Tag Archives: Brad Feld

Policy visualization tool

Thanks to David Bruggeman and his Dec. 2, 2012 posting on the Pasco Phronesis blog for this information about a very intriguing project, a policy visualization tool,  (Note: I have removed links),

ProjectPolicy.org is a startup effort established by a team of Cambridge researchers working to make it easier to access policy-relevant data.  …

They are looking for help, and are advertising for Policy Fellows and a Technology Associate. The Policy Fellows would work remotely, gathering and curating data for a particular geographic region.

I found more information about ProjectPolicy in a Nov. 23, 2012 University of Cambridge news release,

The winning project of the SVC2UK Cambridge Startup weekend, which took place at Cambridge Judge Business School between 9 and 11 November 2012, has gone on to win the Grand Finale in London.

ProjectPolicy.org is an online, intuitive tool to help make sense of policy information by aggregating data from different sources. Following a pitch by Nathan Boublil and Agastya Muthanna, the team behind ProjectPolicy was formed during the SVC2UK Cambridge Startup Weekend and together the five team members developed and presented the initiative as a viable business opportunity to a panel of judges.

This project is currently one of 15 semi-finalists in the Global Startup Battle which hosted 138 teams battling for a spot in the semi-finals. The online battle was waged from Nov. 9 – 19, 2012 (over two weekends) with 10,000+ participants in 100+ cities around the world. Here’s some information about the panelists currently judging the semi-finalists’ project in a Nov. (?), 2012 posting on the SW blog (Note: I have removed links),


In 1999, at the age of 24, Tony Hsieh sold LinkExchange, the company he co-founded, to Microsoft for   $265 million.

He then joined Zappos as an advisor and investor, and eventually became CEO, where he helped the company grow from almost no sales to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually, while simultaneously making Fortune magazines annual Best Companies to Work For list. In November 2009, Zappos.com, Inc. was acquired by Amazon.com in a deal valued at $1.2 billion on the day of closing.


Brad is one of the managing directors at Foundry Group, a venture capital firm that invests in early stage software / Internet companies throughout the United States. He is also the co-founder of TechStars, a mentor-driven accelerator, author of several books and blogs, and a marathon runner.

Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStarts.


A true visionary, Leah Busque (@labusque) is the founder and chief executive officer of TaskRabbit.com, an online marketplace where you can outsource small jobs and Tasks to others in your own community. TaskRabbit is the pioneer in “service networking” – a concept Leah conceived and has since evangelized. Now an industry-wide concept, service networking describes the productive power of a web-based, social-networked community.

Since its founding in 2008, Leah has grown TaskRabbit to more than 40 employees and has expanded the service to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle with several more markets to come in 2012. Under her leadership, TaskRabbit was named one of the “Next Big Things in Tech” by WSJ Digits, Start up to Watch in 2012” by Inc. Magazine, and a finalist for “Mobile app of the year” in 2011 by both the Crunchies and Mashable Awards.


Chris Hollod lives in LA and works directly with Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, and Ron Burkle to help manage their venture capital fund, A-Grade Investments.

Chris’s responsibilities include evaluating new opportunities, managing deal flow, spearheading the investment process, executing deals, and coordinating with portfolio companies.

Chris also works as an Associate for The Yucaipa Companies, a private equity firm founded by Ron Burkle.  Prior to joining A-Grade Investments and The Yucaipa Companies, Chris worked in Investment Banking.  Chris graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Economics and minors in Finance and Philosophy.


Jesse Draper is creator and host of “The Valley Girl Show” through which she’s become a spokesperson for startups and helped pioneer the way of new media content distribution.

Formerly a Nickelodeon star, Draper is now CEO of Valley Girl™ where she runs pre-production through post-production and distribution for the show, runs technology blog Lalawag.com and is a regular featured writer for Mashable, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post and Glam. Draper is also a speaker at business conferences around the world including DLD, SXSW and universities such as Stanford.

Getting back to ProjectPolicy.org, there’s more information in a brief video they’ve produced,

If you are interested in helping this team make its policy visualization tool useful and accessible, here’s more about the positions they are advertising,

As a Technology Associate, you will help the technology team develop the platform.

You will be responsible for helping to develop crucial modules of the product. This

will be a valuable learning opportunity for you to work in product development at a

fast-growing startup. The fellowship can be part-time or full-time, carried out

virtually and alongside studies (Compsci/Engineering undergrad/postgrad or

other activities).

Duration: 3 to 6 months, depending on preference. Expenses reimbursed.

Joining date: ASAP


– Excellent Programming skills

– Knowledge of Web based Software development methodologies



– Server side Java including Web Service development

– JavaScript

– Google Maps API

– Google Fusion Tables

– Software Testing

– Ability to learn new technologies

– Willingness to work independently

– Organised.

To apply, please email your CV and a short paragraph explaining your motivations

and why you want to join us to: contact@projectpolicy.org

As a Policy Fellow, you will work remotely to assist the team in developing the first
online platform focused on public policy. Responsible for a geographic area you
will assist in data selection and curation at the local level.
As an Economics/Politics/Public Policy/International relations student or recent
graduate, you must be familiar with researching quantitative and qualitative
information quickly and accurately.
We are currently looking for Policy Fellows to cover the following territories:
– North America;
– Asia (with fluency in relevant languages);
– Continental Europe (with fluency in relevant languages);
– Spain and South America ex Brazil (fluency in Spanish required);
– Portugal and Brazil (Fluency in Portuguese required);
– Sub-saharan Africa (with fluency in relevant languages).
Policy Fellows are expected to work independently and virtually.
Duration: 6 months min.
Joining date: ASAP.
Time commitment: 4-6 hours per week.
To apply, please email your CV and a short paragraph explaining your motivations,
area of interest and why you want to join us to: contact@projectpolicy.org

I wish ProjectPolicy.org good luck in the competition and I hope to be seeing their tools online in the near future.

Patents kill innovation?; nanosponges and spinning carbon nanotubes in China; Google and the universal translator

There’s an article about patents in The Economist online that provokes a question that’s not broached in the article. Here’s the thesis,

Most economists would argue that, without a patent system, even fewer inventions would lead to successful innovations, and those that did would be kept secret for far longer in order to maximise returns. But what if patents actually discourage the combining and recombining of inventions to yield new products and processes—as has happened in biotechnology, genetics and other disciplines?

Here’s the logical next question. If you accept the notion that patents kill innovation (or hinder it mightily) than how can the number of patents that are registered by any one country be used as a standard measure of scientific progress as per the 2009 OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard (my post about Canada’s low patent score here)?

Thanks to Techdirt for pointing me to The Economist article (go here to see their take) and to the Brad Feld posting (go here to see their take) about biotech innovation and patents. From Feld’s posting,

Regularly, patent advocates tell me how important patents are for the biotech and life science industries.  However, there apparently is academic research in the works that shows that patents actually slow down innovation in biotech.  The specific example we discussed was that there is increasing evidence that when a professor or company gets a patent in the field of genetics research, other researchers simply stop doing work in that specific area.  As a result, the number of researchers on a particular topic decreases, especially if the patent is broad.  It’s not hard to theorize that this results in less innovation around this area over time.

Feld goes on cite a few academics who write about patents and their impact on innovation. His main interest is not biotech but software which brings me back to the article in The Economist and a ‘weirdity’ at the end.

An end to frivolous patents for business processes will be a blessing to online commerce. Meanwhile, the loss of patent protection for software could make programmers realise at last that they have more in common with authors, artists, publishers and musicians than they ever had with molecular architects and chip designers. In short, they produce expressions of ideas that are eminently copyrightable.

That could be good news for innovation. After all, who in his right mind would seek a lousy old patent offering a mere 20 years of protection when copyright can provide monopoly rights for up to 70 years after the author’s death? That one fact alone could spur more innovation than all the tinkering attempted so far.

I understand that the author is being satirical, unfortunately, the copyright side of intellectual property law is at least as crazy as the patent side and this falls a little flat for me.

Michael Berger over at Nanowerk has devoted a couple of spotlight items (in depth articles) to innovations in China over the last few days. First there were the carbon nanotube sponges,

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are ‘strange’ nanostructures in a sense that they have both high mechanical strength and extreme flexibility. Deforming a carbon nanotube into any shape would not easily break the structure, and it recovers to original morphology in perfect manner. Researchers in China are exploiting this phenomenon by making CNT sponges consisting of a large amount of interconnected nanotubes, thus showing a combination of useful properties such as high porosity, super elasticity, robustness, and little weight (1% of water density). The nanotube sponges not only show exciting properties as a porous material but they also are very promising to be used practically in a short time. The production method is simple and scalable, the cost is low, and the sponges can find immediate use in many fields related to water purification.

Then today, there was an article on spinning carbon nanotube yarns,

“While the development of a continuous and weavable pure carbon nanotube yarn remains a major challenge in the fabrications, CNT yarns so far obtained from the different processes are monolithic in structure,” Ya-Li Li, a professor in the Nanomaterials and PDCs Group at the Key Laboratory of Advanced Ceramics and Machining Technology at Tianjin University in PR China, explains to Nanowerk. “We have now been able to demonstrate the fabrication of a novel continuous yarn of CNTs with a multiple-layer structure by the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) spinning process. The yarn consists of multiple monolayers of CNTs concentrically assembled in seamless tubules along the yarn axis.”

While I’ve seen a number of articles proclaiming China’s increasing  presence in many scientific fields, including nanotechnology, this is the first time I’ve seen articles that probe beyond a basic description of published studies in language that is still accessible, i.e., you don’t need a specialist degree to read the material. It certainly helps to contextualize the statistics and other data about China’s published studies.

Kit Eaton’s article (Will Google’s Translator Phone lead us to Babylon or Babble On?) in Fast Company touches on, biblical times (Tower of Babel), Star Trek (universal translator) and linguistics, how could I resist?

Google’s revealed it’s working on extensions to its smartphone voice-control powers, debuted in the Nexus One, that’ll automatically translate between languages. It’s the stuff of pure utopian science fiction. But is it a good idea?

While Eaton makes some other sci fi references that I’m not particularly familiar with such as Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish (which in turn references the Tower of Babel), her point is clear: there can be unintended consequences (a concept from Max Weber, if I recall rightly) to new inventions/innovations.

…  For example, if Google’s device succeeds, and is useful and ubiquitous (in other words, nearly everyone ends up using it, or a competing service)–nobody would need learn a foreign language. “Hooray!” you may be thinking, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Because language plays such a fundamental part in connecting each of us as thinking creatures with the world around us, that the subtle nuances of language (which are different even in similar tongues, say the Latin-derived Spanish and Portuguese) actually shape how we think about the world. Learning something of how somebody else speaks from a foreign country actually helps you to understand their mindset a little. And if the average Joe on the street never learns a foreign language anymore (because it’s a very tricky thing to do, and Google’s just doing it for you, so why bother?) then that subtle understanding will be lost.

In the discussion about  “… the subtle nuances of language shaping how we think …” Eaton is referring to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Interestingly, some of the traditional linguistics departments in universities have resisted this hypothesis (I first learned about it in a mid-1980s communications course where we focused on semiotics).

On purely speculative terms, I could see two other ways for a universal translator to have unintended consequences. First, if something can’t be translated, it could disappear. Second, if a translatable version of your native language should emerge, people could break up into smaller subgroups to create more languages and more barriers to understanding. Eaton’s article definitely provoked some thinking for me this morning.

I did mention that I’d be posting the Geisler interview article later this week and I may have been a little optimistic as I’m having some difficulties chasing down a few details. In short, it’s on its way.