Monthly Archives: August 2008

Quotes of the day

“What if everything you’ve got made you want more?” — Lightning Seeds

“It’s the so-called “normal” guys that always let you down. Sickos never scare me. At least they’re committed.” — Batman Returns

“I’m not a paranoid deranged millionaire. Goddamit, I’m a billionaire.” — Howard Hughes

Learning the Hard Way

It’s often more fun learning things the hard way. This idea came to me as I was lying flat on my back on a wet tile floor this morning… smiling at the idea that I almost ordered myself a Darwin award.

I also suspect that this is something Mia has figured out a while ago. We now have a “two strikes and you’re out” rule on general stubbornness and boundary testing issues.

Spotted this little gem on the back of a car this weekend..

Quick Update

The weekly news batch..

  • Monday, cable car run, veggie soup at Georg’s house.
  • Tuesday, Teraco meetings, visited the Vineyard Hotel, note to self: go try the sushi there.
  • Tuesday night, Cape Town bloggerati party at Long Street Cafe. Asoka jazz night and a good Tanqueray Martini. Listened to Dave Brubeck and made cocktails for friends.
  • New cocktail: Cointreau, tequila, apple, cranberry and ginger juice, garnish with orange peel swirl.
  • Wednesday, pre-ordered an E71. Tea with Parri at Lazari and a beer at Sinns. Good thinktanking time.. searching for the next big idea.
  • Thursday, table mountain run, bumped into Judy and Eben from underwater hockey days.
  • Fri, I can bench 100Kg again. Found a “big” idea. I’ve told two people so far, I think my elevator pitch is still a bit long and complex.
  • Friday afternoon, Mia time, tea (with the crazy bitch) and shopping.
  • Saturday, gym, swim, watched parts of Monsters, Inc for the 8th time. “We scare, because we care”, nice jazz soundtrack, reminds me a bit of SA at the moment.. corrupt officials and electricity is a scare.
  • Saturday afternoon, Tri-nations rugby at Newlands. A nice day if you ignore the actual rugby game. Mia’s first babysitting experience. Meebs and the babysitter seem to get on well.
  • Sunday, gym, swim and a lovely sunny afternoon at Noordhoek Farm Village with Cath and Parri. Lunch at Cafe Roux and some Haute Cabriere white wine. Tofu veggie green curry with Georg in Obs.
  • ADSL just sucks.. for interactive traffic.

Have a fun week. Time for a quick walk around Lions Head.

Social Entrepreneurship and Evolution

I had tea with Parri at Lazari’s on Wednesday. Try the lamb pita.

Among other ideas, we talked about the sustainability of community computer labs and school connectivity projects.

A theory for social entrepreneurship, of special relevance to projects involving computers and the internet: Finding the champions in a community that provide sustainability is a bit like the early stages of evolutionary theory.

Let me tell you a story first…

In 1997 Linux was kinda new and let’s face it, a bit intimidating. Which is a bad thing, unless you like intimidating challenges. At the time, I figured there was no cooler thing than a massively complex system (art) that made perfect logical sense after you mastered it.

I remember making a poster for the Stellenbosch Linux User Group which we founded. The first draft of the poster actually mentioned how complex and intimidating it was..

Before you looms one of the most complex and utterly intimidating systems ever written. Linux, the free UNIX clone for the personal computer, produced by a mishmash team of UNIX gurus, hackers, and the occasional loon. The system itself reflects this complex heritage, and although the development of Linux may appear to be a disorganized volunteer effort, the system is powerful, fast, and free. — LIGS

Linux is a product of an inherently decentralised anti-hierarchical network and quite possibly the most important achievement to stem from the internet. But most of all it’s a chance to be inspired. — First Stellenbosch LUG installathon poster

I remember reading HOWTO documents for fun. There’s some good humour in HOWTOs. I loved discovering the “fortune” command.. a massive collection of quotes.

In 1997 my cousin lived in a student house with a Linux geek, so I met two geeks who knew a bit about Linux. I was clueless at the time, but I was interested. I kinda begged them to help me get going.. I think they figured: yeah, sure dude, you may just last a week, but it’s not worth our time.. so they gave me a Linux distro CD set and sent me on my way. Help yourself.

Now, do not confuse the state of Linux distro’s in 1997 with 2008. You had to pretty much do everything from scratch back then. Took me the better part of a week to get something working, but two weeks later I had two Linux PC’s that could ping each other.

Later, at Linux installathons (bring your PC and we install Linux for you) there would be a competition on how many people you could install Linux for in an evening. Sounds like fun… but the real challenge was finding people who would stick with Linux and not just switch back to their previous OS a week later. And ultimately finding people who progressed to the point where the started installing Linux for the people around them.

There did not seem to be a pattern. Some people were converted, some not. We couldn’t really figure it out.. but it seemed that the more people struggled and get something working on their PC the more likely they were to continue going. Remember, these were the days when not that much hardware was supported out of the box.

The inverse was also true: easy come, easy go. If it just worked.. I think people figured, I could just re-install Linux again some other time if I really need it.

What’s my point? Well, it’s about an investment in time.

If people are interested and passionate when they start a project AND they struggle a bit, they begin to invest. If they invest and see some positive feedback pattern (success), they gain momentum. They start to care. They own something. They feel pride. They have something to lose. It becomes a part of their identity.

There is a sensitive dependence on initial conditions in a person’s transformation from ignorance, all they way to fanaticism.

I don’t think you can predict the combination of variables to create these catalyst environments. The best you can do is hope you have the right resources available when people become receptive to ideas that stimulate interest and passion.

Let the primordial juices flow.

“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow.” — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

“He had everything except desire.” — Gattaca

“There is no gene for the human spirit.” — Gattaca

I can do a thousand now

Found these on the soundtrack with iTunes on random. Should watch the movie again.

I live in the American Gardens Building on West 81st Street on the 11th floor. My name is Patrick Bateman. I’m 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I’ll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now.

There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.

I have all the characteristics of a human being: flesh, blood, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.

Toddler Friendly

We interrupt our regular geeky programming to talk parenting.. actually I’m looking for a backup babysitter (n+1 redundancy) and toddler friendly outings. Maybe you know of a list like this? Cape Town Kids looks interesting.

Babysitter:
Looks like Mia is going to have her first babysitting experience this Saturday (at age 2.4). Dad is going to the rugby. Found a good babysitter through friends, but I figure I need a backup. Let me know if you know of somebody.

Toddler spots in Cape Town.. some of the places I like:

  • Wembley Square
  • Deer Park Cafe, in Vredehoek
  • Paradiso, in Kloof Street
  • Manna, in Kloof Street
  • Mouille Point
  • Signal Hill
  • Glen Beach

I guess I’m looking for places where you can have lunch/brunch on a Saturday/Sunday, a glass of wine, chill with friends and know that Number One is safe and entertained. What’s your favorite Cape Town kids spot?

Unholy Army of the Night

A day for blogging about blogging. Since we’re on the topic..

There seems to be this trend that many of the blogs I used to enjoy following have dramatically dipped in post frequency. Like 3/week to maybe 2/month.

I’m sure these people all have long lists of drafts or notes about things they want to blog about.. but, they must just be busy.. or it’s the EVIL Twitter that’s turned the people who can actually write into pellet popping rats craving the next bite sized bit of nothingness. An army of rodents performing slow but steady full frontal lobotomies on each other, remotely.

I could’ve trained them to be my unholy army of the night. Go, my pretties! Kill! Kill! — Bart Simpson

ps. Jonathan, before I clicked “publish” I figured.. yes, I will still find this funny in 20 days. Humour at the expense of others.

pps. To the micro bloggers, before the nasty comments start, I’m sorry if I called you a short attention span lab rat. Take sleeping pills.

ppps. It seems sex is the last activity people find compelling enough to single task.

If you are good at something

Idea of the day..

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free” — The Joker, in The Dark Knight

or, like Andy says..

I have two rates:
a) Free
b) Very expensive

Maybe I’m just not good (specialised) enough at a number of things.. or maybe that annoying altruistic side of me needs to read The Virtue of Selfishness again.

Teraco is Open for Business

..well, kinda

ETA for the Cape Town Teraco datacentre is end of January 2009. We are now taking orders and we are offering an early bird discount.

Contact me if you are in the market for datacentre space.

Teraco is the first South African company to offer datacentre facilities that are vendor-neutral. Our first facility in Great Westerford, Cape Town will raise the bar on the security, redundancy and efficiency of colocation services. This new datacentre will be a dense hub of connectivity and an open market to drive the growth of ICT services at a new pace. Teraco is a business focused on a single goal of building high quality datacentre environments. We create platforms for our customers and partners to add value, innovate and focus on their core businesses. Inside a Teraco facility you will find: Carriers, ISPs, Peering Point(s), Voice Exchanges, Storage Providers, Managed Service Providers (BC/DR), Corporate Businesses, Content Providers and Hosted Application Service Providers.

We are actively working on securing location for Teraco in Joburg. Naturally finding a site with enough electricity is the challenge. We’re busy looking at a site close to the airport at the moment.. but if you know of nice sites with ~8MVA available give me a shout.

I met with a major mobile content provider yesterday about taking space in Teraco CPT. A 14 cabinet deal. Impressive growth in the mobile space. They have nice toys.

See you at iWeek is September. With a bit of luck we should be taking orders for our Joburg site by then.

SA-NZ Rugby this Saturday

The kind people at Neotel invited me to the All Blacks tri-nations game at Newlands this Saturday. Very much looking forward to it.

I’m usually not the biggest rugby nut, but I make an effort to see games like these.

I guess I’m writing this because a friend in the call centre game phoned me yesterday asking if I know about these Neotel guys and if they are any good. It’s kinda hard to give a bad review when they invite you to the rugby. (-:

A bit later I was eating veggie soup at Georg’s place and I saw their new TV add.. the one with the little people climbing out of the road signs. Pretty slick. Nice focused message.

I think they are doing well.

Running with the Big Dogs

A few weeks ago I wrote a brief post about Teraco’s successful first round funding. The last 18 months have been a very interesting learning experience. I figured I’d share some general thoughts and experiences about the process of raising a large amount of money for a new business idea.

So, there I was, sitting in a restaurant one evening, in a private suite, with a group of about ten exceptional gentlemen, investment bankers, fund managers, experienced entrepreneurs and businessmen. You could say it was a celebration dinner. Smiles all around. Interesting conversations. Board meeting completed. Paperwork signed and sealed. The food is excellent. I select a good red wine off an impressive list.. and I’m thinking..

So this is what it’s like running with the big dogs.. people up there in the rarefied air.

Note to self: Let’s do this again.

Up to now, all the ventures I’ve been a founder of have been mostly organically grown and have not needed major initial capital investments. Amobia needed some starting capital to build its first network infrastructure and Blio for it’s PBX production, but somehow we’ve always managed to fund the staring phases by selling services.

Seeing a business raise a healthy initial investment, attract a solid team of people and find the kind of momentum Teraco has just makes you want to do it all again. Once you tasted it you want more, like that scene with the little girl asking for more in Interview with a Vampire.

A few ideas..

Choose your business ideas wisely

Something you realise down the line, one of those perfect hindsight items. Don’t just jump in and swim. Some ideas just don’t have the potential to make a big impact even though you are very passionate about them. If you think you have the most awesome idea.. write it down and read it again in a week. If you still think it’s awesome start figuring out if it can make serious money.

Take a longer term view. Business ideas can have a 1-2 year incubation cycle, just simmering and waiting for the right environment. Ask yourself if you are willing to put 3-5 years of your life into an idea before you start. Have the discipline to know when not to start a new project.

Get a good lawyer

You’ll need somebody to help you decode long boring legal agreements, draft deal sheets, edit and check legal documents, subscription agreements, shareholder agreements etc. Somebody you trust.

Write a good business plan

Keep notes. Keep refining your business plan. Work at answering the questions your investors will have. It’s not something your write over a weekend. It can take months. Don’t waste too much time with the big name consulting firms. They can give you advice, but they can’t write a business plan for you. Good business plans get written by the founders of the business.

You need a good financial model

Keep it as simple as possible. Something that can be audited without too much pain, not something that explores the final frontiers of spreadsheet limitations.

Get yourself a trust fund to keep your assets and shares in

Work on your elevator pitch

Have cash to risk. Place your bets

To be serious about this game, I figure you need about R1m of cash around, which you are willing to risk in getting a new venture ready for its first major funding. Make sure you are willing to invest your own money in your idea. You must be sold on the idea.

Go big or go home

I think it’s easier to raise R50m than R1m. Big ideas grab attention. Big ideas have less competition. Nobody is very interested in a really cool idea that produces a business worth less than a house.

Investment bankers are a rare breed

Interesting people. Quick to grasp ideas. Quick to move on to other ideas. Good at spotting value, very good at quantifying value. If you have a good idea, a good plan and the numbers make sense I doubt that you’ll need to do that much convincing. They’ll quickly let you know if they believe your story. There are a number of very good investors and fund managers around once you start looking.

Reputation

Reputation is very valuable. The investment community is well connected. People have to want to work with you again in future.

Learn to negotiate

Talking turkey is an art. Know when to stick to your guns. Take your time when the big moves get made. It’s ok to think it through and give your answers in a future meeting. People quickly learn your ways of negotiation. I think it’s constructive to be consistent. Logic, reasoning skills and being able to express your ideas are essential. Making sense is the best offense in any negotiation. Be creative in finding solutions or new angles to explore.

The slow lane

Don’t waste your time with people who don’t have money or don’t get the idea. I remember a few meetings with people where they kept batting the idea and I kept thinking.. “dude, I’m brining you the most awesome idea on a plate, just wake up and let your ego take a nap”.

Look around

You need to constantly be looking around for good ideas. Sometimes it’s a simple idea that crossed your path a long time ago that is the most powerful.

Quick Update

Some people Twitter, I batch my news and bullet-blog..

  • Monday, had a few Tanqueray no. 10 Martini’s at Relish. Seems I’m going to be on the board of Section 21 company, that’s a first. Met Jaco from Pangea.
  • Tuesday, Sushi, watched Hancock, Jazz night at Asoka and a rather random 29th bday party for Matt.
  • Matt figures I’m an INTP personality. It’s a nice model. Simple, well structured, good story, but may also be an easily workable falsehood. I’ll read about MMPI next.
  • Wednesday, creative writing, lunch with Jonathan at Greens. Typed up this WAPA secretary job spec. Went for a run along the cable car road. Took a few nice sunset panoramic photos.
  • Thursday, house shopping in Higgovale. A run along the Mouille Point promenade. A burger at Da Vinci’s on Kloof and Asoka again.
  • Friday, House shopping in Camps Bay. Time with Meebs. Earl Grey tea with the ~ex-wife at Paradiso.
  • Saturday, gym, swim, Knead, Deer Park, afternoon nap and a nice braai at Georg’s place.
  • I can bench press a bit more than my body weight again, seems to take about 3 sessions with reasonable intensity to make progress.
  • Sunday morning, Lion’s Head at 9:00 with Jono. Climbed up to the top with Mia in a baby-backpack. If you ever need motivation to lose ~16kg try climb a mountain with a 2yr old on your back.
  • Sunday afternoon, Bloubergstrand with Georg, Blue Peter, walk on the beach, fish and chips and white wine at a nice beach front restaurant. Mia ran all over the place and made a few friends and enemies. She does not like to be pushed around.. *grin*. Ended up at Fandango’s.
  • 200th Crackbook friend.
  • See you at the Cape Town bloggers party on Tuesday night.

Man, I’m stiff today, but I figure the photos are worth it, no pain no gain… have a fun week.