Guerrilla Trucks: Why rebels and insurgent groups the world over love the Toyota Hilux pickup as much as their AK-47s.

As the war in Afghanistan escalated several years ago, counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, a member of the team that designed the Iraq surge for Gen. David Petraeus, began to notice a new tattoo on some insurgent Afghan fighters. It wasn’t a Taliban tattoo. It wasn’t even Afghan. It was a Canadian maple leaf.

When a perplexed Kilcullen began to investigate, he says, he discovered that the incongruous flags were linked to what he says is one of the most important, and unnoticed, weapons of guerrilla war in Afghanistan and across the world: the lightweight, virtually indestructible Toyota Hilux truck.

“In Afghanistan in particular,” he says, “[the trucks are] incredibly well respected.” So well respected, in fact, that some enterprising fraudsters thought them worthy of ripping off. The imitations, Kilcullen says, had flooded the market, leaving disappointed fighters in their wake. But then “a shipment of high-quality [real] Hiluxes arrived, courtesy of the Canadian government,” he explains. “They had little Canadian flags on the back. Because they were the real deal, and because of how the Hilux is seen, over time, strangely, the Canadian flag has become a symbol of high quality across the country. Hence the tattoos.”

Funny how American pickup trucks get all the praise (within certain US communities, notably around Detroit) for being rugged, powerful, and the antithesis of Japanese pickup trucks. Well, the market has spoken -- for decades, apparently...

Video from the @YCombinator Q&A Sessions in Boston & NY

Photo credit: Savraj Singh, founder of Wattvision

Thanks to all of you who made it out to our Y Combinator Roadshow in Boston and New York. We can't thank our hosts enough: Cambridge Innovation Center and Venture Cafe in Boston and Hunch in New York made these events possible!

Y Combinator is very interested in startups all over the country (and world!) and as Ambassador to the East, I hope to continue growing the YC presence here on the East Coast, my personal coast of choice.

FYI: The application deadline for this Winter class is October 19th. Apply here.

If you couldn't make it, I promise capacity will be bigger at our next events! Here's the video we streamed on

TEDx Yerevan Looks Beyond Borders

In the same spirit of ideas worth spreading, at TEDx Yerevan, TEDTalk videos and live speakers combined to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.

In an all-day event, 17 speakers, including Serj Tankian via videotape, addressed a 200 person, full-house, invited audience.

The speakers included Alexis Ohanian from the US, who contributed actively to securing the TEDx Yerevan event license, had participated in a TED conference in 2009, where he presented “the positive impact of social media on solving various issues”. His Yerevan talk was entitled “You’ve lost control (and that’s OK!). Alexis, who co-founded with a roommate and watched it become one of the World Wide Web’s most striking examples of democracy in action, also founded Breadpig, Inc., an “uncorporation” that’s responsible for bringing geeky things into the world like.

All of you who attended -- especially those of you who spoke & brought this conference to fruition -- should be extremely proud of how TEDxYerevan turned out. I can't thank you enough.

Everything I've read from attendees has been quite positive. The conference also got a great review in Armenian Weekly.