TEDxHanRiver – “Failing to Succeed”

My TEDxHanRiver 2011 talk on “Failing to Succeed”


US Entrepreneurs are Chickens, Korean Entrepreneurs are Pigs

A Chicken and Pig are making breakfast together. The Chicken lays eggs and makes fried eggs. The pig cuts its belly and makes bacon.

The question is, who’s more committed to making breakfast?

Some might say that the Chicken is more committed because it’s contributing its future generation. Others might say that the pig is more committed because it’s contributing its own body. On other hand, a chicken can always lay more eggs. The pig also has a pretty big belly. The argument can go both ways and it’s an interesting way to discover and discuss people’s values.

The story can also be used to illustrate the differences between US and Korea Entrepreneurs.

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The Six D’s of Internet Ecosystems

” No man is an island, entire of itself “

Like all living things, companies thrive and prosper when they’re part of a diverse ecosystem that provides the right infrastructure for sustained growth and development.

Internet and software ecosystems are interesting because they are usually formed around the initial success of a single company that emerges from a highly competitive environment. If this company can nurture and grow this initial ecosystem, they enjoy a significant competitive advantage that eventually leads to market domination.

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Why companies fail in international markets

The recent fire sale of Helio by SK Telecom to Virgin Mobile for $39M has made me reflect on Korean technology companies in the United States.

Korea is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to technology, but on the international stage, most Korean technology companies are still struggling to expand beyond hardware. Everyone knows Samsung and their prowess in hardware manufacturing but there are no successful global Korean software/technology services companies.

The irony is that within Korea, software and technology services companies like SK Telecom, NHN, and NCSoft are actually very innovative companies that dominate the local market. These companies are all highly profitable and they’re well managed companies that have emerged as leaders in a highly competitive local market. They also have the cash flow and resources to invest in international expansion.

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My 3 Minutes of Fame on Fox Business Network

Here’s my 3 minute interview on Fox Business Network regarding Askpedia and the cease and desist from IAC.


Askpedia passes 100,000 registered users

It has been a while since I posted on this blog. The primary reason is because most of my time has been consumed by Askpedia.

The hard work is starting to pay off. Askpedia recently crosses 100,000 registered users. It’s an important milestone for us and things are looking good all around.

We also launched an Askpedia Facebook application which is also doing pretty well. Developing a Facebook application has been an interesting experience and it’s something I’ll have to write about in a future blog post.

However, there is this minor issue of a cease and desist from Ask.com around our name. It’s a pretty weak case but it is something that we have to work through with our lawyers.

Life can’t be perfect…


Askpedia is in Open Beta

After Alpha and Private Testing for a few months, I’m excited to announce that Askpedia.com is now in Open Beta.

Basically, this means that anybody can access the sign and ask/answer questions. All of the site functionality, including payments for questions and answers is working.

We already have a pretty vibrant community with close to 900 questions. Almost half of these questions are still open, so please go visit the sign and start asking/answering questions!


Askpedia Alpha Program

I’m pleased to announce that we have launched the Askpedia Alpha program.

After many months of hard work, it’s gratifying to have other people use our service and provide valuable feedback. We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but it does feel good to reach this important milestone.

Right now, the Alpha program is limited to a few people, but we will gradually open up the program to more participants. We also plan on having contests and prizes during the Alpha program. If you’re interested in participating, send an email to alpha at askpedia.com.


Askpedia.com

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog. It’s not because of a lack of topics. Over the last few months, there have been some pretty interesting developments in the whole Web 2.0 space.
Instead of just thinking about it or writing about it, I have decided to be a part of the new developments unfolding in the Web 2.0 space.

In March, I founded a new company and incorporated the company in June. We’re now busy working on the prototype and we hope to have an Alpha version out some time in early 2007.

We are still in stealth mode, but the company is in the knowledge sharing space. We are learning from the success of sites such as Naver’s JiSikIn and Yahoo Answers and applying the knowledge sharing concept to a different market in a different way. If you are interested in tracking our progress, you can sign up to be on our mailing list by going to:

http://www.askpedia.com

Needless to say, it has been pretty exciting so far and we’re all looking forward to launching next year and making a difference in the knowledge sharing space.

Stay tuned!


Why there is always Hope for Startups

The best business books have a profound yet easy to understand insight based on a simple observation. The Innovator’s Dilemma is one of those books. It is also one of the best examples of why there is always hope for startups in the technology space, even when competing against market leading companies.

Clayton Christensen makes the observation that even when market leading companies do everything right, they eventually lose their leadership position due to some unforseen and disruptive product, technology, or business model. It’s a form of corporate Darwinism where every company has its demise encoded into its DNA. Companies might be able to adapt to changing market conditions, but if you’re a dinosaur that needs a lot of food for sustenance, you are not going to survive the Ice Age. You have to become a bird and compete with other smaller animals used to surviving on less food.

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Moving on from WebEx…

It has been a while since I posted an entry to my blog.

The primary reason for not blogging over the last year and a half has been my position in the WebEx CTO Office. Given my role in investigating new technologies and developing business opportunities for WebEx, I felt that it would not have been appropriate for me to write about current technologies and trends.

Well, that’s all changing now.

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Netflix and 800lb Gorillas

I have been a Netflix customer for some time now and it has been interesting to see the company grow and evolve, given the changing dynamics of their space. Netflix pioneered the DVD rentals-by-mail market and have managed to grow to over two million subscribers since their launch in 1999. With their success, they have attracted the attention of 800 lb gorillas such as Blockbuster and WalMart who recently launched similar services.

This pattern of innovators (usually startups) creating a market and then attracting followers (usually larger companies) is something that we all see again and again in the technology space. The billion dollar question for Netflix is, can it survive and continue to lead the market?

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Friendster: The Next Big Media Company

Friendster recently announced that Scott Sassa, former President of NBC West Coast, will be taking over the CEO role from interim CEO, Tim Koogle, former CEO of Yahoo. Scott Sassa is the former wunderkind at Fox Network, Turner Entertainment, NBC, etc. where he has a solid track record of hits such as ‘West Wing’, ‘Fear Factor’, and ‘Law & Order: SVU’.

Scott Sassa is an interesting choice to run a company like Friendster. I think it makes sense because internet companies are essentially becoming media companies. AOL was one of the first internet companies that went through this transformation and now they’re part of a big media conglomerate. With the hiring of Terry Semel, Yahoo is also going through the transformation into a media company dependent on advertising and subscription revenue, just like network television and cable TV.

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Accel/SNRC Symposium

One of the great things about blogging is the spirit of information sharing within the community. An example of this is Jeff Nolan’s <a href=”http://sapventures.typepad.com/main/2004/06/blogging_from_t_4.html”>summary</a&gt; of the Accel/SNRC <a href=”http://snrc.stanford.edu/symposium.html”>symposium on Service-Oriented Flexible Computing</a> on his blog. Instead of paying $350, you can read Jeff’s blog to get the highlights. Of course, you’re missing out on the networking and offline discussions, but given the cost of admission to Jeff’s blog, it’s the next best thing.
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Sony’s Missed Opportunity in the Handheld Market

Sony announced today that they will be exiting the PDA market in the US and European markets. On the surface, this seems surprising since Sony was the third largest vendor of handheld PDA’s in 2003 with a 14% market share. It’s also a significant blow to the Palm OS platform and PalmSoure, the licensor of the Palm OS platform, since Sony was the second largest seller of Palm OS devices after Palm One.

One of the reasons cited for Sony’s exit from the handheld PDA market is that the handheld PDA market is not a growth market. You could also make the argument that the handheld PDA space was never Sony’s core competence.

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The $25 Billion Yellow Pages Industry

I can’t recall the last time I used the Yellow Pages and it looks like companies are beginning to recognize this trend. The New York Times has an article on a study by the Kelsey Group which indicates that small companies less than 10 years old rely more on online advertising than listings on print Yellow Pages. The study found that 90% of small businesses less than 10 years old had a web site, 73% spent money on search engine optimization, and that 72% listed themselves on a specialized online or print directory. However, only 52% of small businesses less than 10 years old were listed in the print Yellow Pages.

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Blogging and Silicon Valley Culture

One of the great things about living in Silicon Valley is the plethora of events featuring some of the most influential people and top thinkers in technology. If you have the time and interest, you can always find events that feature some famous (and usually successful) person willing to share their experiences and thoughts. You also have numerous peer networking events where people get together to discuss ideas and opinions in a collaborative environment. There really isn’t any other place like Silicon Valley, despite the attempt of many cities and governments to re-create the Silicon Valley environment and culture.

The only other environment that comes close to the Silicon Valley environment of knowledge sharing and open discussions isn’t a physical location but an online medium: blogging. In Silicon Valley, you can read about thought leaders in mainstream media and find events or conferences where they are giving a talk on a hot topic. Nowadays, chances are that they also have a blog, where they have captured their ongoing thoughts, opinions, and reactions to hot topics and emerging trends. Just like most of the talks in Silicon Valley, they’re not blogging for the money. They’re usually doing it to share their experiences and insights or to express a point of view and influence people.

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Gmail – The Google Trojan Horse

One of the unwritten rules in Marketing is that you do not make major product announcements on April 1. For some reason, the smart people at Google’s ignored this rule and soft-launched the widely anticipated Google email service (Gmail) on April 1. Give the date of the announcement, some people (even well known bloggers such as Doc Searls) actually thought that it was an April Fool’s joke from Google.

It’s not a surprise that some people thought the Gmail announcement was a joke since it sounded too good to be true. Google announced that they would be offering a free email service with 1 gigabyte of email storage. To put this in perspective, Yahoo charges $49.99/year for 100 MB of email storage. Apparently, Google has run their numbers and they feel that it’s going to cost them $2/year to support 1 gigabyte of email storage. This must mean that either Google has superior infrastructure that is more efficient and cost effective than Yahoo’s email infrastructure, or Yahoo has a huge margin on their email service which is not justified.

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Technology Adoption S-Curve

It seems that every time you go to a talk held by a luminary in Silicon Valley, one question keeps coming up again and again. Everybody wants to know what the luminary thinks is the next big thing. After all, if they’re important enough to be speaking in front of a large audience, they must have some valuable insight into where we should be investing our energy, time, and money. Everyone has a different answer (nanotech, personalized medicine, Wi-Fi, PC/TV convergence, etc.) but one interesting response was what Paul Saffo discussed during his talk at a SDForum event. The talk was titled “It’s the Media Stupid”, but as usual, Paul Saffo spent two very entertaining hours covering a wide range of topics.

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Social Networking – Victim of its own Success

With all this attention from mainstream media and VC’s, it seems inevitable that social networking is destined to go through a mini bubble and crash, hopefully followed by a sustainable recovery, much like the internet bubble. It’s pretty clear what’s sustaining the bubble. Whenever you hear about $50M+ valuations for companies with no revenue and no clear business model, it’s usually a good sign that we’re in a bubble. The interesting question is what is going to cause the crash, and is there anything that can be done to prevent it?

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The End of the Google Honeymoon?

I think it’s fair to say that we’re starting to see the end of the honeymoon between Google and mainstream media. If you do a search for news articles in the past year, you’ll see a steady stream of positive, almost gushing, articles on Google’s culture, technology, and happy users. However, now that Google is about to go public we’re starting to see more balanced articles, such as the recent article in Fortune titled “Can Google Grow Up?“.

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Little Help from Friends of Friends of Friends

David Kirkpatrick from Fortune has written an article called “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends of Friends of Friends” that is a look at the emerging social networking space. It’s a well written piece that does a great job of explaining the current social networking space for a mainstream business audience.

I also happen to be one of the people that is quoted in the article. David ran across my blog entry on Social Networking and that’s how the quote ended up in Fortune. Interestingly enough, it also turned out that David and I are connected by two via a very well connected mutual friend. It would have been a better story if we connected via one of the social networking sites and ended up striking up a conversation on our mutual interest in social networking. The fact that it happened the good old fashioned way via web surfing and email indicates that the potential for Social Networking is there but it’s still in the early stages.

The whole experience has left me with a greater appreciation of the ability of blogs to spread ideas and discussions on current topics in near real-time. Blogging tools such as trackbacks, RSS feeds, and blogging search engines now make it much easier to track new ideas and take a pulse on current topics. If you think about it, it is amazing how technology such as blogging, social networking, and the internet are really bringing us all closer and allowing us to interact with greater efficiency and with greater impact than ever before. It makes you wonder how you lived without the internet.


Social Networking: Is there a Business Model?

Yesterday, I attended the MIT/Stanford Vlab event on Social Networking and Business Models. I didn’t take notes, but Stewart Butterfield has a great writeup on the event which captures the general atmosphere.

Although the event was entertaining, I didn’t feel that the panelists provided much insight on business models for social networks. Any attempt by Tony Perkins to really dig into the details was met with a flip response (mostly from Jonathan Abrams, Founder and CEO Friendster), or a generic response about how creating value will lead to paying subscribers. Either the panelists weren’t sure about a business model for social networks, or they had all the answers but didn’t feel like sharing their thoughts with potential competitors in the room. It’s not a surprise given that it’s still in the early stages.

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The $42 Millon Dollar Chihuahua

After the Dick Grasso story, I couldn’t resist writing an entry on this story.

Apparently, two people approached Taco Bell with the idea of an advertising campaign around a talking Chihuahua. After this meeting, Taco Bell started running the talking Chihuahua advertising campaigns without compensating the orignators of the idea. The pair sued successfully in 1998 and won $30.1 million dollars, and they’ve just been awarded an additional $11.8 million dollars.

Not bad for what on the surface seems like a silly idea. Who knew that talking Chihuahuas would make such great advertising? At least Dick Grasso had to do more than just come up with brilliant advertising ideas.


How has RSS changed your Life?

I’ve been following the RSS space for some time, and I’m starting to get the feeling that it really could have a significant impact on how we all access and receive information from online sources. It has definitely had a big impact on me when it comes to how I get my information, but the more interesting impact has been where I get my information.

Before I discovered RSS, like most internet new junkies, I would have a list of sites that I would review as part of a daily routine. I would also sign up for email newsletters to ensure that I didn’t miss any important news items or reviews about the latest gadgets. This is manageable if you track a few sources, but it becomes quickly unmanageable if you start tracking more than 5 sources. The net result for me was that I would whittle my sources down to a few mainstream sources with trusted editorial staff. I guess this is why the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times still stay in business despite the plethora of finance sites and online news sources.

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Thoughts on Social Networking Software

For some reason, Hollywood goes through these periods where major studios race each other to get the same type of movies made on the concept du jour. In 1998, it was insects and asteroids. There was “A Bug’s Life” and “Antz“, as well as “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact“. It’s either a sign of borg like thinking from Hollywood executives or a sign of incestuous Hollywood relationships.

You also see the same phenomena in Silicon Valley. During the boom, you saw many companies going after the “new new” thing with little to differentiate one company from the next. You’re starting to see the same phenomena today with Social Networking software with companies such as Friendster, eMode, Ryze, LinkedIn, Spoke, Tribe.Net, and Affinity Engines. Out of this list, Friendster seems to be getting the most buzz with the recent investment of $1M from prominent Silicon Valley executives such as Tim Koogle (former CEO of Yahoo), Ram Shiram (Google Board Member), and Peter Thiel (former CEO of PayPal).

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The Recovery is Here!

It looks like Brian Halla and Dr. Amad Bahai weren’t that far off. They predicted (half-jokingly) that the economic recovery would start on June 21, 2003. It’s the end of August now and more people are saying that the recovery is here (see Forbes article).

As the Forbes article points out, if you keep predicting it enough times, you will be right one day. However, I think we’re starting to see enough of a consensus so I’m beginning to think that we might be right this time. It even looks like there’s even a mini-bubble in some tech stocks that have enjoyed a nice runup despite their lack of revenue growth.

The job growth isn’t there yet and we’re not returning to the heady days of the bubble, but it’s still good news nevertheless.

 


Microsoft’s Midlife Crisis

The New York Time has an article on the changes that Microsoft is going through these days. The entire article seems like Microsoft response to commentary in the press that their best days of growth are over.

With a provocative title that invokes the “midlife crisis” metaphor, Microsoft is definitely trying to respond to recent stories around Microsoft’s change in compensation from stock options to restricted stock grants as an indicator that Microsoft and IT in general is reaching maturity. It’s clear from the article that the reporters had access to Microsoft executives who now get to tell their side of the story. They make some good points about all the growth areas such as “Integration Innovation” and the 20-30% growth in the mid-market space. However, it’s going to take some time before these businesses can make significant contributions to the $32 Billion in revenue, which is mostly comprised of Microsoft franchise products such as Windows and Office. Unless there is real innovation that creates a new highly profitable franchise, I really don’t see much growth for Microsoft.

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The $140 Million Dollar Man

The New York Times has an article on the $140 Million compensation package for Richard Grasso which caught my eye. The compensation package is for his 36 years of service and the majority of it is retirement benefits and deferred compensation. As expected, there is a lot of controversy around his package given that the NYSE earned $28.1 Million in 2002 according to an article in Yahoo.

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Bonanza Time for Technology Patent Lawyers

It seems like patent lawyers are having a field day (and raking in the dough) with all the litigation around technology and intellectual property patents. Here are some stories around patent litigation for the month of July and August:

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Microsoft in a Post-PC world

There is an article in the Seattle Weekly that makes an interesting point about Microsoft’s success and fate being tied to the personal computer. It makes this argument by pointing out that while Microsoft has had success in branching out into other areas related to the PC (eg. mice, keyboards, and even gaming consoles), it has yet to make an impact in other emerging areas such as interactive television and smart phones. It then makes the point that like IBM’s fate and success was tied to the mainframe, Microsoft’s fate might be tied to the PC.

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Start of the Tech Recovery?

Today is June 21, 2003, which is the date that Brain Halla and Dr. Amad Bahai predicted in February, 2003 would be the start of the tech recovery in Silicon Valley. Now that we’ve reached the date, let’s see where we stand. The peak of the Nasdaq was ~5000 on February 2000. Nasdaq is now at ~1600, which is higher than the 1300 mark in February 2003, the time of their prediction. Let’s see if the growth rate in the Nasdaq picks up over the next few weeks.

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Autistic Savants and Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation

There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine on the research being conducted by Allan Snyder, who studies human cognition. Snyder has been researching autistic savants (think Rain Man) to understand if their remarkable abilities reside within all of us. He has been working with Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to shut off parts of the brain while enhancing others to enhance abilities such as creativity, perception, and concentration.

If Snyder is right, it could have some interesting consequences. Essentially, it implies that we’re all born savants (hence our ability to learn languages rapidly and learn complex motions such as walking at an early age), and that there could be a way of unlocking and enhancing our savant abilities through electro magnetic pulses. It all sounds very much like something out of the X-Men, but imagine the implications if he’s right. It would be like the invention of the lever or pulleys which magnified our muscles to do feats that we never thought were possible.

However, given all the problems at the New York Times, I hope this isn’t another fabricated story.


East Coast to West Coast

It’s been a while since I posted anything to the blog. The primary reason is that I’ve spent the last month or two getting ready for relocation from the east coast to the west coast. Now that I’ve made the move and starting to settle down, I can get back into the normal rhythm. Since it has been so hectic, I haven’t had time to enjoy the gorgeous weather in the Bay area. Also, a lot has happened in the technology world and the world in general so I’ll have to catch up on things pretty quickly.


Executive Backgrounds and the Bubble Era

Two seemingly unrelated news articles caught my eye recently. EDS announced that Michael H. Jordan will be replacing Dick Brown as their new CEO. Of course, Dick Brown got a nice severance package for his five years at EDS. The Gap also announced that Toby Lenk will be President of Gap Inc. Direct, the online division of the Gap’s many brands.

If you look at the background of both executives, they both have great credentials with successful stints at respected companies. Michael H. Jordan was the CEO of CBS, CFO of Pepsi, and President and CEO of Pepsi Worldwide Foods. Toby Lenk was the VP Corporate Strategy of Planning at Walt Disney. However, like many executives during the bubble era, both executives had unsuccessful stints at bubble era companies. Toby Lenk was the CEO of eToys which ended up being sold at a fire sale prices after an accumulated deficit of $430 Million in just three years. Michael H. Jordan was the Chairman of Luminant which eventually ended up going bankrupt after following an unsuccessful strategy of acquiring Internet consulting firms.

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Who Made All that Money during 1998 and 2001?

It’s interesting to see a number of articles on who really made all that money during the bubble years. Besides the obvious suspects such as founders of companies, it looks like investment bankers had a license to print money on all the IPO’s that they rushed to market. According to an article in SiliconValley.com, investment bankers and venture capitalists received more than $1 out of $4 raised by IPOs and related stock offerings between 1998-2001. In dollar amounts, investment bankers received more than $2 Billion in fees. Insiders and VC’s received more than $8.7 Billion for selling their own shares during IPOs.

If you think about the $2 Billion in fees that investment bankers received between 1998 and 2001, it really is a staggering amount. After all, the number of people involved in technology investment banking can’t be that large. Considering the performance of these IPO deals, where the median deal fell by more than 60% after the IPO, you have to start wondering if investment bankers were just a little too eager to rush companies to IPO.

 


The War Against Iraq Starts

It’s all over the news now. The War against Iraq has started and the US has started with tactical strikes against Iraq. Iraq has retaliated by launching Scud missiles against US forces in Kuwait.

Let’s all hope and pray that this war ends soon with minimum human casualties and suffering.

 


Salesforce.com: Partying like it’s 1999

Fortune has an article that chronicles Marc Benioff’s story in building Salesforce.com, with initial funding from Larry Ellison, to a successful startup generating $50M+ in annual revenues. It’s an interesting article that profiles Marc Benioff’s diverse interests and his quirky relationship with Larry Ellison, his former boss and mentor. It’s too bad that the picture in the Forbes article isn’t very flattering. Compare his picture in the article to the one on Salesforce.com’s management page and you’ll see what I mean.

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EasyGroup: Another Company based on a Sensible Business Model

Fortune has an article on Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his various “Easy” companies that form the EasyGroup conglomerate. Stelio has started a number of companies that range from rental cars, airlines, to internet cafes, based on the idea of eliminating middlemen using technology. Apparently, his companies are all doing very well, including EasyJet which is a public company that generated $765M in revenue last year.

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FreshDirect: The Dell Model applied to Groceries

If you live in New York, chances are that you have seen advertisements for FreshDirect. FreshDirect is a relatively new compay started by an ex-investment banker and one of the founders of Fairway Uptown, one of the largest and most successful groceries in New York. There’s a great article in Strategy + Business magazine (free registration required) on FreshDirect that discusses how they are applying the Dell Business Model to online grocery deliveries.

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Virtual Worlds and the Real World

Business 2.0 has an interesting article that talks about There Inc.‘s technology and business model. There are others companies in this emerging space such as Linden Lab with Second Life, but There Inc. seems to be the flavour du jour in the industry press.

The whole virtual world concept isn’t something new, given that there are other success stories such as EverQuest, Ultima Online, and Lineage. Some of these virtual worlds have been so successful to the point where there are frequent interactions, both good and bad, between the virtual world and the real world. In the case of Ultima Online, you can go to eBay and purchase items for use in your virtual world using real world money. I remember reading an article some time ago about a clever entrepeneur outsourcing Ultima Online character development in third world countries and then selling their characters and items on eBay. I guess if we can do that with Nike shoes, there’s no reason why you couldn’t do it with virtual goods in virtual worlds.

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Impact of 9/11 on New York not as Severe as Originally Estimated

SFGate has an article on a report issued by the Federal Reserve which claims that New York’s economy would still be struggling, even if the 9/11 terrorist attack never happened. The basis of this report is in economic data which shows that New York had a tremendous increase in income and jobs between 1996 and 2000, followed by a severe drop starting in January, 2000. The 9/11 attacks definitely had an impact and probably accelerated the drop in income and jobs, but the report claims that the economy would have been just as bad as it is now.

It’s an interesting article because a lot of companies in New York tend to blame 9/11 for the economic downturn. I think the report makes a fair point that even if 9/11 didn’t happen, the economy in New York was a bubble that was about to burst. Just like companies in the Bay Area, a lot of financial services firms in New York were staffed and spending money assuming that the economic boom would continue indefinitely. Even if 9/11 didn’t happen, there still would have been a crash because the runup was so dramatic.

The question moving forward is, have we hit a bottom or are we headed for a double recession in New York? Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be addressed in the article.


How Amazon is going to take over all Product Discussions on the Web

I just got this link to a US patent issued to Jeff Bezos on “Method and system for conducting a discussion relating to an item” from a posting on slashdot.org. Basically, it’s a patent issued around Amazon’s product discussions system.

Now, I must admit that I find the product discussions section useful when making purchasing decisions, but to get a patent for a fundamental idea that’s been around since the early days of bulletin board systems and USENET? I though prior art searches were supposed to prevent this kind of thing from happening. Let’s see if Amazon does anything with this patent.

 


Search Engine Wars Heat Up

With all these announcements around web search engines being acquired, I thought I would give some of them a try to see how they compare to Google. I didn’t do an exhaustive study, but innovation and competition seems to be alive and thriving in the search space. Search engines such as Teoma and AllTheWeb have features similar to Google but they also have additional features such as query refinement and multimedia specific search that are not provided by Google.

Google is still the King of web searches with around 250 million searches per day, which is significantly higher than AltaVista’s 18 million searches per day and AllTheWeb’s 12 million search per day. However, the cost of switching search engines isn’t really very high. Unlike enterprise software platforms where you have an installed base of customers and applications, the cost of switching search engines is switching URL’s. I still remember when AltaVista and HotBot were the premier search engines. Google might be ahead now, but if they stumble, they could be left in the dust by another startup or maybe even a new-and-improved search engine from the past.

 


Overture: the Business Model that Survived

Overture has announced that they will be acquiring the Web search properties of Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) for $70 million in cash and up to $30 million over the next three years, based on fiscal performance targets met by FAST. This is on the heels of their earlier announcement that they will be acquiring AltaVista for $80 million in Overture stock and $60 million in cash. Although Overture keeps denying it, they must be investing $100 million in cash to address the growing threat from Google and Yahoo to Overture’s core business of paid placement within search results. Of course, the immediate result of these two announcements was that Overture’s stock price plummeted down by 33%. If I were holding Overture stock right now, I would not be very happy.

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Is the Tech Recovery Near?

ZDNet has an article on an IDC survey that indicates that companies are ready to start spending on information technology. According to the survey, 85% of the CEO’s and CIO’s out of 1,000 participants indicated that they plan to maintain or increase their spending on information technology. This spending will primarily be in routine infrastructure upgrades, but it’s definitely a glimmer of hope for the technology sector. The other interesting thing from the article is that an increasing amount of spending on information technology is being driven outside of the IT organization, typically by the CEO and department heads. This seems to be a more natural and sustainable model, since technology spending should really be driven by business needs, not by “cool” technology.

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Could the BlackBerry Network Shut Down?

Forbes has an article on the legal battle between RIM and NTP, a Virginia based holding company over patent infringements. NTP has waged a successful legal battle against RIM and there is a real possibility that NTP could win an injunction to shut down the BlackBerry service.

Given how people in the world of finance (especially VC’s) are addicted to their “CrackBerries“, I can imagine the wheels of Wall Street come grinding to a halt as people are prevented from checking email during long meetings. It really won’t affect the VC’s since their segment has pretty much ground to a halt anyway. Interestingly enough, the other big “important” BlackBerry community is the US congress. All I can say is that it’s a good thing the BlackBerry communicates over an encrypted channel.

The article also presents some alternatives to the BlackBerry that could fill the gap, if the BlackBerry service goes down. The device that caught my eye was the Palm Tungsten W. As someone who uses a BlackBerry, I’m always frustrated by the limited applications and the lack of a stylus. The combination of BlackBerry-like messaging with the Palm applications and user interface could be very compelling. I can’t wait until I get to see one in person and compare it to the current BlackBerry models.

 


Is Sun Down for the Count?

The New York Times has an article on Sun and whether it can survive and thrive after the dot com bubble. It goes into the usual arguments such as hardware becoming a commodity, the threat of Linux, and the increasing cost of developing and maintaining innovation in proprietary hardware. The overall tone of the article seems to be biased towards the current opinion that Sun is down for the count. However, the article does mention some positives for Sun, such as $5 Billion in cash and a large installed base of hardware and software specifically written for the Sun platform.

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How to build a $2 Billion Brand without Advertising

Forbes has an interesting article on how Google has built a $2 Billion brand through a superior product promoted through word-of-mouth. Apparently, this $2 Billion number is an estimate based on conversations with industry sources. They then support this estimate with an Interbrand survey that rated Google as the top brand in 2002, ahead of Apple, Coca-cola, and Starbucks. It really is an amazing accomplishment for Google, especially when you compare it to the millions that dot coms spent on advertising to reach consumers.

Google also seems to be doing very well on the revenue side as well. Forbes estimates that Google had $100M in profits in fiscal year 2002. I’ve read other articles that are more conservative, but the point is that they’re continuing to increase their revenue and profts.

On the flip side, you’re starting to see some Google backlash now that Google has entered the mainstream. Do a search for “Google evil” on Google and you’ll see some interesting results such as Google Watch. So far, the backlash seems to be from the fringes, but it’ll be interesting to see how Google deals with this growing backlash.

 


Getting rid of Spam

Is it just me, or is everyone else getting spam promoting Norton Antivrus software? I’m used to getting spam for weird herbal supplements and other solutions guaranteed to increase the size of certain body parts, but I’m not used to getting spam from a “respectable” software company. I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend.

My thought of the day is that since spam is always promoting some product or service, it should be possible to trace it to the company who’s selling the product and hence trace the spam back to the company that is getting paid to send out spam. I’m not familiar with the business model for spam promoters, but I’m assuming that they get a cut whenever someone views or purchases something as the result of being sent spam. If there is some sort of fine levied on companies that use spam to promote their products, wouldn’t they stop paying spammers to send out unsolicited mail?


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