For those of you keeping tabs on my life, after two amazing years at Stanford, I now have my MBA! What comes next? Potentially some very exciting stuff. Stay tuned, answer should be coming in a week or two. :)
Another dynamite post by new-media/social network research extraordinaire, Danah Boyd, on the class divide that is emerging in the social network realm. This article covers a topic that I was speaking about to some folks while visiting the Facebook offices last week - Facebook skews strongly to the middle/upper classes, while the lower classes have stayed with MySpace.
Danah makes the added point that Facebook has begun to encompass "mainstream" (hegemonic) culture while MySpace is home to "alternative" (subaltern) cultures.
The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.
MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.
PS - I heard today on NPR a discussion of the birth and death of public swimming pools. In it, it was argued that communal swimming pools were initially very popular, but eventually class and race devisions lead to the death of the municipal pool. Now the swimming experience primarily exists in private homes. I'm too tired right now to determine whether there is an apt analogy with social networks, but I'll revisit this in a couple of days. Alternatively, if you'd like to do the thinking for me, please write it out in the comments below. :)
I was looking for reviews of web development software today and found Google's results dissapointing. The top links were all reviews from 2002-2004, thus referencing software that was far out of date. As is typical, I voiced disappointment out loud and my friend Javier overheard. He reasoned that Google gives more weight to pages that are older. Perhaps generally a good idea, but not certainly when you are looking for product reviews
On Thursday, I was fortunate to be at the Facebook F8 Keynote and Hackathon. It was an amazing event, where Zuck gave a keynote with a Jobs-esque flair for pacing and drama.
He announced the launch of Facebook Platform. As it has been covered in detail elsewhere, I won't give a detailed explanation; suffice to say, it allows developers to build new applications (music players, dating services, etc.) within the Facebook environment, giving Facebook users quick and easy access to these new services. An important element of Facebook platform is that developers get to keep all of the ad revenue from the Facebook applications.
I found this interesting, because in Silicon Valley you are constantly exposed to entrepreneurs who have great ideas that aren't sustainable businesses by themselves. The question venture capitalists often ask is, "is that a product or a company?". More recently, with the emergence of web 2.0, the problem has gotten worse. For example, I might have an idea for a much better, simpler way for online invitations to work. VCs have been asking "is that even a product? or is it a feature?" A great idea isn't such a great idea if nobody knows about it and nobody is signed up.
Until now. Facebook's platform will allow many of these cool product ideas to actually become businesses in their own right by leveraging Facebook's platform of users. Facebook users won't have to learn a new interface, visit a new web page or change their current behavior.
Pretty cool, I think. Look for my Facebook apps to be launching soon ;)
Hey everybody, check out a sneak preview of the alpha version of DuckWithGlasses. It's a search engine for t-shirts. Yep- it turns out that it's rather hard to find t-shirts online using Google. You might even notice something familiar in the graphics... Any feedback is much appreciated!
|OK, this is admittedly a bit nerdy, but I can't resist posting it. Above is a video from a Google TechTalk series with Luis von Ahn.
Here's what Luis talks about: some tasks are easy for you and I, but enormously difficult for computer programs. For example, looking at a photograph and identifying the objects. Sounds easy, but try to get a computer to do it accurately!
So how do you get humans to solve problems that computers cannot yet solve? The elegant answer: construct "games with a purpose." This makes me wish I was doing a CS degree.
[via Benj, thanks buddy!]
Through an interesting series of events, Red Herring magazine asked Julio and I to be the official video interviewers at their conference in Monterey. Julio and I drove up tonight and will be conducting interviews all day tomorrow and Thursday. Should be a lot of fun. I don't have our final list of guests, but first up is Max Levchin (co-Founder Paypal, CEO of Slide, Chairman Yelp). The interviews are supposed to be featured on Red Herring's website, so stay tuned and I'll send the link when I get it.
Our last class in Entrepreneurship & VC featured all three of the instructors - Andy Rachleff (co-founder of Benchmark Capital), Peter Wendell (founder of Sierra Ventures), and Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google) - individually talking for 45 minutes, giving us parting advice. It was one of the best single classes I've ever had. I thought I would share here some of my key take-aways.
- Successful people listen. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio. You learn more when you listen than when you talk.
- Putting on "the cloak" of leadership. A large part of your role is to inspire and motivate your employees, and people will look to you for confidence. If you were on a plane with engine problems, you don't want the pilot to say "I am exploring a number of options and hope that...", you want him to say, "I will do whatever it takes to land this plane."
- The importance of passion. When Warren Buffet finds people to run his business, his key criteria is to find somebody who would do the job whether they would get paid or not.
- Just when you think you've got it 100% right, you can be taken down. Look no further than what happened to JetBlue in February. In January, a mistake like this by JetBlue was almost unthinkable.
- People who are lucky make their own luck. And you only make your own luck by staying in the game.
- You will only be as good as the people you will recruit. Media & culture celebrate individuals, but teams succeed.
- The best scientists can explain complex issues in simple terms. Pretty good scientists can explain complex issues in complex terms.
- A's hire A's. B's hire C's. Always strive to hire people better than you are.
- Be a clear, fair manager. For example, when speaking to a business unit leader that isn't succeeding, say: "I want a strategy to win in 1-page and the objectives we need to hit each quarter to reach them."
- When considering a business:
- Look for change. What inflection point are you taking advantage of? Without change, there is rarely opportunity.
- Always look for the 80/20. 80 percent of the value is delivered by 20 percent of the product/service. Focus on that 20 percent.
- Does is answer a real pain? Who is the user and what is their pain point?
- Just keep selling. Not a bad default strategy to communicate to your team.
- Be humble. The markets are brutal to those who are arrogant.
- Understand what you don't do well. Surround yourself with people and resources that can do these things well.
- Practice self-discipline. Set targets, have timetables, have clear unambiguous goals. Life passes quickly - days, weeks, months, years, a lifetime.
- Be yourself. In group settings, you usually serve the group best by thoughtfully expressing exactly what you are thinking. Not necessarily what the group wants to hear.
- You've got to give trust to get trust. Treat people as you would want to be treated. Sometimes people take advantage of you. That's fine, don't do business with them again.
- Shoot for the moon.To be successful, don't follow the pack. If you want to win, don't hedge.
David Kelley, founder of IDEO, came by our "Evaluating Entrepreneurial Opportunities" class last quarter to speak about the "design process". This is likely documented a million times in other places, but I thought it personally useful to write down some of the most salient points So here are some tips on how to design things or ideas. If you are interested in this sort of stuff, check out my podcast with David.
Before you even say what you are going to do, seek to better understand.
Talk to experts (don't just read experts)
Best question to ask experts: "why?"
Develop empathy for the user!
Questionnaires won't tell you what you want to know.
Watch users. Watch when they grimace, watch when they smile.
Go to their workplaces, their cars, their homes.
Users often prove experts wrong.
Look at people who are high value, low status (e.g. nurses)
Look at extreme users. Users who use a lot or a little.
Much more important to build a crummy prototype than to write a specification.
Three crummy prototypes are better than a single polished one.
Never go into a meeting without a prototype. *
* General rule: whoever has a prototype at a meeting wins
Show stuff to the user.
Show messy stuff to the user.
Let the user chose.
Iterate rapidly, fail often.
And one other random tip: Make the coolest workspaces in the building workspaces for teams. (Corner offices, etc.)
On Wednesday, Needham analyst Mark May points out what what many have realized for years, Yahoo Messed Up Not Buying Facebook. For the younger demographics Yahoo's brand is irrelevant. Not a single person I have spoken to under 22 uses or cares about any of Yahoo's properties. Facebook, in comparison - well, I'll let the stats speak for themselves. From the report:
Facebook is no doubt one of the most important Internet companies to have been created in the last five years. In just three years since launch the property has attracted 21 million registered users. More phenomenal, however, is that an estimated 93% of those 21 million users are “active”, or log on at least once a month, 85% at least once a week and 60% at least once a day. In addition, average daily usage is reported to be nearly 20 minutes per day per user. According to comScore, Facebook.com ranked as the 36th most-visited site on the Web in February 2007 with 16.7 million unique visitors, and was also the second-most “engaging” site with 23.6 average visits per visitor during the month (see figure below). Facebook has also been ranked as the number one site for photos, ahead of Yahoo!’s Flickr, with over 6 million photos uploaded daily. In a survey conducted last month, eMarketer found that Facebook was the most viewed site by females in the United States (69%) ages 17-25 and also the most viewed website by males (56%). In a survey conducted last year by Student Monitor, Facebook was named the econd most "in" thing among undergraduates, tied with beer and after only the iPod. Those sorts of usage statistics are nearly unheard of, and make Facebook one of the largest and stickiness media properties around.
I'm in the first class of Social Machines: Online Learning Communities, going over a history of the modern computer and internet. One of the most fascinating characters is a guy named Doug Engelbart, "father of the personal computer."
In a 6-year period in the 60's, Doug and his team developed the mouse, hypertext, the client-server architecture, to a large extent the internet and a slew of other thing. What is amazing is that the bulk of this research was presented in one place, to 1000 people, on Dec 9, 1968. This was the equivalent of Woodstock for computer users. From Wikipedia:
At the Fall Joint Computer Conference, Engelbart, with the help of his geographically distributed team, demonstrated the workings of the NLS (which stood for oNLine System) to the 1,000 computer professionals in attendance... The demo featured the first computer mouse the public had ever seen, video conferencing, teleconferencing, email and hypertext.
Keeping in mind that nobody had seen a personal computer before, this is a pretty amazing demonstration. Thanks to the technologies that Doug and his team envisioned, the video is available below :)
Note: In the cllip, Jeff Rollifson appears, who ends up leading the development of the Mac at Apple.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Chad and Steve, co-founders of YouTube, came to our Entrepreneurship & VC class. I was fortunate to have lunch with them afterwards as well. One of the questions that I asked them was:
Given that there were dozens of video sharing sites before YouTube (indeed, iFilm had seemingly "won" in the space, being acquired years before), what specifically did YouTube do that everybody else missed?*
So, I will generously paraphrase the answer, but basically they said that it came down to two big things. First, although they were a relative late-comer to the online video space, they were the first to add easy embedding of videos in other pages. This allowed them to ride the MySpace phenomenon. Second, YouTube had a highly scalable back-end, so when "viral videos" brought down other services, YouTube stayed up. It turns out that much of the success of these services is based on these viral videos, so this led to YouTube's continues success.
Of course these two major factors were in addition to thousands of "little things" that YouTube did right every day in executing their vision. However, it's instructive to think of the major factors that allowed them to win in a space crowded by so much money and talent.
* Long-term readers may have noted that this is a topic I'm generally interested in. See my post referencing Danah Boyd's thoughts on why MySpace beat Friendster.
Chad and Steve, co-founders of YouTube, came by my Entrepreneurship and VC class. We got to ask them questions and, after the class, I had the opportunity to have lunch with them.
On the plane to Hong Kong (did I mention I was going to Hong Kong?) I spent 30 min posting the take-aways, but then my computer crashed, losing everything. Sigh. I'll repost later today or tomorrow.
Steve Ballmer came by for a lunchtime talk at Stanford GSB. I had to finish an assignment, so I only got a chance to see a bit of it. Here's a run-down from the San Jose Merc News and some good commentary by Scoble (1/2 way down). Funny side-note was that Eric Schmidt was eating lunch in the cafeteria while Steve was upstairs giving the speech.
PS - I'm outrageously excited to have finished the bulk of my work for the quarter! I'm off to LA tomorrow and then to Hong Kong and Beijing next week.
Last week Julio and I were very fortunate to interview former Chairman and CEO of Intel, Andy Grove. Check out the podcast online. Andy is a legend around here and had some interesting insights on innovation and strategy.
In related news, we just finished recording an interview with CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt (!) Once I get finished all these papers, I'll edit it and upload. Hopefully next Tuesday.
Great new book out of Wharton: "Phil Rosenzweig rips into some of the most popular business books of recent years, including the bestsellers In Search of Excellence and Good to Great. Along the way, he argues that many of the pat principles bandied about in the business world are based on misguided thinking and flimsy research."
In my final strategy class last year, I asked our professor for any book or magazine suggestions. He thought for a minute and could only offer the Harvard Business Review. At first, I was shocked, having been a long-time reader of popular business books. However, after two years at business school, I have become far more critical of mainstream business books and their methodologies. The only two books I know consistently recommend are The Innovator's Dilemma and The Tipping Point. Any others I'm missing? Let me know in the comments.
[thanks for the link, Andrew]
The new iinnovate episode is up with with Randy Komisar (partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers). We went a bit longer on format this time, going for 25 minutes. Would love any feedback!
I wrote an article for the Stanford Business Reporter this week about productivity-enhancing software programs. As the suggestions are more broadly applicable, I am republishing a condensed version of the article here.
(Note that I haven’t included some of the big ones; I’m assuming you already know about Office, Firefox, Skype, anti-spyware etc. Also, apologies to the Mac faithful – we are just doing Windows this time. Enjoy!)
Stop Cutting and Pasting: Anagram (link)
You get an email about an appointment. You then painstakingly copy and paste the info from the information into your Outlook calendar. No more! With Anagram, you simply highlight the information, hit F12 and all the information goes straight into your calendar! Anagram parses through the text, placing the proper information in the appropriate fields. Anagram also works with email signatures, bringing them quickly into your Contacts. If you only download one program from this article, this should be it.
Paste Unformatted Text: PureText (link)
Find yourself “referencing” Wikipedia in your PowerPoint presentation? If so, you may have noticed that annoying links and formatting get copied over when all you wanted is the text. PureText is a tiny, neat liitle app which allows you to paste text into another application, without getting all the formatting from the original source. PureText is easy to use, simply use WINDOWS+V instead of Ctrl+V.
Keep Your System In Shape: TuneUp Utilities (link)
When you get bloated, unhealthy and slow, you go to the gym. What can your computer do? Why, use TuneUp Utilities. TuneUp Utilitie has a one-click wizard which makes your system faster, slimmer and more secure. All important aspects of system configuration, security, cleanup and maintenance can be accessed through an slick, easy-to-use interface.
Create Cool Screen Shots: Snag-It (link)
I used SnagIt for all the cool screen shots in this post. Yes, I know you can capture screen elements with PrintScreen, but PrintScreen is to SnagIt what pre-made sandwiches are to In-n-Out burgers. SnagIt lets you grab images of Web sites and software applications. Editing tools allow you to circle important areas, and add arrows and text with a single click. You even can capture video and record screen action.
Tiny PowerPoint Files: NX PowerLite (link)
NXPowerLite is a great little app .NXPowerLite optimizes Powerpoint documents – crunches presentations from several MBs down to a hundred KB or so, with minimal data warp. Works great for emailing a large project to your group.
Photos: Picasa (link)
I thought everybody already knew about Picasa, but I was over at two consecutive dinners last weekend where the host didn’t have it. Simply put, it’s the best and most fun way to organize and share photos on your computer.
Easy Online Backup: Mozy (link)
Sure you may own a backup hard drive, but when was the last time you actually used it? Mozy doesn’t require any external hard drive, it automatically and securely backs up your system to a secure and private online backup whenever you turn on your computer. To be honest, I have never used Mozy (I use the similar online backup service Carbonite), but my friends Erik, Kayne, and Walt Mossberg swear it’s better, so I defer to them.
It can take ages to file and sort through all of your emails. Lookout is fast search for your e-mail, files, and desktop integrated with Microsoft Outlook.
Lookout X1 will find your search terms hiding nearly anywhere in your Outlook or public mailbox - subjects, bodies, phone numbers, addresses, etc.
should note that many swear by other desktop search products such as X1, Copernic and Google Desktop. I decided to recommend Lookout here as it is the simplest and doesn’t slow down your computer.
Note that if you have Outlook 2007, you may want to stick with the default Windows Search application.
MyLifeOrganized is a turbo version of Outlook Tasks. It’s a great little app for people who like to prioritize. The task outliner will help you to organize your goals, projects and tasks into a tree. The to-do list will generate actions that require immediate attention to keep you focused.
Hope you found this helpful. For the computer geeks out there, I’m sure this will spark debate and other recommendations, so let the nerdfight begin in the comment suggestions.
Next issue of the reporter I will be featuring “Useful Web Sites” – so let me know of suggestions.
Check out this awesome new campaign for the N-series of Nokia Phones. The idea is a virtual competition between two artists: Pjotro, a musician/dancer/engineer who has made a special suit that makes music in response to his movements, and DJ eFFex, an amazing beat-boxer. Using your mouse you can create a dance-off between the two; the artist that commands the most mouse time wins. This is very cool.
This evening I was fortunate to be invited to the Facebook "Technology Tasting". Basically, it was a bunch of Facebook folks and people from around the valley eating and schmoozing. Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz both talked. It was an incredible event and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a place with a higher density of IQ per square foot.
Although Facebook doesn't get a lot of buzz, I believe that it is set to be one
of the defining web properties of our generation. It is enormously useful to millions of people and is growing at a dizzying pace. Ask an 18 year old what web sites he or she regularly uses and the answer will almost invariably start with Facebook. (Google comes next. Youtube, MSN/AIM and Wikipedia often round out the list. Yahoo is almost never mentioned.) Tellingly, Facebook is one of the only
companies which consistently wins engineering talent when going
head-to-head with Google.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the event. Some interesting take-aways:
When Mark opened up for questions, I asked him the following: "You articulated a compelling vision for Facebook as an independent company. Can you envision a in which Facebook would be acquired and, if so, what would that be?" I thought it was an appropriate question: who wants to be recruited by Facebook and end up working for Yahoo?
He had an interesting answer. From his perspective, while he could envision possible acquisitions, "when you have something that's growing this quickly and is providing this much value in the world, that's just not the right thing to consider." He went on to say that, unlike other web companies, Facebook is primarily a technology company. Therefore it doesn't make a lot of sense to be acquired by, say, a media company. He alluded to other options for exit, including an IPO.
OK, so I'm way over my self-imposed (and increasingly ignored) length limit, so I'm off to do my homework.
From my friends Tal and Julie at TrailerSpy:
Ever wonder what Scarface would be like as a romantic comedy? What about Dumb and Dumber as a horror film? Tal combed through YouTube to find the best trailer re-mixes, and he found some hilarious ones. There all ranked from #15 to #1, and they are too funny.
Click here to see the full list:
Wow! Cool series of billboards from Mustang.
So, turns out the secret is that the billboard is made out of Lexan, a translucent material that blurs the image of everything behind it, creating the illusion of motion.
[Via New Media Blogger]
Hung out with my good buddy last weekend. Jon is one of those rare people with whom I have an endless number of things to talk about. Which is fortunate, because he talks a lot. :) Jon has a really cool job running Business Development and Marketing at CollegeHumor. Those who know him know that there is no better person in the world for that job.
One cool thing he showed me was Vimeo. The best way to describe it is a video version of Flickr. Vimeo really gets how take a relative commodity, streaming video, and build a great community around it. The site doesn't focus on stolen clips, but instead on interesting original user-generated content. The feel of the site is much warmer, more creative and cooler than the bigger players. To immediately see how different it is from a site like YouTube, check the comments on posted videos. YouTube comments seem to almost always be negative, poorly written and rude. Vimeo's comments are positive, witty and helpful.* It is just a much better vibe and cooler product. The guys at Connected Ventures have, once again, done a great job.
In the meantime, here are two Vimeo clips of his trip that Jon uploaded:
* Hey Jon, you should upload your "Stuck in the Elevator" clip to YouTube so we can do a comparison of the types of comments generated by the two sites.
Today's guest in our Entrepreneurship and VC class was eBay CEO, Meg Whitman. We get a fair share of CEOs visit us at Stanford, but I found Meg to be especially sharp and eloquent.
In class, I asked Meg the following question: "In strategy class we learn that companies are typically either great at executing or great at innovating. When I compare what the eBay's site does now to what it did five years ago, it's not much different. How do you think about innovation at eBay and, indeed, is eBay an innovative company?"
Essentially, she said sort of. In her mind there are three types of innovation: evolutionary, synergistic, and revolutionary.
Evolutionary innovation: These are incremental changes a company makes to its core business. eBay is constantly doing stuff like this, often behind the scenes, which is why the general experience is much different now than in 2002. eBay, like many big, well managed companies, does this well.
Synergistic innovation: These are innovations formed by bringing different companies and services together. How eBay has done this is by letting sites speak with eBay, Skype and Paypal. So eBay has allowed other sites to access its product listings, Skype may be integrating with other services such as Yahoo IM, and Paypal can be used by smaller commerce sites. Meg feels that eBay has been a leader in enabling others to leverage its services.
Revolutionary innovation: These are major disruptive companies which change markets, like Skype, YouTube, Paypal, and, indeed, eBay. Meg's belief is that these types of companies do not emerge from within larger companies like eBay and should therefore be acquired.
Sorry for the long post, but I don't have time to write a shorter one.
My cousin Brad just emailed me this great read in the NYT on how kids express themselves online. It talks about how they are increasingly putting their lives on the internet via photos, blogs, videos, etc.
It's a trend I only half get. Ostensibly, I do have a podcast, facebook profile, myspace page, flickr account and blog. Yet it doesn't pervade my life as it pervades the lives of the people in the article. To me it sometimes seems strange. At one hand it seems natural for people to express who they are to the world, on the other hand, with all the photos and videos floating around, it's hard to imagine how anybody will run for political office in the future.
Say Anything (NYT) [Thanks for the link Brad!]
Had a great time today at the Stanford GSB e-conference. I got to check out the panel entitled Trends & Opportunities in Consumer Internet. The panelists are listed below:
I played around with the recorder on my new blackjack during the panel. Although the sound quality sucks, and I missed the first 5 minutes, and I ran out of memory space for the last 5 minutes, I thought I'd upload it anyway in case anybody is really interested.
Today I had lunch with Joel Peterson (wildly successful real estate and private equity investor) and later had a dinner with two more recent entrepreneurs and classmates: Jenny (owner of a wildly popular midwest desert chain) and Erik (founder of a series of popular - and profitable - e-commerce web sites ).
Some interesting tidbits from both events:
"Regret for the things we did, can be tempered by time. It is regret for the things that we did not do that is inconsolable."
- Sydney Harris
[via Mark Leslie in our final class of "Formation of New Ventures"]
It was the first day of school and I'm enrolled in a called "Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital". What's particularly cool about the class is that it's taught by Peter Wendell (Founder of Sierra Ventures), Andy Rachleff (founder of Benchmark Capital) and Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google). In class today, Peter apologized for Eric's absence, saying that Eric unfortunately had to miss class as he was Moscone Center making an announcement with Steve Jobs. An hour into the class, my neighbor, Meagan, got a message on her blackberry, and passed me a note that Steve had brought Eric on stage to help announce the iPhone. For a kid from Canada, it was a pretty cool Silicon Valley moment.
Steve Jobs is delivering a presentation at MacWorld Tuesday morning. There is a lot of buzz around that it could be something big. iPhone big. Check out the new graphic on Apple's homepage:
Apple is so cool. For more on the rumors, check out Valleywag's coverage.
According to the BusinessWeek article, "Why Yahoo's Panama Won't Be Enough", Google is making an average of 20 cents per search:
Using data on total search queries, released by comScore, Caris & Co. analyst Tim Boyd estimates that Yahoo made on average between 10 cents and 11 cents per search in 2006, bringing in a total of $1.61 billion for the first nine months of the year.
Google, meanwhile, makes between 19 cents and 21 cents per search. As a result, it made an estimated $4.99 billion during the same period.
Wow, is it just me or does that seem really high? According to my Google Search History, I'm averaging about 30 searches per day. That means Google is making about $6 a day from my surfing.
[via Geeking with Greg]
As just reported, MySpace is now the most viewed web property on the internet. Wow. Yahoo better acquire somebody quick. Normally you'd expect (dread?) some sort of commentary around this, but tomorrow at 7am I'm interviewing best-selling author Geoffrey Moore for iinnovate, so I need to go to sleep. I'll ask him what he thinks about this news and post his reply tomorrow.
Last week we had a great event at the GSB organized by Charles River Ventures and my friend John. It was called Entrepreneur Idol (see event video here). Sixty MBA students gave 30-60 second pitches of a business idea to a panel of judges, including George, Bill Tai and Susan Wu . It was a lot of fun and a great idea for an event. Check out the video above. And yes, I did give a pitch, but unfortunately didn't make it into the top three.
My good buddy Jon sent me a great link continuing a recent theme of success through ugly design. The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites has some nice insights. For example, an ugly design conveys a very powerful message:
The idea of an ugly website could present a positive message never crossed my mind. Yet the fact is, ugly websites do have the ability to present the perfect marketing message. What is that message?
You can trust us. We are a family run business and do not employ a marketing team. Our website is simple, but functional. Most importantly, our goal is to serve our customers, not necessarily learn HTML.
I don't think that ugly sites are necessarily "functional" (look at MySpace, it's neither pretty nor functional), but I do agree with the notion that ugly design has the potential to convey a powerful message of authenticity.
In my Infotech Industry Seminar today, intel co-founder Andy Grove introduced a new concept that he has coined "the Creosote Conundrum."
The creosote bush is a bush which dominates the landscape of North America's hot deserts. It is one of the best examples of a plant that tolerates dry conditions simply by its toughness. It is typically the largest plant in its environment as it competes aggressively with other plants for water.
The Creosote Conundrum says that a company's major successful product line will compete aggressively for resources with any other product lines which emerge. Therefore, the when there is a "creosote"-type product line in your organization, it will kill out any products that try to grow near it. The generalized message is that:
"The more successful you are, the more difficult it is to generate an alternate strategy."
We have seen this with companies such as Western Union, Xerox , AT&T and Microsoft.
There are many causes that lead to Creosote Conundrum. Notably there are limits to management attention. The opportunity cost of new research is, at the margin, very high, as successful companies typically have better opportunities within existing product lines and industries.
Recently we saw that at Microsoft, a singular focus on existing technologies caused it to initially "miss" the browser and then search opportunities. It is interesting to think whether Google's Adword will be their eventual creosote.
Serial entrepreneur and angel investor Audrey McLean was part of an entrepreneurs panel today in our Formation of New Ventures class. She had a great sound-bite concerning aspiring-entrepreneurs coming to her with 'ideas'.
"I don't care about ideas, I care about opportunities. You need to know what problem you're solving and which people you're solving it for. And are there enough people who have the problem who will pay enough to make a sustainable business."