How do you predict the future? A Digital world in 2030?

It is not easy to predict the future for the next few years (some may even say for the next month –  Dec 2012!) ..  So it’s interesting to participate in a seminar to predict future trends in 2030.

That was the theme of the EIF event I was invited to participate in earlier this week at the European Parliament (Digital World in 2030)

The three overall questions were:

  • What would the world look like in 2030?
  • What would daily life be in 2030?
  • What impact does your theme(ex: technology in my case)  have on this future?

Chatham house rules apply here .. but here are some observations and my own key trends

The process is important here ..

Predicting the world in 2030 is not about specific predictions but more about the overall trends which you see dominating. For example, at the end of the Second World War, we wanted a world of Peace i.e. the desire for peace was an over-riding trend despite the wars which continued after World War Two

There were many such over-riding trends discussed – some included

  • Social isolation
  • Blurring of man and machine (Kurzweil – me again!)
  • There was an overall optimism on our table
  • Humanity and it’s values would not change
  • Local solutions would be relevant
  • Networks would define solutions
  • Disintermediation
  • Video conferencing (would we have this meeting face to face at all?)
  • Flexibility and adaptability for individuals
  • Socially designed regulation

The two trends I suggested are:

a)      Individual empowerment and

b)      Empathy

My view is: If you look back 30 years (1982) – we still are in a world mostly familiar to us in physical terms. The two major differences are the Internet and the Mobile devices. They have made all the difference over the last three decades. So, if we extrapolate over the next three decades, we can expect that the physical ecosystem may not change that much (impact of 3D printers not withstanding) – but communication technology will change dramatically and it will have a social impact

I have spoken about individual empowerment through the Internet many times. See ESPAS Report – Global Trends 2030 – Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World  to get an idea of the issues involved

The other trend I believe is ‘empathy’ – i.e. if you connect with people on facebook etc – you see how people live – and you can relate to them – and you can see that they share common values – and the chances of going to war on the whims of politicians is lower

I gave the example of Sting’s lyrics (the Russians)

One of my favourite songs is from Sting called the Russians whose lyrics go

How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy
There is no monopoly in common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

i.e. in the cold war, when both sides could easily annihilate each other, the only hope was if the ‘Russians loved their children too’

As MEP James Elles reminds us Victor Hugo’s famous phrase – All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

So, I think some of these ideas will manifest themselves over time. When viewed in that way, predicting the future in 2030 is not very hard .. It is more a case of spotting trends which are already with us and extrapolating them into the future.

Empowering the individual, as a trend, is already with us (with Arab spring for example) and has a long way to go

Finally, I found the views of the MEP chair on our group Britta thomsem very interesting and she guided the discussion well

Image source: EIF

Changify – Your local change platform – fix your city and have fun doing it ..

Changify is a platform to get public and brand backing for local ideas, improvements and projects, people-powered data gathering and rating of things you notice at street level. I heard of Changify from Priya Prakash’s talk at forumoxford. Because of my interest in Smart cities, I was interested in this approach

Their walks ex their first such outing are a setting for a night of discovery, data collection and real-time analysis…

During the walks, the participants gained insight into the past and current local context of the neighbourhood.

In addition to gaining insights about the city, the groups turn roving citizen-reporters.

They photographed and tweeted local issues, inspirations and brands spotted en route, chalking their ratings in situ, and collating data to discuss, map and rate when everyone returned to the venue.

Piles of rubbish, classic street furniture, barbed wire fences, Pret A Manger, McDonald’s, and even a location from the Harry Potter films in Kings Cross Railway Station all came under scrutiny.

Then the positives and negatives were documented, rated and weighed up afterwards, as were potential solutions and roles for brands to play in delivering them.

The basic idea seems to be thus to make a change but also have fun doing so using technology(mobile + apps) and community.

There are some  future local events planned with the next event #Changify Shoreditch is being held over the weekend of 14-16th December

Follow Changify on Twitter for more updates.

Tarang Shah’s Venture Capitalists at Work: How VCs Identify and Build Billion-Dollar Successes

Due to my new start-up feynlabs, I am reading a lot about setting up new ventures.

One excellent book which I highly recommend is Tarang Shah’s Venture Capitalists at Work: How VCs Identify and Build Billion-Dollar Successes

The book already has a great review at techrunch which you should read

Here I take a practitioner’s perspective

For those of us (including me), who have built up businesses without VC funding, and who do not understand VC business models, this book is a revelation.

The subtitle of ‘identifying Billion dollar businesses’ is clue to the content

VCs are all about the Billion dollar businesses

It’s a world that’s not familiar to many of us

After reading this book, I asked myselves .. Do I want to be a part of this world?

And what does that mean?

What kind of people ‘make it’ in this world?

What factors drive these companies and the people who start them and the people who fund them?

This book provides the answers ..

After reading this book, my honest answer is – this world is not for me  i.e. my business ideas don’t scale to billions of dollars .. But it’s fascinating to see what factors drive success in the VC world

I love the format of this book – basically it’s a set of Question and Answer format – between Tarang and a ‘whos who of the VC world’ (Sequoia, Accel, Kleiner Perkins, Charles River, Trinity etc)

I think it was Anthony Robbins who said that ‘Questions are the answer’ i.e. asking the right questions is half the challenge ..

So, Tarang does a great job of the questions to some very clued on people ..

  • What needs to happen to create billion dollar companies?
  • What the most common entrepreneur blind spots?
  • Do VCs prefer ideas which disrupt an existing market OR ideas which create brand new markets?
  • What signs point to the emergence of a huge market?

Etc etc ..

At 475 pages of very clued on questions and answers from the best VCs in the world, this book is a reference book for me ..

Whats missing? What could be improved?

One name .. Fred Wilson .. whose work I follow with interest ..

Also I think the future will be very different .. Especially with crowdfuding etc .. many people may not aim for the Billion dollar exit(and very few make it ofcouurse ..)

But that may be a follow on book ..

The link for this excellent book again Tarang Shah’s Venture Capitalists at Work: How VCs Identify and Build Billion-Dollar Successes




Hire Space – collaborative social consumption

Due to my own work with feynlabs, I have been following social enterprises .. and here is an interesting one ..

Hire Space is in the same class as AirBnB and others that take advantage of an un-utilized resource(collaborative consumption).

The idea is simple:

Hire Space is an East London based Collaborative Consumption website, working to help schools, community spaces, and small businesses hire out their underused meeting rooms, dance studios, halls and sports facilities. Opening up these spaces to local communities and giving these important institutions a substantial new revenue stream.

Hire Space claim to have signed up more than 400 venues and have also got coverage in the BBC

I asked Hire Space as to how they were a social enterprise (ie the social component) and they said : “Our focus on schools means we offer those with a high percentage of Free School Meals (4-10%) a half rate of commission, ensuring accessibility, furthermore, we plan to use data from the Index of Multiple Deprivation to offer further discounts.”

Overall, this is a great idea .. and I follow it with interest

Interview with Dan Kurani – co-founder of thumb





Thumb is a the mobile social network for instant opinions from real people. Thumb claim that users get close to 50 responses to their queries within the first five minutes of submitting a question and that their monthly average user spends over 4 hours (240 minutes) on the app each month.

Below a brief interview with  Dan Kurani, CEO and Founder of Thumb


How did you come up with the Thumb app, where did the idea come from?

A few years ago a family member was getting ready to propose and sent a picture of a ring out in a group email to get everyone’s feedback. I immediately responded with my thoughts, but noticed that it took everyone else on the chain much longer to respond. I started to think about how important it is for people to get instant feedback on important decisions, and from this I came up with the vision for an app that helped people get tons of advice and opinions instantly when making important decisions. From this, Thumb was born.


Why has Thumb been so addictive for its users, and how does it differentiate itself from other social networks?

The popularity of our product stems from the fact that humans seek answers to their questions (i.e., information, opinions, advice, and knowledge) in every phase of their lives; they seek answers to drive trivial as well as important decisions – literally thousands of times each day.

We’ve also found that users on Thumb feed off of the overwhelming response they get from the community. Our users genuinely enjoy being able to help people by answering their questions, and in turn seeing feedback to their queries pour in. Thumb is different from other social networks because users come here to get unbiased opinions from people who aren’t necessarily part of their existing social graph. Thumb has been successful by creating the most focused, intent-driven network possible. Thumb perfected a single concept – instant opinions – that resonated with users off the bat, rather than trying to quickly scale or offer too many features. As a result, Thumb has an extremely strong community that spends over 4 hours a month on the app.

What have you learned from your users as you have built the platform, how has this changed Thumb?

When we first launched Thumb, we thought it would be an app that people used strictly to make point of purchase decisions. We were shocked when we saw that people were using the app to ask questions about virtually anything imaginable. After we saw that our community wanted to use Thumb to communicate with people and get feedback on any question, we saw that there was a lot of value in this and have continued to streamline the app over the past two years to match what users have told us they love most about the app.

What do you consider the most powerful thing about the Thumb community?

Thumb treats every single question like it matters, so people use it in their daily lives. Two specific elements augment this. 1) The app’s real time nature, and 2) The insane amount of responses that pour in to each question asked. Other social networks like Facebook and Twitter operate in real time, but neither of those have the power to give users between 50-100 responses from real people within ten minutes or less.

How are ‘Thumbs’ different from other social media measures of sentiment, such as the ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’?

‘Thumbs’ go a step further from the ‘like’ which only expresses sentiment in the positive direction. ‘Thumbs’ allow users to denote both positive and negative feelings towards anything imaginable, and beyond just showing interest – as with a ‘retweet’ – ‘Thumbs’ actually capture the user’s opinion as well. ‘Likes’ and ‘retweets’ as good measures of interest, but not capable of revealing the actual opinion based sentiment of ‘Thumbs.’

Thumb is available on Android and iOS, check it out here:


About Dan Kurani

Dan is the founder and CEO of Thumb, the mobile social network for instant opinions from real people. Prior to launching Thumb in 2010, Dan Kurani spent the last 10 years as President/CEO of Kurani Interactive, a multi-million dollar digital development firm that worked with Fortune 500 brands like Nike and Universal Studios.


Joff Redfern – linkedin interview at the Mobile Business Summit 2012 agenda

On monday, I am invited to attend the Mobile Business Summit 2012 agenda organised by the Guardian.

It has many great speakers including Joff Redfern – Linkedin – interview

If you are attending this, happy to meet at GdnMobileSummit in London on 19 November #GdnMBS

The start-up fiscal cliff .. – As the Godfather would say – It has nothing to do with business ..

I expect more of this …

Business insider has a great story on startups running out of cash ..

I agree to this 100%

The current investment/VC culture is based on ‘flipping’ i.e. selling off a company in a few years.
If you work backwards from the ‘sale’ – that needs a certain specific growth trajectory  - which in turn needs a series of (increasing) funding  rounds ..
This, as the famous quote in Godfather 2 (Hyman Roth) would say ‘It has nothing to do with business’   (and in my view – everything to do with outdated VC business models)
I expect a VERY large number of startups will face their own fiscal cliff when they cannot raise beyond series A and seed ..
This is one of the issues we will be discussing in the next forumoxford event – Mobile startups- making UK the next silicon valley - especially the panel from Tony, Jouko, Russell and Muriel moderated by Peggy
At the crux is a simple but profound question: Who should dictate growth rates – customers or investors? 
We have a great line-up of speakers and limited seats .. If you are attending .. please sign up fast
Image source – business insider 

Victor Keegan’s Gems of London app

Victor Keegan has been a forumoxford speaker for a few years now .. and also an inspiration to many in the community.

His first app was City Poems – which he discussed at a forumoxford event about two years ago. You can see more about it in the Guardian review for city poems 

Following on from the City Poems application, he has been developing the Gems of London  app. With Gems of London, as with City Poems, Victor is sticking to the original aim i.e. “to try to create apps as cheaply as possible as a template for others – particularly youngsters for whom selling from a back room to a potential global audience with no middlemen (apart from the Apple Shop) is is a potential source of employment for the future”

Victor says:

There are lots of books about unusual parts of London but hardly any apps for mobile phones which people carry with them wherever they go. Gems of London, hopes to fill this gap by enabling anyone with an iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch) to know how many yards they are from over 100 curiosities of the capital. They include a cafe/art gallery only open two days a week where you may have to ring a bell to get in like a Speakeasy, the site of the world’s first circus and a church the crypt  of which is part of a Tube station and whose slave-driving pastor wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”. You won’t find St Paul’s Cathedral or the Tower of London here. We look down alleys and seek buried ruins or pubs and cafes with a tale to tell – all available at the touch of a screen on your mobile phone. And all for 69p.London

Gems has been very well received ( and reviewed in the Apple Store) getting mentions in the Guardian and the Evening Standard.

The initial launch was entirely through social media. One mention by a heavy Tweeter generated nearly 150 sales on the day.
For more information or interviews please email Victor.Keegan at

Forumoxford event Nov 23 – A day for mobile startups, new funding models like crowdfunding

The forumoxford conference is upon us again on Nov 23 with an awesome lineup of speakers and innovators as usual.

Now in it’s eighth year, the event is a unique gathering which I co-chair alongwith Tomi Ahonen

This year, the theme is - Mobile startups – making the UK the next Silicon Valley

I remember a conversation I had back in 2000(the early days of .COM).

I called up a company and the reception asked me – ‘Are you a .COM?’

I said – we were ..

She replied happily ‘So are we!’ i.e. to be a ‘.COM’ signaled a sense of uniqueness

Fast forward to today’s world, everyone is a .COM (ie has a web presence) and most companies are expected to also have a mobile presence.

Many of us have been working with mobile data technologies for a decade, and finally the Mobile revolution is truly here.

Venture Capitalists like Fred Wilson now advocate a ‘Mobile first’ strategy.

A plethora of mobile innovation is upon us with many mobile technologies like location, mobile payments and mobile apps becoming mainstream; more significantly, a commercial ecosystem is developing for mobile apps. Not only are we prepared to pay for apps – but an investment ecosystem is developing around mobile apps.

So, this forms the backdrop of our conference this year

We hope that the ForumOxford Conference will act as a catalyst to take your ideas to the next level.

Five reasons to attend the ForumOxford Conference:

  • Learn how to take your ideas from concept to execution.
  • Network opportunities across the ForumOxford ecosystem – technologists, operators, investment experts.
  • Learn about new funding models (Crowdfunding).
  • Understand how start-up accounting is different.
  • Become a part of the ForumOxford ecosystem.
  • Svetlana Grant, Director of Smart Cities, Connected Living Programme, GSMA
  • Simon Dixon, CEO, Bank to the Future
  • Dan Appelquist, Head of Product Management for BlueVia, Telefónica Digital
  • Russell Buckley (Founder of AdMob which is now Google AdMob), MobHappy
  • Jouko Ahvenainen, Entrepreneur, Investor, Founder, Grow VC Group
  • Tony Fish, Entrepreneur and Strategic Thinker, AMF Ventures
  • Prof Khalid Al-Begain, Professor of Mobile Computing and Networking, University of Glamorgan, and Glamex Security Ltd
  • Fabian Stelzer, Co-Founder and CMO, EyeQuant
  • Rudy De Waele, Mobile Strategist, Business Angel and Appreneur
  • Torsten Stauch, Co-Founder and CEO, AppShed
  • Muriel Devilliers, Founder- Managing Director, LUMU Invest
  • Andrew Griffin, Monitise
  • Margaret Gold, Chief Marketing Officer, Ether Books
  • Neil Driver, Partner for Davis Grant LLP
  • Aditya Jaokar, Feynlabs – Concepts of Programming Language for Kids

Should be a great day! Mobile startups – making the UK the next Silicon Valley

RaspberryPi Programming and Interfacing Workshops

Our friend Andrew Eliasz has a new set of workshops on Raspberry Pi RaspberryPi Programming and Interfacing Workshops. They cover some really cool and innovative features – for example in the use of the PiFace board as below ..  This is one of the most comprehensive approaches to the Raspberry Pi especially in making real applications on it. I also like the emphasis on Python – which is more likely to be used by schools and by developers

Using the RaspberryPi to drive hardware – Exploring the PiFaceInterface board The PiFace interface board was developed at Manchester University. It is a well thought out design and can form the foundation for many interesting class projects, and also serve as the basis for prototyping a variety of sensor and mechatronic based applications. A key advantage is that it comes with a suitable set of drivers and a microchip controller with suitable firmware. This means that it is relatively easy to set up and program. The course requires that you are already familiar with setting up the RaspberryPi, simple shell programming and simple Python programming. If you have commenced your RaspberryPi adventure by attending workshops 1, 2 and 3 it is advisable to let those materials sink in before attending this workshop. However, if you have plenty of energy and determination then by all means press on


  • Installing the drivers and softare for the PiFace Interface board
  • Mounting the PiFace Interface board on a RaspberryPi
  • Testing that the interface board is working
  • Overview of digital input and digital output
  • Overview of Analog input and analog to digital conversion
  • Overview of relays and switches
  • Overview of Microchip Microcontrollers
  • Understanding RaspberryPi – PiFace interface board communication and interaction
  • Introduction to how Linux device drivers work and how they are accessed in user applications
  • Installing Python on the RaspberryPi
  • Installing Scratch on the RaspberryPi
  • Introduction to Python and Scratch … the essentials needed to understand and run the example programs
  • Experimentation with the RaspberryPi and PiFace – modifying, extending and inventing in Python

The link for the workshops is  RaspberryPi Programming and Interfacing Workshops