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Last week Rand Paul went to Howard University as part of a his outreach to the more left leaning parts of the African American community. While there a student asked “Howard University student to Sen. Rand Paul: "Good afternoon, Senator. My name is Keenan Glover, I’m an administration of justice major from Rochester, New York. A freshman, as well. You say you want to provide a government that leaves us alone. Quite frankly, I don’t want that. I want a government that is going to help me. I want a government that is going to help me fund my college education. I want a government that won’t define me by my FAFSA or by my family’s income. I’m a dollar sign with a heartbeat in this nation. This society is a mirror image of Capitol Hill. Do you, Senator Rand Paul, have a solution to come up with new American values so that the citizens of this nation have a worth of more than dead presidents and Ben Franklin?”
The question that always brings to mind is what is that person after by asking for that help? Is it that they get the help or does it matter that it's the Government that's helping? If it doesn't matter where the help comes from then what's the problem with others deciding not to participate, to be “left alone”? What makes the Government the only organization capable of providing help?
Is there a way for people who agree with Rand and those who agree with Keenan to live with two different systems that happen to exist within the same borders? That half of the country that views the Government as the solution can do so while those who don't live within a system that is not allowed to use those services? We've figured out how to build an Internet that works regardless of the hardware vendor or operating system. Why can't we do that with Government services?
As of about 4:00 a.m. this morning, April 14, I have been around the sun 44 times. Given today's life expectancy I have officially reached middle-age. Several years ago I ran across The Season's of a Man's Life and it helped me understand my 30s and 40s.
According to the book I'm in the “mid-life transition” season where I become increasingly aware of how short life really is. Having had a heart attack in 2002 I've already had to face that fact. That's the point where I decided to stop screwing around and actually accomplish something. That was eleven years ago. Have I accomplished as much as I would have liked? No. But I've made definite progress. I'm also working to take a bit more control over myself in terms of sharpening skills and changing bad habits.
One annoying habit many of us develop at this age is to attempt to pass on the lessons we've learned to those directly behind us. That's when you start sounding more and more like an old-fart than a contemporary. I'm going to try and tone that one down a bit…
The one odd thing about 44 is that you start thinking about being 50 a bit more. That shit is scary. Prior to this you could still consider yourself close enough to your 30s that it was just a rounding error. But 44 is undeniably in your 40s.
I did get some good bar-b-que and a chocolate cake out of it, though!
Kickstarter success was completely unexpected, never dreamed of reaching $110k. Both harder and easier to do Kickstarter than you may think.
Original goal was an extended rant. Didn't think a video was needed but made one anyway. Grew into an essay, then a monogram, and finally a book. Did another kickstarter to publish the book. Third attempt crowdfund publicizing the book but no response yet from Kickstarter.
Doug Griffith: Certain sentiments and themes are successful. Charitable causes and David vs Goliath both go well. Uwingu worked well. Golden Spike campaign has not.
Q&A: Will too many campaigns saturate the market? Rand - Not sure. Delayed a campaign to avoid competing with NSS video. Laine - Disagree. More the better. Talked with the founder of Kickstarter about a new “research” category rather than just “technology. About 40% of NSS video contributors were new to Kickstarter
Several companies in Hypepotamus are pursuing crowdfunding projects and/or help others with building a successful crowdfunding campaign. Just outside our doors is a company called Techject that has the 2nd highest grossing project on IndieGoGo. They've raised $1.14 million of their original $110,000 goal. Its interesting to see what works and what doesn't. The best way to describe it is a train wreck between raising angel level financing and a B2C marketing campaign.
There are two themes that continue to resonate: credibility and momentum. People who donate to a project are just as concerned about not wasting their money as any investor. They want to see trusted and credible third party endorsements of the idea, a track record of success from the team, some initial progress prior to raising the money to prove the first two are correct, whether the funds needed can be raised, and finally, does the project grab the imagination and vision of the target audience. I've previously discussed the role of trust and vetting which goes to the credibility requirement but these other considerations are just as important.
Momentum matters. There are several demonstrated techniques that help build and maintain that momentum:
Your social networks matter. Prior to launching the campaign make sure your team, their extended networks, and the networks of your endorsers are understood and maximized so that your social strategy can make best use of your existing network. Find and use social analytics to understand when and how to post to maintain a steady hum of interest. Don't waste posts if the hum is being maintained for you.
Pre-stage donations from big donors. Nothing kills a campaign faster than raising only a few hundred dollars halfway through the campaign. Campaigns that reach at least 30% of their goal usually go on to reach their final goal. Called The 30% Rule is goes to the credibility argument. To quote others, people donate because "It’s working, which means its working.” One way to get that 30% is pre-stage large donors so they donate early and get you there.
Size matters. Angel investors use funds to 'buy' milestones. In that world they are called tranches. Another way to ensure your 30% goal is to size the tranche to fit what your major donors can provide. Don't ask for it all up front. People hate the idea of donating only to find out the team fails to meet a critical milestone. But don't create to many tranches, either. Investor fatigue will set in quickly. I think that's what Rand suffered from in his publicity campaing for his book.
Non-social exposure matters as well. This is where it looks more like a marketing campaign than a fund raising campaign. You need exposure beyond your network. When you see media covering a successful crowdfunding project don't assume that coverage is all organic. Someone somewhere worked to make that coverage happen. But this isn't traditional Public Relations. It has to be that special kind of PR person that can be genuine. It has to be someone that truly cares about the project.
And finally, the reward REALLY matters. Techject got to $1.14 million because that personal UAV just looks incredibly fun to play with. And this is where space projects have a real challenge. In many cases the goal of the project is something in space that's doing something interesting. What physical reward can you give someone based on that? I think some of the smallsat projects can easily provide a model of the spacecraft as a reward. But projects like Golden Spike are going to be hard.
Crowdfunding for space projects (and basic research in general) is going to continue to be challenging due to the reward problem. One method might be the National Geographic model where a magazine is the base reward but higher levels of funding get access to things most people never get a chance to do. Funders start out funding projects but eventually turn into members. Equity is also another potential reward but that is going to have to wait until JOBS Act regulations are published. What other rewards might make donating to a multi-million dollar project worthwhile to a small donor?
For those not following the suborbital tourism market very closely, The Spaceship Company will probably begin the first powered flights of SpaceShiptwo later this month.
Early today Scaled completely the final set of tests prior to fight propulsive flight by doign a full flow through of the oxidizer subsystem in what's known as a “cold flow” test:
Rumors suggest the first flight could happen the week of the 22nd. Stay tuned for more.
This will be posted to the Pipefish.com blog soon but I just wanted to have a bit of fun with it. Pipefish.com signed a lease today on some new office space. Its a very unique office:
While you could call it the “penthouse” that would be a fun mistake. It's more of a finished attic. The views are awesome and it's the perfect size for the company in it's current form. I'll post pictures of the inside once we're in and its furnished.
This Friday, April 121th is the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space. Every year people from around the world celebrate by having semi-coordinated parties. Called “Yuri's Night”, these party's spring up all around the world with as few as two but as many as hundreds.
For those in Atlanta there will be a gathering of space nuts at the Gordon Biersch Brew Pub on Peachtree Street starting at 7:00 pm. RSVPing via the Meetup is encouraged. Come join us and help celebrate the first human in space!
Last year I signed up with 23andMe's DNA analysis service to learn a bit about my genetics and what I should look out for. The service was definitely worth it. I learned that I'm 2.9% Neandertal and my paternal haplogroup traces back to Doggerland. One of the features of 23andMe is the ability to find and communicate with people who are genetically related to you. But that feature just wasn't very useful because it didn't have the other genalogical context you need to identify how you're related to someone.
Yesterday a friend showed me the features of Ancestry.com's DNA service and it looks far more useful for identifying relatives, especially when the ties are tenuous. I'll be signing up and comparing the results with 23andme.com. I'll report back when I get the results.
Margaret Thatcher died earlier today. I remember her entire time as Prime Minister and how it mirrored Ronald Reagan's time as President. The 80s were the time when I formed my personal politics so they were an integral part of it.
In the very early 80s I was very confused about politics and economics if I even paid attention. I knew I wasn't 'normal', though. I realized around 1985 that I was libertarian. But I still didn't understand the role of politics and leadership. I even paid stupid teenage lip service to the anti-Thatcher punk crap coming out of England.
I graduated high-school in 1987. The history that happened from 1986 to 1991 colored much of my life and through all of it two people continued to stand up and try to always do the right thing: Reagan and Thatcher. But even then I noticed that Thatcher stood her ground more firmly. One huge fault I have with Ronald Reagan is allowing US forces to be pushed out of Lebanon after the suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. That act alone set the stage for much of what we are now dealing with in the Middle East. If Reagan and done what Thatcher did to Argentina we probably wouldn't have needed to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.
So yea, the older I get the more of a fan I become of Margaret Thatcher. Very good job, Mrs. Thatcher. We will do our best to not go wobbly on you.
I spent this past weekend with my wife's grandmother scanning pictures and trying to find details on holes in the family history. On my side I've been able to trace things back to Wales in the late 1600s. On my wife's side its a bit harder since prior to 1861 Italy didn't exist as a country. England keeps very good census records. Italy barely has them and when they exist they are locked up in church archives.
Are there other good resources I should be using?
In late 2011 I spent two weeks in China with my MBA class visiting various companies. One of the more interesting was the Shaw Group (now part of CG&I). They work with Westinghouse Nuclear to actually build the AP1000 nuclear power plant.
We met with their CFO and learned that in order to win the contract for the first plants in China they had to agree to teach China how to build it themselves. And yes, that did mean build it so they didn't have to pay Westinghouse for the design. At the time the only other plant being built anywhere in the world was Plant Vogle in Georgia. Shaw said it was a choice of taking the contract or going out of business. That's when I decided it was nearly impossible to do business in China.
So I was happy to see that, while China is copying our old designs, we are quickly changing the game be redefining what a nculear reactor is and where you build them. Early last month the Energy Department Announced New Funding Opportunity for Innovative Small Modular Reactors:
Small modular reactors – which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants – have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits. The Energy Department is seeking 300 megawatts or smaller reactor designs that can be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival. The smaller size reduces both capital costs and construction times and also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors.
Lets hope research like this will keep us and Westinghouse ahead of the game.