Going back to my old school

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?

My response:

-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.

Up next: a public hearing on employee-non compete agreements at the State House

As some of you know, I wrote a post almost two years ago taking a stand against employee non-compete agreements which are legal and enforced in my state (MA) and many others.

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.

There will be a public hearing on this issue at the State House on Oct 7th at 10:30am. The hearing is to discuss the merits of House Bill 1794 which is an effort to reduce the employee non-compete agreements significantly.

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.

Update: Scott Kirsner also wrote about this hearing and includes a link to some interesting data.

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.

via IEEE Spectrum:

“…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.

Right now Apple is making a big move into games with iPhone/iTouch and the App Store. They are distributing games for free or 99cents vs $30 games sold for the PSP or DS. That is disruptive and a big deal.

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.

We live in exciting times. That’s for sure.