Delivery drones, aka Project Wing, is the latest project to be announced by Google X, the Google department that houses many of their most exciting projects including self driving cars, Project Loon and Google Glass. As you can see from the video below they are using a hybrid plance/helicopter design that takes off vertically and then rotates to fly like a small plane. The payload is winched down to the ground from a couple of hundred feet. This is very different from the equivalent project at Amazon which uses a quad copter design that lands at the delivery site.

I like the way they are focused on the user experience as well as the technical challenges. This from  The Atlantic:

Sergey [Brin] has been bugging me, asking, ‘What is it like? Is it actually a nice experience to get this?

Apparently the experience is very cool. The delivery drone hovers in the sky above you and then winches down the delivery before gliding away. It’s optimised for rural delivery though, and I’m not sure how the winch down would work in cities with tall buildings and limited outdoor space. The other interesting fact is that the drone is limited to a 1.5kg payload.



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The questions hanging over Labor Day 2014 are whether and when the United States gets a pay raise. Ever since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the job market has been in a state of heartbreaking weakness. But the worst seems to be over. As Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, recently noted, monthly increases in payroll jobs have averaged 230,000 this year, up from 190,000 in 2012 and 2013. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in July from 7.3 percent a year earlier and a peak of 10 percent in October 2009.
Gains are also reflected in cheerier (or less gloomy)…

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Semil Shah wrote a good post yesterday with advice for entrepreneurs raising money. He makes a number of good points and the full post is well worth a read, but if I was to summarise it in one sentence it would be ‘impress investors with the way you execute your fundraising process’.

That means:

  • Get a quality introduction
  • Fashion your first email well
  • Have a good deck
  • Follow up quickly
  • Turn the pitch meeting into a conversation
  • Be on top of your numbers and don’t try to embellish or obfuscate – e.g. avoid cumulative graphs

Turning the pitch meeting into a conversation is worth dwelling on. Conversations are more fun for both sides than sales meetings and they give you a better chance to demonstrate your range and flexibility of thinking, and acknowledge the challenges that you will face.



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There is often no need to be reminded how small the margins for error can narrow, as in complex systems the explosion of error terms thought to be just random or unexplainable noise can be beyond catastrophic. That is the essence of chaos theory, or fractal geometry, but such observations are not limited to clinical study of mathematics or complex systems. Error is as much a part of real life as it is useful in statistics and critiques of them. Innovation, after all, is the product of error and the occurrence of “tail events”, but there is much about negative errors that can be…

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The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been amazing, both as a money raising phenomena and a case study in how quickly memes spread these days.

And so perhaps inevitably my turn came around. I was challenged over the weekend and did it on Tuesday. Watch it below.

I tweeted the video out yesterday to keep the momentum going but I wanted to put it here for posterity.

Big thanks to our Head of Design Jack Oliver for bringing his magic touch to the video.

 



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Sunday morning, the San Francisco Bay area awoke to shaking; a 6.0 magnitude earthquake, California’s strongest since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, rocked Napa and Sonoma counties. While injuries are currently just a fraction of the Loma Prieta total, initial damage estimates suggest the price tag could reach the 1989 6.9-magnitude’s $6 billion estimated cost.
The epicenter struck the heart of wine country, a region that is still sluggishly recovering from the recession. In real terms, between 2009 and 2012, wine country’s real GDP actually shrank 1.3 percent compared to 2.9 percent…

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I came across this quote at the weekend:

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.

It’s widely attributed to Gandhi and whilst this utterance doesn’t rank amongst his greatest achievements it does show remarkable vision and foresight, given that he died in 1948.

In fact, most companies still haven’t woken up to this reality today, despite the fact we’ve been living with the cliche ‘the customer is always right’ for a couple of decades now.

 



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The Financial Stability Oversight Council is rumored to be on the verge of designating MetLife as a systemically important financial institution. Through the FSOC’s bureaucratic eyes, designating MetLife may appear to be a safer course than leaving it undesignated and facing questions later if the company runs into trouble. But designation brings its own problems-problems that are likely to be ignored in the FSOC’s broken designation process.Thanks to Dodd-Frank, regulators are fully engaged in the business of picking out and propping up individual firms. Dodd-Frank gives the FSOC authority…

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Agricultural lobbies often make economists who care about the general economic wellbeing of society clutch their heads in their hands. Not only do these lobbies seek subsidies that will mainly flow to farmers who are much wealthier and have much higher incomes than the average U.S. household, but they also generally appear to pay little attention to any ancillary damage that may spillover to other sectors of the economy. In addition, many of the subsidy programs they support potentially violate U.S. commitments under international trade agreements which are helpful to consumers and other…

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I blogged recently about the difference between quantity and quality when it comes to customer research. My friend Michal Bohanes recently made the same point with a picture in his excellent post mortem on his startup Dinnr (in which I was an angel investor).

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Michal was making the point that despite all this work he didn’t ask the questions that would have revealed customers didn’t care enough about his ‘deliver all the ingredients so you can home cook a meal’ service to actually buy. Instead he asked people whether they liked the idea and because people want to be nice and are bad at predicting what they will do in the future took away a bunch of ‘false-positive’ signals.

I know I keep going on about this, but it’s an easy and incredibly damaging mistake to make. Kudos to Michal for having the confidence to tell his story.

 



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The tale of the Internal Revenue Service missing emails gets more curious day by day. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, it was revealed on Friday that the emails of Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations at the IRS, were backed up on federal government equipment and have been available to congressional investigators all along-if the administration had only chosen to produce them.Congressional committees are interested in the emails because Lerner’s office delayed granting tax-exempt status to…

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The disastrous financial crisis of 2007-2009 underlined the serious damage our economy suffers from booms and busts in the financial system. The harm from busts is obvious, with credit crunches inhibiting business investment and consumer purchases while falling asset values destroy confidence and lead to further cutbacks. As a result, serious financial busts produce severe recessions. The excesses of boom times do harm as well, mostly by setting up the inevitable bust, but also by encouraging activities that are a poor use of resources, simply because money is so cheap and readily available….

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It’s been said about legendary defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan that his analysis of potential football players most prominently took place at locker room sinks. Word is that he would watch the players shave: if they let the water run throughout then they were spoiled, and too soft. On the other hand, those who turned the sink off in between swipes had grown up familiar with scarcity, and as such, would be willing to play through pain.
Ryan’s sometimes unconventional scouting techniques came to mind amid the intensive investigations done on former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. It…

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It’s a Democratic campaign consultant’s dream: a study from two respected academic economists concluding that, since the late 1940s, the economy has consistently performed better under Democratic presidents than under Republican ones. The gap is huge. From 1949 to 2013 - a period when the White House was roughly split between parties - the economy grew at an average annual rate of 3.33 percent, but growth under Democratic presidents averaged 4.35 percent and under Republicans, 2.54 percent. Jobs, stocks and living standards all advanced faster under Democrats.
Not surprisingly, one of the…

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