Launch festival April 2017

Hi ya,

A few months ago I got a founder ticket to the Launch Festival in San Francisco for April 7th and 8th. After three whirlwind days in the Bay Area here are the things that stuck out to me. Personally for me / Move Correctly my best meeting was actually with Greg, the CEO of Fit3d – since he provided so much actionable, real advice. It’s just fantastic to exchange ideas with some-one in the same industry. Now here are my notes about Launch:


Machine Learning

1. The flywheel for Machine Learning – was articulated by Rob May, the CEO of Talla, is the way ML becomes better the more data there is, makes better algorithms, makes a better product, drives more use and more data … So it’s really about who can build the best/ quickest flywheel for your use case / industry, and in that sense (at least the ML companies want to give that impression) this is the time to make major investments in this area, as the first (successful) movers will have a big advantage.

2. Zorroa – are doing really impressive visual recognition from videos – where they can search inside videos / images just as if you were googling documents. So eg locating any scenes where ‘the Rock’ appears, then narrowing it down if it happens in a bank, and further where there is a Lambo in the scene.. Currently you need to plug into their REST API,  but they mentioned a SAAS app in a few months…

3. Corto – their demo of a chatbot analytics interface to a pharmaceutical genomics data was impressive, with hypergraphs / nodes flowing and a lot of complex words in the presentation, so I have no doubt the tech is solid. Their team is chock-full of smart guys, with eg one of the leading AGI guys – Ben Goertzel as Chief Scientist. What wasn’t clear for me is who will sell their product and what is their value prop?

4. The PAC framework by Rob May again, which essentially states that any company should evaluate how they want to use Machine Learning in these categories:

A) P for Predict, eg. in recruitment which candidates will perform best, in sales which products etc.

B) A for Automate, could be easing workflow, say for example NLP (natural language processing) transcribing recruitment interview notes.

C) C for Classify – say classifying best resumes into different buckets quickly

Now apply these questions across your customers, across Product, across Operations, and you should start to identify good opportunities where to apply ML.

5. Talla is a customer service bot either for IT or HR, that’s been trained to answer IT / HR questions, with a UI either in Slack or Microsoft teams. Their target market is in mid-size companies.

6. –  created a customer service bot, integrated with eg ticketing systems like Zendesk. They’d ‘clone’ employee personalities and create a response integrated into existing UI’s eg on Zendesk, Salesforce, SAP etc, which the human customer service agent can review, modify, approve / send.


The Cannabis market is yuuge apparently as it warranted it’s own vertical, next to healthcare, drones, ML etc. Interesting companies included:

  1. Leaf – built a small growing unit looking like fridge, which automates home growing. Sold about 1M of them in advance and are taking orders for 2018..
  2. Alula Hydro, who have created a hydroponic, nutrient delivery system for industrial growers. The 20K industrial growing management system apparently can raise yields from a crappy 1K per pound to 5K-6K per pound.
  3. Baker, who are making a CRM / loyalty / online store SAAS for dispensaries.


Miscellaneous notes

  1.  How to get 1000 applicants for a job ad – by Tucker Max from Book in a box
    • Start with the hook – explain the why / the mission of the company, and if some-one doesn’t believe in that clearly they’re not a fit.
    • Sell the role – Talk like you would talk to a friend about the job. Ditch all the standard corporate lingo about ‘mission critical, pro-active go-getter with a nose for global synergies’. 
    • Pleasure and Pain – explain why the company / role is awesome, but clearly also the downsides of the job, no point in trying to sugar-coat stuff.
    • Testimonials / social proof – we use these in any ads (for soda, cars, books etc), why not for job ads?
    • Finally – the actual ‘boring’ details
  2. VR / AR – was actually a bit underwhelming – nothing really that stood out. Yes, it’s cool to get a new, different type of camera or get analytics off VR, but…eh.
  3. In hardware – Megabots was really cool, just in terms of lighting up any 6-year old inside all of us – Robots with fun big weapons (WEABOONS!) and picking up cars 😉


10 thoughts on road-schooling

-after a three month experiment with two kids and a wife working

From August to October 2016 we were living in Airbnb’s, while my wife (Jolene) worked and I was road-schooling the kids. I hear you – what the heck is road-schooling? Simple, it’s home-schooling , but it’s done on the road. Now schooling is a somewhat restrictive terms, I’d call it learning while on the road..

Now before you think I’m a nutter that doesn’t believe in ‘structured’ education, let me say this: both Jolene and I have had great experiences in the public schools we’ve gone to from Finland to Singapore to the US. However just because the classroom format of putting 30 kids in one class, having one teacher up front “teaching” – was invented 200 years ago – and it’s worked so far – doesn’t mean that it’s the optimal for all kids.


Really, it comes back to what do we believe “education” is for? Is it so that once kids have learned a “high-school equivalent” (whatever that means) amount of “stuff”, which they will prove by writing down this “stuff” on paper, from their own memory – then they will be ready for college? College also seems to be the default aspiration, which is mostly unquestioned.

What are the goals then of education? IMO, as a child has become an adult, the young adult is able to think critically for themselves, they are able to learn new knowledge and new skills by themselves, and they have found a purpose / mission / ulterior motive, which they are pursuing. Now I’m not saying it has to be a ‘save the world’ type thing, but something larger than yourself is probably beneficial..

Now did this trip in particular achieve the above? No. But I think by showing them that there is something larger out there, there is a vast history which we all are connected to, they can better find their own way in the world. And maybe the next trip, when they are a bit bigger…


On to the experiment

As I’ve gotten older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve finally taken to heart the advice from my hero – Tim Ferriss – and learned that it’s best if you “try out shit”. See if it works. If it doesn’t  – OK, you learn from it. If it does work – great!

So we did an experiment where we travelled through Europe for three months. Sam was 10 this year, Kate just turned 7.

We visited Finland/Helsinki:

We visited Italy: Rome, Pisa, Florence:


We visited France: Paris, Normandy D-day beaches, Mont-saint-Michel, Bayeux tapestry, Loire valley castles:

And we hopped to Barcelona:



What I would do differently based on this experience:

  1. Kids hate museums. Yeah, you probably could have told me that earlier, but I’m thickheaded, so I guess we had to try… It’s not that they specifically hate everything in museums – but the format is usually boring… Read this tiny script about this ancient spoon which they found in some backwater? Yay. There were a few exceptions to this which the kids liked, more on these later.
  2. We were usually in one place for about one week. The idea was that we’d not have to be switching, travelling too often and give ourselves a more leisurely pace to explore. Well – it was still too harried. We had booked all the flights in advance, but e.g finding new Airbnb accommodation for each week – turned out to be a chore. With hind-sight, I’d probably spend two weeks in the more interesting locations (eg. Florence for me).

What worked in terms of learning, enjoyment: 

3. Unstructured play – there were several times when the kids were playing with say a swing, laughing, not a care in the world, no time frame set. No program to rush to, no lessons to attend. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s what being a kid is about.

4. Caen World War II memorial with the time-line of the WWII was really instructive and Sam now has a solid grasp of it, while he enjoyed it at the same time.

5. Visit farms, zoos – many times we’d visit a zoo or an animal farm, and since we’d be in no hurry the kids could feed the animals, hang out with them, while learning about the animals and the environment ‘by osmosis’ almost. Especially Kate seemed to enjoy this.

6. One of us not working... (me :).. It would have been a pain to have to school the kids, work and travel. Now Jolene was able to hold the fort financially, while me and the kids did the chores – including making home-cooked meals, shopping for groceries etc. For example in Italy even the ready-made dinners tasted great!

7. Traveling together with family: we had one week together in the Loire valley with my mom. This worked out great since we all got to experience a new place together, my mom is a franco-phile, so she could guide us, speak to the locals etc.

8. We did physical education everyday. We’d go out to local parks to run, sprint, swing, play soccer, climbing, jumping etc, and at home do hand-stands, planks, push-ups, wheelbarrows, rows etc. It just takes a little bit of imagination, but it’s totally worth it. The kids would be sweaty and work up an appetite, while it helped counter-act all the desserts/gelato/cappucino we ‘had to’ try everyday…

9. Khan Academy & IXL

Both of these online resources were fabulous. For math both Sam Kate were able to breeze through their grade level on Khan Academy (k to 2 for Kate, 5th grade for Sam) math in less than three months. Now I’m not assigning any special status to the kids due to this – I just think that a good online system and one-on-one support are probably much more efficient than the standard class-room format.

10. Structured days

IMO it worked best to have a clear structure to everyday, eg along these lines:

Lesson 1 – 9AM to 9.50 eg. Chinese/Math/Swedish

Lesson 2 – 10AM to 10.50 Physical education (preferably outdoors)

Lesson 3 -11AM to 12PM – Science or Math

12PM-1PM  fix lunch, have the kids help out. Eat together as a family.

1PM- 2PM Relax/ read / prep afternoon / kids play on iPads

2PM— > Go out to visit sights, tourismo..

As a final tip, if you can combine your trip/road-schooling with visiting family, that’s a bonus as well. This year we got to spend time in Helsinki with my family, in Mississippi with Jolene’s brother and we’ve now moved to Gainesville where Jolene’s sister, mom and dad live as well. Especially for those of us who have lived away from family these are precious moments.

Thank you for reading this far – hope you enjoyed it 🙂