Think Bigger. Aim Higher. Go Further.

Month: July 2011

How Can Startup Fundraising be Gamified?

This was a question recently posed on the website Gamification.org.

The interesting and hugely important thing about the folks at Gamification.org is that they are trying to bridge the reality chasm between entertainment games and economic games.  This, I believe they are rapidly learning, is yet another game.

So, sure, I’ll play…

The questioner asks that the respondents keep in mind the things that matter when raising money.  These are called the initial conditions:

  • Traction
  • Team
  • Technology
  • Validation

The hypothesis is that the way start-ups raise money today is out dated, inefficient and a huge time sink for entrepreneurs. Perhaps there is away the process could be made more fun for all parties, waste less time and still demonstrate traction/team/tech and validation.

No new game here. 

These are the same initial conditions of the game that is currently failing many great entrepreneurs (ostensibly, gaming entrepreneurs).

Ask any child to create a game and they will almost always modify the initial conditions.  If a playground game of tag is mismatched, they’ll play ball tag or introduce a boundary instead.  If the ball won’t go through the hoop, they’ll change the ball or the hoop.

If you can’t win a game playing by the rules, don’t play the game or change the rules

Likewise, I believe that a great deal of the problem with start-up funding has to do with the astonishing absence of a knowledge inventory system – that is the first thing that needs to be built before we can approach a new answer to this old question.

A company like Boeing (for example) has an inventory of every rivet, panel, and wire that goes on an aircraft and they nurture that inventory with intensity. The objective is the ability to predict the likelihood that an aircraft can be built given the set of parts that exist in the inventory. The real problem is largely in predicting the likelihood that the knowledge inventory exists to turn all those rivets, wires, and panels, into serviceable aircraft.

This is not the way startup fundraising – or even the question above – is formatted.

A computer hardware engineer can look at an inventory of computer parts and tell you the specifications and/or range of devices that can be built. They can also tell you what parts they need in order to increase the probability of success and they can tell you what parts will be left over unused after the devices are created.

The analogous condition is that a fundraising effort would look at a set of knowledge assets in a community and predict what ventures can be executed successfully given the inventory.  We should also be able to determine what knowledge assets are missing which would increase the likelihood of success.

An Idiot’s Guide to Probability and Statistics

The beauty of predictability is that these new enterprises can not only be capitalized, but they can be securitized and risk may be diversified. That is, they can be gamed.  That’s the definition of money and that, I believe, is the objective of the question.

Build the knowledge inventory and all the money in the world will have no other place to go. That’s the game that we need to play right now.

Virtual Hub And Spoke System

The Hub and Spoke system is a time honored formation of commercial aviation. People accept hub and spoke as the most rational way to organize people and planes much like they accept the corporation as the best way to organize production of goods and service.

Meanwhile, social media is challenging every assumption that we hold dear to our hearts as new applications role out which steadily increase the ability for people to organize their selves.

The newest applications such as Google + show us that people are the hub and their various forms of social networks are their spokes. A person has a group for their family, one for their friends, their colleagues, their schoolmates, etc.  While G+ fatigue may wear in as people get tired of classifying their casual contacts, the real value of G+ may arise in the intentional Organization of people for social and financial efficiency.

The similarity between the airport and G+ Hub and Spoke is not a casual coincidence.  There is a very real and physical connection between the way people organize themselves in social media and the way they organize themselves in corporate production and the way their organize themselves in air transportation systems.

Suppose we make the analogy that the person in the center is the customer, the circle that they belong to is the market, and the person in the market is a client.  The analogy hold when we try to “preserve college friendships”.  College is the social market and the friend is the mutual client relationship where the currency is a social currency.

The analogy is still very young, but it is truly profound.  This way of thinking will drive a form of social organization that may rival corporations, government, and even international boundaries.  It is also no coincidence that Social Flights has been modeling this analogy for the 2 years since we first started developing our business plan.

Today, Social Flights is working on some important concepts for defining Travel Tribe Leader functions.  The objective is to duplicate the function of a “concrete” hub and spoke system denominated in dollars with a virtual hub and spoke system denominated in social currency.

Network Characteristics of Travel Tribe leaders:

  • Each Travel Tribe Leader is responsible for 10-20 city pairs from their own location.
  • Two travel tribe leaders for each city pair (one located at each point)
  • Travel Tribe Leader creates revenue by matching people and places
  • Builds tribal/shared knowledge
  • Redundant, opportunistic, and fault tolerant
  • Ideally suited for Twitter, Google + and Facebook Distribution Channels

Conclusion:  The organization of people it figuratively (with G+) and literally (with corporations) is the exact same thing.  This will become obvious when people discover the necessity to organize their selves into productive communities in the absence of corporations and government.  But why wait – we can, and we will use social media to form a new system of social organization.

Citationhttp://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2

BizDev with Cascading Info Game

Social Flights is a complicated game.  Aviation is a complicated business.  This makes Social Flights a challenging business model as much as a great opportunity for those who can figure it out how to play for keeps.

The Challenge

The challenge is to bring on as many as 5000 independent Travel Tribe leaders distributed broadly across a wide geographic area.  Their task will be to strategically build flight plans for private aircraft in their communities. Community leaders will be compensated financially for driving revenue … much is common to a traditional sales channel.

However, each of these community leaders will have already accumulated a vast set of strategic knowledge and experience that can benefit Social Flights across the system. Likewise, Social Flights needs to bring each of them up the ladder of domain specific knowledge in the aviation business.

For compensation, Social Flights offers a tiered affiliate program that pays out various levels of commissions on flights booked according to the affiliate’s tier.  One concern is that this strategy may not create an incentive to share information broadly if one is protecting their own tier standing or their own order of influence.

Cascading Information

Another approach would be to use a cascading information system.  This is a gamification theory that suggests: information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during a game narrative.

Initially, information would be released by social flights in our initial training program.  Later, other players of the game can release information to each other in specific packets defined by the flight scenario.  Such packets of information can be rewarded with other packets of information – or access to more scenarios. The Cascading information theory promotes loyalty, engagement, influence, and time involved in the game of building flight plans.

Gaming the game:

From the onset, Social Flights encourages gaming the game.  This means that we expect to learn a great deal about our business by watching other people play it.  There are far too many scenarios and permutations of business strategies for us to predict how and where they would apply.  All we can do is specify a baseline game scenario form and watch the ways the game is gamed.

In a sense, Social Flights would also be subject to the Cascading Information Theory, thus demonstrating how a corporation would enhance their own engagement, loyalty, influence, and time-quality in the communities where they operate.   

(reference: Gamification.org – wiki; Cascading Information Theory)

The Raw Material of Social Org Games

Fibonacci Trust Curve

Trust Scarcity?

This article is a loose argument related to trust scarcity in social organization games.  Rewarding trust in a social game is a difficult thing to do unless certain agreements and institutions are in place.

The Social Value Game

Social Flights will be introducing some game mechanics to provide incentive for people to interact with each other to form  specific flight plans  This will also include vendors and operators who would support their travel intentions with goods and services.

We want to dis-aggregate the incentives from a specific flight; in other words, a player does not necessarily have to be on the flight in order to receive a benefit from organizing it.

As the game develops, all players will simply keep an eye out for travel opportunities for trusted others in their social media experience.  By helping their social circles to find travel opportunities, they will receive rewards which they can use when their own “perfect flight” begins to form.

Technology is not yet here, but getting close…

I would like to think that the technology has arrived which will allow people to form flights in social media, unfortunately, this is not the case.  The problem is that big data has become big business.  Social media platforms are funded with Data Dollars – that is, organizations who capture, combine, sell, or otherwise exploit personal data and trends in exchange for money.

Spiral of trust

When a person states their intention to fly to a distant place, this creates immensely valuable data.  Such information is highly specific and even quite intimate because people share their hopes, dreams, and aspirations when they meet, travel, learn together. For this reason, Social Flights game data will be scarce, remain private, anonymized, or normalized so that it can remain in play indefinitely.  There needs to be a great deal of trust in that network and, in fact, a disincentive to casting a broad public net.

Trust as Raw Material: 

  • Social Flights has an internal social network that allows people to communicate anonymously
  • Travel Tribe Leaders are trusted members in a community who operates with trust, integrity, and respect
  • Game mechanics can dis-aggregate intentions from specific flights
  • Game data will normalize outcomes into “probabilities” that mask mask social data as numerical data for future games
  • New Social Media applications allow users to form travel circles of trusted persons with whom they are willing to share flight plan intentions
It is fairly easy to see that no single social network device will serve every requirement of a social economy – nor should their be. Instead, the integration of several devices which identify, create, and deploy trust as the raw material, will allow people to go wherever they want to go and build whatever they want to build together.

The Game and The Counter-Game

The term “Gamification” is pretty cool, except that it is meaningless.  Anyone who has ever worked a day in his or her life knows that the World is already gamed.  Anyone who follows politics and world events sees the game playing out constantly.  Everyone, including the winners, know that the game is stacked.  The last thing anyone needs is another game layer.

If you are like the majority of people on Earth, you are given a game that you can’t win playing by the rules.  If you are like the majority of people on Earth, you would do anything for a chance to play a game that you CAN win.  Imagine the value of an IPO for a gaming company with that prospectus.

What is a Counter Game?

Wikileaks – love them or hate them – is a Counter Game because they turned the lights on a game that was being played in the dark.  Bloggers play a Counter Game because media was editorialized by powerful interests.  Twitter is a Counter Game because it drives the narrative instead of being driven by it. In fact, any place where there is a broker – someone or something that benefits from you NOT having complete information – is an opportunity to introduce a Counter Game.

An astonishing array of Counter Games is forming in social media and the brokers are falling out of the sky like hailstones.  Power brokers, mortgage brokers, energy brokers, media brokers, even Google is gamed by Counter Gamers.  The better they get at hiding information; the better the Counter Gamers gets at rooting it out.  The harder they try to control a message, the better the Counter Gamers gets at disclosing the truth behind the message.

The game creates the Counter Game.

Likewise, to kill the game is to kill the Counter Game. As such, the only way to kill the counter-game is to kill the game. Think about that for a bit…Do we really want to do that?

The Holy Grail of the Counter Game is the global monetary system. Money is supposed to represent human productivity; otherwise people would not go to work to make things that everyone else needs.  The Game has caused Money to become increasingly divorced from actual productivity.  People who produce the most value are exploited while those who produce the least are most grandly rewarded.  The Game is stacked with money.

The Holy Grail of The Counter Game is to replace monetary currency with a True Value Currency.

The financial system stands on 5 pillars: currency, inventory, vetting institutions, entrepreneurs, and value arbitrage. All of these are slowly being replicated, mimicked, or duplicated in Social Media.  When the 5 pillars integrate in social media systems, a new currency will emerge.  People will use it to store and exchange the value that they create through their work. It will be a no-brainer

The Value Game

The Value Game is outlined in this short video using the now proverbial “Corporate Jet” as the turning point in the global economic paradigm.  The Value Game does not kill the Financial Game, rather, it challenges, corrects, and improves it.  The Value game has reached a critical milestone – it has been funded in dollars by investors.

This is not insignificant.

Why This Bubble Is Completely Different

I had a discussion with one of my partners that we need 2.5 million users and Social Flights will manage itself.  The partner said, “You mean 2.5 million dollars”.

No, I said, “I need 2.5 million users”.

The partner said tersely, “No, I really think that you need dollars.”

Again, I replied, “I need users…. “

This went on for a while until we both got it: The value of Social Flights is contained within the users, not within the dollars. After that, the conversation could progress in a meaningful way, priorities found their place, and the teams found their roles – including the investors.

Nothing economic can happen until people get together to build something

Financial analysts are aghast at the magnificent valuations that social media applications are delivering; P/E ratios of 1000, valuations of 100 dollars per member, billions of dollars per billion time hours in game play – these are not the ratios that they teach in B-school.  Is this crazy or does it make perfect sense?

The Great Rapture

While highly unlikely, suppose the Almighty Father called upon all good and pious dollars to ascend unto heaven in a glorious rapture of currency – on a single day, all money disappears from the face of the Earth.  What would be left?  What happens next?

At least for a little while, I’ll still be sitting in this café typing a blog post.  The value of the education and social network of the person who I will be meeting for lunch will still be intact.  The value of the roads, bridges, schools, and highways would remain intact.  The value to teachers, firefighters, and doctors will remain.  The sun will shine and gravity will continue to act on matter.  The money may go, but a LOT of value remains.

No Such Thing As Free Lunch

Of course, things will quickly devolve when I tell the café owner that I can’t pay for lunch because my money has been raptured. Of course that would seem like a relatively minor problem given the fact that their money has been raptured too.  In fact, so has their supplier’s money, and their Bank’s money.  Obviously, there can’t be a bail out because the government has no money either.

Each of us would probably stare at each other for a few minutes until somebody asks the other, “well, then, what do you have that I can use?”  Once that conversation is exhausted, we’ll move on to  “Who do you know that has something that I can use?” Etc.

The mother of all hedge funds

If this were a game, the person that knows lots of people who do useful things would stand a greater chance of being served lunch than someone who is isolated and disliked – no matter how much money they once had before the rapture.  Likewise, if you have a lot of money, what “Bank” would you put it in?  What “Stock” would you buy?

This bubble is different.

It may be that the dollar is in a bubble and the true value of our economy is stored and exchanged in communities of people enabled by social media.  Those magnificent valuations in social media companies may actually reflect true value and act like a huge hedge fund on currency in the absence of any other plausible financial instrument.

As our noble politicians continue to play their game of chicken with the productivity of honest, educated, and productive Americans, they fail to see the polarity shifting away from money and into “true value”.

The value is in the people, not in the dollars. now we can have a different conversation about how to manage ourselves.

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