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All things that motivate entrepreneurs

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nokia gets ambitious

Here’ what I wrote about Nokia earlier…

The Finns seem to have finished their reindeer steak lunch and have chased it down with some frosty beer… But what they have liked best it seems is their move to the Asian tropics - India in particular.

It now wants to be a one-stop platform for mobile users to buy music and entertainment services, do their business over the mobile Internet and use their handsets for everything from banking to buying movie tickets. Put simply, Nokia wants to be an Internet-driven services firm.

In a statement announcing the decision in August this year, Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said, “the convergence of the mobile communications and Internet industries is opening up new growth opportunities for us, in the devices business as well as in consumer Internet services and enterprise solutions. Growing consumer demand for rich, mobile experiences creates an opportunity for change. Nokia will bring these capabilities to the broadest range of devices and price points.”

How will this happen? They seem to have elaborate plans. Internal restructuring, inorganic growth, services integration and silo management etc. Find it all here.

Does it spell good or bad news for many small mobile application developers…? How will it get the telcos to fix the ubiquitous call drops? If that basic service isn’t fixed, I don’t think people will migrate to high end phones.
I’ve got some curious enquiries from mobile app developers… What should I be telling them…? That Nokia is in a shopping mood...? Are you Mr.Shivakumar....?

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Don't let your telco gouge you

You may have read about Cubic Telecom’s disruptive service here earlier.

Now here’s David Berlind’s take on it based on his actual experience using it in Ireland. “If Skype was disruptive to telcos, then Cubic is going to be their nightmare (good for you)” he says.

Read on and save precious airtime $$... Don’t let your telco gouge you while roaming overseas.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The boy-coder turns big dreamer

If opening up Facebook API ever had a purpose, this seems to be it. The Mark Zuckerberg tell all.

Social Networking sites (SNs) like Facebook and MySpace after amassing millions of users, have eventually put them to the best use. They have too much of your personal stuff, likes and preferences that can’t go unexploited by advertisers. But when they say that’s their purpose, they won’t find many takers. So what do they do?

First open up the API for developers to celebrate. Ask them to develop cool applications that could suck in more users. That makes it easier for you to define habits, categorize users and segment the market in terms of early adopters. Now go present those findings in a platter so that advertisers could close in for the kill. Users like you’ve nowhere to hide, just stick around like suckers and be part of a captive audience for them to infect you.

Then I turn to Nick Carr. Here's why he calls it a social graft.

Quote the Zuckster: "The next hundred years will be different for advertising, and it starts today."

Yes, today is the first day of the rest of advertising's life.”

So that’s it. As Nick says “Marketing is conversational, says Zuckerberg, and advertising is social. There is no intimacy that is not a branding opportunity, no friendship that can't be monetized, no kiss that doesn't carry an exchange of value. The cluetrain has reached its last stop, its terminus, the end of the line.”

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Monday, November 26, 2007

On my other blogs

All go-rhythmic

Detroit would love this
That sinking feeling
Look who is shorting the dollar

General Partners v Limited Partners

But they are exporting it all
It’s like yesterday once more
Who wants to change

Angel 4 Angels

Get a load of “The New Normal”
Are you sure?
Early Stage Boards


Now how do you counter that...?

"What new innovations are coming out of India? What new innovations are coming out of China?" asked Bill Barney, chief executive of Hong Kong-based Asia Netcom, whose deep-sea fiber-optic cable network serves companies throughout Asia and in Silicon Valley.

One roadblock, Barney and others say, is that Asian societies tend to embrace strong corporate hierarchy and workers don't voice opinions.

"In Silicon Valley, you can chit-chat and share your views with your boss," said Alfred Kwok, a long-time Silicon Valley entrepreneur in the semiconductor industry who splits his time between San Jose and Suzhou, China. "In Asia, this is considered bad protocol."

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Looks like UN Meeting

So much for globalization, or is it world-sourcing? Companies across the world buy one another and the `mashup’ is a mix of races, religions, colors and languages. It's hard to bring two corporate cultures together in any merger, let alone one between an obscure Chinese computer maker and the struggling PC division of an iconic American brand. But that's precisely the challenge Bill Amelio faced when he joined Lenovo way back in 2005. So much so that Lenovo made headlines when it announced it would base its companywide marketing operations in Bangalore. Why India? Because CEO Amelio felt the team there was the strongest.

He shifted Lenovo's software-development arm to North Carolina to capitalize on IBM's existing roots and talent base there. Throughout the company, English is the official language, but Amelio says, "When people sit around the table, it looks like a UN meeting."

I did crack up, loud.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Phone is a Phone is a Phone....

Surveys by Yankee Group, a Boston research firm, show that only 13 percent of cellphone users in North America use their phones to surf the Web more than once a month, while 70 percent of computer users view Web sites every day.

In 2000, the wireless application protocol was supposed to bring the Internet to the cellphone. It turned out to be a flash in the pan, due to lack of high-speed cellular data networks. Now after a frenzied and costly effort to build third-generation, or 3G networks, 3G is called “a failure” by analysts – they say data would make up only 12 percent of average revenue per user in 2007, far below the expected 50 percent. (The 12 percent figure does not include text messaging, but you don’t need a 3G network to send a text message.)

I remember engaging in a blog debate over this. When the basic feature of call-drops are not being addressed by carriers, how can they get subscribers to pay for add on features like mobile web surfing (an annoying experience given the smallness of mobile screen size and truncated format) – I argued.

Today I saw this NYT report and feel vindicated…
“People talk about the mobile Web, and it’s just assumed that it’ll be a replica of the desktop experience,” says Nathan Eagle, a researcher at MIT. “But they’re fundamentally different devices.” He thinks that the basic Web experience for most of the world’s three billion cellphones will never involve trying to thumb-type Web addresses or squint at e-mail messages. Instead, he says, it will be voice-driven. “People want to use their phone as a phone,” he says.

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Shedding P in API

I like the way SaaS is morphing into PaaS (Platform as a Service), and the trend of API releases that help third-parties create value around the core. We have now API of Facebook or that of CRM application. This is just smart as it further extends their reach and gives the ability for customers and partners to create more value. It may have its perils, but I still like it.

But what I don’t like about it is that, to use or exploit it, you need to be a programmer, the one that can write codes. Those bewildering jumble of letters, punctuations and ampersands give a more prosaic Joe nothing short of hell. For an entrepreneur that has some application in mind that could be useful to his business, has to depend on a developer that may or may not understand all that he needs or will end up building features he never would get to use. Or for that matter, the entrepreneur may not be eloquent enough to explain all his needs though he has figured it out mentally.

I feel progressively, API should lose the P and become just AI. Yes, why can't it just be Application Interface? Do we need the `Program' in the middle? Erase it. That's when you can call yourself user-friendly. Developers should enable non-programmer users, that form the bulk of customer base, to develop applications on their own. I recently found (beta) is almost there. I say `almost’ because its demo still voices words such as `bugs’, `tabs’, `objects’ etc., which have different literal meanings outside the developer community. Use words that mean exactly the same as man in the street understands or even demands.

Here’s where I found Rollbase hitting it on the head. Rollbase helps create a next-generation Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform and user-driven application ecosystem that enables business users to find, create, customize and share onDemand applications without programming. Rollbase has been designed from the ground up as a purely metadata-driven, multitenant, onDemand application development and delivery platform with a rich AJAX-based user experience and a unique underlying application execution, serialization and publishing model. But it needs to use simpler syntax in its demo, because it is addressed to a non-programmer audience - calling users to "roll your own business apps".....

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just be driven

I am suggesting some interesting Fortune links that I would like to share with startup entrepreneurs that make the bulk of my reader base.

Innovate like Edison

If you're reading this with the help of an electric light, it's worth pausing to remember that it was Edison's remarkable innovation that made it possible. Edison's landmark success with the incandescent light bulb and his development of an entirely new system for distributing and monitoring electric power changed the world forever. It is fitting that the light bulb is now a universal metaphor for a bright idea. Read more here.

Can entrepreneurship be taught?

Taking an entrepreneurship class isn't likely to turn a student with no business smarts into an opportunity-spotting, moneymaking genius. Yet plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that the classes can speed the learning curve for those with the right stuff. On the most fundamental level, the programs can teach students basic skills, such as managing financials or writing a business plan, forcing them to impose a structure and deadlines on dreams that they might never achieve otherwise.

Or do you think it has to be in your DNA…? Find out here.

School of hard knocks

Meeting great entrepreneurs is one of the advantages of attending an entrepreneurship program. Students at the University of St. Thomas, for instance, recently had a chance to soak up some hard-won lessons from Microsoft's Bill Gates and Richard Schulze, founder of electronics retailer Best Buy, at a session moderated by Christopher Puto, dean of the St. Thomas College of Business, and venture capitalist Ann Winblad, co-founder of Hummer Winblad.

Here's the link to that chat.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Worst VC investments of all time

You pitch your business plan to a VC and he bites in. Funnels millions of $$ into your business and hopes to exit with some tidy profit. When it goes well as planned, oh, great. What if it doesn’t and the investment backfires?

Some things were just never meant to be, but that doesn't mean that investors won't pile millions of dollars upon a bad idea — or even a good idea gone bad. Whether they crashed and burned or sucked investors dry, these ventures just didn't work out. Check out our graveyard of dreams and money to get a look at VC (venture-capital) investments that just weren't wise.

Here’s a list of startup flameouts. [Good friend Matt Marshall piled up the quick list ]

Amp’d Mobile: $360 million, ended in bankruptcy.
Procket: $272 million, sold for $89 million.
Webvan: Valued at $1.2 billion, went bankrupt in 2001. Ate through $800 million in venture capital, ended with $830 million in losses.
Caspian Networks: >$300 million in funding, closed doors. $50 million by Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Bowman Capital, and Inc., did sock-puppet ads, then crashed.
Optiva: $41.5 million in venture capital, crashed. $250 million in investment, liquidated.
CueCat: $185 million from investors like The Coca-Cola Co. and General Electric Co., bombed.
DeNovis Inc.: $125 million in venture capital, closed.
PointCast Inc.: Tens of millions of dollars in venture capital and a $400 million buy offer, PointCast was sold for $7 million.
eToys: Backed by VC firms Idealab, Highland Capital Partners LLC and Sequoia Capital Partners, ended in bankruptcy.
AllAdvantage: $135 million in venture capital down the drain.
FastForward: $54 million into the company, bankrupt.
Xoma: This 26-year old company has not earned a profit since its inception in 1981. $50 million, went broke.
Vanguarde Media Inc.: $60 million in VC funding, went under. $16 million not remarkable, but burned through with remarkable style.
Bolt Media Inc.: >$60 million in venture backing, shut down.
DigiScents: $20 million in investment, shut down. $120 million, went bust.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Predator is because of the prey

I first stumbled upon this poem by Isaac Watts.

Then I found this article in CIO magazine (hat tip - Vinnie Mirchandani). Tom Waligum goes the whole hog to define a few characteristics of Evil Companies.

Well, I for one, am a firm believer in survival of the fittest. I also believe that there’s no company that just wants to be Noble. Where competition lets you get one up on them, you will. It’s not the question of someone wanting-to-be Evil or Noble. You are either one or the other. I don’t think Wal-Mart, Microsoft and now Google started out wanting to be Evil. Google in fact, said "Don't be Evil". They trooped in to find mediocrity reigning and scotched them all. It wasn’t invasion, it was just plain outthinking or in some cases, outbidding. No God ever created Microsoft with a muscle, just that others had muscular dystrophy (because they were smug, incompetent and lacked vision) and were waiting to be buried.
Now it's the turn of Google at the title. What did it do? It’s stock price touched $700/- when that of others headed south? Or is it because it got a bit creative, used some technology that allowed it to make a ton of money and get “creepy” in the process? If not for Google, would not an enterprising someone have done it? Sure, as you would guess, so long as it stayed within the realm of possibilities. Soon there will be someone that blocks Google’s creepy ways and then it’ll be Google’s turn to shed its skin on that – the new “Evil”.

I would just say this to others that are Noble-by-default ; why don’t you just admit “Hell, I couldn’t get it right” !


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Social Networking - still a business ?

This question crossed to my mind as I was reading Larry Dignan in ZDnet.

Larry says “The future of social networking [SN] is coming into focus and it looks like Facebook-ish features will be increasingly be integrated into your everyday applications”. He cites Yahoo and Google integrating SN features into their email apps, Oracle’s attempt to stick it into their Fusion App and those of some other enterprise applications as well.

Then he reflects a bit before concluding - increasingly, SN is looking like a feature more than a business. Facebook may still be around just as Google does in the search scene, but for many lesser SN sites, it could well be an unsung existence or eventual fold up.

John Murrel of Mecury News puts it best – “now it's practically a given that your time online is social time. Between commercial and peer pressure, you're expected to maintain both a public presence for general interaction and a semi-private sphere for friends and family, both updated in real time with your activities, opinions, latest interests, location, and cultural tastes. The vehicles for this presence were homepages at first, then blogs, and now the widget-laden profiles on the SN sites, along with an endless flow of pinging, poking and tweeting. It's sort of funny that a system built by notoriously socially awkward geeks has turned into a mammoth, never-ending cocktail party. But that's where we are, and right now, billions are being bet on monetizing the world of constant acquaintanceship”.

Pretty close !

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Android - Googlization of mobile cloud...?

I’ve read many reviews of Android, the Google-led mobile software developer platform. But Paul Grim’s takes the cake.

So far the reactions to Android have been mixed. The first is that it’s all hype, that mobile platforms are too hard to get right (e.g. Microsoft and Symbian still haven’t succeeded in making a great user interface with their mobile operating systems). Some are even saying that Android is not open enough. The second reaction is that Android will be the mobile operating system of the future, and that a Facebook-style development frenzy is about to kick off.

Android’s opportunity is also WiMAX’s opportunity, Grim thinks. WiMAX technology lets users access broadband internet from the phones and Sprint has championed it. Sprint recently lost its chief executive, Gary Forsee, and its WiMAX plans are uncertain (see this WSJ article for more). According to Grim, Sprint could work with Google as well as Intel, Cisco and the other Silicon Valley companies that have invested hundreds of millions into WiMAX technology.

Grim has previously held a dimmer view of the technology’s chances of succeeding, here.

The vision, according to Barry West, CTO of Sprint is to completely move away from the telco model of selling minutes of airtime and kilobytes of data. Who better than Google to develop an ad-supported mobile revenue model...?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What could be Indian VC's take...?

Fred Wilson, VC from Union Square Ventures has this take on the dooming fortunes of VC industry. Pretty candid analysis. This is despite the fact that there exists a selection bias on data VC firms choosing to report.
Would love to look at similar analysis by some Indian VC that gives a true picture of the state of Indian VC investments and the fortunes of its investors. Will some c(d)are...?

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wanted : Exchange for carbon credits

Now to the latest grouse.
India, a leading seller of carbon credits under the clean development mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, does not have an internationally-linked domestic exchange for undertaking spot and futures trading in carbon credits. This, as can be imagined, is costing the Indian clean technology-based projects dearly. They are denied full financial benefits from this multi-billion dollar global business that is expanding rather briskly despite being viewed by some as not the ideal way to combat global warming.

In such a plan, a central authority (usually a government agency) sets a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Companies or other groups that emit are required to hold an equivalent number of credits or allowances which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level. Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is being fined for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions. Thus, in theory, those that can easily reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest possible cost to society.

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