Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley
What is the formula for its success in incubating major tech companies?

Valley Offshoots

School of Hard Knocks
Other possible factors for the success of Silicon Valley include a critical diverse mass: local and foreign postgrads, scientists, technologists, investors etc. And individuals from the school of hard knocks. Plus an ecosystem that gave them opportunities even if they were from the school of hard knocks:
  • Steve Jobs (Apple) - Because he didn't want to burden his working class parents, he merely audited classes (attended classes but not registered) at college, slept on the floor at friends' dorm rooms and ate Hare Krishna free meals.
  • Elon Musk (Tesla) - Awkward and introverted as a child, he had rough childhood ('I was raised by books, and then my parents') and a hard time at school. Worked at a farm and lumber-mill when he first landed in North America.
  • Reed Hastings (Netflix) - During college, he signed up for the Marines. After graduating, he joined the Peace Corps, and spent 3 years teaching and travelling in Africa on a shoestring budget.
  • Jensen Huang (Nvidia) - When his parents sent him to the US, his aunt and uncle enrolled him in a boarding school for troubled youth (literally a school of hard knocks) who mistook it for a prep school (a boarding school that preps students for entering universities).

The Valley Experience
Want to gain a taste and inkling of the Valley and to tap into its energy? Y Combinator Winter 2022 batch is still open for application (closing very soon).

Alternative Metaverse

A metavese is the projection of the creator's mind and imagination. Thus, many current metaverses, created by gaming developers using contemporary software tools, have lots of similarities: gamification, avatars, property, NFTs, 'play to earn' etc. Among the older extant metaverses are FB and Twitter. Even older, going back to ancient times, is old school culture which is quite different from generic modern culture. In this post, we cover some immersive traditional culture from Nusantara (BN, ID, MY, PH, SG)

Gamelan Gender
The Gender is a metallophone: it uses metal bands as compared to the xylophone with wooden bands. The metal bands gives the metallophone a rich, resonant depth as shown in the first video with Dale Turner playing a self-penned Gonzo for Gamelan (gonzo is one of the muppets).

Traditional Bali Dance
An unnamed teen dancer from the Ida Bagus Blangsinga dance school performs a Teruna Jaya ('cadet coming of age') or Kebyar Duduk ('seated flash') dance. Unlike the free-flowing, expansive, angular movements of modern dances, this traditional dance requires precise, small movements of fingers, toes, neck, eyes and other joints.

Balinese Kecak
We last featured Nusantara choral singing in Ewa Bule. Kecak is a more vigorous performance routine consisting of coordinated breathing, hand movements and acapella vocals. Performed by high school students attending the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). Looks and sounds unusual but this is the nature and delight of old school metaverses.

Veggie Seafood Sensation

Running The Show
The present tech buzz is Parag Agrawal being promoted to CEO of Twitter. He joins Sundai Pitchai (Google), Satya Nadella (Microsoft), Shantanu Narayen (Adobe), Arvind Krishna (IBM) and Raghu Raghuram (Vmware) as chief executives of their respective companies. It is likely most, if not all, of them are vegetarians. Their diet may partially explain their ascendancy in the corporate world, given latest research indicate sugars, fried foods, high carbs, alcohol and processed meat, standard fare for many, dull the mind.

Running Out of Fish
At the same time, an article today reported global fish populations have plummeted due to overfishing and an increasing demand for seafood. One solution is to substitute or supplement endangered seafood with plant-based seafood. [We have sampled quality plant-based seafood: it is superior in texture and umami flavour to from-the-sea seafood.]

Plant-Based Seafood Startups 1 2
  • OMG - Tuna giant offers plant-based fish nuggets and crab shumai
  • Good Catch - Plant-based fish fillets, fish burgers and crab cakes
  • Omni - Fish fillets with Omega-3 and protein; no mecury, antibotics
  • Mind Blown! - Plant-based Bay scallops
  • Cavi-Art - Seaweed-based caviar
  • Tofuna Fysh - Fish sauce made from seaweed, shiitake mushrooms
  • Sensational Vuna - Nestlé's plant-based tuna alternative
  • New Wave - Tyson Foods' delicious plant-based shrimp

Endemic Ready Enterprises

In an earlier post on businesses getting ready for an endemic phase or possible further lockdowns, we looked at how fast food joints expanded their service options by offering indoors, outdoors and in-car dining. And how Uber's new HQ has foldable windows for better ventilation. Further examples: 1 2
  • Moriarty's Gem Art - Staid jeweller goes live streaming to maintain sales, and to connect with current and new customers.
  • Teambuilding - Pivots from in-person to virtual team building: doubled business and virtual model enabled a new talent pool of trainers and facilitators.
  • Starbucks - Teams up with Amazon Go to offer cashier-less coffee. Order and pay by app, pickup coffee for takeaway or to seat oneself. Shop for essentials and groceries at Amazon Go at the same venue.
  • Whole Foods - Converts in-person grocery stores to shopper-less delivery fulfilment hubs.
  • Box 'N Burn - Pivots from indoor gym to outdoor gym for fresh air and sunshine.
  • Talulah Jones - Because the in-store experience is unique, there is no pivot to an online store. Instead, the store keeps its Instagram and FB up-to-date and offers private shopping appointments.

Retro Lounge Music

Weekend is coming up. Thinking of some lounge music? Not quite safe to pack the tables yet, especially when bugzilla is mounting a massive winter campaign. As a substitute, imagine for a moment being transported to a crowded, low-lit lounge like in the video above. Imagine too the company and conversations at your table, the background chatter, and the occasional chorus of clinking glasses and cutlery clatter. Accompanied by a slow, sultry rendition of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by vocalist Ana Pilat and guitarist Tiziano Bole.

Ask Vitalik

On Twitter, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin follows 278 accounts and is followed by 2.7 million. A couple of months back, he held an ask-me-anything session where only the accounts he follows can ask questions. He received many responses including from luminaries. Here is a selection, edited for context, brevity and punch.

Emin Gün Sirer Cornell
Q: What's the hardest lesson you learned through the Ethereum experience?
A: It is hard to coordinate even a small group of stakeholders.

Taylor Monahan MyCrypto
Q: Which Ethereum use-case has surprised you most?

Bruno Maçães Author
Q: Is Ethereum real?
A: If others build upon it, it is real.

Ewoki Gitcoin
Q: How to fund public goods (eg. open source Ethereum)?
A: Retroactive funding: Like a an exit for a startup, when a project is done and proven useful, it is amply funded from protocol fees.

Divia Eden Blogger
Q: What are your favourite podcasts?

Eva Beylin TheGraph
Q: What activities or habits do you think are most beneficial for anti-aging?
A: Lowest-hanging fruit is to cut extra sugar out of your life entirely.

Haseeb Qureshi Dragonfly Capital
Q: So all-in-all, how is being famous?
A: I am planning to keep wearing a mask long after covid stops being a problem.

Alexis Ohanian Reddit
Q: What are some obvious applications of crypto that people just don’t get?
A: ENS (Ethereum Naming Service): Give long crypto addresses easy-to-remember names plus more (eg. abc.eth can point to,, @abc, avatar, wallet etc).

Terence Tsao Prysmatic Labs
Q: Which latest research excites you the most?
A: ZK-Snark (Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge): eg run a password protected website for multiple users without storing user passwords.

Q: Can you share some interesting books you read recently?
A: Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism

Je Meng Ethereum Follower
Q: Where do your humanist values come from?
A: Happy globalist Canadian culture, early internet, Eliezer Yudkowsky, GiveWell, travel

Paul Graham Y Combinator
Q: Do you think you're likely to create another cryptocurrency?
A: No

Nick Johnson ENS
Q: If you weren't working on crypto, what would you be working on?
A: A new social media platform...

Elon Musk Tesla
Q: What is love?
A: One's children...

Metaverse vs Omniverse vs Web3

Metaverse Omniverse Web3
From Meta (FB) Nvidia Crypto Promoters
Focus Social Engineering Ownership
Usage Immersive Simulation 'To The Moon'
Use Cases High fidelity 3D immersive 'Zoom' meeting

3D yoga class: see clearly where those arms and legs are positioned

Travel to Mars without actually travelling to Mars

Simulate a factory before building it

Simulate a city wide bicycle network with stakeholders before building it out.

Simulate Mars: terrain, climate, geography, budget, construction, living

Platform independent avatars 

Own stuff (eg video) independent of platforms

Identity that is independent of platforms

Early Tech Oculus Quest, Facebook Horizon Universal Scene Description (metaverse's HTML), Nucleus (core engine & database), Simulation (physics simulator), RTX (3D renderer) NFT

Winter Games

The Winter Olympics looks set to run from Feb 4-20, 2022 @ Beijing (note: Spring Fest Feb 1-2). On the plus side, early indications are there will be snow aplenty at the host city. On the risk side, bugzilla is showing some teeth, and there remain political reservations. For the rest of the world, the posh winter sports (skiing, speed skating, artistic skating, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, snowboarding etc) might not totally ring a bell, save for skating. Many cities without snow have rinks where people can partake in skating and even ice hockey. In the above vid, Kamila Valieva from Russia shows why she is a favourite for the figure skating event.

NFT: Asset vs Ticket

In the offline world, a piece of art can be monetized in the following ways:
  • The art is sold: the asset changes hands physically plus rights
  • The art is loaned: tickets to view, re-publication permissions etc
  • The art is appreciated: tips, patronship

Sold | Asset
In terms of art as an asset to be bought and sold, adding NFT to an art does not magically give it extra value. In the longer term, the market goes back to the art, the sustained presence of aficionados and an orderly market. Stories of NFT sales to the value of millions of bucks by celebrities are more a measure of their celebrity status.

Loaned | Ticket
In terms of art as entertainment, this is where NFT seems to have more value. However, in the longer term, since NFTs are easily created, the market will be flooded with NFTs. Then, for any particular non-celebrity artist, it would be back to the 'SEO challenge': getting noticed in an ocean of content. NFT in this case is useful only when the artist has gain prominence: enough for him or her to sell tickets (eg in the form of NFT collectibles).

Patronship | Tips
This is an example of the importance of middlemen though their role is downplayed by NFT promoters. An artist uploads a video to YouTube. If the YouTube discovery algorithm shows this to enough viewers, the artist's work (and the artist) will gain prominence, likes and subscribers. NFT usage: Say, YouTube has a tipping function. For a tip, the tipper gets a cute NFT badge as a token of thanks and nano badge of honour.

Gaming | Metaverse
This is where NFT has a natural use-case. In games (or metaverse), NFT can be used to attest ownership of a game item (armour, weapon, widget, land etc) allowing the item to be bought, kept and sold within a game (or outside in exchanges). NFT is such a mouthful, eventually its usage as a term will likely fade into the background. When one buys a sword, one gets a sword, the nuts and bolts of the use of a non-fungible token (or otherwise) are kept under the hood.

NFT Event
We have attempted to de-buzz NFT a bit here after seeing some rather bizzare NFT art. For the latest NFT buzz, check out CoinGecko's NFTs Gone Wild conference happening online Nov 17-19, 2021.

Autonomous Drone Challenge

Drones At Work
Drones are going mainstream. Though its expected use for deliveries hasn't panned out, here are some common applications:
  • Surveys - Want to repaint your office building or high rise? Likely, the painter will use a drone to inspect the building to scope the work more accurately. The drone can be used to document the state of the building including surface condition, water marks, cracks, moss, the presence of pigeons etc.
  • Surveillance - During the height of recent lockdowns, some locales had police drones asserting a presence and reminding people to not venture out unless necessary. It was effective, people on the street were generally spooked by the black, foreboding drones and had also assumed their images were being recorded for possible further enforcement action.
  • Videography - For long, drones have been used for sweeping, overhead shots for events, news, movies & video productions.
  • Others - Other increasing uses of drones are for agriculture (tree counting, fertiliser and pest control application), forestry (tree counting, land usage), facilities management (tower and powerline inspections) and checks (construction work-in-progress).

Autonomous Drones
The use casess we listed in the previous section require human operation: an on-ground operator must guide the drone and instruct it to collect data etc. The next frontier is autonomous drones. Imagine:
  • Surveys - Say, an operator takes two hours to survey a building: he travels to the site, launch the drone, and flies it around the building to survey it. If the drone can be autonomous, he would travel to the site, launch the drone and come back in two hours to retrieve it, while moving on to survey other sites in the meantime.
  • Surveillance - Manual surveillance needs skill and is extremely labour intensive. Imagine autonomous drones that can be instructed to carry out independent patrols. A possible useful application is night flying drones that use infrared to spot illegal burning (of plastics, waste etc). Some locales are regularly smothered by toxic fumes (children are especially vulnerable) at night by illegal, stealth burning. In this scenario, while residents sleep, drones can be hard at work keeping them safe.

Drone Competition
  • As with autonomous vehicles, autonomous drones have immense potential. To further this emerging field, Abu Dhabi is holding a maritime drone challenge with a bounty of USD 3 million.
  • The challenge is for drones to autonomously fly, spot and report rogue sea vessels (pirates, illegal fishing boats, traffickers, smugglers, dumpers, intruders). Closing date is Dec 30th, 2021.

Musical Break (Part II)

The musical Les Misérables is nominally set amidst the tumultuous French Revolution. Among the memorable songs from the musical is Bring Him Home, performed here by Micky Dumoulin, where the protagonist prays for the safety and return of the fiancee of his daughter after the fiancee was sent off to war. And One Day More, performed by members of the State Opera of South Australia, which tells of the anticipation at the eve of a momentous event, and that during times of great turmoil and strife, to live even one more day is a great blessing.

Musical Break (Part I)

As the Northern Hemisphere approaches winter, theatre stirs back to life again at the West End after a break of almost two years due to the pandemic. For a refresh, we present a selection of songs from West End musicals: Think of Me, performed by Eliska Novakova, and a folksy interpretation of I Don't Know How To Love Him by Sinead O'Connor.

Endemic Enterprises

Multiple Options
Except for hygiene procedures (masking, distancing etc), it's business as usual at most locales. The thinking is bugzilla will fade away soon enough. However, perceptive enterprises sense it won't be business as usual and bugzilla could be around for sometime or a new mutant could enter the fray. In the US, fast food joints are quick to adapt; for example, Burger King has redesigned outlets to offer multiple order, pickup and dining options:
  • Dine-In - Dine inside, order using your phone (app)
  • Dine-Out - Dine outside, alfresco, order using phone
  • Drive-In - Eat in your car, order using your phone
  • Drive-Thru - The usual drive-thru, but with two lanes instead of one
  • Takeaway - Order via phone, take from lockers outside store
  • Pickup - Order via phone, pickup curbside from staff
  • Food Delivery - Dedicated pick-up lane for food delivery workers

Uber's new San Francisco HQ is glass walled but the walls can be tilted open to allow in fresh air and for natural ventilation. In an innovative step-back from the modern trend of a totally sealing the facade of office buildings. Ditto a foodcourt built within a grand, defunct train depot; comes with high roof, natural lighting and flow through ventilation.

NFT x Metaverse

After blockchain, the latest buzzword from the cryptoworld is NFT. Like blockchain, adding this to any subject gives it a trendy, high-tech halo. Now with metaverse added to the mix, NFT has acquired even more mojo.

Looking to make money from artwork? NFT isn't the magic ingredient. In the medium to long term, when the buzz subsides, it is the art, the presence of a sustained community of aficionados and an orderly market that will define value and price. Artistry, desirability, provenance, rarity, uniqueness and sparkle still count, just as precious stones are more valuable and much less common than stones. Nonetheless, NFT has potential in the digital world, not as a magic art booster, but as a convenient handle for digital goods.

As far as the gaming world is concerned, the metaverse is already here in the form of role-playing games: Axie Infinity, BlankosCryptoVoxels, Decentraland, Fortnite, GenshinRoblox, Upland, Sandbox, Somnium, StarAtlas etc. Want to dress up your avatar and arm it with a sword? Get them via NFTs. NFTs allow players to buy, own and sell an item within an ecosystem, a key differentiator compared to a jpeg (an NFT is a certificate of authenticity and a record of ownership changes). For example, Upland is a digital real estate replica of the real word, where one can potentially buy and sell the Burj Khalifa, Canary Wharf or Gangnam. For fun (has no bearing on the real world).

Inner Light

RHB's Deepavali tale, which weaves together the themes of battling at the trenches, letting go to start anew, answering the call of duty and letting the light shine, gets our pick for 2021. Happy Deepavali!


A couple of days ago, Elon Musk teased he might start a university. He gave no details save for the proposed name, Texas Institute of Technology and Science. Given Elon's fresh take on various matters, one would assume the uni won't be run-of-the-mill. In fact, Elon is already running a kids school called Ad Astra, featuring:
  • Problem solving over tool learning - Learn first the engine, wrenches and screwdrivers come later.
  • Creative learning - Problem-solving, case studies, simulations, teamwork, according to students' natural aptitudes versus assembly line-like classes.
  • Gamification - Children love games, leverage this versus forced rote learning.
Ad Astra is exclusively for Elon's kids, friends and SpaceX employees. Recently (Nov 2020), Ad Astra's methodology went public via an online enrichment program for kids aged 8-14 conducted by Astra Nova (Synthesis). To quote a popular Latin phrase per aspera ad astra: our aspirations take us to the stars. [Reading: 1 2 3 4]

EV Diversity

EV Incentives
  • The transition from ICE to EV requires not only vehicles but also an ecosystem encompassing charging, servicing, sales, manufacturing, assembly, grid capacity, regulations and policy.
  • To seed this transition, various countries have offered incentives, eg NO (no import taxes and VAT, 50% parking discount, access to bus lanes), CN ($2K subsidy, provision of number plate which is usually very hard to obtain), US ($12.5K tax credit - reduces taxes payable, not just a deduction).
  • MY just announced its EV incentives yesterday: no import, excise, sales, road tax and a tax credit of $600 for charging facilities. Many EVs are priced around the $35K mark (MYR 140K), which without the new incentives will cost around $60K (MYR 240K) in MY. Thus, the potential savings or incentive could be around $25K (MYR 100K).
  • Though the incentives look they are more for the well-heeled, in effect, if applied across the board, it could be a basis of the genesis of a new market, as per our table below. Of note are the two MY auto makers, one affiliated with Geely, the other Toyota.

EV Diversity

Alfresco Disco

Hubs-wifey-team Nardz and Lhai Betriolo cover Don't Play That Song. Amateur recording but the music and dancing make up for it. At many locales, dance floors are still off-limits. As it should be. Bugzilla thrives in packed venues which host strenuous activity, heavy breathing and recirculating aircons. We are not in the clear yet. Pesky delta is still lurking around and vaccine busting Tanzania has been spotted in the wild. Hack: alfresco disco with bluetooth headphones and max one couple on the floor at any one time.

Food Delivery Notes

Food delivery platforms can be useful but based on recent reports, it seems there is ample room for improvement. In a three-sided market, there are issues with each market:
  • Consumer - Lack of healthy, balanced and iconic food choices. Promotion of inhouse brands over third party merchants (like Amazon muscling in on best sellers?). Limited choices although many good merchants nearby suggesting a lack of active recruitment. Plus the usual questions about markups and delivery charges, the latter which have recently crept upwards.
  • Merchant - Hidden fees and charges on top of high commissions. A merchant may sell thousands of bucks worth of food and end up owing money to the platform. Some say it is a free market and the merchants decide whether to sign up or not. However, it is possible the platform is making money off noob merchants.
  • Riders - Riders playing loose with traffic rules. One can sympathise with the riders where time is money, and it is no fun waiting at traffic under the blistering sun. The concern is ignoring the rules may teach other bikers to do the same, in addition to safety and law and order issues.

On the plus side, we see a rise in competing platforms and merchants doing own deliveries. Customers and merchants can try testing out these new offerings and use the free market to counter the shortcomings of the dominant platforms.

For merchants, when customers visit your eatery after the lockdowns, do try to recruit them to your online platform (eg. by giving them a business card which may simply contain a whatsapp number for ordering and you doing your own deliveries) before another lockdown comes along leaving you scrabbling to find customers to fill the order book.

Another avenue which can be explored is food trucks visiting areas which are not the target market for food deliveries (eg. public flats). Instead of food trucks be just mobile stores which plunk themselves down at fixed locations, the trucks would actually travel from location to location. This is an old school playbook tried and tested by the hawkers of yore who plied their trade, with delicious, affordable food, on bicycles and on foot.


FB is planning to expand its business from social media to metaverse. The term metaverse means 'beyond internet' and is envisioned to feature:
  • The use of VR+AR over text+graphics (goggles vs screens)
  • Immersive participation vs passive consumption
  • Has its own economy (markets, currencies, economics)
  • Decentralised governance (not run by FB alone)

If metaverse is taken to mean closer to the concept of multiverse (multiple universe), FB is already a metaverse company, as FB, the social media, is a 'parallel universe'. In it, you can have your own persona, friends, communities and activities, different from and in parallel to the 'standard world'.

Use-case example. 'Parallel universe' can be a transformative green enabler. Say, if an entrepreneur wishes to build a new Disneyland, if he or she builds it in the 'standard world', it will require clearing of forests, tonnes of concrete, enormous consumption of resources and spewing of waste to build and run. If it is made in a VR universe, the environmental impact will be much less.

For more on metaverse and to find out FB's new name (could be a rebrand or a new umbrella holding company), check out Connect 2021 happening this Thursday (Oct 28th).