"Everything reactionary is the same; if you do not hit it, it will not fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself. -
Mao Tse Tung
from "The Situation and Our Policy After the Victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan" (August 13, 1945), Selected Works of Mao Tse Tung, Vol. IV, p. 19.
“…Community Investment Catapult”.
When you visit a coffee shop and hear words like these, it sends a shiver up your spine. You know that the digital revolution that we’ve all been preparing for, and which Ambassador Hammersley has been telling us about, is now so close you can almost grope it cautiously under the table.
Alas, I was only hearing these words in my head, as the coffee shop I was in was deserted and silent. The only human sound was a soft, fleshy sizzling sound emanating from a solitary East London tramp, who was making an “exit” (as we say in the VC community) with the help of a TASER X26P.
Were those tears of joy welling in my eyes, or was it the pepper spray? It can only have been tears of joy. Here I was, at last, finally sitting in #guardiancoffee.
#guardiancoffee has been one of my most exciting stealth ventures – a close collaboration between BongVentures Realty Holdings (a wholly-owned subsidiary of BongVentures Capital Management) and The Guardian newspaper group - whose forward-thinking Chief Head of Technology Jemima Kiss championed and led the project.
Now you’ve just seen the word "newspaper" and I know what you’re thinking: elitist, lumbering, analog-era dinosaur. But the Guardian has always been special, and different.
While my internet startups are new to losing money, the Guardian has been losing money for decades. These young entrepreneurs are taking their first tentative steps on the journey of destroying value to their final destination of inevitable commercial failure. But the Guardian has turned value destruction and commercial failure into a weltanschauung. We have so much to learn from them!
So it was, late one night in Shoreditch's Bar Barbarian, after an exhausting day of panels at the Hashtag 3.0 Un-conference, when Jemima shared a vision with me. To my delight, it coincided somewhat with my own, as harmoniously as the colour palette complements the pastel-and-lime wallpaper in iOS7.
We both agreed that newspapers have been held back by some very negative thinking and antiquated business models. I said that as far as I was concerned, they are staffed by deluded elitists who think that news is “something you didn’t know before” which should be written by domain experts “who know what they’re talking about”. Yadda yadda yadda.
And there is no way some journalist can compete with an electronically connected global brain, the HIVE. The archaic need to “check facts” just inhibits The Conversation. Look at the speed and efficiency with which social media now disseminates essential bite-sized infotainment, or the identity of the senior Conservative Party figure who wasn’t a paedophile, as it happens.
When you think about it, "facts" are just data that hasn’t been mashed up yet.
Jemima may not have agreed with this, but she did not need to be persuaded that Shoreditch is the epicentre of post-profit capitalism. She has been preaching this for years, a true visionary, and was the first person to write about so many disruptive internet startups that are now household names: names such as Muxlin, or LikeOurselves
But we agreed that we needed to flush out the reactionary elements at the newspaper and those still wedded to physical, profit-demanding “business plans” rather than ephemeral “business models”. I, too, need to know the secret of how you can lose so much of other people's money for so long.
So that night, #guardiancoffee was born. As Jemima explains in The Guardian press release:
"#guardiancoffee is all about making our journalism and our journalists more accessible, more open and more deeply embedded in one of the key communities we write about.”
Now what on earth, you’re thinking, has #guardiancoffee got to do with the much-misunderstood PRISM Big Data initiative? Well #guardiancoffee is no ordinary coffee shop. It’s a data-driven coffee shop, and PRISM is the vital lubricant that makes the social graph work. Think of a big, oily infographic, but one made of people.
PRISM is actually the world’s greatest exercise in transparency, a two-way cybernetic flow of information. The state has access to our social network and digital communications, but social networks will have access to everything the state collects, like – “How many traffic lights in Staffordshire aren’t working today?” also in real-time, which you can then turn into a hilarious and informative mashup. It’s the Open Data quid to the pro quo, if you like.
You must also think of PRISM as an open data journalism enabler – and thank the Guardian for promoting it. Because Data is the New Oil, The People Formerly Known as the Audience can only be the winners here.
(That’s the short version. For the longer explanation – see the account of my conversations with the Korean digital visionary Kim Jong Un and Eric Schmidt last week).
My first visit to the completed #guardiancoffee confirmed the great reviews it has received - but also provided a surprise. #guardiancoffee appears to have succeeded in sending both journalists and coffee drinkers out into the wider Shoreditch community. Which is where they must be, because they weren’t actually in #guardiancoffee.
Steve Bong (official title: Lord Bong of #businessmodel) is the founder of Bong Ventures, an early stage investor and incubator focussing on innovative new technology start-ups based in Shoreditch, London. When he's not helping rear the next generation of business models, Steve enjoys parties, foreign travel, extreme cuisine, Open Data and draws his inspiration from Ayn Rand and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He advised (then hired) No.10 policy guru Rohan Silva on mindfulness and innovation, Mark Zuckerberg on the Perfect IPO, the Republic of Kazakhstan on emergent social media strategies, LOCOG on brand enforcement, and imagineered the Olympic Opening Ceremony with Danny Boyle and was the social media consultant for Lady Thatcher’s Funeral. At the personal invitation of Kim Jong Un, he is a strategic consultant on the Nextification of North Korea. Steve wants to pivot the BBC into the 22nd Century, and favours Small Government but Large Catapults.
Follow @BongVentures on Twitter for direct and disintermediated entrepreneurship, and post-Juche digital dialectics.