2016-12-10T08:30:00-08:00Armed with an array of body paint and brushes, Kay Pike can transform into any superhero or villain. The Canadian cosplayer paints on her own body to make herself look like 2D characters from TV and comics, including Marvel's Spider-Man and Cheetara from ThunderCats. In January, Pike first walked Business Insider through her trippy work when she was getting started. In the 11 months since, she has amassed over 500,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook, and has done bodypaint work for several prominent companies, including Disney. Take a look below.SEE ALSO: A serene green was named the official color of 2017 because the world is 'very stressful and very tense' Pike has been a skilled painter since she was young, but she started cosplay body-painting (or "cospainting" as she calls it) in December 2015. She sharpened her craft with the help of fellow cospainter Lianne Moseley, she tells BI. She now live-streams her process twice per week on Twitch. Below is her rendition of She-Hulk. Instagram Embed:http://instagram.com/p/BAOA2PWy6WN/embed/Width: 658px Marvel's She-Hulk. Pike uses a water-based face paint and a special makeup to help it stick. She needs 10 to 15 bottles of paint to create just one character. Instagram Embed:http://instagram.com/p/_8CRfhy6fo/embed/Width: 658px DC Comics' Two-Face. See the rest of the story at Business Insider [...]
Your iPhone has a lot of hidden features you may not know about, like customizing vibration alerts or using your camera flash as a texting notification.
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2016-12-10T08:12:42-08:00Google's search algorithm has been changed over the last year to increasingly reward search results based on how likely you are to click on them, multiple sources tell Business Insider. As a result, fake news now often outranks accurate reports on higher quality websites. The problem is so acute that Google's autocomplete suggestions now actually predict that you are searching for fake news even when you might not be, as Business Insider noted on December 5. There is a common misconception that the proliferation of fake news is all Facebook's fault. Although Facebook does have a fake news problem, Google's ranking algorithm does not take cues from social shares, likes, or comments when it is determining which result is the most relevant, search experts tell Business Insider. The changes at Google took place separately, experts say, to the fake news problem occurring on Facebook. The changes to the algorithm now move links up Google's search results page if Google detects that more people are clicking on them, search experts tell Business Insider. Joost De Valk, founder of Yoast, a search consultancy that has worked for The Guardian, told Business Insider: "All SEOs [search engine optimisation experts] agree that they include relative click-through rate (CTR) from the search results in their ranking patterns. For a given 10 results page, they would expect a certain CTR for position five, for instance. If you get more clicks than they’d expect, thus a higher CTR, they’ll usually give you a higher ranking and see if you still outperform the other ones," Search marketing consultant Rishi Lakhani said: "Though Google doesn't like to admit it, it does use CTR (click through rate) as a factor. Various tests I and my contemporaries have run indicate that. The hotter the subject line the better the clicks, right?" It is well known that Google includes user-behaviour signals to evaluate its ranking algorithms. Google has an obvious interest in whether users like its search results. Its ranking engineers look at live traffic frequently to experiment with different algorithms. User behavior signals have the added advantage of being difficult to model, or reproduce, by unscrupulous web publishers who want to game the algorithm. The unfortunate side effect is that user-behaviour signals also reward fake news. Previously, Google's ranking relied more heavily on how authoritative a page is, and how authoritative the incoming links to that page are. If a page at Oxford University links to an article published by Harvard, Google would rank that information highly in its display of search results. Now, the ranking of a page can also be boosted by how often it's clicked on even if it does not have incoming links from authoritative sources, according to Larry Kim, founder and chief technology officer of WordStream, a search marketing consultancy. The result of all this is that "user engagement" has become a valuable currency in the world of fake news. And people who believe in conspiracy theories — the kind of person who spends hours searching for "proof" that Hillary Clinton is a child abuser, for instance — are likely to be highly engaged with the fake content they are clicking on. Thus even months after a popular fake news story has been proven to be fake, it will still rank higher than the most relevant result showing that it's false, if a large enough volume of people are clicking on it and continuing to send engagement signals back to Google's algorithm. Here some examples. President Obama has never signed an order banning the US national anthem, and yet ... And Hillary Clinton has never sold weapons to ISIS, but ... De Valk says: "I think the reason fake news ranks is the same reason why it shows up in Google’s autocomplete: they’ve been taking more and more user signals into their algorithm. If something resonates with users, it’s more likely to get clicks. If you’re the number three result for a query, [...]
2016-12-10T08:10:00-08:00Evercore, the boutique bank, is one to watch on Wall Street. The firm has hired John Weinberg, part of a Goldman Sachs dynasty, to be executive chairman. It has added a head of activist defence, made hires in Europe, and the share price is up almost 30% in the last 12 months. And in a presentation on Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs financial services conference, Evercore CEO Ralph Schlosstein claimed bragging rights in the most Wall Street way possible: Our top staff make more money than yours. In a presentation setting out the firm's goal to become "the most elite independent investment banking advisory firm globally," Schlosstein said that productivity per advisory senior managing director is now ahead of the average productivity of all of its public independent peers. The firm has 81 advisory senior managing directors, and they generated $13.3 million per person on average for the last twelve months ending the third quarter 2016. For comparison, the full-year high is $14.8 million, which the firm achieved in 2007. The set of public independent peers that Evercore is comparing itself to doesn't include Centerview, which may well give it a run for its money. Still, it's quite a statistic. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Bernie Madoff explains in rare interview from prison how he rationalized his crimes [...]
If there's a giant asteroid expected to hit Earth, NASA and FEMA are responsible for getting the news out. These two agencies have performed multiple doomsday test runs to make sure that, if the day does come, we're prepared to detect and hopefully prevent destruction via asteroid.
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2016-12-10T08:00:00-08:00Anytime Fitness has been called the fastest-growing franchise business ever, zooming to 3,500 clubs by the end of 2016 including 1,000 international locations, all in 14 years. CEO Chuck Runyon doesn't know for sure if the company's phenomenal growth is an all-time record breaker for the franchise industry, but he does tell Business Insider: "In 14 years to be in 29 countries on 5 continents is really almost unheard of. I promise you, we will find a way to be the only franchise in history to be on all seven continents. Africa is coming. We have some connections to a base in Antarctica. We will donate the franchise and equipment to a base down there to make it," he says. The company offers 24/7 health clubs that are all meat and potatoes, with a lot of tech, but very little fluff. They include personal training, cardio equipment, weights. Instead of live, scheduled classes, they have virtual, customized on-demand classes held in a special room equipped with a large screen. Members can do a yoga, spinning, cardio class whenever they want. (None of these clubs have a pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, racket courts). But at about $35 a month in most cases, it costs less than the big clubs. Plus, any member can use any of the 3,500 clubs worldwide when they travel, again 24/hours a day. While Runyon wouldn't release financial details of Anytime Fitness, a private company, he did tell us that across all of its clubs, it is bringing in in "excess of $1 billion a year" this year. For instance, one of his franchisees who owns 30 clubs in on the East Coast is expecting revenue of over $18 million in 2016. And almost $6M of that from is from a new personal training model Anytime Fitness has been piloting, Runyon says. The app factor The model is based on an app that combines classic do-it-yourself exercise (workouts with instructional videos), with a real human coach, who texts you, encourages you and monitors your workouts through the app. (Scroll down to see the app.) Anytime Fitness acquired the app, previously called PumpOne about a year ago from its developer, Craig Schlossberg for an undisclosed sum. Most Anytime Fitness clubs will charge around $20 a month for coaching via the app plus whatever fees the personal trainer typically charges for in-person workouts. In this way, a personal trainer isn't just about counting your reps as you lift weights during a 1:1 session, but helping you all day long to eat right, stay on track, not skip workouts, meet your short-term and long term goals. Business Insider tried the app with coach Brad Elliott. It was like texting all day with a friend who's main goal is to make sure you get fit. "There are plenty of do-it-yourself apps," Runyon says."But the vast majority of people do not have the inner discipline to hold themselves accountable without a personal trainer." The app "amplifies the relationship of client and trainer, like having a healthy angel on your shoulder. You’re going to eat healthier, get your steps in, get your workout in that day. It’s still tied to a human at your club, who knows you, cares about you and wants to help you see progress," Runyon adds. From McDonald's to a 40-acre headquarters Runyon, age 47, grew up of "modest" economic means, he says. His mom was the manager of a McDonald's when he was a teenager and that's how he learned about the franchise business model. That same McDonald's is still in business and located about one mile away from his current office, a beautiful 40-acre campus in Woodbury, Minnesota. "I got my start in the McDonald's franchise system, here I am 30 years later, on the same street but our own franchise, which is growing by leaps and bounds. We’re growing faster than McDonald's right now," he laughs. A real Horatio Alger story Neither he nor his business partner David Mortensen finis[...]
2016-12-10T07:32:00-08:00Betterment, a startup that provides automated investing in index funds, is asking President-elect Donald Trump to leave in place a rule that's meant to protect Americans' retirement money from conflicted financial advisors. The Department of Labor's fiduciary rule, which takes effect in April, mandates that all financial advisors serve in their client's best interest rather than their own. It is aimed at those who oversee retirement money. Without the rule, some financial advisors can put their client's retirement money in funds and other financial products that serves them over their client's interests. Financial advisors can be paid fees for directing client money toward funds, and they could recommend funds that pay more. These advisors are following the so-called suitability standard, whereby they only have to prove that an investment was a suitable choice. The rule is meant to address that conflict, making it harder for advisors to not put their client's interests first. In Monday's print edition of the Wall Street Journal, Betterment took out a full-page ad, addressed to Trump: "Investing can be made intentionally complicated, and salesmen are clever. Left to its own devices, the investment industry for decades sold bad products to Americans. Many firms make hidden money selling funds and investments. They charge confusing fees that investors can’t see. They push investments that are in their best interest — not in the best interests of investors. The Dept. of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which protects Americans from these bad practices, is under attack. This isn’t your average lobbying against regulation. It’s an attack against the biggest benefit for retirement savers in 40 years — since the deregulation of broker commissions brought down costs for everyone, and since the introduction of the 401(k)." ... This rule is worth your time and attention, and worth your support. We hope that you will stand on the side of America’s 75 million retirement savers, not the firms with deep pockets who are lobbying you to protect their bottom line." Betterment rolled out its first ad in the New York Times' Sunday edition (below). "Do you trust your money manager?" the ad read. "Maybe you shouldn't." The fiduciary rule is expected to help Wall Street firms that provide index funds, which are generally cheaper and easier to prove in the best interest of retirement savers than actively-managed mutual funds. Betterment thus would stand to benefit financially from keeping the rule in place, since it provides index funds. Indeed, Betterment has been a vocal supporter of the rule for some time. Last year, the firm added a public comment in support of the rule. Betterment took issue with a prominent criticism of the rule – that it would make those who advise on retirement accounts less likely to service lower-balance accounts, and that owners of such low-balance accounts wouldn't be able to access financial advice: "We take issue with this misleading characterization of the status quo," Betterment wrote at the time. "The implication that 'suitability'-governed salespeople are giving investors 'advice' deserves forceful and repeated debunking. Conflicts of interest should be prominently disclosed, and investors should be made fully aware of how their service providers are actually compensated." Other organizations like the AARP, which backs retirees, have supported the rule. Trump thus far has not made any public comment on the rule. However, industry analysts believe the rules are likely to be watered down under a Trump presidency. "We expect the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary standard rulemaking to be softened in 2017, but our sense is that it is unlikely to be fully reversed for a number of reasons," Compass Point said in a note in November. Many of the companies [...]
2016-12-10T07:30:00-08:00Remember when Google announced Google Home? Yeah, you probably don't — it was back in May at the company's annual developer event, Google I/O. I remember it distinctly, both because I was covering the event and because I was so excited by the product. An Amazon Echo-esque speaker/mic combination, powered by Google? That's literally exactly what I wanted. My only hesitation with buying the Echo — other than the whole "voluntarily buying an internet-connected listening device for my home" — was the lack of deep Google integration. Google is my internet backbone. I use Google Contacts to move my contacts from phone to phone, I use Google Messenger for text messaging, Google Voice for work, Google Keep for notes. We use Google Calendar here at Business Insider for meetings, and I use it in my personal life as well — the same goes for Google Docs. I chat with colleagues from other publications throughout the day using Google Hangouts (sorry, boss!) So when Google Home was announced, I was ready for it. The product re-emerged five months later alongside Google's new Pixel phone, packed with Google Assistant and ready to ship in November. I immediately plunked down $140.45 (with tax — it costs $129), and received a unit a few weeks later. It had problems right from the start. I downloaded the Home app to my Nexus 5X and expected a seamless experience. Not only am I using an Android phone, but I'm using an Android phone made by Google. It's not the new Pixel, but it came out in 2015 — not exactly eons ago. What I encountered was a frustrating setup process that only worked when the app seemingly felt like working. Over and over, the WiFi broke, rendering the device entirely useless. And if it's not connected to your home WiFi network, you can't do anything with Google Home — no Google requests, no music, nothing. This happened repeatedly across two weeks. I have a standard home WiFi network, with a highly-rated dual-band Asus router and an Arris Surfboard modem (that I own/don't rent from my ISP). I live in a small-ish Brooklyn apartment — the Home sits about 15 feet from my router. At any point, there are a maximum of six wireless devices in my home connected to the internet (and, more commonly, two or three). I even contacted Google's press line for help (the company also sent me a review unit, which I experienced the same problems with) to no avail. When Google Home does work, it's worryingly limited. It can't set reminders ("Sorry, create reminder is not yet supported."). It can't give directions or transit warnings ("Sorry, I can't give directions for public transit yet."). It seemingly has no idea that I have a personal or work calendar ("Sorry, I'm not sure how to help with that yet.") This is all stuff that Google Now does on my phone right now. In fact, Google Now is part of why I continue to use Android. Every time it tells me something useful before I even realized I needed to know it — my boarding gate for tomorrow's flight, for instance, and then if there's traffic on the way to the airport — I marvel at its usefulness. Google Now is a strong argument for an entire phone OS. Instead, Google Home is powered by a new AI assistant from Google called, "Google Assistant." The sell point with Google Assistant is it can do conversation-like stuff. Ask it, "Ok Google, how far is Mars from Earth?" and it gives you the answer. Then you can ask, "How about Pluto?" Presumably, if all goes perfectly, Google Assistant will keep the conversation going with an answer, passively understanding all the context in between. But in reality, this is something I rarely use. I need Google Home to do stuff for me — set appointments in my calendar, warn me that my train is going to be late so I should leave earlier, te[...]
For a few months, iPhone 6s users have been complaining about their iPhones shutting down when there is plenty of battery left. Recently, Apple announced a battery replacement program for users whose phones were manufactured between September and October 2015. While that may cover most of the users dealing with this issue, some claim that, although their phone is not part of the recall, their iPhones still shut down unexpectedly.
Apple has finally come out and said what's causing the issue and what it's doing to address the problem on all iPhone 6s smartphones.
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2016-12-10T07:30:00-08:00Swiss auto manufacturer Rinspeed has revealed a truly crazy concept car that will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show that runs January 5-8. Rinspeed essentially jammed the car with every tech feature the auto industry has been talking about this year, from self-driving tech to gesture-controlled displays that can tell you when the traffic light will turn green. The concept car will also make an appearance at the Detroit Auto Show that begins January 8, but for now we only have renderings and a teaser video to draw from. Scroll down for the features that have been teased:SEE ALSO: The 25 coolest concept cars revealed this year so far Called the Oasis, the concept car is an electric vehicle that can be owned or shared with others through a ride-hailing app. Rinspeed teased in its video that people can see the number of cars available and then choose which one to hail based on the passenger already inside. The app looks a bit like Tinder, in that users flip through each passenger's profile and literally "heart" the passenger they're most keen on traveling with. RAW Embed Once you select what Oasis car to get in based on the passenger, you'll be greeted by a light display on the ground. RAW Embed See the rest of the story at Business Insider [...]
2016-12-10T07:27:38-08:00One of the biggest critics of electric cars also runs one of the worlds largest automakers. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has as much as begged customers to avoid buying his electric vehicles (EVs) because he loses so much money on them. Demand for EVs isn't just weak — it's practically non-existent. Globally, electric cars have captured only 1% of the market. Meanwhile, in the US alone, new sales records have been set as pickups trucks and SUVs powered by gas motors have experienced a massive resurgence in popularity. It's not like the world's carmakers are against EVs. They've all seen Tesla make a business out of them, really from nothing, in just a decade. The issue is that they shouldn't want to commit to building and marketing cars that consumers don't want. And make no mistake about it, consumers are not showing runaway EV interest. There have now been perfectly viable, affordable, and technologically sophisticated electric cars in the market for the better part of ten years. And sales haven't improved to the extent that a carmaker would normally think about spending the billions necessary to develop new fleets of EVs. And yet, the EVs just keep on coming. Now, even Marchionne is changing his tune, as Bloomberg reported. The carmaker will reveal an all-electric version of its Pacifica minivan at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, wrote Tommaso Ebhardt and Jamie Butters. "'A key theme for 2017 will be the increased availability of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean told reporters. 'This provides a dilemma for automakers as they sacrifice traditional cash-cow internal combustion engine sales for expensive and lower-margin electric cars, necessary to meet onerous new emissions legislation.'" All these new EVs look cool and point toward a future in which the old-school gas motor will be a museum piece. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of consumers, the new wave of EVs are largely science fiction. Increasingly stringent new fuel-economy regulations are indeed driving the development of EVs, rather than natural market demand. The automakers derisively refer to these cars as "compliance vehicles" and undertake them only to be able to continue selling their profit drivers. Okay, that's not entirely why they explore EVs — they want to patent new propulsion technologies so that they don't get left in the dust if there is a big breakthrough that dramatically shifts that market. The big car companies are hoping that a Donald Trump administration will give them a break on fuel-economy and emissions regulations. It remains to be seen if that will happen. But until then, the EVs will keep on coming, even if nobody wants to buy them.SEE ALSO: Jaguar's F-PACE is the most beautiful luxury SUV money can buy Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Tesla reveals how your self-driving car sees the road [...]
2016-12-10T07:00:00-08:00Picture an office. You're likely imagining a drab cubicle farm or a jumble of desks crammed together. However, there are some pretty incredible offices out there. At Business Insider, we've gone on numerous tours of amazing workspaces around New York City — including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Spotify. Here's a glimpse of some of the cool workspaces we've visited: Jacquelyn Smith, Jessica Mai, Courtney Verrill, Emmie Martin, and Tanza Loudenback contributed reporting.SEE ALSO: A look inside Kickstarter's Brooklyn office, where employees enjoy perks like a secret rooftop garden, coffee on tap, and plenty of dogs DON'T MISS: A look inside Facebook's New York office, where employees of the $280 billion company enjoy virtual reality games and an in-house pastry chef Facebook's Manhattan office is filled with amazing artwork created by both resident artists and employees. These works give the space a creative vibe. Celebrity sightings aren't uncommon here. If you look closely at the office's "wall," you'll see many famous autographs. Employees also enjoy numerous perks, from VR tests to gourmet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. See the full Facebook office tour » See the rest of the story at Business Insider [...]
The Dyson Supersonic hair dryer retails for $399.99. As one of the most expensive personal hair dryers on the market, we were eager to test it out.
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2016-12-10T07:00:00-08:00As CEO Jeff Bezos likes to say, Amazon still thinks and acts "like a startup," despite being one of the largest companies in the world. That startup-like mindset was on full display again this week, when Amazon rolled out a video for its first physical grocery store, Amazon Go. While Amazon Go's cashier-less technology may have grabbed all the headlines, the real surprise is the startup-like approach Amazon is taking with its grocery retail business. Amazon may be the first company to bring the product management skills common to tech startups to a brick-and-mortar retail store. Here are a few examples: MVP (minimal viable product): Amazon Go is starting with a single location in downtown Seattle and it's not carrying a whole lot of products (at least at first). It will only offer ready-made food, staples like bread and milk and snacks. Beta testing: Amazon Go is currently in "beta" mode, opening up to only Amazon employees above a certain level. The company is likely to add/change services and iterate its model as it collects more feedback, before its official launch in early 2017. A/B testing: Multiple reports suggest Amazon is also about to open a drive-thru grocery store in a Seattle suburb. We have heard from insiders that Amazon is going to test these two different formats simultaneously before deciding to go on a full-scale roll out. First-mover advantage: To make Amazon Go cashier-less, Amazon says it's using machine learning technology. Amazon likely lags behind some cloud competitors like Google in that area, but it's going to market faster than others. "Few outside observers think that Amazon is Google's match when it comes to machine learning, but Amazon has a big advantage in actually building products in which it can leverage the technology that it has," tech pundit Ben Thompson writes. Data collection: Amazon Go is designed to track every movement and purchase of its customers. By making every purchase go through the customer's Amazon account, it can collect and analyze every small detail of the store, and make smart decisions based on it. Type 1 vs. Type 2 decisions Amazon Go's thinking is best-reflected in the company's annual shareholder letter published earlier this year. In the letter, Bezos calls for the company to keep a startup mentality, while avoiding a "one-size-fits-all" decision making process. "One common pitfall for large organizations – one that hurts speed and inventiveness – is 'one-size-fits-all' decision making," Bezos writes in the letter. To make his point, Bezos goes on to give two kinds of decision-making that affect how he thinks about risks: Type 1 decisions: Not reversible, and you have to be very careful making them. Type 2 decisions: They're like walking through a door — if you don't like the decision, you can always go back. Based on what we've seen with Amazon's grocery store strategy, it looks like Bezos considers it a "Type 2" decision, in which he can go back and change things as he goes. By not making it a "Type 1" decision, Amazon can move fast and minimize the risk, preventing the company from wasting time and resources. The key is to make sure you don't confuse the two, especially as the company grows in size. Bezos writes: "As organizations get larger, there seems to be a tendency to use the heavy-weight Type 1 decision-making process on most decisions, including many Type 2 decisions. The end result of this is slowness, unthoughtful risk aversion, failure to experiment sufficiently, and consequently diminished invention. We'll have to figure out how to fight that tendency."SEE ALSO: Amazon’s new grocery store is missing o[...]
2016-12-10T07:00:00-08:00Too much sugar is terrible for our health, and most of us overindulge daily. There are alternatives, of course — aspartame-sweetened diet drinks, sucralose-stuffed snacks, stevia-infused protein powders. But not everyone is a fan of fake sugar. Some cringe at the notoriously too-sweet taste; others cite the spotty scientific consensus on its safety. Enter the international food giant Nestlé, which announced last week that it had come up with a way of altering the chemical structure of sugar so that less is needed to provide the same honeyed flavor. The result, according to the company? Fewer calories, same taste. "Imagine if your favorite chocolate bar tasted just as good, but with much less sugar," the company wrote in its release. "This could soon be a reality, thanks to a major breakthrough by Nestlé scientists." But while the development sounds promising, it might not be enough to make a measurable difference in our diets. Why? Most of the sugar we eat doesn't come from candy If you have a sweet tooth that prefers candy like Smarties, KitKat bars, and chocolate chips, this new product might sound like great news. Less sugar in your candy means you're consuming fewer calories when you indulge. "It is sugar, but it is assembled differently so it can disassemble easily in your mouth with less going into your gastrointestinal tract," Dr. Stefan Catsicas, Nestlé's chief technology officer, recently told The New York Times. But what if most of the added sugar in your diet didn't come from candy? What if it came from things like baked goods, snack bars, and soda? Unfortunately, the latter scenario is the one that most aptly describes the diets of most Americans. According to the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the calories that Americans are getting from added sugar come from sweetened beverages like soda and processed, "grain-based" desserts like breads and cakes. Only about 6% of Americans' calories from added sugar come from candy, according to the US Department of Agriculture and the CDC. But Nestlé's new sugar product, at least as it is currently designed, cannot be mixed into sugary beverages, and the company has not discussed plans to add it to grain-based foods. "It is not something that can be mixed into your coffee" or used to sweeten soda, Catsicas told The Times. The company is trying to patent its new technology and hoping to introduce it as early as 2018, so for now it is not releasing any precise details. But Nestlé said it planned to use the product to reduce the sugar content of its candy (or "confectionery products," as the company calls it) by as much as 40%. That means the new product might not do much for most of us in terms of reducing the sugar in our diets. The real best way to cut back on sugar So what's the best way to cut back on the sugar we eat? Cut back on the foods where most of that sugar comes from, Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University (no ties to Nestlé the company), told Business Insider. "The issue with sugar is how much," Nestle said, "so reducing sugar intake from sodas and grain-based desserts is a good idea." This "grain-based desserts" category includes things like packaged muffins, pastries, and other pre-made items (in the US, many of these are disguised as "breakfast" foods). A Starbucks "Bountiful Blueberry Muffin" for example, has 29 grams of sugar and 350 calories. And while soda is notoriously high in sugar, sweetened juices and other beverages (such as everyone's breakfast favorite, orange juic[...]
2008-11-05T18:58:47-08:00The 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. [...]
2008-11-04T19:08:24-08:00It'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)
2008-11-02T12:01:58-08:00I 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)
2008-10-31T21:11:10-07:00One 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.
2008-10-30T09:34:59-07:00I 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. [...]
2008-10-29T20:23:26-07:00I'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 :-) [...]
2008-10-29T09:51:04-07:00For 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. [...]
2008-10-23T11:11:37-07:00Congratulations Munjal and the rest of the like.com 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 like.com 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.
2008-10-22T11:16:58-07:00TechCrunch reports on portfolio company Like.com'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 Like.com'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.
2008-10-15T14:44:00-07:00Kudos to Apple for putting out an environmental report on their new Macbooks (via earth2tech).
2008-10-15T13:00:15-07:00Last 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...
2008-10-12T22:35:38-07:00In 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...
2008-10-09T14:08:29-07:00"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..."
2008-10-01T19:01:08-07:00I 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)
2008-09-29T14:42:10-07:00Doesn'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)
2008-09-29T14:32:35-07:00My friend Eric Ries, co-founder/CTO of IMVU, has a great blog that's a must-read for entrepreneurs: here's the feedburner link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/startup/lessons/learned 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: http://feeds.feedburner.com/startup/lessons/learned
Subscribe now! This will save you time, money, headaches and ulcers ...
2008-09-26T16:06:27-07:00http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/luigi.zingales/Why_Paulson_is_wrong.pdf 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 herehttp://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/luigi.zingales/Why_Paulson_is_wrong.pdfHere 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 [...]
2008-09-22T16:51:34-07:00Congratulations 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 [...]
2008-09-18T17:40:16-07:00I 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)
2008-09-09T23:02:19-07:00Here is the video that says it all
Here is the video that says it all
2008-08-29T17:04:40-07:00This 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...
2008-07-30T09:02:30-07:00Cuil, 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.
2008-07-29T14:12:53-07:00Mashable'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?
2008-07-29T13:22:05-07:00Back 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!]
2008-07-27T09:29:00-07:00I’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”.
"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…
2008-07-17T03:07:00-07:00Our data is born free, but everywhere it is in chains.
2008-07-16T23:20:41-07:00Tara 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...
2008-07-11T13:01:00-07:00I 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 Farmanfarmaianhttp://salmanff.blogspot.com/Geneva, 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,[...]
2008-07-07T17:28:08-07:00I 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:
2008-07-01T11:16:23-07:00Okay, 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,...
2008-07-01T03:34:34-07:00Moins 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)
2008-06-24T01:47:00-07:00Here 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.____________________________Notes:Thanks to David McKay’s blog for pointing me to the above paper.Also - Bold emphasis above added.[...]
2008-06-12T20:13:00-07:00I made another one http://davduf2.muxtape.com/
2008-06-02T19:29:14-07:00The first proof of the preacher himself committing the sin is my inability to do a Blog in recent weeks – shame on me for procrastinating!
2008-06-02T16:28:35-07:00Fred 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.
2008-05-27T13:05:18-07:00I'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!
2008-05-13T20:17:29-07:00It'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 :-)
2008-05-03T13:33:00-07:00As 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 s[...]
2008-05-01T09:27:02-07:00Dealmaker 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 Comedy.com - 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 rea[...]
2008-04-21T05:47:29-07:00Novaled, 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)
2008-04-20T12:30:00-07:00Following 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 gov[...]
2008-04-15T13:45:00-07:00“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 [...]
2008-04-06T01:48:00-07:00“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[...]
2008-04-04T07:04:00-07:00Muxtapes are the new Scrabulous. So I made one. davduf.muxtape.com
2008-04-03T09:30:14-07:00Reims, 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)
2008-03-29T03:09:05-07:00Golden 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...
2008-03-19T11:48:56-07:00Novaled, 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)
2008-03-12T14:39:07-07:00Les 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)
2008-03-08T13:22:34-08:00Emission 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)
2008-03-02T18:13:28-08:00So here is something new for interested entrepreneurs.
2008-02-27T11:26:39-08:00Thierry 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)
2008-02-21T19:34:28-08:00AND CLUES FOR A SUCCESSFUL PRESENTATION!
2008-02-15T09:34:13-08:00Citilog, 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)
2008-02-11T11:59:37-08:00Après 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)
2008-02-08T17:51:08-08:00Just 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!
2008-02-03T22:49:50-08:00A 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 o[...]
2008-02-01T07:24:03-08:00Entrepreneurship 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 e[...]
2008-01-24T06:23:00-08:00Thanks 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 "s[...]
2008-01-21T12:03:00-08:00Wow, this little "blog" of mine has been pretty quiet lately, eh ?
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:
2008-01-13T22:16:40-08:00In the recent past, we've heard grumblings of frustration from management of leading wine e-commerce player Wine.com, over the fact that many wine shops and other merchants were skirting the byzantine laws which govern the distribution and shipment of alcoholic...
2007-12-09T18:21:29-08:00In follow-up to the Podcast discussion Frank Peters, Dave Berkus and I had a couple of weeks ago (http://www.thefrankpetersshow.com/), 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 inves[...]
2007-11-30T09:54:26-08:00… 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 rec[...]
2007-11-29T14:05:14-08:00Recently, Dave Berkus, Frank Peters and yours truly participated in a round table style podcast on the the Frank Petes Show -- click here to listen. http://www.thefrankpetersshow.com/
2007-11-21T16:36:26-08:00Just 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...
2007-11-06T22:21:50-08:00With 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 S[...]
2007-11-02T17:37:05-07:00This 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 effectiv[...]
2007-10-30T14:19:00-07:00On 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. [...]
2007-10-23T04:23:32-07:00For 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)
2007-10-13T12:15:25-07:00GigaOm'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[...]
2007-10-11T15:37:26-07:00Recently 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...
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:
2007-10-04T15:58:03-07:00In 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[...]
2007-10-04T15:57:35-07:00Last 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 worke[...]
2007-10-04T15:56:57-07:00The 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 [...]
2007-10-04T15:56:07-07:00There 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 tha[...]
2007-10-04T15:55:19-07:00There 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 Bootstrap1- 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. [...]
2007-10-04T15:54:35-07:00There 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 ver[...]
2007-10-04T15:53:44-07:00The 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 th[...]
2007-10-04T15:52:48-07:00Speaking 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.
2007-10-04T15:52:09-07:00These 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 peo[...]