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*3

What kind of a bubble is this?

masonsexton:

Follow Mason Sexton @MasonSpeed

Over the past few months there has been a lot of discussion in tech circles about the possibility of whether we are in another tech bubble. Part of the rationale for this assertion stems from a few ominous indicators that proponents of said Bubble tend perpetuate: 1) The fact that the average series A valuation has crept over $4 million 2) That mega rounds of financing are becoming routine ($200 million+) 3) That there are multiple tech companies that are considering filing for an IPO in the coming months. 4) More early stage financings are being done without  viable product or prototype.

Sure, some of those indicators may be giving certain individuals flashbacks to the late 90’s but there are several major differences with these companies. The fact that series A valuations have crept above $4 million on average should be of marginal concern. In fact, there is no real precedent delineating that this average should be above or below a certain number. While not indicative of a bubble, it may be a sign that the competition for Series A funding is increasing among VC’s. This is a good thing for entrepreneurs. VC’s? Not so much. The second issue is also misleading given that the majority of companies that have received these mega rounds of financing are growing revenues and profits monthly, with viable business models beneath them. This is far from the “pie in the sky” business models days common in the last cycle. The fact that multiple companies are considering filing for an IPO (Facebook, Groupon, Zynga) should also not be alarming for some of the same reasons made in the last point. These are real companies with incredible cash flow generation potential. These are exactly the kinds of companies that should be going public in the web based economy.

But point 4 is the only one that gives me real pause. The “getting funded without an actual product” model prevalent in the last bubble was certainly a big part of the problem. We have all heard the legendary stories of would-be entrepreneurs walking into a VC meeting with only a pitch-book, yet would walk out with $20 million in funding. It’s one thing to value something or someone on potential. With these early stage companies, that is the only rational way to do it. But it’s quite another thing to assign excessive valuations to companies that have not created even a hint of value or a successful product (Color anyone?). I believe this is where the tech industry went awry last time and it concerns me that we seem to be headed down a similar path. There is no doubt that the market is starting to heat up…a really exciting development for those who work in this industry and have struggled through some difficult times over the years. And one has to expect a certain degree of mania with any up-cycle. But I would like to think that some lessons were learned from the last bubble, that capital will be reserved for only the best ideas that have a chance to scale into successful web properties. Over the long term that is good for VC’s, LP’s, and most of all, entrepreneurs.  

*7
masonsexton:

How Tweetdeck became the belle of the ball?
Follow Mason Sexton @MasonSpeed
Ever since Jack Dorsey came to our class last month I have been thinking about twitter’s growth trajectory since their inception, as very few web properties have grown as quickly or gone as “viral”.  Integral to this growth was their decision to open up their API in the early days of the service, allowing third party developers from around the world to build innovative (better?) applications/clients on top of twitter’s fast growing platform. The strategy seemed pure genius. By allowing the rise of multiple third party twitter applications, twitter successfully extended their reach and created an entire ecosystem of applications that subsisted on the twitter platform. This also allowed the management team to focus on efficiently scaling the property rather than worrying about UI/UX tweaks. Those issues were now being solved by an army of developers who were more than happy to leverage twitter’s widespread adoption.
 So how could any of this be a bad thing? It wasn’t… so long as no one twitter “client” wielded too much power. Even just a few months ago that seemed highly unlikely as twitter was the gatekeeper that held all the leverage. As explained in this Techcrunch article (http://bit.ly/h3YYCv), that possibility has now become a reality, as Tweetdeck has become the most popular twitter client with over 11% of twitter’s active user base (and 20% of total users). That fact in and of itself should not be alarming to twitter but these details should be: 1) Tweetdeck controls the most active base of twitter users 2) They plan to run their own ads on their network. As Mike Butcher references in the article, advertising follows an 80/20 rule; 80% of the revenue is made from 20% of the audience. So if twitter were to lose control of 20% of their most active users, it may cost them 80% of potential future revenues. Wow.
 So what can the do? The simple thing is to just buy Tweetdeck outright, giving them control over these power users. That possibility is now complicated by the fact that Tweetdeck has been in talks with UberMedia about a possible acquisition. The price has been rumored to be in the $50 million range, but could end up costing much more. So now twitter has a decision to make. Do they pay up for Tweetdeck, ensuring they maintain control over their most active users or do they call Tweetdeck’s bluff and focus their strategy on restricting parts of their API, possibly cutting off Tweetdeck as a partner if they decide to go rogue. My sense is that twitter will bite the bullet and acquire them. If not, I still feel some kind of common ground will be reached. But this raises some really interesting questions concerning guidelines around API’s. If this situation does become contentious, I would imagine the terms of service for API’s will become much more stringent for some of the larger web properties. I can’t imagine that will be conducive to future third party developer innovation. 

masonsexton:

How Tweetdeck became the belle of the ball?

Follow Mason Sexton @MasonSpeed

Ever since Jack Dorsey came to our class last month I have been thinking about twitter’s growth trajectory since their inception, as very few web properties have grown as quickly or gone as “viral”.  Integral to this growth was their decision to open up their API in the early days of the service, allowing third party developers from around the world to build innovative (better?) applications/clients on top of twitter’s fast growing platform. The strategy seemed pure genius. By allowing the rise of multiple third party twitter applications, twitter successfully extended their reach and created an entire ecosystem of applications that subsisted on the twitter platform. This also allowed the management team to focus on efficiently scaling the property rather than worrying about UI/UX tweaks. Those issues were now being solved by an army of developers who were more than happy to leverage twitter’s widespread adoption.

 So how could any of this be a bad thing? It wasn’t… so long as no one twitter “client” wielded too much power. Even just a few months ago that seemed highly unlikely as twitter was the gatekeeper that held all the leverage. As explained in this Techcrunch article (http://bit.ly/h3YYCv), that possibility has now become a reality, as Tweetdeck has become the most popular twitter client with over 11% of twitter’s active user base (and 20% of total users). That fact in and of itself should not be alarming to twitter but these details should be: 1) Tweetdeck controls the most active base of twitter users 2) They plan to run their own ads on their network. As Mike Butcher references in the article, advertising follows an 80/20 rule; 80% of the revenue is made from 20% of the audience. So if twitter were to lose control of 20% of their most active users, it may cost them 80% of potential future revenues. Wow.

 So what can the do? The simple thing is to just buy Tweetdeck outright, giving them control over these power users. That possibility is now complicated by the fact that Tweetdeck has been in talks with UberMedia about a possible acquisition. The price has been rumored to be in the $50 million range, but could end up costing much more. So now twitter has a decision to make. Do they pay up for Tweetdeck, ensuring they maintain control over their most active users or do they call Tweetdeck’s bluff and focus their strategy on restricting parts of their API, possibly cutting off Tweetdeck as a partner if they decide to go rogue. My sense is that twitter will bite the bullet and acquire them. If not, I still feel some kind of common ground will be reached. But this raises some really interesting questions concerning guidelines around API’s. If this situation does become contentious, I would imagine the terms of service for API’s will become much more stringent for some of the larger web properties. I can’t imagine that will be conducive to future third party developer innovation. 

*12

Perfectionism & Entrepreneurship

chasingiam:

I used to think that being a perfectionist was great. Until I decided to start my own business. I wish I could say I have mastered the art of letting go and unleashing the creativity within but my journey is still being written. I’m excited to see how the story goes…

A Brief History
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a perfectionist. Writing this sentence alone took me at least ten tries and five minutes because the alternatives either didn’t look right, feel right or were too wordy.

Call it nature, nurture,… who knows? Growing up as a 2nd generation Korean-American, my parents raised me to believe that grades and performance were everything. The NYC school system did little to suggest otherwise, as standardized tests were the basis for getting into the top specialized high schools and, while college applications emphasized the importance of well-roundedness, there were certainly ways to work around that. As such, perfectionism felt right and seemed to deliver good results (national math championships, the best high schools, universities and graduate schools). 

Post-college, I found the professional world to be equally results-oriented. Performance reviews were the basis for raises, promotions. As an engineer, I was trained to analyze and optimize everything. I was doing well at work, making a good living and earning the respect of my peers.

BUT, there was another side to all of this…
As a child, I loved to draw and create. In elementary school I doodled constantly, which gradually progressed to sketching, building and even computer programming in high school. I also loved music. I played the violin but quickly realized that I was less interested in classical and more interested in improvisation and jazz. I bought myself an electric violin and began to play with a band and was having tons of fun. But all of this was a hobby. People didn’t get paid to have fun, did they? Or at least not enough to make a living?

Since high school, I always knew I wanted to start my own business someday. My father was an entrepreneur and I’d seen him pursue the things he loved with great fulfillment and reward. I talked to people who were older than me, that had been “stuck” in the corporate world for their entire life, and felt I would never be happy working for “the man”. I needed to build something that could inspire people and make the world a better place.

So what happened?
Perfectionism. The very thing I had seen serve me so well all my life became my greatest obstacle. Fear of failure, need for control, over preparation, analysis paralysis all prevented me from moving forward with my master plan to create, build, inspire. I was constantly thinking about ideas but too scared to execute on them. There was always something else I needed to learn, some other experience I had to gain, or cog that needed to be in place.

The Road to Entrepreneurship
About two years ago, I decided enough was enough. I had talked about going to business school (still a risk averse move but one in the right direction) for long enough and had seen enough of the ideas in my “idea book” get implemented by people who weren’t afraid to fall on their face for what they were passionate about.

Since then, I’ve made it my mission to embrace the following two tenets through daily repetition and practice:

Letting Go
As a perfectionist it’s difficult to let go (of control, details, etc.). However, as an entrepreneur you often find yourself pulled in a million directions at once. As life gets busier, perfectionism does not scale well and if you don’t learn to let go, you will self destruct. My daily practice of this ranges from setting time limits for things I am working on to delegating out work among a learning team.

Caveat. I believe there is such a thing as letting go without abandoning the principle of excellence. I am still trying to find that balance. :)

Failing Fast
In my household, failure was not an option. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I had a “Tiger Mom.” However, academics, i.e. grades, were taken very seriously. As a result, I was raised to believe that failure was something to be ashamed of. Lately, I have made it my personal goal to embrace failure and dive headfirst into challenges that are much bigger than myself and my current abilities. It’s been terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

Lastly, I’ve tried to take it back to where it all began. My childhood. I am blessed to have two amazing children who inspire and teach me every day what it means to recapture wonder and to dream that anything is possible. They remind me of the raw power of imagination and reckless pursuit of the things that matter most.

I’ll stop here because Saurabh is next to me telling me that this blog post defeats the purpose of tumblr which is all about “more than a tweet, but less than a blog.”

To this, I say… If anything I said above is true, then rules are meant to be broken (sometimes) and we shouldn’t feel so confined by what other people say. Now let’s all go out and make stuff happen.

*1

The Greatest Idea Ever

babypoguer:

Guest Post by Fernando Ng. Follow him at @Fernandokng

I was stuck with my sister at the pediatrician’s office today. Little Bobby (my nephew) had a fever. Apparently he had been complaining about not feeling well for a day now, but my sister thought he was just whining.

Now let me tell you, this is not how I wanted to spend my visit to NYC. Between the kids crying, toy trucks ramming into my foot, and the faint sounds of Justin Bieber “Baby, baby, baby… ohhhh”, I was about to lose it. Instead, I took it out on my sister and asked

“How did you not know Bobby had a temperature?”
“When was the last time he was sick?”
“Was he supposed to get a shot or something?”
“Where did they take him on the class trip? Didn’t he go to the birthday party over the weekend?”

My sister was clearly upset, and so I finally shut up. But I didn’t stop thinking about why parents didn’t have better technology to deal with… well being a parent.

That’s when I came up with the idea of combining medical monitoring devices, GPS, RFID, mobile apps into the ULTIMATE BABY MONITOR!

*1

Privacy Issues….again….

babypoguer:

Guest Post by Fernando Ng. Follow him at @Fernandokng


    More safety and privacy issues… GPS tracking device for children is still controversial even though the general technology has been around for a few years now, particularly in the pet market.

However, I think it’s an important technology that hasn’t been utilized enough. Ask any parent that has lost their child or worse had their child kidnapped. We’ve worked with the best of the best in perfecting the chip and implantation process. In fact, BabyPoguer is the smallest GPS tracker ever developed. We just successfully completed our Phase III tests on Betty the chimpanzee. The implantation took about 30 minutes, including anesthesia. No side effects, no scarring. The procedure was quickly approved by the FDA.

I have also been asked about privacy issues around “tracking people”. It sounds a bit like Minority Report when you put it that way, so we have included the GPS system for emergency situations only. It’s not a 24/7 monitoring system, and users will not have the ability to check if a child went straight home after school. It’s there when something goes wrong. For instance, you can set boundaries and receive alerts if your child runs exceeds those limits, or if your child has been missing for an extended period of time you can activate the GPS at that moment.

The system will also alert you when your child is sick, and can easily send the same information to your child’s pediatrician. Think of how much time this could save when families travel and are in need of a doctor. However, we did decide to ensure that the device has an expiration date to help mitigate the argument that it could be abused as the child grows older and is entitled to more privacy. NASA especially helped us with this technology, and the BabyPoguer will now disintegrate 7 years after implantation. The lifespan was determined based on a combination of health and safety risks as well as ethical considerations: SIDS occurs most often within the first year; developmental issues generally present before age 5; and children under the age of 7 are most likely to be kidnapped.

These issues were definitely the greatest roadblocks when pitching BabyPoguer, and admittedly took some convincing for even myself to feel 100% comfortable. After working with multiple ethics and health committees, as well as safety commissions and legal councils, I am confident that we have come up with the right balance.

*5

Stay tuned: Apple and the Smart TV market

mpod:

 

Speculation has been rising over Apple releasing an iTV in the near future (6m-2y).  Will they or won’t they?  Marco Arment recently wrote  ‘I don’t think they’ll ever release a TV’.
 
Marco makes a strong case (as usual), and I suggest reading his whole post. But I fall on the other side, and believe we will see an Apple TV Set in the short/medium-term.
The biggest issue here, in my opinion, is who controls the content?  
 
Who selects the cable channels? Who pays the studios for those channels? Who manages on-demand and premium channels like HBO?  Marco seems to think that it must be Comcast/TWC (based on his questioning over whether Apple would agree to integrate with a Comcast’s Scientific Atlanta HD DVR).
 
The only way Apple enters the Smart Television Set business is if it controls the entire content delivery experience
You cannot view the Apple TV within the paradigm of commoditized Vizio/Samsung/Sharp flat panel sets.  Those are dumb screens.  They said it would never happen with Mobile Operators, who historically controlled the entire ecosystem (i.e., content delivery, applications, UI, on-device purchases), and we all know how that turned out.  Apple’s iOS controls everything but the data pipes. In TV-land, the pipes and the content are now “inextricably” wedded, but there’s a way to sever that bond.
 
To be clear, this is very tricky — but not impossible.
First, Apple would need to strike transformative deals with content providers (NBC-Universal, Disney, CBS, FOX, HBO, et al.), to let Apple create its own cable programming.
Second, Apple would need to navigate relationships with Comcast, Time Warner, and especially Verizon. While their buy-in may not be technically necessary, these players will do everything they can to avoid becoming dumb pipes.
Third, Apple would then need to create a new content purchasing experience, which could include:
  • per-channel subscription (e.g., HBO, NBC, ESPN for me, thanks)
  • per-show subscription (e.g., Mad Men, 30 Rock)
  • a la cart 24-hr viewings; good old fashioned bundling (all Disney channels; or just all channels).  
If you’re Apple, why bother? The size of the Living Room market — viewed holistically — cannot be overstated. It is the single most important distribution channel for premium content; when you look beyond cable, and include TV Sets, Video Games, DVD’s, Hardware, Peripherals, Music, the Living Room starts to look like one of the few ways Apple can sustain growth.  For example, imagine Apple’s game platform not just stealing share from Nintendo DS and PSP, but Wii and Playstation. Someone at Apple is wondering how it gets revenues from $100B/year (projected 2011) to $300B/year, if only as a defensive measure against other large Internet companies swimming in the same waters.
Stay tuned.

*2

Facebook and Consumer Visualization

mpod:

The New York Times just announced that Facebook has acquired Daytum.  

To me, this cues a revolution in consumer visualization.  Facebook recognizes that big data isn’t only good for targeted ads, it’s good for showing users more about themselves with beautiful charts and graphs.

As a data visualization geek, I’m excited to see what Nicholas Felton can bring to the Facebook experience.  Felton stretches our idea of how large amounts of data can be communicated succinctly with infographics.  I honestly wish someone like him taught a class at Columbia Business School.  For a primer, check out his Annual Reports.

Social visualization is a glaring omission in Facebook’s current product: how many Likes do I have; how many do my friends have; what kind of articles, videos and websites do I like (by topic).  Facebook has tried this before.  In 2004-2005, Facebook offered a visualization to show how interconnected your network was (it was killed by 2006, I think).  LinkedIn now lets you do something similar.  It’s time to raise the bar.  Since my Facebook “friends” aren’t a true representation of my real-life network, I don’t care who knows who anymore. I care a who likes what.  And more than that, teach me what else I should like based on my mindless ‘liking’ across the web. 

This is strategic.  As Facebook and Twitter start competing for who influences the most behavior, they will need to make their products into better content consumption machines — Visualization is at the very heart of that.

*2

Where am I?

mike-brown:

I’m not going to quote 1984 or Brave New World.  Nor am I going to hide in the woods and read Catcher in the Rye under battery-generated light.  I am, however, going to share that I am surprised and unsettled by the increasing amount of formerly private matters being voluntarily offered up to the public. 

Relationships have been made and destroyed by Facebook statuses.  Pictures shared on such sites have lost people jobs and caused scandals.  Now, people are letting the world know where they are at any given moment through Foursquare and Facebook Places. It’s not that I am against technology, or even a disbeliever of the power of social networks and social media. I even have a Foursquare account and occasionally check in to places.  However, I think very hard about who I become “friends” with on Foursquare (current count is at 3) and I mostly use the application, not as a means of connecting with others, but rather as a travel log of places I’ve been in case I should ever want to go back or recommend a place to a friend (a real live friend). With Facebook Places, people literally have been telling thousands of people that they chose not to hang out with them, that they’re not home working on their part of whatever team project they owe (for work or for school), that they drink at bars on weekdays and often and, not to mention, that no one is home at their apartment or house for some time so come on by if you feel like stealing anything! 

Obviously, social media and such GPS applications offer many benefits and are here to stay.  I just believe that we haven’t quite caught up in terms of etiquette and vetting who we allow into what network and what information we should be willing to share.  I would hypothesize that once the pace of new social technology emergence has slowed and we’ve hit a point where we’ve lived with such things for a while, the usage of such applications will decline and become more guarded.  The need for privacy is human nature.  The problem as I see it right now is that people don’t universally appreciate the reality of cyberspace and the possible effects of baring all to the online world. 

*3

Tweet Tweet Tweet….

mike-brown:

I’ve always been a little bit older than my classmates and a little slower on the uptake for adopting technology and technological trends.  I learned to type when I was 25 and returning to undergrad.  I owned my first computer at 26.  When all of my classmates, who were 6 years younger than me and blogging when they were in their tweens, were signing up for Facebook, I joined reluctantly but felt the human race regressing into a permanent high school mentality full of popularity contests (number of friends), cliques and gossip hounds (newsfeed especially once that came around).  Of course, this regression was a complete success and led the way for the great cultural de-evolutionary trend of social media.  From then on, the pokes, brightly colored logos, sling-shot flung birds, lol’s and smiley faces abounded.  The developed world became app-crazy and face-to-face interaction became a step closer to obsolescence.  People craved Facebook “likes” and YouTube “hits” more than an actual hug or smile.

Facebook stati, desperate one-sentence cries for attention, called for a “brand new” re-framing of the same idea in the form of Twitter.  Twitter’s success has of course hinged upon its catchy and cute name for using its application, i.e. “tweeting”. As founder and director of a small nonprofit, I did everything I could to gain exposure and raise funding, including developing our website, e-newsletter and the occasional blog.  I reluctantly created a Twitter account as well for my company but rarely could think of anything to tweet besides publicizing upcoming events.

Now I’ve found myself in a class which has made regular tweeting mandatory and I’ve literally spent hours stressing about what the heck one is supposed to tweet.  What makes a good tweet?  What are major faux pas?  Is a question okay, as seen with Facebook status, or is one expected to deliver information only on Twitter?  And how does one become fluent in Twitter language?  Is there a Rosetta Stone for such things? Of course, as in undergrad, my classmates are all well ahead of me, tweeting away into a blissfully robust network of friends they’ve never met.  I’ve always tried my best to do well at whatever assignment is given to me, but adopting and embracing Twitter seems like such a lifestyle change and one that just doesn’t seem to fit.  I feel like a twit when I tweet and wonder why I even care.   The only person following me is Tom from Myspace.

*2

Five rules for new technology adoption

sagustin:

Attending this year’s SXSW festival in Austin Texas, followed by taking Social Media and Entrepreneurship at Columbia, has inspired me to earnestly discover what technology innovations I should incorporate in my life.

Two innovations have stood out in particular – first, Twitter, which I only started taking seriously the past month or so; the second, an iPad which I hoped might replace my netbook in the long run.

In trying to incorporate these innovations in my life, I’ve recognized five rules that may be helpful for others.

1) Establish use cases.

Every technology has use cases. One needs to figure out the appropriate time and place to use it, and make a commttment to using it. In terms of Twitter, I’ll check my messages when waiting for the elevator or at the deli, but not while eating my breakfast (I’ll catch up on case reading instead).

For the iPad, I committed to use it to respond to those quick easy to answer emails which demanded immediate responses. Longer, more complex notes would still require my netbook

2) Expect a learning curve.

Typing e-mail or notes without a tactile keyboard is clearly a pain. My iPad typing speed and accuracy were initially abysmal, but I did see significant improvements each day of additional use that went by.

Figuring out how to tweet and what codes to use on Twitter also required a learning curve, which I’ve progressed on over time.

3) Practice regularly.

Make a time to practice, make sure you’re practicing every day – even if just a bit. As with any learning, we learn best through repetition.

4) Look for tips, tricks, new add-ons.

Google search and Quora are definitely your friends here. Whatever problem you’re having adopting the technology, someone has definitely had it before. Even if you’re not having a problem , look up tips and tricks to see how to use the technology faster or more effectively.

5) Have fun.

Adopting an innovation should be a fun process. Keep it interesting and not a chore. Luckily, you’re probably not a tech editor who is paid to review every new application or hardware that comes down the pipe.You have the freedom to make the process fun and cool – what can I do with the iPad that I could never have done before? Who’s cool on Twitter to follow?

These tips, while fairly straightforward, might be of help to making the tech adoption process a smoother one.