a love or knowledge around the celebration of life

July 13, 2014
by Nikolais

Designer Republic Design Commune (Jing’an)

511 Jiangning Lu, near Kanding Lu  江宁路511号,近康定路

Opening in November last year, their latest project restores a red-brick former police headquarters in Jingan. The Design Republic Commune is part gallery, retail and event space that, among other things, is set to house a one-bedroom hotel and Michelin-starred chef Jason Artherton’s new restaurant ‘Commune Social’* After a rather amusing lunch thanks to Marie our lovely hostess! We visited Designer Republic Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu’s Flagship store. Apart form the beautiful Designer furnitutre shipped in form all parts of the world the Architecture itself was amazing. Just one of a number of these types of collective’s popping up all around Shanghai I suspect due to the funding and Tax benefits the government are offering to designer think tanks such as this.

*IN 1998 JASON ATHERTON was the first British Chef to complete a stage at the Famous elBulli.

July 13, 2014
by Nikolais

Crowd Funding Platforms in China

Crowd Funding in China

I find myself highly intrigued by this topic. As a leader in a design agency that regularly initiates startup style offshoots and venture’s into new market niches this looked like just the thing we had been looking for. Most of us have heard of rewards based crowdfunding platforms (CFP) such as kickstarter but did you know there were different types of Crowd funding platforms with entirely different approaches to sourcing of funds.


  • Crowdfunding democratises investment reducing cost for your organisation to solicit money for your projects.
  • It also solicits visible investment. You can see who they are and what they are interested in!
  • Big potential to eliminate the ‘old boy’ network and enable a new class investors!

CFP Platform types

Reward-based crowdfunding is based on ‘donations for gifts’, where funders give money to activities in return for rewards or first chance at the product being produced.

Platforms include:

Equity-crowdfunding, rather than donate money, funders invest money in an activity and, in return, receive shares or equity.

Platforms include:

Donation or charity based crowdfunding or crowdfunding for good is based around the idea that people like to give to charity but at the same time have a clear choice who they wish to give to. It’s based a little more around the micro-financing model developed by Muhammed Yunis and Grameen Bank to battle poverty in the emerging world.

Platforms include:

Loan based Crowdfunding enables investors to get a set ROI as long as they can trust the business will do well. This is the most difficult model as it means expenditure of money for no major gain and now liquidity in the business.

Platforms include:

Some key tips:

Do not start cold! Already have an engaged community…. And leverage this interest.

Choose wisely which platform is right for you. Crowdingin is a great platform to lead you through which CFP to use.


The other area that intriqued me is seeing that we were hearing this lecture in Shanghai exactly how do these platforms relate to China? China does have an almost google like approach to startups in that small innovative products come and go constantly however from a cultural and legislative perspective there are some huge barriers to entry.

First and foremost being that as a culture the Chinese still have an innate lack of trust in giving money to someone they don’t know without ironclad guarantee’s which at this point can not easily be given.

Yule Bao is perhaps the start of this as it has the backing of a large insurance corp who holds/guarantees the money. Of course this is dealing with sums of money at a small scale (100RMB per transaction) but if China is to venture into more robust Crowd funding models such as equity based CFPs then there needs to be more than just a large insurance provider backing these transactions due to the potential figures involved.

There are also many Governmental rules and hoops to jump through. Currently there are laws in China such that sees artists obtaining grants from the Government for their art however the Government has the right to sell their artwork or prints/copies of it online with out any breach of copyright. Why then would the government allow a Crowd Funding platform to exist without maintaining a similar interest and would this be welcomed by the general populace. i.e. Every interest you buy in a company the Govt gets a share.

Furthermore a regulatory vacuum has blurred legal boundaries for Internet financing in China. The CBRC is leading research on how to regulate peer-to-peer lending and it is unclear if equity crowdfunding is considered ‘illegal fundraising’ and an illegal means of raising capital. Chinese law does not allow unregistered companies or individuals to sell stakes to the public. The millennial Chinese are more much more comfortable than their predecessors in terms of online purchasing however there needs to be an alignment with Govt legislation and banks or a similar  support system.  I can see a couple of ways that CFPs may work in China: the first being to leverage foreign investor interests and open up the Crowd Funding platforms in China to foreign investors. This is already of key interest to the Chinese government and of course entrepreneurs so if the laws could be ironed out to allow for this then it could be a step in the right direction and help pave the way for leveraging in the big growth market ‘Chinese Millennials’.

The thing that is really interesting is if you believe Jack MA’s last speech as Alibaba’s CEO then there is great interest from the new Chinese to see small business sprout up and succeed ‘small businesses are where most of the Chinese dreams live. ‘

With the right mix of backing most likely from a large connected organization and guarantee’s/governmental legislation to protect the consumer this could be a whole new world of innovation and leadership into the 22nd century for China. The future is laid out and wide open for the taking! *


 *Jack Ma Last speech http://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-jack-ma-last-ceo-speech/

YULE BAO (Ali Baba) – Pilot program.

Users can invest money in a range of projects for games, movies and TV shows. Users could only invest 200RMB over two projects and that was it. Definite drive towards content based funding. i.e. films etc.

 Chinese law does not allow unregistered companies or individuals to sell stakes to the public so the law is slightly murkey and possibly illegal.

 China does have very weak intellectual property protection in China which dissuades people from posting their ideas online!

 Shanghai Free Trade Zone – Opportunity to set one up as currently outside of the regulatory system. A physical piece of land in Shanghai where China and companies can experiment new types of trading that is outside of the Chines laws. A CFP would be a perfect place to test this out!

Kickstarter projects with actual products are of more interest on this platform and effectively becomes a point of sale service.

Kickstarter funded 323million worth of Arts Projects. (Take 7.5%)

Spike lee got 1.4million.

Veronica Mars movie Big backlash regarding this.

Oculus Rift – Funded on Kickstarter and now sold the business to Facebook for 3million.


UK is the only place that has full regulation of the ECFPs. UK govt legislated to allow anybody to be an investor. Before that you had to be an accredited investor. No where else in the world is this allowable.

US there is the JSBS Jump Start Business Startups law. At the moment they still have not got clarity on who can become and investor. What are the criteria to do this. They want ot be very careful that 1. There is no fraud but also they do not want a Gambling mentality for any old person. There must be a selection criteria. Also should there be a limit to how much of your overall net worth you can invest in business. At the moment in the US you have to have a net worth of 1million.

Art Sectors – Maintaining control is really important.

 SEEDRSThe company dictates what benefits you have for different levels of equity. Mainly focused on internet startups. Art projects not overly successful. However there has been now a case where a West End Musical has been successfully funded. Offered Under 9% equity and made over £200,000.

When you log in you get all the details of the financing it is visible and transparent. Previous Success for the project prior to CF so a certain amount of kudos and press.. Good to consider this when interested in going to CFP.

 CROWDCUBE – CC actually keep the company shares and

 SLATED– US based Equity platform. It’s a marketplace for making films happen. They can only advertise to potential investors then if there is interest the discussion is taken offline and go through the due diligence and paperwork.

 SOURCE: WORLD BANK ‘Crowdfunding’s Potential for the developing World’ 2013.




Crowdfunding as a business model:


July 13, 2014
by Nikolais

China Close Summary – Asia Module 14

China Module Summary

Marina Guo and David Slocum summing up key take aways.

No Mistakes Mindset
Within small teams in China the FACE Structure system is less of a concern. Its only a concern when dealing with larger organisations and or Govt people. So its ok to be wrong in this instance. (Not hugely different from Western society when dealing with the boss.)

Technology is changing the people and how they do things but it probably does not have the power to change the Govt. China as a country does not have the mindset to challenge the Govt. This could be limiting to industry however it can also be very good for industry as long as the government agrees.

Immediacy and Speed and flexibility
It’s amazing how quickly China can move through and change Infrastructure but also make general change in China. IN UK something that takes 7-10 years can be completed in 3. It’s because there are no labour issues and everything is easy to build because everyone is aligned with the Govt. There is no red tape or planning permission either. They can decide to do it and simply get it done. Numbers are also a big plus!

The profusion of Contexts
Chinese has many contrast and Shanghai while it hero’s this aspect of China is also not a complete impression of the challenges they are facing. To my point there a vast area’s of the country with little industry and extreme poverty as well as a land ownership system that limits the ability of the younger generation to evolve and rise up to create more and be more. China clearly needs work out which mindsets it needs to nurture if they want to empower the people to become more creative and or innovative.

February 2, 2014
by Nikolais

Feb 02 – Chilli Caramelised Pork loin with Green Apple salad

While I was in Australia over Christmas I went to stay with some very good friends of mine on the Sunshine Coast near Yandina QLD. I took the opportunity to do a one of the cooking school classes at the infamous Spirithouse and this dish was one of the most gorgeous. As I need to continue to use my dried Chilli’s I went for Burmese Red Chilli’s.1506418_10151861381317414_873018966_n

No idea of exactly how powerful these little babies are yet but suffice to say I dropped them in warm water to hydrate and have managed to touch my face with my hands, and it already feels after 15 minutes like I got sunburned today. Which as I am in London is very unlikely!

Now before we start I have a tip for you and cmon any good chef worth their salt lives by this. Life is not about blindly following the recipe for letter it is all about you tasting the balance and deciding for yourself if it has the right balance. Tip: The quantities with any Thai food are always a guideline. The basis of any Thai food is Salty, Sweet, Sour and bitter and if you taste the key ingredients you will notice that they follow these laws. Tamarind water is bitter, Lime is sour and fish sauce and Soya sauce are the salt. If the dish has the right balance you should initial taste salt then sourness then sweetness and finally bitterness. Play around with this as you will be surprised what a difference a very little amount of one of these ingredients can make to the final ‘balanced’ tasted of the dish.

Chilli Caramel Pork Loin with Green Apple salad:

The Pork Part:

2 pork fillets (trim them of all the sinew and other bits).
100 mls of tamarind water (I use a hunk of tamarind paste soaked in boiling water and then strained through a fine sieve). You can buy tamarind paste though- just a tablespoon in water will do the trick.
30mls whisky
200gms palm sugar
50mls fish sauce
25mls dark soy sauce
2 cloves garlic (peeled & crushed)
1 large red chilli (in my case I went for 3 dried Burmese red Chilli’s)
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Place the tamarind water, whisky, palm sugar, sauces, spices and lime zest (not the juice, not yet…) in a saucepan & bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly syrupy ( about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat, stir in the lime juice and set aside to cool. Once the syrupy marinade has cooled, marinate the pork fillets in half of it while you get on with the salad. The rest will become a sauce for the cooked pork.

To cook the pork, heat the barbecue to medium and grill the fillets, turning regularly and basting with the marinade frequently. It will take about 20-25 minutes and will need resting for about 10 minutes.

Yes the chilli caramel marinade will make a mess of the Barbie…get over it. Or you can buy yourself a silicon matt for your BBQ(Spirithouse trick) the beauty of this is not only is it easy to clean but also the marinade does not drop through to to the coals so you keep it on the pork.

Caramelised Pork

While all this is happening you might as well make the Green Apple Salad too!

Green Apple Salad with mint
2 teaspoons palm sugar, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 green apples, skin on a finely shredded
1 cup bean sprouts (topped and tailed)
3 spring onions (trimmed and finely sliced)
1 large chilli (de-seeded and finely sliced)
1 tablespoon ginger (peeled and finely shredded)
1 cup washed mint leaves.

Combine the lime juice and palm sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently to mix.

Green Apple Salad

To Serve:
Slice into medallions and transfer to serving platter. Pour over the re-heated sauce. Serve with apple salad on the side.

Chilli Caramelised Pork with Green Apple Salad

January 12, 2014
by admin

Chillicurious 365 days of ultimate chilli dishes

Having got a little overexcited when buying a packet of Ancho chilli powder for a dish at our annual Canapémas party we hold prior to Christmas. I now find myself with a rather large box of dried chilli’s and chilli powders which I am told is a years supply. There is nothing else for it but to find and cook as many Chilli related recipes over the 2014 as I can gather. Whether on the web, through word of mouth or perhaps even a little adventure or too to some of the hotter climates and getting into some local expert action.

Some key research prior to kicking off was to work out how to prepare dried chillis for use. Here is what I found out:

STEP01: Slice open you chillis and remove all seeds. This is done in both Mexican and Thai Chilli preparation not to reduce the head but once the chilli’s have been dried the Chilli seeds once reconstituted will add a bitter taste to you dish!

STEP02: Temper your Chilli’s. Split each chilli open and put in a pan and heat on both sides until a nice aroma starts to diffuse from the Chilli. This reactivates the Chilli and brings the oils to the surface. Then soak for minimum 10 minutes.  Of course 3 hours is also fine as they will soften beautifully but 10 minutes will suffice!

Tempuring Dried Chilli

Tempuring Dried Chilli


Let the Adventure begin!

May 28, 2013
by admin

Who is the real enemy

Currently there is a huge uproar in Great Britain due to 2 Muslim extremists for the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolich. It goes without saying that this is a truly appalling act and that any murder is a heinous crime and especially one with this level of violence. But I can’t help but think that the real culprits are the Media who spread this propaganda. These people are in the business of fear mongering for sensational effect and I can’t help but wonder if there are people with their own agenda pulling some of these strings and trying to drive a wedge of fear into people for their own profit. The Telegraph for example yesterday listed the report under a section of the website called “Terrorism in the UK”.  Other reports on the situation are coming in from as far away as Australia where it is all over the news saying there are riots in the streets on London, which is simply not the case.
I just want to break this down in my head and think about the situation rather than just react to what the media is reporting.
2 people violently attacked another man. These two people were then shot by police. These two connected events I am sorry to say are not entirely unusual in todays world I am ashamed to say.
Normally upon people hearing these reports would think. “Oh my God that’s terrible. That man who committed the crime must be sick and deserves to be incarcerated. But soon after the Police shot him well glad he was taken out of society and when he/she gets out of hospital they will go to jail.’
The media however through their propaganda and targeted reporting, have taken this to their very own ‘extremest’ level of hatred with reports of riots and gatherings spreading further fear amongst the general population. Effectively creating a much larger issue and fanning the flames by making this into a racial issue and giving opportunity for other UK extremest groups such as the EDL to spread their own message and incite further violence upon innocent people and groups within the community through association via race and or religion – this is not just what is being reported within the UK only either but on a global level and as far away as Australia.
This morning the BBC reported on another Muslim gathering that will be going on today in London so you may want to steer clear! The report states the following:
‘Meanwhile, thousands of members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community are expected to gather in London to offer prayers for the dead soldier and his family and to “express solidarity against extremism”.’

 – think for yourself  do not let the media do it for you –

March 3, 2013
by admin

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice - James BalogA couple of weeks back I came across an obscure film called Chasing Ice while surfing the web which lead to a clip of an almost incomprehensible natural event. This being the largest Calving event ever caught on film. This immediately piqued my curiosity and I had to know more so yesterday I tripped out to Dalston to one of the only two London showings to see what it was all about. Chasing Ice is a story of a driven man by the name of James Balog and his obsession to record the effects that global warming is having on the Artic Ice caps and the challenges he faces in trying to realise this dream. A mix of epically awesome landscapes, greif, frustration and elation the movie very cleary documents the huge and undeniable effect that global warming is having on this planet and just how close we are of crossing the point of no return!
This story needs to be told and ‘Jim’ does so with passion, relentless vigour leaving the audience with a sense of wonder and certain sadness that most of us are living our lives oblivious to this beauty and also to the fact that it will soon be gone. Alongside this the wider realisation is with the destruction of these immense and beautiful glaciers there is a much more menacing messaging clearly exposing the facts of what this means for out planet and our ecosystem in the years to come.
In his own words “Science is no longer arguing if mankind has created climate change and global warming, they are arguing over just how bad it is going to get and when it is going to be irreversible” – it is such a shame it has not go greater exposure and coverage at the Cinemas but please if you get the chance go and see it your mind will be left profoundly changed.

But be quick before it is gone!
For cinema locations and times:


February 11, 2013
by admin

San Francisco – A Golden State of Mind

San Francisco Tram - Union StSan Francisco is a very interesting mix of cultures both financially and culturally in very close proximity to one another. The city itself is stunning and the trams give a lovely old school feel. It is considered the Innovation capitol of the world with Mega tech companies such as Facebook and Apple on their doorstep in nearby Silicon Valley.Fishermans Wharf - Pier 39
Day one of my stay consisted of the usual suspects such as window shopping on Market St and the mandatory visit to Fisherman’s wharf and Pier 39 to see the Sea Lions. Check out live here. And of course some lovely lunch at a rather confused little Italian restaurant by the name of Swiss Louis. Don’t get me wrong the food and location was superb it was just the name that threw me.
Day 2 of San Francisco was all about the Brunch -it is the done thing you know. If you want to visit a more urban real side of San Francisco then look no further than Union St. It has a brilliant Cafe culture and plenty of shopping to satisfy your penchant for a bit of retail therapy. You really get a sense of what living in San Francisco is all about! Ill be honest I would have stayed here all day if my time had not been son short.Brunch @ The Brixton on Union Street
Alongside the gastronomic cafe culture is a surprising mix of homeless people begging for money and looking very down on their luck. It is surprising just how quickly the city plunges from the beautiful designer stores of Market St to a almost favela style wasteland with a mix of Caucasian, blacks and hispanic people who look very sick and down on their luck. It begs the question where have they all come from? It is not to say that a lot of large cities don’t have these types of communities but there was  marked difference in the levels of displaced homeless people in comparison to New York which in itself is surprising.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/82624424″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false” width=” 100%” height=”126″ iframe=”true” /]
Some of the more innovative street people I saw was a band that played every day for about an hour at 4pm on the corner of market st and 3rd generally alongside a ‘hanger on’ street person the most amusing of which had a sign that said ‘Why lie I am begging for beer’. Very much a fun side!

February 9, 2013
by admin

Going Agile

Agile TasticAs a part of our week in Berkley Campus we met with David Spann. A very interesting guy with limitless patience for his ‘Dark Art’. We also met with Chip Bowers CMO of the Golden State Warriors who briefed us in our our Group presentation for the week. We were then briefed by Nelson Gayton on what we had on the schedule for the rest of the week and as this information was being divulged you could see peoples excitement from the briefing with Chip turn to horror as it dawned on everyone how little time we actually had to pull this presentation together. How on earth are we supposed to get this thing done in time with such a packed schedule ahead of us!? Why Agile of course.

David Spann - Talking Agile on the steps at Berkley after breaktimeThis is where David came in. He showed how you go about working using Agile. However not only did he do this but there was many things he showed us just by the way he taught us.

He showed us that agile could be done anywhere and at anytime, and that it is up to you to release yourself from confined thinking.Agilating outside at lunchtime

You could choose to take this on board or you could choose to discard it. It was all your choice. And that is what Agile is all about. Things we need to do that day or we are F•••It’s about groups getting together and agreeing in collaboratively quickly and effectively and moving forwards. Selecting and agreeing defined tasks and moving forwards. It’s about deciding what can be done within a time limit and also deciding what can not be done. Again and again and again.

Group Presentation - Reinventing the Golden State Warriors

Did we get there in time for Friday? Yes we did and in a cooperative credible way. Why because we broke down barriers, squeezed in the work where we could and  we chose to get it done. And really that is what agile is all about.

February 6, 2013
by Nikolais

AKQA | San Francisco – growth driven by client requirements

We met with Neil Robinson – Executive Creative Director  & Adam Creeger – Director of Product Development 

Both Neil and Adam are very down to earth and ex England lads(well one Irish) and approachable and while they show some standard projects they have been doing they are very open and interactive when questions are asked.

AKQA’s growth has always been driven by client requirements. Offices for example just opened in Atlanta servicing Delta (Client). They have offices als in São Paulo and Berlin. Interestingly this appears to be a close mirror to RG/A offices worldwide too.


Their culture is very much about doing the right sort of work for their clients and the services they utilise to do this are not just what they have in house. Having said that they tend to do a lot of work in house….this allows them to maintain quality and control in their creative outcomes.

How do AKQA work together.

Each team starts off more holistically as a unit then based on final ideas and scope teams are created. A product owner then either volunteers or is selected and owns the project vision. Could be tech, design or an account person as long as they are passionate and have a clear driving vision about the project… these Product owners are called ‘The Maestro’ coined by Neil…They do not have to be senior people as long as they care. AKQA is about nuturing the right people..

How do AKQA work with clients

Their core vision guides how they work with their clients. A lot of the job is about managing the level of technology for the clients or creating the right fit. Not simply developing a project for the sake of it.

A sentiment I to aspire to!