Years ago now Google quietly announced its “Loon Balloon Project” in New Zealand. The objective was to launch high altitude balloons that could potentially float over areas of the globe that did not yet have Internet access. The tech press predicted that the idea was “loony” indeed, though some called it “crazy cool.” Google has since also dabbled with the idea of low earth orbit satellites to achieve the same goal. With the rise of SpaceX, this seems an even more interesting technological approach, though other firms in the 1990s lost large amounts of money and failed.  A modest aerospace company and a subsidiary of Airbus in Toulouse France is manufacturing low-orbit internet access satellites, hoping to launch as many as 650 such satellites. The idea that is captivating me is the potential for space-based Internet access to potentially provide an alternative to growing political and corporate control and Balkanization of the Internet.

UPDATE: This post from February 21, 2016, is being republished in the light of the announcement that Club Penguin […]

The Trans-Pacific Partnership began modestly years ago with New Zealand and a few other southeast Asian countries and mushroomed into a Pacific regional plan as the cornerstone of Obama’s pivot towards Asia. It has attracted the ire of both left-wing progressives and now Donald Trump, who has announced his intention to cancel U.S. participation in TPP. The criticism has ranged from it being part of the New World Order conspiracy to loss of jobs, damage to the global environment, and a host of other issues. It is considered to be a crucial factor in the populist revolt against so-called “free” international trade, and the rise of protectionism. Regrettably, it will likely go ahead in some form, regardless, with China in the leadership role, not the United States. The probable consequences of this are grave

Accelerate Okanagan should be commended for publishing a document, the stated goal of which is to “assist in attracting new talent, companies, and potential investors to the Okanagan, as well to inform policy makers and the media.” Such reports are commonly used to promote a community or region’s economy. However, as with the earlier 2015 report, there are persistent issues, particularly with the industry definition and methodology of the study. The result is questionable data and numbers that simply do not pass a basic “sniff test.” Accepting the results of this study as published may only serve to mislead community leaders on planning, and mislead prospective entrepreneurs considering relocating here.

British Columbia and New Zealand share many economic similarities, except that New Zealand has way more sheep, are way better at rugby and are better sailors. Both economies are focused on natural resource exploitation, tourism, wine, and horticulture. Both economies have similar populations though we have more space and are not isolated in the South Pacific. The motion picture industry has been a major factor in both economies, but both are highly vulnerable to foreign exchange fluctuations. Both economies have made efforts to diversify into high tech, pouring millions into development of startups. Both economies have had modestly successful companies in high tech, which have been bought out and moved out. The crucial difference may be New Zealand’s pragmatism about how to deal with this economic reality. British Columbia could learn from New Zealand.

Report Lacks The Rigor Necessary To Give It Much Credibility. The AO report’s “economic impact” conclusions are based on 2014 Survey Monkey voluntary responses, which are problematic due to an apparent lack of critical assessment. The report does not follow the kind of rigorous industry analysis performed by leading technology consultancy firms like International Data Corporation (IDC) or Gartner.

It was with some amazement that I read of the stunning results achieved by Andy Hamilton and the Icehouse incubator in Auckland. I have had the good fortune to know and work with Andy, visiting the Icehouse as the Director of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s Silicon Valley incubator in Redwood City. Andy routinely asked me to stop by when I was in town to deliver a “tough love” talk to the resident companies. Andy’s results contrast sharply with the results being achieved in other incubators, particularly here in BC. Much is being written about an incubator glut, massive waste of government money, and most importantly poor quantitative results from incubator companies. For example, when asked how many companies they have helped succeed a local BC accelerator employee could only say: “You really have to define success. I mean for most of these guys our success is just about getting them to realize their ideas are bad.” Really?

This year’s America’s Cup Defense is a Tour de Force of technological innovation both on and off the water, Read on and I will explain. The America’s Cup events are hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay, and the defending team BMC Oracle, led by none other than Larry Ellison, Chairman and founder of Oracle in Silicon Valley. The qualifying races on Marina Green and San Francisco Bay. Every aspect of this has been planned in advance to showcase bleeding edge technology, and to turn the yacht races themselves into the spectator event The America’s Cup has never been,

At an absolute minimum, Google has scored a PR coup with their blog announcement of “Project Loon,” a trial of Internet Wifi via balloons floating in the stratosphere over New Zealand. You may have already seen, heard or read about this, as the story has appeared in much of the mainstream media, albeit without much journalistic scrutiny. The Loon project has also been covered extensively in the tech “blogosphere” (pun intended). From my reading, only very few journalists have delved into the devil of the details, and asked serious questions, which remain largely unanswered. It is probably not in Google’s best interest to say too much more, as they have already favorably established the Loon Project in the media. The Kiwi’s have a term for this kind of project. They are known in New Zealand as “#8 Wire” projects. Read on and I will explain.

When I first stumbled on the HBO television series Flight of the Conchords, I had no awareness of the developing cult status of the two Kiwi comedians/singers/songwriters, Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. I will say that the first episode was so exceptional that I nearly pee’d myself in hysterical laughter. I then immediately got on the Net and the phone to my mates at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise here and Down Under in New Zealand. My first question was who at NZTE had helped with development of the script for the show?