“The UK has become the first major economy where advertisers spend more on internet advertising than on television advertising, with a record £1.75bn online spend in the first six months of the year.”—
This Friday I am giving the keynote talk at Boston College TechDay.
Last night I put together a number of slides which is essentially a set of graphical cliff notes taken from my blog. I’m going to talk about venture capital and things I’m excited about in the world of startups and technology.
I couldn’t help but think about how much has changed in the world of technology and media since I went to school there.
I graduated in 1991 and I’m 40 years old now. So when I left BC this was the state of things
-dial up was the best I could get out of my dorm room. By my senior year I was on AOL. My user name at the time still my handle on AIM.
-I had a MacSE in my sophomore year and had a Maclx when I graduated.
-When I arrived as a freshman I had vinyl and tapes. By senior year I was mostly about CDs except for mix tapes I made for me and my friends.
-we had a nintendo64 in our dorm room. That was a sweet machine.
-no mobile phones, no wifi of course
-I had a Sony Walkman with cassettes. Never owned the CD version
-no ability to email or txt teachers or fellow students
-(not related to technology but by my senior year I was actively protesting the first war in Iraq. I guess some things don’t change).
I am sure I’m missing a bunch of things.
But it’s amazing to go back to my old school which is at the same physical location but really in a different world.
(disclaimer: wrote this quickly on my iPhone. Please excuse typos)
A friend asked me for advice: startup or big company
Last week a friend called me looking for advice.
He was working on his own thing for the past year or so but it hasn’t really taken off. Now, his personal life requirements make it necessary that he joins a company in the near future.
He has an offer to join a few different startups or take a senior role in a large established company.
His question: Should I do the startup or big company? And one day I want to work for a venture back startup again so will the big company thing help or hurt for my next thing?
-First, I asked if he loved any of the startups. His answer: not really
-Then I asked if he liked the people at the big company and would he learn a lot and have the opportunity to be successful. His answer: yes.
This was the easiest call I’ve had in sometime. I told him to take the big company gig.
Look, I love startups.
But the reality is that they are hard, risky and stressful. I believe you should only join a startup if you are inspired and love the vision, people and product. And you will have far more responsibility in a startup than in any large company position. That’s the beautiful stuff you get back in return for risk.
Of course, there is huge potential upside if the options become valuable at some point — but that shouldn’t be the primary reason for joining a startup.
I was thrilled that a number of public debates and panels have take place since then on the subject. And many entrepreneurs, VCs, CEOs and employees have voiced their support in this effort to get rid of employee non-compete agreements. These efforts led to House Bill 1794 which attempts to limit the use and term of such agreements.
People have asked me how they can help. Until now, I responded by saying that we need to do this in a grassroots fashion. Blog & tweet about it. Get rid of these things in your organizations, tell your VC, tell your board, tell your employees that you don’t want these things anymore.
Right now, I’m asking that you do all of that but I’m asking for one more thing.
Please show your support and attend this public hearing. If you can’t attend in person then please submit your written testimony in advance (instructions here). Also I ask that you spread the word about this hearing.
I believe this is a very important issue. Competition and innovation go hand in hand.
Moore's law not fast enough for game consoles, so what's next ?
One of my favorite things about technology is the fact that nothing is for certain and nothing is a birthright.
Take the game console market. It was long believed that Sony was king of the hill, Microsoft was making a good run at it and Nintendo was left for the dead.
We know that isn’t how things turned out. The Nintendo Wii has been an enormous success and they did it without taking on Sony & Microsoft head on with more graphics and more expensive hardware.
In fact it may turn out that the current “high end” game consoles may be with us for a long time. Microsoft has said that Xbox 360 should last until 2015 and Sony talks about a 10 year life cycle for PS3.
Why is that? My friend Steve Perlman believes that Moore’s law is simply not keeping up for the current game console model.
"…my realization that the amount of computing power that was going to be needed to achieve the level of realism video games were approaching would soon be impractical for a device you hook up to your TV in the living room. I began to realize, Gee, these boxes are getting bigger and bigger.
One of the things about being an engineer is that you like Moore’s Law. Given the growth of some sort of demand—in this case computer graphics demand—you just project what size silicon is needed and how much power and cooling will be needed. If you follow that, you realize that what would be needed for the new games coming out would outstrip the pace of what could be developed in a home setting.”
The PS3 already has a nine-core processor. The Xbox360 I believe has 3 cores. These things are very expensive to manufacturer and are highly subsidized to support their current business model. No wonder we are a long way from seeing their next hardware platforms.
But the web doesn’t wait for these life cycles and it doesn’t care about traditional business models.
And they are just getting started. Just wait until those mobile games all connect to your favorite social networks, or when we see augmented reality games. The mobile device life-cycle is revving up, not slowing down.
“When we were building Flickr, we worked very hard. We worked all waking hours, we didn’t stop. My Hunch cofounder Chris Dixon and I were talking about how hard we worked on our first startups, his being Site Advisor, acquired by McAfee — 14-18 hours a day. We agreed that a lot of what we then considered “working hard” was actually “freaking out”. Freaking out included panicking, working on things just to be working on something, not knowing what we were doing, fearing failure, worrying about things we needn’t have worried about, thinking about fund raising rather than product building, building too many features, getting distracted by competitors, being at the office since just being there seemed productive even if it wasn’t — and other time-consuming activities. This time around we have eliminated a lot of freaking out time. We seem to be working less hard this time, even making it home in time for dinner.”—
We believe innovation is happening in education. We now have two portfolio companies (8D World & Altius) trying to make a positive change in learning. They are doing it in very different ways and for very different markets.
I am hopeful that you will see us make more investments in the the future of education.
ATT & VZW believes net neutrality should apply to wired broadband service providers but not mobile carriers. I believe that is a double standard.
Mobile carriers use cable’s broadband network, without permission, as a dumb pipe with their 3g microcells (femtocells). What would happen if TWC or Comcast blocked ATT microcells connectivity. Answer: ATT would be pissed.
This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.
This principle will not prevent broadband providers from reasonably managing their networks. During periods of network congestion, for example, it may be appropriate for providers to ensure that very heavy users do not crowd out everyone else. And this principle will not constrain efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and spam-free Internet experience, or to enforce the law. It is vital that illegal conduct be curtailed on the Internet.
This one is more like a rumor. And I have no idea if it’s true or not. But here’s the thing. Microsoft recruits from it’s competitors all the time. As does Apple. As does Google. etc. Competition is good and crazy competition is even better.
But here’s my issue: if you work for Microsoft you are required to sign an employee non-compete agreement (boo!). That means Microsoft won’t let you easily leave and join a competitor but they have no problem hiring from the competition.
That’s a double standard too and I don’t agree with that.
N.B: I don’t want to sound righteous here. I’m sure I am guilty of my own double standard from time to time. But I am passionate about these two issues (net neutrality & non-competes) so I had to point them out.
“In closing, we are here because 40 years ago, a bunch of researchers in a lab changed the way computers interact and, as a result, changed the world. We are here because those Internet pioneers had unique insights about the power of open networks to transform lives for the better, and they did something about it. Our work now is to preserve the brilliance of what they contributed to our country and the world. It’s to make sure that, in the 21st century, the garage, the basement, and the dorm room remain places where innovators can not only dream but bring their dreams to life. And no one should be neutral about that.”—Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman - “Preserving A Free and Open Internet: A Platform for Innovation, Opportunity, and Prosperity” - OpenInternet.gov
I think company culture is extremely important. It’s true in a big company and it’s true in a startup. I’m not talking about a 7 point mission statement that hangs in the office kitchen.
I’m talking about something much more natural and part of the fabric of the company.
But one size doesn’t fit all as you can see in the very best companies.
Apple’s culture and Google’s company culture couldn’t be any different. And I’m not suggesting that one is better than the other. In fact I don’t think you can. Each culture works for their company.
That culture impacts everything though. It impacts the company point of view about hiring, customers and conduct. It also impacts their attitude about product design and attitude about release.
I see some companies in our portfolio shipping product regulary and often. They want to get their software out to the masses and they want feedback so they can do it again and get better each time.
Other companies tend to be much more obsessive about what goes out the door and would rather wait a bit more to get it right.
And while I think company culture can vary from one successful company to another, I think there is one thing in common they all have: a culture of operating execution.
The best companies know how to execute. They take nothing for granted but they expect it and they work hard at it. Really hard. They get into a rhythm where decisions are made and stuff happens. They do it with respect & care. They strive to get better. And it happens everyday.
I don’t believe you should try and force your culture to be like Zappos or Apple or Google or Facebook or Craigslist. That feels too forced to me. It has to be natural and most often comes from the founders and the initial core team.
But i think everyone has a important role in the company culture. And it’s something to handle with care.
“What about iTunes? Doesn’t that show people will pay for content? Well, not really. iTunes is more of a tollbooth than a store. Apple controls the default path onto the iPod. They offer a convenient list of songs, and whenever you choose one they ding your credit card for a small amount, just below the threshold of attention. Basically, iTunes makes money by taxing people, not selling them stuff. You can only do that if you own the channel, and even then you don’t make much from it, because a toll has to be ignorable to work. Once a toll becomes painful, people start to find ways around it, and that’s pretty easy with digital content.”—
Certainly some content is worth paying for but I really like Paul’s point here - there is a difference between a “tax” and “selling people stuff”. As a result, I’ve been thinking about this all day long.
Earlier today in Palo Alto, I met with an old friend who back in the 1990s, built a number of very successful consumer products companies that combined hardware and software. (I’m not sure he wants me to say his name publicly).
We talked about a number of things like his next company and things he wants to build. We also talked about his frustration with VCs and entrepreneurs these days. His view is that we are too afraid of technology risk when creating & funding startups.
I’m probably being too kind here - his belief was that VCs only want to deal with market and business model risk vs technology risk these days. We don’t’ build products that are hard to build or might not be possible to build. As a result entrepreneurs are working on those types of things. The problem in his opinion: ideas get smaller, innovation levels off and me-too thinking sets in as yet another “myspace on steroids” gets funded.
He summed up his feeling by asking me “Where’s the ‘silicon’ in Silicon Valley" ?
I’ve been thinking about our discussion and a few thoughts come to mind:
1 - I do like consumer web services that take advantage of open source, open api’s, and hosted infrastructure and focus on scale. We have several startups in our portfolio that got going with a modest amount of capital. It’s a very nice model where entrepreneurs can start with little dilution (since they are raising little money) and VCs don’t have to invest significant capital upfront to see market traction.
This is a powerful model and I hope to make more investments with this approach.
2 - Just because a company is building something with little capital doesn’t mean it’s a little idea. Twitter started with a modest amount of capital and a few engineers. Boxee started with angel financing and a small team. I think you would agree that these are not small ideas.
3 - I do believe some investors are still comfortable taking technology risk. It’s very apparent in cleantech and biotech. We are taking technology risk in a number of our investments as well. For example, when we first invested in Kateeva, Verivue and Bug Labs it wasn’t a slam dunk that these products would actually work as originally conceived by the founders. Those companies require much great capital to design and build their products. And I know a number of VCs that are also taking technology risk in their investments.
4 - But my friend is right. We are building less hardware companies. We are seeing more companies that can build things in a matter of months not years. We are seeing programs like YC and TechStars help start companies with less than $10k. Those programs are growing and I don’t see them slowing down. That’s a good thing. It’s true, the term “Silicon Valley” doesn’t mean what it used to. SV has evolved from its roots.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration supports extending three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, the Justice Department told Congress in a letter made public Tuesday.
The Obama administration argued Monday that allowing terrorism suspects in Afghanistan to challenge their incarceration in U.S. courts would endanger the military mission in that country.
Although the Pentagon is giving the roughly 600 detainees at Bagram Airfield a chance to challenge their detentions, the Obama administration stuck with Bush administration policy in its court filing.
The Justice Department argued to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that Bagram detainees should not be given the same rights to sue that the Supreme Court granted last year to detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba.
— Associated Press
So essentially, the administration is arguing America’s right to invade another country, arrest and imprison its citizens, and deny them any type of trial? This is absurd. How can we be a shining example of democracy and human rights when we assert our right to lock people up and throw away the key without a trial?
I think the bottom line is that if we are going to incarcerate someone, we need to be able to demonstrate in a court of law that person’s crime. Period. I fail to see how demonstrating someone’s guilt might endanger the military mission in Afghanistan.
Wouldn’t this put Obama under the same microscope that his own Attorney General Eric Holder has put on the Bush administration?
I realize this is an understatement to say the least. We have several issues that mess with democracy ranging from gerrymandering, campaign finance, lobbyists, lack of run off elections, education/awareness, well I could continue but I’m trying to stay positive :)
Yet there is an alternate model, which is much closer to the kind of government envisioned by our nation’s founders, a model in which, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Joseph Cabel, “every man … feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day.” In this model, government is a convener and an enabler—ultimately, it is a vehicle for coordinating the collective action of citizens.
I love the idea that Gov2.0 can provide transparency, education, awareness and ultimately participation. I am excited about the possibilities. Thankfully, Tim is talking about something more profound than politicians using the web solely as a fund raising vehicle - (although we know how powerful grass roots funding can change an election.)
But in my mind much of this vision is limited by our current 2 party, winner takes all, electoral system. That’s why as long as I can remember we, as citizens, have been less than satisfied with Congress. Many times we are simply picking the lesser of two suboptimal candidates.
Specific example: During Obama’s speech on healthcare last week (which was mostly great) he took a shot at Republicans for funding wars we couldn’t afford. As he made the comment, Pelosi and Biden stood up smiling and gave a rousing applause. And so did most, if not all, democrats. But the problem with this is obvious: the democrats went along with the war effort. They gave Bush permission and then they funded the war again and again and again.
I thought my party (democrats) were going to end this war and bring our troops home. There was a powerful anti-war movement in this country that participated in the election of many House democrats and our President. Some of us feel let down now. What should we do about it? Vote republican in the mid-term as a payback. Huh?
There are plenty of additional examples where our elected officials let us down but it’s not clear what we should do about it. Switch parties?
I am passionate about Gov2.0 and believe it has enormous potential.
I hope that Gov2.0 provides the catalyst to move on from our current two party system to realize it’s fullest vision. It’s going to have to be grass roots if it’s going to work at all.
To end this post, I’ll leave you with Tim O’Reillys talking about Gov2.0. It’s excellent.
“As Fowler pointed out, if you want to improve the world with your good behavior, math is on your side. For most of us, within three degrees we are connected to more than 1,000 people — all of whom we can theoretically help make healthier, fitter and happier just by our contagious example. “If someone tells you that you can influence 1,000 people,” Fowler said, “it changes your way of seeing the world.”—Is Happiness Catching? - NYTimes.com
“But Christakis and Fowler say their findings show that the gamble of increased sociability pays off, for a surprising reason: Happiness is more contagious than unhappiness. According to their statistical analysis, each additional happy friend boosts your good cheer by 9 percent, while each additional unhappy friend drags you down by only 7 percent. So by this logic, adding more links to your network should — mathematically — add to your store of happiness. “If you’re at the center of a network, you are going to be more susceptible to anything that spreads through it,” Fowler said. “And if happiness is spreading more reliably, then on average you’re going to be catching happy waves more often than you catch sad waves.”—Is Happiness Catching? - NYTimes.com
Where’s your guts and will to survive And don’t you wanna keep rock & roll music alive Mr programmer I got my hammer And I’m gonna smash my, smash my radio We want the airwaves We want the airwaves We want the airwaves, baby if rock is gonna stay alive -Joey Ramone
Radio was a magical thing when I was a kid. I remember listening by the dial and waiting for my favorite song to come on the radio so I could try to record it on to a cassette tape.
There are still a few great stations out there (KEXP, KFOG, Indie 103.1 and a some others). But these days traditional radio seems to be fading away. It’s been years since radio has turned me on to new music.
Earlier this year, I was bumming that Boston radio was so tired and worn out. At the time I sent out this tweet:
I remember when wbos was decent. Now they are just long in the tooth. Wish theyd broadcast the hypem popular or radio http://bit.ly/QLBj
I thought that was a good idea at the time and I still do.
It’s an interesting notion, to create one centralized station consisting of the top-rated and most popular stuff on Last.fm, because the whole idea behind web radio is that you don’t have to listen to what everyone else is listening to. On the other hand, Last.fm’s charts will surely do a better job of finding interesting music than the robots in charge of other radio stations will ever find.
That’s exactly right. I’m looking forward to see how this works out.
I still hope that WBOS ditches their current worn out playlists and turn over the airwaves to the Hype Machine. That would be sweet.
“Should we take a harder line? Force people to prove citizenship in emergency rooms? That’s illegal, for good reason. Make verification requirements so onerous that not a single illegal immigrant slips through? Very expensive, and not smart. It would be highly likely to snag deserving citizens — like old people who don’t have their original birth certificates. And besides, we’ve tried that: A House oversight committee reviewed six state Medicaid programs in 2007 and found that verification rules had cost the federal government an additional $8.3 million. They caught exactly eight illegal immigrants.”—Editorial - Immigrants, Health Care and Lies - NYTimes.com