Infrastructure

IAAS is the “how” of how things get done in the 21st Century.

Humaginarium is fascinated by Amazon Web Services. And why not? AWS is new and different. Rock solid and continuously evolving. Hard to fathom as dark energy, yet earthy and ineluctable. I see AWS as our ideal business partner, though I’ve barely begun to figure it out.

I noticed AWS last year, when the Amazon Lumberyard (beta) game engine appeared on our horizon. Lumberyard is called that because it’s for building stuff, though precisely what and how were unclear. After all beta means in-progress, unfinished, experimental, randomly documented, high-potential, go-away-and-let-me work-on-this. I didn’t even know how to ask questions about it.

Maybe for just that reason, Lumberyard had charisma. It made no overt claims, but I felt a powerful brand promise sloshing in its amniotic fluid. The kernel of an idea that high-end graphic animation and massive, immersive interactivity can be made by a small company and delivered straight from the cloud to millions of screens.

Intrigue deepened when I started reading about AWS, Amazon Game Studios, Amazon Game Tech; and attended an AWS Media and Entertainment Symposium in Los Angeles on July 31. You know, I make the point almost daily that reading is not the best way to learn (and I say that as an avid reader). Case in point: it’s quite easy to spend an afternoon reading web pages about AWS and still be mystified. Attending the Symposium in LA and then the Amazon Startup Day in Chicago on September 6 was better for me. Listening to practitioners tell how they made things, even things that have nothing to do with games or medicine or education, produced helpful insights.

After drinking from a proverbial fire hose for a year, I can suddenly step back and hold up my discovery: IAAS (infrastructure as a service). Amazon is maybe technology’s greatest example of an adage, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. IAAS is the whole of AWS. The parts are myriad ideas, people, systems, and companies that are to digital enterprise what transportation is to travel. IAAS is the “how” of how things get done in the 21st Century.

What is the whole of IAAS for Humaginarium in particular? It’s hard to overstate it. IAAS makes us feasible. It empowers us make and deliver numerous portfolios of exquisite scientific entertainment without having to beg investors for beaucoup millions in capital. It de-risks our business model and accelerates our production of things people love that they don’t already have, but which they need. It equips us for a long journey to success with a mass market, and shortens the journey with many amazing shortcuts. Most of all perhaps, it partners us with a company that shares our values and thinks the way we think, even though we have to work very hard to understand everything about it. Or maybe, because we do.

Next Steps

In Phase 2 we’ll move fast and break things other than hearts.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; or in our case a bunch of next steps. We pondered them at the end of August, gave ourselves until the end of December to finish, and got right to work. Here are highlights.

Last week I mentioned the slippery, slimy Business Model Canvas, still wriggling and flipping like a fish out of water. We’re going to reform it yet again, this time after reflecting on what we learned from customer discovery. Ready-aim-fire rather than shoot ourselves in the foot.

We’re going to plan commercialization using Scott Meadow’s model. The practical objective here is to de-risk innovation, a critical success factor in our case because so much of what we do is unfamiliar if not downright unprecedented.

We’re going to qualify business partnerships with Amazon and two medical centers who offered to join us in prototype development. Amazon is intriguing because they’re incredibly exciting; we want to catch their vibe.

We’re going to design a scientific poster for a Startup Company Showcase of the Diabetes Technology Society. (Thanks, Sam!) This is our first chance to pitch the science in our “scientific entertainment” to a community of scientists, a welcome change from geeks of our recent past.

We’re going to write a business pro forma that weighs Humaginarium on the proverbial scales of venture capital. VCs are anything but blind, so we’ll be explicit and transparent. We have a framework but the devil is in the details, waiting for us like Morgoth holed up in Angband.

We’re going to storyboard prototype media: a narrative game simulation that streams to desktops and a casual game that downloads to mobile devices. Both will take on the same chronic illness but in different ways. We want to see which consumers prefer, if not both or neither. Our seed funding will finance production of these digital wonders.

Speaking of seed funding, we’re going to update our website so it says what we say, and write two pitches; one lasting about 10 minutes, the other 30. And now hear this: we will memorize our speaking parts until we can recite them while crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. No more blank stares and stuttering.

Of course we’ll rehearse and refine our pitches with wizards who don’t know what we’re doing; members of the “seen it all, don’t give a shit” investor class that expects mastery of the universe and 30% ROI in five years. Meantime we’ll qualify a list of real prospects for when we’re ready to withstand the inevitable slings and arrows.

Did I mention that we’re going to write a Phase 1 NSF SBIR grant for submission in December? I didn’t because I’m trying to avoid the withering thought, but we shall do this. We’ve already been encouraged by NSF program managers so this milestone is not as far-fetched as it feels. They claim to love moonshots.

In closer proximity to our heart’s desire, we’re going to join MATTER in Chicago. The values of that health tech incubator perfectly match ours; and we want to be active members of the MATTER community. This will be a refreshing change from Polsky and much less of a commute.

We have dubbed these milestones our Phase 2, which officially began on September 1. Not only do we have milestones, we’re writing them into a plan in Project Wizard so that we can move fast and break things other than hearts.

One thing we wanted to do but won’t is use I-Corps Go funds to cover some expenses related to business formation. We’ve already discovered that I-Corps never got the famous memo from the Lords of Business Ethics which says “do what you say you’re going to do.” So when Go fell off the table for no known reason, we were disappointed but not surprised.

In any case I got the memo, many years ago, and have never forgotten it. See the Fellowship page of our website for a nice way of putting it.