Monthly Archives: March 2010

TrustFabric Silicon Cape Pitch

My 60 second pitch for the 2nd Silicon Cape networking event.

Tonight I’d like to tell you about a Cape Town startup called TrustFabric.

1) What is it?

TrustFabric is a new way of thinking about personal information management.

I like to say TrustFabric builds flying cars. We give them away for free and we make money by being air traffic control.

The flying cars are Agents.. digital butlers. Everybody needs one. Agents help you manage your personal information and are connected by trusted relationships.

TrustFabric is a fully distributed network of autonomous agents.

To make sense of this network, which is basically anarchy, you need air traffic control. This is how we make money: Micro trust billing.

2) What makes us different?

We want to change the world. Seriously.

We’re not an attention business. We don’t sell ads. We focus on reputation and trust.

TrustFabric has as open source business model. We give away our software. It’s a new, open ecosystem for information management.

3) What is the potential here?

Manage your relationships in one place. Engage the world on your terms.

Realistic, scalable relationships between business and consumers.

The end of spam – No more un-authenticated communication.

A new trusted, social fabric.

4) Join us

We are currently running an invite-only alpha service. To sign up for our alpha service.. come ask me for a business card.


Thank you.

TrustFabric GeekDinner Launch

Last night I gave the first public presentation about TrustFabric at the GeekDinner. I think it went well. A number of people asked to join our alpha service and there were some good questions after the talk, which makes me think people “get it”.

Slides are here.

It was a fun GeekDinner. The Royal Cape Yacht club was a nice venue. Very good turnout.. pretty much exactly the number that was catered for (75).

At first I was a bit worried that this month’s GeekDinner planning just did not want to gain momentum but, living up to it’s name (Spontaneous Sprout) it spontaneously all just fell into place at the end. Interesting talks, good food and some quality geeky networking.

Thanks to Delheim for the wine sponsorship.

Thanks to TrustFabric for the AV sponsorship (-:

See you at the next one.

Story Series Part 4 : Teraco

From the stories series.

The brief history of Teraco.. South Africa’s first vendor neutral data centre business.


Matt, Abz and I started the business in 2006.

In June/July 2006 I took a tour of vendor neutral DC’s around London Docklands.

I remember while working at Amazon with Ben and James they suggested I should have a chat with Matt about ISP business things, so when I spotted an email from Matt on the IOZ list around 2006 about building data centres I quickly emailed him. Abz and I went to see him.

[IOZ] Datacentre expertise
Matthew Tagg
Tue Aug 8 12:54:20 SAST 2006

HI All

We are having difficulty finding a specialist experienced in world-
class datacentre construction and planning. If anyone can help out
with a contact in South Africa we would be eternally grateful!

Warm regards,

Matt wanted to build a DC for WebAfrica in Hope Street.

I suggest to Matt that maybe he should not build a DC for WebAfrica.. maybe we should build a vendor neutral data centre business.


Why vendor neutral?

At this point we have to jump back to 2001. I was working for IOL at the time. We figured Cape Town needed a peering point. The Hub Project was started. The idea was that IOL was moving lots of traffic and they could peer with some ISPs (including Frogfoot).

The Hub failed. Mostly in my mind because of two people working for UUNet at the time: Edwin and Rob. The Great Westerford building was a well connected building. Frogfoot’s DC was there. IOL was hosted in the UUNet DC. UUNet controlled the cabling inside their DC and they did not want peering to happen because they obviously liked the idea that IOL was paying the same money for a packet that moved 10m than a packet that moved 15000km.

After The Hub failed it became obvious that we needed data centre space where the data centre provider was not as ISP. I registered a “capecolo” domain and then stared talking to some property developers, did some research on big gensets and UPS systems.. expensive toys, but in the end SA was not ready.

The power of No

So, why did I tell you The Hub story?

Because, it all started with the motivation from somebody saying: No. And somebody thinking: we’ll just have to see about that. “No” can be a good motivator.

Getting the business funded

DC’s are not cheap. Teraco needed about R100m.

I knew Dave Gale also from IOL days and Abz and I did some consulting work for Storm in 2000ish. Abz bumped into Dave at a 27 Dinner (which Bev dragged him to) and asked what the two Tims were up to after selling Storm to Vox.

So for a while it was the 4 of us: Matt, Abz, Joe and Tim P.

At this point we were on business plan version 7 or something like that and the word “bar” was used often.

Tim managed to get the business funded, which was kinda nice (-:

I wrote about the day Teraco was funded here: Running with the Big Dogs.


In March 2009 Teraco opened it’s first data centre, in the same building it all kinda started: Great Westerford.. and the rest is history.

I sold my shares in Teraco in mid 2009.

Quick Update

Speak softly and carry a big idea..

  • Monday, tea, made fresh juice, gym, swim, Naulene meeting #4, photo processing, meeting with Jonathan, a long beach walk.
  • “By now you should have somehow realised what you’ve got to do.” — Wonderwall, Oasis

  • Tuesday, monthly health check-up and vitB shot, manicure, Earl Grey tea at Crush, 1km swim, SE10 at the Radisson.
  • Wednesday, tax guy visit, pool shop visit, office space shopping with Lyle, Christo visit, Audi Centre visit, Mia birthday cake logistics, post office visit, Heavy Chef.. got a tshirt, supper with Robyne at Sinns.
  • Very interesting to hear the story of other people who tried something similar (to TrustFabric). Seems our biggest risk could be that the world is not ready.
  • Some people like things to be real. Some people like things to be unreal. I think I like unreal things becoming real.
  • “We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”

    “I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.”

    — Found these on Jonathan’s blog

  • Thursday, Lions Head walk with Maz, good to hear an engineer’s view on addressing the poverty problem, design session with Mike, tea and Bircher Muesli at Knead, 1km swim, a run and Clifton beach walk.
  • I figure some people aspire to be average and some work very hard not to be average, but in the bigger picture, it’s very hard to be average. As Maz says, when we’re hungry we just buy something to eat.. but that’s only about 10% of the population.. check out: The Broccoli Project
  • Friday, a Neo day, meetings with Nikki, Ingi, Max, Beta Beach photo session with Mia.. we bumped into Lambro and Anna, Mia kept Anneline Kriel busy, watched The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, pita salad, bath, read, sleep.
  • I showed Mia my photos of Notre-Dame. She’s into numbers and adding now.. 3+3=6 kinda stuff.
  • Saturday, tea, watched Lilo and Stitch, Mia helped make a smoothie, Jacsharp and Bed on Bricks at The Cape Farmhouse near Scarborough, Fish Hoek beach play area, pasta salad, bath, read, sleep.
  • “A rise in income has only a small and transient effect on happiness and well being, but people consistently overestimate this effect. Kahneman et al. proposed that this is a result of a focusing illusion, with people focusing on conventional measures of achievement rather than on everyday routine.” —, yeah I kinda agree happiness is your weekly routine.

  • At this rate of tea drinking I’ll consume about 6kg of honey a year.
  • Mia: You know what.. I don’t like my Mom’s boss, but I like your boss.
    Joe: What do you mean your Mom’s boss?
    Mia: Her boss is her brain.

  • Installed ScummVM. DOTT is awesome. Now I just need to get it working on Mia’s iPod.
  • Sunday, tea, made fresh juice, gym, swim, smoothie, toy shop, aquarium.. watched them feed the sharks, Mouille Point play area, bath, read, sleep.
  • My magic mouse ran out of battery power for the first time. Very annoying.
  • I’ve been getting into using Aperture… but I’m not too sure what all the buttons do yet.
  • Tune of the week: Don’t stop me now, Queen.. Mia plays it over and over and over.

Soon we can all be hacking the social fabric.. Have a fun 4 day week kids.

The Business of Parenting

Nobody said parenting was simple. Having two very different parents makes it even more interesting.

You may know of the little custody battle that was starting to unfold recently. It seems Mia’s mom has changed her mind and now wants to live in South Africa again.

Things have become very businesslike. Meetings have agendas, minutes of meetings get signed, with witnesses, things we can’t agree on move to mediation, contracts need to be drawn up. We have a formal change request process for visiting times. You’ll be surprised the little details which need to be clearly expressed.

Sound like fun?

Yeah, it’s a pain, but I’m starting to think this is maybe a very realistic way of dealing with the responsibility of parenting. The last thing you want is an expectations mismatch. Maybe all parenting partnerships should have contracts..

“See, families should be run like companies…
…with everybody’s responsibilities clearly defined.
All the best relationships are based on contracts.”
— D.H. Banes, Igby Goes Down


I attended the 3rd Cape Sotware Engineering Colloquium this week at the Radisson.

In short.. it was pretty cool. Good topics, good speakers, nice snacks. Jenny McKinnell and her CITI team did a very good job.

Two thoughts:

1) I think the word “engineering” is used too often in software development. (Yes, yes, it was an IEEE thing). Software development is not engineering, it’s a knowledge discovery process. It’s about people, not maths. It’s a journey. I think that’s the essence of Agile. Knowledge + Experience = Understanding. Knowledge and experience grows as you start to understand the problem better.

2) Conference name tags, on lanyards are not cool.. unless you print the name on both sides. Over tea I was chatting with one pretty cool individual, but her tag was facing the wrong way and I got interrupted so I did not ask for her details. Dagnabbit.

Thanks to Gerhard from Yila Consulting for the invite.

Quick Update

A week in the life of Joe..

  • Monday, swim, gym, swim, Naulene meeting number 3, swim, run, swim, work, swim.
  • Mobilising Mia on a Monday is like mobilising a small army.
  • Tuesday, admin day.. apply bottom to chair, a run and Clifton beach walk, TF meeting.
  • I’ve been tinkering with my homepage. Some of the content is really starting to become old now. I guess the best strategy is just to keep updating the things that really bug me and make peace with the idea that all homepages are out of date.
  • Wednesday, dental surgeon visit, Frogfoot office visit for photo processing, Kauai wrap, watched A Single Man at the Labia on Orange.. very good.
  • Sadly, I think I’m not going to get around to a Suicide Gorge trip this year.
  • Thursday, lunch with PW at Greens, dentist, 1km swim, shopping, braai in Bakoven.
  • Friday, UX meeting with Phil and Debre, fish and chips with Jonathan and Aiden at Foresters, Somerset House school tour with Mia and Naulene, cheesecake at Manuka, Beta Beach photo session with Mia, bath, read, sleep.
  • With a bit of luck we seem to have sorted out the Mia school story.. and the more interesting part: which country she will be living in.
  • If you can negotiate with Naulene, you can negotiate with anybody.
  • I managed to confirm the date and venue for the next GeekDinner.
  • Saturday, tea, breakfast with Cath at Knead, gym, swim, Stellenbosch slow food market with Andrew, Bell and Jess, a virgin cocktail at Buena Vista, book shop, shopping, I made a very nice spinach and Ricotta Tortelloni with an olive tapenade based sauce, bath, read, sleep.
  • I was pondering.. if success is compounded opportunities, what do we give children to give them that advantage.. it used to be as simple as access to a computer.. I’m thinking the answer is in an attitude towards life. Education, believe in what you can explain, negotiation skills, how to spot value, how to communicate your ideas well.. hmm, not a trivial question.
  • Sunday, tea, made fresh juice, watched Duck Tales, some drawing, sent Mia’s 4th birthday party invites, aquarium.. bumped into Paul, icecream, gym, swim.. bumped into Jess and Jade, pizza at Buzz Cafe.. bumped into Carel.
  • Thinking about the effects of the cyclists on my mood today, I should really make a plan to exit Cape Town while the soccer is on.
  • I think I’m officially undergoing a bit of a slump in my photography.. but then again, I have enough interesting things to keep me busy.
  • Remember kids, it’s not the model of your iPod, it’s what you are listening to.
  • It’s not good enough just to reproduce. You have to have cool children.
  • Tune of the week: American Pie, Don McLean.. Mia and I like to sing along in the car.
  • It’s not about the idea or the technology anymore, it’s about the community.
  • Sometimes I wonder how humans made it through the dark ages without face cream.

Have a fun week crazy kids.

Audi Troubles

This morning, I’m unhappy because some muppet phoned me without sending caller-ID.. I just love those random very lame customer service calls.. the muppet was going to conduct a survey taking “a few minutes”. I did not take his survey because on Saturday I had another random no-caller-ID person following up on a service. I explained to that person why I was not currently a happy camper. They obviously don’t share notes.

Here we go.. my problem is the roof of the car.

I’ve had an Audi A4 Cabriolet since mid Oct 2008. I can probably count the weeks in which the roof was fully functional on my one hand. Just for fun, let me count the number of times the car has been back to the dealership by browsing my iCal records week by week:

Car Service scheduled 31 October 2008 from 07:00
Car Service scheduled 05 December 2008 from 07:30
Car Service scheduled 06 February 2009 from 07:00
Car Service scheduled 20 March 2009 from 07:00
Car Service scheduled 17 April 2009 from 07:00
Car Service scheduled 22 May 2009 from 07:00
Car Service scheduled 05 June 2009 from 07:00
Car Service scheduled 09 October 2009 from 07:30
Car Service scheduled 23 October 2009 from 08:00
Car Service scheduled 06 November 2009 from 07:00
Car Service scheduled 27 November 2009 from 07:30
Two weeks over xmas and newyears, got it back around the 8th of Jan.
Car Service scheduled 26 February 2010 from 07:00

Car Service scheduled 26 March 2010 from 08:00 .. STILL NOT FIXED.

14 times in 17 months.. or about 27 days in 17 months… and the roof is still currently not fixed. Since 26 Feb (about two weeks later) I’m still waiting for the audi service advisor, who is very, very, very well aware of the problem to contact me and suggest how he is going to fix the problem.

I like Audi. I understand a convertible roof can be tricky, but this is insane.

I was seriously looking at the A5 Cab. Parri thinks I should just get a Boxter.

Anybody else having this kind of hassle with their Audi?

ps. Why do I spend this kind of money on a car if they can’t even phone me with caller ID?

Definition of a Geek?

I joined something called the geeklist this week. You need to answer some questions to be accepted. I was pondering this question on my sunset run today:

g) What is your definition of a geek?

My answer was:
Something I wrote a pretty long time ago.

My new definition is a bit simpler: A geek is not lazy. The END.

Geeks are passionate. Geeks crave knowledge. Geeks find enough reward in doing something just by finding it interesting… and herein is the real clue to what a geek is.

Your average muppet walks the earth with an insect-like reward framework. Their expectations for reward are very simple: do a bit of work, just enough, ask people to pay them, instant gratification, drink beer, watch TV.. be lazy.

Most geeks I know are successful because for a long time they did not care to be paid for working on the things they found really interesting.

Geeks have a longer term view. Geeks will say, screw you, your OS sucks, we’ll build our own even if it takes 10 years. Geeks need things to be done the right way.. so they can’t be lazy.

Go read this.

ps. I guess I also wrote this because it annoys me when people call themselves geeks, are aware of the right way, but just don’t care enough to do something the right way.

Get Everybody on the Bus

Another one from the CITI questionnaire:

What words of advice do you have for budding technology entrepreneurs?

My answer was:

1) Get everybody on the bus and then figure out where the bus is going… the team is often more important than the destination. (an Alex Meiring idea)


2) A key part to success is hard work and access to things others don’t have (an idea from Outliers). You need to spend 10k hours (ten thousand hours) on something new and interesting. In my case it was Linux and networking. If you combine these skills with business you will soon be sucked into 10k hours of business and entrepreneurship experience.

3) Learn to spot value. Invest in things where others take 2-3 years see the real value. Don’t follow, find a way to be first, find a new category. Think: the first vendor neutral data centre business in South Africa.

Why did you become an Entrepreneur Joe?

I was filling in a questionnaire this week for a CITI “IT Heroes” thing. One of the questions were: Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I answered: I did not want to be an engineer.

Then I figured, hmm.. that’s not really true. Maybe at the time it was.

Maybe I like the idea that all progress depends on entrepreneurs.. who would governments tax if there were no entrepreneurs?

I think my current answer is: adventure. I like the discovery process. I like the problem solving. I like the negotiations. I like convincing people of the truth. (-:

Yes, adventure.