Two kids and a full time job later

I’ve recently been provoked to take a serious look at Kaplak again. I thought I would drop a few lines in this place to announce that I’m back to work on Kaplak – if only in a tiny slice of my time – but no less ambitiously.

The truth is I’ve never really left. For various reasons, it made a lot of sense to close down the company Kaplak and focus on other things, but I’ve never quite left the ideas we worked with in Kaplak, and I believe the world still needs what we had coming for it. In the meantime there’s not much else to do but figure out ways to build upon the experience we had then.

So in the back of my head, this is what I have been doing. I am right now on three months of parental leave from work – which among other things, have lent me some long-missed time to think about the meaning of my life and the connected world. When teaching one does actually do a lot of thinking – but it’s mostly about teaching and planning classes and lessons, and not much else. Since August 2009 I’ve been teaching history and media full time at Aabenraa Statsskole – and since the summer of 2007 I’ve also had two kids (one now aged 4 and one nearly 9 months), which in sum means that my life is totally different today than what it was when I first started Kaplak.

So what did provoke me to take yet another long arduous journey to the far far away land of the slim ends of the long tail? (Plural because they come in large numbers!) Among other things, I’ve come across a couple of online phenomena which deserves a few words in this space.

Google+
Earlier this year Google launched Google+ which I have embraced and played with – at times enthusiastically, at others somewhat reluctantly. It’s like Friendfeed has come back – but different and with a whole new feature-set, which combines the best of what Twitter and Facebook have to offer. But it’s still a proprietary monster, where Google (among many other things) gets to decide what their users are ‘allowed to call themselves’, simply because while Google+ empowers users to share their stuff in ever more flexible ways, the network is still owned by Google and this ownership is never in question. Nevertheless, the ease of sharing stuff on Google+ has made me into a regular poster.

Google has been quick to add hashtags to it’s service, and I’ve now begun to add hashtags to my stuff, which makes it easy to find #copyfight stuff and posts on #landvaluetax, as well as all those #thingsthatmakeyouseetheworldjustalittlebitdifferently. It often has stricken me though, that I ought not to use Google to make what is in essence niche micro sites much like the ones we were developing with Kaplak Stream. Instead, I’d like to share stuff using WordPress as a platform as we did in Kaplak, and only use Google+ as a secondary channel.

If this then that
Just recently I stumbled (via my Google+ network) across an online service which goes by the name If This Then That, which stirred up a lot of thoughts about Kaplak in the back of my head. Occasionally I come across something which contributes a piece to this ongoing puzzle. Ifttt, I believe, is such a piece. Now these stirred-up thoughts have fallen into place again, and although a lot of the ideas we worked with in Kaplak remains (making a sound business out of less-than-popular (“long tail”) products – and transforming work life and the universe as we know it in the process), some have landed in new places.

My instinct tells me that Ifttt (and similar services) paves the way for the future of the internet. Ifttt truly empowers users because it puts users in charge of the what, when and where of their online activities – not the services they use. It widens a door already opened by the APIs of online services, which adds a new parameter to the equation. Companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter will increasingly have to compete on how well they serve the needs of users to bring their data where they need them to go (and in that process make more data available flexibly and cater to the needs of services such as Ifttt) – and not where those companies would like them to go.

Now, what does this entail for Kaplak?

We had two working strategies in Kaplak – one was widgets, the other was Kaplak Stream. Both aimed at the same target : selling niche products in rich niche contexts, which would easily be found by their niche customers, and in doing this connecting seller with buyer. The middleman – the “skipper” making the connection, would in turn earn kaplak, a percentage of the product value given by the seller.

Now, it’s a top priority to concentrate efforts on making Kaplak economically feasible. This means, that with the greater ease and the less hazzle we can create these connections, the better, as the turnout (kaplak) from each sale must be expected to be very small. Therefore, we will focus on the “stream”-approach, but with a few decisive changes to make sure we must do as little “clean up” and maintenance as possible – more on this at a later time and place.

This aligns well with what my life looks like right now. Among other things, I can not dedicate as large a portion of my time as I would like to build up Kaplak, at least at this point in my life. I will keep teaching history and media, and continue to devote a large part of my spare time to my precious family.

But what I do have, are those spare minutes during the day, which cannot be used for much else. I will continue to cruise the web and share stuff, using my phone, my laptop and my PC. But increasingly I will ‘share with Kaplak’ i.e. develop a sharing platform and work out posting routines accordingly, using Kaplak – rather than use Google+ just because I am too lazy to use my own platform. Google+ has other excellent possibilities and uses – but should never be the end destination for shared stuff, no less so than Facebook or Friendfeed should.

Using services such as Ifttt we can easily distribute items to their proper place, and since I’ve last worked seriously with WordPress, useful and valuable plugins such as FeedWordPress has only improved – and will assist to help create the niche sites, which in turn will deliver the helpful contexts for future Kaplak products.

What is important though, is that I sense that it is in fact possible – right now, using the tools that we have right now – to build a site architecture, without the need for a lot of coding, which will (if very slowly, to begin with) help accomplish the beginnings of what we set out to do with Kaplak.

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Barack Obama : Technology Empowers People

We believe that real change can only come from the bottom up. And technology empowers people to come together to make that change. —Barack Obama, speech at Google, Nov. 14th 2007.

What’s at stake in this election

I believe this US presidential election is a matter of grave importance, not just to the US but perhaps even more so to the rest of the world. First, the American leadership sets an example for the world. The damages caused by the one set by the administration headed by George W. Bush is best scrutinized in Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11. We need new leadership, a new vision and new examples to be set. We need a US president who can deliver this.

Second, the American economy influences the world’s economy. When a global economic power sinks into the bottomless financial pit of a brutal war of aggression, it not only sets a bad example for other nations, including Russia and all kinds of dictatorships, it also cannot help but bode ill for the world’s economy. We need a strong US economy, or at least a US economy which is capable of dealing with the challenges facing the United States internally, in order to lift the more serious challenges we face, such as world poverty and hunger and threats to our environment posed by our lifestyle and consumption patterns.

Third, and this is where we need real leadership, and real change, is to straighten out global priorities in the way the internet is, can and will be used. In particular, the US leadership is important in what is sometimes called ‘intellectual property law’. We need to stilt the draconian IP laws enacted in the US (I’m talking about the DMCA and similar legislation, if anyone should be in doubt). We need to stop these laws from becoming even more draconian, and we need to ultimately push them back. What’s at stake is hinted at in Lawrence Lessig’s marvelous book Free Culture, but isn’t limited to the remixing of music videos and animations – it’s our problem-solving capabilities which are at stake. Our ability to make good decisions based on trustworthy information, processed and exchanged freely using the internet, on a global scale, is at stake. If the US technology sector cannot lead the way because of the draconian American IP legislation, it will be a poorer world, and the struggle to get there will be harder and fraught with greater difficulties.

Barack Obama is now following you on Twitter!

As I am not American, unfortunately I can’t vote in the US presidential election taking place tomorrow. If I could I’d have no doubts. I’d vote for Obama. Not because he necessarily stand for and will enact all the things that I hope for the world, but because I think he will enact the kind of leadership, which sets an example and will facilitate the changes we need.

I have not been following the course of Barack Obama very closely, but even from a long distance he’s been able to make an impression. All thanks to the wonderful powers of the internet, which he’s utilized in his campaign with such intelligence and vitality. It made an impression when he followed me back on Twitter. Him or his campaign staff, either way, it’s an attention to detail which impresses. Coming from someone I respected and consider of high integrity, it also made a great impression on me reading Marc Andreessen’s personal account of a meeting with Obama. What impressed me in Andreessens account is the way Obama listened rather than talked, a characteristic which I felt showed his genuine interest in the problems presented to him. And lastly, he gained great respect in my book for appearing so genuinely as himself on the Daily Show and being able to stand up to the jokes of Jon Stewart in such as relaxed manner.

Lately I’ve been reading up on Obama’s tech policies, and the one thing I note with the greatest clarity is his emphasis on what can be done in America, in order to lift not only America, but also the challenges we face globally.

Seizing the moment : Obama’s speech at Google

Obama spoke last year (November 14th 2007) at Google’s HQ in Mountain View about his technology and innovation program. Watching this video of his speech I found I learned a great deal about Obama – and not just about his views on technology. If you haven’t had a chance to see this before, please join me here :

I took some time out to transcribe Obama’s entire speech below. It’s one of those speeches which apparently is not included in any of the official lists. Most blogs quote his technology policy press release, but I find it illuminating to read the words he actually used speaking at Google, and I learned a great deal about him in the process of transcribing his words. It’s a great speech, and one that resonates greatly with me.

Full transcript of Obama’s speech

When you start to think about it, there is something improbable about this gathering. Afterall it wasn’t much more than a decade ago that Larry and Sergei got together in a dormroom as graduate students with a big idea to organize all of the world’s information into an accessible form. And at the time I was a [novice? Illinois?] state senator, doing my best to help people get a better shot at their dreams.

What we shared is a belief in changing the world from the bottom up, not the top down. That a bunch of.. that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We shared that, and we also shared a bunch of student loans that still needed to be paid off. (laughter) And you would have found it hard to predict that Larry and Sergei would now be the co-founders of one of the most successful companies in recent history. And that I would be standing on this stage today as a candidate for president of the United States.

But this is where improbable journeys have led. This is where the moment finds us. And I’d like to say a few words about what I believe we have to do together, to seize this moment with a sense of purpose and a sense of urgency.

We know how the first chapters of the Google story have turned out. Afterall, all of you have good jobs. But we also know that the Google story is more than just being about the bottom line. It’s about seeing what we can accomplish when we believe in things that are unseen. When we take the measure of our changing times and we take action to shape them. And that’s why we’re here today. That’s why many of you decided to work here instead of somewhere else.

Technology and innovation have reshaped our economy and our lives at breathtaking speed. America’s been fighting to figure out how to tap this awesome new ressource we have. And Google’s helped to show us the way. But the story is far from over. Google’s story is far from over. The story about how we shape our changing times is far from over. What comes next depends on the choices that we make right now, at this moment, in this election.

We could see the spirit of innovation that started this company be stifled. We could see the internet divided up to the highest bidders. We could see a government that uses technology to shut people out, instead of letting them in. Tax breaks shuffled to special interests, while the next startup, the next Google can’t get a fair shot. Challenges like health care and energy that hold our country back while competition from other nations picks up. That’s one alternative.

Another alternative is for us to unlock a new future of opportunity. Together we could open up the government and invite all citizens in, while connecting all of America to 21st century broadband. We could use technology to help achieve universal health care. To reach for a clean energy future. And to ensure that young Americans can compete and win in the global economy.

If America recommits itself to science and innovation then we can lead the world to a new future of productivity and prosperity.

That’s what we can do if we seize this moment. That’s the choice we face.

As president, I intend to work with you to write the next chapter in the story of American innovation. That’s part of the reason why I’m running for president of the United States.

To seize this moment we have to ensure free and full exchange of information. And that starts with an open internet. (applause) I will take a backseat to noone in my commitment to network neutrality. Because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose. The internet is perhaps the most open network in history and we have to keep it that way.

To seize this moment, we have to connect all of America to 21st century infrastructure. As president, I will set a goal of ensuring that every American has broadband access, no matter where you live, no matter how much money you have or don’t have. We will raise the standards for broadband speed. We will connect schools and libraries and hospitals. We will take on the special interests so that we can finally unleash the power of wireless spectrum for our safety, our security and our connectivity.

To seize this moment, we have to use technology to open up our democracy. It’s no coincidence that one of the most secretive administrations in our history has favored special interests and pursued policies that could not stand up to the sunlight. As president, I’m gonna change that. We will put government data online in universally accessible formats. (applause) I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks and lobbying contracts. I’ll let you participate in government forums, ask questions, in realtime, offer suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are made. And let you comment on legislation before it is signed. And to ensure that every government agency is meeting 21st century standards, I will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer to coordinate and make certain that we are always at the forefront of technology and that we are incorporating it into every decision that we make. (applause)

And if you wanna know how I’ll govern, just look at our campaign. We received over 370.000 donations online, half of which have been under 25 dollars. Nearly 300.000 Americans have their own accounts on Barackobama.com. They’ve created thousands of grassroots groups. They’ve offered up over 15.000 policy ideas. Because we believe that real change can only come from the bottom up. And technology empowers people to come together to make that change.

Because at this moment I think we have to do more than get our house in order. The opportunity in front of us is bigger than that. Seizing this opportunity is gonna depend on more than what the government does or even what the technology sector does. It’s gonna depend on how together we harness technology to confront the biggest challenges that America faces.

Just imagine what we could do. If we commit ourselves to electronic medical records, then we can lift up the quality of health care and reduce error at dramatically lower costs. (applause) If we take on special interests and make aggressive investments in clean and renewable energy, like Google’s done with solar here in Mountain View, then we can end our addiction to oil, create millions of jobs, and save the planet in the bargain.

If we make technological literacy a fundamental part of education, then we can give our children the skills they need to compete and ensure the next generation of scientists and engineers as being educated right here in America.

We can do this, but we can’t wait. Because Silicon Valley is not the only corner of innovation in the world. If America doesn’t seize this moment, then we will face only more competition from Dubai and Dublin, from Shanghai and Mumbai. So instead of George Bush’s policy of undermining science, I intend to double federal funding for basic research and make the RND tax credit permanent. (applause) To keep the door open for the next generation of startups, I will enforce tough antitrust laws. And to ensure that America continues to attract the worlds’ best and brightest, we need comprehensive immigration reform, that strengthens permanent residence VISA’s like the H1B program.

We need to make sure that the next success story, the next Google, happens here, in America. The Google story is about what can be achieved when we cultivate new ideas and keep the playing field level for new businesses. But it’s also about not settling for what we’ve already achieved. It’s about constantly raising the barr, so that we’re more competitive, and so that we use technology to reach ever expanding horizons.

You know, the first time I was back here, in 2004, Larry showed me the image that tracks all the internet searches taking place in the world. I wrote about this in my book. I saw the Earth rotating on a flat panel monitor with the different lights for different languages marking all of the traffic on this wondrous network, a network, that didn’t even exist when almost all of us here were born. (laughter) Almost.

But what struck me wasn’t the light on that globe. It was the darkness. Most of Africa, chunks of Asia, even parts of the United States. The disconnected corners of our interconnected world. Where the promise of the 21st century is being eclipsed by peril. You and I must not settle for anything less than an America that replaces that darkness with a new light.

Because the promise and prosperity of a new economy must not be the property of the few.

It must be a force that lifts up our entire country and ultimately lifts up the entire world. (applause) We have the privilege to live in a transformational moment. A moment when an idea can change the world. A moment when technology empowers us to come together as never before, while letting each of us reach for our own individual dreams. A moment when we can finally progress and move beyond the huge challenges that have stood in the way of progress for far too long.

We can not and we must not look back and regret that we settled for anything less. And that’s why I’m asking you to join me in seizing this moment. I’m asking you to join me in changing the world. Thank you very much everybody. Thank you. (drowning in standing ovations)

Interview : Break the fever of fear

Obama’s speech is followed in the video with an insightful, relaxed and entertaining on stage interview hosted by Google CEO Eric Schmidt. In this interview Obama talks very open-heartedly about why he’s running for president in the first place, and why he’s running now. He’s also asked how he will actually end the war in Iraq, if he presumably takes office. As most will know, Obama opposed the war in Iraq. This speech from 2002 against the war in Iraq is well worth another read.

Obama sums up his foreign policy with the French president Sarkozy’s words, to “be more liked”. Meaning, that if the US is more respected and recognized for it’s diplomatic efforts, it will be easier to build up trust which enables problem-solving and diplomatic solutions and harder to create mistrust against Americans. Obama will “break the fever of fear” which has been exploited by the Bush administration to instill fear and distrust :

We’re told to be afraid of terrorists, of immigrants.. and each other … Our values are distorted .. not being certain if simulated drownings are really torture… That’s not who we are, as Americans. Sometimes I’m accused of being this progressive, far-out… – I’m conservative, in the sense that I want us to get back to those values that were essential to building America.

I sincerely hope he succeeds.

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Tim O’Reilly : Work On Stuff That Matters

This is a really important talk by Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media, Inc. from the Web 2.0 Expo in New York. O’Reilly is known for being widely credited with inventing the term web 2.0. His talk is reminiscent of Guy Kawasaki’s appeal to ‘make meaning’ when starting a business or a nonprofit. O’Reilly’s urge is really simple : work on stuff that matters. Set high goals for yourself and your startup. No matter how things work out, you’ve done something which mattered.

Don’t waste your time trying to build the next cool time-waste application for Facebook or try to figure out how to tap into the money stream. You probably won’t get funded anyway, and if you’re funded, you probably won’t get the second round.

Build something which meets the problems, we face. You will profit and grow from your experience, even if you fail. We all fail, and that’s why we grow and become really good at something.

The video is about 30 mins. but it’s a really worthwhile watch. No bs. For some reason, the sound is not optimal, so the talk is best heard and digested with your earphones on. Thanks for the tip on this video to Start snakken!

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The Grafitti Phase of a Startup

There’s a place close to where I live in Odense, where I come often to walk my dog. It’s one of those places I call ‘cracks of the industrial city’. As anyone familiar with the lyrics of Leonard Cohen will tell you, the cracks are ‘where the light gets in‘… In this case, it’s a stretch of unused railway tracks grown full with weeds and bushes, and surrounded by the backsides, walls and fences of old industrial buildings.

This place invites two particular breeds of people; dog owners and grafitti artists. It occured to me as a fitting spot to do our first videoblog, on what I term the ‘grafitti phase of a startup’ :

The video is also accessible on YouTube, which didn’t, however, work wonders for the quality of the video. The difficulty of getting compressed video (mp4) into an editing program, and getting it out in the same quality as it got in (mp4), is something I have yet to master. Add to this the further Flash-ification of the video on sites such as Blip.tv and YouTube, and you have a recipe for massacred material – especially if the quality was not that great to begin with.

This post is our first video blog post, and I know we’ve got a lot to learn. There’s a long way to go for us. We’d really like your input on how to improve. Ideas?

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Painful Beginnings of a Startup in the Making


Earlier this winter Rasmus Dahlberg of the Odense-based publishing house Det Historiske Hus asked me ‘why we had founded an association and not a company?’. I answered something to the meaning that the association was much more flexible than a formal business at this point, where we still needed to put together the right team, find investors and expand our network etc. I also told him, that I wasn’t sure if our leadership and organization was in place etc. All these things were true enough.

A few weeks later the association exploded in my face. As a matter of fact, I did see it coming, but, I’m sorry to say, didn’t react swiftly enough on the early symptoms and gut feeling I had. I didn’t realize our differences would escalate into open conflict. Instead I nurtured the vain hope that our differences and different backgrounds would only make Kaplak stronger. Now, the association is no more, and has been replaced by a regular for-profit company. And this is all for the better.

For a long time I have wanted to elaborate on the background of these developments here, but have held back, because I’ve dreaded the painful aspects of reliving the conflicts we had. Yet I know this is something we need to be open and talk about. We want to create an open business, which dares be vulnerable too and openly show what the process of building a company like Kaplak entails, even when it’s rough. It also may allow other startups to learn from our experience.

Last and not least I hope and think that this article may also be part of our internal healing process, which we need to cater to – before we shoot ahead into our bright future.

What went wrong with the association?

The Association of Kaplak Investors (Kaplak Investorforening) was founded on October 15th 2007 by Morten Blaabjerg, Jens Wellejus and Jesper Böttzauw.

We chose to found an association because we believed it would be more flexible and better able to expand the circle of ressourceful people around the project, as well as attract further capital. We needed candidates for several key roles on the team, as well as more capital to create the company we wanted. The association was a method for hooking up our different professional networks, which would help provide the team members we sorely needed, while we jointly saved up cash for a ‘real’ company.

All this was very good in theory, and this idea may indeed have spawned such an outcome, if we’d been a larger circle of people to begin with, with a higher willingness to lay down real money on the table. As it was, it relied too heavily on too few members to invest in the company, as well as lobby and activate their professional networks to also invest and become members of our association. And it relied (too) heavily on information sharing between members, about activities, valuable contacts and potential customers in our networks, and between the association and new investor prospects.

In return for this, all members were given equal influence on proceedings, in their vote and electability for board membership, regardless of the value of their investment. This spelled trouble.

In fact, this choice of organization proved less than flexible. Formal proceedings became too great a mouthful for too few people involved, taking valuable time and ressources from more important tasks, i.e. developing Kaplak as a company. If the association was to work, we needed to work hard to expand it and nurse it, as much as we needed to work on Kaplak the business. At the same time, I had a growing feeling that my partners, albeit enthusiastic about the project, wasn’t so enthusiastic as to actually invest human money, or alternatively, spend more time to help attract and close further investments for the company, and in doing this expand the circle of ressourceful people connected to the project. I felt I was the only one working on the project, but without real ownership to my work, as it became the property of the association.

The conflict arose between Jesper and myself, with Jens in the impossible position as a mediator or taken hostage between us. There were deeper misunderstandings and differences at stake, but the point of conflict was our new wiki.

From the very beginning of Kaplak in the spring of 2007 an internal (and later public) wiki was a key element in Kaplak’s communications and information sharing plan. It was in the first business plan.

Now, when the wiki finally was online in late November, Jesper suddenly objected to using it, even when asked directly to do so. I found myself spending more and more time “persuading” or trying to trick Jesper into using the wiki. One key goal of the wiki was to abolish email as a knowledge sharing tool, yet I kept spending an increasing amount of time in one-to-one bottleneck email correspondance with my partner. This was frustrating, because we could have used all the energy put into emails and explaining back and forth to build our wiki at the same time. My point was then and still is, that there’s no saying “I don’t understand it” when you’re in front of something new, without willingness to dive in and try things out and experiment. Without this willingness to try new things you’ll never learn what it is. This goes for wikis in particular. As an experiment, I copied all of our correspondance into the wiki. In part, because I hoped to show, by example, that we could have this exchange in the wiki just as easily – everything readable and editable by anyone in our circle, not limited to two people. But nothing really happened. Jesper felt reluctant to share any details on his contacts and possible Kaplak customers in his network, although this sharing and connecting was in fact a key contribution of his to Kaplak by his contract. I didn’t feel he trusted me, my leadership or the company, and I slowly lost faith in him as a partner. These events were probably inevitable, given our series of misunderstandings, difficulties and conflicts of which I describe only some here.

In early January we had a very loud board meeting, which culminated with Jesper leaving the board. At this meeting I tried to demonstrate, that Jesper’s efforts didn’t amount to what he had said he’d deliver : leads and contacts. Jesper in turn said he had been talking to a lawyer about my ‘criminal act’ of copy-pasting our ‘private’ correspondance into the wiki, which he believed to be in violation of Danish law. This ended the meeting, as I can’t tolerate a partner who believes I am a criminal, and who had the audacity to discuss these alleged criminal offenses with a lawyer before considering the interests of the company. I can’t live with a partner who’d rather discuss my possible acts of crime with a lawyer, before he’ll contribute value to the company, do the work much needed, and learn to use the tools he’s been given to do so, and by all this protect his own investment in the company.

In addition, I could under no circumstances spend time arguing about any possible grounds for such accusations, because that would just even further lead focus away from what was important : building a great and durable business. To put it bluntly, I found the accusations ridiculous, but also revealing, in terms of how deep our differences struck in relation to Kaplak. Kaplak is a company and product based on technologies of sharing : open source, wikis, filesharing protocols, copy-paste, widgets which flow from platform to platform and so on and so forth. I couldn’t see my partner representing Kaplak in this sense, and this effectively terminated our business relationship.

It was the final straw in a chain of events which spelled out the need for simplifying things. The board was in effect put out of business, unable to legally enter into agreements on behalf of the association. I resigned as a chairman, although I continued to run Kaplak as a CEO, according to my contract for 2007, but without any certainty that my work would be authorized with a new contract for 2008.

Now I worked without any ownership to what I made. This was clearly intolerable.

One thing was sure. I didn’t want Jesper on the board, and I wasn’t very happy to have him as a partner. But it wasn’t any sufficient solution to simply replace one board member with a new one. The real problem, as I saw it, was that influence was awarded to any member of Kaplak on completely equal terms, regardless of investment or value contribution. As a majority investor, CEO and chairman, I technically had to refer to the board, i.e. myself and my partners, even though I owned much more of the company, than my two companions.

This in effect undermined any motivation for further investments in the company by members, as well as for inviting others to join the circle. This also undermined the authority and leadership of the association. Why invest in something you couldn’t be sure (theoretically) wouldn’t be led by a completely different group of people after the next general assembly? Why respect leadership among ‘equal visionaries’? Why work for and respect an assocation which claimed ownership to the company and it’s values, but wasn’t capable of delivering the ressources, it was created to facilitate?

Something needed to be done about this. If we kept going without abiding by the formalities of the association, we would just undermine the authority of the organisation even further, and risk undermining the entire project. We could try to get a stand-in for our board, to sign documents which would subsequently have to be approved by our general assembly. We could change the rules and demand cash investments from all members, in the hope that this would lead to a more responsible board of investors, who would be more careful about protecting their own investments. In other words, we could patch up things a bit and try to keep going until we acquired more members and investments – or until we were fed up with working for nothing, while our business suffered.

Or we could realize that something was wrong with our choice of organisation, at least at this level of Kaplak’s development. We could abolish it altogether, in spite of fears that it might not be very pleasant.

The association was designed to be difficult to abolish, and dissolving it meant to deprive present members of formal influence on the project, and carry over investments and agreements to a new company. As it was, I was the majority investor and only investor of capital so far, but this didn’t provide me with any special influence in the association, where the highest authority remained the general assembly. Two extraordinary general assemblies were needed to dissolve the association, each called with 14 days notice.

The first assembly took place February 21st, which was in effect an ultimatum to all members. To be square : put money on the table or lose influence – or alternatively, abolish the association. An ultimatum may not be the best road for dialogue, but I wanted to make sure the seriousness of the situation was manifest, and that this could not be sweettalked away. I also made it clear, that if we weren’t capable of electing a new board at this assembly, I wanted to dissolve the association. This in effect meant, that we needed at least one new member to sign up before or at the assembly, which made it hard to resist laying down the organisation.

I was the only attendee, which I took as another testimony to the malfunction of the organisation and as a time to wake up to the fact that I had chosen the wrong business partners.

On the other hand, it made things very easy. The association was formally dissolved at a second general assembly on March 10th.

The rebirth of Kaplak

Thus, we abandoned the association in favor of a regular for-profit business, which is the best thing that could happen for Kaplak. There is a re-established clarity of ownership and leadership, which is capable of reinstating confidence in the company. We can begin building income streams and develop Kaplak v1. We’ll do this by selling complementary products, i.e. products which complements Kaplak v1 and attracts the same kind of customers, i.e. somewhat web-savvy niche producers, who knows that they need to get out there with their product, but still has to find the best, precise, low-cost method and tools of achieving this.

To begin with Kaplak will be listed as a private single-person company. Under Danish law, there’s no capital requirements for this type of company. The new company honors the spirit of all agreements entered into by the association, with the exception, that A-shares will only be given to investors who invest a cash amount of a certain level in the company. Mikkel continues to be our hosting partner. As before, warrants will be effective when the company agrees to list as a private limited liability company (anpartsselskab), which requires a substantively larger amount of capital.

We’re also increasingly facing a choice concerning our communications strategy, which this blog post goes to prove. Open business and open communications is not just something you do when everything is running smoothly and there are nice things to report. If there’s something I hate it’s the superficial niceness of startups with only positive stories. This is not something which establishes confidence in my book.

In Kaplak we need to re-orient ourselves at a much more radical level of public openness. It may hurt our chances with certain investors, but then it’ll win us others who understand how we want to do business. The clear argument is that an open system can operate faster (no passwords to remember everywhere), grow bigger, be much more visible online, and invite readers as well as input to the company, at all levels of our activities.

If we want to attract the right people, we need to show a considerable openness concerning our challenges and problems too. And if we want to grow this market we’re in, we need to be daring enough to help others, who will also be our competitors. Because competition is a good thing. It helps you stay on your toes, and it sharpens ideas and business models. And if there’s something we need, it’s this. Smart people, capable of breeding and nurturing sharp ideas and business models.

On a related note, earlier this spring, I also shared these entrepreneurship lessons with How To Split An Atom, a great entrepreneurship blog written by Steve Spalding.

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