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Capital Ideas

The thoughts of Matt Olson, a systems thinker, hacker, and social entrepreneur, on retooling consumer culture

The Innovation Within

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I’ve been to a lot of technology networking events, so I thought I knew what to expect when I went to the Innovate North State Challenge on June 27th: Company A has a good idea but not the right team, Company B fails to differentiate itself in a crowded space, but Company C is disrupting a massive market, has defensible IP, and is poised for growth!

I could go that route, but I think I’d be doing you a disservice to not tell you instead about what happened later, at the Sierra Nevada bar, when, while enjoying an Ovila Abbey Saison (or three), I met a man that challenged my worldview in a profoundly depressing way.

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Reinventing Chico

Fab Lab

A group of makers has been quietly building a community space here in Chico with great potential for democratizing the tools of innovation and expression. After months of planning and hard work, Idea Fab Labs, Chico’s first makerspace, is opening its doors May 4th.

Makerspaces—open, social spaces designed for brainstorming, collaborative learning, tool sharing, and most importantly, making things—have a long tradition in technology communities around the world. They provide the space and both standard and high-tech tools, as well as the knowledge of how to use them, in a collaborative, open environment where experimentation and peer-to-peer learning thrives.

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Bitcoin - Don't Believe The Hype


Bitcoin, the new decentralized digital currency that’s rapidly gaining popularity, was invented in 2008 by a mysterious hacker named Satoshi Nakamoto. He published the original paper describing the protocol, developed the initial implementation, and remained active on the mailing lists until mid-2010, but then vanished. He was presumed to be an individual from Japan, but nobody by that name actually exists, so many now assume Nakamoto is a pseudonym for an individual or group that wished to remain secret. So what did this mysterious person/group/ghost create, and why is it taking the world by storm?

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A Brief Year In Review

Open Source Hardware On The Rise

Limor Fried

Limor Fried, the fearless leader of the open source hardware movement, and an inspiration to makers and hackers worldwide, has been named Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur magazine, and I can’t think of a more appropriate recipient. Last year, her company Adafruit Industries sold $10 million worth of DIY open-source electronic hardware kits. With 200,000 customers, she has inspired a new movement of hackers and makers to treat circuits and electronics in the same way open-source software designers have been treating code for decades. Publishing your designs and encouraging others to use and improve upon them has proven to be a major force in the software world, and this same community effort has now come to the hardware world as well. I am part of a nascent maker community here in Chico that has been putting Adafruit products to use, collaborating freely and publishing our designs and source code for others to build on, and I believe this exciting trend is here to stay.

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Preparing The Littles For The Internet


When I asked my six-year-old what he hoped Santa would bring him for Christmas, he said “you know… It starts with an F… A phone!” When I informed him that he couldn’t have a phone until he was sixteen, he said “oh, well how about a computer?”

I probably would have said the same thing if I were him, and he made the geek dad in me proud. Both the little mini-me’s are given supervised iPad time as a reward and they’ve grown quite fond of playing Plants vs. Zombies and Temple Run and watching Lego Star Wars stop motion animations or videos on how to be a ninja or how to fold origami on YouTube. If I had that shit when I was six, I would want unrestricted access too.

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