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Updated: 2017-07-21T14:23:00+00:00


Twitter's 12-day winning streak is in jeopardy (TWTR) [Silicon Alley Insider]


Twitter has been consistently posting gains for the last couple of weeks, but that may come to an end on Friday. The social media company has closed higher 12 days in a row, but is trading down 1.61% in early action on Friday. Twitter reclaimed $20 a share on Thursday for the first time this year.  Its shares have rallied 37.83% over the past three months. The gains have come as the company been making various changes to its platform, updating the design of its web and mobile interfaces. Notable changes include the move from square to circle profile pictures and showing live updating retweet and like counts on Tweets. The company is also beefing up its executive team, recently hiring Ned Segal from Intuit to be its chief financial officer. Anthony Noto was pulling double duty as CFO and COO and will return to his single role as COO after Segal officially joins. Steve Ballmer hailed these changes as good moves for the company in a recent interview. The former Microsoft CEO and major investor in the service called Twitter a "good asset." Tech companies are mostly red early on Friday. The FAANG stocks are all lower except for Netflix, which is trading up 0.20% as it continues to see momentum from Monday's earning results. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is down 0.17% to 5897 points. Click here to watch Twitter's stock price move in real time...  SEE ALSO: Twitter retakes $20 for the first time this year Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: An economist explains what could happen if Trump pulls the US out of NAFTA [...]

Inside the colorful offices of a millennial media startup where employees survive long days with free snacks and Champagne [Silicon Alley Insider]


As we wait with anticipation for the elevator doors to open at the New York City headquarters of theSkimm, we're immediately greeted by heart-pumping music.  The playlist: songs that were popular in 2012, the year that Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg sent their first email newsletter as theSkimm.  These days, theSkimm has more than six million subscribers to its daily sum-up of the news. It has raised more than $15 million from investors including 21st Century Fox, RRE Ventures, Greycroft Partners, and The New York Times. The office, located in New York City's Flatiron District, houses all 50 full-time employees. The walls are painted bright teal, hundreds of books line the walls and serve as makeshift tables or stools, and comfortable couches populate meeting spaces. Champagne and snacks are present in equal amounts.  The team at theSkimm assures us the decorations and music are not typically this overwhelming, but the office does enjoy a good celebration. This time around, they were celebrating the fifth anniversary of the startup's founding.  Here's what else we saw during a recent tour: SEE ALSO: Tour The Boston Consulting Group's stunning New York office, which has an in-house cafe and workout rooms Zakin said that her favorite part of the office is the way it's set up. "When you get off the elevator, you have no idea who’s the most senior and who is the most junior," she said. "One of our values [is] that every voice at the table counts." Weisberg (left) and Zakin (right) sit out in the newsroom with the rest of the team. On this wall, you'll see a cutout of the "theSkimm girl," which the founders say is the embodiment of their audience. Together, the startup has come up with a list of theSkimm girl's preferences: she drinks spicy margaritas, works out in the morning (though she sometimes skips to sleep in), and likes a great read. See the rest of the story at Business Insider [...]

Betterment just landed an $800 million valuation [Silicon Alley Insider]


Betterment, the largest independent roboadviser, announced Friday morning a new round of funding that would bring the firm's valuation to $800 million.  The $70 million funding round was led by Kinnevik, a Swedish investment company. Other investors in this round included Menlo Ventures, a California-based venture capital firm, and Francisco Partners, a California-based private equity firm.  Betterment was previously valued at $700 million during a capital raise in March 2016, according to a news release.  Since then, the firm has grown its assets under management by $6 billion, expanded its offerings to included human financial advisers, and has taken its first step towards offering a sustainable investment portfolio.  "Our business has changed a lot, in one sense," Stein said in a recent interview with Business Insider. "But in another sense, we are doing the same thing we have always been doing — that is, thinking about the customer and what the customer wants, and then building financial services in a way that actually responds to customer demands, which I think is not the way the old guard has done things." Betterment provides financial advice online and via a smartphone app. Rather than using human managers to build portfolios, roboadvisers like Betterment use algorithms to determine where to invest. Betterment's growth has been impressive, but it still faces steep competition. The wealth-management space has caught on that roboadvisers are hot, and many big firms have rolled out their own robo offerings. Charles Schwab and Vanguard are two such giants with trillions of dollars in assets under management.SEE ALSO: BETTERMENT CEO: We 'could become the Amazon of financial services' SEE ALSO: The CEO of Morgan Stanley took a shot at the startups shaking up investing Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: JIM ROGERS: The worst crash in our lifetime is coming [...]

Elon Musk sent another cryptic tweet about his plan to build a Hyperloop that could travel between NY and DC in 29 minutes (TSLA) [Silicon Alley Insider]



Elon Musk sent yet another cryptic tweet Friday about his plan to connect Washington DC and New York City via Hyperloop. 

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO clarified that he had received "verbal approval... at the federal level," to dig a massive tunnel for the high-speed transit system, which would also stop in Philadelphia and Baltimore. The entire trip, he said, would take just 29 minutes. 

But it's still unclear what "verbal approval" means. On Thursday, the Department of Transportation referred Business Insider to a White House spokesperson who said there have been "promising conversations" about the project.

"We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector," a White House spokesperson wrote in a statement.


Web 2.0 Summit Day One [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]


The Web 2.0 Summit started today. If there was one word to describe the overall atmosphere and mood is that it was 'muted.' Despite the new president, the mood lacked the spark and feeling of being part of something big. It was definitely there two years ago. That was then, this is now. We'll see how the rest of it goes. I heard one good stat. Even though the iPhone is only 5% of the smartphone market, it represents 74% of the mobile web traffic. That's an eye-popping number. Once again proof that if you design something well, like the UI of the web surfing experience, people will use it. Welcome to the design era of technology. AT&T must be very happy with its deal and the data revenues its getting as a result. Also, Mary Meeker gave her state of the internet presentation. Lots of good data in there. Whou would think that Skype is about to become the world's largest carrier? You can get it here.The Web 2.0 Summit started today.  If there was one word to describe the overall atmosphere and mood is that it was 'muted.'  Despite the new president, the mood lacked the spark and feeling of being part of something big.  It was definitely there two years ago.  That was then, this is now.  We'll see how the rest of it goes. I heard one good stat.  Even though the iPhone is only 5% of the smartphone market, it represents 74% of the mobile web traffic.  That's an eye-popping number.  Once again proof that if you design something well, like the UI of the web surfing experience, people will use it.  Welcome to the design era of technology.  AT&T must be very happy with its deal and the data revenues its getting as a result. Also, Mary Meeker gave her state of the internet presentation.  Lots of good data in there.  Whou would think that Skype is about to become the world's largest carrier?  You can get it here.  [...]

The NY Times Says Yelp has Arrived [Nothing ventured, nothing gained]


It's not often that the venerable New York Times publishes a glowing piece on one of my portfolio companies. This is a welcome bit of good cheer amidst the backdrop of a generally gloomy economy.  When I invested in the young company founded by Jeremy S. and Russ S. back in 2005, Yelp had attracted about 100,000 San Franciscans to its site.  Today, with more than 15,000,000 monthly visitors, it (image)

Humor without the lies, please [Nothing ventured, nothing gained]


I admit that I'm a frequent reader of Valleywag, a low-brow blog full of silicon valley gossip.  It's often pretty funny, and I know many of the people referenced in the stories, which only adds to the entertainment value.Last week, however, the blog ran an entry containing a fabricated story.  The entry was meant to embarrass Jimmy Wales, an entrepreneur we backed two years ago.  If there is (image)

Pumpkin O-The Times [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]


One of our close friends have a pumpkin carving day tradition. This one was one of the best pumpkins carved that day. Thanks Pete & Ayse. Happy Halloween!

One of our close friends have a pumpkin carving day tradition.

This one was one of the best pumpkins carved that day.  Thanks Pete & Ayse. 

Happy Halloween!



Thoughts on European Start Ups [localglobe]


I had a great time putting this presentation together past week to give at the O'Reilly Web2Expo in Berlin.Thoughts on European Start UpsView SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: startups vc)Thanks to everyone for the embedding, the video and the really great feedback - much appreciated.For some really practical advice, check out Robin's great post on cash management. [...]

It's The Economy [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]


I've been traveling to Canada a lot for work lately. Air Canada has shown me many movies on demand, United has not given any choice, and both have shamelessly asked for $3 for headphones I haven't paid. None of the movies I saw moved me except for one. Ironically, it was the one I thought would be the worst and avoided consistently until the last leg of the final flight that I am writing this now. I watched "Hancock", barely finished it. I watched "The Incredible Hulk", didn't finish it. I watched "Sex and The City" and couldn't finish it. The plane was landing. I watched Indiana Jones again, and again didn't like it as much as the previous one, "The Last Crusade". The last movie I saw was "Swing Vote". It was a painful movie to watch in the beginning. It was also bad in the middle...but the ending. When Bud asked that question I couldn't help but cry. We need a president who wakes up every morning and asks himself the same question and spends his whole life building a legacy around answering it. I am not going to tell you what question that is. You need to watch the movie if you haven't yet. But this blogger believes that the candidate who can devote his life to answer it is Barack Obama. P.S. This is not a political blog, but around this time, once every four years, there may be a politically inclined post :-)I've been traveling to Canada a lot for work lately.  Air Canada has shown me many movies on demand, United has not given any choice, and both have shamelessly asked for $3 for headphones I haven't paid. None of the movies I saw moved me except for one.  Ironically, it was the one I thought would be the worst and avoided consistently until the last leg of the final flight that I am writing this now.I watched "Hancock", barely finished it.  I watched "The Incredible Hulk", didn't finish it.  I watched "Sex and The City" and couldn't finish it.  The plane was landing.  I watched Indiana Jones again, and again didn't like it as much as the previous one, "The Last Crusade".The last movie I saw was "Swing Vote".  It was a painful movie to watch in the beginning.  It was also bad in the middle...but the ending.   When Bud asked that question I couldn't help but cry.  We need a president who wakes up every morning and asks himself the same question and spends his whole life building a legacy around answering it.  I am not going to tell you what question that is.  You need to watch the movie if you haven't yet.   But this blogger believes that the candidate who can devote his life to answer it is Barack Obama.P.S. This is not a political blog, but around this time, once every four years, there may be a politically inclined post :-) [...]

Android Is a Success [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]


For a new mobile technology, let alone an operating system, to go from announcement to shipping product is, however you look at it, a spectacular success. That's exactly what happened to Android with the G1 phone available from T-Mobile. It normally takes years for any technology to get in a carrier's network. Android did it in one year. In addition, Walt Mossberg called it "a worthy competitor to the iPhone". Given the iPhone is one of the most impactful technology innovations of the last 3 years, that's is a big statement. Now we are also hearing that Motorola is reorganizing around Android. Yet another sign of success in such a short period of time. Last year I predicted that Android would be a success, I consider that prediction to have come true. Here is what I wrote then, still quite valid: "1) The Success of Google's Android and the Open Handset Alliance: This means that handsets will become more like PC's and wireless carriers will become more like landline DSL providers. This is a bold statement because both handset makers (like Nokia) and carriers (like Vodafone) don't want this to happen. So why do I predict a change in an industry where dinosaurs were surviving for such a long time? Because a meteor the size of Texas hit the wireless industry in 2007 and it was called the iPhone. For the first time in the wireless industry, the handset chose the carrier as opposed to the carrier choosing the handset. The product was so impactful and well designed that some carriers agreed to share 30-40% of their data revenues with Apple in order to have the device on their network. That could be a very meaningful $200 dollars to Apple. Why did carriers agree to that? Because the carriers did the math and the revenue share probably made up the customer acquisition cost that they no longer had to pay which, in the US, is about $200. In return for that bargain they gave up ALL revenue from applications, ringtones etc. The consumers wanted it, they gave it, and doing so opened up the market an catalyzed the next innovation which came from Google. Android and the Open Handset Alliance, enables other people to quickly create new iPhones. It creates an environment that let's developers focus on what they do best, which is writing innovative applications. So that somebody can come up with a device so compelling that it too will chose their carrier (if carriers need a nudge Google can share search revenues, if they need a punch they'll fund an open carrier). Once that happens, the carriers become a dumb pipe, but a dumb pipe with similar economics and no worries for churn. The second reason carriers may embrace Android, is so they don't have to be hostage to Nokia which is exerting a bigger and bigger pressure on carriers. They are even building an ad network and making carriers pay them a piece of their ad revenues....For a new mobile technology, let alone an operating system, to go from announcement to shipping product is, however you look at it, a spectacular success.  That's exactly what happened to Android with the G1 phone available from T-Mobile.  It normally takes years for any technology to get in a carrier's network.  Android did it in one year.In addition, Walt Mossberg called it "a worthy competitor to the iPhone".  Given the iPhone is one of the most impactful technology innovations of the last 3 years, that's is a big statement.Now we are also hearing that Motorola is reorganizing around Android.  Yet another sign of success in such a short period of time.Last year I predicted that Android would be a success, I consider that prediction to have come true.  Here is what I wrote then, still quite valid:"1) The Success of Google's Android and the Open Handset Alliance:  This means that handsets will become more like PC's and wireless carriers will [...]

Congratulations [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]


Congratulations Munjal and the rest of the team on the fundraising! It is just one more testament to the fantastic product you are building. As an angel investor, it is a great pleasure to see the team grow, mature and become that great business that it deserves to be. What a wonderful ride to be a part of.

Congratulations Munjal and the rest of the team on the fundraising!  It is just one more testament to the fantastic product you are building.  As an angel investor, it is a great pleasure to see the team grow, mature and become that great business that it deserves to be.  What a wonderful ride to be a part of.

(image) Raises $32M Series C [Venture Explorer]


TechCrunch reports on portfolio company's recent funding. Munjal's timing was exquisite and the company is now very well-positioned to not just survive, but thrive, in a tough climate.

TechCrunch reports on portfolio company's recent funding.

Munjal's timing was exquisite and the company is now very well-positioned to not just survive, but thrive, in a tough climate.

Macbook Environmental Report [Salman's blog]


Kudos to Apple for putting out an environmental report on their new Macbooks (via earth2tech).

Of course, I will have to point out that Apple estimates its embodied emissions (ie emissions from production and transport) to be 60% of the total lifecycle emissions of the product, versus 39% for customer use. Not to repeat myself too often, but why is it every one seems to be focusing on the 39% portion?


Hamon Washoku Opens Today in San Carlos [Consuming Ambitions]


Last Saturday my friend Bobby treated me and some friends to a sneak preview 7-course meal at his sleek new Japanese restaurant, Hamon Washoku (note, web site still under construction at press time) which opens today. Replacing the French crepes-n-coffee...

Stock Market Got You Down? Here's What $8.06 Buys at Fisher Farm [Consuming Ambitions]


In the midst of the current economic meltdown comes a welcome recession buster from Doug Klein, CEO of LightPole and earnest foodie. He recently visited Fisher Farm and wrote in to describe his exploits: I stopped by Fisher on the...

Quote of The Day [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]


"Apparently the Nigerian government has warned its citizens that if they get any e-mails from Irish/UK/US banks, promising government-backed deposit security and seeking bank account details, its a scam..."

"Apparently the Nigerian government has warned its citizens that if they get any
e-mails from Irish/UK/US banks, promising government-backed deposit security
and seeking bank account details, its a scam..."


Portfolio Company Politics [Nothing ventured, nothing gained]


I got nervous today when I heard one of my consumer internet portfolio companies had posted a political advertisement on YouTube. It seemed obvious to me that any consumer company is likely to alienate half of its customer base by making a political statement. No matter how well-executed the ad, it is guaranteed to hurt business as much as it helps.It appears that I may have jumped too quickly to(image)

Money fears [Nothing ventured, nothing gained]


Doesn't this new version of the dollar bill do a perfect job capturing the essence of the Treasury Department's current state of mind?(image)

A Must-Read Blog for Entrepreneurs [Venture Explorer]


My friend Eric Ries, co-founder/CTO of IMVU, has a great blog that's a must-read for entrepreneurs: here's the feedburner link: Subscribe now! This will save you time, money, headaches and ulcers ...

My friend Eric Ries, co-founder/CTO of IMVU, has a great blog that's a must-read for entrepreneurs: here's the feedburner link:

Subscribe now!  This will save you time, money, headaches and ulcers ...

An Interesting Counter Argument - Why Paulson is Wrong [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]

2008-09-26T16:06:27-07:00 Here is the first paragraph as a teaser Why Paulson is Wrong Luigi Zingales Robert C. Mc Cormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance University of Chicago -GSB When a profitable company is hit by a very large liability, as was the case in 1985 when Texaco lost a $12 billion court case against Pennzoil, the solution is not to have the government buy its assets at inflated prices: the solution is Chapter 11. In Chapter 11, companies with a solid underlying business generally swap debt for equity: the old equity holders are wiped out and the old debt claims are transformed into equity claims in the new entity which continues operating with a new capital structure. Alternatively, the debtholders can agree to cut down the face value of debt, in exchange for some warrants. Even before Chapter 11, these procedures were the solutions adopted to deal with the large railroad bankruptcies at the turn of the twentieth century. So why is this wellestablished approach not used to solve the financial sectors current problems? The rest is here is the first paragraph as a teaser Why Paulson is Wrong Luigi Zingales Robert C. Mc Cormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance University of Chicago -GSB When a profitable company is hit by a very large liability, as was the case in 1985 when Texaco lost a $12 billion court case against Pennzoil, the solution is not to have the government buy its assets at inflated prices: the solution is Chapter 11. In Chapter 11, companies with a solid underlying business generally swap debt for equity: the old equity holders are wiped out and the old debt claims are transformed into equity claims in the new entity which continues operating with a new capital structure. Alternatively, the debtholders can agree to cut down the face value of debt, in exchange for some warrants. Even before Chapter 11, these procedures were the solutions adopted to deal with the large railroad bankruptcies at the turn of the twentieth century. So why is this wellestablished approach not used to solve the financial sectors current problems?The rest is here [...]

Kindo ties the knot with MyHeritage [localglobe]


Congratulations to Nils, Gareth and Andrew and the rest of the Kindo team. They have just announced that they are tying up with MyHeritage. See coverage on Washington Post via Techcrunch, VentureBeat and PaidContent.Over the last year the team has built a simple product which is a pleasure to use in over 14 languages -- all the while building a really nice tone of voice, perfect for the family market. Combining this savvy with MyHeritage's scale and smart technology for photos and family history promises something to look forward to for consumers.Related articles by ZemantaMyHeritage raises $15 million from Index and AccelKindo Finds a New HomeFamily Tree Wars Continue: MyHeritage Raises Big Round, Shows Impressive GrowthFamily Tree Site MyHeritage Gets $15 Million Second RoundNils is getting famous in SwedenKindo's day in the sun [...]

Oh my Goldman [Nothing ventured, nothing gained]


I got a first-hand sense of how badly Goldman Sachs felt the pressure of the crumbling financial markets this morning.   At the start of a private company's board meeting I was attending, a director received a call on his cell phone.  One member of the board had not yet arrived, so the director answered the call in case it was the missing attendee.  He dispatched with the caller after about a (image)

Hadron Collider Starts in Half an Hour... [From Istanbul To Sand Hill Road]


Here is the video that says it all

Here is the video that says it all

(object) (embed)


Because "Bad, Dirty, and Unjust" Somehow Isn't Appealing [Consuming Ambitions]


This weekend Slow Food hits Baghdad by the Bay. With a slogan of "Good, clean, and fair," the international movement started in 1989 launches perhaps its finest moment to date with a shindig billed as the largest celebration of American...

Those Who Live by the Sword ... [Venture Explorer]


Cuil, a much-hyped search engine, launched yesterday. The blogosphere, after eager anticipation, has not been kind to Cuil. Web 2.0 is all about throwing things out there and seeing what works, but if you're going to drum up hype, you...

Cuil, a much-hyped search engine, launched yesterday.  The blogosphere, after eager anticipation, has not been kind to Cuil.  Web 2.0 is all about throwing things out there and seeing what works, but if you're going to drum up hype, you have to feed the hype monster tasty morsels.  The reaction from bloggers and commenters seems all the more vitriolic for having been promised foie gras and fobbed off with crackers instead.

At the risk of seeming to jump on the bandwagon of Cuil-bashers, I must confess that Cuil didn't do a great job finding me on the web either: the search results for "Vineet Buch" seemed of tertiary interest and didn't discover my professional page (that I am a Partner at BlueRun Ventures), or my LinkedIn or Facebook profiles. 

Is Google's Dominance of Search Self-perpetuating? [Venture Explorer]


Mashable's Stan Schroeder expounds an interesting theory: that Google's current (and expanding) dominance in web search, at least in the English-speaking world, has trained websites to do all they can to show up high on Google - to such an...

Mashable's Stan Schroeder expounds an interesting theory: that Google's current (and expanding) dominance in web search, at least in the English-speaking world, has trained websites to do all they can to show up high on Google - to such an extent that no upstart search engine can hope to do better than Google for broad horizontal search.

Stan's review of recently launched, well-funded search startup Cuil, as also the TechCrunch review, are lukewarm at best and support Stan's thesis - but this thesis assumes that Google has the best possible knowledge of a user's intentions, and since websites will compete to match Google's algorithm that expresses that intention in a query, Google is by default the winner in any search competition. 

The flaw in this argument is that Google has very little information about a user's intention - indeed, Google doesn't even seem to use all the information it could have about the user, because of privacy and latency considerations (for instance, I doubt if Google looks up my interests in my Facebook profile when I search as a logged-in Google user, to discover that by typing the search term "kayak" I probably mean a watercraft and not a travel search engine).  Google is constantly refining its approaches to divining intention, of course ... and the masses of data generated by user searches help it get better every day. 

But web search is far from perfect today, and it stands to reason that Google's own momentum - and success - will lock it into the innovator's dilemma of doing little more than tweaking its existing algorithms.  And some enterprising startup will bring a refreshing new take to searching the web.  Wonder what it could be?

Is the Online Display Ad Market Being Overhyped? [Venture Explorer]


Back in April, I'd written about the really slow movement of brand ad dollars online. Advertising Age just ran an article diving into some of the points I'd raised, and they're worth exploring again. There are a few choice quotes...

Back in April, I'd written about the really slow movement of brand ad dollars online.  Advertising Age just ran an article diving into some of the points I'd raised, and they're worth exploring again.  There are a few choice quotes from Ad Age that I felt compelled to mention here:

The inconvenient truth is that for all its new-media spin, display advertising is "old" media -- a commercial message to be placed next to editorial or entertainment content.

part of why large companies such as P&G spend so little on the web is because of the feedback they get from the marketing-mix models they still use to determine media outlays: TV and other old media still work. (P&G increased its magazine budget by 7% last year.)

For all its glory, the internet still has not proven itself capable of being a primary branding medium. Most ads online are response-based and work best for brand marketers when they complement a branding campaign in other media.

"The biggest gating factor to internet ad growth is the obsession of the players, the [venture capitalists] and the press with 'bottom of the funnel' marketing in a world where the big money is spent at the top," said Rob Norman, CEO of Group M Interaction. [OUCH!]

The CAT is out of the bag [Salman's blog]


I’ve been toying with the idea of a Value Added Tax on embodied carbon, and I’ve been meaning to put some thoughts in writing. So I came up with what I thought was the brilliantly original acronym: CAT for a “Carbon Added Tax”.

Then I did a search, and found that Nobel-laureate Joe Stiglitz recently proposed the same idea:
"A carbon added tax (CAT), levied at each stage of production, would have some of the same advantages that a value added consumption tax has. Each producer would have to show receipts for the carbon tax paid on inputs into its production. The taxes levied at each stage of production would be passed on to consumers. It is as if the tax were imposed on consumers… A carbon value added tax will both discourage production in more carbon intensive ways and discourage the consumption of carbon intensive goods."
His proposal pretty much sums up my thought process…

But perhaps even more interesting is that some one called Ewan O'Leary, registered the URLs for and .org last February. Now that is some real forward thinking!!! ;-)

OUR personal data on the web [Salman's blog]


Our data is born free, but everywhere it is in chains.

We need a new "Social Data Contract" for the web.

The 11 Best Foods You May Not Be Eating [Consuming Ambitions]


Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times did a piece recently boldly titled The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating -- a bit presumptuous in that anybody who is at least somewhat health conscious is heeding the frequently heard advice...

Letters to Economist Editors [Salman's blog]


I read the Economist religiously - or rather I partly skim and partly read the Economist religiously every week. So it was nice that they published a letter I wrote them. (Of course, it relates to Embodied Emissions.)What was surprising is how much they edited the letter. At first, I was taken aback: after all, they had lost the nuance of some of my points. On reflection though, it is quite amazing and flattering that they would take the time and effort to completely re-write such letters to drive home the point they think is worth publishing.In any case, here is the original letter I sent:Dear Sir,Your article entitled “Emissions Suspicions” (June 19 2008) ignores the principle of “consumer-responsibility” - that consumers can be responsible for the carbon embodied in the goods they consume. If our society decides to proactively reduce its total carbon emissions, it makes little sense to just focus on the carbon being emitted (or “produced”) directly in our society. For example, a study by Oxford’s Dieter Helm showed that while “UK greenhouse gas [emitted directly in the UK has] fallen by 15% since 1990…on a consumption basis, the illustrative outcome is a rise in emissions of 19% over the same period… Trade may have displaced the UK’s greenhouse gas appetite elsewhere.” Whether this displacement was caused by carbon regulations or other factors is less relevant - What matters is the total amount of carbon that was emitted to produce the goods and services consumed in the UK.As such, a “carbon tariff” on embodied carbon should not be compared to traditional “import taxes”. The correct analogy is a “Sales tax”. Today, governments tax goods and services both at the point of production (via corporate taxes) and consumption (via VATs or other sales tax). But emissions regulations to-date have been aimed solely at the “production” of green house gases. It is the principle of reducing carbon “consumption” that matters more than the economic implications of leakage (which is the focus of your article.)But is this principle practicable? Your article also claims that assessing embodied emissions is an “impossibly complicated task.” But much work has been done in this area, specifically by UK based “Carbon Trust” (with the BSI and DEFRA) to create standards and make the process simpler, fair and practical. It would have been more appropriate to reference (if not, assess) these efforts in your article, rather than to dismiss them out of hand, as impossible.Regards,Salman Farmanfarmaian, SwitzerlandAnd here is how it was reprinted:Green consumer-taxesSIR – If a society decides to proactively reduce its total carbon emissions it makes little sense just to focus on the carbon it directly produces (Economics focus, June 21st). For example, a study by Dieter Helm of Oxford University shows that although greenhouse gases emitted directly in Britain had fallen by 15% since 1990 measured by the conventional method, “on a consumption basis, the illustrative outcome is a rise in emissions of 19% over the same period” and that “trade may have displaced” Britain’s “greenhouse-gas app[...]

Marten Mickos of MySQL on building Open Source Software businesses [Venture Explorer]


I had the privilege of attending an informal presentation by Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL, last week at SAP Labs. Marten was his usual candid self, and spoke frankly about the challenges of making money in Open Source, why MySQL...

I had the privilege of attending an informal presentation by Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL, last week at SAP Labs.  Marten was his usual candid self, and spoke frankly about the challenges of making money in Open Source, why MySQL sold to Sun and the ups and downs after the acquisition closed.  Key takeaways:

  • Open Source really is a smarter way to create software; somewhat because of community code contribution, but even more because the omnipresent threat of public scrutiny makes everybody produce better software
  • By trying to buy Yahoo, which is built mostly on Open Source tools, even Microsoft has indirectly affirmed the value and longevity of Open Source.  Nokia's acquisition of Symbian and subsequent open-sourcing of its software, and Oracle's acquisition of InnoDB and BerkeleyDB are other affirmations.
  • You can't build Open Source businesses on services and support alone; the love and passion of your users is great, but open checkbooks are even better.
  • Nothing sells itself. Not Coke, not Pepsi, and certainly not software, Open Source or proprietary.  Most Open Source companies underestimate the need for a sales-force that can generate lucrative leads and close meaningful deals, and that's why so few Open Source companies make money
  • Sun buying MySQL made MySQL much more appealing to big enterprises - they appreciate the backing and commitment of a large player.  This is reflected in the warmer reception MySQL's sales team gets at large accounts
  • MySQL sold to Sun instead of going public for a couple of reasons, but the most important one, apart from the immediate financial return, was the great cultural fit with a company whose tagline is "The Network is the Computer" - ideal for MySQL, which has long billed itself as the database for the Web
  • As the software industry matures and buyers get more power vis-a-vis vendors, software providers will have to cooperate more in a bid to provide workable solutions rather than shelfware.  Sun is already doing this in its relationships with Oracle, IBM, HP ...

Beer Brewing FAQ [Consuming Ambitions]


Okay, last time we did wine, so now it's time to give beer some air time. I am fortunate to work with a bona fide beermeister, and by that I do not mean somebody with Animal House style binge tendencies,...

Miyowa lève 8 millions de dollars pour son second tour de table [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Moins de deux ans après sa première levée de fonds, l’éditeur de messagerie instantanée mobile clôture un deuxième tour de table. Objectif : lancer un nouveau produit et se développer outre-Atlantique. Après une première levée de fonds de 3 millions d’euros réalisée en septembre 2006 auprès des fonds de capital-risque Techfund et Sophia Eurolab, Miyowa […](image)

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The Polluter is the Consumer [Salman's blog]


Here is another high level analysis of embodied carbon in imports by Oxford’s Dieter Helm (et al). It looks at the UK’s carbon emissions from the “consumption point of view.” The paper notes that using conventional producer-based carbon accounting-methods,
“UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 15% since 1990. In contrast, on a consumption basis, the illustrative outcome is a rise in emissions of 19% over the same period. This is a dramatic reversal of fortune… It suggests that the decline in greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy may have been to a considerable degree an illusion. Trade may have displaced the UK’s greenhouse gas appetite elsewhere.
The same paper has a well-articulated overview of the “consumer vs producer” paradigm:

“Both these [currently used] methodologies are based on the location of the production of greenhousegases. This, however, is a somewhat misleading and partial basis for policy purposes. For a country could have a very low production of greenhouse gases, but at the same time have a high consumption level. It could produce low-GHG-intensity goods, but import and consume high-GHG-intensity goods. Thus, a developed country might cease to produce steel, aluminium, glass and chemicals domestically, but import the manufactured goods from abroad. In the UK’s case, the shift of production in such activities to China, India and other developing countries in the last two decades suggests that this effect may be considerable… China might argue that, although it produces high emissions, these are on behalf of consumers in developed countries, and therefore the consumers should pay for the relevant reductions. In this way, the polluter is not the producer, but rather the consumer.
Also, the paper finds that “by 2006, the trade deficit in greenhouse gases [in the UK] was 341 MtCO2e, around 50% of domestic UK greenhouse gas emissions.” Another data point in understanding our total carbon footprint.

Thanks to David McKay’s blog for pointing me to the above paper.
Also - Bold emphasis above added.

Muxtape 2.0 [Dav-generated Content]


I made another one

In other news, I'm leaving Desjardins Venture Capital next week to join the JLA Ventures team as an associate. More on this - and an overhaul of this blog, including, hopefully, actual blogging - very soon.

Also, in the last few days I have lost my spot as the #1 Tungle Space creator and intend to win it back. That is, unless I follow Rick's advice and get a Mac laptop and then have to wait for Tungle's complete Mac and Google integration. But, right now sitting here, I'm having Voodoo Envy envy.

Entrepreneurial “procrastination” – easy to be a victim [Sid Mohasseb]


The first proof of the preacher himself committing the sin is my inability to do a Blog in recent weeks – shame on me for procrastinating!

Now back to preaching…

Procrastinating on getting to revenue equals sudden death.

Recently an entrepreneur passionately indicated that they have potential customers that are willing to buy their product NOW, but they are holding back until they raise more capital! because they are concerned about the growth and how they can control it; they have seen this before as they claimed.

Upon further investigation, it became clear that the product works, there are no technical reasons for delay, and that the customer is actually willing to pay a portion of the fees in advance; which can support staffing and internal expenses. This conversation has bothered me to the point of motivating me to write a post (thank god for the motivation!). So, I would like to remind some of my entrepreneur friends of the following key facts of entrepreneurship:

1. Avoiding a potential mistake, may be as bad as making a new mistake
2. A business is built on revenues not raised capital
3. The more of the company you keep the better off you are!
4. Before you control growth you should experience it
5. Risk is a part of life.
6. Fear of failure is as BAD as if not worst than fear of success
7. There is a thing called “competition” , while you ponder they are executing!(image)

Fred Wilson on how he made it as a VC [Venture Explorer]


Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures just wrote a very informative and articulate post on how he made it as a VC. Here's what Fred thinks you should do (as opposed to what he did): The way you do that...Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures just wrote a very informative and articulate post on how he made it as a VC.  Here's what Fred thinks you should do (as opposed to what he did):
The way you do that is you work for at least ten years in the industry, getting operating experience, building a killer rolodex, and learning how the business works from the inside. Then in your mid to late 30s, you can make the move to the venture capital business, as a partner, not as a wet behind the ears associate who doesn't know anything other than how to push numbers around a spreadsheet.
A number of VC firms do, in fact, hire precisely based on this profile.  If you're not prepared to take such a circuitous path, here's a post I wrote a while back on finding a job in venture capital.

Judging at Under The Radar Social Media and Entertainment Summit [Venture Explorer]


I'll be a judge at the Games track at the Under The Radar Social Media and Entertainment Summit June 3rd in Mountain View. Good mix of companies and I'm looking forward to it!I'll be a judge at the Games track at the Under The Radar Social Media and Entertainment Summit June 3rd in Mountain View.  Good mix of companies and I'm looking forward to it!

The Landscape of Cloud Computing [Venture Explorer]


It's pretty well known that Amazon Web Services' EC2 and S3 initiatives have taken off and are gaining users not just in startup land but in Corporate America as well. Amazon provides a compute and storage cloud, and the rush...

It's pretty well known that Amazon Web Services' EC2 and S3 initiatives have taken off and are gaining users not just in startup land but in Corporate America as well. Amazon provides a compute and storage cloud, and the rush of companies big (e.g., Google) and small (e.g., Nirvanix) beginning to compete with Amazon in providing clouds has spawned a term and a movement - Cloud Computing. 

I've been involved with precursors to cloud computing (Utility Computing, Grid Computing, Application Service Providers - ASPs) from my days at Corio, an early ASP acquired by IBM in 2005. In fact, back in graduate school at Cornell, I did research on assembling commodity hardware into compute grids.  Small wonder, then, that Cloud Computing is an area I'm looking at quite actively for potential investments.

Peter Laird has a great blog post that defines the landscape of Cloud Computing; I encourage anybody interested in the space to read Peter's post.  And Peter's cheat-sheet on the players is invaluable if you want to appear well-informed :-)

Transportation and Carbon-Conscious Consumers [Salman's blog]


As a sector, transportation is certainly a significant source of carbon emissions. But perhaps because it is so visible, or even tactile, transportation gets a lot of attention, and people tend to overstate its role in embodied emissions. Some recent NY Times articles make references to some related data which are worth quoting:From the Green Issue of the Magazine: “It is the locavore’s dilemma that organic bananas delivered by a fuel-efficient boat may be responsible for less energy use than highly fertilized, nonorganic potatoes trucked from a hundred miles away. Even locally grown, organic greenhouse tomatoes can consume 20 percent more resources than a tomato from a far-off warm climate, because of all the energy needed to run the greenhouse.”The same issue also quoted the famous New Zealand studies, though in a somewhat skeptical tone: “A handful of studies have recently suggested that in certain cases under certain conditions, produce from places as far away as New Zealand might account for less carbon than comparable domestic products.”Also, when Timberland studied the embodied emissions of its shoes, “the company was surprised to find that transportation may account for less than 5 percent of its greenhouse-gas emissions — while almost 80 percent may come from making the leather, a process buried deep in its supply chain.” (Note however that Timberland seems to have overestimated the emissions related to the leather.)The above study is consistent with Weber and Matthews’ study on the embodied emissions of imports into the United States, which suggests that “CO2 emissions due to international freight transport are unlikely to increase the totals [of embodied emissions in imports] by more than 10%.”In an article on the environmental impact of groceries, it was calculated that a bottle of European wine drunk in New York has 1.4kg of embodied CO2, while a Napa bottle would have 2.5kg. Ironically, in this case, the major difference does lie in transportation, since Napa wine is trucked to New York, while French wine is shipped, thus consuming far less carbon per mile shipped.So much for drinking local (or at least national.)Finally, a hopeful note in today’s article on transportation’s direct carbon footprint. “A paper presented by Travelport at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January… stated that consumers want information about their carbon footprint as it relates both to business and personal travel. 'That desire for information has the potential,' the paper said, 'to reshape the travel policies companies set and the choices companies and consumers make across a broad range of decisions: how they travel; when and where they travel; what airlines, hotels, and rental car companies they use; where they hold meetings and events — even whether they travel at all.'Whatever the impact of the transportation sector on global carbon emissions, it will be interest[...]

Discounted admission to UTR Social Media and Entertainment [Venture Explorer]


Dealmaker Media is offering readers $100 off the Under the Radar Social Media and Entertainment event on June 3rd in Mountain View, CA. Click here or on the image below to register with the discount. Here's the conference description (I'm...Dealmaker Media is offering readers $100 off the Under the Radar Social Media and Entertainment event on June 3rd in Mountain View, CA.  Click here or on the image below to register with the discount.Here's the conference description (I'm a judge, btw): Under the Radar: Social Media and EntertainmentJune 3, 2008 | 8:00am – 6:00pm Microsoft Campus | Mountain View, CA If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em. No longer is big media trying to compete with the content companies that were stealing the show - instead, they're offering them a premium channel. From YouTube to Bebo and MySpace to Club Penguin, every media mogul, Hollywood tycoon and Silicon Valley innovator wants a piece of this pie.  But even Toto knows we're not in Kansas anymore - technology has changed, business models and ad metrics are being reinvented, and the pressure to turn millions of eyeballs into billions of cash is on. Blink once and they just might get side-swiped by a startup with a better product, a smarter model and, even worse, nothing to lose.Under the Radar will uncover 32 startups in the entertainment and social media space that have launched within the year. Covering social networks, advertising, casual gaming, virtual worlds, measurement tools, video, commerce, publishing and more, Under the Radar is the only forum that empowers its audience to discover tomorrow’s leading tech companies. PRESENTERS: 33Across - Identifies influential online users Animoto - Create personalized, professional-quality videos from images and music, offering a new alternative to traditional online photo slideshows AudioMicro - Stock music and sound effects licensing platform Aviary -Suite of web-based applications for people who create and a marketplace to sell that content Dizzywood - A virtual world that allows kids to dress up 3D avatars, play games, explore worlds and meet new friends in a safe environment - aggregated comedy entertainment siteCrowdSPRING - crowdsourcing of creative talent.ffwd - Organized, multi-platform, video content delivered via a browser, with social network awareness, and predictive recommendations.Jygy - mobile social networkingGumGum - A licensing and distribution platform for online content Hollywood Interactive Group - A mass casual mmo based on reality TV concepts and Hollywood stardom. Jacked - Browser-based “second screen” for TV viewers, which provides synchronized content and a real-time interactive experience that complements what they’re watching on TVKeibi - moderation and classification of user generated content (UGC)Kosmix - Categorization engine that crawls billions of Web pa[...]

Novaled AG is awarded Red Herring Europe 100 Winner 2008 and announces financial results for 2007 [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Novaled, a major know how and service provider for highly efficient long lifetime OLEDs, announces today that the company is winner of Red Herring 100 Europe 2008, an award given to the top 100 private technology companies each year. At the same time Novaled releases the last year’s results proving the enterprises rapid growth.Red Herring’s […](image)

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Saul Griffith’s Carbon Footprints Part II – Some numbers [Salman's blog]


Following my previous post, I thought to look at Saul’s energy usage / carbon footprint calculations by separating out his personal energy usage from his work related consumption.See the notes below on how I have separated the work from the personal energy usage. The chart below separates out the numbers into 4 categories, and speaks for itself. Almost half of Saul’s home energy usage comes from “Food and Stuff” which represents the embodied emissions of his consumer purchases. Of course, as Saul has pointed out, he has probably underestimated the energy usage associated with these categories.Again, people can dispute the difficulty of calculating the embodied emissions of “stuff”, but at almost 4 times the energy usage of his home heat and electricity, Saul’s calculations should at least, again, put the importance of embodied emissions in perspective.__________________________A few other notes:Like the truck driver in my previous post, Saul’s major source of carbon emissions relates to his travel for work. His total work related energy use should be compared to the value of his work, in revenues from his company or at least with the costs associated with the company. This figure should be compared to other businesses in the same sector.Energy usage of ‘stuff’ related to work would probably need to be more comprehensive, including things like capital goods (servers, furniture), services delivered to his workplace (fedex, as well as consumables (like pencils and paper and printer toner.)Here is the data:Some notes on separating work from home usage:Saul mentions that most of his air travel is for work, so I put in a “wild guess” number of 90% related to work. Inversely, I assumed 90% of his car usage was for personal (ie home) use.In stuff, I only allocated his laptop to work. As noted above, there are probably other work related goods that should be added to his work “stuff”The allocation of societal consumption is an interesting one. Here I have assumed it is half for work and half for home. After all, government exists to serve both individuals and to support businesses. Although the actual impact at ~3% in total is not very big, a more thoughtful method may still be needed here. For example, there could be an argument that government is there only to serve the people, so 100% should be allocated to individuals. At the same, this would distort the picture for developing nations (and the goods they export), especially since substantial government resources are probably expended on supporting businesses. [...]

Saul Griffith’s Carbon Footprints Part I – More on Consumer vs Producer Responsibility [Salman's blog]


“Power Consumption at work... This... brings up a very interesting point... where do you draw the lines in figuring out your own energy consumption? Does work energy go against you or the product of that work?”Saul Griffith’s excellent presentation gives a very thorough view of carbon foot-printing, and the particular question above is quite fundamental. I would argue that personal energy consumption should be treated separately from energy use for work. The energy use related to our work should show up embodied in the product of our work.A few examples could help illustrate why…Say I am truck driver that delivers apples ( ;-) ) to a local grocery store. It would not make sense to mix my personal energy consumption behavior with my job as a truck driver. Even if I lead a carbon neutral personal life, mixing my stellar home footprint and my work related emissions would give a distorted view of the choices I can make – ie the factors which are under my control, in my personal life.Now let’s imagine the exact opposite case. Let’s say you are a small business owner, doing most of your work from the office using emails and phones. Again, you could be driving a hummer from home to work, and leave your oven on 24 hours a day, but if you mix your personal and work energy usage, you would still seem more eco-friendly than the me.Now, to drive the point home, imagine that you are my boss, and you are responsible for deciding the kind of truck I would drive. Clearly, the distortion created by mixing personal and professional energy use and footprints would make the exercise quite meaningless.This is not to say we shouldn’t worry about our work related energy use. All of us have some say in the energy consumption of our workplace. And we can make choices to affect it. But the energy consumption of my apple delivery business should be compared with the energy consumption of other apple delivery businesses, or delivery businesses in general. The result of our work, and the energy we consume to deliver it, would both be manifested in the product of our work – in this case, an apple. So it would also make sense to use metrics like CO2 emissions per apple delivered…Or, for practical purposes, so as to be able to generalize (and mix apples and oranges in the same truck), one could measure, CO2 per dollar of revenue delivered…Or rather, to be able to account for each business’s share of economic activity, carbon emissions per dollar of economic value add.(To illustrate: Let’s assume I have an apple delivery business using apples from my brother’s farm. And say you have an apple farm and deliver the apples yourself. Ultimately, we would want to compare the total lifecycle emissions for each apple. Say, you sell apples for $2 and emit 2 grams of carbon per apple, from the farm to[...]

Carbon Emissions in Developing Countries: Producer vs Consumer Responsibility [Salman's blog]


“Developing countries, whose economies and populations are growing fastest, [will] contribute 74% of the increase in global primary energy use [until 2030]. China and India alone account for 45% of this increase.” World Energy Outlook 2007, IEA So three quarters of all new power production capacity will be in developing countries. Close to half of it in India and China. And according to the same report: “China, with four times as many people, overtakes the United States to become the world’s largest energy consumer soon after 2010. In 2005, US demand was more than one third larger.”And... “In the longer term, [in China,] demand slows as the economy matures, the structure of output shifts towards less energy-intensive activities and more energy-efficient technologies are introduced.”This last sentence is the most interesting. It sounds like the basic assumption of the report is that China will make a typical progression towards a more advanced economy: As the country becomes richer, not only will it care more about the environment and prioritize more energy efficient technologies, but the economy as a whole will become more service oriented, much like that of the US. Of course, this does not mean that the world will consume fewer goods. It just means that those goods will be produced in a new generation of up and coming developing nations – and those nations would account for the ~30% of the total increased energy use until 2030.One could imagine that, like China today, those countries will want to use the cheapest (and thus potentially the dirtiest) fuels. They might also argue that it would be unfair to impose environmental restrictions on them since they too have a right to grow their economies. Just as China points to Europe and America’s growth and how they were fueled by dirty coal, those countries may point to China along with Europe and America and make the same argument.And from their perspective, they would be right, just as China is “right” in its argument today.The problem is the paradigm upon which the argument relies. It is a “producer responsibility” paradigm of CO2 emissions, looking at emissions based on where they were produced or emitted, not on why they are produced, and for whom. The "producer responsibility" world view ignores the "end-user" or consumer of the products which were created using those emissions.Many developing countries, especially in their early stages of development, rely heavily on exports. In effect, they are using much of that new energy capacity to produce goods which are consumed in the more advanced economies. A “consumer responsibility” approach to carbon emissions could create a paradigm shift. It could give consumers the leverage to make decis[...]

Muxtape [Dav-generated Content]


Muxtapes are the new Scrabulous. So I made one.

I love the minimalist, clean, easy, no frills interface. A breath of fresh air in these days of functions-overload, social-everything and ads-everywhere.

Reims Aviation acquiert la société Flying Robots [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Reims, le 2 avril 2008 : Reims Aviation, leader européen de la surveillance aéroportée légère, annonce avoir signé un protocole d’accord pour l’acquisition de la société Flying Robots(image)

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Venture Capital in Emerging Markets Conference, 9 - 10 June 2008, Istanbul, Turkey [Golden Horn Ventures]


Golden Horn ventures is organizing a conference in Istanbul, Venture Capital in Emerging Markets. The goal is to bring together fund investors, venture capitalists from all over the world and entrepreneurs and discuss investment strategies, the right and wrong practices...

Novaled opens its first subsidiary in Asia [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Novaled, a major OLED know how and service provider reinforces its presence in the Asian market by opening a Japan Branch office.Effective from 10th March 2008, Novaled set up a Branch Office in the Tokyo area. With this new opening, the company confirms its commitment to the OLED industry in Asia. The Novaled Branch office […](image)

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Le capital-risque « vert » prend son envol en France [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Les technologies du développement durable « cleantech » s’affirment désormais comme l’une des priorités du capital-risque. Aux Etats-Unis, l’engouement pour le capital-risque vert a même provoqué en fin d’année dernière une mise en garde de l’association des investisseurs en capital, la NVCA, inquiète du risque d’une nouvelle bulle. La croissance est en effet très rapide […](image)

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L’avenir très prometteur des énergies vertes [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Emission de France24 évoquant les Cleantech : alors que les industriels américains ont déjà réagi favorablement au secteur des énergies renouvelables, les entreprises européennes se mettent enfin au vert.(image)

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Entrepreneurial support – The conversation series [Sid Mohasseb]


So here is something new for interested entrepreneurs.

Venture Farm Institute Web Conference
First event : March 17,2008 8:30am-9:15 pst

Pick Your Topic & Register

The purpose of the series is to inform and enrich the entrepreneur to understand the Funding Process and focus on Business Execution.

The Conversation series is also a complement to our workshop Series with Rapid Fire <learn more>, a 3hr Live Roundtable of providing early stage companies uncensored feedback, from the investor perspective, as well as a 2-Day Workshop on Effective Entrepreneurship <learn more>.

How to participate?: This series is online. You need a computer with web access.
What is on the Agenda: The selected topic will be discussed. A short Q&A for you and your guests is also scheduled.

Who should participate in the webconference?: Any Entrepreneur who wants to build a great company...and yes that may include raising money!

Hope to see you on line. (image)

Interview de Thierry Lepercq, président de Solaire Direct, sur LCI [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Thierry Lepercq, président de Solaire Direct, est interviewé au sujet de la progression de 200% du marché de l’énergie solaire et photovoltaïque en France.(image)

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Entrepreneurial lesson: Ingredients of a failed presentation [Sid Mohasseb]



In the past couple of weeks I have heard a few pitches and noticed some common ingredients. So in my humble opinion here is what did not work.

1- Selling features and product capabilities as opposed to a vision and a company.
2- Being in love with the idea and failing to see the need for a business model.
3- Getting lost in details and going on tangents.
4- Pretending to know it all.
5- Failing to demonstrate how investors can get a return on their investment.
6- Having a big salary for founders built into the projections.
7- Too much animation (distracting) and too small of fonts (can’t read).
8- Disagreeing partners
9- Asking for too much money or not enough to get to the next milestone - winging it.
10- Offering a pre-cooked deal – We have a private placement memorandum (PPM).(image)

Citilog announces MediaIntruder(TM), its intelligent incident detection software-based solution [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Citilog, a world leading provider of intelligent real time video monitoring and surveillance solutions for traffic, transportation,security and safety management, today announced MediaIntruder(TM), its intelligent incident detection software-based solution, is now available in North America. MediaIntruder automatically detects in real time any indoor or outdoor intrusion activity using video streams from video surveillance cameras.It uses […](image)

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Après les Caisses d’Epargne, Solaire Direct signe un accord avec le Crédit Agricole [Techfund.Info]Gregoire


Après la Caisse d’Epargne Provence-Alpes-Corse, l’énergéticien Solaire direct vient de signer un partenariat avec le Crédit Agricole Alpes Provence. Objectif : encourager professionnels, agriculteurs et propriétaires de maisons individuelles à installer des panneaux photovoltaïques chez eux grâce à la mise en place d’un prêt sur-mesure.Installer des panneaux solaires photovoltaïques sans que cela ne pèse sur […](image)

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Entrepreneurial Observation: yet another reason to be agile [Sid Mohasseb]


Just came back from the Always On event in NY; over 600 people packed into a couple rooms on the 36th floor of a fancy hotel – I was reminded of the events and conferences during the late 90’s – lot’s of buzz, loads of optimism and discussions of the perfect storm!

This time the typhoon (as Tim draper from DFJ calls it) is centered around the digital media and what it is doing with advertising models incumbent distribution channels, production time frames, schedule, etc.

Lots of acquisitions, big number valuations, bigger venture investments, and all that Jazz ! just like it use to be in late 90’s. Not that I mind it.

Although I do buy the argument that things have changed since the 90’s; including better business models, proven models of monetization, etc. but a typhoon is a typhoon and when it leaves it destroys!

I am advising to all entrepreneurs that agility is now more critical than ever; execute fast, forget about perfection, build a business that can get to stability and sustainability and fast track to exits if you can. (image)

Entrepreneurial Consideration: Managing the ripple affect [Sid Mohasseb]


A non academic view of business change & improvementStating the sometimes forgotten obvious:A business is a living entity that embodies many functioning organs. It performs the best and is healthy when all the elements are working together in harmony. The physical components of this living organ includes sales, marketing, IT, logistics, accounting, etc. and its psychology is represented by the core values, cultures, and beliefs. A pain or a dis-functionality in any organ influences the effectiveness of the business entity as a whole – if you are ill mentally or physically you can not be fully productive.An illness maybe addressed by a better diet or some vitamins or a few pills a day for a few weeks (process improvement, overtime, incentives, etc.) or may need more drastic measures such as chemotherapy or surgery (re-organization, firings, new IT systems, a new business model, change of partners, etc.).Almost always, to cure an illness the prescribed actions have some side effects. A change in the sales force compensation plan, influences the accounting daily practices, may require new software, may increase returns and impact the resource needs at the warehouse. An improvement in the resource planning software impacts the practices at both payable and receivable ends, Promote the person who is not competent and deal with your good folks looking for another job, etc. etc. Sometimes we actually create the illness with our actions (cutting our hand with a knife or hiring the wrong person).Stating the not so obvious challenge:So BECAREFUL of what I call “THE RIPPLE EFFECT” – Make a decision about A and watch for the ripples impacting B. And every decision big or small has some ripples. So what should an entrepreneur do, not make a decision ? or lose time and opportunities by over analyzing and procrastinating on every decision?You want to stay healthy, you have to monitor your heartbeat, your cholesterol, your blood pressure, etc. etc. and react quickly to avoid worsening of your situation. You want to run a thriving and healthy organization, remember to measure the “right” performance indicators and watch them closely with a broad inclusive perspective.Yesterday, I met an entrepreneur, I asked her for some performance metrics about her business and the answer was “we are too busy to spend time on measuring, we will put some performance elements when we get a chance.” We[...]

The Dirty Dozen Mistakes of a Startup Entrepreneur [Golden Horn Ventures]


Entrepreneurship is hard. Tackling technical and business problems and building a business from the initial idea up, one step at a time is very difficult. Starting from the idea, technology entrepreneurs make certain mistakes that make their lives even more... Entrepreneurship is hard. Tackling technical and business problems and building a business from the initial idea up, one step at a time is very difficult. Starting from the idea, technology entrepreneurs make certain mistakes that make their lives even more difficult. These mistakes can be caused by the entrepreneur fixating on what she is comfortable with - people tend to stay in their comfort zones -, or misconceptions of what is valuable in business or maybe simply being a first time entrepreneur. As investors in early stage technology companies, we keep on seeing similar problems in different companies, which tells us that these are common mistakes, especially in emerging regions. Below is a list of these mistakes which we have seen and which might eventually cause a business to fail or or an opportunity to be missed. It isn't intended to be exhaustive but rather indicative. Some of the mistakes listed are common to the nature of the technology entrepreneur, but some are the results of the state of the sector in emerging countries. Mistake No 1: "We are a framework company and can do it all" The idea of a framework company sounds attractive. Especially, in this region entrepreneurs tend to collect their expertise into a "framework" with no product or application definition. Having a framework that works can be very advantageous. However, the downside is the entrepreneur's indecisiveness on selecting a focal application that will act as the showcase for the power of the framework. Sometimes, because the entrepreneur lacks sufficient knowledge on a specific area or the "productization" knowledge and expertise, she tends to sell the framework - and that puts her in a very difficult play. An example of a successful framework is what the Skype entrepreneurs had. They had a great peer-to-peer distribution application that they developed in a company prior to Kazaa. Later they used this framework in Kazaa. Afterwards, in Skype and now in Joost. Each one of these applications are products that rely on solving the hard peer-to-peer distribution problem. In a startup, a showcase application and [...]

A few thoughts on last night's Startup Camp [Dav-generated Content]


Thanks to Embrase for organizing this. Great crowd. Lots of young entrepreneurs. Awesome. Not enough angels (unless they all kept very quiet and/or are wealthy at a surprisingly young age). Probably just the right number of VCs, although there's a bunch of early-stage investors I would've expected to see there and didn't. (Forget Réseau Capital for a while, guys... your next 10X deal was in the room last night).Format was a bit too strict and people couldn't keep from loudly networking during some of the presentations, which I think is natural and expected. Cool by me. Startups are chaotic, so I can't see why startup events shouldn't be.Sylvain Carle live-blogged Graham Hill's (TreeHugger dude) talk. Check it out, good simple, advice.I've seen two other good posts about last night:Mike LQuebec ValleyQuick thoughts on the presenters (check out their websites):Cozimo: Looks very promising, very user-friendly. Not sure how much value they add to what's out there already (not a space I know very well). If I were them I'd go after very specific market niches, tailor a solution for each of them and focus. If you're a startup and your addressable market is over 1 B $ at Day 1 there's usually a problem.Tungle: I'm totally biased, of course, but I believe these guys are going to be huge. (But 1st they have to LAUNCH, goddammit). One thing's for sure, Google and Mac support has to be early in the roadmap, since they seem to be the calendars of choice for a lot of the evangelists and early adopters out there.Streametrics: Makes a lot of sense. Not sure anyone really understood how it works (only through their own player ??! website doesn't really clarify this for me). But timing could be perfect if they get any kind of traction and beat the dozens that are probably developing something similar.I Gotcha Media: Lots of progress since their "wi-fi pad" days. Definitely cool integration of technologies. They look like they're onto something but I've always had huge concerns about "signage" technologies, whether it'd be for retail stores, malls, airports, elevators. At the end of the day, however cool and useful your displays are, you never "own" the real estate; shop windows, airport pillars, bathroom stalls, etc. So you're always easy to replace by the next hot new holographic displays, or, see your margins constantly re-negoti[...]

Startup Camp Montreal [Dav-generated Content]


Wow, this little "blog" of mine has been pretty quiet lately, eh ?

I consider it worthy of reactivating this page that the 1st Startup Camp to be held in Montreal is happenening this Wednesday evening, at the SAT. Check out the wiki page. It's organized by a handfull of upstanding tech citizens and by the fine folks at Embrase.

It'll be my 1st time at a ___camp event, so I'm excited. There are a very interesting things happening in the Montreal tech startup community right and I know a lot of the main actors of this general goodness are going to be there, as well as a lot of the people that can help make things happen.

I'd like to point out that, as an event Guru (so they say...) I did not vote for my portfolio company... would've been tacky, no ?. Also, by now, I've heard the pitch numerous times and will only be satisfied once everyone I know uses the product.

That said, they still got in.

See you there...

Sales lessons – my souvenir from Mexico [Sid Mohasseb]


During the holidays I had a chance to take a short vacation in Cancun Mexico. Upon arrival I quickly was forced to deal with various types of sales people with a diverse range of techniques. And as any good entrepreneur would (or should), I began to pay attention and learn.

Imagine an endless row of stores all selling pretty much the same products, as a sales person how do you have a customer buy from you and not the guy next door? Now imagine you are selling a $20,000+ time share - and so are about a 100 other people in a 100 yard radius - and you have a few minutes while a tourist is walking by to open and no more than a few days to close. How do you do it?

After observing a significant number of data points (and it is not difficult as you can … yes, imagine again), here is some key learning:

  1. Stay observant and you can build a relationship in under a minute - it pays.
  2. Quality is a perception and price is not as important as most sales people think.
  3. You must ask for the order.
  4. It is not about sales pipeline or funnels - it is about real transactions and exchange of payment.
  5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
  6. Every sale matters – it is a matter of eating that night.
  7. Dead lines are important in closing

Things Get Ugly in the World of Wine E-Commerce. Very. [Consuming Ambitions]


In the recent past, we've heard grumblings of frustration from management of leading wine e-commerce player, over the fact that many wine shops and other merchants were skirting the byzantine laws which govern the distribution and shipment of alcoholic...

Follow-up discussion: more on channels for raising equity [Sid Mohasseb]


In follow-up to the Podcast discussion Frank Peters, Dave Berkus and I had a couple of weeks ago (, a few entrepreneurs wanted to learn a little more about the various channels of raising equity and particularly the characteristics of each channel.Following is a 10,000 foot level, but focused discussion of the various equity sources:Friends & FamilyYour dad, uncle or a rich body – almost always non-strategic, almost always come with confused valuations and even more confuse structures that will be costly to clean-up later, and often the money raised gets to be wasted on experimentation. It is however, the easiest money to raise since they know you and trust you the most. Raising Friends and Family round generally does give the VC’s and the Angles the warm and fuzzy that at least your relatives and friends trust you.Angels (individuals & groups)An individual angles or group of angles that pull together to invest – generally invest as individuals or as an LLC. If you have the right angel or the right lead (if a group) to spearhead the process things go smooth, the right group or person can bring significant focus to the process, the wrong angels can introduce a confused direction, non-professional angels often offer less assistance than you expect or they originally may claim, professional angles go out of their way to help a good entrepreneur. Angles often do not make second round investments, if dealing with a group the process may take longer than you expect. Example: Tech Coast AngelsIncubatorsProvide a place, some computer and office support, some HR and accounting support -- only the focused ones work, a lot of incubators have real estate motives which gets them derailed from operations, often too dilutive for very strong teams. Example: Idea lab.Venture Capital FirmsOrganized large funds with a few managers in charge of investing the funds money and helping portfolio companies on the path to exit - funding ratios are very low (less than 1%), generally. The firm matters A LOT, concept stage investments are possible for insiders or entrepreneurs they have worked with before, but new deals must meet minimum requirements. Strong team is almost a must have. Example: DFJManagemen[...]

Entrepreneurial Case Study: A true failure story. [Sid Mohasseb]


… and it happens everyday - different people and different businesses.A year and change ago, I was asked to make an investment in a venture – a couple of smart technologist with previous management experience creating a VOIP related company. I knew the entrepreneurs and was absolutely convinced that they are smart and dedicated. The business model, however, did not make sense to me and I did not invest.The company raised around $500K. A few months later, they are looking for money and are considering a change in the business model… and later, a new angel investor with another $500K or so has influenced the team to focus on an originally tangent mobile technology to create a novel consumer application.The new business model and technology was intriguing and reached for my check book! But before signing, met with the two founders and the recent addition to the team, a brilliant new CEO with big telecom and carrier experience.So, I met the team and my check book was quickly back in my pocket. The founders were showing early stages of the “founder disease” – we are in love with what we are building, we know exactly how it should work, if we only need money to scale the product and market it, the company is worth millions and WE will build it into a new giant. In short, I found the team non-coachable and looking only for a check book and not a partner. I also found the new hotshot CEO Was suffering from the “big company syndrome” -- very limited early stage experience; I did it at XYZ so I can do it here, we had a $100 mil budget, over 300 developers and delivered the product in only 3 years - oopps there is no mega dollar budget, only a few developers, a very limited and rapidly depleting bank account – no room for error.Later news … the team had made some progress and a pilot demo was built, VCs were approached and a term sheet was received at a great valuation (dilution of about 30%).The team did not accept the term sheet. One of the clauses (standard in almost 100% of VC term sheets) was the ability for the board (not the VC alone) to augment the management team, if needed -- the team was offended!A few months later the team is disassembled, the hot shot CEO is after the next big d[...]

Open Discussion on early stage funding options [Sid Mohasseb]


Recently, Dave Berkus, Frank Peters and yours truly participated in a round table style podcast on the the Frank Petes Show -- click here to listen.

You may find it interesting.

Additionally, Graeme Thickins did a nice summary of the podcast on his blog at:

For Those About to Carve [Consuming Ambitions]


Just in the nick of time, my wife came through with a pointer to a very helpful article in the New York Times (registration required) describing an excellent turkey carving technique. She is hoping to save me from the ignominy...

A Trillion is a Thousand Billion? Why Wasn't I Informed of This? [Venture Again]


With the title of this post, I am paraphrasing another favorite New Yorker cartoon (again).As I toil away trying to raise a million here or a million there for some great cleantech companies (see the side bar of this blog), PetroChina made its debut on the Shanghai stock market, tripling in value, and becoming the world's first trillion-dollar market cap company.Certainly, PetroChina cannot qualify as a Cleantech company, despite some notable important activities. So this boom is just a reminder of the importance traditional energy continues to play in our global economy, and the extent to which demand for it is now driven by China and other developing nations.I guess investors were not concerned by the strong non-market forces which affect the stock price. Chinese regulators just announced a delay in the expected lowering of restrictions on capital flows from mainland investors. These restrictions have driven an unsustainable difference between the Shanghai-listed shares and Hong Kong-listed shares of several comapnies.Also (coincidentally?), Chinese regulators raised the mandated price of retail gasoline last Friday by 10%. These higher prices substantially aid PetroChina's financials, since they buy crude on the world's open market, but sell refined gasoline into a price-controlled market in China.With all these non-market influences, it is difficult to see how this trillion-dollar threshhold could be long maintained. (This also raises broader questions about goverment fiat in China which I intend to address in a separate post.)But for the time being, a new milestone deserves recognition and reflection. Interestingly, we at Bessemer Venture Partners are forever tied to the world's first billion dollar market cap company. In 1901, J.P. Morgan purchased Carnegie Steel, merged it with Federal Steel and several other companies to form U.S. Steel. The combined company's $1.4 billion capitalization set a new mark.Henry Phipps, a childhood friend of Andrew Carneigie, was the second-largest shareholder of Carnegie Steel. He had contributed to Carnegie Steel's success by being the first to commercialize the Bessemer [...]

Entrepreneur Effectiveness alert - The curse & bliss of emails; mundane but important [Sid Mohasseb]


This topic may not be sexy or intellectually challenging, BUT, I think it is important. As emails go, I think we are confusing effectiveness and speed.I get in excess of 250 emails a day. So often important issues may be ignored due to volume and unimportant matters may take a lot of time. And I am not the only one inundated with so much volume.The problem is that simple issues that can be resolved in minutes with a quick personal conversation actually take multiple emails. Important issues that require real discussion is boiled down to snippets of responses – the result is that decisions are most likely not as comprehensive and often based on either partial information or influenced by the desire to quickly get to a yes / no answer. We achieve speed of exchange but in a lot of situations lose effectives. I can’t count the number of occasions when efforts are duplicated because some one acted on partial information exchanges in emails and had to re-do things. Now, add the complications of global operations, language barriers and time zones and you have a real challenge on your hand.There are clearly two schools of thought 1) short, abrupt, and to the point emails vs. 2) verbose and detailed – focusing on CYA. Some write so much stuff that makes me wonder, if they have nothing better to do, and others are so quick to rush to an answer that makes me wonder if they truly care about how their answers may effect the company results and effectiveness.NO, I am not suggesting to go back to the dark ages. I am suggesting, however, that people are essential to execution and confused people can only produce confused results and effective communication is the only way to get to clarity of direction and purpose. One of the ten commandments of effective execution is effective communications – emails are effecting execution!My advice, LEARN, AGAIN, TO USE THE PHONE for important issues, use the email for things that do not require fact finding and discussion. Be quick on trivial and very diligent on critical matters. Speed is important, but effectiveness is much more important than velocity.Remember[...]

Socolow’s Wedge vs. Archimedes’ Lever [Salman's blog]


On Platforms Versus PrescriptionsIt had been a while since I first read Socolow and Pacala’s classic paper laying out the concept of “Stabilization Wedges” – the idea that we can implement several current technologies, each a wedge, to reduce carbon emissions to quasi-sustainable levels.I didn’t feel comfortable with the word “wedge”, and wondered about its philosophical underpinnings. Why did they choose the word?According to Wikipedia, “A wedge is… used to separate two objects… through the application of force.” (emphasis added.) Sounds like somewhat of a primitive method. (Little surprise that the wedge “has been in use as early as the Stone Age.” ;-) )Of course the paper itself is great, in that it sets tangible goals to reduce carbon emissions, and emphasizes that the goals are technologically achievable. But the term ‘wedge’ seems to have been used just because the savings from emissions in the paper’s graph looked like wedges. No deep philosophical underpinning intended!Except that such terms tend to take lives of their own – and in this case, the problem I have with it, is that it can take on a prescriptive connotation. Take these phrases (from the paper) for example:“A wedge would be created if twice today’s quantity of coal-based electricity in 2054 were produced at 60% instead of 40% efficiency.”“a wedge of nuclear electricity.. would require 700 GW of nuclear power with … about twice the nuclear capacity currently deployed.”“a wedge from photovoltaic (PV) electricity would require 2000 GWp of installed capacity that displaces coal electricity in 2054.”“An ethanol wedge would require 250 million hectares committed to high-yield plantations by 2054”etc. etc.Socolow did not necessarily intend for these goals to have policy implications – but don’t they just sound like they are calling us to use the brute application of regulatory force to implement each of the wedges?That’s what makes me uncomfortable with the term.Setting a goal is indeed very different from figuring out how to actually achieve i[...]

He has no credibility, but I think he's 100% correct [Nothing ventured, nothing gained]


For several months now, I have been privately telling anyone willing to listen that search advertising, though incredibly effective, is over rated. At first glance, it would appear that advertising to someone in context of his search activity is an utter utopia for marketers. What better time to advertise a DVD player, for example, than when a consumer types "DVD player" into Google's search box.(image)

Gender Schmender [Venture Again]


GigaOm's Earth2Tech (what does that mean?) notes that there are too few women in Cleantech. To help spotlight some of the best, they have posted their list of the The Top 10 Women in Cleantech. While I have to agree the raw numbers of female executives and investors in the space should (and will) go up, we should reflect on what an impressive list of individuals this is regardless of gender. Having met a number of these women in person, I'd say they could take on the male Cleantech all-stars any day. With leaders like this, expect more talented women to be attracted to the field quickly.

Congratulations to my ConsumerPowerline co-investor and fellow Board Member Diana Propper de Callejon of Expansion Capital for making the list at #4. By the way, Bessemer first got to know ConsumerPowerline due to the insight and persistence of BVP Analyst Sarah Tavel, herself no slouch:

Thank goodness for the talented women in Cleantech!

Blogged with Flock


The Big O: Organic Wines Versus Organic Grapes [Consuming Ambitions]


Recently you may have read (or re-read) of the benefits of resveratrol, which we're pretty sure inspired you to administer some red wine immediately. Did you know, though, that levels of resveratrol are higher in organic wines than in non-organic...

My Education [Sid Mohasseb]


I am quickly learning that writing a blog requires a lot of discipline. You need to be thoughtful and quick - My apologies for being a slow learner - I’ll get there. It would be great, however, if you could help me with topics – what interests you? Here are some topics I am looking at:

  1. Weekly tips on effective execution, this is not a how to work harder guide! but a how to be more effective series of thoughts.
  2. A session with and entrepreneur -- documenting a conversation or two every week with some of the entrepreneurs I meet and discuss funding with (naturally, the name of the company & founders, as well as, the business details will remain confidential) – the good, the bad and the ugly. The idea here is to take real life interactions and turn them in to a learning experience – this is NOT an interview, but rather a one sided (my) perspective.
  3. Random Tips on valuation, term sheet, trends, concerns, etc.

    ALL from the Investor’s perspective.

    Any thoughts?

What kind of an entrepreneur are you? [Sid Mohasseb]


In my days, I have met with many many entrepreneurs. We have agreed and disagreed on things, learned from each other, and experienced disappointments and successes together.Here is “one” way to slice and dice the group.The Pure DreamerThe pure dreamer is filled with new and novel ideas -- innovations and schemes that will make a lot of money -- for some, every once in a while they see their pictures on the front page of the Time magazine . Despite their potential, majority of these folks never cross the bridge and get to the “doing side.” They are always waiting for the right time and almost always regretful (if only, I had that idea a long time ago, ..). My advice to this group is to either admit that you are a dreamer (get it over with) and then enjoy the dreams and the innovations without regret, frustration and the feeling of failure OR “just do it” as the saying goes; the short cut to results may be finding a partner with a different character profile! The “not so Pure” DreamerThese are the self proclaimed entrepreneurs that generate ideas faster than bunny’s produce offsprings. They have a shotgun approach - the more bullets in the air the higher the chance of a hit. The not so pure dreamers have yet to see an idea they do don’t like and a risk level that is too high! My advice to them is that entrepreneurship is more of a laser guided sport and the more is not always the merrier. Aim carefully and focus. Fast talking is not the same as salesmanship and focusing on a quick buck is not entrepreneurship. The Always Stealth CreatorAs the name suggests these guys have discovered the next big thing but are afraid that others may find out and copy it - on the basic assumption that the rest of the universe are “non-thinkers” and will not figure it out on their own. These folks skill fully conceal the innovation, often to the point of obsolescence. My advice to this group is there a lot of smart pe[...]

The truth about Venture Capital and Angel Investing is … [Sid Mohasseb]


Last week, I was on a panel with other investors discussing the “do’s” and “don’ts” of angel and venture capital investing some one from the audience fired a series of intriguing compounded questions ” why are the VC’s so illusive?, why don’t they have all their information available? Why don’t they disclose how they come up with their valuations? Why are the selection criteria’s so undefined????”All valid questions and valid statements – the event made me think that entrepreneurs view of the equity investment community is entirely different than that of the inner circle and this mismatch of perceptions is not disruptive and unhealthy.So let’s talk about the truth about the Angles and the Venture Capital firms; here is a few points to start with:1- Looking for Money Vs. looking for a partner: investors look for a partner that they can invest in and help grow a business. Entrepreneurs look for money and often feel (although they may claim otherwise) that if they had the money they could do it by themselves. This difference of view causes so many deals to stall and never get funded. Investors don’t want to be running companies, period. They are, however, investing to make money and if the team is not doing it, they have the responsibility to their investors (limited partners of their funds) to act and to get a wining team in place.2- Saying NO: it is very difficult for the VC’s and investors to say no to hundreds of deals before saying yes to one. People don’t like to hear it; it is their baby, their dream and they have worked hard – the no becomes very personal to the entrepreneur. If the investors wanted to make an investment in every deal they see, they would run out of money very quickly, lose focus on the type of investments they are making and end up being bad partners for the entrepreneurs. The truth is that there are a lot of good ideas out there, but chemistry is[...]

Real Entrepreneur Story #2: It is about making money NOT raising money [Sid Mohasseb]


The entrepreneurs were clearly fatigued when they waked into my office. They had raised close to a $1,000,000 at a whopping valuation of close to $10,000,000. The friends and family investors were joined by a couple of angels who were fortunately (as the entrepreneurs claimed) very hands off. Unfortunately, the bank balance was almost $2000. The product is almost there they claimed and the patent was almost approved. The product a video / picture tool was indeed slick, but I had to scratch my head as how to make money from it. The exit was rather unclear and the deal was over shopped; as almost every VC had looked at it and passed – the problem; the valuation was too high for the progress made, the exit was not clear, and the had no idea as to how to making money.Nice tool! How have you tried to monetize? the answer was “we are trying to build a community” also, “we can offer the tool as an ASP model to enterprise customers”, “we have a customer that uses the tool on his website” , “we feel that when we develop the next version with mobile capabilities it will really pick up” were some of the answers provided in a span of a 30 minute conversation. I guess the best answer was the last answer they gave me “we really don’t know”. The answer to how you tried to sell it was telling also: “we hired some sales people to go out and sell the enterprise version at a price point of $300 to $500” - the sales people never produced any results.A very cool tool, about a million bucks, and a lot of sweat and tears was about to go to waste and you could clearly see the entrepreneurs frustrated and in distress.1- So here is the quick diagnosis and feedback:2- So what if you have the coolest tool, can it make money?3- Do not spend all your money on product development, build something that can sell and then improve the hell out of it.If you over value the company, the c[...]

Why bootstrap your business? 1- The big picture, 2- some good reasons, and 3- a few negatives [Sid Mohasseb]


There is just too much to say about the topic and I have been warned about being too verbose with lengthily postings so this is a 3 posting series. Following is the first posting:The big picture of bootstrappingBootstraping, in my opinion, is not about conserving cash or paying out of your credit cards (although those may become ways to achieve it). Bootstrapping is about taking the right action at the right time. It is about making quick and timely decisions. And it is about being focused on cash flow and incremental progress.There are a few key elements / drivers that make bootstrapping generally lead to better results:1- When in Bootstrapping mode, the margin of error is much smaller and more importantly the entrepreneur knows it. This causes decisions to be more focused on generating results and on making money, and that is a very good thing.2- The risk is personal and decisions are reduced to absolute “value” delivery. Being the one who would hold the bag if things don’t work and being conscious about the responsibility to our family makes the risks to be taken very personal. Naturally the game becomes much more dangerous but the danger brings with it a wonderful force of reason that makes us focus on doing the things activities and products that delivers value to the customer – the only way to make money is if we sell & collect and the only way to do that is if the customers see a compelling value in what we do – personal risk forces us to focus on the essentials, and that is a very good thing.3- Time is a commodity in bootstrapping mode - this makes agility the norm. Being pressed by time makes us move faster, make quicker decisions and deal with our errors faster – being conscious of time, makes the entrepreneur place more focus on the process, the strategy and people – the three elements of execution - tim[...]

Why bootstrap your business? 2- Some Good Reasons [Sid Mohasseb]


There is just too much to say about the topic and I have been warned about being too verbose with lengthily postings so this is a 3 posting series. Following is the first posting:

Some Good reasons to Bootstrap

1- Bootstrapping ensures that you build your business on legitimate, real world value propositions. You truly focused on customer value from day one.

2- Bootstrapping initiates the critical sales learning process sooner, not later.

3-Bootstrapping does not waste money: the focus here is on the early and closer customer contact.

4- Bootstrapping accelerates time to market and time to profitability – if you can not possibility wait for the next version to get ready, you compromise and try to make money from what you have.

5-Bootstrappers are less likely to make big, fatal financial mistakes. Being alert about survival makes people much more alert about catching fatal mistakes.

6- Bootstrappers are forced into unconventional thinking – necessity is truly the mother of invention.

7-Bootstrappers have more freedom and flexibility – when you take money you become slaved to the business plan.

8- Bootstrappers end up owning much more of what they create – and that is a good thing.

Coming next a few words about when you should not bootstrap & some of the negatives.


Why bootstrap your business? So when is bootstraping not a good idea? [Sid Mohasseb]


There is just too much to say about the topic and I have been warned about being too verbose with lengthily postings so this is a 3 posting series. Following is the third and last posting:So when is bootstraping not a good idea? Almost never!However … there are times that injection of external funding is crucial to the delivery of value and no revenues can be generated unless significant investments are made. In these cases the bootstrappong duration may be shortened but not eliminated.When things are not in your control or costs are very high:1- You are in the pharma or medical devices business and an FDA approval is needed before you can sell – these ventures usually involve significant upfront research and multiple scientists , require expensive lab equipment and need to have trial results from hundreds to thousands of people. In this cases the SBIR and other grants are critical and should not be overlooked – not only they are non-dilutive, they help provide credibility – building university and commercialization partners are also critical.2- Chip design – regardless of the simplicity of semiconductor chip ventures, the need for working with fabs and uncontrollable time periods between testing cycles is a killer – every time you make a revision in design you have to wait for 4 to 12 weeks for a turn around – the wait is expensive. These ventures almost always need a lot more money – in these cases the market must be very very large and the innovation very very novel for the investors to engage early – SBIR grants are also often feasible.3- Situations where the time to revenue is a function of “mass traction” – these would include social networking and some internet projects – this group of ventures will benefit significantly in terms of valuation and fund[...]

Entrepreneur Story #4: Dreams vs. Reality [Sid Mohasseb]


The Mobile market is HOT. At a conference in the valley (silicon that is), out of every three entrepreneurs I talked to two and half had the next big mobile application. The biggest idea is the next ubiquities operating system. A system that is running all mobile phones, allow transportability of applications, improves the development process of new applications, etc. etc.I had a conversation with one these operating system companies yesterday – the fifth or sixth company in the same space I have spoken to in the past couple of months. Naturally, each one has few strengths and some weaknesses and each one has some unique angle and approach. Without a doubt the idea is big and if one could become the standard operating system – the next DOS is conceived and the next Microsoft born – a very nice dream.What I found as common between all of the entrepreneurs I talked to was the underestimation of the power of the big OEM’s (Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola) in controlling their own operating system and the equal power of the carries (AT&T, Verison, Spring) in being the gate keepers of innovation and user adoption.Building an innovative technology requires hard work and very smart technologist, building a business requires getting to markets and selling and building a ubiquities operating system requires an acknowledgment of the power of the incumbent players. This is not to say that we should not dream big, but that we should address the very obvious barriers before we spend many many hours of hard work, refinance our house and expect VC’s to invest – dealing with disappointments before they occur.The point here is simple, and some may disagree with it, find a way to get past the gatekeepers and get the OEM’s on board and you don’t need the best technolo[...]

Entrepreneur Issue! Nothing wrong with a Life style business! [Sid Mohasseb]


Speaking to entrepreneurs everyday has lead me to believe that most entrepreneurs really like to build a Life Style business and are not in tune with what motivates Venture Capital firms or Angels to invest.

So what the heck is a Life business?

1. You build it to operate for many years to come
2. It will generate good income for you and you absolutely love doing the job
3. you want to be in control – who needs a boss!
4. This would be a great business for my children to get involved with

If your answer to any of the above questions is yes … well you are on your way to build a Life Style business. Where you do not need a very very large market sizes, you do not need disturbing technology, you do not need a proven management team from Ivy league schools, you do not have to report to a board who is pushing for faster and more aggressive results all the time, and most importantly you do not need to exit (sell out).

So what is wrong with starting a Life Style business – well absolutely nothing, but do not expect making millions in a couple of years, be patient with growth, be prepared to put your name on the dotted line as a guarantor.(image)

Entrepreneur Issue! The viral marketing mystery [Sid Mohasseb]


These days almost every business plan has a viral marketing component to it.How do you get customers? Viral marketing to the rescue; there seems to be an “understanding gap”.I have made it a point in the past few weeks to ask every entrepreneur that brings up the issue “what do you mean by viral marketing?” The diversity of answers and interpretations are fascinating. The responses include, funny videos on Youtube, a page on Myspace, putting definitions on wikipedia, planned message board entries, and of course having a blog. What is interesting is that the definition of viral marketing is reduced to the channels of distributing a message vs. the message itself.To have a viral marketing campaign, you must first have a message that is viral and contagious like a virus, a message that contaminates others as soon as they hear it, to the point of passing it to others. 93% of all sales are initiated through word of mouth, and viral marketing is intended to ignite this process. BUT, the first question is do you have a compelling message, a compelling story a compelling product, and a compelling value proposition that deserves to be viral. The second question is how you communicate it to your potential customers (the channel).If you want to have a viral marketing program, the initial challenge is to figure out what is your contagious (viral) message (the virus), do people care hearing about it, are they impressed enough (contaminated) to pass it on (contaminate others). In the process, you must make sure that people are not already immune to the virus – just because it worked for someone else, it will not work for you; a fake message, a “me too” message, and a message without a real value proposition backing it[...]

Entrepreneur Issue! - Why do many startups fail? [Sid Mohasseb]


I got the following question from an entrepreneur and I thought I share it with everyone.“Why do many startups actually fail? In my observation, i have felt that there are many a startups which have a brilliant idea, a genuine team to execute that and also a good support for the product they intend to build, but still the companies fail to break even. I would love to hear from you your views on why startups fail? cheers, Vaibhav”There may be a thousand different reasons, but here is an attempt at simplifying a clearly completed question. Here is a stab at a few common reasons:1- Chemistry: often entrepreneurial teams fail to have the winning chemistry together ; it is a combination of reaching for perfection and greatness and ability to work together to compromise their way to success.2- Too much Brilliance: a lot of companies fail because the market is not ready for the innovation yet and the entrepreneurs focus on their vision as opposed to what the customer wants or needs – they continue to miss the mark by listening to themselves more than listening to those who pay. 3- Confusing Execution & Effort: a very typical problem in startups is that the team is genuine and genuinely believes that they are executing well, but they are not! Execution is not doing a lot of work. Effective execution is what bridges aspiration and results – simply put, if they were executing well, they would not fail! 4- Not Listening: I have seen this one hundreds of times, Entrepreneurs often think that their situation is different (it is a different market, a unique product, a whatever …) so they fail to listen to their investors or trusted advisors (whom they picked by the way) or listen partially. [...]

Beirut [Dav-generated Content]


Awesome show at Sala Rossa last night. Extra points to Zach for holding most of the on-stage banter in very acceptable French. The boy's got raw talent oozing from his trumpet. Their new album is also slowly making its way into my list of favorites and might end up sitting up there with the first one.

Slip me a little Tungle (and flirt with the DEMOgods) [Dav-generated Content]


It would be easy to explain the fact that Tungle yesterday were named DEMOgods at the DEMOfall conference by Marc's natural good looks and contagious charisma, or by Jacou's infectious smile and lightning-quick demo clicking...But I'd rather believe that the crowd were convinced by the innovation and functionality of a technology they feel will make their professional (and personal) lives a bit easier, and help solve the problem of wasted time and effort trying to coordinate meetings.Congratulations to the whole team !Check it out for yourselves (6 min. demo). The free Outlook plug-in and Tungle Spaces (web service) will launch as soon as some minor bugs are ironed out, with Google Calendar, iCal, and Lotus Notes integration coming soon, as well as some very reasonably priced premium features.By the way, the Tungle Blog is also quite worthy of your attention and RSS aggregation. Good stuff. Exciting times.[...]

More videogame excitement [Dav-generated Content]


This time from my A2M buddies...


The song used in the trailer has an interesting story - Link to the Johnny Cash version

Asian Trade and Consumption (more seriously) [Salman's blog]


For some time now, I have been wondering if Asia’s economic growth will create a large enough middle class to eclipse the United States as the primary export market it is today. I would often venture that at some point, there could be a major economic event which will bring a paradigm shift in the way that people perceive the US economy’s power. Now, I wonder if the current sub prime crisis and a potential coming US recession will create that event.First, some data I dug up: Developing countries in Asia imported around $1.4 trillion of goods in 2006, up from $0.5 trillion in 2002 – from the perspective of an exporter of goods any where in the world, that means that the market for imports into the emerging markets of Asia grew from around 43% of the US import market in 2002, to 77% in 2006 – almost doubling in relative size. If we count all of east Asia (including the more ‘developed’ markets of Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan), then that relative market size has increased from 117% of the US market in 2002, to 163% in 2006. (Should some body have been paing attention when the size of the Asian import market surpassed that of the US circa 2000? Or were we all caught up in our own post bubble trauma?)The Economist also noted recently that “China now takes 22% of the exports of the rest of emerging Asia, up from 13% in the late 1990s.” So Asian economies, heretofore characterized by their power as exporters to the West, are now becoming significant import markets in and of themselves... and thus less reliant on the American consumer.To date, the power of the Americ[...]

China as a Dollar grave? [Salman's blog]


In the early 18th century, Britain ran a huge trade with China because of its insatiable demand for Chinese goods. It paid for all of these goods – largely tea and silk – with silver. According to this wonderful BBC program, the imbalance became so large that “China was referred to as the silver grave of the world, because every silver dollar that is minted would end up in China sooner or later.”At some point, the British had the brilliant idea of marketing more opium to China. As per Wikipedia:“In an attempt to balance its trade deficit Britain began illegally exporting opium to China from British India in the 18th century. The opium trade took off rapidly, and the silver flow began to reverse… when China attempted to enforce her laws against the trade, the conflict erupted.”.. thus the Opium Wars of 1840-1843 and 1856-1860.It’s too tempting not to draw a parallel with today, and wonder (with tongue lightly in cheek) about China as the new dollar grave of the world…Of course, in the 18th century, financial markets were not sophisticated enough for say, the Chinese to use the silver to buy shares in the British East India Company, or finance British government debt.Nor is Chinese military power in such a relatively weak position today…Nonetheless, I wonder if there if the Chinese leadership, famous for its long view of history, still has the Opium wars in its conscious memory as it goes on its foreign buying sprees …[...]

Embodied carbon emissions in electronics even more... [Salman's blog]


Previously, I had done a back of the envelope calculation of the carbon emissions embodied in US imports, and together with Bin Shui, we had dug deeper to estimate the amount of carbon embodied in imports of electronics. Now, two academic papers (also using the dataset) present a more thorough analysis of the same issues and their numbers are staggering.First, two Carnegie Mellon academics estimated the total amount of carbon embodied in US imports to be 1.3Gt. (That is the total amount of carbon emitted to produce the goods that we import and consumer in the US.) To put that in perspective, that is 22% of total CO2 emitted in the US, and more than all residential and more than all commercial emissions in the US. Below is a comparative chart, similar to the one we used in the VentureBeat article.The other paper, co-written by the same academics, estimates the embodied emissions in imported electronic goods to be 470 MMT of CO2. To make the same kind of comparison as before, that is more than all of the local carbon emissions in the State of California.As one of the co-authors said in a related news release:“The central question is one of responsibility. Over the last decade, the United States' share of global carbon emissions has gone down and China's has gone up. However, if you count not by who makes the goods, but by who consumes the goods, the United States' share of responsibility has stayed constant or even gone up. However, these emissions are not counted because they've been outsourced to other countries.”E[...]

A Declaration of (Energy) Independence [Venture Again]


When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to displace the hydrocarbon bonds which have fueled them (and were provided by another) and to assume from the recurring power of the earth and sun, the sustainable and independent energy which the Laws of Nature provide them, a decent respect to the opinions of the men vested in the established order requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We (should) hold these truths to be self-evident, that all generations are created equal, that they are endowed by Creation with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life (through air, water and a stable climate), Liberty (from foreign powers), and the Pursuit of (sustainable) Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed, but also owing a responsibility to the to-be-governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter it, and to institute new Governmental Principles and Forms as to them shall seem most likely to effect the Safety and Happiness of their and future generations. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Government Principles long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown that the common good has been more disposed to be subordinated to private interests by Governmental activism. But when a long train of externali[...]

The Prius Has Gone Mainstream [Venture Again]


There have been many indications building up over the last year or so, but it is now clear to me that the Prius has gone thoroughly mainstream. Toyota announced recently that they have now sold over 1,000,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide. This still represents a tiny fraction of the cars sold over the same time period -- probably less than 2% even in recent high-volume years -- but it is a significant milestone nonetheless. Toyota made the move last year to broaden the Prius technology into other models, and branded the system Hybrid Synergy Drive. The long-standing California incentive that allowed Prius drivers to access the H.O.V. lane even when driving alone has now expired. Existing stickers are still valid, but no new ones will be issued. (My colleague and fellow blogger unfortunately discovered this the hard way.) The only way to get access to this privilege now is to purchase a used low-emissions vehicle with a sticker. And supply has finally caught up with demand. For years (especially in my hometown of San Francisco) interested buyers were met with long waiting lists and the prospect of paying the dealer above sticker price. But earlier this year, Toyota began introducing incentives to move inventory, as all other manufacturers must do. And we even can now see Prius televsion commercials for the first time (below). But I am now truly convinced that the Prius has crossed the chasm (or perhaps jumped the shark.) Twice last week on my long San Francisco-to[...]

Excited about a video game again [Dav-generated Content]


Yeah... seems like forever that I've been excited about a game coming up... Things have been pretty quiet on the video gaming side for the last 2 years at Dav's, except for a short-lived DanceDanceRevolution craze and some Katamari Damacy action, plus the occasional NHL2K5 game (still...) ...and I don't even own any of the new generation consoles. But now it looks like it's all about to change :

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My favorite toys growing up. I know there's a movie coming out soon. Should be quite the CGI orgy... Hope it's good !

Travel pics from the Western Balkans [Dav-generated Content]


Hey all, just a quick word to tell anyone intersted (ie. my dad !) that I've started to upload pictures from my trip to France-Albania-Montenegro-Bosnia-Serbia on my Flickr page, with some comments and a bit of bilingual storytelling thrown in. Latest pics are from Tirana, the colourful, smelly and beautifully chaotic capital of Albania.Loli is still backpacking in Serbia and regularly updating her own Flickr page. Latest include a quick visit to Kosovo, of all places...Now... back to board meeting agendas, cap tables and freemium revenue models...and, why not, a Monday AM song ! (some awesome klezmer...)Cracow Klezmer Band - Ets Hayyim (The Tree Of Life).mp3[...]

Albania & Montenegro [Dav-generated Content]


Dobar Dan everyone !So here I am blogging from some basement in Mostar, in Hercegovina, a few yards away from the legendary old bridge that was destroyed during the war 14 years ago... only to be beautifully rebuilt. The Sarajevsko pivo i'm holding is cold and refreshing. So far the trip has been a blast. Upon returning I will post a whole lot of pictures on my Flickr page and try to give more details on the whole trip, but I promised my mom I would give a quick update... so here goes...After a quick week-end in Paris where I met up with Loli (who I now lovingly call Ljolja) and had a nice dinner on the Seine with our hosts Fannie and François, we caught a flight for Bari, Italy, where we had some tasty red wine and then immediately embarked on a ferry for Durres, Albania. Albania is still very much off the beaten path as far as tourism is concerned and during our time there we had the very pleasant feeling of being the only non-locals roaming the streets.The country struggled out of a very closed-off 45 year dictatorship in the early 90s and still today is the second poorest country in Europe (Moldavia... oh dear...) and apparently the least visited. It was still relatively easy for us to travel between cities and find nice, cheap accomodation and meals. And friendly people, except for very mean barber. By the way, the LEK is one currency that trades favorably for our Canadian $, but their bank[...]

Carbon Credits and Israeli Daycare [Venture Again]


I apologize to my loyal reader for a long absence. But really, Who Has Time For This? This week KQED's Forum produced an hour on workplace ethics, and toward the end of the show discussed the unusual behavior that can result from mixing ethical and economic incentives. The show discussed the oft-cited study of fines imposed by an Israeli day care center on parents who came late for their children. Surprisingly, the rate and duration of late arrivals increased markedly. The new hypothesis is that without fines, parents felt they were violating a social contract by being late and were reasonably responsible. Once fines were imposed, parents were likely to feel the entire social cost was captured in the "price" of the fine. They now made more purely economic decisions, being late much more frequently. Are there any lessons to draw from this in the growing market for carbon offsets? Increasingly consumers are buying offsets from services like Terrapass, Carbon Fund and NativeEnergy. But are these offsets appropriately priced, and could this early market have adverse consequences on consumers' overall behavior? Naturally, the first offsets are the cheapest. But in this ethics-linked market, the first to buy them are likely among the highest emitters of carbon, who could potentially do the most to limit their footprint without dramatic economic harm. Instead, the[...]