Evolution by Stephen Baxter

As a dedicated member of the human species, I was curious when my advisor recommended this book about human evolution. The author uses an engaging approach to discuss the changes that took place as early primates from the Cretaceous period evolved bit by bit towards modern humans and beyond!

Evolution by Stephen Baxter

Baxter selects 19 individuals and follows each through a portion of their lives. The first is a tiny, rat-like primate living along-side dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and the last is a distant relative of humans living 500 million years in the future. As we get to know each individual we get a sense of what motivates them, how they live, and how they have built upon that which their ancestors used to be successful.

I had two big take-aways from this book. Continue reading “Evolution by Stephen Baxter”

Inerpersonal Check List

My father, a well known psychotherapist, uses a personality model known as the Interpersonal Check List (ICL). This model is notoriously hard to administer, score, and graph. I developed a program to do all of these things automatically.

Interpersonal Check List

This is a 128 question test where people mark whether or not adjectives describe them. Thus a person might check yes to “Good Leader” and no to “Hard to Impress.” Once all the appropriate answers are marked, each one is weighed and put into an appropriate bin. The size of each bin marks the prominence of that personality trait in the person.

I’ve used this program as my first e-commerce venture. Visit http://www.shawnlankton.com/icl to get information about the program, download the fully-featured demo, or purchase the full program!

Still Life with Woodpecker

It is with a sense of sadness and triumph that I write these words. Last night I finished the last of author Tom Robbins’ books. It was a good one to end on. “Still Life with Woodpecker” expounded on the nature of love, outlaws, pyramids, and redheads. Being crowned with crimson myself, I tried to identify with the fanciful prose and witty remarks about my carrot-topped comrades.

I even went on to investigate my own redness. When I asked my mother (who recently did our family lineage) if the red hair was Irish or Scottish or what, she informed me that the rouge locks on my noggin were “from the Saxon Reds.” Ah yes. Visions of sea-faring Vikings wielding battle axes and the pagan god Thor wielding lightning and hammers flashed in my head. Anyway… back to the book.

Still Life with Woodpecker

Now that I’ve read all of Tom’s stuff, I guess I’ll have to find a new author to obsess over and kiss the ass of. Anybody have a good suggestion? I’ll leave you with some amusing and inspiring quotes.

“Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”

“The analytically minded might conclude that persons with red hair tend to be either dangerous or funny.”

“In the world according to the positivist, the inspiring thing about scrambled eggs is that any way you turn them they’re sunny side up. In the world according to the existentialist, the hopeless thing about scrambled eggs is that any way you turn the they’re scrambled.”

“What limits people is that they don’t have the fucking nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it.”

4-Hour Work Week Review

I finished Tim Ferris’s book, The 4-Hour Work Week. This book is very inspiring, and takes a very different take on entrepreneurship than most books you’ll find on the subject. Tim suggests increasing efficiency in everything you do (both personal and professional) by applying the 80/20 rule and setting deadlines. (The 80/20 rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts) When you only do 20% of the things you were doing before, and you set deadlines so you complete them faster than you normally would… efficiency ensues.

4-Hour Work Week

So in addition to this efficiency point, Tim also suggests setting up little-to-no effort income streams in the form of small niche-market internet-based businesses. He recommends outsourcing everything to a handful of companies so that your only “job” is making sure everybody plays nice together.

Once you have your life efficiently outsourced and funded with a work-free business… you take unlimited vacations and party like a rock-star! That sounds like a pretty sweet deal. I think this review came off making his book seem overly simplistic and not realistic. That wasn’t my experience at all. I really felt like he gave good information on how to make his reality come true! In fact it got me very excited about the prospect of having a “muse” (his word for a hands-free income stream). I’ve been making some moves in that direction since then. This book is definitely worth a read, and will end up in the stockings of some of my friends this Christmas.

Also, check out Tim Ferris’s Blog. It has lots of interesting stories and ideas regarding his “lifestyle design.”

Wisdom from Stephen Fleming

I attended a talk last night as part of the Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition Workshop Series (pdf). This was such a fantastic talk that I will have trouble putting it succinctly into this post.

Stephen Flemming
“Transforming Innovative Tech into Business”

As with any other person who has been a VC or angel investor, Steve was incredibly sharp, and seemed like he would be impervious to BS either on the giving or receiving end. Steve began his talk discussing the pros and cons of starting a business in the Southeast. He went on a diatribe about how ludicrous the spending in California is. Then he pointed out that although there isn’t much VC investment in Georgia and the surrounding states, there is a better tax situation, and much better access to real estate, talent, and customers.

Steve continued by discussing the cyclical relationship between institutional investors, VC’s, and entrepreneurs giving some insight into how that relationship drove VC’s behaviors. Some interesting take-aways were that VC’s want the entrepreneur to get rich, and that they’ll only have to be brutal and cruel if they have to in order to make the returns they promised their investors.

After giving some insight in these areas, he began enumerating the things that you must convince investors of when trying to raise capital for a business.

  1. You have a large, fast-growing market segment
  2. You have a technological advantage that will block competition
  3. You have reasonable financial terms
  4. You have measurable milestones for success

He went on fleshing these out for most of the remainder of the talk, but kept peppering in useful tips. I’d like to point out some here:

  1. Get a good referral (from another investor, an attorney, etc.) If you’re plan comes pre-qualified it. You’re in.
  2. Make a 20 page business plan with a 2 page executive summary. No More!
  3. Power-Point deck using the 10-20-30 rule (10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point type)
  4. In all of these documents, sell the company, not the product.
  5. Do your homework on the investors you’re presenting to and tailor the presentation. It will help you and impress them.
  6. Choose your investor wisely. Don’t just follow money; find someone that can help you with experience, expertise, contacts, etc.

Check out Steve Fleming’s website as well. Here you can find his blog as well as some useful information about starting companies.

Furthermore, here is a list of other resources and websites that Steve
suggested:

The Myths of Innovation

I just completed this book, The Myths of Innovation, by Scott Berkun after receiving a recommendation (and borrowed copy) from my friend/colleague Jimi Malcolm.

This short, fast read talks about the myths that people have about the process of innovation, and some steps on overcoming these myths and innovating well anyway! Although I found the book inspiring and informative, I think I can sum up all of Berkun’s talking points briefly below and save you the trouble of reading the book : )

Myths of Innovation

  • Work hard.
  • Work on meaningful problems.
  • Work on hard problems.
  • Work diligently and tirelessly, but take well-earned breaks to reflect. He belabors the point that innovation comes from persistent effort, not “ah ha” moments.
  • Frame and re-frame the problem you’re working on. By following the same rules and same metrics for success that everyone else follows, you’re doomed to mediocrity. Re-examine the problem and re-frame it.
  • Work really, really, really hard.

Finally, here is a video from the “Google Tech Talk” series. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’ll bet you can get the gist of the whole book over the 1 hour video.

Computer Vision Startups

I have spent some time researching startup companies involved in computer vision. This has largely been in an effort to understand the marketability of computer vision research (which I spend much of my time learning about and contributing to). In this post, you’ll find a list of some notable companies. Let me know if you know of some other good ones. (Of course this doesn’t include the big, big companies like Siemens, GE, Phillips, and HP that are working on medical image processing every day! Continue reading “Computer Vision Startups”

Hackers and Painters

Last night I finished Hackers and Painters. This book is a collection of essays by Paul Graham, a PhD computer scientist, entrepreneur, and accomplished painter. (All of the essays are also available on his website) He makes a lot of great points about economics, entrepreneurship, design, and society. He also rants ad nauseum about his belief that LISP is the best programming language ever.

Hackers and Painters

One of my big take-aways from this book are that to be successful in a tech startup you must work very hard, and make a product that is beautifully designed and loved by users. Furthermore, you must continue working hard and improving constantly or you’ll get squashed by big competitors. If you can do this, then Graham claims success is inevitable.

Steve Pavlina

Recently, I’ve been reading motivational articles by Steve Pavlina. This guy is pretty remarkable (he finished two undergrad degrees in just three semesters!). Now he spouts wisdom about getting what you want out of life. I epically like some of his concepts outlined in these articles:

Overwhelming Force
Cultivating Burning Desire
The Power of Clarity

He makes some very good points about how setting goals and then making very strong and directed actions to accomplish those goals. From reading his stuff I’m getting a big surge of can-do attitude and am eager to try to tackle some goals I’ve been putting off for a while!