I’m Going To The Amazon To Live With Indigenous Indians

I’m about to leave for a trip to the Amazon jungle to live with indigenous indians.

One of the most interesting trends is that we’re flattening the economy.  Friction is being removed at a very fast rate.  Adam Smith’s invisible hand may crush the 99% completely out of the economy.  If that happens, what happens to capitalism?

Naval Ravikant from Angellist told me “There will be information tech based small businesses, where you roll out of bed in the morning and you get assigned a task by an Android phone, maybe it’s in a bidding market place, you choose what you want to do, you get rid of it at the end of the day, and you’ll work for yourself.”

So I’m going to spend some time living with indigenous indians.  They don’t have electricity or most of the things we take for granted.  I had to get a yellow fever shot which made me sick.  There are guerillas who kidnap people in the area.  But it should be very interesting.

Should we disturb their traditional way of life?  Of course not!  But large numbers (the majority?) of indigenous people do not want to continue their traditional way of life so they move to major cities.. But they are often unable to adapt well – we have seen this frequently in Australia with the australian aborigines.

What if we had a netflix prize, which rewarded finding the highest hourly rate possible in a scalable way for indigenous groups?   Lets say the average hourly amount an indigenous person could earn while living in their traditional environment was $1/hr.  What if we could bring this up to $5/hr?  Would this enable more of them to return to their traditional lifestyles while still gaining some benefits from modern civilization?

How I Do Referrals

Since I’m a connector, I often make referrals.  However my referrals are different, since I am able to make connections across unusual markets or very far away internationally, both cases where there is much less trust.

Fred Wilson and other well known venture capitalists now ask for double opt in introductions.  Fred writes:

When introducing two people who don’t know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it.


I don’t do this, because its I think we can do better.  I’m glad to make unannounced introductions.  However we need to do the introduction REALLY WELL.

Here’s what I look for:

  • If I’m forwarding along an email from you, is your explanation of what you’re looking for clear, well written and something the other person will immediately want to jump on?
  • Are you willing to do something of real value for the person?  If you’re well known that may be enough – or it may not be.  Maybe you will need to be willing to jump on the phone to give some free consulting.. Or take them out for a nice dinner.. Or gain special access at an event..
  • Are you willing to jump through hoops and be super responsive to the other person, even though this is something someone of your status in your market would normally never have to do?

This can be hard to take for people who are used to being top dog in their market and used to special privileges.  But the way different markets interact can be complex – what you have achieved in one arena may not translate to another.  And I’m not a world famous guy like Bill Gates.  I’m not listing these things  for fun, I’m bring these points up so the introductions will WORK.   And I’ll work with you in whatever it takes so we get it right.

I’m glad to do referrals and like to help my friends out.  I want my referrals to be powerful and useful so the person receiving them instantly says “yes, that is definitely something I want” instead of viewing it as an imposition.

And for those receiving my referrals, if I got it wrong and the referral isn’t useful feel free to just ignore it.  I’m very clear that I have to bring value.

Beginner Internet Business Setup

If you’re getting started in an internet business there’s a few services you should sign up for.  Even if you have some of these services elsewhere, in most cases you will be best off moving everything to this setup.  A lot can go wrong with this stuff and you want to spend as much time on your business as possible with as little time as possible on the technology.  I’ve had this conversation with enough people that I’ve now decided to put it into a blog post.

1.  Domain name: namecheap.   You need a domain name of your own.  I host using name cheap.  Its cheap and reliable.

2.  Your website should be hosted on WordPress.com  This will let you map your domain name properly and make it very easy for you to edit your site.

3.  Google apps email.  Get a business account which gives you email + a host of other services.  This will avoid a huge number of problems such as getting your email delivered.  Your email will be all set up using your domain name.  Its also a good idea to start using:

  • google docs (replacements for word, excel, etc) inside google apps – as your team grows it will make collaboration easy.
  • google drive (similar to dropbox), making filesharing easy.

4.  icontact.  To connect with your customers you should be using email regularly.  I use icontact.

5.  Facebook / twitter.  Everyone tends to start with these.  Social media is good.  Just make sure you have the rest as well.

You can hire a company to get everything set up.   There are lots out there.

With a setup like this you’ll be stable, have to spend a minimum of time on technology and can focus on building your business.

Update:  one of the nice things about this setup is all security is handled by other people.  So you don’t have to worry about things like this.

I am legend

For those who visit me in New York, you may end up with a photo like this one of my mother standing in washington square park.


Well, I watched the movie “I am Legend”, with Will Smith yesterday.  And almost the entire movie takes place in the apartment with the white door to the right of this photo.  All this happens right down the street from my apartment.

Here’s a video someone made talking about it


I know the jaded new yorkers will not find this too amazing, but I grew up in a small town in australia so this was pretty cool.  Check out the movie, its great!

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Religion and business

The reason people have a problem with gambling isn’t because they lose.  Its because they win.  They go to a casino, they bet, and they win – big!

This triggers a huge amount of excitement, even for people who are already very wealthy.  So they keep going back to get that high.  And thus a gambling problem is born.  It almost becomes a religious experience.

Business has similar elements.  We find something which works for us in business, so it becomes our religion.  And when things work, they can REALLY work, so this can be a big deal and change every part of our life massively for the better.  Its very easy for us to become religious about certain things in business.

But business changes.  And if we don’t change it with it, we can end up out of business.

An example is data driven businesses that sell products to customers.  Those who are analytical (like me) LOVE the idea of being able to track every part of a business, better and better optimizing how things work.  This is perfect in a huge array of internet businesses.

But there’s a problem with this.  If your entire business – your religion – is built around this kind of optimization, and you REALLY optimize to the maximum possible, you can only reach a certain size.  If you’re optimizing based on analytics, no matter what you do, you will end up generating more and more complaints from customers.  So you’ll have two choices – one is to consciously limit how aggressive you are at optimizing.  The other is to be shut down by the FTC due to complaint volume from your customers.  This might not happen in a bricks and mortar business, but it can with online businesses.

So while optimizing data is awesome and critical for running a business, if you’re at scale selling to customers I want to suggest a to switch to a better religion – to get close to your customers.

Here’s how Brian Chesky from Airbnb describes it:  “build something that 100 people love rather than 1 million people kind of like.”

 In the company’s earliest days, its most ardent users were in New York City. It had about 100 hosts there. “So what are you doing here?” Graham asked. “You should be in New York.” And so every week, Chesky would fly to the Big Apple.While there, he learned a lot about Airbnb’s hosts and even served as the company’s first “professional photographer.” To do the job, he borrowed a friend’s camera and went door to door in the snow. ”The thing that was so special was that you would meet them, and you would learn about their lives,” he said. He woud also use the site to stay at their places. “I was literally living with our users.”

If you’re billing customers for something and building your entire business around analytics you’re doing it wrong.  Your first religion should be being close to your customers.  Then your second religion can be analytics.