Tuesday, October 24, 2017

El Lean Canvas, explicado paso a paso

Tengo el honor de ser profesor del curso Startup Innovation Lab, del Plan de Empleo para la Educación Superior, en el que jóvenes canarios en situación de desempleo descubren las principales técnicas de emprendimiento siguiendo la metodología Lean Startup.

Dado que no hay muchos ejemplos prácticos y en español sobre cómo completar el Lean Canvas, he creado un vídeo de 14 minutos en el que se explica, paso a paso, cómo completar el canvas utilizando Spotify como producto de ejemplo.



Éste es el canvas resultante. Espero que sea de utilidad al igual que lo está siendo para mis alumnos.




Sunday, March 26, 2017

Want to be more productive at work? Leave your smartphone at home


I never considered myself a smartphone addict, but it is true that I waste a lot of time checking my phone and responding to personal emails and messages. According to studies [1] and [2], the average user checks the smartphone 80 times per day for 2.42 hours and touches the display 5427 times per day. These figures might seem very high, but I tracked my smartphone usage with BreakFree for one week and they are surprisingly accurate.
A couple of years ago I started using the Pomodoro Technique at work, which blocks smartphone notifications and some websites during the work intervals (25 minutes) and allows you to check them during the scheduled breaks (5 minutes after each work interval). This really helped me be more productive but it requires self-discipline that sometimes I don't have.

What if you really can't check your smartphone, personal email or social media because you don't have access to it? A few weeks ago I started the following experiment:
  1. Activate two-step verification for my Google account
  2. Activate login approvals for my Facebook account
  3. Activate login verification for my Twitter account
  4. Activate two-step verification for my Linkedin account
  5. Give my family a phone number where they can reach you at work in case of emergency
  6. Leave my smartphone at home and go to work
It is difficult to explain how vulnerable and insecure I felt the first time I left my phone at home... but after a few weeks the results have been incredibly positive.

I cannot check my personal email, Whatsapp or social media because after enabling two-factor authentication I need my smartphone for it. As a result, I don't get distracted by notifications every few minutes and I don't proactively use these services. In other words, I can focus on work, increasing my productivity.

When I get home in the evening I receive all the notifications at a time and respond to them all within 20-30 minutes, helping me save over 2 hours a day. that I devote to more enriching activities.

In addition, people don't expect me to be always reachable anymore, giving me a wonderful feeling of freedom.

Another positive side-effect is that your accounts will be protected from unauthorised access by using two-factor authentication.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bypass blocked ports with Reverse SSH Tunneling

Most organisations have security rules that stop non-standard ports on external resources from being accessed from the corporate network.

One frequent scenario is when you are running a website on a non-standard port (e.g., 5000) on AWS EC2 (e.g., 52.131.143.12and you try to call it from your corporate network. In most cases, if you open your browser and try to access http://52.131.143.12:5000the site won't load despite having the port open on AWS EC2 Security Group.

To overcome this limitation you can use Reverse SSH Tunneling the following way:

  1. Open a terminal and navigate to the folder where you have your PEM key to connect to AWS EC2
  2. Type ssh -i your_key.pem -NL LOCAL_PORT:localhost:REMOTE_PORT ec2_user@xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx (e.g., ssh -i your_key.pem -NL 8080:localhost:5000 ec2-user@52.131.143.12).
  3. Leave the terminal open with the SSH command running. Open on your browser and type http://localhost:LOCAL_PORT (e.g., http://localhost:8080). The website will load.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Don't feed the zombies!

Sometimes, the best way to help the startups you care about is to let them die from starvation.
We all know entrepreneurs with terrible ideas, seeking validation, recognition and cash. I was (am?) one of them, and looking back at my startup journey I wish that I hadn't receive the awards and investment that kept me working on the wrong idea for months (although it was a great learning experience).

If you really care about your startup friends, I encourage you to follow these recommendations:
  • Feedback / Surveys. If you are asked to provide feedback about an idea, don't be accommodating. Tell them what you really think, even (especially) if it is not nice. A good entrepreneur will be grateful to learn more about your real needs. Perhaps you are simple not part of their target market.
  • Install my app / Like my page. If you don't really like a project, why do you have to install their app, register as a user or like their Facebook page? This will inflate their traction metrics, giving the startup team false expectations.
  • Crowdfunding / FFF Investment. While you might think you are helping your friends by supporting their Kickstarter campaing or their FFF (Family-Friends-Fools) round, you are probably making them waste their time creating a product nobody wants, and losing your money at the same time.
  • Awards. Entrepreneurs need a boost to their ego from time to time. However, receiving an award for a project that is not good enough could be misunderstood as real validation, encouraging founders to keep working in the same direction. Don't support any candidatures you don't really like.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

10 things that I learned from organising a meetup


For the last 9 months I have co-organised and presented Machine Learning Dublin, a meetup group started by ADAPT Centre that rapidly grew from 0 to 1350 members. Now that I have stepped back, I want to share ten lessons that I learned through this wonderful experience.
  1. Form a great team. The effort to organise a meetup is largely underestimated: it can easily take you 30 hours per event. Make sure you have a good team of at least 4 people and assign responsibilities: finding speakers, sponsors and venues, presenting, managing website and social media, registration desk, etc.
  2. Secure great venues. The event space plays a fundamental role in the success or failure of a meetup. Secure nice-looking event spaces in the city centre that are easy to find by the attendees. Some topic-related companies, startup incubators and co-working spaces might offer their facilities for free.
  3. Be picky about speakers. Select 2 or 3 good speakers per event that engage with the audience and you will see the community grow. Make sure the topics are relevant and strictly forbid sales pitches. After a few full-house events you will have great speakers queuing to participate in future events.
  4. Don't accept any sponsor. If your first events are successful, sponsors will start queuing to host your meetup at their premises. Kindly decline offers from sponsors that don't share your values, that demand too much, that don't have suitable venues or that don't help you with the logistics.
  5. Manage attendance. This is probably the trickiest part. When you announce a new event people will sign up but many of them won't turn up. Some tips to minimise the impact:
    - Keep track of no-shows and ban them if they become recurrent no-goers.
    - Send reminders 48h before the event, so that participants can RSVP NO and allow people in the waitlist to attend.
    - Announce +20% seats above the attendees limit in order to compensate no-shows.
    - It is very common to meet attendees that don't care about the talks, and they just want to recruit, socialise or have some free pizza. Kindly remind them that the event is strictly for people that are interested in the topic.

  6. Take advantage of social media. Speakers, sponsors and organisers love to be mentioned in social media. Make sure you have a catchy hashtag that can be used during the event, and monitor reactions and feedback. Tweets from your attendees are your best PR.
  7. Engage with other meetup groups. Meetup groups on similar topics shouldn't compete but collaborate with each other. Share tips, speakers and sponsors. Promote each other and organise joint meetups if possible. It will benefit the entire community.
  8. Grow your network. As a meetup organised you might become an influencer in the local community. Make the most out of it: engage with speakers, sponsors and attendees, and find ways to boost your professional career.
  9. Enjoy the talks. You will be pretty busy during the event. However, find time to enjoy the presentations and learn from the great speakers you brought.
  10. All the effort pays off. It doesn't matter how painful organising a meetup sometimes can be, it always pays off! Personal satisfaction, knowledge, connections, recognition,... and sometimes with the most valuable and unexpected rewards.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Website Load Testing with Apache JMeter

I was exploring different load testing tools in order to make sure that the Ethics Canvas platform would resist peaks of up to 100 users signing in every 10 seconds, when I came across Apache JMeter.

JMeter is a robust Java-based open-source tool that allows users to test performance both on webservices, web dynamic languages, Java Objects, databases and queries, FTP servers, etc.


Running JMeter (Linux):
  1. Download Apache JMeter
  2. Extract the content from the compressed file
  3. From the Terminal, navigate into the apache-jmeter/bin
  4. Type ./jmeter and it will open the Java app (make sure you have Java installed)


Running load tests on Ethics Canvas:
  1. Right-click on Test Plan -> Add -> Threads -> Thread Group
  2. On Number of Threads we enter the desired number of users: 100
  3. On Ramp-Up Period we enter the desired test duration: 10
  4. Right-click on Thread Group -> Add -> Sampler -> HTTP Request
  5. On Server Name we type ethicscanvas.org
  6. On Path we type our sign-in file: /php/log-in.php
  7. On Send Parameter we add the email and the password
  8. Right-click on Thread Group -> Add -> Listener -> View Results in Table
  9. Click PLAY and the test will start, populating the table with the results


Understanding the results:
The most important factors are the average sample time (response time), deviation (from the average response time) and the status of all the responses (no errors). In our case, with an average of 2.2289 seconds from a mobile data connection, we can say we have passed the test.

It is worth looking for unusual values in latency and connect times. Always start with light-weight tests, and gradually increase the number of threads and reduce ramp-up period to know your limits. You might want to try as well from different Internet connections (mobile, wifi, remote,...) and never from localhost (unless it's only used internally).

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Ethics Canvas

In 2008, Alexander Osterwalder presented an innovative tool called "Business Model Canvas" (BMC) that aimed to help entrepreneurs to capture the fundamental business knowledge about their project, and bring about pivots in order to make the business model more consistent and successful. Since then, the BMC has helped over 5 million entrepreneurs increase the value that they provide to their users, and find a sustainable model.
In 2015, a group of researchers from ADAPT Centre started using a similar approach in order to detect at early stage all the ethical implications of a project, and help entrepreneurs and researchers pivot their idea in order to minimise these issues.


If you think about new technologies such as biotech, AI, IoT, VR, biometrics, blockchain, 3D printing,... they all bring great advancements for humanity, but they have some potential ethical issues that could have a catastrophic impact.

After some months of hard work and experiments, we have released this open-source brainstorming tool that we have called The Ethics Canvas. Similarly to the BMC, it enables participants to think about those ethical impacts while collaboratively completing this 12-box of the canvas. There are printed and web versions available, and it is licensed under Creative-Commons Non-Commercial.

SECTIONS OF THE ETHICS CANVAS:
  1. Individuals Affected. Identify the types or cathegories of individuals affected by the product or service, such as men/women, user/non-user, age-category, etc.
  2. Organisations and Groups Affected. Identify the collectives or communities, e.g. groups or organisations, that can be affected by your product or service, such as environmental and religious groups, unions, professional bodies, competing companies and government agencies, considering any interest they might have in the effects of the product or service.
  3. Products and Services provided. Name the different types of products and services that your project will provide.
  4. Resources needed. Capture the consumption of energy, raw materials, human resources, financial capital, social capital (trust, tolerance,...), marketing capital (reputation, brand,...), privacy and personal data needed by your product or service.
  5. Changes in Individual Behaviour. Name problematic differences in individual behaviour such as differences in habits, time-schedules, choice of activities, etc.
  6. Changes in Individual Relations. Name problematic changes in relations between individuals, such ways of communication, frequency of interpersonal contact etc.
  7. Organisation or Group Interests. Identify relevant ethical interests that other organisations or groups might have in your project; such as environmental, privacy, justice interests.
  8. Public Sphere. Discuss how the general perception of somebody’s role in society can be affected by the project, e.g. people behaving more individualistic or collectivist, people behaving more or less materialistic.
  9. Impact of product or service failure. Capture the potential negative impact of your product or service failing to operated as intended, e.g. technical or human error, financial failure/receivership/acquisition, security breach, data loss, etc.
  10. Impact of resource consumption. Capture possible negative impacts of the consumption of resources of your project, e.g. climate impacts, privacy impacts, employment impacts etc.
  11. Social Conflicts. Capture possible social conflicts that could be caused by the project, such as labour conflicts, minority/majority conflicts, ethnic conflicts, etc.
  12. Resolving ethical impacts. Select the four most important ethical impacts you discussed. Identify ways of solving these impacts by changing your project’s product/service design, organisation or by providing recommendations.

If you have a research or entrepreneurial project, I kindly invite you to use the Ethics Canvas with your team in order to detect the ethical impacts at early stage. We are always looking for feedback, so please, let me know what do you think.