Saturday, May 17, 2008

TieCON 2008 - Day 2: May 17, 2008

The morning started without coffee (I arrived a bit too late for breakfast, but why won't you at least keep the coffee stalls around on a Saturday morning at 9 am) -- but as I stumbled into the auditorium -- I see this Tesla roadstar next to stage and Elon Musk talking about his life in the fast track of entrepreneurship. Maybe I didn't really need the coffee ;-)

What do Internet, Energy and Outer-Space Have in Common? Big Ideas or Elon Musk?
Elon Musk, Chairman Tesla Motors, Solar City, Space-X With Mike Malone, Technology Writer

If you feel there is a big problem out there to be solved, no matter how daunting or crazy, as an entrepreneur you should at least try to go solve it. Early in his career (or life, this guy wrote his first software program at 10, and more astonishing is the fact he *sold* his first program at 12) -- anyway, 3 big opportunity (or underexplored areas) for him were Internet, space exploration, and energy. By 36, he's built companies to address all 3 - sick!

What't next? Elon has a side bet with Mike Malone that he'll get a man on mars by 2030. Elon in a softspoken way says he's got a technology roadmap that is more or less on track for the deadline.

KEYNOTE: Sustaining Entrepreneurship in Biotech and Its Global Impact
John C. Martin, PhD, President and CEO, Gilead Sciences

I have to admit my brain shuts off when I look at powerpoint slides with lots of text, specially when it is an industry I have little understanding -- sorry Mr. Martin

Charging Ahead to Build Global Businesses:
Vivek Paul, Partner, Texas Pacific Group

  • Digital world -- Chris Anderson talks about abundance, and in the real world, we are running to shortages everywhere..
    • We are running out of oil
    • We are running out of food in SE asia - there are food riots showing up
    • There is water shortage, neighboring countries are starting to fight over water. The latin root for the words "river" and "rival" is the same -- perhaps meaning a river gives rise to rivalry
  • Successful global businesses are about addressing these challenges
Real Deal About Consumer Platforms and the Opportunities They Create:
Chamath Palihapitiya, VP Product Marketing, Facebook

  • Barriers to building a business - money, technology distribution - are being lowered
  • 7 OSI Layers (physical, data, network, transport, session, presentation, application) -- the application layer was the often ignored one since its the most abstract and most constrained
  • Today - instead of OSI layers -- we have something like the LAMP stack -- enabling a few more to succeed at teh application layer
  • Challenges of building on LAMP - standards, interopeability, cost are addressed, but distribution, identity and engagement still remain as an afterthought
  • Social Stack
    • 1 - Distribution
      • should not be gated by a company
      • should be in a level playing field
      • is all about the social graph
      • improvement in communication technology increases the amount of info shared between individuals, and also makes sharing a passive activity a la facebook where my activities are feeds to my friends
      • as long as my experience is genuine and meaningful, I will be rewarded with automatic distribution by the social graph
      • e.g. iLike -- 1 million users in 4 days
    • 2 - Identity
      • Universal single sign-on
      • Site or service-specific identity establishment is increasingly repetitive and redundant
      • Identity = trust and authenticity
      • Facebook photo applicaiton has more users than photobucket, flickr, etc. combined, same with calendar
    • 3 - Engagement
      • Engaging Behaviors
      • The perspective on any activity (or application) changes when you add the aspect of sharing it with your friends
        • stand-alone music app or listening/sharing music
        • stand-alone photo-editing or creating a photo album together with friends
    • Challenge: how to build an application that has the awareness of the social aspect
      • e.g. expedia vs trip advisor
  • Facebook makes $250k grants to create new applications without asking for equity
Note to self: what is the cross-over possibility of BI with social network? Isn't the act of building/cultivating intelligence from numbers more effective in a social context. If you are staring at a chart or numbers on your own trying to decipher its implications -- versus if you can share the same chart/numbers with a larger group of friends/colleagues -- doesn't it help you come to more effective insights? Deciphering intelligence is a "social" event -- i.e. at a minimum, a group discussion around numbers is needed -- current BI paradigm doesn't explicitly support that. They are more about better visualization, patter recognition, automated triggers, etc. -- but they leave the "group deciphering" part up to the user -- i.e. they will email the link or screenshot to colleagues, or call a meeting with colleagues with a powerpoint -- to talk about the numbers.

But what if the group is not at the same place? What if a stat professor or a business analyst in Berkeley wants to involve or talk over the numbers with all his/her "friends" in the leading stat professors everywhere from Vienna to Mumbai to Barcelona to Boston -- if a BI tool enabled this social context -- wouldn't that make the process more effective?

We in the BI practice often bemoan the fact that except for a few "power users", getting true adoption of a BI application -- isn't part of it attributable to the fact that we as BI application developers often ignore this "discussion of numbers" part of the exercise? If you enable it as a social activity -- help users not only see the numbers but also discuss it -- how does that help adoption?

Social Entrepreneurship- Extending For-Profit Concepts to Social Businesses

Can't believe I missed most of this one. Maybe an indicator that while I really care about social entrepreneurship, it is often getting in the back-burner of my professional life because I am chasing all these things around BI

New Opportunities: Profit at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Who are the people at the BOP?
  • Jay -- Rose in Nairobi -- earns less 90 cents selling fruits on streets of nairobi - 3 kids, works with youngest one on the back
  • Dimple -- Urban slums in Dhaka and Mumbai have similar challenges
  • Kailash -- Also a problem in the US - e.g. of people in Appalachia -- where people earning $20 a day
  • Richard -- 2 mexican teenager kids left behind in Sonoma county after immigratnt parents went back to Mexico -- slept in cars, worked their way through -- eventually learned winemaking, now have their own winery Screaming Eagle
What are the aspirations of the people at BOP?
  • Dimple -- property rights - one of her first investments in Omidyar. Opportunity for landless women to purchase land. What did it mean for them? The most important thing the land provided was social capital - standing in the village, their husband less likely to abandon them, likelihood of their kids marrying into better families. Who would they pass the land to? "our sons"
  • Jay -- aspiration for vast majority in Africa -- education (after food and shelter -- which are more immediate needs, not aspirational per se)
  • Kailash -- Aspirations also have a lot to do with culture (after following Maslov's hierarchy)
  • Richard
What are the business models for BOP?
  • there are many models - public, private, franchise, public/private - how do they work?
  • Jay
    • New Globe School - franchise model for for-profit primary schools, starting in Africa
    • a typical problem - teachers don't show up for classes 50% of the time
    • Enable local entrepreneur to manage the schools with accountability
  • Dimple:
    • Omidyar network applies e-bay like marketplace philosophy for philanthropy
    • typical $3-5 million investment
    • 3 areas of investment - economic empowerment (micro-finance and sme's); technology (social empowerment); Entities empowering capitalistic market (property rights, anti-corruption)
    • e.g. property rights in Andhra pradesh - part micro-finance, part
    • e.g. Rural ICT model based on Kiosk for anything from e-governance, agri trades all the way to BPO
  • Richard - city of San Francisc0
  • Kailash
    • providing 911-like emergency services in India with improved visibility into performance measurement metrics
Charity is appropriate for distress, but if you are looking for sustainability -- you need ownership

Micro-Lending Models:
  • SKS in India: largest, fastest growing MFI in India
  • Self help-model: people form groups on their own
  • Micro finance is not a panacea, it doesn't get rid of poverty on its own - you need to add micro-insurance, remittance
  • Micro finance combined with implementation could be more effective in efficient use of the capital
Education, if well-managed, is incredibly data-rich -- which helps move towards efficiency

Public-private model
  • management has to be entirely private
  • recruitment, procurement, are not influenced by the government any means
  • but give government all the credit, so they are happy
Can you be wildly successful entrepreneur serving the BOP?
  • wasn't seen that way
  • jury still out
  • omidyar just created a SME fund with google in India, 17.5 million dollars for SME's focusing on BOP
How do you scale?
  • EMRI -- significant focus on processes and discipline to follow through; there are metrics for every little action of the organization -- and also being reviewed constantly; standardization of ambulance design, processes, training programs
  • New Global School - design for scale from the beginning
  • Prosperity enables green awareness.
Take Aways
  • Need for the best leadership for BOP enterprises
  • First -- Try to truly understand the people you are trying to serve
  • Think of BOP as a real, viable market segment
  • Decide -- do you want to contribute time or contribute money?
Musings: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Change the World
- John Wood, Founder & CEO, Room to Read

The laptop's almost running out of battery, so I hope there's enough to cover this (I should get a laptop with better battery time).
  • "I'm glad I got the book title before Bill Gates did -- since leaving Microsoft for philonthropy is becoming such a trend"
  • "Accidental Philanthropist"
  • Business Model for a Non-Profit NGO
    • Local Leadership
    • Local participation/ownership
      • challenge grants
      • local contribution
    • Be nimble and act quickly
    • Investment heavily in human capital e.g. librarian training
    • Invest heavily in monitoring and evaluation
    • Have an intense focus on results - Ballmerism: "What gets measured, gets done"
    • Make efficient use of donor dollars
  • Create a worldwide movement of "super-empowered individuals"
  • Build for Scale
    • Ballmerism: Go Big or Go Home
    • Low price empowers wide scale participation in change
  • What's the most optimistic image you can imagine?
  • Action-Oriented Optimism
John Woods is a great speaker. He had the crowd on their feet. Standing ovation. Very inspiring. Big question: how many entrepreneurs will embrace the non-profit model for social change?

All in all -- great conference -- good energy boost and a fresh global and social perspective on overall state of business.

Friday, May 16, 2008

TieCON 2008 - Day 1: May 16, 2008

This is my second year attending this crazy conference. Here're my notes:

Bill Campbell - Intuit
  • CEO's main job # 1 priority - hire, develop, and retain good people - this is what they should be thinking about it first, and always
  • Recruiting: look for people with a "few notches under their belt" , people who "understand scale", and have "headroom" (i.e. willing to learn and have capacity)
  • Integrity: "your reputation stays with you rest of your life" - build that capital
  • Focus on Process:
    • is there a structure to your 1-on-1 meetings, staff meetings?
    • mid-quarter reviews (where are we, what needs to change)
  • Focus on Product:
    • "why has marketing lost its clout?"
    • "because it forgot its first name"
    • "what is that?"
    • "product --"if you don't put product focus as #1 and care about it as such, hype ain't gonna cut it"
  • Management:
    • Don't aim for consensus - go for the best idea
    • Hardest thing for a CEO is to not be imperial and not be the smartest guy in the room
Mike Speiser, Managing Director, Sutter Hill Ventures
  • Ideas are Easy, Execution is Hard:
  • Free ideas to implement
    • Gr8
    • Personalizr
  • Reinvent *existing* markets
  • Software company mentality: can you plan for daily releases?
  • Get good PR to get acquired attention instead of focusing on direct solicitations
  • Recruiting: use linkedin to determine chemistry fit between potential hires and the company by looking at the quality of connections between you and the person you are considering to hire
E-Bazaar: IP Protection for Open Source

It is possible to leverage patent protection for open source, but more as a business process patent. Essentially you are saying that your company has a unique way of using/applying a open source product (which is trying to differentiate your support/services)

Chris Anderson: Mr. "Long Tail" :-)
  • New marketplace: scarce space = expensive distribution; long tail - abundant space = free distribution
  • What can "free" do? Internet - nationwide economy built on "free" (really?)
  • What happens when things get free? Innovation comes when you can start wasting what you'd otherwise conserve; examples:
    • waste transistors by developing GUI, web, video games
    • waste storage:
      • My 9-year old has more storage than my entire company's email server:
      • Monday morning note from IT: "Please delete old emails from Inbox because our server is full"
    • waste bandwidth:
      • Scarce bandwidth causes mass media that shoots for general appeal: e.g. Everybody Loves Raymond
      • Abundant bandwidth can address long tail needs: Everything that can be done on video will be done -- e.g. LonelyGirl15 on YouTube
  • Econ 101: "In a competitive market, price falls to the marginal cost" -- BUT what happens when the cost is zero? (software is a zero marginal cost) Everything that can be digitized, will be digitized -- and anything that can be digitized, will eventually be free
  • Taxonomy of "Free"
    • Older:
      • Cross-subsidy (razors for free but charge for blades)
      • Ad-supported (media)
    • Upcoming:
      • Freemium (upselling. old model: give away 1% to sell 99%; new model: give away 99% to sell 1%, e.g flickr vs filckr-pro)
      • Labor Exchange (consumers create something of value in exchange for free goods or services, GOOG-411)
      • Gift Economy (wikipedia, craigslist, open source)
  • Use Abundance to market Scarcity
    • You write an article for HBR for free to draw attention to your business
    • Prince gave away CD's (millions) with Daily Mirror to promote performance
KEYNOTE PANEL: They Like You, They Really Like You - Now What?: Challenges After Hypergrowth
Kara Swisher (moderator) with Panelists Derek Liu, Jia Shen and Kent Lindstorm

Somehow my feeble mind hasn't quite grasped how to build a useful (by my standards) application, let alone a business, around social networks. Gadgets, widgets.. it's a far cry from my usual user types that I serve via BI applications. Maybe another way to ask the question is that what is my BI userbase trying to find in social networks that is not there.

Anyway, some interesting tidbits I heard:
  • "Social network needs to grow organically" it's interesting our competition didn't come from "established" big-traffic sites like Yahoo, AOL, or MTV who did try to enter social network scene, but it rather came from companies that started in college dormrooms like facebook or local music scene like MySpace a- Kent Lindstorm
  • "Young people use email because their parents send them email, else they don't check their emails at all -- it's all IM or other messages via facebook wall, tweetr, etc." - Jia Shen
  • "By the time when you get married, social networking doesn't matter anymore, because you aren't really trying to meet someone" - Jia Shen
  • "We don't have a QA team. Yahoo (as much as I love them), will take 5 weeks deciding whether they should do something, or to QA something that goes out, in our world, 5 weeks means 100's of iterations -- we have to rapidly iterate without QA and look at the metrics to determine your course" - Jia Shen
  • "Advertising is a maths game - social networking provides a lot of that plus metrics on social dynamics that become extremely important for better targeting" - Jia Shen
  • "Bigger convergence of gaming world with social network, a la second life" - Derek Liu
  • "Battle of social graphs coming up" - Jia Shen -- "all leading social networks are taking their social graphs and mapping it out, kind of like what Microsoft Passport was trying to do" -- "AOL could become a bigger player in this that one would think"
  • Ken: "There is a global aspect to this that is not always realized in Silicon Valley, Facebook is not 4000-times bigger than MySpace as we'd like to believe in the Valley", "Integration with mobile is another key factor -- look at QQ in China, their integration of social network, SMS, and IM is exemplary in a way that US doesn't get it"
  • "It's all about targeting -- improving your CPM or CTR" - Jia Shen
KEYNOTE: Leadership on The Edge
Robert Swan, Founder & President, 2041

This was pretty inspiring - if I ever saw a true environmental activist, Mr Swan has to be one. The man's led teams to both north pole and south pole to make a statement, and hasn't stopped there. Go to and check it out.