x3C Fig Jam | Observations on business, tech, politics & coffee

13 books to give away as Christmas gifts that will make people love you

For friends who are entrepreneurs (or want to be): The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz – The bible for life in a startup. Hackers and Painters, by Paul Graham – The bible for understanding software programmers and the world they (we) live in. Black Like You, by Herman Mashaba – Inspiring story […]

Continue Reading

How to eat like a Hero

(advice from my wife on eating healthily) Heroes know they need to function at maximum capacity, they don’t have time to be sick and they cannot afford to suffer from mid-afternoon fatigue. Eating like a hero is like a game where you earn supernatural powers for gobbling nutrients. Nutrients lurk in fresh fruit and vegetables, […]

Continue Reading

4 factors when making a decision

Intuition (gut) (system 1 thinking according to Kahneman) Rational thought (brain) (system 2 thinking according to Kahneman) Selfishness (what do I want?) Peer pressure (what do other people want me to do?) When operating within your circle of competence, intuition is most important. The “10,000 Hour” rule says that once you have enough experience in […]

Continue Reading

4 reasons why Internet usage in Africa is a fraction of that in the West

  Most Africans are Internet-virgins. Streaming video and playing World of Warcraft is not on the average African’s list of things to do on the Internet. The heaviest usage is watching music videos on YouTube. Devices are mostly mobile, and therefore have limited screen size and keyboard functionality. Again, this means most Africans are not […]

Continue Reading

Why venture capital is difficult in SA (and Africa)

Venture capitalists don’t invest in products or jockeys. They invest in exits. The only way to justify the high investment failure rate is to have regular exits at valuations much greater than 10x. When taking into account the time value of money, dividends don’t cut it. Only selling the business can realize sufficient return for […]

Continue Reading

Some tips for non-technical South Africans wanting to develop apps

A friend recently asked me for some basic tips on how to develop an app business… here’s a summary of my mail to her: High-level advice: Don’t build it and expect customers to come. They won’t. They’re busy. Sell it, then build it. Consumer apps are hard work and dependent on a huge amount of […]

Continue Reading

Overheads kill people. Stay away from overheads

Overheads in the form of recurring monthly expenses are the same as debt. Best case you hand in notice and pay-up for another month. Worst case you discover you must pay 12 months termination fee. Either way, it slows you down. And when you’re in a small business, survival is all about speed. Stay away […]

Continue Reading

The biggest lesson from the story of General Motors (My years at GM by Alfred Sloane)

Henry Ford completely dominated the motorcar industry for almost two decades, from 1907 onwards. His vision of bringing raw basic transport to the masses was epitomized by the Model T. His 70% market share entrenched economies of scale that no competitor could match, resulting in the Model T being the cheapest car on the road. […]

Continue Reading

Data networks should be priced like toll-roads

There are three truths about telecoms today: First, everyone wants free Internet access (WiFi preferably). Second, everyone wants both data and voice services on their mobile phone. Third, everyone wants  video content, it’s the killer entertainment medium. The modus operandi for telcos is to try and address all three burning needs on the same network, with the net […]

Continue Reading

Why public Free WiFi is essential in Africa

I’ve just returned from vacation where I was staying at a house that had no 3G or WiFi. All I had was Edge. It was like being back on a feature phone. Very, very, very frustrating. Edge is ok for sending short text emails, but attachments seem to clog the system and fail epically, and all […]

Continue Reading

7 secrets to being a multi-millionaire

(extracted from Business Brilliant, by Lewis Schiff) 1. Follow your passion and then follow the money. The money will not follow you. 2.  Play to your strengths. Delegate your weaknesses. 3.  It’s all about your network. 4. Heads I win, tails I don’t lose. No need to risk your personal savings. Make sure you’ve protected your downside […]

Continue Reading

7 ways to fail

 1.    Too much ego or too little ego It’s obvious that having too much ego is a sure-fire way to fail. But if you have no confidence you will also fail. Arrogance is like salt on a pizza. Too much and you ruin it. Too little and there is no taste. 2.    Not listening or […]

Continue Reading

Success secret: Take an early big risk, then focus on not losing

Once you’ve read Art of War by Sun Tzu, the biography of Cyrus the Great, or any of the wisdom of Charlie Munger & Warren Buffett, you will quickly realise that the secret to winning is “not losing”. These guys all ensured that whatever they do, they can’t be killed if it doesn’t work out […]

Continue Reading

What do you do when you discover your business partner is not right for you?

  Sometimes you go into business with someone and after a couple months/years you realise you’ve made a mistake. He’s a crook, or lazy or simply doesn’t share your values. Time for divorce. How? The simplest option is to abandon ship. Start again and be more careful choosing a partner. This entails leaving behind all […]

Continue Reading

Forced voting: Another reason I can’t live in Australia

  In Australia it’s illegal to not vote during national elections. I thought democracy is supposed to be about freedom of choice? To me, being forced to vote or go to jail (actually, iI think you pay a fine but I prefer the jail analogy) sounds like a tyranny. Also, forcing people to do things […]

Continue Reading

The Rum & Raisin Theory Of Destiny

I like rum & raisin ice cream. For some reason, not all ice cream shops sell rum & raisin ice cream. This glaring flaw in the universe has a silver lining: it led to the Rum & Raisin Theory Of Destiny. It works like this. If I walk into an ice cream shop and they […]

Continue Reading

Deal-makers, dealbreakers, and the crowd

There are three kinds of people. Dealmakers, dealbreakers and the crowd. The crowd is arb. The crowd follows. It won’t lead, it won’t block. Dealmakers make things happen. A combination of intelligence, creativity and perseverance allows these people to find a path when the crowd says it’s impossible. Once they’ve found the path the crowd […]

Continue Reading

13 differences between Stars and Slackers

1. Stars arrive at the office at 7am without being asked. Slackers slouch in at 9, with a new excuse every day for why they’re late. 2. Stars never make excuses; they just own up to their mistakes and fix them without a fuss. Slackers always make excuses and try to shift blame. 3. Stars reply to emails […]

Continue Reading

Don’t leave your company or country because you have a bad jockey

If you believe in your company, don’t quit your job even if your boss is an ass. Bosses come and go, but good companies are forever. The same applies to countries. A great president can’t fix a broken country. A great country can’t be broken by a bad president. Don’t give up on your country, […]

Continue Reading

Who thinks the world is doomed?

Who thinks we’re doomed? Who thinks its game over, insert coin? Not me. The Internet will save the world. Why? People don’t make bad decisions because they’re stupid. They make bad decisions because they don’t have access to all the information information. People don’t do bad things because they’re evil. They do bad things because […]

Continue Reading