Calling time on stupid brokerage ideas….. #startups

With the advent of the smartphone we entered the realm of “disrupting” services. For some it worked, Betfair (even without a phone), disrupted how betting was done and opened up a brokerage platform. AirBnb brokers bits of people’s houses with a half decent standard.


It’s Free Money!

Neither a buyer or seller be, become a broker and take your fee“, the saying goes. In an ideal world everything would be digital including the buyer and the seller and transactions would flow and you would take your cash. The more transactions then the more revenue.

Commonly though there’s a huge showstopper that gets in the way of all this, humans. When humans are the end purchaser and the supplier this is actually when problems occur and when you are brokering real world goods or services you WILL run in to problems.

I don’t care if you’re brokering graphic design services, or even sandwiches if you can’t secure the loop then you will go out of business. It’s all to easy for tech startup to think that they can disrupt any market with a phone, the reality is you can’t.

  • The graphic design brokerage needs to shield the designer from the purchasers, that’s basically sub contracted recruitment.
  • The sandwich app if not delivering hasn’t closed the loop, you make me connect with the retailer which begs the question, “why am I using this when I can just roll up to the shop anyway?”. Deliver me the sandwich, save me time, I’d probably pay the broker a bit more for the hassle it’s saved.

Close the Loop

The reality is pretty simple, if you can’t close the loop then there’s no point bothering. If you can close the loop then carry on and I look forward to seeing your exit in the tech press. Human nature dictates that people will use your service once, if they can find a way to buck the system then they will. If the emphasis is to use your brokering service again and again then you’re already in trouble unless you can close the loop.

Case in point, my first startup was auctioning off leases for commercial aviation. There were two elements that I hadn’t taken in to consideration at the time. Firstly, I was up against an old boys network, everything done by phone with favours of nice presents in the post. Secondly I never realised how much these people would not want to pay an even modest fee.

  • So, owner lists his Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), a lovely 30 seater Boeing 737-400 with everything looking nicer on the inside than Ryanair could muster. Looking to lease at $150,000 a month on a 12 month term. At 1% I should make $18,000 on one transaction.
  • My system sends out alerts to interested users, even Boeing themselves phone me up interested in the site, let alone there aeroplane.
  • An interested party looks, likes and then makes contact.
  • Both parties have to meet…. this is the failure point of the online system. Once the parties meet I can be cut out of the loop.
  • And I was…. the site got no project update responses. Inspection reports and so on, I was out of the game and $18,000 lost on the deal.

Why? Well it was simple, the handshake was done without me being present. I did the introduction for free and the deal was done. Not a thank you, not a bottle of wine, nothing.

I learned a lot that day.

Even with lessors and owners loving the service, some editorial press exposure with the main trade aviation publications and supporters within the industry, without the loop being closed it was open to abuse and as a result the service would lose revenue. The only way to combat it is to be the sole broker, getting the exclusive mandate to sell/acquire an aircraft, getting that mandate is an art in itself. The key, regardless of the object is exclusivity, if no one else can operate without you then you’re winning.

Most online services don’t have that luxury.

So, Calling Time on Daft Brokerage Services

The notion of “putting user [a] with business [b]” is a pull on the founders heartstrings, theoretically easy revenue and with lots of social data (remember, it’s not yours) near unlimited potential of sectors and so on. Most fail on the basic concepts, once your service is out of the loop then why the need to use you again?

Perhaps question one is, “how do I make this 100% water tight?”


Northern Ireland’s Tech CoFo Conundrum (#Startups)

Over the last year I’ve witnessed a pattern emerging and it’s one that’s deepening. While the province isn’t lacking in programming talent it is lacking good technical co-founder material and this is making things difficult for the small one person startup.

The Story So Far

I think part of the problem is a thin layered confirmation bias over thinking that a startup is a sure thing just because it’s got proof of concept money. PoC removes risk (yay!) but it also makes you believe that you’re on to something when more than likely you’re not (boooo!).


Traditionally the idea was simple, anywhere else in the world I know it sort of works like this…..

  • Wake up with a great idea.
  • Phone up your mate who’s a great programmer, ply them with booze and convince them to code your idea, an alcohol induced proof of concept.
  • Once their hangover has worn off show them what they did and then announce that if it does something then they are the tech co founder.
  • At that point start looking for money to build a team, refine the rough edges and then go for growth.

Northern Ireland is unique, as far as I’m aware, that the amount of public money that can be thrown at the wall to see what sticks. There are some moments of goodness and there are some great startups, do not get me wrong, but recently I’ve had a number of startups approach me as they were desperate for a technical cofounder because “it’s all about the team”.

“Go talk to Jase….”

Do not get me wrong, I want this to continue as I do enjoy talking to new companies and looking at their rocky road ahead. I may even chip in and slaughter their business model, usually for the better and free of charge (I must change that somehow).

These “companies” usually arrive by way of a phone call and the strange thing is I’m immediately interviewed for a position I have no interest in, the only way to sway that interest is to sell me the product idea. Over time I’ve become more blunt (like I could actually get any more blunter!) but the fact remains.

The ideas are out there but the execution is normally weak, hence I’m getting the phone call. The usual route of getting some grant money and building something is fine but let me assure you that the design/web/codehouse you use isn’t there to be your tech co founder, it’s there to deliver a quick turnaround service to build what you ask and paid for with public money.

At this point there’s a fork in the road and it’s a pretty painful one. You can’t progress any further raising money as conditions of a deal is based on “the team” and this usually comprises of you as CEO, a CTO and a COO. So the quest to find a tech co founder starts.

This, dear reader, is where the problem really starts…..

Good coders know where the money is. And it’s usually tied up with FDI’d companies who’ve come in from overseas. And with their big wedge of cash can lure developers in to their den to play “improve the product” and “by the way we’ve got a pool table and blow football”. With that in mind what will it take to get someone from the den in to your den? Sometimes it’s the challenge, more than likely it’s the money.

To quote Bobbi Fleckman, “money talks and bullsh*t walks”.


Most folks that even fit the bill as a tech co-founder are usually married with family, paying a mortgage/rent and all the other bills is less likely to jump to your startup and increase risk to their family. It’s just not the done thing. And looking at your runway they know already you’ll be needing to raise more money or the doors will close in 6 six months tops. You, dear founder, are just not worth the stress.

Instantly university spin outs now seem a better proposition for a funding body, the team is already there because the product has been build as some form of project, there’s comfort blanket of education and the work has been done, some great things have come out of these spin outs. What didn’t come out was a begging of technical advice, it was already there to a degree, some better than others. It’s only later down the line when the product begins creaking at the sides do questions get asked.

The Mexican Standoff of Tech Investment

The question to ask yourself is, “what’s the one thing that will convince someone to move?”. And guess what, don’t be offended but it’s not your opening line of “We’re gonna be the Uber of [insert domain here]“. If you took PoC money then the position you are in is currently along the lines of:

  • You need a tech co-founder to satisfy getting product built or pleasing the funding body you have “the team”.
  • Potential tech co-founder won’t move until the money is there (ps: Good tech co-founders are expensive)
  • Funding body won’t move unless the tech co-founder is “all in”.


Put bluntly it’s a big stand off. The startup founder (“Hey, I’m the ideas guy/gal!”) goes tail wagging desperately looking for a tech co founder, someone who can look at the holistic view of the startup, the long term, code the iOS app, the Android app and the back end, the reporting…. those unicorns don’t come cheap, circa £75,000 p/a if you want a quality tech co-founder, someone who will be “all in”.  Your short runaway will become a lot shorter, that £300k seed you need to get going is basically mandatory.

If You Wanna Play You Gotta Pay

Dear founder, pause and think for a moment. Out of all the startups that you know that founded in NI, think about those that sold for 10x valuation. It’s not many, so your “lure” of early stock is usually weak at this point and the only thing you can offer is some security in the short to medium term. The “gotta be in it to win it” lottery mentally is just like the National Lottery itself, the odds are slim. It’s not impossible and I’ve talked about the percentages many times before.

The ideal way to play the startup game is to know a tech guy who can code up the basics way before you go looking for cash or grant money. Or at least say that [insert name of amazing tech guy] is advising you. (And yes I do offer CTO as a Service) but what I can’t do is be “all in”.

If you have a tech co-founder who’s on the ball, knows their stuff and believes in the product then do everything you can to keep hold of them. The lure to jump is great because there are some good ideas out there (there are some utter donkey’s as well), the startup lifecycle is short at this stage so it has to be worthwhile for everyone in the team. No one ever subscribes to all-in, 24/7-phone-me-at-2am unless there’s a good payoff.



The Hortonworks IPO, not adding up for me. #BigData #Hadoop


There’s Money In Those Elephants….

I have to admit I got a little excited when I saw a small piece on the newsletter about Hortonworks filing for an IPO. Are we to see a Hadoop company push themselves into the big wide world, finally a time for elephant wings to be unclipped and set free in the enterprise loving stock trading folk?

For me though something didn’t sit right, looking to raise $100m via an IPO doesn’t seem enough. Why? Well look at the competition around you. The likes of Cloudera already have raised $1.2bn over seven rounds compared to Hortonworks  $258m in five rounds.

At present Hortonworks operates on a loss, this surprised me a little (well a lot) with the first nine months of 2014 with revenues of £33m and an operating loss of nearly $88m. With over 250 customers the company are looking at some long term goals to become a $1bn company into 2017/18.

At first I was surprised at such an operating loss. When you think about it though Hortonworks are still in product development mode with a lot of engineering working on the bespoke components of their ecosystem. That’s probably where the money is being spent.

According to Mattermark with an annual burn of $120m in the previous year and $42m cash at present, there’s an urgency to raising some money.

BigData is Long Play

If you look at the major Hadoop distribution vendors out there at the moment: Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR and EMC, they all have similar features.

  • Their offering is based on an open source stack (Apache Hadoop) with modifications or feature enhancements.
  • The business model is akin to the old RedHat model, selling on support. Download for free but if you want training and help then you’ll have to pay for it.
  • The addressable market for large scale customers is i) average and ii) easily transferable between vendors.

We’re still in the early days of Hadoop and BigData in the everyday lexicon of enterprise software. Right now we’re in the opening acts of the show, still ironing out the toolset, “yes we will need to figure out how to SQL transactions over the cluster as that’s what our customers are used to”.

And when we say “Hadoop” what we really mean is:

  • Hadoop and YARN
  • Hive
  • Impala/Drill/
  • HBase
  • Kafka/Flume/Storm

Plus a continuing list of technologies that are handy to know to get a solution in place. A steep earning curve (I’ve been using Hadoop for three years now and I’m quite cool with it all) means that there’s an opportunity for support and consultancy.

The big customers will always go to the big boys. There’s an opportunity for the mid tier but I’m not going to talk about that.

Hortonworks! $100m! Really!

Vendor support is going to be a long play at least 5 years but more than likely into 10 years. So $100m isn’t going to be much of a runway. I firmly believe they need to capitalise on their “we run on Windows” (Microsoft is a big customer) play a lot harder and if possible have another serious Intel-like amount investor so Hortonworks have the means to stand shoulder to shoulder to the likes of Cloudera (Let’s be honest $1.2bn is a lot of bacon and data is the new bacon).

Perhaps Yahoo! could return to the fold, Marissa is always on the lookout for great companies to put money into. And with all that data from Yahoo! News crunching from Summly and cat pictures from Tumblr, well Hadoop processing is going to fit in real nice. Let’s not forget that Hortonworks was a Yahoo! spin out from 2011.

Marissa, company shopping, yesterday.

Marissa, startup shopping, yesterday.

Do You Need A Vendor?

When you are dealing with an open source technology the question will always remain, “why do I need to pay you when I can get it for free?”. Now some companies like the comfort blanket of paying for support. It’s there and we access it any anytime.

With Hadoop there’s engineering effort involved. And for the larger companies they have the money and the ability to invest in their own engineering effort and not rely on the consultancy and support from the big vendors. If a large company decides to partner with a vendor it’s either down to technical gap filling or PR opportunity.

So…. Finally

Back to the main topic of this post, Hortonworks. Will they be a $1bn company by 2018? I’m not so sure, this is a long play and I wouldn’t expect to see the fruits of investor labour making Hortonworks into a $1bn company until 2020/21. But I’m prepared to be wrong. If I had all the data I’d spin up a Hadoop cluster and know for sure :)

The #customer honestly doesn’t care how it works, as long as it does.

Buyer and seller looking under the bonnet of Vauxhall in Denmark in the 1950's

Let’s be honest, as web designers, solutions architects or whatever title you want to use, when a customer comes knocking for a piece of software they don’t ask what it will be coded in. Doing this BigData thing has made me realise more and more that there’s a serious oversell on the technology and not the actual requirement in hand.

I’m usually cynical when a prospect comes to me saying, “We have to do Hadoop!”. It’s usually the first sign that they’ve been reading the usual articles telling them how much a technology is going to change their business. “Having to do Hadoop” is usually the fourth or fifth question along the chain and it’s my job to make sure we get back to the first question, “What is the problem you are trying to solve?”.

Sometimes our choices are bound by necessity, I couldn’t see the likes of Learning Pool or Synergy eLearning getting off the ground quickly without Moodle, so straight away you’re bound to using PHP as a language solution as that’s what Moodle is written in. There’s no long arguments or deep discussions there.

In prospective clients we need them to have a clear understanding of their business, at a point before a solution is delivered, when the solution is delivered and the expectations once the solution is delivered. So for a “BigData” project (I’m under no illusion, most BigData projects aren’t that big) it’s a very clear definition of a business problem or question “We’re trying to find out X from data Y” or “We can’t scale this current solution, can you help?”.

Most clients I know don’t care what’s under the bonnet, it only becomes an issue when hiring talent, especially developers. Developers are a finite resource and with all the programmes to get developers interested (no bad thing, do not get me wrong) the problem is a now problem not a three years from now problem.

If a developer starts waving their arms in the air say it *has* to be done in (Go, PHP, Python, Java, Ruby…., Lisp I could go on), the fact of the matter is that there’s two states when this statement is trotted out, firstly it’s probably to do with the language that person is most comfortable with, the second (and more dangerous approach) is that’s the new language that the developer is desperate to learn and they’re willing to use you as the test project (it will take longer and you’ll hit more issues along the way).

I help tech companies figure out the best way to go, it’s my job and one I love doing. Most things can be answered in a fairly straightforward way too, it does though revolve around a simple, “what are you trying to achieve”, a simple and rational question to ask.

Everything else is under the bonnet and most times the client won’t be that bothered what it is, as long as it does the job it was commissioned to do.


Finding potential #Ebola destinations with #OpenData

Air travel makes it easy for any one of us to hop from country to country, for most of the time that’s fine. When the H1N1 flu virus started to spread though it wasn’t much of a surprise how the far and wide reach of reports was caused by, travel. With data being readily available it was easy to see how it was moving, a good example of this was the “Just Landed In” post which used Twitter data, Metacarta and Processing to visualise the movements (


The Ebola virus has the potential to cause an awful lot of problems. So the question is where are the first connection points?

Gathering Route Data

The actual query to find out what flights goes where it easy enough and I’ll show you that in a moment. First though we need data, mainly airports, airlines and routes.

OpenFlights has all this data to hand in CSV format.

Airports: airports.dat

Airlines: airlines.dat

Routes: routes.dat

As they are CSV files they can be imported into a database such as MySQL easily. You can download the sql files here.

Crafting The Query

As it stands there are only four countries in West Africa that the Ebola outbreak is concentrated on: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.  The United States and Senegal have travel related cases but I’m not looking at those just yet, one step at a time.

The SQL query is basic but it gives us good info.

 a.longname as depairport, as depcountry, 
 a.iatacode as depcode, 
 b.longname as arrairport, 
 b.iatacode as arrcode, as arrcountry 
 FROM airports a, airports b, routes r, airlines al 
 WHERE r.depaircode 
 IN (SELECT iatacode FROM airports WHERE country="NIGERIA") 
 AND a.iatacode=r.depaircode
 AND b.iatacode=r.arraircode
 AND al.iatacode=r.airlinecode

This query will give us the departure and destination airports available for Nigeria, the country can be changed to anything.

Inspecting The Results

The output we get is the airline information, departure airport and IATA code and the destination airport.

"AF","Air France","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Charles De Gaulle","CDG","France"
"AF","Air France","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"AF","Air France","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Charles De Gaulle","CDG","France"
"AF","Air France","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"AT","Royal Air Maroc","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Mohammed V Intl","CMN","Morocco"
"AZ","Alitalia - Compagnia Aerea Italiana Spa","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Kotoka Intl","ACC","Ghana"
"BA","British Airways","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Heathrow","LHR","United Kingdom"
"BA","British Airways","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Heathrow","LHR","United Kingdom"
"DL","Delta Air Lines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Charles De Gaulle","CDG","France"
"DL","Delta Air Lines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"DL","Delta Air Lines","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"E2","Eagle Atlantic Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Kotoka Intl","ACC","Ghana"
"EK","Emirates","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Dubai Intl","DXB","United Arab Emirates"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Bole Intl","ADD","Ethiopia"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Cadjehoun","COO","Benin"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Gnassingbe Eyadema Intl","LFW","Togo"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Ndjamena Hassan Djamous","NDJ","Chad"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Diori Hamani","NIM","Niger"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Enugu","Nigeria","ENU","Bole Intl","ADD","Ethiopia"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Abidjan Felix Houphouet Boigny Intl","ABJ","Cote d'Ivoire"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Bole Intl","ADD","Ethiopia"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Leon M Ba","LBV","Gabon"
"ET","Ethiopian Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Gnassingbe Eyadema Intl","LFW","Togo"
"EY","Etihad Airways","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Abu Dhabi Intl","AUH","United Arab Emirates"
"IB","Iberia","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Barajas","MAD","Spain"
"KL","KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Charles De Gaulle","CDG","France"
"KL","KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"KL","KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Schiphol","AMS","Netherlands"
"KL","KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"KQ","Kenya Airways","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Cadjehoun","COO","Benin"
"KQ","Kenya Airways","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Jomo Kenyatta International","NBO","Kenya"
"LH","Lufthansa German Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Frankfurt Main","FRA","Germany"
"LH","Lufthansa German Airlines","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Malabo","SSG","Equatorial Guinea"
"LH","Lufthansa German Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Frankfurt Main","FRA","Germany"
"LH","Lufthansa German Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"LH","Lufthansa German Airlines","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"ME","Middle East Airlines","Mallam Aminu Intl","Nigeria","KAN","Rafic Hariri Intl","BEY","Lebanon"
"ME","Middle East Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Abidjan Felix Houphouet Boigny Intl","ABJ","Cote d'Ivoire"
"ME","Middle East Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Rafic Hariri Intl","BEY","Lebanon"
"MS","Egyptair","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Cairo Intl","CAI","Egypt"
"MS","Egyptair","Mallam Aminu Intl","Nigeria","KAN","Cairo Intl","CAI","Egypt"
"MS","Egyptair","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Cairo Intl","CAI","Egypt"
"QC","Camair-Co","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Abidjan Felix Houphouet Boigny Intl","ABJ","Cote d'Ivoire"
"QC","Camair-Co","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Douala","DLA","Cameroon"
"QR","Qatar Airways","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Doha Intl","DOH","Qatar"
"RJ","Royal Jordanian","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Kotoka Intl","ACC","Ghana"
"RJ","Royal Jordanian","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Queen Alia Intl","AMM","Jordan"
"SA","South African Airways","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Johannesburg Intl","JNB","South Africa"
"SD","Sudan Airways","Mallam Aminu Intl","Nigeria","KAN","Khartoum","KRT","Sudan"
"SN","Brussels Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Frankfurt Main","FRA","Germany"
"SN","Brussels Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"SN","Brussels Airlines","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"TK","Turkish Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Ataturk","IST","Turkey"
"UA","United Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Frankfurt Main","FRA","Germany"
"UA","United Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","George Bush Intercontinental","IAH","United States"
"UA","United Airlines","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"UA","United Airlines","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"VS","Virgin Atlantic Airways","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Heathrow","LHR","United Kingdom"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Kotoka Intl","ACC","Ghana"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Benin","BNI","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Calabar","CBQ","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Enugu","ENU","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Ibadan","IBA","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Ilorin","ILR","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Mallam Aminu Intl","KAN","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Maiduguri","MIU","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Imo Airport","QOW","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Warri Airport","QRW","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Sadiq Abubakar Iii Intl","SKO","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","Nigeria","ABV","Yola","YOL","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Benin","Nigeria","BNI","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Benin","Nigeria","BNI","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Calabar","Nigeria","CBQ","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Calabar","Nigeria","CBQ","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Enugu","Nigeria","ENU","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Enugu","Nigeria","ENU","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Ibadan","Nigeria","IBA","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Ilorin","Nigeria","ILR","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Yakubu Gowon","Nigeria","JOS","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Kaduna","Nigeria","KAD","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Mallam Aminu Intl","Nigeria","KAN","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Mallam Aminu Intl","Nigeria","KAN","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Kotoka Intl","ACC","Ghana"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Benin","BNI","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Calabar","CBQ","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Leopold Sedar Senghor Intl","DKR","Senegal"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Douala","DLA","Cameroon"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Enugu","ENU","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Freetown Lungi","FNA","Sierra Leone"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","John F Kennedy Intl","JFK","United States"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Johannesburg Intl","JNB","South Africa"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Yakubu Gowon","JOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Kaduna","KAD","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Mallam Aminu Intl","KAN","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Luanda 4 De Fevereiro","LAD","Angola"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Heathrow","LHR","United Kingdom"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Port Harcourt Intl","PHC","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Imo Airport","QOW","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Warri Airport","QRW","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Maiduguri","Nigeria","MIU","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Port Harcourt Intl","Nigeria","PHC","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Imo Airport","Nigeria","QOW","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Imo Airport","Nigeria","QOW","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Warri Airport","Nigeria","QRW","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Warri Airport","Nigeria","QRW","Murtala Muhammed","LOS","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Sadiq Abubakar Iii Intl","Nigeria","SKO","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"W3","Arik Air","Yola","Nigeria","YOL","Nnamdi Azikiwe Intl","ABV","Nigeria"
"WB","Rwandair Express","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Kotoka Intl","ACC","Ghana"
"WB","Rwandair Express","Murtala Muhammed","Nigeria","LOS","Kigali Intl","KGL","Rwanda"

So we know the first point airports, next time we’ll take things a bit further…..



Seeing who’s going to @FNMashup via @GetInvitedTo with #UNIX / #CultureTech

GetInvitedTo has a handy “see who’s attending” list for certain events. As I’m not the mixing type I like to make sure that networking events are going to be worth my while before booking anything. The list on the page can get a bit long and it’s not in any order so, with a bit of copy/paste and one line of unix.


1. Grab Thy Data!

Go the event page (I’m using as the example). And select all the names right down to the bottom. Do a quick CTRL+C to save it to the clipboard.

2. Create a Text File!

In your favourite text editor paste the contents (CTRL+V) and this will dump all the names and also some blank lines. Don’t worry about that right now, we’ll sort that out in a minute. Save the file as names.txt

3. Run Thy Command!

Open up a terminal window (if you are running Windows then you’ll need something like Cygwin to run Unix commands). In the same directory as the names.txt file run the following command:

cat names.txt | egrep "\w+" |  sort -k2 | uniq

So we dump the contents of names.txt to the console, pipe that through egrep looking for all lines with words in them, sort by the second column (the surname in the majority of cases) and then show only the unique occurrences.

...Charlotte Bradberry Axten
Gavin Bradley
Karen Bradley
Lauren Bradley
Nikki Bradle
Reuben Bradley
Ryan Bradley
Tom Bradley
Ben Breslin
Trish Breslin
Rebecca Brown
Fiona Browne
Mura Browne
Tim Brundle
Anji Bull
Connor Bunting
David Bunting
Harry Burke
Brian Burns
Neil Burns
Derek Bustard
Declan Byrne
Tom Byrne....

Job done.

(There’s a whole section on manipulating data in my new book, “Machine Learning – Hand On for Developers and Technical Professionals“, published in  November. You can pre-order on Amazon if you wish.)

Who is Your Support Network? #startups #sanity

It’s a simple question…. to be honest the answer is simple as well.


Startups are all consuming beasts that never leave you alone. Fine if there’s a team of 20 but a real challenge if it’s a team of one. If the service runs into trouble and customers are giving you a hard time then it’s the worst job in the world.

Yes this is where cofounders come in useful, you have a sound board. Some founders don’t want cofo’s, it makes life harder but it’s still not impossible to do. If that’s the route you want to go down though then you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got a support network in the industry as well as close family.

And a quick note, if you see a startup struggling, just a wee phone call to see if they’re okay makes all the difference. It’s not about being an entrepreneur or a mentor, it’s about being a human being.


Ranum: My new #startup funding system.

The old adage runs true, you need money to make money. Now whether that’s someone else’s money or your own doesn’t really matter, it just alters how the communication and reporting is done.


I have to admit my system is not exactly new among entrepreneurs but I believe that I’ve managed to remove all that writing business plans, doing pitches and so on. I don’t even have to attend things I can just wheel the system out on a regular basis and see what transpires, for a  minimum investment of £2 a week (I can obviously increase that) I could stand to make a 1.6mx return on my investment or there abouts. I mean there’s no guarantees but there isn’t in much else either.

Here’s my startup formula:


I’m not just limited to six numbers, I could add more but I’d need to up my initial investment by £2 for every set of six numbers I pick. There’s a UK board meeting on a Wednesday and a Saturday (I know the board meets on a Saturday) and sometimes the bring a band on and do a quiz. It’s crazy.

The downside to this startup is my return varies from 1 in 56 where I get a 5x per week invested return to the unicorn finding probability of 1 in 13,983,816. If more than one investor has the same startup formula as me then the return is split amongst us.

The great thing is that these startup investment pools are all over the world with varying probabilities but they all seem to have that board meeting. Here’s the European board meeting :)

Entrepreneurship: The Belfast Goldrush #Startups


Welcome To The Modern Goldrush

We have a modern gold rush on our hands folks, the Belfast startup scene is exploding! These things work in cycles and I can only compare it to the 2009/2010 explosion of barcamps, bizcamps and open coffees. People getting together and attempting to make stuff happen. There’s gold in them there hills and if you listen to the right people and read the right tech sites and books then you have as a good a chance as any of making it.

Let’s roll back a second though. There’s been a lot of pedalling of the startup way, “anyone with an idea can make it”, and to be fair there are those who have. So entrepreneurs are the new gold prospectors and there be the problem….

1848–1855 – Who Made The Money?

The question is this, in the California Gold Rush who made the money? The guy who sold the shovel. The prospectors themselves made less than the folk who were supplying the services to the prospectors. After expenses prospectors made a modest profit but the people who sold (among other things): retail, shipping, entertainment, lodging, transportation, boarding houses, food preparation, sewing, laundry, saloons, brothels and gambling – they made the money.

The prospectors fuelled an entire business ecosystem and they all did very well out of it, well everyone apart from the prospectors, only a few actually “made it”.

2014 – Who’s Making The Money?

Look at things today, for the startup just entering we’ve got the likes of mobile app development, web design houses, graphic designers, lawyers, accountants, consultants, public relations, marketing companies, social media gurus and the rest of it. The modern day prospector is fuelling a an entire business ecosystem. And you know what that’s fine.

We attend prospector events with more prospectors and we trade our war stories over free beer and food. The only thing it can be compared to is a wake, it’s the only other time when free alcohol and food seem to attract volumes of numbers. A tip for you, if you know over 25% of the people in the room then don’t bother going. We’ll be invited to pay for weekends where distilled knowledge is passed to us regardless of who’s telling us have actually made a prospectors payback or not (let’s be honest, they probably haven’t).

The Realisation

The reality is stark reader: While I concentrate on Belfast as that’s where I live (sort of) it could apply to anywhere in the world that pushing the gold rush as a way to keep the minds of good busy. For some who were there before over the last two cycles we’ve become weary and know that the game’s up. The same mantra reworded doesn’t wash anymore.

The old American Dream … was the dream of the Puritans, of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard”… of men and women content to accumulate their modest fortunes a little at a time, year by year by year. The new dream was the dream of instant wealth, won in a twinkling by audacity and good luck.

Luck is where the balance of success and failure lies. You have to create your own luck.



An AppStore for #Hadoop ?

It’s been staring me in the face for a while, all the training, advising and talking about this Hadoop thing. It needs an AppStore, a seamless platform for one click installing and running of Hadoop applications within the framework and cluster.

Up until now most MapReduce work has been hand coded by in house development teams working to a specific requirement. Hadoop2 and it’s Yarn component extends on that and makes applications easier to distribute across the cluster, like I said in yesterday’s post about deploying point of sale software across kiosks.

The issue is that Hadoop takes an amount of skill to get things running, thinking of getting data in and running scripts at so on. We’re a way off from a one touch solution for app and data deployment and processing.

It’s coming, I’m sure it is. The next two years will be very interesting.

MapR got the ball rolling with an application gallery, not an AppStore par se but a great start.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,007 other followers