to be some give-and-take, and the ‘take’ must consist of opportunities to invest (or for paid work/advice).
      So it also comes as no surprise that providing just the right support from moment to moment to entrepreneurs with their ever-changing needs is a sophisticated management role: detecting their needs, knowing who among the mentoring team might help, and arranging for entrepreneurs and mentors to meet is a bit like running a dating agency for people who are never quite the same from week to week!
Jw 2013

YCombinator a unique experiment


A recent article in the Times (27.7.2013) about YCombinator – as an archetypal Accelerator, emphasises some of its seemingly nuttier aspects; so what do they tell us?

Twice a year YC selects a new cohort of entrepreneurs who have agreed to move to silicon Valley for three months, for which they get $20k from YC in return for 6-7% equity and $80k seed funding from other outside investors. So while most serial Accelerators produce perhaps two dozen new businesses a year, it is fair to ask if YC is indeed the world’s most successful attempt to mass produce technology companies.

Its boss. Paul Graham, is said to be looking for someone who takes their work a little too seriously; someone who goes beyond professionalism and crosses over into the obsessive; and is into hacking or breaking rules, who combines gall with intellectual flair and an ability to get s*** done. He is said to value ‘determination’ and ‘earnestness’. None of the British founders he has known have been ‘pure unworldly nerds’ – of the kind he favours.

He comments that “the biggest mistake people make is working on made-up ideas. The most successful start-ups were all made by people solving their own problems, as opposed to making up some plausible sounding bull***. An unsolved problem is the world’s rarest commodity”.

“But once you have one, then launch fast – within weeks, even days, before you run out of funding and in order to get critical feed-back from the wider world.” Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder is quoted as saying ‘If you’re not embarrassed of the first version of the product you’ve launched, you’ve launched too late.’

YC’s regime is focused round the weekly dinners, where you would not want to have too little progress to report to your peers. ‘But old-fashioned networking also plays a part. YC’s founders can rub shoulders with the world’s most powerful investors and innovators. They’ll also inherit a formidable old-boy network.’

Other Accelerators have insisted, unlike YC, on their participants also working together and in close proximity. And unlike the UK’s current Accelerators, where Demo Day is more like an end-of-term presentation, at YC it is a genuine market place, with generations of nerds investing in nerds!