Paul Miller

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

Alcohol, health and windswept islands

Alcohol has been on my mind a lot recently. Perhaps it’s the New Year and the media coverage around ‘dry’ January, but I’ve also just read Amy Liptrot’s wonderful book The Outrun which like H is for Hawk combines a story of recovery with a story about nature. In this case it’s the story of Amy’s recovery from alcoholism in her early 30s, via an addiction clinic in east London and returning home to her native Orkney for two years. Aside from making you want to visit strange, beautiful, desolate, windy Orkney it also makes you think about addictions. Then there’s been the co-ordinated ...(Read More)

Electric sheep

I for one can’t wait to get my hands on an electric car. Faraday Future’s concept (see picture above) fits the recent trend of manufacturers trying to outdo one another from a desirability perspective. In the beginning there was Tesla – with the Lotus designed Roadster and then the Model S and Model X – all aimed at typical buyers of luxury and sports cars, particularly when Elon Musk added ‘Ludicrous’ mode. Then there was the brief shooting star of Fisker Karma, and more recently the mainstream car companies have got involved – the Porsche Mission-E is still a concept but is ...(Read More)

Technology and inequality

A few years ago I wrote a blog post called ‘How to stop geeks becoming the next bankers‘. At the time I was worried about technology exacerbating the job losses created by the 2008 financial crisis. I wrote “We need technology to solve the difficult problems we face… technology should be creating new and better institutions rather than just gradually eroding old ones and leaving a vacuum in their place.” But the motivation behind the post was my belief that technology has real potential to make the world a better place and I didn’t want to see it highjacked by people who just wanted ...(Read More)

Good books of 2015

Just thinking back over the books I’ve read in 2015, there have been some good ones. These are the ones I enjoyed the most – in no particular order (not all published in 2015 obviously but I read them in the last 12 months): H is from Hawk has scenes that have stuck in my mind like a brilliant novel but it’s actually a non-fiction book.  Helen Macdonald’s memoir of buying and training a Goshawk intermingled with what she learned from reading accounts of other peoples’ attempts is a wonderful book. Seveneves – Neal Stephenson’s most recent is an epic story ...(Read More)

BGV becomes a B Corp

We’re very pleased to announce that Bethnal Green Ventures has been certified as a B Corp. If you haven’t come across the idea before, it’s a voluntary system for companies to show that they meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Corps are required to change their legal documents so that employees, communities and the wider environment rank alongside shareholders in decision making processes. We’re joining companies like Etsy, Change.org, Kickstarter, Patagonia and our friends over at Fairphone as well as a whole host of companies who are newly certified in the UK. We first talked to the UK B ...(Read More)

Tech for good opportunities email

As the tech for good community grows in the UK and Europe, we get loads of opportunities sent to us at BGV which we try to send on to alumni and other people we remember to but we’re not particularly systematic about it. So I thought it might be worth collecting them together in a very low-fi way and sending them out to people who are interested. The idea is that I’ll put together a little email newsletter with three sections: Funding and competitions Events Jobs The only criteria is that they have to be opportunities relating to technology startups that are ...(Read More)

Managing small and micro teams and experimenting with holacracy

How to manage yourself as a team is a perpetual issue at BGV. Most of the ventures we support through the accelerator are micro teams (2-3 people) and then grow to be small (4-10 people) before hopefully going on to be huge – the BGV team itself is now six people and we’ve tried quite a few techniques. When you have very little in the way of person hours available to you as an organisation, it’s vital that you get the best and the most out of everybody if you’re going to get to where you want to be. But ...(Read More)

This rat is incredibly smart

There’s a great episode of Invisibilia about how expectations affect reality. It goes back to an experiment done by psychologist Bob Rosenthal where he got some lab rats and put them in separate enclosures marked ‘incredibly smart’ and  ‘incredibly dumb’. He then asked people to train the rats to navigate a maze. The ‘smart’ ones did twice as well as the ‘dumb’ ones – despite the fact that they were actually all the same. It’s an effect that has been seen in lots of different contexts. People behave differently depending whether they think they’re with clever or not so clever people. ...(Read More)

Decks matter

I liked this piece by Bill Gurley ‘In Defence of the Deck‘. The great storytellers have an unfair competitive advantage. They are going to recruit better, they will be darlings in the press, they are going to raise money more easily and at higher prices, they are going to close amazing business developer partnerships, and they are going to have a strong and cohesive corporate culture. A great presentation about a business is a brilliant thing and a huge amount of work goes into the best ones. Of course, a pitch is no use on its own – and nobody ...(Read More)

Seveneves

There’s some great science fiction around at the moment. I’m not sure what’s going on but something about the present is inspiring great writing about the future. One of the best books I’ve read this year is Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – minor plot spoilers ahead so beware. The novel starts with the Moon blowing up. It does so in a fairly matter of fact way – one minute it’s there and the next something (we never find out what) has caused it to disintegrate into many smaller parts. It takes a short while for scientists to realise that this ...(Read More)