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.
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.
So, to recap. Early this year, Colin Kilburn went ahead and coded a back-end financial engine on a server. He also coded a web-app. Meanwhile, I taught maths in order to make some money. This autumn, I paid a chap called Abhinav to code a front-end android app, some cash and some %-equity.
Here we have a working prototype.
It allows a user to choose a project (touching the title at the top, in this case ‘peek at app’), choose the name of someone (eg Tim), and choose a score (eg 6). Users can see their relative values they give for each person, thus getting a gauge of the priorities they think are important, and the SQ, the Social-Quotient, the result once everyones relative values are relativised themselves using our algorithm. It can be sorted by the tabs (in this case, SQ).
We’re looking for interest from various partners:
- user-cases to test in the field — reasonable density, people who interact relatively regularly over a week or two, so a group of people can evaluate the effectiveness of the algorithm to capture ‘intangibles’
- angel-investors — around £30k to make the engine more robust, secure, and scalable on a virtual server so that anyone on the planet can use it
- coders — to develop the other modules (Colin has run out of money and is now working for money, poor man)
- business folk — to flesh out some commercial potentials, business plans, etc
- contributors — landing-page designers, designers, philosophers
I’ve had plenty of people who want to commercialise it. Either by tracking value in a building renovation setting, licensing the code to enable people to value emails, gift buttons — all of which are under licence, using our back-end financial engine. Still, nobody as yet has seen the commercial potential in the app itself. So, I am especially interested in people who have the vision to see how this can be applied ubiquitously. Basically, anyone anywhere who is doing anything, can use the app to track the contributions people make to whatever they are doing.
When I started out saying ecological economics, I didn’t mean as a category. I meant it as a description. It is an alternative economic. A gifting economic. A network economic. An instant economic. And this app is the first working tool that enables it. We are coding the other functions later this autumn into winter.