Data, Death, and Reality Distortion Fields

CERN

Cool Picture Robert Scoble took of the CERN which has nothing at all to do with this post

Where’s Database Tech Headed?

This three part post starts with a simple discussion of databases and a tip of the hat from Fred Wilson to the Hacker News Community. The post discussed the link strength of HN for AVC (Fred’s blog) as well as the more important pooled intellectual attention (I keep coming back to HN for this). The database discussion Fred references, contrasts faster, simpler, column or indexed databases (key value store) versus the more powerful relational database options (SQL and the like). Commenters chime in to dissect the misinformation of the original post (No to SQL? Anti-database movement gains steam) and even non-techy readers can learn that the best database solution is likely one customized to the way users access the data (user behavior optimized databases). This was of particular interest to a project I’m working on which will have a user profile database and could potentially be very large. The lookup is easy enough for a key value store, but the strength lies gleaning trends and user patterns/clusters from the database.

Tim Berners-Lee, the originator of HTTP, has some new ideas on how data can be accessed and shared according to a common interface.

Death Makes Us Aware That Each Moment is Precious

Kevin Kelly inspired Death Clock appeared in Matt Groening‘s Futurama. The device predicts the life time of the user. Morbidly fearing our demise, or putting too much faith into a death clock, is not what Kevin suggests (or Matt Groening makes light of). While a rather short post based on Kevin’s standards, it’s message is clear. We only have so much time on the merry go round before we have to get off. Kevin has his Death Clock displayed in his desktop background, not as a grim reminder of his mortality, but that each of his moments is precious, and is a non-renewable resource. We are reminded that living like we have forever to accomplish our dreams can be a dangerous gambit.

Reality Distortion Fields, Caveat emptor

Finally Steve Blank warns us of Drinking the Kool-Aid. While an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (a sweet position by Steve’s standards) he experienced “the single most compelling speech” he and the VC he was working with have ever heard from fellow SuperMac veteran Peter Barrett. Not long after Steve was hired as the CEO of the $4 million dollar venture to be the “adult supervision and administrative overseer” of the startup and he was generous enough to share a few of his lessons learned:

  • Your level of due diligence should be commensurate with your position in the company and proportional to the reality distortion field of the presenter
  • Never join (or start) a company whose business model you can’t draw
  • Subjects in which you are not a domain expert always sound exciting
  • Sleep on any major decision

My comment back to Steve:

Reality distortion field isn’t that the basic technique covered in startups 101? I just assumed the distortion field must be propagated until it meets reality with widespread adoption. If entrepreneurs can’t imagine and convince us that we can achieve the impossible, who will?

Failed concepts require the courage to recognize the need for business redirection. I’m sold on people, not their favorite idea of the moment. If long term investors fall prey to UBER pitches, at the very least their investing in a master salesmen- leverage that brilliance in another tractable venture.
Ps: my limited perspective comes with self recognition of a lack of hands on experience

What I take away from this:

  • due diligence is up to the investor
    • as an aspiring entrepreneur, I’d like to think I’d do the due diligence of a concept before even approaching outside investors
    • better still, if the venture didn’t require any outside funding
  • I’d like someone with the passion and persuasiveness of Peter Barrett, to be giving the pitch of a solid concept I help put together

 

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