34.1% of all children in Israel are impoverished Some 24,500 children
have become impoverished in 2005, from 713,600 in 2004 to 738,100 in
2005, while 34.1 percent of all children in Israel are defined as
poor. These were only some of the statistics revealed Monday
afternoon when the poverty report put out by the National Insurance
Institute (NII) was released. Overall, poverty has risen in Israel.
However, the rate of impoverishment has slowed in comparison to 2003
BitTorrent client review round-up PC Magazine is running a solid
round-up of four Windows BitTorrent clients: BitTorrent (the official
client), Azureus, BitPump, and uTorrent. They all get high marks, but
Azureus and my personal favorite uTorrent just barely outshow the
competition. It's followed up with a (very) short Q&A with BitTorrent
creator Bram Cohen. Worth a look if you're looking for a new
Play old Infocom text adventures in your browser - Today's Time
Waster Posted Jan 20th 2006 7:00PM by Jordan Running Filed under:
Fun, Games, Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Freeware, Time-Wasters
Yesterday's Time Waster was a collection of old C64 games you can
play in your browser. Let's go even more retro with the encore:
here's 18 classic Infocom text adventures you can play in your
browser. The original four Zork games, Planetfall, the Lurking
Horror, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy--it's all there. The
games have been ported to Java and are just as immersive/frustrating
Free versions of Transport Tycoon Deluxe The original Transport
Tycoon was a darn fine example of the sim/god game genre. That is,
back in the day. I was a little surprised to find it has an extensive
online following still. So much so that there are now a number of
ports, all based on OpenTTD, or Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe. You can
find a Palm and PocketPC version here, one for BeOS (what?), a *NIX
edition, OS X, BSD versions, and naturally a Windows version over
here. So what's the big deal? I guess there's none if you don't care
for these sorts of games. But for someone who probably plays with
GeoTracks more than his kids, I find it worth hours of mindful
entertainment. The only downside? You'll need to either grab a CD
with the Win9x installer or DOS installer to get the graphics.
Supposedly they are available online somewhere, but I can't seem to
IF YOU HAVE HIGH ELECTRICITY COSTS, TRY HITTING THE POWER BUTTON ON
YOUR SURGE PROTECTOR AFTER SHUTTING DOWN YOUR TV/STEREO
TV's 'sleep' button stands accused Britons waste the equivalent of
around two power stations' worth of electricity each year by leaving
TV sets and other gadgets on standby. Last June Environment Minister
Elliot Morley, responding to an MP's question, revealed that
electrical equipment in sleep mode used roughly 7TWh of energy and
emitted around 800,000 tonnes of carbon. The government is currently
reviewing the options of how to keep the UK's lights on in the
future, at the same time as reducing the amount of greenhouse gases
being released into the atmosphere.
Energy efficiency groups are urging people to carry out their own
personal energy review because homes are set to place an ever
increasing demand on power supplies. The number of TVs in the UK is
estimated to reach 74 million by 2020, meaning that there will be
more televisions than people to watch them.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Practicing the Art of Pitchcraft Commenting on an earlier post of
mine, Sridharan suggested that my four year old son’s simple and
clear presentation of his thoughts is “a management lesson…Stick
to the point and say it in a single sentence.”
I know it sounds a little crazy, but indeed I’ve come to agree that
a clear, compelling elevator pitch is essential to growing a
business. (And I’ve paid dearly for the evidence.) So after
attending a board meeting yesterday in which the management team
struggled to succinctly describe their business, I resolved to blog
my agreement with Sridharan. Just in time, too, because Nivi’s been
bugging me to answer the question: What makes for a good elevator pitch?
The elevator pitch forms everyone’s first impression of your
venture. It needn’t be a single sentence, but the delivery ought to
be measured in seconds, not minutes (like any good TV or radio
commercial). In general, the rules of advertising apply…
1. Show Some Leg Right Away
The primary goal of an elevator pitch is to intrigue someone to learn
more. Like that novel you buy on impulse at the airport, the first
sentence has to grab you. One way to do that is to highlight the
enormity of the problem you are tackling….
With healthcare costs rising 24% per year, fewer and fewer US
employers offer comprehensive health benefits…
In the last 18 months, the internet grew by over 100 million
consumers in China who have no credit mechanism for buying online…
Used to be If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It, but worms and other
hacks have raised the dreadful prospect that every important computer
system in the world needs to be fixed on a weekly basis…
Thanks in large part to Tivo, the $70 billion market for TV
commercials is about to implode…
21% of the patients who take prescription medicine for the first time
are genetically pre-disposed to have no benefit from that molecule,
but still suffer the side effects…
If you get stuck on this step because the problem you’re tackling
isn’t impressively large and obvious, you have a more severe issue
to worry about than your elevator pitch.
2. Don’t Make Them Think Too Hard
Though it’s okay to start with the problem, never indulge in more
than a sentence to describe it, no matter how juicy it is. Rather,
tell the audience up front what your company sells (even a simplistic
description), so the rest of the pitch will make sense. For example:
Healthia offers an online comparison-shopping portal for all kinds of
healthcare purchases like doctor visits and insurance.
Without going into the cause of the pathology, let me just describe
the common symptom I see that inspired this rule: 5 minutes into the
presentation (whether it’s delivered in person, by email, or sky-
writing), the audience still doesn’t know what the company does—we
understand that it’s somehow related, say, to real estate
transaction technology. But is the startup a listings site for
owners? A comparison shopping portal for title insurance? A resource
for mortgage lenders or their brokers? The suspense is killing the
Don’t write your story as a mystery novel, in which the reader must
guess what your company does. Instead, make it an edge-of-the-seat
3. Science Not Allowed In The Elevator
If the startup is in a competitive market, it may be necessary to
describe the company’s salient advantages. But make the effort to
distill the differentiation down to one, easy-to-comprehend sentence.
(Mark Twain once wrote, I would have written you a shorter letter but
I didn’t have the time.)
Here’s the pattern that I have learned (the hard way) to avoid: Some
very smart people invent a unique, defensible technology based on a
super clever approach to solving a problem. In an effort to recruit
employees, raise capital, and, most importantly, sell their product,
they present their cleverness with confidence and justified pride. To
really expose the genius, the pitch includes a good 10-20 minute
Who Has Time For This? Not VC’s, and certainly not prospective
buyers. Besides, if the technology is too clever, it will confuse
even those who stick around for the credits. Most importantly, these
startups tend to focus on their technology rather than a market
problem to solve.
[This would be a really great place in the post for a recent example.
Regrettably, discretion stymies me. So I must reach back in time to
confess my own sins…]
When Jim Bidzos first explained to me Ron Rivest’s idea for selling
public key certificates (Rivest is the R in RSA), it took a while for
the math to sink in. But as I came to understand how public key
cryptography facilitates encryption, authentication and
(theoretically) non-repudiation, I reveled in the cleverness. Like so
many spectators of greatness, I congratulated myself for
comprehending this wonderful meme. So when Jim and I launched Digital
Certificates, Inc (later renamed Verisign), I proudly (and
thoroughly) explained public key crypto to whomever I was recruiting
as a partner, employee or co-investor. “You see, people encrypt
messages today using a numeric key that they must first share with
each other…blah blah… Now using one-way functions like
multiplication of large prime numbers…blah blah… So if the public
key decrypts the message, then that must mean…blah blah…” Surely
the brilliance of the idea must compel them!
Compel? More like confuse, bore and repel. I don’t think anyone
(including me) really understood what our little startup needed to do
until we hired our CEO Stratton Sclavos. Stratton dispensed with the
math, as well as the notion that people feel the need to buy
obscenely large integers with incomprehensible mathematical
properties. Instead, Stratton announced that we are bringing Trust to
cyberspace, and our first product is a Driver’s License for the
Internet. (One of these Driver’s Licenses evolved into SSL
Stratton’s simple message focused on the market problem, not the
underlying technology. Rather than make the audience feel stupid,
Stratton crafted a metaphor that anyone can understand on even a
short elevator ride.
4. Establish Credibility. Name Dropping Allowed
As a proxy for lengthy tutorials, it’s more effective to establish
credibility by sharing the pedigree of the entrepreneurs, customers,
or (as a last resort) the investors. A glowing word from Walt
Mossberg or a Gartner Group analyst warrants a sentence in your
pitch. For example:
…Counterpane’s founder and CTO is Bruce Schneier, the
cryptographer and author whom most folks regard as the world’s
foremost expert on information security.
So I hope this blog post helps you with the difficult but critical
task of distilling your message down to an easily digestible morsel.
As an example of an elevator pitch that follows all the rules above,
here’s one that I have found to work well in about 45 seconds…
Used to be If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It, but worms and other
hacks have raised the dreadful prospect that every important computer
system in the world needs to be fixed on a weekly basis.
That’s why Determina has developed a memory firewall to protect
software on computer servers and clients alike so that they no longer
need security patches. Unlike other Intrusion Prevention Systems,
Determina never generates a false-positive alert, and stops even new
attacks without requiring data streams of new signatures, so
Determina can scale to the largest networks without human supervision.
A world class compiler team at MIT developed the technology over 8
years--the MIT professor and his grad students moved to Silicon
Valley on a leave of absence when they got funding from Bessemer,
Mayfield and USVP.
The Zen of Business Plans
In my day job, I not only hear a lot of PowerPoint pitches, but I
also read a lot of business plans. The PowerPoint pitches explain my
Ménière's disease, but the business plans explain my recent need for
reading glasses. One of my goals for blogging is to reduce the
external factors that are causing the degradation of my body, so this
entry's topic is the zen of business plans.
Write for all the right reasons. Most people write business plans to
attract investors, and while this is necessary to raise money, most
venture capitalists have made a “gut level” go/no go decision
during the PowerPoint pitch. Receiving (and possibly reading) the
business plan is a mechanical step in due diligence. The more
relevant and important reason to write is a business plan, whether
you are raising money or not, is to force the management team to
solidify the objectives (what), strategies (how), and tactics (when,
where, who). Even if you have all the capital in the world, you
should still write a business plan. Indeed, especially if you have
all the capital in the world because too much capital is worse than
Make it a solo effort. While creation of the business plan should be
a group effort involving all the principal players in the company,
the actual writing of the business plan--literally sitting down at a
computer and pounding out the document--should be a solo effort. And
ideally the CEO should do it because she will need to know the plan
by heart. Take it from an author, for writing to be cogent and
consistent, there needs to be only one author. It's very difficult to
cut-copy-and-paste several people's sections and come out with a good
Pitch, then plan. Most people create a business plan, and it's a
piece of crap: sixty pages long, fifty-page appendix, full of
buzzwords, acronyms, and superficialities like, “All we need is one
percent of the market.” Then they create a PowerPoint pitch from it.
Is it any wonder why that the plans are lousy when they are based on
crappy pitches? The correct sequence is to perfect a pitch
(10/20/30), and then write the plan from it. Write this down: A good
business plan is an elaboration of a good pitch; a good pitch is not
the distillation of good business plan. Why? Because it's much easier
to revise a pitch than to revise a plan. Give the pitch a few times,
see what works and what doesn't, change the pitch, and then write the
plan. Think of your pitch as your outline, and your plan as the full
text. How many people write the full text and then write the outline?
Put in the right stuff. Here's what a business plan should address:
Executive Summary (1), Problem (1), Solution (1), Business Model (1),
Underlying Magic (1), Marketing and Sales (1), Competition (1), Team
(1), Projections (1), Status and Timeline (1), and Conclusion (1).
Essentially, this is the same list of topics as a PowerPoint pitch.
Those numbers in parenthesis are the ideal lengths for each section;
note that they add up to eleven. As you'll see in a few paragraphs,
the ideal length of a business plan is twenty pages, so I've given
you nine pages extra as a fudge factor.
Focus on the executive summary. True or false: The most important
part of a business plan is the section about the management team. The
answer is False.* The executive summary, all one page of it, is the
most important part of a business plan. If it isn't fantastic,
eyeball-sucking, and pulse-altering, people won't read beyond it to
find out who's on your great team, what's your business model, and
why your product is curve jumping, paradigm shifting, and
revolutionary. You should spend eighty percent of your effort on
writing a great executive summary. Most people spend eighty percent
of their effort on crafty a one million cell Excel spreadsheet that
no one believes.
Keep it clean. The ideal length of a business plan is twenty pages or
less, and this includes the appendix. For every ten pages over twenty
pages, you decrease the likelihood that the plan will be read, much
less funded, by twenty-five percent. When it comes to business plans,
less is more. Many people believe that the purpose of a business plan
is to create such shock and awe that investors are begging for wiring
instructions; the reality is that the purpose of a a business plan is
to get to the next step: continued due diligence with activities such
as checking personal and customer references. The tighter the
thinking, the shorter the plan; the shorter the plan, the faster it
will get read.
Provide a one-page financial projection plus key metrics. Many
business plans contain five year projections with a $100 million top
line and such minute levels of detail that the budget for pencils is
a line item. Everyone knows that you're pulling numbers out of the
air that you think are large enough to be interesting, but not so
large as to render urine drug-testing unnecessary. Do everyone a
favor: Reduce your Excel hallucinations to one page and provide a
forecast of the key metrics of your business--for example, the number
of paying customers. These key metrics provide insight into your
assumptions. For example, if you're assuming that you'll get twenty
percent of the Fortune 500 to buy your product in the first year, I
would suggest checking into a rehab program.
Catalyze fantasy. Don't include citations of some consulting firm's
supposed validation of your market. For example, “Jupiter Research
says that the market for avocado-farming software like we make will
be $10 billion by 2010.” No one ever believes this “validations”
because the entrepreneur who pitched at 9:00 am said this about USB
thumb drives; the one at 10:00 am said this about online dog food
sales, and the one at 11:00 said this about smart antennas for cell
phones. What you want to do is catalyze fantasy: that is, enable the
reader to make her own mental calculation that this market is big.
“Every Nokia Series 40 and Series 60 owner would buy this--Wow, this
is a hot market!”
Write deliberate, act emergent. I borrowed this from my buddy Clayton
Christensen. It means that when you write your plan, you act as if
you know exactly what you're going to do. You are deliberate. You're
probably wrong, but you take your best shot. However, writing
deliberate doesn't mean that you adhere to the plan in the face of
new information and new opportunities. As you execute the plan, you
act emergent--that is, you are flexible and fast moving: changing as
you learn more and more about the market. The plan, after all, should
not take on a life of its own.
Written at: Atherton, California.
* Note: the question is what is the most important part of the
business plan, not what is the most important part of the business
itself. The management team is more important than the executive
summary to the business, but the discussion of the management team is
not the most important part of the business plan because if the
executive summary sucks, people won't get to the management team
Classical Intelligence Test - 2nd Revision
60 questions, 45-60 min
Are you a logical thinker? A numerical whiz? A verbal genius? Or are
you visually inclined? Are you looking for intellectual stimulation?
Find out how smart you are (and increase your IQ) with the
This IQ test measures several factors of intelligence, namely logical
reasoning, math skills and general knowledge. It also measures your
ability to classify things according to various attributes, and to
see analogies and relations among concepts or things. It doesn't take
into consideration verbal, social, or emotional intelligence.
This test is supposed to assess your intellectual potential, not your
performance under stress. Therefore, there is no time limit.
Nonetheless, this test is usually completed in less than one hour.
You may use a calculator, a piece of paper and a pencil. Do not use
software to solve the problems, even if you programmed it yourself.
And, of course, unless you want to assess a team IQ, you will have to
work alone. Before you start, make sure that you have about an hour
of free time during which nobody will disturb you.
Read carefully every question and select your answer in the right
column. In order to have the Classical Intelligence Test scored, you
need to select an answer for every question. Some questions are
designed to be very difficult. If you cannot figure out the answer,
simply select I don't know and move on.
Find out more about this test...
Spiders make best ever Post-it notes A scanning electron microscope
(SEM) micrograph of the foot of the jumping spider E. arcuata. Click
for high resolution image. Scientists have found that the way spiders
stick to ceilings could be the key to making Post-it® notes that
don't fall off - even when they are wet. A team from Germany and
Switzerland have made the first detailed examinations of a jumping
spider's 'foot' and have discovered that a molecular force sticks the
spider to almost anything. The force is so strong that these spiders
could carry over 170 times their own body weight while standing on
the ceiling. The research is published today (Monday 19 April 2004)
in the Institute of Physics journal Smart Materials and Structures.
This is the first time anyone has measured exactly how spiders stick
to surfaces, and how strong the adhesion force is. The team used a
scanning electron microscope (SEM) to make images of the foot of a
jumping spider, Evarcha arcuata (pictures available - see notes).
There is a tuft of hairs on the bottom of the spider's leg, and each
individual hair is covered in more hairs. These smaller hairs are
called setules, and they are what makes the spider stick. The paper
reveals that the force these spiders use to stick to surfaces is the
van der Waals force, which acts between individual molecules that are
within a nanometre of each other (a nanometre is about ten thousand
times smaller than the width of a human hair). The team used a
technique called Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) to measure this force.
The flexible contact tips of the setules are triangular (pictures
available - see notes), and they have an amazingly high adhesive
force on the underlying surface. Andrew Martin, from the Institute of
Technical Zoology and Bionics in Germany, said, "We found out that
when all 600,000 tips are in contact with an underlying surface the
spider can produce an adhesive force of 170 times its own weight.
That's like Spiderman clinging to the flat surface of a window on a
building by his fingertips and toes only, whilst rescuing 170 adults
who are hanging on to his back!"
VERY COOL RESEARCH:
From Mirror to Mist: Cracking the Secret of Fracture Instabilities
Researchers from Max Planck Institute for Metals Research and
Massachusetts Institute of Technology have performed atom-by-atom
investigations of how cracks propagate in brittle materials When
materials break and cracks propagate, bonds between atoms are broken,
generating two new material surfaces. Experiments have shown that
cracks moving at low speeds create atomically flat mirror-like
surfaces, whereas cracks at higher speeds leave increasingly rough
fracture surfaces. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for
Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts have simulated the
atomistic details of how cracks propagate in brittle materials and
gained significant insight into the physics of dynamical fracture
instabilities. They have shown quantitatively that fracture
instabilities are controlled by the properties of materials under
extreme deformation conditions near a moving crack tip (Nature,
January 19, 2006). Their study further shows that in rubber-like
materials that stiffen with strain, cracks can move at speeds faster
than the Rayleigh-wave speed while creating mirror-like surfaces.
These findings may have significant implications on the understanding
of fracture in different materials at different scales, from nano-
materials to airplanes, buildings or even earthquake dynamics.
Making The Most of The Sun - Vital House by Ulterior Mode
January 23, 2006 06:39 AM - Leonora Oppenheim, Barcelona
We like the clean lines of the Vital House, but frustratingly, and
rather typically, we can’t find out much about it. Designed by Erin
Vali of Ulterior Mode we are told it is eco-friendly and economical,
but no specs on either price or materials are provided. What we can
tell you is that the Vital House is ‘designed to harness the sun’s
energy through passive heating and cooling techniques.’ It is
adaptable to almost any location and this particular model has four
bedrooms and a double height open plan living space. Since we have
been pulled up on heralding the arrival of affordable prefab before,
we are rather wary of shouting about this one from the prefab
rooftops! However we do know that Erin Vali has got a good record for
economical architecture. The Husten-Haskin House in New York State
was built for $185 per square foot including land, the house is 1800
square foot, with extra studio space of 900sq.ft. We’re just
wondering if his eco-version will be more expensive.
Via:MocoLoco ::Ulterior Mode