A Home For Good Business(es) In Brighton

In April 2018 I moved back to Brighton after six and a half years in London. First running my startup out of White Bear Yard, then joining a sea of familiar faces fixing government technology at GDS, and later moving into Newspeak House in the first cohort of residential fellows, founding Citizen Beta, and helping to get Techfugees up and running (join us in Paris!)

It was a busy few years!

While in London I started to discover more about how business can be better. In the same way we as people can be better. In fact, now I think about it, exactly like that.

James Smith presents Something New at Citizen Beta

I won’t talk too much about that in this post, but please check out these organisations and frameworks to get an idea of what that means:

Incorporating a bcorporation.uk
Triple Bottom Line accounting
Integrated Value

Last year, Blaine and I started inviting people that cared about positive impact in business to monthly breakfasts, to meet and share, perchance to collaborate. I quickly realised, as is almost cliche, that I wasn’t alone in trying to work out how a new default way of doing business could exist.

So now to Brighton.

Brighton has always had potential to become a leading example… because we do things differently here.

It has an incredibly active technology community. A creative culture. Tons of students. Progressive politics. More pubs than days in the year. And importantly, people here have ambition to have a positive effect in the world. They start co-ops, bands, festivals, meet-ups, businesses, better supermarkets, Christmas day swim clubs!

We have the only Green Party MP in the country, Caroline Lucas, an important voice in Parliament. We recently completed Rampion, one of the largest wind farms in Europe. We host conferences such as Meaning and The Good Tech Conf. Brighton is home to East Sussex Credit Union, and one of the largest and longest running Pride festivals…. the list goes on and on. As the Brighton tourism slogan used to say, “it’s the place to be”.

For my American friends, imagine what Boulder is to San Francisco, that’s Brighton to London.

Inheriting the Brightoneers

When I knew I was moving back I started reconnecting to people, trying to find out what I’d missed, and what opportunities there were.

Tom Nixon started Brightoneers in 2013. When we met up I laid out my ideas, and my vision, that maybe Brighton could be a destination for people wanting to start impactful businesses. Where they could find their people, learn and grow, and we could together put Brighton on the global stage as the place to be, but this time for the emerging businesses the world needs.

Brightoneers is a community of over 500 change-makers in Brighton. Perfect! We agreed that I would take over from Tom, present my vision, and get a feel for the appetite from the people that are here already and doing this.

Join us, we meet every last Thursday of the month.

Getting to the point

Last week The Platform closed its doors.

The Platform is a social enterprise hub creating, inspiring and supporting the growth of business for good for a better world.

That sounds familiar!

While this is not the kind of serendipity anyone would hope for, there is an opportunity. What if we dive in and attempt to support that community while prototyping a new home. We have an immediate user need, and potentially an immediate first cohort of tenants.

The ask!

There are enough coworking spaces in Brighton, and my vision is not simply to rent desks out (while those are of course needed), but to create a destination — a club house maybe. Somewhere people can gather, work, meet, learn, and collaborate.

So the hunt is on for a suitable host venue. Maybe short term while we learn ourselves, prototyping a space, working with our members. But also, at the lowest possible cost. In the true agile spirit, I want to be flexible, move fast, iterate, throw away and start again when needed. I want to move in on Monday, but make sure we can be out in short notice. Think of it as a pop-up, that you could host. Do you have space? Know of space? Know of people that might know of space?

Message me today, let’s see if we can home our ready made community.

Also on:

Use your space for good

photo borrowed from Browser London

There are ‘tech for good’ project teams springing up more and more, tackling difficult problems, and trying to have a positive impact. But they’re often voluntary, unfunded groups, and they usually don’t have anywhere to meet and work.

This is where you come in.

If you have a space, this could be one of the easiest ways to add value to a worthwhile project. It could be a meeting room, or just some desks, and it won’t cost you anything.

I’m offering to play matchmaker, all you need to do is tell me a little about your space and I’ll connect you to teams as they get in touch with me.

Fill in this form. And thank you so much!

Need a space for your team? Say hello by email, tell me where you are, and what you need a space for and I’ll try and find you somewhere.

If this goes well I’ll formalise some of the process, but for now, all volunteers of space appreciated and I owe you one :)

Also on:

Instead of giving U2 $100m

(just found this draft I hadn’t published, interesting that a few of these have now happened anyway)

u2100m

Things the internet would have preferred Apple do over U2 being given $100m for an album nobody wants.

Would U2 have made $100m from fans buying the album? Unlikely. What else would we the internet have preferred apple have done, or spent that money on..

  • A longer battery iPhone
  • A normal sized iPhone 6
  • Give us iTunes Store credit to spend on bands we like
  • Or even more interesting, give us credit to spend only on new or indy bands, or based on purchase history only bands we’ve never bought before.. or just autofill our iPhones with the same
  • Tell us what we really want to know about the Apple Watch; battery life, charge time, etc
  • Improve working conditions at Foxconn
  • Invest in switching to recycled materials
  • Make the iPhone truly resistant to dropping
  • Not buy Beats, maybe Bose or Seinheiser? Ooh, controversial, I know
  • Invest in alternatives to rare metals in electronics
  • Raise the revenue share for artists
  • Hire some people that understand the internet and set them to work on Mail, Contacts, Calendar, iMessage, Notes, Pages, syncing, location, interoperability, web services.. do I need to go on?
  • Make headphones that don’t leak
  • A retina MacBook Air
  • Hand $100m to [RED]
  • Make protocols for iMessages, FaceTime open

Alternatively, let’s ask U2 to give the money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Now, about the tax they’re not paying…

Also on:

The rules of science, sounds a bit like agile

In his recent continuation of Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos series, Neil deGrasse Tyson laid out the the rules of science:

  1. test ideas by experiment and observation
  2. build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail
  3. follow the evidence wherever it leads
  4. and question everything

“To make this journey we’ll need imagination, but imagination alone is not enough because the reality of nature is far more wondrous than anything we can imagine. This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiment and observation, build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

Agile, in simple terms, is about learning fast by having assumptions and testing them, incorporating data and user research into that loop, being adaptable to change, and it being ok to be wrong.

Also on:

Lean Founder

Semi-autobiographical, in no particular order, being a #LeanFounder:

You don’t need that new laptop, a refurb will do, but your current laptop is fine until it dies.

Plain eggs on toast is cheaper than eggs benedict, and better for your waist.

Walk whenever you can.

Traveling for a meeting? Make the rest of your time there count.

Don’t travel at peak times.

Don’t go to every event, meetup, or conference.

You will be paid the least, and probably last.

Make breakfast at home, include lots of fruit.

Swim, ride a bike, and do Yoga, Pilates, or Taichi.

Sleeping on friends floors is cheaper than renting an appartment, but not as good for your sanity.

Take at least one day off a week.

Stop drinking lager, it’s more expensive than Ale or Whisky, and it’ll only give you a hangover.

You don’t really need that premium Spotify account.

Keep on top of your accounts, keep them simple.

Actually learn how to make Ramen.

Ask for help.

Answer others calls for help.

Listen to everyone who offers advice, but make your own decisions.

Stay hydrated.

Don’t buy Photoshop, Pixelmator is like a modern Photoshop 4.

Don’t buy Microsoft Office, you can get it for free from Bizspark.

It’s not about you. But your startup is a reflection of you.

Don’t expense everything, when it comes from your pocket you might reconsider that taxi ride.

You don’t need expensive business cards, order a small run of Moo cards. Iterate.

Understand your termsheet, it’ll save you in the future.

Understand your cap table.

Know when to say ‘fuck it, I *do* have time for this [important personal thing]’.

Design your own logo, you might surprise yourself.

Don’t get held up by pixel perfect design.

You can iterate your copy.

Leave your admin till the evenings, spend the time you have with your team on product.

Carry a toothbrush and a spare shirt.

Use coffee shop loyalty cards.

An employee will cost you 20% more than you planned.

You don’t need an Aeron. Yet.

Cut your own hair. Or don’t cut it at all.

Pay your bills as they arrive. Letting them stack up isn’t good for anyone.

You can buy your Apple Care anytime in the first year. Wait.

Keep that FaceBook tab closed.

Don’t be concerned with inbox zero, it’s replying that’s important.

Do your VAT (tax) returns quarterly.

Sublet office space or desks, better still join a coworking space instead.

Have an occasional luxury.

Github, Dropbox, Google Docs, and Skype are your friends.

Keep your email short, your time, and theirs, is scarce.

Get to the point.

If that meeting opportunity happens, jump.

Know your shit. Read everything you’ve written, and read it again. Then write it again. Have answers. Be considered.

Use your competitors’ products. This is free research. They are learning and experimenting for you.

Use your own product. Otherwise WTF?

Have a note for everything. Organise and reduce these. Every thought was generated for a reason. Track this.

Have a spreadsheet for everything. They are guides. Know your numbers. Iterate these. Model scenarios.

You do have the time, stop watching reality TV and soap operas. In fact, sell your TV.

Make sure people remember you. Put a real photo of your actual face on your card.

Failing is an option, but not an aspiration. Understand why you failed. Don’t do it again.

Use that free Google Adwords credit they send you. A/B test. Learn what converts. Test your branding and messaging.

Start reading financial blogs.

Stop reading Reddit.

Learn your stakeholder’s vocabulary.

What do your stakeholders drink? You’ll know if you’ve spent time getting to know them.

Blog or tweet about what you learn and you’ll learn even more.

Spend time with other founders. Only they will understand what you’re going through.

Keep your shoes clean.

Be as transparent and upfront as possible, then you can have proper conversations rather than games of guesswork.

Your lawyer and accountant have a lot of knowledge, but you can help them learn too.

Hold on tight.

 

 

Decentralising online transactions

Or “online cash” – since I don’t have to hand my physical cash to Visa so they can give it to you for that coffee I just bought. Of course they’d like it that way, hence the push of “mobile wallets”, owned by guess who! (If not owned, reliant on the infrastructure of – this is not a step forward)

Flattr just announced they’re becoming a normal* payment gateway. With some caveats, and differences, that make it more interesting, but the important thing is – we get it now :)

Anyway, one of the comments reminded me I’d done a lot of thinking about how you decentralise the transaction of cash, in a simple sense all that’s happened is that a number in one row of a database is going up and another is going down, right? This should be easy. And I suspect most of it is.

Here’s the brain-dump: (was going to be a comment on that TC post)

Gratz to the team :)

Although this might appear to be a step backwards, towards traditional payment mechanics, the current players need to be disrupted by replicating current behaviours, with better practice, and with less barriers to mass adoption. And more options are always better, the current choices of PayPal or Google Checkout are frankly appalling. We use them because we have to. This slows innovation because we’re locked in. There are also lots of horror stories, do some Googling.

Now of course true p2p is the holy grail, as it were.. maybe build something out on bitcoin? I hear they’re doing well, it just needs some UX work, what doesn’t!

(We’re heading into a time when everything is distributed (like the work to distribute DNS) and trust will be king, services will compete on it, and where choice will be free, doesn’t that sound like a utopian future for humanity?)

Truly distributed services will always have that problem, trust. So there needs to be a system of nodes and providers (anyone and everyone is a node, and anyone or everyone can be a provider), you trust a provider based on other existing proofs. i.e. Twitter could be a provider, you trust them, right? Or your bank (yeah i know, ack), or the guy who runs your local residents group.

You then enter your provider at the point of payment with your unique identifier in a oauth/openid style interaction (Email address? More trust proof), that then gets looked up in the network, and payment is authorised.

Balance and transaction info is stored encrypted and distributed in the network, no node can be locally read. Each unit of currency holds a transaction history against itself, who last owned it, who owns it now, and where it was last transfered. Each unit is also unique with this triplet of info. that uniqueness can be looked up too, records are stored and replicated DNS-style. PGP cash?

And so it goes. money is democratised.

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This has been a hard thing to articulate, and I’ve rushed through it here, I’ll try to elaborate more if I work out how to :)

* Normal in that you can make a payment of any amount, previously it was a percentage of your monthly pot based on the ratio of pot size to number of payments. They explain it better, I’m sure.