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zombie02

Ever heard of Nupedia? Neither did I, until September 20, 2013. As a startup founder, I’m constantly finding better ways to communicate the value proposition of Miigle, which I often do by borrowing more familiar websites or platforms as examples.

As I was reading about “graph databases” on Wikipedia, I thought “wait a minute, Miigle is somewhat like Wikipedia.” I had a very general idea of how Wikipedia was founded but I thought it’d serve me well to better familiarize myself so I googled “how was wikipedia founded”. Genius.

Of course you know about Wikipedia. You along with millions of people around the world use it almost daily. You know that Wikipedia is an open source wiki accessible to anyone to read and edit any of its “29.5 million freely usable articles in 287 languages.”

What you probably didn’t know is that the success of Wikipedia was almost accidental.

See, before Wikipedia there was Nupedia. The primary difference between the two being that only “experts” could contribute to Nupedia which as a result plagued the platform with protocols and significantly hindered its growth and popularity. Wikipedia was actually created as a feeder project to Nupedia by allowing “common folks” to contribute as a way to help the experts.

Benefiting from the much larger number of contributors and the absence of protocols, Wikipedia grew exponentially while Nupedia and its experts were quickly forgotten. Microsoft tried to give it a fight with Encarta and their highly paid experts but eventually folded as well.

Do not doubt the power of We The People. Most importantly, We The People (including YOU) should not doubt its own power.

Why does this matter? It matters because we’re living in a Digital Age and Wikipedia’s story and validation can be applied to a variety of scenarios.

Let’s pick my favorite: Innovation.

Just like Nupedia, the success of an innovation has traditionally and primarily been left in the hands of a few “experts”. They evaluate the ideas, teams, etc. and if everything looks promising, they invest and help get it out to the market. Most of the people in that market, the target audience, would have never heard of the product or service.

No big deal, that’s why there are marketing budgets.

The target audience is seen as comprised of mere consumers with no role to play in the development of a product. They are not the experts. Besides, why would they want anything to do with innovation, they are already consumed by their 9 to 5 work schedules, sitcoms, pets, and silly videos scattered all over the Internet.

They are not the experts and they haven’t got the desire nor will.

Not true. As a matter of fact, it’s bullshit.

If you’ve paid any attention to the evolution of crowdsourcing then you understand that people are dying to add their contribution to tech and non-tech related ideas, startups, and projects created all over the world. They are rejecting the notion that they are mere consumers and want to be part of these beautiful (and occasionally sad) stories.

The more interesting truth is that we need them but we’re refusing to give them a chance (unless it’s taking their money), to satisfy the egos of a few people.

The message we are sending is: Your money matters, your brain is worthless (unless you went to Harvard, Stanford, MIT, etc or worked at Google, Facebook, Amazon, blah blah)

Why? Because it is difficult to take a commission on non-tangible goods like an advice, at least not with the currently proven business models. However, more than just money, these people are sitting on a wealth of intellectual, practical, and emotional capital they’d love to give away freely and happily.

Building a startup is hard! No, it’s HARD! I’m not one to give up but I can’t say the messages of support I receive from entrepreneurs globally hasn’t helped my resolve. They’ve given me haven’t given me money but they’ve added fuel to my determination and to me that’s worth something and it always will.

When I introduced Miigle at the LAUNCH Festival 2014 in San Francisco, Adeo Ressi who was part of the judging panel mocked me because I was trying to make the point that making it easier to connect people with similar interests and complementary skills to work on a startup, which is what our algorithm does, has a lot of value. He insisted that “No, the only thing needed is money.”

Sure, money is important but I won’t bore you with the list of companies, including many in Silicon Valley, who folded despite the huge financial investments they received.

I say people matter more.

Let’s find a way for people who care about the same causes to easily find each other based on their potential contribution and collaborate, and I can promise you that not only the happiness index around the world will shoot off to another galaxy but the quality of products that will be developed will be second to none

This is exactly what we want to accomplish with Miigle. However, we’ve been discounted by many for not being “high growth”, “would require a lot of money to succeed (hum I have my doubts about that)”, and “we’re not part of the Silicon Valley boys club.” Yes, we really got told the latter and you can verify it by watching our pitch video below. That’s fine, we’ll just keep pushing along.

Here’s our pitch at LAUNCH with the “heartwarming” feedback from the judges.

Back to my point about getting more people involved in the innovation process. You may point me to Henry Ford’s quote “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” but that was in the 1910s – we are in 2013 and a lot of things have changed since then. There’s the Internet. The world is getting flatter and smaller.

The challenges we face today with global innovation are not that people are not experts and are too busy to contribute, but rather these:

1) We’re not speaking to them directly about the value they hold: A lot of platforms limit the roles users can play by forcing them to wear a specific hat, usually “giver” or “taker”. Let’s take for example crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, AngelList, and others – there’s the person who gives and the other who takes. They place little to no value on the input from people who don’t fit those roles. Why? Because you can take commissions on financial transactions.

What we need to keep in mind is that many of the most successful products ever developed originated from ideas that had no revenue generating business model. As a matter of fact for many, the founders had no desire to make any money out of them, it was all passion. They felt they had something to prove to themselves and others.

In the documentary Particle Fever, physicist Dr. Kaplan is giving a speech to an audience about the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider experiment when a man asks him what’s the “economical return”. The man also takes the time to say “by the way I’m an economist”. Pompous.

This is Dr. Kaplan’s answer, verbatim:

The question by an economist was “what’s the financial gain of running an experiment like this and the discoveries that we would make in this experiment”. And it’s a very very simple answer, “I have no idea. We have no idea.” When radio waves were discovered they weren’t called radio waves, because there were no radios. they were discovered as some sign of radiation. Basic sciences for big breakthrough needs to happen at a level where you’re not asking “what’s the economic gain” but you’re asking “what do we not know and where can we make progress”. So what is the LAC good for? It could be nothing other than understanding everything.

This is wholeheartedly how I feel about innovation and why we need to break it free.

2) The contribution process is very segmented: Currently, the process of fostering innovation online requires people to hop on various platforms to achieve different things. For example, founders have to go on AngelList to attract investors and raise money (most of them don’t), go to BetaList to announce their Beta, go to ProductHunt to announce their product and see it get voted up or down. I’m sorry but to me this sounds like a lot of work! I want one platform that allows me to do this and get back to building my product!

Many of those platforms are appealing individually because of their “simplicity” but collectively they add a lot of legwork to the entire process.

Founders *should* care more about the entire process. At Miigle, we do.

3) We are distracting them with “cool”: While doing the pitch practice session at LAUNCH the most popular remarks given by Jason Calacanis to every startup was either “that’s cool” or “it’s lacking the cool factor.”

Yes, we got the latter.

Don’t get me wrong, I like cool! I find my red TOMS shoes really cool but I hope they are never the sole or primary base of people judging me. In the case of LAUNCH, “cool” mostly amounted to some nice javascript effect. It felt like people sat there deaf just waiting to be wowed by some animation on the screen.

Also, a few months ago I attended a hackathon in Santa Monica where the winner was a group of men (over their 30s) who created an app where people could play a game modeled after HORSE. Their demo involved a man (over his 30s) smelling his feet freshly off his shoes and challenging his friends to do the same. They won!

Please, tell me I’m not the only person in the world who sees something wrong with this? I stormed out of that room after the judges announced them as winners. Our COO Jayne was there with me and she can verify that I predicted that they’d probably win.

They took first place over a beautiful app that allowed people to quickly tell what side effects they could have with an over the counter drug. I probably oversimplified that but you get the point.

Just like I thought it’d be awesome to build a platform that leveled the playing field for startups by allowing founders to instantly (I mean in seconds) discover people worldwide who’d be able and willing to help them on their project. This is what Miigle does, granted we got over the chicken and egg problem, of course. Silly me.

“Cool” is killing us, softly.

4) There’s a lack of relevancy with their interests: It all starts with maximizing relevancy by matching the startups and ideas with the right people. I believe that when people are interested in an idea or product, they go out of their way to help see it thrive. The problem is that currently it takes a lot of work to discover those ideas and products, unless they’re introduced to you or you stumble upon them by luck.

One of my favorite innovation stories of is about Kelvin Doe, the 14-year-old from war-torn Sierra Leone who picked electronic scraps he found on the streets and without any electrical engineering training built a radio to DJ and uplift spirits within his community. How does someone like Kelvin Doe benefit from AngelList? He doesn’t. He’s part of the fringe and there are hundreds of thousands like him.

See this video about Kelvin Doe.

However, if there’s a platform that can help me effortlessly discover people like Kelvin Doe so I can foster them and their ideas, then that’s where I’d be spending a lot of my time.Yes, not everyone is like me, but I know many people are and they’ve been waiting to be given the opportunity to make an impact.

That opportunity is Miigle.

The myopic approach we take towards innovation and are propagating around the world is costing millions of startups and entrepreneurs around the world the chance they deserve.

People want to make a difference. Giving them that opportunity is the very least we can do.

Don’t be a zombie.

Luc Berlin, Founder at Miigle.com

Image source: Terminally-Incoherent.com

 

091912_Cuatro_en_grande

I often say, there are two cultures that I must have been a part of either in a past life or a parallel universe: Latin and Scandinavian. Why you may ask?

Here are my 5 reasons why I love the Latin culture:

1. The people are beautiful and warm

2. The food is diverse and spicy

3. It reminds me of Africa

4. The cultures are deep and rich

5. The music – anything I could possibly say can be seen in the music video below of the song “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias!

Image source: DiverseEducation.com

sharing-economy-illustration

Image credit: Susie Cagle

Prior to the general consumption of the Internet, let’s say early 1990s, if you’d asked most people what they thought of the social behavior of humans they would have said we’re pretty reserved people, at least in public.

I mean no one would expect you to just walk up to people and show videos of you “twerking” in your underwear. Right?

It’s now 2014 and one thing that the Internet has taught us over the past 10 years is that we were wrong. We were DEAD WRONG.

Humans, at least many of them, are not the shy and reserved people we see them as, especially when they log on a computer. They LOVE to share! They love it so much that they particularly desire no incentive to do so, except the attention, which I guess can be a pretty strong motivator in a society obsessed with self-worth.

They love to share videos of them dancing in their underwear (or their pets singing) (YouTube)

They love to share pictures of themselves in spandex at the gym (Instagram)

They love to share their brain farts. Disclaimer: Not all brain farts stink, some can actually be quite pleasant. (Twitter)

They love to share pictures of things they discover on the Internet (Pinterest)

They love to share their daily activities (Facebook)

Wow… who would have thought?

Investors have also bought on the craze – just look at the multi-billion dollar valuations that are given to all these social networking companies for which the product has no to very little positive economic impact for most of their users.

But there is one thing more important than twerking videos, spandex, or brain farts that they’d love to share — their innovations? Why? Because there are economic opportunities attached to them.

If you’re working on a startup or just patented a garage invention, there are incentives for you to share them: you can attract users/customers, you can attract investors, and you can attract talent (just to name a few).

That’s the problem innovators globally face and we at Miigle want to help make their lives easier by building a technology that reduces the amount of time, money, and energy it takes them to connect with the right people for help.

Miigle is the platform for people who are innovating, want to create better economic opportunities for themselves, and help others along the way.

Luc Berlin, CEO at Miigle.com

A picture of earth from space

Amidst the recent news of #Ferguson and #TrayvonMartin perhaps we need to take time to reflect on what it means to be a human being.

I wish we would talk about the reasons why Blacks kill each other. However, for this conversation to be fruitful it must be Global, not a monologue. One day perhaps?

Until then here are my thoughts on the topic of human race conflicts as it relates to Blacks or any race for that matter.

First, it amuses me that every time a Black man is wrongly killed by the police, some people hurry to quote statistics of how many times Blacks kill each other. Although I find truly unfortunate the killing that happens within the Black community (or any community for that matter), understanding the root of the problem is usually the first right step in solving it.

It’s utterly convenient to say “Oh look at how much those Black people kill each other” but understanding the question “Why do so many Blacks kill each other” would point to a series of events for which as a global society we’ve yet to reconcile ourselves.

These are not small problems to fix, they took centuries to create and although passing the blame gets us nowhere, responsibilities must be taken. Unless we’re serious about addressing the issues then we shouldn’t pretend taking the consequences seriously. That’s hypocrisy, which even in its mildest nature only creates or fosters havoc.

The difference between human beings regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever characteristics is incredibly small. I therefore find it ridiculous that as an evolved race (like we so proudly call ourselves) we still find reasons to kill each other.

Earth is so beautiful from outer space (I’ve attached a pic). Each one of us carries that beauty. I’d hope we focus on it rather than the infinitely small percentage of our genome that differentiates us.

But again, I won’t hold my breadth.

Stay beautiful.

Photo credit: Wallpaperswide.com

Offline Front Image

Ever think “I’m bored and want to go do something in exciting, cool, adventurous, crazy or funky! But WHAT SHOULD I DOOOO?” Don’t worry you’re not alone. This phrase, sentiment, or whatever you want to call it has plagued mankind for as long as we know, but let’s be modest and say since the popular rise of the Internet.

Well meet Offline, a platform that inspires people to LIVE, EXPLORE, KILL THEIR BOREDOM. Offline is a simple and fun way for adventurers, world travelers, and thrill seekers to share and discover cool, crazy, inspiring activities and adventures shared through pictures and videos. Adventurers get a platform to showcase their awesomeness and the rest of the world gets inspired to grow their bucket list.

Offline members will be able to record their activities along with attached images and videos on their personal page e.g. http://yourname.isoffline.com 

Offline also does something very unique, it captures the length of time spent on the activity, the dates, location and other meta data.

Offline Splash Mockup

What makes Offline appealing is how niche it is – we eliminated all of the noise you find on other social sharing platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With Offline, you know exactly what you are getting — cool, memorable, fun, crazy and inspiring activities (the type that makes you say “shit, I want to do that”) people around the world are doing when they unplug, nothing else.

As proof of this, every post on Offline has the same sentence structure: Gone offline to [enter activity] for [enter duration]. e.g. Gone offline to scuba dive with whale sharks for 2 hours. Offline then curates posts based on their trending popularity and other factors.

In the near future Offline members will be able to give Offline a time frame e.g. 2 hours and receive recommendations of activities to do based on their personal history and popular activities done by other members within a 2-hour period.

The goal of Offline is simple, make it easier for people to experience and enjoy the world around them.

To build Offline I partnered with John Pavlick with whom I also cofounded Miigle.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @IsOfflineApp and Like our Facebook page. Don’t forget to say Hello. We live and die by the hashtag #IAmOff

 

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Henry Ford said, the whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.

I couldn’t agree more.

From the moment we’re brought into the world, we’re raised and conditioned to achieve success. As a society, we’re obsessed by it. As entrepreneurs, it is the fuel that drives us to take risks and try to leave our mark in the world. Success has a different meaning and value to each one of us, but regardless of what that may be, achieving success – the way one sees it – is undoubtedly one of the best feelings in the human emotions repertoire.

If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that there’s hardly anything more difficult than to turn an idea into something tangible and hopefully useful. It’s a treacherous journey, no wonder so many people give up before even trying. Taking part and completing that journey is my definition of success. Everything else is bonus.

Success is never earned alone, therefore gratitude must also become part of the equation. Personally, I see the entire universe as string of goodwill through which success travels. It may be unbeknownst to us but it happens everyday and, as a human race, it is our obligation to ensure that this string is never broken.

On behalf of the Miigle Team, I’d like to extend our gratitude to a few people who’ve contributed in making our success possible, many of them perhaps unknowingly.

Our Amazing Private Beta Users

Sarah Smith

Mylo Berlin

David Anthony

Bie Mwengela

Carlos Mortera

Yuki Rosene

William Ruiz

Miyishia Slay

Helene Vo

Kwesi Hutchful

Cheyenne Tanner

John Buckingham

Cecilia Guillen

Prakash Sharma

Aaron Young

Robin Benjamin

Carrie Yutzy

Scott MacDonell

Bekah Grant

Matiss Treiniss

Linda Weisbach

Helen Malani

Steven Plaat

Roshan Porwal

Noel Bass

Jordan Brooke

Soumya Das

Chris No

Eunsoo Ahn

Jose Manriquez

Audra Grace Quinn

To you all we say, Thank You.

Luc Berlin, Founder & CEO at Miigle.com

Image credit: Inc.com

We recently received an invitation to apply to a startup pitch competition called SXSW V2Venture taking place on July 16th in Las Vegas, Nevada. The competition seems very interesting and the judging panel is quite impressive. The application fee is $100.

This begs the question: should incubator, angel investors, and VC firms charge application fees? What would be the obvious and not obvious pros and cons of such a policy? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

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