Duncan McLachlan is Creative Director at Igniter, a Wellington-based company that's working at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence and machine learning. He's also an old friend and a constant source of wonder. At the time of writing we're sitting in a Wellington cafe discussing an ingenious contraption he calls "the autonomous cloud simulator". I won't go into all the gory details - suffice it to say it's a stand-alone piece of computer hardware that the team at Igniter uses to create bubble-like Internet environments. Each has a stunning amount of processing power but, importantly, no connection at all to the Internet. This makes them very secure and, all things considered, the perfect tool for developing intellectual property.
People often come to Igniter with big ideas. Some of these are a bit off-the-wall, others are genuinely inspired. Duncan (pictured left) and his business partner Ken Papps have become adept at spotting the difference. The ones that pass their conceptual crash-tests are then taken to the next level in the cloud simulators.
The first generation is the prototype. Because the cloud simulators can run almost any kind of operating system and/or software environment, they're great for rapid development and testing. No worries about crashing the network; no problems with hardware or software conflicts. Given a free hand like this, developers can save huge amounts of time and money as they turn ideas into working prototypes. This then gives the owner of the intellectual property the perfect proof-of-concept - a working model they can demonstrate to potential investors. Furthermore, any conversations that follow will be based on knowledge and experience, rather than just speculation. That’s what Duncan likes most about the cloud simulators: they reduce risk and 'jitters', as well as speeding up development.
"It means you don't need to worry too much if your ideas aren't clear, or if they seem a bit wild. Talk things through with the right people and then get stuck in. Be ready to learn fast. You should be able to get to first base for around $5,000-10,000. But if you leave it six months, there's a good chance the situation will be very different. The bar to entry will be much higher and you'll need to waste a lot of resources playing catch up. Think in terms of generations. Four generations shouldn't take more than 100 days, at which point, if you've learned your lessons properly, you'll be investor-ready or first revenue stage."
If you'd like to know more about prototyping with autonomous cloud simulators, contact Duncan at Igniter: http://igniter.co.nz