IBM Smartcamp US final - Computer History Museum, Mountain View

IBM arranged a nicely balanced afternoon and early evening event for the 'demo day' for the US finalists in their Smartcamp competition. This is a worldwide event, held in many locations over a year, for small companies interested in partnering with IBM - it's one way in which IBM gets visibility into the universe of new technologies and ideas which would otherwise be beneath the radar for their business groups.

Coriell Life Sciences was judged the best of the batch; they had much the best blend of technology and business case for how the genomics data processing ecosystem they are building is going to make money. " .. healthcare providers, patients and payors can take advantage of the available sequencing technology while carving out and interpreting only that data needed for immediate use and securely storing the data in the GeneVault for future interpretation."

The Computer History Museum is a fine venue for this kind of event - the auditorium upstairs had plenty of space for the investors and invited members of the public attending in the afternoon; after the museum closed the downstairs foyer makes a fine space for drinks, hors d'oeuvres and conversation.

Brenda Magid from IBM (who had put together the judging panel) and I may have been the only two people attending who had also been at the previously blogged event, EIE13 in Edinburgh.


Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications, and makes occasional angel investments.

EIE 13 notes

EIE 13 took place on May 9th in the Assembly Rooms.

Companies exhibiting

DestiNA Genomics
Medicen Devise
ProFactor Pharma
NeurocentRX Pharma
Rathlin Medical
VueKar Cardiovasclar

Information Technology
Insight Arcade
Peekabu Studios
Clear Returns
Quorate Technology
Relicarte Digital
Social Artisan
Speech Graphics
Recovery Analytics
UWI Technology

Airborne Energy
Codbod Technologies
Daima Energy Solutions
Global Surface Intelligence
IRT Surveys
iPower Energy
Swift TG Energy (Scotland)
Trident Energy
Celtic Renewables

More details

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications, and makes occasional angel investments.

Whisky from EIE 11

There's a backlog of blog posts ..

During the week of EIE13, unfinished business from EIE11 resolved. As part of the 'thankyou for speaking' I'd been given a bottle of whisky; which created a dilemma - when I travel I don't check bags, and I was leaving Edinburgh to go back to California. Colin Adams was kind enough to say "We'll keep it for you"


Accordingly, when I coincided with Colin going up in the elevator in the Appleton Tower, I reminded him about the neglected whisky. He was able to say "come over later in the week and we will find it for you". The bottle found a good home as a house warming present for my brother, I tasted the whisky, and Informatics Ventures kept its promise. All excellent things.

Scotch Malt Whisky society single cask 3.198
Smoker's tooth powder and dentists' chairs (sherry cask)

Nose suggests coal, slate and gravel, driftwood bonfires, barbecued ribs, perfumed smoke, toffee and sherry ; smoker's tooth powder and dentist's chairs later. The palate has big toffee, decent smoke, honeyed chicken wings, balsamic, hot leather, ash and various minty notes.


Talking at Techmeetup

On Wednesday evening I was one of the presenters at the monthly Techmeetup event in Edinburgh.
At least 65 people came (though at least some of them came for the free beer and pizza). It's a good networking event, and has turned into one of the better ways to announce that you are hiring or looking for a technology job.

My slides


Edinburgh, early May 2013

Am in Edinburgh for a week. Have been enjoying the dry spring weather - the locals tell me this is the best weather they've seen for months. Traffic wardens are going about with their sleeves rolled up.

I'm giving a techtalk on Wednesday evening, at the Appleton Tower. Start time 18.30, 8th floor, as part of the Tech Meetup talk series.
Title 'Behind the Cloud - pointers to the future' - reviewing the current state of Cloud Services as infrastructure, the opportunities made possible by those services, and some of the interesting companies with which I'm involved which are building technology to use and improve the Cloud.

Will be at the EIE13 investor conference on Thursday, at the Assembly Rooms - send email to if you want to meet up.


Have just completed mentoring for TechStars Cloud, and will mentor for the upcoming TechStars London program. Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications.

meeting The Saltire Foundation


Last week there was a dinner meeting for the Saltire Foundation. SF is a long term project to improve the capability of people in Scotland; Scots generate lots of good ideas, but haven't been able to turn them into profitable businesses at a comparable rate to the rest of the UK, Europe, and the US.

This is being done by two programs, one for Scholars, one for Fellows. Applicants for both are competitive and awarded on merit. Scholars are undergraduates who get intern positions in companies outside Scotland before returning to complete their degrees. Fellows are graduates who go through a entrepreneurial leadership course at Babson College, Boston, then deliver projects both outside and inside Scotland. Both of these programs build self confidence and capability, giving the participants a global perspective in a short period of time.

The Foundation is a registered charity, in the US and the UK. It operates with a small number of staff and lots of volunteer support. I've donated some money to it for operating expenses, and would encourage you to do likewise.

An even better way to support the cause would be to employ an intern. Greg Sim, a 2012 Fellow, is working for my brother's company, Ecosse Subsea, which is pioneering new methods for subsea pipe and cable laying.

Greg Sim

Other ways of funding young people
Crowd funding cost of working for TechStars

I'm currently mentoring for TechStars Cloud, and will mentor for the upcoming TechStars London program. Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

Nanog 57 notes

NANOG 57 was held 4-6 Feb 2013, in Orlando FL. I missed it, and have been behind hand in catching up.
For future reference, some notes on the most interesting sessions.

Review of physical effects of Hurricane Sandy - the fuel shortage, for generators and vehicles, was extreme - hospitals get to pre-empt fuel trucks from their previously comitted contracts to supply communications facilities. Datapipes bought their own truck, had it driven from Texas to NY.

Tim Stronge, TeleGeography on international submarine cable developments - Africa could use a lot more cable, but has no funded projects. There are 4 projects funded for Latin America. No more than 25 - 30 % of existing cable capacity is lit.

Nicolas Guilbaud and Ross Cartlidge, Google on topology aware network testing - current network uses current best path only, need to identify back up paths and potential problems on those. Source route test packets.
With source routing, we can target what gets monitored and ensure full layer3 coverage.
Framing the problem as an optimisation .."Find the best list of links that explains each faulty path"

Agenda, with links to pdf, and to the video of each session

Meeting notes, close to verbatim, courtesy of Matthew Petach
Collected at

Next meeting in New Orleans, June 3 - June 5, 2013

Business Studios

Having watched John Borthwick's Betaworks develop over several years, seeing other groups using the same operating model is interesting. It seems to address the biggest difficulty I see with accelerators, which is the short duration. Because they are typically only 13 weeks long, they have to catch the startups at just the right point in their lifecycle; and there are a lot of worthwhile ideas which have a much longer development and sales cycle, especially if they are a new idea, rather than an incremental improvement on something which people already understand.

Quotes from the TechCrunch article 'The rise of the company builders'

"Studios .. using entrepreneurial expertise and in-house resources to help generate ideas and build companies at scale"

" In Lightbank’s case, the firm has built and scaled sales teams across a number of industries and companies and can help startups quickly manage this area.

Borthwick echoes Lee’s thoughts on the value of a shared platform of data, analytics and monetization tools. Betaworks has a layer of tools that its companies, which include Chartbeat, Bitly and others, all use. He compares this to the movie studio model, where companies like Disney and Universal create individual movies but have a layer of services in-house that promote films, and provide other functions across these various content plays."

Andreesen Horowitz is being a company builder, too, using as its models the Creative Artists Agency a boutique investment bank, and the original JP Morgan.

They have "45 operating professionals in the firm who aren't general partners...across five disciplines: executive recruiting; engineering recruiting, so two different what we call talent functions; a function we call market development, which helps companies meet the big companies that matter in their industry. We'll do on the order of 1200 briefings in our executive briefing center downstairs with Fortune 500 management teams, connecting them to the best and brightest new startups. And then fourth, marketing and PR, which is fundamental: How do you get your message out, how do you break through all the noise. And then fifth is corporate development: How do you raise money, how do you go public, how do you -- you know, if it comes to it, how do you sell yourself, and how do you deal with all the issues around corporate finance."

Does Scotland have businesses which support developing companies this way ? It seems there ought to be room for several different studios, addressing different vertical markets, since the selling and company building process is different for things which aren't dominated by software.
The other question for non US markets is whether the venture model is intrinsic; if so, this won't be easy to apply elsewhere. If not, and raising money from the local and US market is one of the disciplines, then this model could have broad implications.

Notice the absence in these articles of any government or academic involvement.


I'm currently mentoring for TechStars Cloud. Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

500 Startups batch 5 - February 2013

Last week was Demo Day for 500 Startups' fifth batch. A professionally produced event; it's challenging to give 31 companies a few minutes each to say something meaningful about who they are, what they are doing, and what money they'd like to raise. The Mountain View Microsoft campus space works well for presentations - was too crowded to actually meet and talk to people afterwards.

TechCrunch, VentureBeat and GigaOm all covered the material. The emphasis on non-US companies increases - to me, the most interesting was one of those, WhoAPI. They are making DNS information available to non-specialists, and offering availability monitoring.

List of companies

BabyList – A baby registry that works like Pinterest, allowing you to add anything on the web
Chewse – A marketplace for groups to easily order great food
Club W – A curated, personalized wine subscription service
CompStak – Creates transparency in commercial real estate by gathering information that is hard to find, difficult to compile, or currently unavailable
Cubie – A free messenger app for creating drawings and sharing them with friends
Cuponomia – A marketplace to search, discover, and share deals and online coupon codes in Brazil
Curious Hat – Builds mobile exploration tools for curious children
Dealflicks – Offers movie tickets and concessions for up to 60 percent off, like Priceline or Hotwire for movie theaters
Everbill – Provides an easy way to issue invoices and estimates
Femeninas – A fashion and beauty portal for women
GazeMetrix – Looks at videos and pictures and help brands measure their visibility
Hunie – A community that helps designers get constructive and honest critiques from fellow designers
Iconfinder – the world’s leading site for icons
iDreamBooks – A Rotten Tomatoes-like ratings site for books
Instamojo – A marketplace for selling your digital creations with just one click
Kickfolio – Helps brands promote their iPhone apps by embedding interactive iPhone app demos on any web page
LaunchGram – Aggregates news about products and launches coming soon in verticals such as movies, electronics, video games, and cars
Markerly – Increases publisher page views and engagement by providing next generation social sharing and discovery tools
Pick1 – Provides retargeting via automated market research
Privy – An automated digital ad agency that lets customers set a budget and promo, and automatically delivers customers
Qual Canal – Tracks conversations about TV shows in social media to deliver audience information to broadcasters, brands, and agencies
SupplyHog – Creating a better way to purchase building materials
Tealet – A marketplace that connects tea drinkers with tea growers
TouristEye – A travel planner application for the web and mobile devices
TradeBriefs – Empowers Indian professionals through industry expertise and jobs
Traity – Measures people’s reputation in worldwide 360 feedback to improve transactions between strangers
Translate Abroad – Building a suite of simple translation apps that use your smart phone camera to instantly translate text
UniPay – A mobile payment platform for Brazil
WalletKit – A SaaS platform to create, manage, and deliver digital passes to mobile wallets
Wideo – An online platform that will allow you to easily create, quickly edit, and share your own animated videos
WhoAPI – Delivers extensive information about domain data


Notes from the last batch

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

IBM Smartcamp finalists 2013

Having mentored last year's final in San Francisco, here's a summary for this year's event in New York.


CaptainDash dashboard for marketers (Paris, France)

GetWay monitor real-time sales data (Brazil)

HistoIndex imaging for early detection and treatment of fibrosis (Singapore)

Mo De nano-credit (Kenya)

Poikos 3D body imaging technology for online retail (Amsterdam)

Quintessance Labs Cryptography (Australia)

SkyFoundry Internet of Things, Fantom language (Virginia, USA)

StreetLightData tracking people movement for physical retail (California, USA)

Videos from each company here
Agenda and registration page for the event on 7 February 2013

Last year's event

Cunning Systems evaluates product and service ideas in computing and communications. If you would like to discuss an idea, contact us at

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