Wednesday, October 8. 2014
Fascinating article on Pando Daily about how the VC community has moved from funding high potential people to funding Assholes:
Here’s the problem. Every venture capitalist, in every interview they’ve ever done will tell you the same casual lie: That they invest in people first and ideas second. They’ll tell you they invest only in people they’d want to work with. They’ll tell you that they have the luxury to say no to companies that don’t do things in line with the way they like to work, the way they like to treat people.
Possibly, but looking back at the dotcom era one can argue that it gets that way as the cycle moves up to Maximum Froth, in my experience the Asshole count and valuations both went up exponentially as the froth rose in the dotcom era. At its height anything and everything was funded, and some of those people were very definitely many cards short of a deck. To me it's more a sign we are starting to see the Froth appear in the current "Tech" bubble (though, to be pedantic, most of these companies are not in fact "Tech" per se, in that its not their technology that is critical, they are mainly digital versions of long established services with some form of networking function overlayed on them to simplify the transaction between buyer and seller. It's the attraction of eyeballs - sorry, their traction - that is critical, as there is only space for a few winners)
The other very telling comment made in the article is this one:
At some point this business became about funding a founder, not a company. This has coincided with three other theories of venture capital portfolio management that have become prevalent of late. The first is an obsession with a VC’s “social game”—to steal the parlance of reality TV. Since 75% of venturebacked startups are destined to fail, VCs today assume they’ll do less damage overall by writing off a bad performer than doing the hard work to fix it. Even if they oust an ineffective founder, a company may be too damaged to salvage, meantime, the VC has ruined his rep of being “entrepreneur friendly” for nothing.
I love how even the Valley pundits who insist they are "telling it like it is" shy away from the "Bubble" word - these above two point perfectly express the "game theory" of a Bubble dynamic. Anyway, on with the point:
The third change that rules venture decision making is an acceptance that no one has any clue of what works.
This also is a descriptor of the beginning of the Frothy phase of the dotcom era - no VC knew what would work then either, so they invested in a huge range of patently daft ideas, praying for a few nuggest, because to not do so was job-risking. If one VC made a big play in a sector then the others piled into every other player in that sector (and by the end, even manufactured their own plays like pop svengalis manufacture boy-bands). Now to be fair, the sort of person who can set up and build a billion dollar company is seldom going to win the "person most admired for being nice and honourable" awards, and as Pando points out, the process of getting a company off the ground can make someone into an asshole - but Pando thinks This Time it is DIfferent:
The other sad reality is the continual erosion of what Silicon Valley—as a place—stands for, if anything. This used to be a place of misfits and changing the world. Even the legendary assholes had a cause beyond themselves and checks and balances on their board. It just may take another economic collapse to get back to that.
Pando also argues that the reduced cost of setting up a company has changed the power dynamic, but while that's true in the down-cycle and early up-cycle, by the time the Froth appears money is not the issue anymore. To me, this looks very cyclical. At the top of the dotcom bubble it wasn't about changing the world either, it was about get rich quick. Bubbles attract assholes, and they disappear again when times get hard. If you want to find a low asshole industry sector, look for ones in trouble - the mid 'noughties Valley was just that, and was arguably more asshole free than average.
And we are enetring the Frothy time, so expect the asshole count to increase. Then there will be a crash, a collapse, and things will go back to being more asshole free again - until the next bubble starts to froth.
(Update - a friend of mine pointed out that what I reallyw as saying is that asshole density is a measure of bubbletime, so I have changed the title to that ffrom my original)
Tuesday, October 7. 2014
It's always fun to look at all the various predictions of the Next New Things (given they vary quite widely by predictor, by year - us being no exception). Anyway, here are Gartners for the next few years (abridged by Broadstuff)
For what its worth, based on Broadstuff's advanced TTID algorithm and patented BGA prediction methodology (see end of post for definition), we can safely predict that:
1. Most of these will take far longer to play out than pedicted, and many that do play out will have far less impact than supposed
Which of course is what Gartner's other great prediction system invention, the Hype Curve, tells us - only when something passes out of any hype trend, does it finally become useful.
The other thing I am left scratiching my head about, is that given the Great Hollowing Out*, if all these come to pass (most of these trends imply yet more waged employees being dumped or offshored), where will the money come from to buy all those marvellous new things these new lean businesses make? Even Henry Ford saw that one coming when he upped wages so employees could buy his cars....
* I am always amused by The Economist calling the Hollowing Out trend all a Myth in 2004, when it was patently obvious it was already happening. But of course, for that we use the MRD approach
TTID = This Time It's Different. The algorithm states that whenever this claim is made, it isn't, and put your hand tightly on your wallet
BGA = Bill Gates Algorithm - This (X) will have far less impact in 2 years than we think, and far more in 10. We apply the Chasm upgrade though, which states that most New New things will never jump over the chasm and will be dashed on therocks in trying. About 3 of the above will be survive, on average - which 3 would you bet on?
MRD = Mandy Rice Davies corollary - "Well, They Would, Wouldn't They" - Always look carefully at where someone is coming from before following where they lead....
Thursday, October 2. 2014
Rather good article on starting Startups by Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, its a List of Things a Founder Needs to Know. In essence his argument is that much about running a startup is counterintuitive to what peopel have learned to that point in more formal structures - here is the Broadstuff Expergated Version for you lazy lot out there:
1. Don't saddle yourself from the get-go
Trust your instincts about people....one of the most common mistakes young founders make is not to do that enough. They get involved with people who seem impressive, but about whom they feel some misgivings personally. If you're thinking about getting involved with someone—as a cofounder, an employee, an investor, or an acquirer—and you have misgivings about them, trust your gut. If someone seems slippery, or bogus, or a jerk, don't ignore it.
2. Its all about the Customer
The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users and the problem you're solving for them. [T]he characteristic mistakes of young founders is to go through the motions of starting a startup. They make up some plausible-sounding idea, raise money at a good valuation, rent a cool office, hire a bunch of people. From the outside that seems like what startups do. But the next step after rent a cool office and hire a bunch of people is: gradually realize how completely fucked they are, because while imitating all the outward forms of a startup they have neglected the one thing that's actually essential: making something people want.
3. You can't game the startup system
The third counterintuitive thing to remember about startups: starting a startup is where gaming the system stops working. Gaming the system may continue to work if you go to work for a big company. Depending on how broken the company is, you can succeed by sucking up to the right people, giving the impression of productivity, and so on. But that doesn't work with startups. There is no boss to trick, only users, and all users care about is whether your product does what they want. Startups are as impersonal as physics. You have to make something people want, and you prosper only to the extent you do.
Though he makes the caveat:
4. A startup is for life, not for Christmas
Startups are all-consuming. If you start a startup, it will take over your life to a degree you cannot imagine. And if your startup succeeds, it will take over your life for a long time: for several years at the very least, maybe for a decade, maybe for the rest of your working life. So there is a real opportunity cost here.
And as for starting up while at Uni, its one thing or the other. It may have worked for Zuckerberg & Gates, but they are a smal minority:
Graham's view on what to dio at Uni is this:
...if you want to be a successful startup founder is not some sort of new, vocational version of college focused on "entrepreneurship." It's the classic version of college as education for its own sake. If you want to start a startup after college, what you should do in college is learn powerful things.
5. How can you tell if you're up to this challenge?
6. The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas.
7. How do you know if you are working on Real Stuff ?
I can't explain in the general case what counts as an interesting problem, I can tell you about a large subset of them. If you think of technology as something that's spreading like a sort of fractal stain, every moving point on the edge represents an interesting problem. So one guaranteed way to turn your mind into the type that has good startup ideas is to get yourself to the leading edge of some technology—to cause yourself, as Paul Buchheit put it, to "live in the future." When you reach that point, ideas that will seem to other people uncannily prescient will seem obvious to you. You may not realize they're startup ideas, but you'll know they're something that ought to exist.
8. And the Ultimate Advice?
So here is the ultimate advice for young would-be startup founders, boiled down to two words: just learn.
Link at the top takes you to the full article, and I've linked to a further eassy he wrote as well
Monday, September 29. 2014
I wrote a post on the Agile Elephant blog about some observations on UK/US vs European use og Social technologies, this is the first few paragraphs:
We attended the IoM conference in Cologne last week, at the same time London Social Media Week was happening. (David gave a keynote talk, the slides are over here). It was interesting to juxtapose the core themes of these 2 events (incidentally, it was our Patchwork Elephant Conference held during last year's Social Media Week London that persuaded us to set up Agile Elephant).
In a nutshell, I noted the following large differences in themes on my twtstreams:
Now to be fair, IoM is about "social business" whereas "Social Media Week" has a wider remit, but it's interesting to note that even "Social Business" conferences in the UK are often focussed much more heavily on the sales/marketing arena. (Which is why we are running a more operations & customer related conference in November - see last paragraph of this post)
When we were kicking around the "why" this might be so, we came to the following hypotheses:
Whetever the reasoning, it leads to an interesting conclusion - best practice on customer attraction areas is in our observation coming from the UK and US, best practice in operational areas from Europe. Customer service examples seem to be coming from everywhere (it was after all a Swede who invented the concept of Moments of Truth in the customer value chain).
I'm not quite sure of the "form" for a blog in 2 places - reporoduce in entirety, or "skip after the break" - anyway, I've gone for the latter so here is the link to the rest of the article
Friday, September 26. 2014
Ello is a bright and clean new social network that promises, in its manifesto, to stay free of ads, never sell your data, and not make anyone use real names. People are paying attention to Ello because other people are paying attention to Ello. It is invitation only.
Invite only, so only the In crowd get in - Google approach redux. If only one could rely on the no datascraping promises - it's like promising not to be Evil.
But, once it has several hundred million users, and a large infusion of funding, and needs to "monetise" before shooting for an IPO - I wonder what conclusions it will reach about user data and advertising. I'd suspect the words on the barn door will subtly change
Remember people, if you ain't paying, you ain't the customer.
Still, its a few years before those pressures will really come in so it's probably a better 'ole vs. those that are now under the cosh to monetise.
Tuesday, September 9. 2014
iPhone 6 launched today, apparently the "Biggest Advancement" in iPhone history. In 2010 we made some predictions about iPhone 6 specs based on a Moore's Law progression (see chart above, written in 2010 - as a commentator notes, 2010 "Hot PC's" had gone up a few notches too by 2014), we thought it would be interesting to go back to that - we were estimating it would:
- Launch in 2014 (got that right)
- 4Ghz processor (actual apparently 25% faster than the 1 GHz processor in the iPhone 5)
- 2 Gb RAM (not yet known but unlikely to be 4Ghz)
- 256 GB Memory (currently only 128, same as iPhone 5)
- 1.2 kppi (currently at iPhone 4 levels, at c 330 ppi, but has a slightly bigger screen)
Now it could be that an "iPhone 6s" will come along with more oomph, we shall see, but right now its an iPhone 5+
It is a bit thinner, so chalk a semi-win for Moore there as its also longer so little change in actual volume, and the battery lasts c 20% longer than an iPhone 5 playing music - but its probably a bigger jump in reality as the iPhone 6 is feeding a bigger engine and doing more internal "added value" tasks.
Pricing is always a hard one to track with mobile phone deals, by our rough estimate its about 2/3 that of the initial IPhone 5 launch price, so maybe we shouldn't be too harsh about capability - you don't get a halving of the price AND a doubling of your capability every 2 years - but its mainly Android competition pushing the price down rather than a Moore's effect we reckon, that was much less a concern in 2012.
Now to be fair, we reset this prediction once iPhone 5 came out, but even applying Moore's Law to iPhone 5 would have predicted better than these iPhone 6 specs. But it is still interesting to look at rate of development by Moore's Law vs actual nonetheless over a number of cycles to see the rate of development. By our 2010 Moore's Law predictions, the new iPhone6 is actually more an iPhone 5 with "added value" lateral functionality rather than a new product cycle in capability. Certainly not the "biggest advancement" ever.
There is an iPhone 6Plus (bigger screen device) but it too is no further on than the 2012 Androd Nexus 4*
Whether the development cycle has slowed mainly due to a falling off of Moore's Law, or more due to price point pressure, is an interesting thought for the next 4 years.....
* Hat Tip James Cridland for that link
Today Apple unveiled the next iPhone (v 6), which pretty much follows our Moore's Law iPredictions, and a watch - Grauniad.
The Apple Watch will monitor health and fitness, tracking the wear’s movement, heart rate and activity with built-in sensors, feeding the information into Apple’s Health app for the iPhone and iPad, allowing review and analysis of the data.
Most people stopped wearing watches when mobile phones became ubiquitous. But this is no ordinary watch though, it watches you - and sends the data on to Big Apple.
This is called progress, in the same way as the choice of U2 as the promo band..... perhaps the Police would have been better?
Friday, September 5. 2014
There is a new trend emerging, perhaps - these 2 posts from Nick Carr & Awedience blog's Chris Arnold are thought provoking.
In essence, Nick argues the that the big, imepersonal, autobotted and analysed social mediascape is becoming counterproductive:
These trends, if they are actually trends, seem related. I sense that they both stem from a sense of exhaustion with what I’m calling Big Internet. By Big Internet, I mean the platform- and plantation-based internet, the one centered around giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Apple. Maybe these companies were insurgents at one point, but now they’re fat and bland and obsessed with expanding or defending their empires. They’ve become the Henry VIIIs of the web. And it’s starting to feel a little gross to be in their presence.
Now Nick is a fairly reliable curmudgeon, but much of his scepticism is based on hard analysis so this is an interesting observation. Nick is pretty good at setting current trends into historical aptterns, one cann imagine that big data driven SM may well go the way of pop-up Ads. (there is already a movement gaining momentum to limit how much user data can be picked up)
Map to that an interesting observation by Chris Brogan, who I've always seen as a "everything's rosy" kind of fellow, but note this piece from Awedience on the idea of Warm Data:
Have you ever seen that whole “we’ve got mountains of data on our customers” experience play out? In lots and lots of cases, most organizes aren’t really equipped to actually do anything with the data. And “big” data just means that there are mountains of information points that, in the right hands, can make interesting things happen.
If I were to pour cold water on this (as if...) I'd say this is just Personalised Data, reheated - and this message about the medium is a year or so old....but it's been striking a chord again recently and sort of fits in with Nick Carr''s observations. Awedience makes another interesting point, quoting Rob Hatch:
There’s a big counter-trend going on where people are pushing harder and harder to automate and dehumanize their use of communications tools like social media and email and the rest of the digital channel. Go ahead. Do that.
Now, 2 tropes do not a trend make, but seems to me the Social Media market is starting to recognise a distinction between mass produced commodity SM and high value SM as a value proposition, not an interesting theoretical concept. The limits to "big" social media automation benefits may be approaching, perhaps. Which stands to raeson - any market eventually shakes out into a commodity type offering. midrange offerings, and more added value/one off offerings so its clear SM will too (and faster than we think, perhaps)....
Tuesday, September 2. 2014
For those who are not aware of the unfolding story, this is a summary from Channel 4 News:
Bear in mind that in theory they have committed no crime that should trigger a Europeam Arrest Warrant either, yet one materialised astonishigly rapidly.
But that is the main story. However, there has been a very interesting secondary story to this, for those interested in Social Media. There was quite a lot of poor information disseminated at first by the "official sources" via mainstream media (for example unnecessary scare mongering about safety, and aspersions about the parents). The kindest conclusion one can come to was that there was initial confusion and now continuing uncertainty over what is permissable to divulge. The net effect was to paint a very negative picture of the parents for public consumption.
However, the parents used Social Media very well to get their side of the story across in the face of this mainstream narrative:
Clearly this will be an increasing trend - it's hardly new, after all - the medium may be the message, but with multiple mediums multiple messages can get out. But what the lesson is here is the high quality of the messaging that a fairly ordinary family is capable of today, and that the size of the "alternative medium" channels to spread it can trump the mainstream. Control of the message on the Old Media is a busted flush if these new channels pick up the story (If.....there are lkely many worthy cases that do not go viral, so its not a failsafe for the "little man" - but its a start)
Now there is probably information that the authorities cannot divulge, that would help explain their position and actions better, but right now they are coming off very badly by keeping quiet in this multi-medium model. Senior Government figures are now stepping in to halt the impending sh*tstorm before it gets fanned all over them, which will only increase the kicking these services get. Which points to the inevitable corollary to this event (all actions have reactions, 'tis the law....). If the services involved - medical, police, legal - did make available some of the confidential information they had, and it would help stop them inevitably being seen as the chumps in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario, they will be under increasing temptation - and pressure - to do so. I can imagine that currently mores of patient confidentiality may well shift to more of a "dump if provoked" process - i.e. data will be let out if the other party starts to refer to it.
You read it here first....
(Update - as predicted, the senior poiticos got involved, and are now busy scoopng up the plaudits...and more interestingly, the hospital concerned has published some of its notes of the medical situation in its defence. )
Whoever could have predicted that naked pictures of famous people stuck up in the Cloud would ever be hacked and published. Surely not, I hear you say?
Well, in ths case it was an open secret the system was compromised- Business Insider:
The ability to gain access to Apple's iCloud accounts has been an open secret among users of porn message boards for years, with enterprising users charging others to "rip" accounts and share nude photos.
But even if it was not an open secret, from an information security point of view data in Cloud systems is a nightmare compared to data on your own systems. Consider the ways data can be compromised when shifted to the Cloud:
What could possibly go wrong?
Of course there is now much examination of the stable door post horse bolting, but it's a basic truism of data security that there are always more smart people trying to break in than people trying to keep them out, and putting one's precious private eggs in public baskets doesn't help matters. There shall be more of these attacks for some time. If you want to keep something private, the Cloud is not yet the place for it.
The Second Law of the Internet is still true - If you don't want private stuff made public, don't stick it on the Internet.
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