Paul Miller

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

Impact investment warms up

David Brooks wrote a great op-ed in the New York Times this week about impact investment. I think he’s right that it’s one of the most interesting and exciting sectors to work in at the moment. He contrasts it with working in finance or government: “The big debate during the 20th century was about the relationship between the market and the state. Both those institutions are now tarnished. The market is prone to devastating crashes and seems to be producing widening inequality. Government is gridlocked, sclerotic or captured by special interests. Government is an ever more rigid and ineffective tool to address ...(Read More)

SitRep

I’m not doing brilliantly on my resolutions. Dry January lasted until the 16th, almost all lunch places seem to think vegetarian must equal cow cheese (which I can’t eat) and I’ve missed a few days of blogging. I have stuck with the standing desk though. That’s been great.

Teams of all the talents

Most successful BGV teams have founders with a range of different skills within the team, but it turns out just having diversity isn’t enough. This article in the New York Times highlights MIT research about what makes a successful team: First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group. Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible. Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with ...(Read More)

Goals, progress and optimism

Reading the news I find it quite difficult to work out whether we’re making progress as a species or not. Instinctively, I’m an optimist but sometimes that can be hard. The UN Millennium Development Goals were an attempt to set goals and measurable targets around human development and then a programme of activities and funding to try and achieve them. I was involved in Jubilee 2000 at the time and I remember thinking that they were pretty ambitious for just 15 years in the future. Although the target date is actually later this year, we’ve actually achieved quite a few ...(Read More)

The niggly list

There are many niggly things I hate doing. These range from things that are just a bit awkward (needing to move a meeting) through to things that have a few steps (arranging a trip) or things that involve bureacracy (tax return!). It turns out there are even more if I don’t do them. The way I’ve developed of dealing with these is to create a little list on the notes app of my phone each morning (actually I often start it on my way home the day before). It just has the name of the day and then three niggly things ...(Read More)

Building the future of democracy is a big opportunity

Yesterday was ‘Democracy Day‘ on the BBC in commemoration of the 750th anniversary of the first parliament of elected representatives at Westminster – the de Montfort Parliament. I dipped in and out of programmes and the online discussion but it struck me that the debate was all really within the framework of representative democracy and our current institutions. Even the stuff about technology felt a bit constrained. My guess is that reinventing democracy is actually a huge opportunity. The current system is so unfit for purpose and misaligned with 21st century values that when change starts to happen, it could ...(Read More)

Our internet history

“The Wayback Machine is humongous, and getting humongouser” Amazing piece in the New Yorker (they’re on fire at the moment) about the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine and the nature of ‘history’ on the web. The Archive is now based in a former Greek church in the Presidio near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge full of computers that crawl and snapshot as much of the web as they can, keeping a permanent record that some would rather be forgetten. The problem of archiving the web dates back to 1991 when Tim Berners-Lee decided on the the protocols for the web – he ...(Read More)

Nudge nudge

We had a pretty amazing turnout for the Tech for Good meetup this evening – well over 200 people. Well done to Kieron who made this one happen and thank you to Campus for hosting and Nominet Trust for sponsoring the drinks. It was on behaviour change which seems to be a hot topic these days. We’ve seen more applications around behaviour change (particularly for health) in the past couple of cohorts of BGV than in previous rounds. I think there are huge amounts that behavioural economics and psychology can offer to the social venture world. There’s so much interesting work ...(Read More)

Just say no (nicely)

Tim Harford has a neat piece in the Weekend FT about how important it is to say no. “… every time we say “yes” to a request, we are also saying “no” to anything else we might accomplish with the time. It pays to take a moment to that about what those things might be.” It’s much easier to say yes because nobody gets offended but also because you underestimate the future commitment that saying yes might entail. A psychological trick you can play on yourself is to ask yourself whether you would say yes to something if you had ...(Read More)

A Basic Income Guarantee

I worry a lot about inequality and the positions of the main UK political parties when it comes to addressing it. Under current policies, I think it’s only going to get worse and big global trends such as technological automation of many jobs and demographic change could exacerbate it further. One of the few ideas I’ve come across that has enough radical zeal to make it interesting is the idea of a Basic Income Guarantee. Put simply, everyone would get enough money from government to live on, independent of whether they worked or not. Everybody would get the same amount ...(Read More)