Author Archive for fleetjm1

What’s Bitcoin and who’s Satoshi Nakamoto?

Satoshi Nakamoto is the creator of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency currently in a frenzy because of valuation surpassing $16,000/BTC. Interestingly enough, Nakamoto is not actually a real person but a pen name. My guess is he’s a millennial.

Nakamoto created the currency in 2008 as an experiment. He created an internet protocol that could facilitate peer to peer transactions. Bitcoin is popular because it’s open source and decentralized. Anyone can own a Bitcoin and there is no government controlling it like the US Dollar. The blockchain makes it all possible. It’s a decentralized list that records every transaction ever made. Bitcoin basically makes the traditional ledger, found in a bank, public knowledge. If you want to spend Bitcoin, it can be sent to anyone on the network. These are where “miners” come into play. Sending Bitcoin requires solving a complex mathematical equation and the miners are the ones who process those transactions. This technology has the potential to open huge avenues for innovation. It solves one of the key problems to making transactions which is trust. Bitcoin takes the human element of trust and converts it into a mathematical formula. This technology is the first of its kind and I predict huge growth in the future.

Liquid Offices provided by WeWork

WeWork is an office space rental company that gives individuals, freelancers and corporations the ability to rent out shared office space. Its popularity has grown especially with young entrepreneurs because it provides a cheap and flexible working space where users can build community, exchange ideas, and collaborate. This idea is great for millennials because the offices are open 24-7 which is perfect for those who need flexible schedules. Along with providing a workspace, WeWork gives access to basic office needs like internet access, conference rooms, and coffee. This idea is perfect for small companies that have few resources.

A big problem that young entrepreneurs face today is finding access to a liquid network. In my experience, one of the roadblocks to starting my own business would be having access to a productive workspace. I could use my parent’s basement but it would be difficult to exchange ideas because of the lack of social interaction. However, WeWork would solve this problem by providing an office as well as provide the people necessary to grow my idea.

Machinio-One stop shopping for used machinery

Friends Dan Pinto and Dmitriy Rokhfeld go way back. The two met in middle school playing video games and eventually became co-founders of the company—an online search engine where you can buy and sell used industrial equipment. They recognized a gap in the marketplace when Pinto was looking for a used printing press in 2012. He realized that there was no easy-to-use search engine that specialized in used equipment. There was kayak for hotels and indeed for jobs so he created Machinio for machinery.

This new search engine has revolutionized the way people buy and sell used machinery. It is the fastest growing global search engine in its category with 550,000 buyers from more than 190 countries. The service has opened new markets in all parts of the world that were previously unavailable. They have raised $4 million dollars from a number of investors and opened their second office in early 2017. Their solution saves users time by making it easy to buy and sell used equipment while putting all its users on an equal playing field. Their story showcases an important lesson. Learn to look for gaps in the marketplace that already come from good ideas.

Warby Parker: Making Glasses Cheap Again

Warby Parker has reimagined the eyewear industry as the first company to introduce affordable eyewear that can be purchased online. The company offers prescription eyeglasses for a flat $95 and has a number of stylish options. Customers can order a number of different eyeglasses, try them on at home, and return the pairs that they do not want. The idea started with a simple question. Why are glasses not sold online? Founder, Neil Blumenthal asked that question so he recruited three friends and Warby Parker was born. However, the company ran into problems early on. Forty-eight hours after the website had launched, it had to be taken down because they received so many orders. The website did not indicate when a product sold out which led to a 20,000 person wait list. Eventually, they sorted out their website issues and are currently making waves in the industry.

This company peaked my interest because of Warby Parker’s ability to recognized gaps in the marketplace. Currently, Luxottica has a near monopoly in the eyeglasses industry. While Luxottica controls the brick-and-mortar sales, they do not address the online market. Neil Blumenthal saw that gap in the market and was able to capitalize on it. However, the problem he solved wasn’t complicated, it was simple. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest.


If you don’t understand something, Khan Academy has got you covered


Sal Khan is what you would call the perfect student. He was valedictorian at his high school, attended MIT, and became class president his senior year. He later attended Harvard Business School where he earned his MBA. His current endeavor, Khan Academy, is where he gained his fame. It started when he began tutoring his cousin in math using internet videos. He decided to post those videos on YouTube so others could use them. His videos became popular enough to the point that he quit his job to develop Khan Academy.

Today Khan Academy has exploded in popularity. What started out as one man, has grown into a 150-person organization with videos including basic algebra, advanced physics, and even personal finance. Their mission is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. They recognized a problem with the current educational system. Students who were having trouble learning content quickly were getting left behind. Khan bridged that gap through his videos. They are well organized and easy to follow. If a student is struggling in a tough subject like math, rather than giving up, they can go to Khan Academy (for free) and it will provide them with the extra help they need.

Khan not only tutors struggling students, but also has a revolutionary idea about how to improve education. During a Ted Talk, he floated a fairly controversial idea, which is having an educational system complete that requires subject mastery. I remember when I first heard about subject mastery, immediately the Keystones came to mind. For those unfamiliar, the Keystones are a series of standardized tests in English, Math, and Science that every high school student in Pennsylvania needs to pass in order to graduate high school. Educators flipped out claiming it would be impossible for every student to master those tests. Why? Because the current education system is flawed. Right now, students are tested but when student 1 receives a 95% and student 2 receives a 75%, the teachers move on and leave the knowledge gaps unfilled. Khan argues that if students do not master the fundamentals of math and science, it creates problems when they move on to tougher concepts. Consequently, students without strong fundamental math skills are more likely to switch out of harder level math, engineering, and science courses.

But with technology, every student mastering a subject is possible. Computers and videos can allow a student to work at their own pace and take as much time as they need until they master the concept. To those who say it can’t be done, consider this. It was once thought that 100% literacy was impossible, but we live in a society today where nearly 100% of the population is literate. Complete mastery of a subject for every student is possible, only you need to realize that it takes some longer for some than others.

From Cereal to Success: How Airbnb Became Normal

In the late 2000’s, Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia moved to San Francisco with no friends, no money and no idea on what they were going to do. These former art students had just graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and decided to take the plunge and become entrepreneurs. Originally, they had no interest in the hospitality business but they needed a way to pay their expensive rent. Realizing that all the hotels in their area were booked when a design conference came to town, they opened up their apartment as a place to crash. For only $80, a guest would receive a room complete with an air mattress and breakfast. Airbnb was born!

This success story was painful in the beginning. The company tried to launch at the SXSW festival, a design conference in Texas, but they received only two customers. Even worse, the feedback they received about their idea was brutal. The first comment ever posted to their website suggested that “The whole thing will come crashing down” and “the kind of people that rob, abuse, rape, and murder will start using these systems.” However, that did not deter them so they tried again when the DNC came to Denver. This time was different, but not because they had more customers. In fact, the company was deeply in debt, could not secure investors, and needed cash badly. With Senator Barack Obama growing in popularity at the time, the team had a crazy idea. They redesigned a classic box of Cheerios into a satirical recreation called Obama O’s and sold them on the street. They made them limited edition, only 500 were produced, so they could charge $40 each. They sold out and the haul of cash paid off their credit card debt, but more importantly, it made a venture capitalist take notice.

Y Combinator, founded by Paul Graham, is a company that helps make start-ups a reality in exchange for an equity stake in the company. In early 2009, Chesky and Gebbia are out of options. They decided to apply to the program last minute. Miraculously, they passed the difficult selection process and were granted an interview. Graham sat them down in front of a panel and asked a series of rapid-fire questions in a ten-minute interview. For the Airbnb team, the interview did not go well. Graham’s comment, “People are actually doing this? Why? What’s wrong with them?” (Gallagher) reasoned that people must crazy to sleep on a stranger’s air mattress. Before they left the interview, Gebbia handed a box of Obama O’s to Graham as a thank you gift. Confused, Gebbia explained the story behind how they funded the company through selling Obama O’s. Later that day they received a phone call saying they had been accepted into the program. Graham later told them, “If you can convince people to pay $40 for a $4 box of cereal, you can probably convince people to sleep on other people’s air beds.”

What inspires me with their company is that they made sleeping in strangers’ houses normal. They flipped an entire industry upside down and made headlines. They could have given up but they didn’t. Much can be learned from studying their success. The process they used was simple. They saw a problem and came up with a solution. They were able to find a way to increase convenience while reducing costs of hotel rooms. Combined with a passion for what they were doing and Airbnb had a recipe for success.