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Idea: Save the Information in Nonprofits, Save the World.

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Shlok Vaidya  -  
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MIT

A nonprofit called Common Crawl is now using its own Web crawler and making a giant copy of the Web that it makes accessible to anyone. The organization offers up over five billion Web pages, available for free so that researchers and entrepreneurs can try things otherwise possible only for those with access to resources on the scale of Google’s.

This is the absolute right approach. You can’t trust these behemoth corporations to give us a level playing field. You have to make it. And we’re at a point where it needs to be done in an intentional and aggressive way. Otherwise we stand to lose control of the decentralized global platform that underpins life today.

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-Shlok
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Idea: Systemic Disruption Dashboard

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Shlok Vaidya  -  
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Data centers in the NYC region

Lead time for an inbound threat varies from minutes to days. There should be a tool that can adapt to either timeline that assesses the potential for systems disruption. Data centers, railways, bridges, sewers, energy pipelines, subway switches, the list goes on. What’s in harms way? Can it be affected by the threat (fire? water? wind? bomb?).

An at a glance systems disruption dashboard. Should be baked into every city command center. But also available to the population. I would use this to monitor every major event, ever.

Example: Johns Hopkins has this capability for the electricity grid. Their model says Sandy could take down power for 10 million. That’s useful knowledge. Much more useful than the weatherporn the masses are getting now – random places with water or a reporter being blown around in the wind.

The same tool could be used over time to to build out a resiliency index. How much of what is locally produced/consumed? Response times. How susceptible is a place to disruption? Can it survive on its own and for how long?

FEMA/DHS/etc should have this. But that’s the wrong customer for stuff that matters.



-Shlok
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Is It Time for Price Per Square Foot to Die?

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Shlok Vaidya  -  
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Connect:Homes is a pretty cool modular housing company.  They’ve adapted their designs so that that fully prepared units can be shipped anywhere using standard industrial transporting practices. (Shipping containers.) That’s smart.

Unfortunately, the company is using the standard real estate metric of price per square foot to show that its competitive. They’re proud of the fact that $145/sf is their starting point.

I think that’s odd.

To put that number in perspective, in Austin you can buy a nice four bedroom house in one of the best school districts in the country for $80/sf (including land). The Connect:Homes pricing doesn’t include land.

So, if you compete (or market) on pricing per square foot, you’re going to lose. Why?

Because it’s irrelevant to the value you’re providing. The prefab/modular housing world offers: more flexibility, modern aesthetics, faster construction, energy efficient design. I know that if I throw down $X on a prefab house, it may cost more upfront than a traditional home, but there are savings to be had over time. Plus, and this is pure guesswork, but I suspect prefab buyers are more interested in forever homes than temporary (decade interval) housing.

That’s what Connect:Homes should be focusing on. And they can do it in language that makes sense to the real estate market. Call this metric net price per square foot. Use the formula Cost-Savings/Square Feet over a say 10 year timeline. Make the math transparent, let your users punch in their own estimates and compare.

Get other prefab companies to adopt the metric and suddenly you’ve redefined the market.

For a real kicker, use a chart to compare this with the net cost of a traditional property (which would likely increase given energy/maintenance costs etc).



-Shlok
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The 1:1 Model Can Do 1:5 – and Should

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Shlok Vaidya  -  
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The model was pioneered by Toms, then Warby Parker. Buy a hip and sexy product, and they’ll ship off another to someone needs it.

Shoes. Glasses. And now, thanks to Porteur, bikes. Buy a $1200 fixed gear bike (comes with a pack) and they’ll send another to someone in Africa who needs it. Like the others, 1:1.

When I asked them if they send exactly what I buy to the needy – that is, the $1200 bike – they said no. Which, I’m perfectly fine with. There’s no need for a colorful hipster bike to be used as a cargo/commuter on a dirt.

But that’s where they lose the plot. If you’re not sending the exact same shoe/glasses/bikes, but a (much) cheaper variant, send more.

Send five instead of one. Profit margin drops by maybe 10%, but you’re making a 500% greater impact.

Further, if you really want to enhance community you’re marketing as helping, use the cash you would use to build and ship those 5 products to instead produce those goods locally. You’ll do a billion times more good and still make plenty of money.

And, if you really want to be a great business, pool a percentage of equity (1%?) or better, revenue, to help boot up new businesses that commit to the 1:5 rule.

 



-Shlok
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Announcing: Omne – Energy from Everything

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Shlok Vaidya  -  
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Omnivorous energy is one of the more important tenets of resiliency:

“A truly resilient strategy for the local production of energy (both heat and power) should be able to consumer nearly any type of fuel.  In essence, our energy consumption strategy needs to be omnivorous — it can eat anything.”

Been working with Matt Heath  on a proof of concept that is designed to do just this.

Omne uses a variety of inputs and proven steam technology to generate electricity, heat, and even purify water. It’s pretty cool and pretty cheap.

You can, and should, sign up for the updates, including an exclusive early look at the video of the system in motion, here.



-Shlok
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