Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Peer to Peer Lending

Here's a great audio of what's happening in peer to peer lending from NPR this morning:

Morning Edition, November 4, 2008 · Borrowers hurt by the credit squeeze and investors looking to boost their returns are increasingly turning to the same place: peer-to-peer lending. The loans can be quicker than going through a bank — and offer rates of return that can beat those of government bonds.

Companies such as Lending Club and Prosper Marketplace match individuals who want to borrow money with those who have money to lend. The process happens online, without a trip to a traditional bank.

One look at Prosper.com gives you an idea of this marketplace with 830,000 members and $178,000,000 loaned. In the current economic times with tight credit I'd expect peer to peer lending to explode.

Monday, November 3, 2008


(here's a good article by Joshua-Michele Ross
from O'Reilly Radar)

Many of the precepts that began with Open Source (collaboration, shared IP, crowdsourcing etc.) are migrating from software development into a series of ever more surprising disciplines. Today old-school institutions like Proctor and Gamble go outside of their own R&D teams to innovate new products while Best Buy opens APIs to allow outside developers to build on their catalog data.

Now here comes “Wikitecture” applying these precepts to the very complex process of designing buildings. I want to dig into some of the details of Wikitecture and summarize what I think it has to teach us about collaboration.

My friend Jon Brouchoud is the co-founder of Studio Wikitecture, a group dedicated to bringing collaboration into the architectural process. He and Ryan Schultz have been pioneering "Wikitecture" for the past two years using Second Life as a proving ground.

Recently Studio Wikitecture won Architecture for Humanity’s Founders Award for their submission; a health facility in Nepal. There were over 500 entrants to the contest. Many of Studio Wikitecture’s contributors (roughly 40) were not architects but each brought specific, local knowledge that benefitted the project. A few examples:

  • Adobe and gabion wall construction was suggested as among the most viable design material given the exact (and remote) location and the ability to utilize local labor. Other materials would not only cost more but could even be prohibitive in terms of shipping into the area.
  • In Nepal an odd number of steps is considered inauspicious so all stair plans were designed for even numbers.

Jon told me that Wikitecture achieved a level of depth and detail in research that would be extraordinarily difficult and time consuming for one firm to manage alone. This gets to the first benefit of Wikitecture; it brings local knowledge into the design process. This video shows the building process:

As for how Wikitecture handles the more subjective task of reaching consensus on designs, Jon and Ryan developed a tool they call the "Wiki Tree," a 3D version control and voting system that uses a tree metaphor. As designers create submissions they are displayed as a new leaf on the tree that is then made available to the rest of the community to review. Positive votes on that design "green" the leaf, votes against the design turn the leaf red. Red leaves eventually fall off the tree as the tree prunes itself over time, leaving only the more popular design ideas as options for further development. The result is a visual display of design builds, enabling participants to assess, vote, comment and contribute toward the project's design evolution. This gets to the second benefit of Wikitecture; it uses a structured process to ensure quality collaboration.
This video highlights some aspects of the Wiki Tree functionality:

Many businesses are wrestling with the notion of “collaboration” and its possible benefits. Wikitecture reinforces some important points:
  • Nothing is off limits: Collaboration can successfully occur in the production of almost anything (if architects can do it anyone can…).
  • Diversity adds value: The more people from differing backgrounds the better the information pool to draw from.
  • Structure drives behavior: Collaboration benefits from a clear structure to facilitate results. The wiki tree works in much the same way that Wikipedia does in setting specific rules up front that drive a successful outcome and allow many people to contribute harmoniously.

Wikitecture is first sophisticated tool I have seen in 3D where programmed logic provides a clear structure to facilitate collaboration. Are there other radical examples of collaboration taking place that we should be looking at?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Power of Disintermediation

Starting my career in the magazine industry, I'm a bit shocked by the fall of so many magazines recently. Chris Anderson gives some context to the shift.

Revisiting the Cluetrain

Cluetrain Review
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: web 2.0 cluetrain)

Ten years later it's amazing how right Locke, Levine, Searls and Weinberger were when they penned the Cluetrain Manifesto.

Tough Times Call for More Innovation

It seems counter-intuitive to be more innovative when the economy shows signs of trouble. Yet, over half of the 2008 Inc. 500 companies had one thing in common. They all started in the few months following 9/11. People decided to forget about the uncertainty that the events of that day caused and go start something. Creative people forget about the uncertainty and focus on innovation. When the macro environment changes radically, as it is today, it’s easy to get gripped with fear and focus on efficiency. But, efficiency is for accountants and not for leaders and innovators.

The worst thing to do is to get locked up by fear and go into hibernation. If you pull in your horns waiting for things to get better they won’t. They’re going to get better but only for those companies who can but fear out of their mind and move forward aggressively.

Disruptive times create opportunities for companies. In the 1970’s both Microsoft and Apple were founded in the middle of an economically turbulent time. Likewise, Palm transformed an entire industry by shifting from being a software company to a hardware company. They invented a whole new industry in the middle of a recession.

Monday, January 2, 2006

Create An Innovative Environment

When I think about creating an innovative environment one name always comes to mind, Mark Parker. I’ve known Mark, President of Nike Brand, for a long time, and have always marveled at the diversity of his knowledge.

He is a true renaissance man who feels equally comfortable cruising the streets of Tokyo, checking out the underground art scene or working with professional athletes to divine the future of a sport. What impresses me most, however, is his ability to identify and support other creative and innovative people. He really has a sixth sense when it comes to innovation.

Many companies struggling with sporadic innovation have great people who know how to innovate, yet suffer from a lack of support from senior management in making innovation a priority. Mark’s ideas regarding learning from failure, reducing bureaucracy, encouraging communication, and not getting stuck using only one method are all important in an effort to support the co-creation of innovation.

Such a management style is critical for the success of any innovative company in today’s uncertain business and cultural environment. Too often, annual reports profess the concept that upper management supports innovation, yet those trying to actually innovate are so weighed down by the bureaucracy of counting and tracking that they have no time to co-create new products and services.

Companies that consistently innovate, like Nike, not only talk the innovation talk – they also walk the walk. To innovate today, businesses need to have a deep personal knowledge of their product, market, and customers, combined with ongoing support and the belief in an organic innovation practice.

What does your company do to support innovation?

(From Spark: Be More Innovative Through Co-creation)