Paul Miller

Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures helping technology startups working on stuff that matters.

Droning on

I’ve been going on about getting a drone for ages and yesterday bit the bullet and bought one. I walked into Maplin across the road from our office and came out with a Parrot AR 2.0. I certainly got respect from the shop assistants – they had all tried it out and it gets their thumbs up apparently. Once you’ve opened the box and charged the battery, it doesn’t really come with any instructions so you quickly find yourself on the Parrot website watching tutorial videos which are very good. You download an app onto your phone (it seems to ...(Read More)

GoodGym on the telly

What doesn’t make it into an impact accelerator programme

Luni at Fledge has written a great blog post about what doesn’t make it into their programme over in Seattle. We could have written an almost identical list for Bethnal Green Ventures (applications are open for our Summer cohort by the way!). The only thing I’d add is that you can greatly improve your chances by getting in touch before you apply and having a chat with one of our team either face-to-face or on the phone. Just by talking it through with one of us, you’ll get a feel for what our selectors are looking for and things you definitely ...(Read More)

A confused sense of history

There’s an exhibition at Moma at the moment called The Forever Now. It’s hooked on William Gibson’s idea of ‘atemporality’ – or the feeling of being in more than one time at once. It’s the strange sense you get from many of his books and to be honest in life – you’re never quite sure whether you’re in the past, present or future. Bruce Sterling explains the idea more in this talk he gave in 2010. As this Guardian review says, the show doesn’t really work, mainly because painting is very temporal. It is almost always of the moment which ...(Read More)

Thiel on Rand

I’d always assumed Peter Thiel would be part of the Silicon Valley Ayn Rand fan club. But I’ve been reading Zero to One (more on this later) and he’s actually pretty damning, albeit with feint praise. “That we need individual founders in all their peculiarity does not mean that we are called to worship Ayn Randian “prime movers” who claim to be independent of everybody around them. In this respect Rand was a merely half-great writer: her villains were real, but her heroes were fake.” I don’t think I’d even give her ‘half-great’ to be honest. Still amazes me that ...(Read More)

My economy is bigger than yours. So what?

I know this is probably very naive of me but when I was reading Sam Altman’s piece the other day about the battle for economic supremacy between China and the US, I couldn’t help thinking ‘does it really matter?’. I started wondering why we get so het up about the competitiveness of different countries. I probably shouldn’t be saying this at the moment as I’m on a ‘trade mission’ as we speak – a trip organised by the UK government to promote social investment in the UK to New York investors. But I don’t think of that as a competitive ...(Read More)

Proper weather

I’m off to New York today and it looks like there’s some proper weather over there. I’m going to have to get used to zero being very different in Fahrenheit to Celsius and I’m not really sure I have enough warm clothes for below -10 in real numbers. Apparently there have been some upsides though. The city is too cold for murder and for the first time in modern history went 12 days without a homicide earlier this week.    

The Internet’s Own Boy

John Naughton is right – ‘The Internet’s Own Boy‘ on Storyville at the moment is very good. I knew some of the Aaron Swartz story but still learned a lot. He was a technical genius helping to create RSS, Reddit and the technology behind Creative Commons. The way he saw it, programming was a super power: “If you had magical powers, would you use them for good or to make you mountains of cash?” But he was also deeply political and clashed with any form of authority that he saw as unjust or illogical. Swartz was trying to make the system ...(Read More)

A hundred sorts of democracy

I went along to Change: How? yesterday – an afternoon of 100 speakers talking about democracy and politics 100 (ish) days from out UK general election. I had a few thoughts: Unsexy democratic reform is happening slowly and surely. My friend Peter Macleod told how they’ve been introducing citizen panels and juries in Canada and finding that they work. They don’t make the headlines though. The interesting stuff in the UK is happening outside mainstream political parties. Richard Wilson and James Smith are both proposing interesting ways of being elected members of parliament – far more novel than any of the ...(Read More)

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing

Amidst all the UK debate about businesses paying (or avoiding) tax, it was the 50th anniversary of Warren Buffett taking over as manager of Berkshire Hathaway. I was reminded of this quote from the 1998/99 annual letter to  shareholders: “Writing checks to the IRS that include strings of zeros does not bother Charlie or me. Berkshire as a corporation, and we as individuals, have prospered in America as would in no other country. Indeed, if we lived in some other part of the world and completely escaped taxes, I’m sure we be worse off financially (and in many other ways as ...(Read More)