Paul Miller

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

Good things this week #6

Doing interviews for the Winter 2015 BGV cohort – so many talented people with great ideas. GoodGym‘s fifth birthday party – that’s gone quick! Finding that The George has had a very nice refit and is now serving some very good beers. Thought the Programmer’s Price in the New Yorker about the rise of agents for engineers was interesting – not that I’m a big fan of the tech industry becoming like the entertainment industry. Watching Crossing the Bridge about music in Istanbul (we’re going for a quick break there soon).  

Creativity, Inc

I loved Creativity, Inc. It’s the story of the founding, trials, tribulations, growth and eventual acquisition of Pixar as told by co-founder and company President Ed Catmull and journalist Amy Wallace. The best bits for me were the early chapters – the personal history and the early days of the company especially as Ed found himself in the right place at the right time though a bit of luck and judgement. His interest in computer animation co-incided with a wider growth in the coming together of computer science and art, partly driven by Cold War worries about what the Russians ...(Read More)

Who are you?

Grayson Perry’s ‘Who Are You?’ is the first thing I’ve watched on Channel 4 in a while and it was very good. The conceit is to bring portriats of ordinary contemporary Britons into the white, rich, male historical figures of the National Portrait Gallery in London and it really works. You start to realise quite how brilliant an artist Grayson is – the Ashford Hijab I thought was particularly beautiful. Then there’s the contrast with the one white middle aged political figure he does bring into the collection – Chris Huhne – as fallen rising political star. The difference couldn’t ...(Read More)

Memory and technology

A little while back, Douglas Coupland had a great piece in the FT Magazine. He wrote about how he thought the internet was changing the way he thought – how his brain no longer bothered to retain trivia and occasionally – conditioned by phones, tablets and screens – he’d find himself looking for the time in the top right hand corner of a book. As Coupland says when we go to look something up on our phones we’re really saying, “Let me instantaneously consult with the sum total of accumulated human knowledge. It’ll take just two shakes.” But he isn’t ...(Read More)

The Education of a Value Investor

Over the weekend, I read Guy Spier’s The Education of a Value Investor based on Diane Coyle’s recommendation. Like Diane, I sped through the book in a couple of sittings and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful, authentic, honest story about how Guy unlearned some of the unfortunate things an elite formal education can instill in you and then learned some new, more positive approaches to living life and doing business. These were mainly inspired by Warren Buffett but the book is full of all kinds of useful references to books and people that helped Guy think things through along the way. I’m ...(Read More)

Good News does the Good Gym

I’m a pretty big fan of Russell Howard and his Good News show so it was a lovely surprise to see Good Gym featured as the ‘It’s not all doom and gloom’ story this week. The show is on iPlayer for a few more days  – the Good Gym bit starts at 26 mins 50 secs in.

Peak Nation State?

You can’t really avoid the Scottish Referendum this week whether or not you live there. But I think the response to the surge for ‘yes’ from London’s politicians has missed the point. This isn’t just because people care about independence for Scotland – it’s a chance for them to stick it to Westminster. Mure Dickie has a good column in the FT Magazine today: In my ideal world, nation states would actually fade in importance and emphasis shift to a wider range of political units that would allow genuinely global co-operation on issues such as climate change and truly local ...(Read More)

Good things this week #5

Catching up with friends and making new ones at SOCAP – it’s great to know that the impact investment community is growing up strong in the US and around the world. The conference organisers getting Off the Grid on free vend to feed us at the opening party. The fantastic Interval created by friends at the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. Buying new kicks at the Darkside Initiative. Reading Player One by Douglas Coupland in a couple of sittings – including in an airport bar which was odd because that’s where it’s set.

Gadgets I’ve had for a while – Fairphone

When we first met Bas, Miquel and the team at Fairphone on Skype for their BGV interview a little over two years ago, we couldn’t quite work out whether they were mad. They were working at the Waag Society and had become experts in the negative impacts of the mobile phone industry. From the conflict exacerbated by the minerals in the electronics through to the conditions of the workers who put them together and the designed in obsolescence and failures to consider proper recycling, it was obvious that your standard iPhone or other mobile was not good. The problem was that when ...(Read More)

BGV Winter 2015 applications are open

We opened up our Winter 2015 Call for Ideas yesterday at the Tech for Good Meetup in London. Once again we’re looking for 10 great teams with ideas to use technology to solve important problems in health, education or sustainability. We’ll invest £15,000 into your venture, give you free office space in (very) Central London and a programme of support . We’ve come a long way from the first BGV in the Winter of 2010/11. Back then, we kicked off on a Saturday because that was when we could get a room and cooked vegetable lasagne for about 30 people. ...(Read More)