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

4 secrets to clear writing

Use paragraphs. No more than one sentence per paragraph. No adjectives. “Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.” Terry Pratchett A person’s writing is a window to his brain. Endless rambling interspersed with exclamation marks and with no punctuation or paragraphs is the sign of a diseased brain.

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7 lessons learnt from Tweetstorming

A while back Marc Andreessen started tweetstorming (10 to 20 consecutive tweets about a single subject) Personally, I don’t like following tweetstormers because it clogs my feed. So I ignored. But then I thought, Marc’s not a stupid guy, lets try it out and seen what happens. Long story short, I’m now a fan of the […]

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4 ways driving in the slow lane makes you a better person

No road rage You can type an SMS whilst driving You can’t speed and get speeding fines You use less petrol and save the planet from global warming The only reason to ever get out of the slow lane is if you have the misfortune to be stuck behind a truck transporting a rugby pitch.

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7 things I’ve learnt from Malan Joubert

(Malan Joubert is founder of FireID, SnapScan and Order Swiftly) I’ve known Malan Joubert since 2010. I first met him in a meeting arranged by the landlord of his company, FireID. The landlord was hoping I’d invest in FireID so that the lease could continue. I demurred. But we had a walk after the meeting […]

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How to raise money for your startup

  1/17 Three criteria for raising money: 1. Raise it before you need it. 2. Have a working product. 3. Have a business model from day one. 2/17 How much should you raise? The rule of thumb is to multiply your estimated cost by 4. 3/17 Calculate cost of development/manufacture, ie: R250. Double it for […]

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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 […]

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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, […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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. […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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