Monday, August 10, 2009

TechStars Changes Everything

Mark O'Sullivan, the CEO of Vanilla, blogged about TechStars today. He titled his post "TechStars for Life," and everything in it is 100% true. If you want to go to TechStars, read it. If you don't want to go to TechStars, read it and you'll know why you MUST to go to TechStars.

To put it simply: TechStars changes everything.

"Oh, but, George," you whine. "Didn't you have to give up 6% of ReTel's equity."

I robbed David Cohen blind. 6 points is a steal. Any start up with promise will earn these back ten-fold. You will get tremendous mentors, new customers, new partners, new investors, and a network of friends that will change your life.

It's the network of friends that meant the most to me. Of course all of these friends are business associates in one way or another, but the network you establish in TechStars and in Boulder goes way beyond - "you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back."

It probably sounds like bullshit, but they really care. David, Brad, Nicole, Andrew, Tim, Josh and all the founders believe that entrepreneurship is a truly noble pursuit; that it is something to be admired and nurtured for its own sake; and that each entrepreneurial success improves the chances for all entrepreneurs.

Why else would David open source the TechStars playbook? While I was there multiple incubators from around the country came in to see how he runs things. He freely shared everything with them.

So, if you have a start up or are thinking of launching a start up, apply to TechStars. It will change everything.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Artificial Intelligence - Why Bother?

Sometimes a complex problem has a simple answer.

The economist recently published an article on an advanced robot arm -

A quick description:

"Shadow Robot has developed a robotic hand that closely mimics the human version. It has already sold several of them to various universities and to NASA, America’s space agency. And it has taken an order from Britain’s Ministry of Defence, which wants to try the hand out on the arm of a bomb-disposal robot. . . .

The robot hand mimics the movements of a human operator who wears a special “virtual reality” glove equipped with sensors that can determine the positions of the fingers inside it."

This seems really cool, and I can think of a lot of neat applications. What doesn't make sense to me are the next steps they plan to take:

"The next stage of development, says Mr Walker, will be to add some level of intelligence. The company is involved in a European Union programme to develop technology, such as machine vision, to make robots cleverer. This would enable the hand, for example, to recognise an object like an egg and know how to pick it up without breaking it. Unless, of course, it was clever enough to know that it was making an omelette."

Why add AI to this thing? For $4 bucks an hour or less, you could have people in India or China work remotely using these amazing hands, and they already know what an egg is. Strap the arms to a torso with wheels and a webcam and you have a fully functional C3P0. They should focus on getting the manufacturing costs of the arms down. It will take decades upon decades and millions of dollars for an AI creation to match what remote workers could do today.