The City of Edmonton is currently seeking an injunction against “disruptive”i taxi service Uberii to prevent them from operating in the city. Now preventing the private use of a communication channel, even a buggered one, isn’t unlike preventing the clouds from raining over city hall, but hey, those pre-Internet institutions have to try something, right ?
In any event, at least until the scheduled Court of Queen’s Bench hearing on March 26, locals and visitors to the capital city can use their phancy smartfones to call up and pay for an unmarked vehicle to drive them wherever they might need to go. Just like that. Given that flagging a taxi off the street in Edmonton is akin to throwing three consecutive triple-twenties at the dart board, making taxi access easier is a worthy endeavour.
So this past weekend, after a night out on the town, a friend rung up an Uber car for me,iii and 10 minutes later, lo and behold, there it was. I hopped in the passenger seat of the late-model Saturn Ion sedan and away we went. En route, just as I would’ve done with a normal taxi driver, the driver and I started chatting about the his background and how he came to drive for this “disruptive” new service. Within about 2 minutes, I shit you not, this kid, in his mid-20s by the look of things, started talking about the year-and-a-half he spent in China learning the language and working for a Bitcoin mining company ! Needless to say, Aaron Tschirhart, my driver, had never heard of #bitcoin-assets, but he did offer me his business card, which led me to his personal website, from which we find the following “Year in review” entry dated October 22, 2014 and a glimpse into the life of an Uber driver :
A little over a year ago I started this blog, formalized my business setup and got to work.
This is a review of what has occurred over the last year. The success and failures that propels me forward constantly moving towards that light at the end of the tunnel.
First off, is this what constitutes a personal blog these days ? Four posts in a year ?? I’m disappointed if I only write four posts in a week !iv Secondly, note the Freudian slip of but a single “success” next to a score of failures, not to mention the grammatical impotence, the mixing of the past and present tenses, and the general lack of appropriate punctuation.
What’s more, is “that light” the one that, as is commonly supposed, people see when they die ? Is our boy here in search of Valhalla ? What follows would seem to answer this question in the affirmative.
In November of last year I attended my first Startupweekend in Hong Kong. I arrived not knowing anyone with a desire to learn.
Why didn’t he know anyone who wanted to learn ? Is this why he moved to China in the first place ? Hmm. Imagine how hard learning another language would be, particularly one for which you have no cultural or historical background, nor context, when you can barely even communicate in your own language.
This’d be like trying to drive a Formula 1 car before you even had your regular learner’s permit.
Over a weekend I’ve never learned so much. The depth of hands on learning by building was incredible. Seeking out answers and tools to help accomplish a goal brings an immediate result of learning that demonstrates the value of that knowledge first hand. After attending the Startupweekend in Hong Kong we build a prototype app, I learned online marketing channels and more specifics about back-end data management. After this experience I was energized with a mission of bringing it back to Chengdu.
Ok, instead of just criticising, let’s try to help Aaron out here with a little re-write of this section : “I’d never learned as much in two days as I did over that one Startupweekend. The hands-on learning approach was incredible and allowed for an unparalleled depth of experience. By having ready access to the tools and resources needed to accomplish our goals, we were able to quickly implement this knowledge and see immediate results. After attending the event, I helped to build a prototype app and learned more about online marketing channels and back-end data management. After this energising experience, I returned to Chengdu with a mission in mind.”
Hey, given a rotten banana peel, some used coffee grounds, and two mouse tails, even Gordon Ramsey couldn’t do much. But we’re not done yet.
Upon returning to Chengdu I started seeking others who wanted to see Startupweekend come to Chengdu. After 6 months of networking, collaborating and team work we hosted the first Startupweekend in Western China in June.
Aha ! We’ve arrived at last at Aaron’s solitary success from his time abroad : organising an event ! Because what to post-post-modern-post-industrial
citizens derps do other than sit in expensive classrooms and listen to each others’ dreams for a decentralised autonomous super-future ? Oh, that’s right, social media.
Now onto my failures over the last year.
In late December I started collaborating with a business partner selling Bitcoin miners direct to consumer from Chinese suppliers.
We caught the wave of the impact of a rising bitcoin price on the hardware that powers the network or the miners. Over the next six months we would build build an online store, manufacture our own miner prototype and sell direct to western customers.
Finally, the goods ! So Canadian kid goes to China with neither cultural nor linguistic arrows in his quiver,v probably after reading a piece on TechCrunch about “Bitcoin and China and tech something something,” finds an online (!) contact who claims to have a whizbang USB miner design in the pipelines (though he probably never tours the facility, nor even meets said “master of product development” in person), kid eagerly and blindly wants to help because adoption, kid
double-builds hacks together an online store using pictures allegedly portraying the mining hardware that allegedly exists, in addition to plunking his own capital to purchase Avalon/ASICMiner hardware that they plan to re-sell “just until their own product is profitable,” the store takes in a few pre-orders from redditards and forumtards over the course of six months, just long enough for the wave of buyer optimism to decrescendo and for the puppet-master playing this kid like a flute to be “really crazy busy” and have less and less time to answer e-mails or forum DMs or whatever, all while failing to turn a nickel into anything more than 3 cents in the face of a 30x increase in hashrate.
Unfortunately the business wasn’t sustainable as the price of hardware changed so rapidly it was very difficult to maintain a level of profitability that made the business viable . In June we started winding down this business and I’ve still got a pile of hardware associated with it that will most likely be thrown out.
This is just shocking, isn’t it ? And I don’t mean the part where scammy Chinese nobody claiming to sell hardware “soon”vi scammed Canadian nobody who paid for some web design and not a whole lot else, I mean the part where Aaron imagines that there was ever or could ever be a “we” in this little operation. While, yes, his name is forever associated with PeakHash.com as “the business guy,” there was never a team to speak of. There was a scammer who took a doe-eyed hopeful for a ride, and now the scammee is thanking the scammer for the privilege. Such community !
From this experience I learned the importance of providing long term value as a business not just a quick buck. In order to build a sustainable business the value proposition must include not only shared benefit but long term shared values.
In July I started to re-focus on the oil and gas sector in Canada. I saw the value of building products and services using a lean startup approach and wondered if it could be applied to the oilsands. My initial research I couldn’t find any startups specifically focused on building products and services for to solve oilsands problems. This is where The Oil Sand Tech Podcast was born.
Isn’t this just a classic example of “I just heard about Bitcoin, I’m here to fix it” thinking ? Sure, why not throw your towel in the oil and gas ring, the Lean ring, the Uber ring, the Bitcoin ring, and in every other ring else that you just read about in the wrong morning paper. It’s not like your thinking is the reason you failed in China, failed in Bitcoin, failed in marketing, and will fail in meetups and podcasts or whatever, it was just… other reasons.
Sure, whatever. At least you have your money machine.
___ ___ ___
- Except not. Disruption affects everything and everyone. A taxi service can only effect the people interested in using a taxi. Pedestrians, cyclists, public transport users, and owners of their own status symbols are… unaffected. Basically, Uber is as “disruptive” as a herpes virus that only infects people with exactly 8 teeth and is only transmitted by non-symptomatic carriers with exactly 11 teeth. [↩]
- From Uber’s website :
Make good money.
Got a car? Turn it into a money machine. The city is buzzing and Uber makes it easy for you to cash in on the action. Plus, you’ve already got everything you need to get started.
Drive when you want.
Need something outside the 9 to 5? As an independent contractor with Uber, you’ve got freedom and flexibility to drive whenever you have time. Set your own schedule, so you can be there for all of life’s most important moments.
No office, no boss.
Whether you’re supporting your family or saving for something big, Uber gives you the freedom to get behind the wheel when it makes sense for you. Choose when you drive, where you go, and who you pick up.
Given that Uber probably changes their website like a gangbang slut changes cocks, y’know, to keep things fresh, just like Ethereum and the Vessenes’ “Foundation” and Facebook do, the above is here for posterity. The type of empty emotional appeals seen here are all too reminiscent of the taglines used by cheque cashing and pay day loans shops, probably because they’re appealing to the same demographic.
So the question becomes, do you want a family-oriented new immigrant from Poland or Somalia driving you home after a night out on the town, or would you prefer to be chauffeured by a desperate and down-on-their-luck kid who’s just looking to make a quick buck while they sleep ? [↩]
- Since I don’t even have the device needed to contact Uber, and even though I use cabs from time to time, I’m precluded from using their service. Oh well, fuck ‘em. [↩]
- Which, I suppose, is why people actually read Contravex, even in Fuzhou ! [↩]
- Seriously though, unless you’re armed to the teeth like General Stransham, the Chinese will not let you in. You’re better off trying teach a cat to knit sweaters. [↩]
- From at least a year ago, the PeakHash.com webpage reads : “We are planning on releasing our Avalon 1 and 2 USB miner designs as Open Source. More news on this in the coming weeks.” [↩]