Showing posts with label Silicon Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Silicon Valley. Show all posts

Saturday, December 07, 2019

NEOM: A Fundamental Departure For All Humanity?

That NEOM is an attempt at a fundamental departure for all humanity is not my idea or suggestion. That is the stated goal from the people who have come up with the project. Within that suggestion, I am offering my ideas.

The idea is a new city can itself be as innovative as a new company. And if that city were to become home to many new companies on the cutting edges of innovation, then that city as innovation would be something remarkable. Frankly, unprecedented. That is not New York City, that is not Silicon Valley. When Manhattan was just an uninhabited island, when California was just wilderness, and what we know as Silicon Valley was just apple orchards. But none of those places started with the clarity of ambition that NEOM is projecting.

I find it exciting to even think about the whole project. I see myself getting involved at some point. I am certainly open to it.

NEOM: Governance
NEOM Beats Mars
NEOM: Wide Participation Will Enhance Chance Of Success
NEOM, Jerusalem: Twin Cities?
My Take On NEOM, The City
NEOM: A City

I want to think in terms of all the ways it could go right. But I would also like to think of ways it could go wrong. Better now than when the failures have already materialized.

The number one word of caution is that the spiritual foundation has to be the number one priority. When Noah was around the world was full of engineers performing all sorts of tricks. Without a sound spiritual foundation, engineering is just gloom and doom.

I appreciate Prince Salman's bold attempt to wrest the narrative in the Islamic world. If Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) wife was what today would be considered a CEO, maybe women today should also be running things. During the golden era of Islam, the Islamic world exhibited an immense thirst for knowledge, the kind that nurtures math and science. He is trying to take the region to a modernity that already existed.

All major religions talk of God as the creator. If there is only one creation, how many Gods do you think there are, right? That one God is always going to be more and bigger than whatever you understand God to be. Because God is infinite, and the human being is finite. A human being can not hope to understand God, only God's revelations.

Saudi Arabia stands to benefit from the whole project. It came up with the idea, it is offering all that land, and it is coming up with the seed capital. It only makes sense that it will benefit from it. The ask is not that big. All Saudi Arabia is asking in return is to give itself a diversified economy, a post-oil economy. I think that is fair enough. And very possible.

But it should also stick by its stance to step back a little and allow many others to participate. This has to feel like a clean slate to many parties. There are people in Silicon Valley who fantasize about opening up tech startup office spaces on ships out in the international waters off the California coasts. Let them come to NEOM. The US voter is tired of paying the bills for being the world's policeman. Let them see the promise of NEOM. There are many countries angling to create a multi-polar world. Let them participate in NEOM.

NEOM can not be a place where expensive consultants give their bad advice and run for the hills when things go awry. It can not be a place only for tech wizardry. The innovation has to be on many levels. There has to be a solid spiritual foundation. There has to be political innovation. There has to be social innovation. There has to be law enforcement innovation. There has to be governance innovation. There has to be an urban living innovation. There has to be a tourism innovation.

This new city has to learn from the oldest inhabited cities of the world for they carry wisdom. The truly new borrows heavily from the truly old.

Saudi Arabia Is Betting Its Future on a Desert Megacity Foreign Policy: November 2017 Can Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious plans jumpstart social and economic reform, or are they an expensive miscalculation? ........ “Welcome to the future of Saudi Arabia,” a Saudi tour guide intoned last week as she led guests into a showroom advertising values not traditionally associated with the kingdom: gender equality, environmental sustainability, and technological innovation....... After an IMAX-style introductory video, the first stop on this “megaprojects tour” was a model of one of three new futuristic cities that Saudi Arabia is set to break ground on next year, dubbed Qiddiya. Located 25 miles from the capital, Riyadh, the city is envisioned as an entertainment megaplex with everything from indoor ski slopes to roller coasters to a zoo. Guests on the preview tour could interact with a holographic lion or try out the mountain bike and race car simulators. Down the hall were previews of the second two cities, a Red Sea tourist resort and Neom, a tech hub that aims to have more robots than humans in its population. ........ The cities are part of Vision 2030, the kingdom’s ambitious plan to pivot the economy away from oil. The program was announced over a year ago, but the event, which ran from Oct. 24 to Oct. 26, was the “coming out” party — a chance for the global financial elite to see for themselves whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was, in the words of one investor, “for real.” The so-called Future Investment Initiative (FII) pulled in 3,500 attendees, including dozens of blue-chip executives. Crew members from the Saudi national airline helped guide potential investors through the hallways of the Ritz Carlton. Robot “concierges” stood outside panel rooms, playfully soliciting interaction and selfies. ........... The message was clear to all: For three decades, the state has worked assiduously to avoid offending the conservative religious elite, stalling the trappings of modernity that have catapulted development in cities such as neighboring Dubai. This conference was meant to seal that chapter and set out a new, aspirational end point. ....... “Before now, the government always made a balance between the liberal people and the conservatives. They gave this side something, [that] faction another thing,” said Amal al-Hazzani, a columnist at Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat and professor at King Saud University. “They kept trying to make that balance, until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came.… [H]e ended that era.” ........ Mohammed bin Salman is signaling to Saudis that they are embarking on a momentous reform project from which there is no turning back. Saudi Arabia will need a serious shaking up to bring its economic and social structure into the 21st century. ....... “Seventy percent of the Saudi people are less than 30 years old, and we will not waste 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideas — we will destroy them today,” Mohammed bin Salman told the gathering. “We want to live a normal life.” ........ Many conference attendees likely didn’t realize just how revolutionary certain aspects of last week’s event were. Bankers from London to Lagos enjoyed gender-mixed coffee breaks, where women weren’t required to wear the traditional abaya. There were no intermissions for prayers, which shut down Saudi businesses for 30 minutes multiple times a day. Only a handful of speeches began with the usual Islamic prayer. ......... ...Saudi Arabia’s urban dreams are almost absurdly large, and Mohammed bin Salman has been intimately involved in forming them. He first pitched the idea of building completely new cities in 2015, just after his father was elevated as king, and has since signed off on details — even down to the logo designs........ Neom, the centerpiece of the mega projects, will cover more than 10,000 square miles — 10 times the size of Luxembourg. An initial press release described the city as “the safest, most efficient, most future-oriented, and best place to live and work” in the world....... Every piece of life in Neom will be linked to artificial intelligence: roads and cars will adjust to avoid traffic, and grocery orders will be fed directly to drone delivery units. Hydroponic growers will farm produce without soil, utilizing electricity produced by solar panels........ The city aims to attract top tech talent from across the globe, incentivizing businesses to flock to Neom through preferential regulation. Social life and gender norms will be drawn from “global best practices,” a term that serves as the default answer to any question about how something in the city — whether transport or official language — will work.......... Mohammed bin Salman’s personal support and the emphasis on good regulations was “very reassuring. It’s also something that we didn’t hear in the last three decades.”...... State-led plans such as Neom often miss the organic, bottom-up tech ecosystem that breeds innovation. Meanwhile, the Gulf cities that Neom hopes to rival — Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and even Doha — have a decade-plus head start......... Watching corrupt ministers face charges, incompetent consultants lose their jobs, and longtime undersecretaries demoted is starting to change the work culture. Fatani says the new ethos is, “Just get it done.” ............ Mohammed bin Salman will surely need to remain mindful of simmering conservative frustrations. The very bureaucrats he aims to reform may also push back, quietly delaying projects, sitting on approvals, or just heading home from work early. The stagnating price of oil, skepticism from investors, or regional instability could also set progress back.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Silicon Valley And Dubai

First of all, what is technically Silicon Valley (it is an actual geography ... it's a valley, I have been) is no longer where innovation is happening. The innovation is happening north of that in San Francisco, a big city where young engineers like to live. And, by now, New York is neck and neck. Because, guess what, San Fran has nothing on New York when it comes to big city living. And Dubai makes New York look like a Third World city.

But look at this Founding Father of Silicon Valley. This guy, the first Prime Minister of India, is the primary pusher behind the establishment of IITs across India. No IITs, no Silicon Valley, pure and simple. Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella look visible now, but Indians have always been the majority of the workhorses in the valley tech companies.

You also need capital. Every VC in California gets their money from the pension funds in New York. It is not like the dollar bill in California is a different color from green. Capital is capital. And Dubai has a ton of it.

Culture is big. In San Fran they have a culture where they celebrate failure. They say, fail fast. Fail better next time. But that culture can be cultivated. In other words, be tolerant.

But the truest form of tolerance is cultural diversity, the number one quality I look for in any city. And there Dubai is number one by a wide margin.

The IITs are still producing super smart graduates. But the visa regime in the US has become very unfriendly. Dubai does great there. And if there is room for improvement, it can be fixed by royal decree. I am sure.

Dubai has capital. Dubai can access the same IITs, and only better. Because Dubai is so much closer to home. People like home. Dubai's cultural diversity is the greatest symbol of tolerance there can be.

What is needed is a city inside a city. And I am going to build that. The world is big. The San Francisco Bay Area, or the Hong Kong Bay Area are not big enough for all the innovation the world needs.

And Dubai has excellent location. You have Africa and you have South Asia nearby, the next two Chinas.

To: The Crown Prince Of Dubai
No Techies In Dubai
Elon Musk's Giant Blind Spot: Human Beings
Dubai's Remarkable Economic Transformation

Friday, May 24, 2019

Uber And The Public

Why Silicon Valley Loved Uber More Than Everyone Else Uber was the most valuable private company in history, but the public market has not been as enthusiastic. The reason explains a lot about how the tech industry works.......... Silicon Valley’s cultural divergence from the business reality. ....... Uber has taken more money than any other company from the dense set of moneymen who bankroll new(ish) companies. Its investors include Alphabet, Google’s parent company; Jeff Bezos; Softbank; the Saudi sovereign wealth fund; a slew of marquee venture-capital firms; Goldman Sachs; and even Tim Ferriss, whose work week is probably even shorter now. In 2014, the company set the record for the largest valuation ever for a private tech company—at $17 billion—and then smashed its own mark many times. ....... He and his firm would rely on their instinct instead of putting a number on the company’s value the standard way—by looking at the market Uber was targeting and figuring out how much market share it could win. ......... Drivers drove and riders rode—and the only thing necessary to connect them was an app on a phone. The model didn’t just make financial sense to people trained to think in Silicon Valley in the 2000s; it made ideological sense.......... “We’re in this political campaign, and the candidate is Uber. And the opponent is an asshole named Taxi” ...... The company tried to catalyze riders to contact their local officials telling them to allow Uber to operate, no matter the rules on the books; the effort was called Operation Rolling Thunder. ........ In Kalanick’s national crusade against Taxi, he literally hired Barack Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. In a tough battle in New York, he brought in Michael Bloomberg’s former campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, and won. Tusk later founded a venture firm based on the idea they could help start-ups with politics. ....... For providing this kind of service to Uber, Tusk may have made $100 million........ The company created a loyal user base in a legal gray area, then when a city’s elected political leaders made a decision Uber did not like, the company would use its power to push their political messaging to their users. Elected officials became like customer-service representatives during a cable outage, desperate and nervous.......... Uber really was about the triumph of individualism, an ethos that infuses Silicon Valley so thoroughly that it’s hard for most here to see. Companies that fit that pattern are more likely to garner VC attention, get funding, and find success. That’s how Silicon Valley shapes the world. ......... But they cannot sustain companies within their bubbles of influence forever. They must leave the nest for the public markets, where they are judged on their bottom lines. So far, the market says: This company is worth $50 billion less than its executives and bankers thought.......... And in Uber’s world, the market is always right.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

FlipKart: Owned 80% By Investors

I learned today that FlipKart is owned 80% by investors. That is a sad state of affairs. Investors should have the discipline to not own 35-40% of a tech startup, otherwise you are killing the hen that lays the golden egg. It is racism to think Indian tech startup founders can get by with little ownership because, well, they are Indian and they are in India.

I wish FlipKart all the best, but I can't see how a tech startup that is so weak at its foundation can be a trailblazer. It has been set to fall, if not now then later. The ownership structure is bull.

Rahul Yadav is another story that caught my attention months ago. The Indian media made it look like the guy sent out one wrong, arrogant email and that is why. That is missing the point. He had all the inklings of a tech startup founder. But the ownership structure there also was all messed up. And I gather has bombed since. The hen got killed.

The Real Rahul Yadav Story
Rahul Yadav Has A Bright Future

I hope there will be a second coming of Rahul Yadav just like there was a second coming of Steve Jobs.

If FlipKart is owned 80% by investors, I am not sure it is the Indian Alibaba.

Saudi Arabia: SuperPower?

A tech startup founder is not a CEO. A tech startup founder has to be in a commanding position. Because you have to make drastic moves as you grow. And you need power to be able to make those moves. And the power comes from equity ownership. I don't know what the FlipKart investors are thinking.

A company owned 80% by investors, when it goes for its next round of funding, the investors will make the call. The founder CEO will not be at the negotiating table. That should never happen. An irrelevant founder CEO is not a founder CEO but an employee.

Tech Startup Equity Distribution
Zuck, Free Basics, India
Zuck, Free Basics, India (2)
Dorsey Ouster Was DNA Damage At Twitter

There is venture capital. And then there is vulture capital.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Productivity And Political Innovation Going Hand In Hand

English: The Communist States
English: The Communist States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A lot of Silicon Valley types, when they talk about massive increases in productivity they see before their eyes coming in the near future, forget to realize that there will have to be accompanying political, social and policy innovation. There has to be. Imagine every part of your body grew, but not your thumb. Your thumb got stuck at age one. That won't be pretty.

If we could grow 100 times as much food, maybe it will make sense to give everyone food stamps. Everyone who wants them can have them. Why not? We can already give everyone free internet access. Nanotechnology should do the same to housing. It should become super cheap to build houses. You could be buying houses like you buy computers today. It is not a 30 year plan. It is one simple transaction.

Maybe we will end up communist. Like China, a communist country, has ended up being uber capitalist, or "socialism with Chinese characteristics." To each according to his/her need, at least for the basics of life, like internet access, food and shelter. Even a minimum basic income. If your accessing the internet is making people money, maybe you should get a cut. You should definitely get a cut for your personal contribution to Big Data. We as people are more indispensable to the Internet than computers and routers. The Internet is dead without us.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Giant Tech Companies Should Give Money To Individuals And Local Governments

Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Big tech companies like Google should pay money to individuals whose data they cash on, and to governments in whose jurisdictions they make money in. It should be sane amounts and sane percentages, but it can't be zero.

Empire of the geeks
Silicon Valley should be celebrated. But its insularity risks a backlash .... THE English have Silicon Fen and Silicon Roundabout, the Scots have Silicon Glen. Berlin boasts Silicon Allee, New York Silicon Alley. But the brain of the tech world is the ecosystem in and around San Francisco. ...... Airbnb, a seven-year-old firm that helps people turn their homes into hotels, operates in 34,000 towns and cities around the world. ..... American capitalism has a new hub in the west. Wall Street used to be the place to seek fortunes and make deals; now it is increasingly the Valley.

The area’s tech companies are worth over $3 trillion

...... The enormous, disruptive creativity of Silicon Valley is unlike anything since the genius of the great 19th-century inventors. Its triumph is to be celebrated. ....... insularity. The geeks live in a bubble that seals off their empire from the world they are doing so much to change. ..... Many denizens of the Valley believe that tech is the solution to all ills and that government is just an annoyance that still lacks an algorithm.
Silicon rally

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Innovative Lifestyle Is Not Easy To Put Your Finger On

Can one work in a giant lizard tank while doing acute, innovative work that serves the world outside the glass? Every family leader wants to build a generous homestead, but imaginative life is more often at home in walkups, in the messy parts of town.

A Bizarre Blog Post By Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz does not have a hometown advantage with me. But once in a while I will drop by his blog to see what he has been up to recently, like I just did. And I think I just read the most bizarre blog post ever at his blog. What has venture capitalism come to?

There was a phase in my childhood when I used to fantasize about having curly hair. I thought it was just so cool. One of my post Spring Break jokes at college was to rib my white friends, "You getting there! You getting there!" It took me the longest time to see any kind of racial connotation between chicken and watermelons and the black identity. I still don't see the connection. I just so happen to be a huge fan of watermelons. If you grew up in the south of Nepal like I did where summers are hot enough for a siesta culture, you would also take watermelons at face value. They are a treat. They are better than any summer drink I ever had. Talking of siestas, Brad Feld has a most delightful blog post on that.

For the first time I am thinking those who think the VC firm A16Z has raised too much money might be right. They are now investing in bizarre territory. And here's some historical context.

The watermelon is no mango, the king of all fruits, but it sits right up there in the royal court. That has always been my opinion, and I am not changing it. Anything wrong you hear about watermelons has been planted in your brain by the fast buck fast food industry.

Also, how about this for a contemporary context? And to think, I have put out as many blog posts about The Tramp, as I have about Hillary!