12 Apr 2008
In an attempt to de-mystify seeming abstract business theory, from time to time, we will discuss “real world” examples of business models in action.
Both theory and practice underscore the importance of keeping early adopters engaged with a new product or service, a key enabler for creating a hit in the mainstream market. Of course, such trend setters love to play and revel in all things new. More importantly, they are also disproportionately connectors and influence makers, who can make or break eventual success in any marketplace. The new science of social networks merely provides proof of our intuitive sense that these people are the number one key to success in new markets.
To provide some historical context, a lack of serious engagement with application developers (a very specialized form of early adopter), penalized early Apple Macintosh market share, a failing which took nearly 20 years to put right! Thus, do people running both startups and major corporations, having learned this lesson, live and breathe attention to early adopter crowd?
Hardly. Below are two glaring examples, sadly (or perhaps tellingly), both involve the …
9 Apr 2008
Last week, my son Devin Howard (a Grade 12 student, pictured above) won a Gold Medal at Waterloo-Wellington Science and Engineering Fair, enabling him to go on to the Canada-Wide Science Fair, run by Youth Science Foundation, in May at the University of Ottawa.
His topic, for which he developed a computer model written in multi-agent, graphical modelling and simulation language called NetLogo, was to study the propagation of ideas such as fads or partisan political persuasion using some of the latest social graph theories. Last summer, at the acclaimed Shad Valley program at University of Calgary, he became interested in the topic of emergence. For those who are not familiar with this fascinating field, emergence can be defined as as “… the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions.”
From that springboard, he became interested in the way fads and other changes propagate through society, especially illustrated by recent books like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. (An interesting footnote is that Gladwell, now based in New York City, grew up right around the corner …
3 Apr 2008
The world is indeed a strangely fascinating place. Technological forces have recently flattened the world, making the global village predicted by Marshall McLuhan way back in the early 1960’s a reality. Nicholas Negroponte’s highly publicized One Laptop Per Child project aside, the mobile phone is uniquely the one technology that has both gained traction and been as transformational in the developing world as in the west.
With that in mind, RoryStewart’s The Places in Between brilliantly captures the cultural melange that is modern Afghanistan. Having recently completed this book left me with a much richer understanding Afghanistan’s position as the “missing link” among European, Chinese and South Asian cultures, religions and history. Stewart, as a historian, and fearless trekker, captures the absurdities inherent in the American/NATO invasion, especially as they compound attempted occupations by Russia, colonial Britain and before them a long line going back even before Alexander the Great. I’d strongly encourage people to read this book.
In this context of historical and cultural dissonance, it was sadly amusing to read the following line about a small tribal village that retains …
2 Apr 2008
It seems that several people missed the “Comments” link where Grover posted his materials for the Venture 2.0 Playbook. Therefore, I’m reposting his comments with the link here below. Also, although we’ve had some great dialogue offline about this extremely important topic, I’d like to see some here.
Thanks to Randall for his kind words. It really was a great event hosted by MaRS. I would like to thank Peter Evans and MaRS’ CEO Dr. Ilse Treurnich for holding the event and letting so many entrepreneurs get a change to hear from the heavy hitters at IDC and the in-person speakers in Toronto.
I have posted my slides at the following URL: http://www.imobileinternet.com/pub/mars/MaRS-Grover-Righter.zip
When you download the ZIP file, there is a folder with two content files. One is the PDF with the session presentation and another is the spreadsheet with the pro-forma numbers used in the session examples. (Hint to startup types, you need to put your OWN numbers in the spreadsheet 🙂
If there is interest in a follow-on session, we can have a special Iotum hosted Sqwak just for this topic …
28 Mar 2008
Today, I will expand on an offhand comment I made last week about founderitis being one of the biggest barriers to engagement with the Grover Playbook and, incidentally, probably the number one showstopper for investment we encounter at Verdexus.
As a serial entrepreneur, investor and (ex-)founder in technology startups, I have seen more than my share of experiences showing how fraught founder interactions can be. My friend J Paul Haynes, who is a serial executive (and founder), showed me an interesting article from the February 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review on this topic entitled “The Founder’s Dilemma”. In this article, Noam Wasserman analyzed 212 startups and observed some intriguing patterns. What is great about this article is that it provides a cold, analytic economic framework to assess the “founder’s dilemma” which is the “… choice between making money and controlling the business.” The Faustian bargain to give up equity and control in order to attract institutional (venture) capital that will grow the business faster is a hard one for many founders to accept. And yet, the leverage of external capital …
22 Mar 2008
On Thursday, I attended the pre-launch party for what is an exciting new social enterprise. The guest of honour, Jonathan Howard, a 24 year old (and, I am proud to say, my nephew), is embarking on an extraordinary quest. On Tuesday, 25 March he will, in his RunTheDream charity fundraiser, do what most of us wouldn’t ever even consider attempting – to run across Canada, a distance of over 9 000 km from St. John’s to Victoria.
Why has Jonathan undertaken this amazing, and many of us would say impossible, run? Well, besides proving to himself that he can, Jonathan who is already an accomplished athlete and marathon runner, has had this personal goal since his university days. And, even more importantly, he hopes to raise significant funds for Autism Society of Canada, a rapidly emerging cause, yet one that still lags some of the bigger charities in its awareness and fundraising. In addition to a significant fundraising objective, a CSF for Jonathan’s will be to significantly increase awareness of the Autism Spectrum Disorders across Canada.
How can you help Jonathan raise …
19 Mar 2008
Yesterday, long time friend and business colleague Grover P. Righter who is General Manager Americas for Silicon Valley-based iMobileInternet, was the Keynote speaker at the Mars Experience Tech 2008 Conference. That conference was clearly a highlight of the year and was brilliantly executed by MaRS guru Peter Evans.
And, Grover’s keynote address, entitled “New Playbook for Venture 2.0: How to get from $0 to exit with less capital” easily stole the show. I’m keenly encouraging wider understanding of this topic, as it is central to our core “hands on” investment strategy at Verdexus. In a very detailed methodology, that I’ll dub the Grover Playbook, Grover Righter clearly has best captured the essence of the new world of building more capital efficient knowledge-based businesses.
I’m hoping Grover will provide a more detailed briefing on this methodology in a future instalment, meanwhile I’ll highlight a few key points:with the advent of open source, virtualization, outsourcing, social networks and new web/mobile models into the enterprise, building a web or wireless business from scratch to exit (“new home”) for about $2 million (rather than the more …
15 Mar 2008
Today, I am excitedly watching Ottawa-based iotum‘s Free Conference Calls application on Facebook rocket through the 200 000 net installed user mark. As many of you know, iotum is a Verdexus portfolio investment of late last year when I also engaged with the company as Chairman. Note that I plan to discuss the investment cycle for global and Canadian startups in later blogs. Meanwhile, for those of you near Toronto, on Wednesday March 19th, my colleague Grover Righter of iMobileInternet will present a great keynote on the topic “The New Playbook for Venture 2.0: how to get from $0 to exit with less capital” at the Mars ExperienceTech 2008 conference.
Having invested in the company because of a great team and a deep intellectual property portfolio driving an application aimed at the emerging market for business-oriented applications on Facebook, it is indeed gratifying to witness this robust level of end user adoption. Not just a typical “light-weight” Facebook application, iotum‘s Free Conference Calls is a professional grade, full featured new take on the conference call. It fuses iotum‘s expertise in presence …
15 Mar 2008
And, don’t worry, with modern hand luggage restrictions, I didn’t have my sword to open the oyster to extract a pearl! In fact, Oyster is a Transport For London brand for their payment system. Many here in North America feel we are at the epicentre of the technology universe and have a monopoly on great technologies empowering the connectivity behind our increasinly always on lifestyle. With a different work-life cultural balance, Europe has much to teach us about deploying state of the art technologies, especially those we might encounter in daily life. But, too, not all are absolutely without flaws. I will share a few experiences from a recent pan-European sojourn.
Although deployed for a few years, this convenient contact-less payment card, containing an RFID chip, has in the last year or so taken off to the point that it is now used by around 90% of all trips on London Underground, buses and even some National Rail services. While, in North America, we think of RFID’s use in logistics and as a more active version of all those UPC …
6 Mar 2008
As part of a European trip through Vienna, Munich, London and Berlin to meet with some tech startups and key tech investors, yesterday I stopped in at CeBIT in Hannover Germany.
For those who don’t know CeBIT, this massive Information & Communications Technologies (ICT) show remains the largest computer show in the world. I’ve attended CeBIT off and on over the last 25 years, with my first one being in 1984 to launch Coherent on a prototype Commodore C900 machine. At that time, CeBIT was a “show within a show” of about 5 buildings in the 25 buildings that comprised Hanover Fair (HannoverMesse, in German). The rest of the show was chock full of large industrial equipment, construction technology, mining equipment and the like, so incredibly diverse. Today, CeBIT consumes 27 buildings (plus a number of smaller pavilions), each building the size of a large convention centre/trade show facility in itself.
Today, before heading out to Berlin, I wanted to share a few impressions:The show is still going strong – while the web is disintermediating large US shows and even reduced to …