After a long rather slow slog, Martin has secured investment. Hurrah. Not for the full amount, so Kevin has applied for government matched funding which will take a further two months. Baseline fact — we have enough to produce a beta version while upgrading the UX so that prototype is smoother. Whatever happens, we will have a better app at the end of this.
We have tentative relationships with paying use-cases at Find-a-Player, allthing.io, and Perth & Kinross Council. Only a few, since we are still spending most of our time on development; I’ve got a few months to attract a few other players, eg a charity, and a working prototype will greatly help with that. So, we need to drag the current prototype into shape. We’re working on implementing the Projects function to enable team formation for gratitude tracking, while making rudimentary wallet structure and security features to enable use in the public wild-lands. ETA within a month.
Though the web-app is by invitation only, do join in.
For the beta, we are hiring a talented UI Designer, Martina. We have one team who will be taking prototype to beta, using MEAN development stack, Artem and Tim, and another who are working on a .NET version from scratch, Sonya and Nicola; we will decide which fork makes sense a month in to development. Jorge will be managing migration from prototype to beta, while concentrating on creating the bitcoin wallet system, coding the SQ algorithm, and working with system admin and security expert Maxi to create world-class security.
We’ve also attracted Marc, an incredible pluralist artist, to conceive and ground a minimal project design for a mobile display — a task I have found to be beyond me — and with Martina I am sure we can come up with a UX which demonstrates the future development path of the web-app beyond the basic Ecosquared beta. We’ve got a pair of eyes on the potential native mobile app development path, Dave, and another on the whole tech development side. Of course we have Martin ensuring dots and crosses are consummately executed on the finance side, and I, David, get to fret endlessly as project manager, designer, founder.
Doesn’t feel like play yet. Once we get the prototype to minimal standard, with a full complement of functions, I think I may start being able to play. For example, I gifted the web-app to a teenager, Anna, yesterday. Not only did I experiment with gifting a thing via SMS — it works, Jorge, thanks! — she was able to accept and complete registration on the iphone — wow, Artem, good work whatever you did! Ok, Anna was not particularly phased by the notion of receiving money with her gift, more a teenage shrug versus the up-in-arms shock induced in most adults, but she was soon directing her mother on how to use the app correctly.
Play will occur when the interface becomes so natural, that the potential playing field beyond the tool attracts curiosity. At some point in history, the notion of using a racket to hit a ball around was totally alien. Of course we’ve thrown stuff around since year dot, cavemen probably played catch with bones. But a racket? Animal gut stretched across a space? I mean… totally alien. But, once the alienness of it was overcome, the effect on hitting a ball is quite natural. Completely useless in its own right, really. We need a frame, a court, rules, a game.
Sure, we can outline a few rules for Ecosquared, but without actually playing with the web-app the lines drawn out are almost arbitrary. We need to play around with the prototype. Early adopters — scratch that — early pioneers, designers, social creatives, the first people and groups to use the prototype will begin getting a measure of what it can do. Then, we will be able to evolve some social rules or conventions, and thus define web-app configurations for a real game. Then, and only then, will we have the kind of play that brings our humanity to excellence. Socially. Played meaningfully in teams of ten or less, and yet interscalable to millions or billions of us, just like our current, traditional, 3,000 year-old economic game.
A tool that enables us to excel at collaboration. Ecosquared, inviting our future genius.
First bona fide pitch to investors. New for them, and new for me too. I have plenty of experience with world premiere’s, at least in educational terms. I present ways of thinking, concepts, and so on, to kids in mathematics classes. Yes, most of the concepts are known, most from the last few hundred years, nevertheless they are new and fresh to the listeners. An Ecosquared pitch is a world premiere for first time listeners.
From an introduction by Michelle at Business Gateway, Finlay listened to Ecosquared and invited me to Perth & Kinross’ Angel’s Share event. There were five companies pitching, ranging from a website that enables group booking (nice solution), a lighting company producing back-lit tiles and a zero-volt supply system (cool tech), a craft distillery (very professional set up), and an electronic tagging system using NFC (a clear future market for this). And Ecosquared, the value-tracking app.
how d’it go?
I gave myself a 4 out of 10. My lawyer said it was excellent, and the LINC representative thought so too, and the gateway investor who gave us a Pitch Perfect training day last week also thought it was great. I gave myself a 4 because although it went well enough, it didn’t bring the audience close enough to the actual WOW of what Ecosquared is. I believe that if I can do that, a quality of response will be evoked. Literally, an inspiration. If we get that, we get investors signing up.
Let’s be clear about this. It is not putting down my skills. Not at all. It’s about the challenge of heightening listening such that people can perceive A) what ecosquared is and B) the potential within our reach. I don’t provide a vision. Or at least, I point out enough that the vision occurs to the listener. The connection is made in the listener’s mind, not mine. And I am not ‘making’ this connection in their head either.
I gave myself a 4 because I crossed the boundary, and mixed my vision with their perception. Does this make sense? Actually, it doesn’t need to — what matters is that people see its potential, and when they do, they can’t help but be amazed by what they see. The true inspiration is in their mind. This is not an esoteric point — it goes to the heart of Ecosquared: can Ecosquared deliver a non-intrusive rating system? It’s not about pushing, and advertising, and shouting; it’s about listening, valuing, and acting on one’s values, whether lolcat amusement last week or political votes once every 4 years.
I had a few conversations with investors afterwards. Some were impressed enough to suggest they would like to share Ecosquared with a few associates. Others were still struggling with the premise of Ecosquared, specifically the Gift-Mechanism. We talked a little, and I will follow it up with sharing the mathematical model of the GM. The math is solid; I’ve no problem with that. It’s the debate around the psychology which is the issue.
I’ll also be sharing the prototype with them. Very close to tying up the FE to the BE for today, but couldn’t quite. Looks like Friday. I am a great believer in experiential learning, whether it is learning to ride a bike, or algebra, or Ecosquared. My only worry about the prototype is that people won’t be able to see beyond the rather clunky interface. Like the first cars appeared noisy and smelly, so it took some enthusiasts to see beyond that and to exploit its actual function.
Best result of the day? Finlay at the end mentioned that the guy doing the photos — constantly crawling around throughout the whole 3 hour period — said it was ‘amazing’. For some reason, I find that has brought me the biggest sense of satisfaction. Of course I’d love for the investors to love my presentation and invest in Ecosquared — and I hope they will! Nevertheless, there is something very satisfying about hearing a positive response from an oblique angle, from someone who couldn’t help but be engaged. What do you think? Is my observation misplaced?
Get working prototype — if you want to test it, stick your email in the landing page — ecosquared.co.uk
Respond to any invitations to speak to investors, through LINC or otherwise.
I’d rather keep presentation to a minimum just now. Once we get £60k, have a working beta app by the end of summer, I will be happy about shouting it from the rooftops. For now, dealing with the shocked response in people is… not realised fully in a positive sense. Yes people are engaged and interested, but they are often overwhelmed as they try to simulate it in their own minds; the mental furniture of the current economic system gives little room for manouver. And I have noticed, beyond the genuinely open-minded, quite often the more intelligent the person is, the more contradictions it triggers, whether investors or intellectuals. Then again, flight is a rather tricky thing to get your head around, as is a bicycle if you think about it — certainly before a century ago, such things were simply flights of fancy.
Steve Jobs called a computer ‘a bicycle for the mind‘ — hear it in his own words. Ecosquared is a social bicycle. £60k gives the world an accountable, enumerated gift-economic a go.
It has taken a season to vet lawyers and accountants and assemble all the pieces for a business proposal. Could it be faster? Of course, but not given the current financial landscape and my lack of qualifications (being a math teacher doesn’t open up a world of connections in the adult world…). That’s three months of no income. I’ve read about other start-ups that haven’t had revenue for a couple of years, and they even have the audacity to promote a ‘lean’ business methodology. That’s not lean, that’s starvation-lean! And since they are heralded as successful on linkedin, it means they are being patronised by a parent company, and for me that’s cheating.
In business speak, I am now investor ready. Now it involves facing risk, or the perception of risk.
some basic math
The history of risk makes for fascinating reading, eg Against the Odds. I have always been drawn to the particular conceptual framework around probability. Three things stand out. First, teaching young minds probability is a real eye-opener. Any adult takes for granted that flipping a coin produces a 50/50 chance, getting an Ace of Spades 1/52. But this wasn’t God-given; this is mathematical application, and it doesn’t come naturally to young minds. Why not? Second, probability is contained within statistics, and I hate statistics since it is overly applied and misapplied. Third Bayes Theorem, something I have dived into over the years, and still have not been able to ‘tame’.
At the core of probability is time, at least for the applications that attract my attention. It is the perception of future events, a way to enumerate possible futures to help guide present decisions. This is fine for certain mechanical systems, eg cards shuffled in a deck. But not that useful for a system which involves consciousness. Just look at the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and thats a simple case. Its the capacity of participants to second-guess outcomes which elevates such systems beyond the complexity of purely mechanical systems. Whether it is a class of kids, or investors playing on the stock market, complex dynamics. Chaos Theory 101.
what is a business plan, after all?
It took me months before I realised what it is, or at least half of it is. Costs. A business plan is primarily a summary of future costing. It is the basic burn-rate of a company over the coming year, at least. That’s half of it. The other half is smoke-and-mirrors.
Whatever anyone says, a business plan attempt to forecast future adoptive behaviour — will people buy the thing or not? Sure, if your company is a new brand of ice-cream, there’s reasonable data out there to base your figures on; stock only one line on the shelf versus three wide, will influence whether the tub is picked up or not. But introducing the very notion of ice-cream is quite another — Steven Johnson’s mentions this in his excellent series which also makes for fascinating viewing.
When it comes to innovation, genuine market-creation, forecasting adoption figures is entirely speculative. Appreciation of risk is nowhere near a mechanical affair. And yet, it may have an equivalent level of simplicity to it, especially when faced with lack of evidence.
so how does an investor decide what to invest in?
I only know one bone fide entrepreneur who managed to win £110k from an investor match funded by Welsh government after months of stressing; within the year, the money was gone and he had established his original invention wasn’t viable — and he was going for a second round! A consequence of our current enterprise system is that once people invest, especially government bodies, it is hard to pull out until they get their return. Which results in investors and governments being reluctant to enter an investment relationship in the first place, introducing more checks and compliance tests at the outset, thus inflating initial costs. A nasty feedback loop.
This is biggest problem, as all entrepreneurs know, the stepped investment route. Originally, I asked for £30k, but this has grown to £60k, and it has been suggested I put together a £125k business proposal to reach the ‘lower boundary’ entry for VC’s. Again, what happens is that while the vast majority of entrepreneurs are ‘genuine’, wily ‘serial entrepreneurs’ know how to stay on the treadmill, just look at this outrageous trail of mayhem.
The consequence? The entrepreneurial scene, for investors, is like the stock-market. Few invest in the actual product or service of a company, it is merely a numbers game where stock goes up and down. The only difference being, perhaps, investors are betting on people, not companies. More like horse-racing gamblers than poker-players. And as a 45 year old ex-math teacher, I’m not the youngest horse in the paddock.
ok, what’s the simple answer?
It comes down to this: Has it been done before? If not, can it be tested, and how much will that cost?
Ecosquared is simple. Very very simple. And it is entirely natural. Given our current state of institutionalisation, however, it appears ‘counter-intuitive’ to the point that it is invisible. I watched Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto last weekend again, for all its flaws it is a truly remarkable blockbuster; have you come across the invisible ships proposition? A Gift-Economic evokes a similar response from members of a 3,000 year culture based on a transaction-economic.
First and foremost, it takes an acute mind to see Ecosquared. Certainly, I have found paper to be a terrible medium; however, I do find that everyone I engage ‘gets it’ in person. Still, this requires effort because it is mistakenly understood as ‘an idea’ rather than ‘a tool’. Once we get a prototype, and people experience it, even a child will get it — why? because we all grew up in a gift-economic, its entirely natural.
Second and more importantly, it takes courage to appreciate it. For an intellectual, this means admitting how new it is. Experts find this hard because they make their living based on what they do know. For an investor, this means acting on it, ie investing.
Most investors want to know how they are going to get their money back. Which is entirely reasonable for most kinds of investment — new brands of ice-cream say. However, with market-creation, as we have shown above, the rules are different.
We got first prototype running for under £1500, and I use it to track my engagement with people. Didn’t turn the light bulb on with investors. So, approaching the end of £3k and close to second version prototype. It will be clunky, chances of it going viral are slim, but it will reveal a glimmer of its potential. To the right people this will be enough. Enough for a £60k experiment which might show a greater acceleration than any bit of technology in history.
And besides, in a gift-economic, risk is a misplaced factor. I will leave that for another post to describe.
My intention has always been to phase revenue distribution to SQ ratio distributions. So, Ecosquared won’t take a cut from whatever is directed at the originator (musician, author, blog-post writer, giff-creator, etc), they are thanked by them using the app itself, and this means a natural distribution of money. It’s all about moneyflows. I’d hoped it will be anywhere between 2-10%, but it could be a hell of a lot lower or even higher. Very difficult to tell at this moment.
and thus, the inevitable complication around money arises…
- 32% for up to 10,000 users
- 16% for up to 100,000 users
- 8% for up to 1,000,000 users
- 4% for up to 10,000,000 users
- 2% for up to 100,000,000 users
Or some such scaling system. Now, is this too complicated?
no to tax — and yes to revenue distribution
It makes me think about how TV programmes were free for viewers because of advertisers. “Soap operas” because the highly dramatic shows (“operas”) were paid for by cleaning products (“soaps”). Facebook operates similarly. It offers a free channel of social content (people engaging each other rather than watching shows), and advertisers are willing to pay for eyeballs (companies, or any individual who wants to pay for promoting a post). Facebook is a “soap social-media”.
A cut of revenue is simply a tax. A forced costing. I have never liked this. It’s the wrong attitude. I shouldn’t be forced to pay for something which is obviously good, eg NHS. It’s because it is wrapped up with things like paying for defence, which is inherently morally arguable.
So, no tax, means voluntary gifting. Hence tracking gratitude, and SQ. That all makes sense.
I guess the thing that differentiates Ecosquared equity from standard equity, is that it determines the distribution of revenue. Profits are distributed to owners according to %-distribution of equity share of the company. The company has to be in profit for the owners to make money.
(A necessary aside. I was disgusted earlier this week because I saw the news — rare I know — about the power company Centrica which is closing down power-stations (and thus depriving people of jobs) because their profits have fallen. Their profits. So, it is a perfectly healthy company, everyone doing what they are meant to be doing, it’s going well — but because the owners are not getting as much as they did last year, they are going to cut the company. This… doesn’t… make… sense. I sat in front of the TV, irritated. The anchor was interviewing one of their specialist business journalist, and I just couldn’t believe no-one drew attention to this glaring injustice. They talked with moral weight about the potential loss of jobs, sympathetic for those who will lose their jobs, as well as the CEO who had to make such a weighty — but necessary — decision. I expect Russell Brand will be pointing this out in a more entertaining fashion, if he hasn’t already.)
Ecosquared equity (equity^2) distributes revenue. Front-wheel drive, as it were. And so, such owners can simply starve the company by keeping the money, or they can re-invest it in the company for it to continue working well. That is, they are responsible for the health of the company, rather than just feeding off its profits. Does this make sense?
ownership and usership
I suspect it does make sense, if we shift our thinking away from ownership, towards usership. That is, it is the users who determine the moneyflow through an organisation. Makes sense. But we don’t have the skills currently to make such decisions, other than those made people in positions, who are in a more or less static structure, whose salaries are generally hierarchical ordered. We need a more fluid dynamic system, with multiple moneyflow channels, which generate a more flexible decision-making consensus. But that is years ahead from our current social skills.
Right now, I am pulling together the business plan for Ecosquared which contains financial projections which are attractive to investors. Investors want ownership. Simple as that. I had hoped to introduce them to %-equity of the revenue. If the app goes viral, they could make 16% of £1,000,000+. No strings. Not a cut of the profits, but of revenue. But, at this stage, my very capable of experienced business advisor and no doubt the accountant will see this as a non-viable business proposal for investors. So, we must stick to ownership, and so they will be limited to profit. And the chase for profit means a squeezing of costs and that old game…
Honestly, if we are producing a value-tracking engine, we really do need an investor of quality. I have been saying that we are looking for high net-worth individuals. Perhaps I should rephrase it? We are looking for high net-value individuals.
It will be in all of our interests, as users of the app, to generate sufficient funds so that these investors will be more than happy to be bought out at say 10x their investment, ie £600,000. We can then phase to a gratitude distribution system — including the very same traditional “professional” investors!
Without investors, Ecosquared will struggle, so I shall no doubt be indebted to them — personally — for the rest of my life, just as I am indebted to Colin who coded the back-end SQ-calculator, and to Kevin who has taken me further business-wise than I could have gone alone. I am tracking their value with the app, of course, and they shall be receiving a percentage of everything I get until the day I die. And so does anyone else who helps.
there’s nothing to it
Just now, that’s zero. I guess that’s why people haven’t quite cottoned on to the power of this thing.
Well… if I get it all lined up, pertinent players have the heads up (like lawyers, accountants, app developers, marketing directors, musicians, authors, etc) — when we launch, we have a chance to take this globally. A parallel economic system, free from ownership and ‘negative’ money. And then it is for us, each one of us, to make our decision as to how we operate economically. With the app in our hands, and our personal network of relationships… it will take years…
This won’t excite anyone else on the planet, but I noticed it.
I was replying to an email from Scotland’s talent scout for Angel’s Den. His email went to the heart of it — understanding Ecosquared, explaining it, and trust. For the later, he’s actually introduced me to a colleague of his from Oak Team, to check the worth of our system, before he can approach individual investors. So far so good — though if we were operating Ecosquared, all this would involve moneyflow.
I finished my email thanking him for his candour — I am so glad I am operating in Scotland! — up-front and honest is the way I like it. And I mention (in parenthesis) that I am recording it. I sent off the email, and went to the Ecosquared Prototype app and dutifully recorded my evaluation of the engagement: partly for his observations (he said it was a waste of his time or it was brilliant), and partly for what was evoked in me (genius is in the mind of the beholder). He’s second on a specific list of people (the people I have introduced to the app, not the core group), and fourth in terms of SQ. I sat there, checking the evaluations, how people compared, and thought yes, that’s fair, at least from my point of view. And is the SQ fair? Difficult to say since there’s not enough density of engagement. SQ matches my evaluations just about perfectly with the exceptions of Colin and myself.
And then this happened. I closed the app and noticed that it was on a side page. I flicked to my home-page. I use Ecosquared all the time. I like using it. It is useful to me. Yup, home-page is where it deserves to be. Here’s what it looks like now:
Gmail, Maps, a torch (I have used this a few times, very practical), and now ecosquared. What did it replace? Google Play Store. Yup, it ousted one of the Google products. Question is, will it ever replace one of the docked apps? Phone, Chrome, Camera, Settings…?
ok… anything slightly bigger to share with us, David?
In the wider world, things are going relatively well. Jorge is making headway with the back-end coding of the Gifting Mechanism. My God it has been a rigmarole getting a server and server-admin, and we’ve got a new URL to operate in the background. All his work is being hooked to the front-end, so we should have something to see pretty soon. All very exciting, in a back-end kind of way.
Meanwhile, I’ve spoken with Kevin from the Alba Innovation Centre. Once before Christmas, and twice since new year. He’s set up a meeting this Friday with an IP specialist and a regional manager from Scottish Enterprise. We agreed last week to meet at Kevin’s offices in Livingstone Tuesday. At his request I have been writing up a business plan over Christmas and New Year. Finally I have succumbed to ‘business sense’. Business Plan, horrible thing for what Ecosquared is, wrong tool. It reads more like an academic paper, nearly 50 pages. And on Monday, I decided to pivot, the lean-business term to basically signify a change of direction, taken from basket-ball I believe. I forked a business plan exclusively concentrating on the Gifting Mechanism. Much more succinct, and much more attractive to investors.
Mistakenly thinking Livingstone was south of Glasgow, I thought it sensible to make a few appointments in Glasgow to make the journey from Dundee worthwhile. I called up three angel investor groups, two responded positively: Lancaster Capital (the chap running caught me when I got my first knock-back last year; there’s a story behind that which I will go in to one day if that avenue turns out well), and Kelvin Capital. Meetings went well. Why? Because of the maths! I’ve modelled the Gifting Mechanism using InsightMaker. Take a look at the following.
I’m not going to explain it. Perhaps it will make sense to you, or perhaps it just piques your curiosity. But it sure is exciting.
My parents have been ill. Influenza of some sort. They are rather old, and it has floored them. My father in bed for a week with aches in his bones. Illness like this makes them age visibly before my eyes. My mother hobbling around, coughing to the edge of the very end of her breath. I’ve seen news reports about flu and how significant it is to that generation, but only in person does it have meaning. Honestly, their mortality is visible, to themselves too. Definitely a wake-up call.
Why mention this personal thing in this Ecosquared blog? Because the thing that is missing when I talk to people is the real experience. Adults are so used to simulating things in their heads, with business plans and financial projections, etc etc. The level of misunderstanding that Ecosquared triggers is very very basic. People think it is about ideas, on models. It is not. It is based on genuine, real relationships between people. Friend, family, living relationships, of blood, of feeling. This is why it will work. Not because it is commercial. It is real. It is an accounting system which tracks genuine value between people. And old people in our society deserve all the help they can get. Ageuk is one of the charities I’d like to pull in for the soft-launch in Easter.
It’s less about age, it’s more about wisdom. If the app doesn’t help us generate a sensitivity to wisdom, then it isn’t worth it.
So, here’s a screen shot of the Android app, Projects Function:
What does it do? You simply evaluate how enthused or committed you are to the projects you are involved in. ‘My’ shows your current value, 0 to 10. ‘Soc Av’ shows median — and because not enough people have evaluated their projects yet, the medians are uniformly 0!
Why this function? So that everyone can see how the project is doing at any moment. It should be possible to get data from the server to show individual scores within a specific project, which would then allow users to get the heads up very easily on how people are faring. Think collective project management. We’ll be doing a lot more in this direction once we get moneyflow.
I’m paying Jeditech to code one of the financial functions, ‘Gift’. I had thought of doing ‘Invest’ first, but when speaking with angel investors over the last month, it is the Gifting Mechanic that seems to attract their attention. It’s our ‘route to market’, as they say. It is so counter-intuitive, some ran screaming, specifically one whose background was marketing. When speaking with Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway, and Scottish Investment Bank, it makes sense — but only when I have a meeting. Written material just doesn’t seem to work in its favour, at least not the way I write it. Which is problematic because I’ve started business plans. Hard work trying to transform the content of a gifting economic into the structure of business plan. The usual questions — problem solved, unique solution, route to market, competitors, etc — are difficult to answer. I am the wrong person to answer. Or at least, my answers are great, but they don’t conform. Such questions lead me to think of the current system and I consider potential ecosystem that may form around the app. I don’t like projecting into the future false figures, I detest those projected figures over 5 years, and I don’t like ‘expectation’ period. Seems very close to speculation. However, a bit of maths has come to my aid.
While explaining the Gifting Mechanism to my coding partner, Colin, a couple of weeks ago, he pointed me at a brilliant bit of free online software — InsightMaker. I’ve been modelling the Gifting Mechanic ever since, onto the 12th iteration. Amazing. It allows the user to choose various rates of gifting, amounts of money, number of people who take, and so on, and runs a simulation, and I’ve included some standard deviation too. It even allows ‘sensitivity testing’, allowing 50 simulation runs simultaneously so it is possible to hone in on the rates that produce favourable results. That is, virals. Amazing! This is not only useful for potential investors, but for people using the app in the future to guide their behaviour — its the gifter’s equivalent to the ‘buyer’s guide’! Each user can get an idea of the kind of behaviour they need to exhibit if they want the thing they are recommending to go viral. And with a financial dimension, this means the money follows things we value. Viral doesn’t necessarily mean exponential growth, it can mean sustainable growth.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Point is, after working on this, I feel confident I can produce some potential figures in a business plan that actually make sense. Combined with the prototype version of the Gifting Mechanism, investors can make an informed decision. Part gut from direct experience, part mind from models and projections. Nice.
And this experience has given me an insight into what a traditional business plan is. It is nothing to do with the product, its all to do with the financials, costings. And because I am naturally aligned to lean business practices, I have come up with a minimal MVP for under £3,000, and the next one at £30,000 for a global open-ended viral capacity. This doesn’t take into consideration salaries for me or my coding partner, nor costs for compliance, etc, etc. It is the minimum to get us off the ground. If we reach the next threshold of funding, so we can pay for the heavier costs. Sustainable growth. I’ve never thought of taking money from an investor to pay me. Which is why our costs are so low. If we factor in salaries, even reasonably small ones, and the other expected costs like ‘sales’, we are dealing with £100,000, which is the figure that all government business loans and most investors are looking at as being ‘realistic’. You live and learn.
Drop me a line. I’ve been terrible at finding user-cases, which would provide us with some valuable data for the business plan. And an investor of course. And coders, etc, etc. Download ecosquared prototype at google play, athe iPhone version should be online very soon. Help to make good things happen — and get generously remunerated for it. Why? Because there’s a global population somwhere down the line who will be incredibly thankful to those who act now.
After a few weeks of putting the word out, here is a summary of my experiences of the angel investment situation here in Scotland.
first there were ten
Of the ten or so contacted, it has been relatively easy to arrange meetings, once I learned that I have to talk about level of investment and equity, nominally £30k for 16%. Of the few who request written info before even contemplating a meeting, they all respond with a negative, saying it does not match their criteria. I usually have to reply with a rather forceful email requesting what criteria exactly, and on two occasions this has led to a meeting.
from five to two
Of the five I have met, one did not have a clue what I was talking about. I am on point, and I do explain how the gifting mechanic works. This can be overwhelming. For all but two so far, the app-server combo does not conform to the criteria they use to evaluate and subsequently pass on to their syndicate of funders. Most of these syndicates consist of reasonably well off professionals who are looking for different investment opportunities. In comparison to ISAs or playing on the stockmarket, investment in any kind of company or startup is a high-risk. They are not looking for innovative. They are looking for a niche product, something which fits the current market and makes a reasonable case for growth. Most are physical companies, many biologically orientated for some reason, and only a few in app development, eg controlling household boilers or lights with a mobile app, that kind of thing.
Of the three that said it was not suitable for their syndicate, they did offer to pass on my proposal to specific individuals they thought might be interested. None have honoured their word. The quality of response of individuals I have met here in Scotland is higher — where what they say and what they do match more closely than business people I have met south of the border. It is a tiny sample, for sure, but I suspect there is more hardness in the Scottish businessman. He doesn’t want to promise anything he can’t deliver. But still, I find the gap between word and action is still wide enough that I mistakingly take a barge of bullshit for a trustworthy relationship. I am learning. I am now entirely skeptical. It doesn’t matter what anyone says they will do now, it means less than the vapour from their tongues, insufficient to moisten a stamp let alone a letter of intent, or anything resembling useful action.
Why this behaviour? Because there is no moneyflow. I have dabbled with the notion of introducing MTTP into the initial engagement, but I have found that it appears to be too much of a gimmick at the moment. Only when I have sufficient funds and a body of practice behind me, will it operate well. Indeed, operate for anyone on the planet. Point is, we need to have moneyflow from the initial conditions. The current system has all this hot-air, talk, preparation — which could go on for months! — until eventually ‘gold’ is struck. And course, the investment has to be worth the time and effort that everyone has put into make the decision. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that upward of 25% of money funded goes to pay the time and effort before funding is released. Absurd, and also makes for a distrusting business environment. The alternative? Money flow from the start.
I am tracking people’s contributions through the app, of course. So, when moneyflow does arise, I can distribute it to those who have have actually been helpful. I tell people this, but because this is early days, they can’t ‘compute’ the significance of this. When I end up distributing £1,000,000 to these critical first-steps, the world will be a different place — it will pay to be sensitive and helpful.
two interested — why?
Through this relatively painless procedure, two have shone through. Despite the obvious challenge of comprehending the app in the first place, they were open-minded enough to listen. This indicates a qualitatively different mind-set. Both were quite unlike the others. First, they were investors themselves. Second, they were not simply going through a checklist, establishing what other products our app is like. They were genuinely looking for newness.
One began to relate ecosquared to trust networks already out there. For example a child-sitting service which was growing slowly in the US west coast (where else?). He talked of the importance of sharpening the pitch so that it was super-clear what was being offered, giving me examples of mechanical buzzards, of all things. Of course, the problem I have is that the tool has potentially ubiquitous use, but what I need to do is pin-point some specific potential user-cases. Specific problems solved, so the ‘market’ will find the offering obvious. And this chap offered to do just this.
Another had direct experience of equity investment and he was specifically interested in the gifting mechanism of our app. He recognised what I call the ‘fractal seed’ of the gifting mechanism, and revealed that another company was pitching this for £500,000. Good news to know there is a competitor, so I don’t feel so bad when I meet someone who has no idea what I am talking about, their response being more a reflection of what they don’t know or haven’t come across. The bad news is, they are putting together a professional bid with plenty of commercial bells and whistles. Another bad thing is that it was intimated they are using a traditional business model and will not be using the gifting mechanic themselves on their own product. That is, those who are tinkering with the gifting mechanism may be first to market, appropriating our one last great chance to escape the capitalist system (or thing-ownership strange-attractor).
In both cases, these individuals were genuinely engaging. Genuine potential here.
a final surprise
My nephew did something unusual, in fact doubly so. Firstly, it is unusual for (my) family members to mix business with blood, and secondly, it is unusual for someone to recommend something when they do not understand it. Both, I believe, are natural to the human state and once ecosquared has some validity, people will find it is healthy to trust friends and family first, whilst also developing the courage to explore things they do no understand or feel is right. That is, genuine trust network, and thus a strong enough existence to explore new experiences. Strong roots, strong branches.
So, my nephew showed a few slides to a neighbour of his who is a successful entrepreneur, and his response was positive. From what I heard, very positive. It looks like the most positive response has occurred indirectly, ie not through me directly — which is a good sign. It indicates that whatever is presented is reflecting what the viewer already knows. That is, they have observed the elements in society themselves, and my composition brings these elements together in a rather pleasant composition. Thus, resonance and acknowledgement, followed by appreciation and excitement. I am only speculating at this stage, since I haven’t met the gentleman. But I do know how the psychology of discovery works based on my experience with young adults.
I am, in fact, envious, that my nephew witnessed the buzz. Had I been present though, I am sure I would have white-washed whatever their excitement was with my own. This is a major problem with inventors or creators, at least for some. Without recognition, the creator internalises the lack of response, and so whenever even a glimmer of appreciation appears, it can often lead to an incandescent explosion of delight from the creator, which all too often snuffs out the joy of the receiver. I don’t make this mistake with kids. Or rather, when I see a kid start to light up with a discovery, I add my passion like fuel to their flame not just for having a new enlightening perspective on fractions say, but expanding it out to the joy of mathematics in general, and the ability of any one of us to learn! I have found that this genuine learning flame is weak in adults and can get easily snuffed out, whereas with young adults it has the radiance of nuclear fission, all-at-once intellectual, emotional and indeed spiritual.
So, who is to know what may emerge? It is slow progress. I am certainly not excited about a positive response any more, because I have had people say ecosquared is genius before and very little came of it. In fact, the opposite — I trusted their perception and their direction and risked too much, losing my family in their enthusiastic promises. I won’t make that mistake, indeed I can not.
I have also begun the route through the public funding maze. Very nice engagement with managers at Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise so far, with potential matched funding or 70% funding, but it is going to be 12 weeks putting together the proposal and then a further 12 weeks getting a decision. We’ll see how far I get along that path before I run out of steam, though perhaps some business-minded people may be attracted to complete that journey. Again, the method justifies the accretion of more ‘business folk’. The more money involved, the more people, and the more it costs to get anything to happen. Something which our app has the chance of cutting completely.
Meanwhile, Colin continues to develop the back-end engine and I fund the front-end app, which can be found on Google Play, ‘ecosquared’. I’ll write about user-cases in another post — feel free to submit your interest in the comments, via the app itself, or from the ecosquared.co.uk website.