15 January 2020

MIT Nuts & Bolts of New Ventures ~ IAP Jan 2020

On Tuesday night, 21 January 2020, Joe Hadzima and I kick off the latest incarnation -- the 31st year (!!) -- of our MIT Nuts & Bolts of New Ventures course over the MIT Independent Activities Period (IAP 2020). Joe starts with the essence of business planning as a process of iterative imagination and special guest speaker Bob Jones shares how to present venture essentials. My primary topic is Team & Organizational issues, our special guest speakers (mostly MIT alums, all entrepreneurs) cover the essentials everyone ought to know about new venturing, including how to identify customers, pitch a concept, raise money, model financials, deal with legalities, negotiate with people, and holistically integrate this all together.

Sessions are evenings over the next two weeks Tue, Wed, and Thurs nights 1/21-1/30 from 6-9p in 10-250 -- i.e. in our prime MIT lecture hall under the iconic Great Dome. Folks can choose whether to attend all sessions, plus doing the (useful) written homework assignment, and registering For Credit (3 Units, Pass/Fail for 15.393 online via Websis) or to come for any (or all) nights and simply participate as a Listener. All MIT affiliates and colleagues -- including students, faculty, staff, post-docs, alums, spouses, relatives, and friends -- are welcome on a space-available basis with priority for registered full-time undergrad and grad students. We also continue to welcome students from our sister schools in Boston-metro (e.g. Wellesley, Harvard, BU, Tufts, etc) as well as Members of the MIT Enterprise Forum network. Those interested, please simply join us at 6pm in our MIT 10-250 classroom.

05 January 2020

Losing Faith ~ Shifts in Religous Zeal Appeal

The Economist spotlights Arab Barometer religious trendscape...
"NO TO RELIGION or sect,” cry the protesters in Iraq. “No to Islam, no to Christianity, revolt for the nation,” echo those in Lebanon. Across the Arab world people are turning against religious political parties and the clerics who helped bring them to power. Many appear to be giving up on Islam, too. These trends are reflected in new data from Arab Barometer, a pollster that surveys Arab countries. Across the region the share of people expressing much trust in political parties, most of which have a religious tint, has fallen by well over a third since 2011, to 15%. (The share of Iraqis who say they do not trust parties at all rose from 51% to 78%.) The decline in trust for Islamist parties is similarly dramatic, falling from 35% in 2013, when the question was first widely asked, to 20% in 2018."

21 December 2019

Mapping Corruption ~ Transparency to Opacity

Visual Capitalist's Chart of the Week maps Transparency International 2018 data about corruption perceptions worldwide...

13 December 2019

MIT Global Ventures ~ Emergent Newcos 2019!

Great to see all 29 final projects in our MIT Global+Development Ventures class this past Fall 2019, a joint-offering between MIT D-Lab, MIT Sloan School of Management, and MIT Media Arts & Sciences in the School of Architecture & Planning! My MIT Media Lab co-instructors Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Ramesh Raskar, and I are all keen to see where our students will take their projects next. Many have received MIT Sandbox support, others are Legatum Fellows or have Legatum Voyager grants over IAP/January 2020, most are entering MIT IDEAS and/or MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition Accelerate & Launch phases, and a few are engaging up-river in Harvard's President Innovation Challenge! And, of course, there's many more things to do beyond grant-seeking and contests, most especially actually founding, financing, and building these newcos! Here they are alphabetically...
  1. 1Room ~ Kenyan Affordable Personalized Learning System
  2. AiBaobao ~ Chinese Active Parenting Solutions
  3. Aqua ~ Argentinian Digital Banking
  4. AZEKI ~ African Designer Brand & Operational Solutions
  5. Co.Mig ~ Venezuelan Migrant Integration & Employment
  6. CON-DE ~ Architectural Material Reuse Solutions
  7. Corpus Law ~ Digital Accessible Legal Info
  8. CorruptionMonitor ~ Citizen Reporting Solutions
  9. Experimental Fund ~ Fast Harvard Student Project Funding
  10. Green Source ~ African Local Sustainble Fair Palm Oil 
  11. GRIA ~ African Snack Foods
  12. IT VC for EAC ~ East African ICT Investment Fund
  13. KAAN ~ Latam Retired Expat Co-Living Communities
  14. Kinderoo ~ Affordable Distributed Day Care Services
  15. mBody ~ Pakistani Girls Body Literacy
  16. Medical Records ~ Ownership & Transportability
  17. Molo ~ Cote d'Ivoire Pay-as-you-go LPG
  18. MYLA ~ Make Your Life Awesome Virtual Personal Assistant
  19. Mylea ~ Sustainable Fashion Materials
  20. OneBeat ~ Social Exercise Engagement
  21. Pandar ~ African Smallholder Farmer Informatics
  22. RateMonk ~ Indian Online Academic Ratings & Informatics
  23. Red Feather ~ Canadian Indigenous Certification & Products
  24. RISE ~ Colombian Rural Innovations for Solidarity Economies
  25. Salut ~ Brazilian Integrated Healthcare Services 
  26. TABIGO ~ Chinese Social Travel Planner
  27. Text4Health ~ Anonymous Sexual Health Services
  28. TOWARDS ~ Presentation Speech & Performance Coaching
  29. Wala ~ Ghanaian Blood Supply Solutions

09 December 2019

Trophic Cascade ~ Discovery & Eco-Regeneration

PBS Nature shares The Serengeti Rules episode on keystone species in ecosystems and the notion of a "trophic cascade" plus ultimately the prospect of ecosystem regeneration via "upgrading". These ecologists and natural scientists used "living labs" to better disentangle the complexities of biomes, for example, comparing tidepool life with and without starfish, pond life with and without bass fish, Scottish highlands with and without grazing sheep, parks with and without wolves, and kelp forests with and without sea otters.

08 December 2019

Circular Economies ~ From Trashflow to Cashflow

I've become increasingly intrigued by the circular economies idea wherein the classic linear material and energy flows going from source-to-sink are supplanted by recycling or reuse or waste-use material flow loops. Sarah Murray makes The case for a circular world in the recent FT Special Report on the Circular Economy...
"This is an approach to industrial and consumption systems that shifts from linear “take-make-dispose” models to circular ones that return what comes from nature to the production cycle. This means going back to the drawing board.  For example, Steelcase, the US office furniture maker, designs products with disassembly in mind. […] "we’re trying to, by design, keep things in the system as opposed to just reducing their negative impact,” […] For some companies, this has meant rethinking the business model. [Umcore made] the shift from mining operations to a business in refining, recycling and recovering speciality metals. […] DSM, a life sciences and materials sciences group [is] looking at how to recycle and reuse 100 per cent of carpets by making them from a single type of material, rather than from multiple materials. […] “People are frustrated by the extent of packaging and by having to throw a washing machine out after three years. Companies are responding —- that’s a big shift.”
In the WEF report Towards the circular economy: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply they spotlight -- and illustrate -- the material flows of a restorative industry system...
"First, a circular economy aims to design out waste. [...] Second, circularity introduces a strict differentiation between consumable and durable components of a product. [...] Third, the energy required to fuel this cycle should be renewable by nature."

22 November 2019

Aridia ~ Towards Oasis Cities in the Drylands?

The WEF writes about Desertification: what is it and why is it one of the greatest threats of our time?
"The combined impact of climate change, land mismanagement and unsustainable freshwater use has seen the world’s water-scarce regions increasingly degraded. This leaves their soils less able to support crops, livestock and wildlife. This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish its special report on climate change and land. The report, written by hundreds of scientists and researchers from across the world, dedicates one of its seven chapters solely to the issue of desertification."
The 30 year climate map illustrates the geographies involved (plus see also Koppen climate maps)... In this light, it's worth inverting the issues and seeking opportunities in such drylands.  The big technological achievements of the past half-century are solar power and desalination.  But there's more, including much greater sophistication around water use, shades of greywater, cycling, and design and landscaping for water retention.  Furthermore, reforestation, for instance in the Sahel, has been done with hardier plant varieties and is increasingly including soil modification or assistive techniques to both preserve water and make maximum use of every little bit.  On arid but foggy coasts (e.g. Atacama, Namibia, etc) inexpensive materials are boosting the effectiveness of fog harvesting.  And we can learn from classic desert cities and ancient techniques (e.g. Petra, the medinas, etc) about greening the desert.  In any case, when you stitch all the existing and emergent ideas together, I believe there's a blossoming new category of "oasis cities" in arid regions.

04 November 2019

Desalination Brine ~ Side Effect or Opportunity?

The BBC spotlights Concerns over increase in toxic brine from desalination plants...
"Desalination plants around the world are pumping out far more salt laden brine than previously believed [...] The salty effluent is a by-product of efforts to extract fresh water from the sea. [...] The brine raises the level of salinity and poses a major risk to ocean life and marine ecosystems. [...] There's been a major expansion of desalination plants around the world over the past few years, with almost 16,000 now operating in 177 countries. It's estimated that these plants produce 95 million cubic metres of freshwater per day from seas and rivers -- equivalent to almost half the average flow over Niagara Falls. But the success of the technology is coming at a price. This new study estimates these plants discharge 142 million cubic metres of extremely salty brine every day, a 50% increase on previous estimates."
All challenging and yet therein also lies opportunities, including the mining and refinement of salts, minerals, and metals.

31 August 2019

Sci Fab ~ Envisioneer & Futurecraft ~ Fall 2019

My MIT Media Lab colleagues Dan Novy, Joe Paradiso and I are (finally) re-offering our Sci Fab class this Fall 2019 starting Monday night September 9th from 7-10pm!
In Sci Fab, we read and watch science fiction, and use the inspiration it provides to envisioneer and futurecraft something epic. First, we explore worldbuilding -- imagining science fictional universes across domains and scales. Second, we focus on exemplar artifacts that iconify those worlds, without violating the laws of physics, and iterate towards functional prototypes.

Remittance Flows ~ FT Infographic on Pathways

The FT writes about Remittances: the hidden engine of globalisation...
"The number of people in the world who live outside the country of their birth has risen from 153m in 1990 to 270m last year according to the World Bank, swelling global remittance payments from a trickle to a flood. As migration has increased, these financial snail-trails have become one of the defining trends of the past quarter-century of globalisation -- the private, informal, personal face of global capital flows. For many developing economies, it is a lifeline. [...] Some governments have sought to channel remittances into development efforts; Indonesia is the latest country to consider a “diaspora bond” in a bid to tap the savings of its wealthier overseas residents."

28 August 2019

Global Ventures ~ Inclusive Prosperity ~ Fall 2019

My MIT Media Lab colleagues Alex (Sandy) Pentland, Ramesh Raskar and I -- together with instructor colleagues Beth Porter, David Shrier, Indu Kodukula, Thomas Hardjono, and Nathan Eagle -- are co-hosting an upgraded incarnation of our Global Ventures class this Fall 2019 at the Media Lab top-floor E14-633 starting Thursday afternoon September 5th from 10am-12noon.
Also known as Development Ventures, this class has been offered since 2001 and is part of the D-Lab family. GV seeks scalable solutions & exponential innovations for emerging markets and underserved communities anywhere. This class is about planning ventures which deploy solutions reaching as many people as possible with positive impact and maximizing progress towards inclusive prosperity. The most promising class projects have formed the basis for real ventures, including such alumcos as MAX, Sanergy, Wecyclers, Jamii, PEN, WAY, MDaaS, and dozens more. Those interested are invited to join us at our kickoff class session on 9/5/2019!

27 August 2019

Revolutionary Ventures ~ Bold Ideas ~ Fall 2019

My MIT Media Lab colleagues Ed Boyden, Joe Jacobson and I are co-hosting the latest version of our Revolutionary Ventures class this Fall 2019 in a new bigger classroom at the Media Lab -- top-floor E14-633 -- starting Thursday afternoon September 5th from 2-4pm.
This offering is the closest MIT comes to having an "Institute-Wide Elective" and is listed in four of our five Schools. Revolutionary Ventures is a project-oriented Action Lab course on envisioning and building ideas and organizations to initiate and/or accelerate engineering revolutions. The overall course focuses on emerging technology domains -- such as synthetic biology, materials, energy, neurotechnology, imaging, AI / machine learning, gerontechnology, and bio-and-nano fabrication -- and their commercialization. The most promising class projects have formed the basis for real ventures, including such alumcos as Elektra, Hive, C16 Bio, Leeruniek, BioBright, and more. Those interested are invited to join us at our kickoff class session on 9/5/2019!

21 July 2019

Creative Class Growth ~ Mapping Rise of Rest...

Richard Florida writes in CityLab that Maps Reveal Where the Creative Class Is Growing in the US...
"A growing chorus of economists and urbanists suggest that we may be seeing the “rise of the rest,” a result of both increasingly unaffordable housing in established hubs and the improvement of the economies in less-established hubs. [...] The map shows the percentage growth in the creative class from 2005 to 2017. A number of Rustbelt and Sunbelt metros which have previously lagged now show robust growth. Salt Lake City posted the fastest growth, with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati next in line. Las Vegas, which had the smallest creative class share of large metros in 2005, also saw significant growth. Of leading creative class metros, only Seattle and Baltimore registered comparable gains. [...] The even better news is that the creative class -- which often garners the highest paying jobs -- appears to be growing as a percentage of total workforce employment across the board."