Why maths is cool (and very relevant in creating sustainable cities)

One of the team sent me a video from TED in which Kevin Slavin talks about the importance of algorithms in everyday life. Here it is!


An interesting aspect of our business is around the reality is that it is very inefficient industry – there is fragmented and disparate demand and supply, vehicles are empty, there are relatively low asset utilisation rates and pricing can be quite all over the place.We did quite a lot of work around urban freight which helped us to highlightsome of these disconnects – the graph below is part of a study that we did into understanding the baseline impact of freight deliveries to multi-tenancy commercial properties in London (you will need to click on the picture to see the detail). Ultimately what it shows is that each day there are hundreds of journeys to deliver a single item or set of items to one company – all via a single, very congested road in London. A more collaborative approach would allow different businesses to get delivery journeys shared quite easily, thus reduce cost, congestion and carbon. While many people may not care too much about carbon, these heavily congested situations will be very problematic during the Olympics in a few short months.


To address this, we use maths to find ways to create some logic in this whole situation, and in doing so, start to find a way of ordering a range of very random ‘events’. In many respects, this start with coming up with certain hypothesis that allow us to consider the situation in which a user might be in and then try and construct a mathematical way of capturing that and solving the pain point. While I am not going to really discuss the core of what we do, I thought this graph below might be interesting which was done for me by an awesome intern doing Mathematics at Berkeley. In this example, we were trying to look at a standardised per mile pricing structure so we used a polynomial equation to come up with a potential answer.

X-axis is distance in miles; Y-axis is pricing

Prince Andrew visits the office

Yesterday, HRH The Duke of York visited the Accelerator where we are based to find out more about what is happening in the Silicon Roundabout and also what was happening with enterprise opportunities for school and university leavers. It was a tremendous honour for him to come along, particularly after the event last year at Buckingham Palace hosted by Prince Andrew that I attended, and again it is another example of the work that the Royal Family does in encouraging business and enterprise in the United Kingdom. I think he was particularly pleased to see a few army officers involved in the crazy world of start ups!

Start Up Funding, Innovation and stuff to do in February

My last post from Carbon Voyage …

And in other news, am planning the next EYP event for February – I think a wine tasting or cocktail making class is in order! Also one of our members, Panos Karan, is doing a piano recital at the end of February – click here to get more info! The bit I am really looking forward to are Chopin’s Twelve Etudes Op. 10 and he’s playing them all in one hit which is pretty impressive – (almost as impressive as his recent performance in Athens of the Rach 3). Check this out (this is another performance of the Rach 3)!!!

And if any of you are free on the 3rd of Feb, there is a charity film screening of Brighton Rock at Raffles Nightclub in Chelsea to help the Alexandra Rose Charities – come along. You can book here.

Betas and videos

Well, I’ve had a big few weeks so apologies for not blogging for a while.

We’re now two months into our beta with Carbon Voyage. It has been interesting, and we are learning a lot, which I guess is one of the important parts of launching a new service. We have a very iterative process that we use with building our technology and propositions. I guess from my perspective that this is very similar to something taught in the military called the Boyd Cycle (also known as the OODA loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). This was originally constructed by looking at aerial dogfights in Korea between MiGs and the USA Air Force. Fundamentally (from my perspective), it is about being very proactive in dealing with what the competitive landscape looks like and what customer feedback is. Our ability to iterate quickly will be a a key contributor to our success as a business.

I’ve also started doing some videos for the business. I was interviewed by Hugh Mason from Pembridge LLP for a video that is being compiled that talks about the Gateway to Investment Program. This week, Dan Ilett from Greenbang and I have started a weekly video talking about what it’s like to run a startup at the moment which you can see below. Dan hase just launched a new company called Clean Analysis, which researches cleantech companies, technologies, legislation and services and how they fit into a vision of sustainable practices in 2020.  


And finally, it’s been lovely to see that amazing story of Susan Boyle and the previous one of Paul Potts, both of whom have the most amazing voices.

A good read

My father sent me a copy of “Now or Never: A sustainable future for Australia?“, which is a Quarterly Essay series. The paper was written by Tim Flannery, an eminent Australian scientist. It is an excellent essay. Interestingly, he was quite supportive of clean coal initiatives which would put him at odds with the guys from Age of Stupid (Peter Postlethwaite and some of the others have vowed not to ever vote for the UK Government again if they support the building of a new coal power station in the UK. One of my soldiers asked me about whether it was a bit strange that I was committed to environmental matters while being an army officer, and I guess the right answer is that the military has to be very mindful of the effects of climate change. Recent natural disasters have highlighted that military forces have been crucial to the provision of aid (eg. tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina, bushfires in Australia etc). It would actually be quite interesting to contemplate the different military scenarios and implications arising from this whole issue – what may military forces be called upon to do, what happens if food supplies and other resources need to be fought over…

In other news, we in Carbon Voyage are working on our next software release, which should be out in a few days time. As with any beta trial, we have been fortunate to get a whole lot of feedback which has now been incorporated into our technology roadmap, and many features will be coming out in the next few weeks.

Age of Stupid

So today, the team at Carbon Voyage were involved in moving a LOT of plants and other bits and pieces into Leicester Square for the premiere of Age of Stupid. This is an amazing film, starring Peter Postlethwaite and set 50 years in the future, looking back at where we are now, and highlighting the tragedy of why society as a whole is generally complacent towards the looming point of no return caused by our treatment of the environment. I really commend this film to everyone – it is a must see! It would also be remiss of me if I failed to mention that the film premiere is being held in a solar powered theatre, and it’s carbon footprint is tiny in comparison to most film premieres. 

An interesting week

It is only the end of day two of this week and quite a bit has happened. We had a shareholder/ management team meeting on Monday which was very useful, but actually didn’t quite follow the agenda set out. It was at a great venue on the Thames called Bacchanalia which is where we held our launch party recently.

In other news, I’ve started the process of looking for the next lot of funding for the business. Fortunately we now have working technology, a growing supply chain and even some early revenues; however, it will still be challenging to get funding whether equity or debt. There is a great program in London called Gateway to Investment or g2i and they have been really useful in framing an investment note for investors in their network. I’ve also applied for the ifund and the Blackberry Partners Fund as there are mobile applications that we are looking to launch in the near future. There is an interesting predicament around looking for the right funding source at the moment, as I fundamentally think that the amount needed to fund something with really big potential is just so much less than what traditional venture capitalists are used to dealing with (particularly if you consider that a good web application may cost only a few thousand pounds to develop). I had lunch with a very good friend today and was chatting about the funding situation for the business (and also what is happening with lots of start ups at the moment) and it brought home again the value of bootstrapping a business – it creates focus and discipline that doesn’t necessarily exist when you are flush with cash. There is a great post by Jeff Pulver that talks about the same thing.

There are at least two more exciting things to talk about, but I need to do that on Thursday once some things are put in place, and one of them involves a film that is way cooler than An Inconvenient Truth 🙂