Boston Dynamics has upgraded and miniaturized their dog-like bot


Tech Growth Foundations

Nir Eyal’s thoughts on building an enduring technology business (at the scale of a 10-zero valuation). I tweaked some words to humanize and expand on things:

  •  Engagement
    • People do the core thing
  • Retention
    • People stick around and the product gets better and more useful for people the more its used. The barrier to switching grows because people have more to lose the more they use the product
  • Self-Perpetuating
    • As people engage they create virtuous loops (which get other people using the product too)

Humanoid Robotics Progress


Boston Dynamics has made a lot of progress on their humanoid robotics platform. Boston Dynamics is a US military contractor.



Cowboys and Prospectors, Tradesmen and Aristocrats

Lauren Bidigare wrote:
Free college for everyone?  sounds great but will everyone get put on the same track.  I’ve heard that in Europe they test children at a young age and put them on a track and possibly even send them to different schools based on test scores.  I can bet a child growing up in a low income area might score a bit differently than a child growing up in a wealthy family with piano lessons.

I think the differences in how education works and how it’s payed for between the USA and Europe are well aligned with the differences between our cultures. European culture has a longer horizon than American culture. Commitments for many years in the future are easy for European people and organizations to take on while rapid systemic change is much easier in the USA. Individual status, responsibility, and the results of one’s own effort are important in the USA while in the EU history, culture, language, and experience are valued and prioritized. Culturally, we are “Cowboys” or prospectors here in the states, while Europeans are perhaps more like tradesmen or aristocrats.


When Jobs Get Automated

James Bessen on automating jobs that people do. Bessen makes the case that the increase in demand for goods and services that are made cheaper by automating part of their production leads to more humans doing work than before automation.



Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend Chicago is happening on February 26th! Tickets.


Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe

Interesting post on the major languages of Europe showing some of their relatedness and differences.


Amazon Warehouse Robots

Robohub has a great breakdown of the components of an older-model of one of the robots that helps operate Amazon’s warehouses.


Weather Radar

A pretty cool view of the last few hours of weather radar over the USA. The page loads zoomed in to the NorthWest, scroll around to find your region, or zoom the entire page out to see the whole country. Use cmd “-” on os x, or ctrl “-” on windows to zoom out. “-” is the minus or dash key.


‘Handwritten’ Notes Delivered

Bond has an interesting business idea: make it easy to send notes that appear handwritten to people. They are going after businesses who can increase their own customer loyalty and retention with the appearance of “taking the time to write someone a letter”.

I like how simple Bond’s website is, and how clearly it conveys their business model. You land on their page to some interrupting popovers that try to snag your email address, but under those, to a video of a machine writing a letter with a nice pen in a beautiful script. Further in their material you’ll see how they allow you to pick which kind of handwriting you want your letters to use, and how they’ll allow you to upload your own handwriting for totally custom letters.

A couple more thoughts on this:

  • I think it’s a silly and strange business idea, the concept of automating things that people do for each other and not telling one party about the automation has been around, i’ve had it once or twice for different markets.
  • It is weird. You are sending a fake letter. In a way, you are deceiving the people who receive these letters. That said, I don’t think people will actually be upset if and when they realize they are getting “hand written” letters.
  • Bond made an elegant solution with the robotic drawing of letters… likely could have gotten the same result with printers but the robots look cooler, perhaps conveys what is happening more directly, and makes people feel less like they are deceiving the recipients because of the way the letters are made. Come to think of it, there’s not much preventing Bond from actually printing the letters on a laser printer. The same kind of math that goes into having a machine ‘write’ the letters can be applied to create digital representations of the motion the machine would take, digital representations that can be printed on a normal printer.
  • Beautiful and custom products produced automatically only recently became cheap to produce. I expect to see more businesses and products taking advantage of the ability to quickly make something custom in a digital world and render it beautifully in the physical world with machines.
  • Bond has a good pitch, and they tell you how to make money from their product by sending thank you letters to important clients and business relationships.
  • If Bond stays nimble, I believe they will succeed in making a profitable business. I believe they could scale to… say.. a billion letters sent in the USA per year before the “wow a handwritten letter!” effect diminishes in recipients. The diminishing of the effect would not mean the value of a “hand written letter” would be completely gone just reduced as everyone realizes that most hand written letters in the business world are not actually hand written.