Monthly Archives: December 2014
Crowdfunding, Technology, Solar, and 3D Printing!
As the 49th year of my existence comes to a close, I would like to reflect on the milestones of the recent past, and the hope for the near future. Let me clarify by saying that these are milestones that are important to me, and not necessarily important to society as a whole, but they could be. My thoughts are my own. I believe in practical solutions to complex problems. I believe Americans should approach economic and educational problems with the same tenacity we approach sports statistics. I also believe in having an abundance mentality. An abundance mentality to tackle complex problems involving sustainable energy, economic growth, disruptive technologies, and healthier medical alternatives. Focusing on the solutions is better than complaining about the problems. Thank you Peter Diamandis.
Solar Power In 1931 Thomas Alva Edison made this statement, and I quote, “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind, and tide. I’d put my money on sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal to run out before we tackle that.” Just a few years later, 83 to be exact, we still use oil and coal. The oil industry has been just as effective as the tobacco industry in convincing us that oil is good for us and good for the economy. There is evidence that neither of those statements are true. We can’t stop this oil habit cold turkey, but we can start looking at alternatives. Even the tobacco smokers are looking to vapor technology for a less toxic solution to regular cigarettes. For years industry has told us that solar panels are too expensive and out of reach for the average consumer, but I am happy to say that has all changed. Solar Mosaic is the first US online marketplace to offer solar investments to the public. They are a leading platform for connecting investors with high quality borrowers who are going solar. The borrower gets clean energy and saves money. Investors get paid back with interest. Now that’s what I call green investing. More alternative energy and solar based companies to watch include: Bloom Energy, Tesla Motors, and Solar Roadways. 3D Printing Ever since President Clinton signed NAFTA into law in 1992 the manufacturing industry in the USA suffered a major blow. Many of our economic problems stem from that one decision 22 years ago. President Clinton didn’t start the negotiations, but he finished them. It was actually started by President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mexican President Carlos Salinas, each responsible for this travesty against the manufacturing industry in the United States.
Unfortunately, NAFTA is not the only problem with manufacturing here in the US. We became victims of planned obsolescence, which forced W. Edward Deming to teach the Japanese manufacturing. Deming made a significant contribution to Japan’s innovation in products we use every day. When I was a kid, we use to say, “Phony like Sony”, and Japanese cars were called rice rockets, cheap, and substandard. Today, you are no longer American if you don’t drive a Japanese car. That’s a little extreme, but we tend to consider Toyota, Honda, and Lexus quality and durable. The Koreans have followed the Japanese and have given us Hyundai and Kia. I am partial to the Kia Optima Hybrid, the poor man’s Tesla Motors. Only recently we have become competitive with Japan and Korea in terms of sales.
Today, everything is made in China. China is poised to swamp our boat if we do not return to our roots in manufacturing. One tool we should take advantage of is 3D Printing. It is not a panacea, but it is a step in the right direction. I just saw a news report where NASA is printing tools in space like crazy. They can have a database of 3D CAD images of every part and tool they will need on their journey. If anything breaks, they can make a new part on the fly. What about veterans returning home from the war with missing limbs? Companies like Organovo will be able to build custom body parts from a simple blood draw. Now that’s rapid manufacturing, and the time is now. I hope we take significant advantage of this technology to start a renaissance in manufacturing here in the USA. I would like to see job training in advanced manufacturing techniques as part of workforce training. Maker groups are popping up everywhere, but I think we need to make a concerted effort officially. 3D Printing will change everything. Companies to keep an eye on besides Organovo, are as follows: Stratasys, Intel, 3D Systems, and Autodesk. Medical Marijuana Laws Although I have not had the pleasure of doing a bong hit since college, I have become intrigued by marijuana for a whole host of different things in the past year. CBDs to be exact. I knew about THC, which is the component of weed that gets you high (THC is responsible for the psychoactive part of cannabis), but I didn’t know about the other chemicals that cured or treated diseases which are not psychoactive. I think it is illegal in the USA to say something natural cures disease without the FDA’s stamp of approval on it. CBDs have not been fully tested, but may be a solution to a host of medical issues. It has been known to have anti-spasmodic, anti-epileptic, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic properties. To put this in prospective, Diabetes will be a $500 Billion problem in the US by 2020, and there may be a chemical in weed to fix that. To me that is very exciting, especially since both of my parents suffer from Diabetes, which makes me more likely to inherit that disease.
There are other things I wish to happen to promote the legalization of medical marijuana. I think it should not be considered a Class 1 drug because there is no record of it killing anyone. There is no record of long-term effects. It has a better record than alcohol. Besides, how many people are in long prison sentences for this mild sedative of a drug? Prohibition of marijuana has caused it to mutate from 3% THC in the 70’s, up to 30% THC today. For profits sake, growers were forced to grow the strongest weed in extreme conditions. THC is not totally bad for you neither because it works synergistically with CBD to counteract those types of effects. My hope is that they breed more variety composed of the healthy chemicals in optimal conditions. My renewed interest in medical marijuana stems from my background as a medical lab technician. With 23 states and DC with medical marijuana laws on the books, there is a chance this will become a reality.
When Dr. Sanjay Gupta can change his view on marijuana, so can I. Meet The 8 Hot Publicly Traded Marijuana Companies Information Security On any given Sunday you will read about a security breach from some company, government, hospital, or retailer who decided to do business as usual without implementing the proper security protocols. Poor Sony has been hitting the headlines with rapid fire over the last week or so. On one hand, I kind of like to know that Idris Elba is being considered as the new 007, and that racism is alive and well in Hollywood and the UK. I am not promoting Sony, but they keep coming up in the conversation. My favorite store Target (pronounced Tar-Jay) has had its fair share of hacks. I stopped using Bank of America because every year I was getting a new debit card because somebody was buying a subway pass in NYC, while I lived in Washington DC area. The Internet moves at warp speed, so before you decide to go mobile, or perform online transactions, talk to your local information security expert. The Internet is here to stay, mobile is here to stay, and the cloud is here to stay. Adapt and overcome.
Some of the information security providers are Trustwave, Qualys, Cisco, Trend Micro, Symantec, IBM, HP, Kaspersky Lab, and Dell, to name a few. Information Security is in great demand, yet I do not see significant moves in education addressing this great demand. This is something we need to tackle not only here in the US, but on a worldwide scale. The pay is pretty good, too. Cloud Computing Cloud Computing is fast becoming another utility like service for the masses. Whether it is B2B or B2C, it is fast becoming the best way to do business. There are so many players in the space vying for position. I am curious how it will all turn out. I see more consolidation, more players, and a platform war on the horizon. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the clear winner, but I believe Rackspace is a major threat if they stay true to their core philosophy. VMware is also a major threat, simply because they were the first to develop a cloud infrastructure, but software costs have spawned competition. Their spin-off Pivotal seems very interesting. I like the moves CenturyLink and IBM Softlayer have made. Not too sure how big blue is going to effectively merge IBM, SoftLayer, and MaaS360, but I am curious.
We can’t forget Google and Microsoft. Google just unveiled a free trial of their platform, and Microsoft is gaining ground with Office 365, plus they have a huge reseller base that can fuel Azure. One surprise to me is Larry Ellison stepping down from Oracle and embracing cloud computing when initially he was totally against it. I still think platform providers should augment their current offerings with endpoint solutions like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Mobile Device Management (MDM). Companies to watch in the VDI space are VMware, Citrix, Nuvestack, and VDI*Works. Companies wo watch in the MDM space are Airwatch, MobileIron, and Maas360. Give the customer what they need and want. One stop shopping. Internet of Things The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices (wireless modules) within the existing Internet infrastructure. I enjoyed movies like “I, Robot” and the “Minority Report”. I do believe those types of technologies are in the very near future. Google and Facebook are already collecting and warehousing data about us as individuals. First step place wireless modules on things, then installing microchips on humans. I’m totally against chipping people, but all the signs are there. We may be just one false flag attack away from being chipped. Just kidding, but not really. On a serious note, if we can make the simple cooler The Coolest, we can make everyday products do amazing things. I don’t think we will be able predict the future like in Minority Report, but we definitely will excel in robotics, automation, and personalized data analytics. Couple that with the cloud and the possibilities are limitless. Not to be confused with the movie “Limitless”, which is another discussion entirely.
I think Will.I.Am is even creating wearable technology. I see clothing design becoming more functional than just covering us up and protecting us from the elements. I see adding health management and productivity to the mix. If you have seen the movie “After Earth”, you know what I am talking about. Take a look at Ministry of Supply. Baby steps.
“If you look at the field of robotics today you can say robots have been in the deepest oceans, they’ve been to Mars, you know? They’ve been all these places, but they’re just now starting to come to your living room. Your living room is the final frontier for robots.” – Cynthia Breazeal, CEO, Founder, at Jibo The Internet of Things (IoT) converges the cloud with embedded computing devices on things, all in an attempt to make our lives easier and more productive. Cisco Systems partnering with Sierra Wireless is a just the beginning of the IoT movement. I am curious to see who else joins the party. Crowdfunding There are a whole host of new and innovative tech products coming to life via crowdfunding. The democratization of finance is probably the most disruptive industry we have going for us right now. According to the Worldbank it is projected to grow to $93 billion by 2025. Crowdfunding circumvents the process of concept, design, and customer validation within a 60 to 90 day period all online. It gives the entrepreneur the ability to pivot and change on the fly. Some analysts are partial to equity based crowdfunding only, and I think this is a mistake. I think all aspects of crowdfunding are crucial to add a spark to the economy. Funding a startup has become much easier. Developing your prototype or proof of concept has become easier. You no longer need to have an inside connection to the local venture capitalists or angel investors because your campaign is open to the world.
Donation based crowdfunding like GoFundMe and Crowdrise, circumvents traditional fundraising and annual gift programs. The reduction in overhead is tremendous. It is an agile way to fund your projects. Rewards based crowdfunding like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are viable and crucial because it ignites startups from the start by proving customer validation via purchases and interest. Lender based Crowdfunding like LendingClub are totally disruptive to the banking industry with added competition and easy access to funds. Equity Based crowdfunding like InvestPeer and OurCrowd allows anyone to get a piece of the action without being a millionaire (accredited investor). The word crowd means everybody can be involved, not just a select few. At least that is what Title III offers. Unfortunately, the approval of Title III has been delayed. If the average citizen knew that the SEC was dragging their feet on legislation that passed in 2012, there would be protests in the streets. The JOBS ACT was signed in 2012 with bipartisan support, but the SEC has succumbed to the forces that be to stifle this new industry.
The one thing I know about disruption is that it doesn’t always come easy, there may be serious resistance. I’m sure Blockbuster would have started a war with Netflix and Redbox if it knew it was a threat ahead of time. You see this happening in the ride-sharing industry with Uber and Lyft in some states. DISRUPTION! The struggle is real. There is over 600 crowdfunding sites in existence. They couldn’t stop it if they wanted to. Intrastate crowdfunding is already happening in 13 states, and that is just the beginning.
In conclusion If you are involved with economic development in any capacity as a city, a politician, a business or a citizen you should consider these 7 little things for boosting your economy. Making investments in solar, information technology, 3D Printing, robotics, biomed research, and crowdfunding can boost your local economy. Develop workforce training programs around software development and advanced manufacturing technologies. Obviously, you can’t participate in medical marijuana if your state doesn’t allow it, but there are so many biomed research opportunities to be had. So be curious, ponder, wonder, and look to make the mundane more interesting and more functional. I look forward to what the future holds.