22 July 2014

We'll Go Viral!

Several years ago I knew a startup co-founder who repeated "we're going to make a shitload of money" often and loudly. It was magical thinking, expecting a miracle to happen. A more recent incantation in circulation is "we'll go viral" or some variant thereof. Again, useless magical thinking. 500 Startups picks this up and runs with it in the video below about their Distribution Team. In reality, it's about making hypotheses, testing and then trying again, the sort of drudgery that eventually can pay off.

21 July 2014

The 7 Deadly Sins of Startup Brasil

Disclaimer: I (Alan Meira) am the founder of Engarte, a startup that was chosen to take part in the second round of Startup Brasil. I waited until the end of the registration period for the third round to talk about my experience because I didn't want to influence anyone's decision to participate in the process. I hope this post will serve as a warning and also to lessen the expectations of those who sent in a proposal. In the coming days I will write a second part detailing our participation.

When I saw the final score of Brazil's World Cup team, 7x1, the first thing that came to mind was that all the Brazilian newspapers would publish articles about "the 7 deadly sins of the Brazilian national team." It did not take long for them to start appearing. So many people are reading articles like "5 Tips for Writing Better," by which we also standardize thought and bring down critical thinking. All for content that "goes viral".
"5 Tips to get an investor angel", "6 ways to invest in marketing with few resources", "4 tools to boost your sales." The editorial by startups in Brazil also follows the same line of predictability. Subject matter of 5 years ago is republished today. New startups, new investors and the same approach.
Recently, in the SUP BRA discussion group on Facebook the serious problems of Startup Brazil were raised. A few days before, the program had announced a few changes and the removal of 14 startups, including mine. The latter became a topic in all the blogs and newspapers. No one could explain the reason for the removal of the startups, nor sought to know.
So I decided to be a little too predictable. Rather than talk about my problems with Startup Brazil, I will list the 7 sins that the program commits. Read on, as # 4 is a must-see!
We'll start with the sin I share: gluttony. Anyone who has worked with me knows!Ha Ha! But my gluttony is for food. Startup Brazil was born as a bold project and ended as a gluttonous project. In an attempt to reach and have a greater influence, the program has selected 12 accelerators and more than 100 startups so far. Except that neither they nor the accelerators have the structure to support it.
With many projects and few resources (both financial as well as capacity to manage such an operation), it was only a matter of time for them to begin robbing Peter to pay Paul. Indecent proposals by the accelerator are commonplace, and do not be alarmed if the accelerator offers you their investment in services rather than money. Most accelerators are in a delicate financial situation....
But still, there are plenty of resources and time for events, road shows and interviews. If you're wondering why I had never seen the criticisms of Startup Brazil, it is because of this "sin" here. With 2 years of the program in operation, even today the media is asking them how to go about enrolling, rather than talking about the results of the first two rounds. By my count, in this second round, at least 20 startups did not receive what was advertised, and little is said about it.
Because there are people who have even been threatened when they spoke ill of Startup Brazil.
Because whoever speaks ill is jealous, right? Startup Brazil blows them a kiss and pretends that nothing happened, creating a distortion field of distorted reality (let the reader understand).
Thus, they can keep pretending that the program is successful. Modify the rules and commit irregularities without worry and without apology as if it were natural. As if it's up to the rest of us to adapt.
Lastly, the sin that makes everything continue as is. Not physical laziness, but rather moral laziness, intellectual laziness, inertia, fear of alienating the people who think that they "give the rules" of the game.
Personnel of Startup Brazil and accelerators: with great power comes great responsibility. The checkbox you click on a form influences the lives of thousands of people, which in turn will influence the lives of millions. Making mistakes is normal, take up the mistakes and mend them. Use the theories that you share in your fan pages. Pivot! Treat the customer well! Innovate! And stop thinking that it is the fault of others.
If it doesn't work, ask to leave. We, the founders, are already accustomed to failure. Aren't you?

This article is available under a Creative Commons license. Feel free to share as you wish, before the Superior Electoral Court thinks I'm a member of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party and makes me take it down. :P LONG LIVE THE INTERNET BILL OF RIGHTS #sqn

20 July 2014

An Oasis for Non-Theists

In previous posts I've discussed Ethical Culture, Sunday Assembly and the Unitarian Universalist Association as places for humanists to "belong" (here's one of those posts) There are now more alternatives than ever before for people who want a community of shared values without supernatural beliefs being imposed. One more option that has come to my attention in recent weeks is Oasis, of which there are presently only two affiliated gatherings.

Houston Oasis is led by Mike Aus, a former Lutheran minister. This community is well-established, having programs for children, youth and adults as well as community service projects and a regular gathering on Sundays. A new affiliate in Kansas City is following Houston's lead, and there seems to be talk of this potentially becoming a network of non-theistic congregations reaching out to other cities.

The similarities between Oasis and Sunday Assembly are obvious, although reading their backgrounds I don't think either one copied from the other. Both preach tolerance to the extent that their groups should be non-theistic while also not anti-theistic, welcoming a broad range of people including questioning Christians and those of other faith groups who might want to attend.

The following are the Oasis values:
  • People are more important than beliefs.
  • Human hands solve human problems.
  • Reality is known through reason.
  • Meaning comes from making a difference.
  • Labels are unimportant.
  • Unity in our values, charity in our differences.
  • Be accepting and be accepted in return.
For more, have a look at the websites for Houston Oasis and Kansas City Oasis. The video below also provides a brief introduction of Kansas City Oasis by Helen Stringer, whose story of transitioning from faith to reason can be read here or heard here.

See Also: