Coachware, Wearapeuthics, Metabolic tech, Micro-manufacturing... and Gender bias, Donald Trump, HBO's Silicon Valley and more

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Ben at HAX here again- bringing you the latest news from the front lines of the “Internet of Things” (the Internet of useless things?)- trying to make it relevant to you, the demanding bunch.

As it turns out, the “IoT” world is an endless spring of colorful marvels and quirky things.

Today's menu:
1. New words! Coachware, wearapeuthics, metabolic tech, micro-manufacturing...
2. Media mentions
3. Events: May is conference season! Japan, US, Europe.
4. Random ideas: hyper funding, innovation, Trump, gender bias, education
5. Cultural corner: movies & TV
6. New experiences (new!): getting punched

Note: the most work-related is at the top, the tidbits of my personal life are at the bottom.


As it turns out, "hardware" is confusing for many people ("do you mean like a hardware store?") and "Internet of Things" sounds too vague. We need new words! Here are some for your enjoyment:

  • Coachware (tech that trains you)

  • Wearapeuthics (tech that heals you)

  • Metabolic tech (know yourself inside-out)

  • Micro-manufacturing machines (from makers to factory-grade)

  • Personal farming devices (grow your own food... or medicine!)

Of course HAX made investments in all categories already. Drones and smart watches are so 2015! We'll be coining more soon.


I/we were recently quoted in Forbes, Financial Times, TechRadar, Voice of America and on China's CCTV talking about robotics, virtual reality, Silicon Valley and Shenzhen.

An expert on VR, robotics, China... and anything you want, really.


I lost track of my colleagues’ travel agenda. We only talk online now, at all hours. I suspect one of them to be a chat bot. Anyway, my speaking plans this month:

  • April, Beijing: I spoke at GMIC on AR/VR and robotics. Big show as usual but scarce hardware startups.

  • May 13, Tokyo: Slush Asia (Update: done today! Sorry I did not press send earlier...). Will I find the next Sony there? I’ve been searching for 2 years ^^; (Update: no Sony this time again... but some interesting meetings. There is a light at the end of the tunnel- is it the exit or a train coming?)

  • May 17, San Francisco - HAX Demo Day. 25 world-class robotics / health tech / IoT / lifestyle hardware startups. Email me for an invite (I'll see what I can do) - it's invitation-only: investors, media and corporate partners). Note that we are pretty much sold out with already 500 RSVPs... Coming up: devices for ADHD, IBS, BFRB, PTSD, as well as robots to cut things, play ping-pong and more!

  • May 17, San Francisco - Lean Hardware: Lessons Learned & Future of Hardware. Free!

  • May 19, San Francisco - The Future of Fabrication. Startups making things that make things. Will you 3D print your next bikini? Will they bring back jobs to America? (the machines, not the bikinis)

  • May 24, Vienna - Pioneers Festival. My third speech there. Some classic songs and some from the new album.

  • May 25, Paris - Connected Conference. La French Tech getting serious - beware of the sporty cock!

  • May 31-Jun 2, Hong Kong - RISE and a few things around it. Are Hong Kongese called the “Irish of the East”? Is it why the WebSummit guys are here?

  • July - I am likely to visit Bangalore for the TechInAsia conference, and a refresher course for my Bollywood moves ;) I hope the rest of the year to be quiet… but it never is. Update: maybe we'll check the Nordics and Russia soon...

  • Nov 14-16, San Francisco - HyperWellBeing. My man Lee S Dryburgh is rising from the dead after a retreat of five years or so in his Slovene cave. He will host this event on the future of humanity, or close to that. I’m psyched. He’s like the high tech version of Slavoj Zizek without all the weird tics.

4. SOME RANDOM IDEAS (opinions are my own!)

I am of the opinion that if ideas or questions don’t bother anyone, they are in fact a useless consensus. So I’ll go straight to it:

  • Apparently startups in India (and China) are getting "hyper funded". Another word for "over funded" or "bubble", I guess. We did encounter a number of Chinese startups with what I would call a "child star syndrome": getting investment money despite having little to show, then believing they have real "talent" (with no hard work). The illusion might fade painfully as time goes by... The problem is that this time is not invested in closing the skills & milestones gap to the next funding round.

  • ​I have been engaged in a long e-mail discussion with a US Professor about whether China is innovative (with a focus on "business innovation"). His conclusion was “no”. Mine was that we have a problem with definitions: what defines innovation?
    (a) China is in catch-up mode, and has low ROI for disruption - that's ok.
    (b) Short-term greed rules over long-term R&D in the startup world.
    (c) State-owned enterprises are generally lagging behind.
    (d) Yet, the necessity of adaptation to the local ecosystem, harsh competition with the many fellow entrepreneurs in China leads to many incremental innovations, which can lead to disruption.
    (e) There are also homegrown models that the West does not really investigate because it's "not invented here" and "not for us".
    (f) One of the metrics for innovation used to be patents filed but now that China is doing very well on that front it's apparently not a valid metric any more. Convenient. Then what is?

So now patents don't indicate innovation anymore.

  • SOSV, the investor behind HAX, is apparently the most female-friendly in the world for seed investment. Without even playing the woman card! These days I am collecting views on the topic of (unconscious?) gender bias. I started gathering that there was:
    (a) a funnel problem (not enough girls study tech) combined with
    (b) a confidence gap (men display more confidence, a desirable trait for founders). Then I heard it might relate to
    (c) behavior: competitive vs collaborative (men being either by nature or nurture on the competitive side while women favor collaboration. This might not be the style favored by investors, and maybe even potential co-founders and employees). That said, there are collaborative men and competitive women, so I wonder if assuming that behaviors are "genderized" is not in fact reinforcing stereotypes.

  • Looking into the “funnel problem”, there are today more women than men graduating university at least in the US and the UK (the university gender gap). That should mean that mechanically, in 10-20 years time, many women will be in positions of power (they can’t all be in "non-power", education or nursing studies... though I'd argue that education is very powerful, though not acknowledged as such).

“Girls are doing better throughout primary, secondary and higher education than boys; poor, white boys are the most disadvantaged group in entry to higher education and the gap is getting bigger. “But despite the clear evidence and despite the press coverage, there is a deafening policy silence on the issue. Has the women’s movement now become so normalised that we cannot conceive of needing to take positive action to secure equal education outcomes for boys?”

  • Philip Zimbardo (of the Stanford Prison Experiment fame) wrote recently The Demise of Guys. Education, in particularly at an early age, might have become "feminized" and hostile to boys. Many are now medicated for ADHD (9%) while they could benefit from a learning style adapted to their alleged “hyper activity”, or non-drug approaches. Not too long ago, an “hyper active” kid was called “lively”... Apparently, France has almost no ADHD kids.

  • On the topic of education, I believe the keys to successful learning are joy, curiosity and effort. Schools generally teach a rigid curriculum. This strips out joy and curiosity, only requiring effort to learn predefined answers to questions you don’t care about (only until university, if you’re lucky!). After 15 years of a mostly absurd effort it’s a miracle to retain any joy or curiosity. Those keeping sane are probably doing things on the side (and not “Tiger Mom”-style of status-focused or admission-focused activities).

  • The Trump case, which I'm following distantly. So he’s the Republican candidate for real. I saw the cover of a magazine saying that it’s the worse thing for America. I wish there were real discussions beyond name-calling. A lot is being assumed for a guy who never was into politics... And in times of crisis change seems more attractive- we'll see what happens!


Not much going on with readings... busy month. A few movies this time.

  • I watched The Big Short. Surprisingly good. A friend of mine was working on those very same financial products at the time. He said everyone knew and he's not proud of it. He's a successful Internet entrepreneur now.

  • Watched Arabian Nights/1001 Nights by Pasolini (not as intense as some other movies by him, but still quit disturbing at times, no wonder he had problems with the Church and more...), The Last Temptation of Christ (I found it a bit long but the approach was interesting) and Yojimbo by Kurosawa (an entertaining tale of Toshiro Mifune as a generous but hard to read ronin playing two village factions against each other - you could see Clint Eastwood in that role in a Western... oops actually you can).

  • I finished Breaking Bad. I relapsed despite the boring episodes of Season 3. I had read the summaries of the later episodes and it helped fast forward a few. When I finished it, it didn't make a lasting impression. It's like binging of veggie potato chips. Also I realized it’s basically a classic startup story:

    • Start with focus on a 10x product

    • Struggle to get visibility then distribution

    • Face unsavory tactics from competitors, employ some yourself

    • Non-founding stakeholders and life get in the way of running the business

    • Look for an exit

  • I am following the Silicon Valley HBO series but I didn't find the first 3 episodes very interesting. I wonder if they will get a 4th season... My favorite character is Gilfoye and his deadpan humor. I think the investor lady boss is a robot. Maybe they would have done better shooting this like the original UK The Office and make it a sleeper hit... I guess that's not how broadcast business works these days.

  • Last, I am still resisting Game of Thrones. I only watched the first season, years ago. I will prevail!


It’s been sporty since I moved from Shenzhen to Hong Kong 4 months ago, and (re)discovered Marks & Spencer!

  • Boxing: I joined for the workout. Then the day came when I had to spar. As the modern philosopher Mike Tyson once said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Discovery: tunnel vision, fear and… a surprise (try!). Weird anecdote: I sparred later on with a first-timer (I didn’t know) and… he swallowed one of his contact lenses (?!?!). You go figure it out.

  • Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ): grappling is quite a new experience. Chokes, arm bars, and possibly more sweat from other people on your gi than your own!

  • Wing Chun: the Ip Man / Bruce Lee original style. Be water. Move without force. It’s almost a meditation, until it’s not. Apparently first results might come in 12 months… will I stick to sticky hands?

  • Gym pass extravaganza: Hong Kong has a couple of those services that allow you to sample many different gyms and studios (2-3 times each per month). After running out of nearby yoga places I was looking for other flexy workouts and signed up for what was left so… an "aerial yoga" class (it looked like a comfy hammock but was in fact cutting through the sides, and upside down most of the time - I didn’t like it), a "barre" class (google it- it was cardio), a pole dancing class (it was mostly arms things - thanks B.G. for the inspiration, you know who you are). And yes, I was the only guy there.

  • I signed up for my first skydive - should happen next week. Let’s see if BJJ muscle memory make me choke the instructor!

Alright it’s way too long already. Feedback is welcome- I respond to email.
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