Writing For Startup Hook

It has been a while since I’ve penned anything for this site. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing!

In early February I picked up a freelance gig writing for a new Startup blog called Startup Hook – http://www.startuphook.com. It’s a startup about startups! What the team does is share profiles of startup companies that have the potential to disrupt entire global industries. With writers in Athens, Boston, Seattle and Melbourne we have a pretty good geographical spread, as well as a diverse range of personal interests.

logo2

Time will tell if this venture becomes a success, but the early growth in readership has been really good. It has also been beneficial for me to establish a writing discipline, given the need to produce 2-3 quality articles every week.

Whilst Startup Hook is not the only thing that I’ve been working on, it has generated a lot of fun learning about new and innovative businesses. I may also share some news regarding another project, but for now will leave you with the text from my most recent contribution for Startup Hook. It’s about an Argentinean company with plans to deploy a network of nano-satellites in low earth orbit and use the real time data stream that it generates to monitor a range of globally important issues.

If you like what you read please visit the site at the url above, ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Enjoy!

SATELLOGIC: BRINGING SPACE DOWN TO EARTH

space1

Elon Musk’s private space flight company SpaceX is not the only company with its sights set on space. The current revolution in space technology development is increasingly driven by startups. One such company is Satellogic, an Argentinean startup that is working hard to bring space down to earth so that we can better understand our planet.

Satellogic has plans to democratise global access to space based services by reducing current barriers to accessing satellite data in real time. It is hoped that this will launch a new era of planetary awareness and transform existing approaches to global problems by creating a constellation of nano-satellites that can deliver commercial grade imaging and data at a tiny fraction of the present cost.

Constellation of Satellites

The vision that Satellogic has involves deploying a network of compact, cost-effective satellites with the capacity to image any spot on earth every few minutes. These units incorporate the latest technology and are the size of “a desktop computer hard drive”, according to founder and CEO Emiliano Kargieman. It is estimated that it currently takes up to three days to take two consecutive photos of the same spot on the planet. This network, which will consist of up to 300 satellites talking to each other in low earth orbit, will then be used to stream unprecedented real time data regarding the planet. It is envisaged that this will include social conflict, natural disasters, commercial and shipping activity and various planetary health metrics. This is seen as having the potential to revolutionise the way that decisions are currently made at all levels – governments, businesses, NGO’s and individuals.

satellogic

The possible applications for this technology are almost limitless. A central aim is to help better address the management and distribution of scarce natural resources. Areas of interest that have already been identified include:

– Agriculture – Food Production & Security –  Energy Production & Pipeline Monitoring
–  Disaster Response –  Illegal Logging
–  Border Patrol –  Port Security
–  Critical Infrastructure Monitoring –  Business Intelligence

After originally planning to provide image resolution at a level of sub two metres, customer feedback resulted in Satellogic increasing the resolution to one metre. For those concerned about privacy, it is understood that the satellites will have the ability to photograph cars, but not individual license plates.

Making Progress

In 2013 Satellogic successfully deployed two satellites to help test key components of their proprietary technology. Those first two units – CubeBug1 and CubeBug2 – were followed in the middle of last year by BugSat-1. All three provided invaluable data to the company as it refined its design. Highlighting the risks inherent in a venture of this kind, Satellogic experienced a setback on October 28 2014 when the failure of an Antares rocket launch resulted in the loss of 26 satellites.

Undaunted, the plan for 2015 includes the launch of the next generation of prototypes. With approximately 15 satellites scheduled to be in orbit by the end of this year, enabling the delivery of the first commercial services, Satellogic’s nano-satellite constellation will be keenly watched.

Teach A Man To Fish

TAMTF

A few years ago I was working for a multinational company, heading up one of their local practice divisions. I was approached by one of the other practice heads asking if I had some resource to help him with a temporary staffing shortfall. More specifically, they were short processing staff to raise monthly client invoices. The staff member primarily responsible for this function had recently departed and had not yet been replaced. There was a lack of processing expertise amongst the remaining staff to pick up the short-term slack.

Being a helpful, sharing, caring sort of team player, I was only too happy to help out. At the time I had an employee on my team who:

  1. Was an expert with the company’s processing system;
  2. Loved to help others any opportunity she had; and
  3. Had some spare capacity.

Perfect! Right?

Not so fast.

What was being asked was if I could ‘loan’ this resource to do some processing of invoices. Going a step further, I suggested that she would have sufficient time to be able to up-skill the existing staff, so that they would be able handle some of their own processing whilst their manager searched for a permanent solution. After all, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.

The response to my proposal: “Thanks. Leave it with me. I’ll get back to you.”

Naturally, that never happened.

The other manager was fearful that if his existing staff were provided with the skills and knowledge to be able process invoices, senior management would reject his business case to replace the recently departed processing assistant and elect instead to save the personnel costs by spreading the workload over the remaining employees. (Note – this concern was NOT unreasonable.)

So, how was the situation resolved?

Rather than accept the offer of assistance, the manager reduced his division’s estimated income for the subsequent month to $0, on the basis that there was no resource available to process invoices. Further, it was indicated that this situation would continue until approval was received to hire a replacement processing assistant.

Approval was duly granted. A replacement was hired. Problem solved.

And, importantly, nobody else had to learn to fish for themselves!

So with that in mind, here are some variations on the theme:

The Philosopher:

TAMTF Lao Tzu

The Entrepreneur:

TAMTF Entrepreneur

The Politician:

TAMTF Gov't

The Sociopath:

TAMTF Murderer

The Pessimist:

TAMTF Pessimist

The Pessimist (2):

TAMTF Pessimist 2

The Reality:

TAMTF Reality

My Favourite:

TAMTF Swanson

Small Things. Done Well. And Repeated.

I have been thinking recently about the importance of small things.

This coming weekend I am competing in a 50km trail run at Mt Macedon. Whether I achieve my desired result or not is dependent upon how well I can execute a series of small steps; literally! A single missed step can mean a rolled ankle and the end of my race. If I successfully avoid injury I will still need to concentrate on making every step as perfect and efficient as possible if I am to achieve my time goal. I will also need to apply continuous attention to my breathing; my fluid and salt levels; my energy intake.

In short, to succeed I will need to do all of these small things…really well…repeatedly. These small things are big things in the context of the weekend’s race.

Small Things Are Big ThingsSimilarly, I am presently working on a couple of long range projects; one professional and one personal / physical. I realise that the success of these pursuits depends on my (and my partners’) ability to do small things really well.

In all the noise and bustle of life, it is often easy to have your attention drawn away from these small things. If you are employed in a corporate role, distractions abound. There are countless forces working to distract you from the importance of these small things. They can take the form of:

  • unnecessary / lengthy internal meetings
  • monthly sales forecasts
  • office gossip and politics (boring!)

These things rarely contribute positively to the core function of your business.

You’re a business.

You have customers.

Keep your customers happy and you will (likely) keep their business.

However lofty a goal might be, it can be broken down into a series of individual constituent parts. It is the consistent application of attention and effort to these individual components (aka the small things) that leads to the achievement of the overarching goal (aka the big thing).

Small Things - Van Gogh

 It is the small things that make all the difference in the end!

RS - The Way We Do Small Things

What Is Your Purpose?

I was talking to a friend recently when the subject of purpose came up. This was purpose as in “what is the reason that you are here”? They identified their purpose as being to provide for their household; and as CEO of a successfully family-run SME, providing the means for others to support their families.

This seemed quite symmetrical to me. In satisfying their primary personal purpose (i.e. providing for their household) they were motivated to also pursue a professional purpose (i.e. running a successful business).

With respect to professional purpose, numerous studies confirm that employees self-report as being both happier with their work and more productive if they identify with the vision and goals of their team/company. Identifying with these things, when coupled with a feeling that they are making a valuable contribution towards group goals, they are afforded a sense of purpose. They are aware that they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves.

What Is Your Purpose?

What are they trying to achieve, individually and collectively? Is it a sales target? New business win? Project delivered on time? Striving to be the best manufacturer of thing-a-me-jigs? It really doesn’t matter as long as it has meaning to the individuals involved.

Professionally, the past 6 months have seen me introduced to a number of people who share a similar set of values and goals. Joining forces with a few of them, we are working together with the common purpose of building a viable business.

Personally, I find my self spending time working on becoming a better:

  • partner
  • friend
  • runner (super important; less than 8 months to the 10th Atacama Crossing!)
  • fundraiser

These are always in flux, as short-term goals and milestones are achieved, accompanied by rebalancing as life dictates.

What about you? Do you know what your purpose is?

Mark-Twain-Find-Your-Purpose-Inspirational-Picture-Quote

I Have No Special Talents!

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

I cannot take credit for the line above, which is attributed to Albert Einstein. But I do endorse the sentiment. Curiosity is the sign of a mind that wants to learn. That wants to change. That wants to grow.

Implicit in this is:

  1. an acknowledgement that there are things that one doesn’t know, and
  2. a desire to acquire or uncover additional knowledge.

In my corporate experience these two qualities are often in short supply. Individuals and organisations frequently assume more knowledge than they actually possess, whether in relation to the marketplace in which they operate, competitors’ strategies, or even employee motivation. The more they already ‘know’, the lower the perceived need to learn new facts. Being less curious they ask fewer questions and/or seek answers only from those who they feel will reinforce their own preconceived ideas.

From an historical perspective, there is arguably no individual that better embodies these ideals than Socrates (picture below).

Socrates

Recall that Socrates was pronounced by the Oracle at Delhpi as the wisest of all the Greeks. When he learned of this pronouncement, Socrates responded not by boasting or celebrating, but by attempting to prove the Oracle wrong. To achieve this he set about trying to find out if anyone in Athens knew what was truly worthwhile in life. Anyone who knew that would surely be wiser than him.

After questioning everybody that he could find, Socrates was disappointed to discover that nobody in the city could provide a satisfactory answer. Rather, they were all pretending to know something that they did not. As a consequence he was forced to face the realisation that perhaps the Oracle was correct after all. Of all the men in Athens he was indeed the wisest, because he alone was prepared to admit his own ignorance. This meant that he knew one more thing than everyone else, as they preferred to pretend to know something that they clearly did not.

The message here is that self doubt is not a weakness. Rather, it is those individuals that presume to be without doubt (or who feel compelled to pretend, lest they reveal their ignorance) that are most dangerous. Corporately this attitude can lead to:

  • failed strategy
  • missed opportunities
  • disaffected staff (where motivation is assumed)

Now, as you may be aware, Socrates’ approach of questioning others in the hope of uncovering truth – revealing their ignorance in the process – did not end well for him. He was sentenced to death for being “an evil-doer who busies himself with investigating things beneath the earth and in the sky, and who makes the worse appear the better reason, and who teaches others these same things” and forced to drink the hemlock which claimed his life.

Hopefully your company will not react in such extreme fashion.

So, ask questions of everyone, starting with yourself!

I have no special talents 2