Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sun Salutations

Towards the end of the 3-hour mark of the Solar Industry 101 Tutorial at TiE Silicon Valley offices last night, the moderator Murali Rangarajan asked in a very innocent way to the six distinguished panelists:

"How many of you actually have a solar panel on your roof?"

Here they were up on the stage - all six of them - a very promising Solar Industry entrepreneur, two successful solar energy company executives, a VC and an angel investor who specialize in clean tech, and a prominent consultant and industry journalist. You'd expect almost all of them to raise their hand, right?

Only one hand went up out of the six, rest murmuring some embarrassment-laden excuses.

It's really not their fault. It just shows the state of the overall clean-tech or green-tech industry. A typical consumer in the US today does not have a lot of economic motivation to switch to Solar or any other clean energy source. The ones who do it, they are doing so more out of the goodness of their heart, or a feeling of social and moral responsibility to take care of their planet. And I salute their effort. But the rest of us, let's admit it -- this is one of those things we label as "a great noble idea, should do it when we can get around it", very much like the panelists in yesterday's seminar. Because there is not a compelling need to do so (our electricity and utilities seem to be working fine), there is no market force (it's not cheaper, and actually more expensive in the short term), and it sounds like a complex, time-consuming project (it's feels more like a full-fledged home improvement project as opposed to how we typically get electricity installed when we move into a new place, which is basically a phone call to the local utility company)

This is not to justify our current behavior of consuming unclean energy and further endangering the planet, but more an observation of the long, long way we still have to go in terms of making clean energy a viable alternative.

During yesterday's session, Eric Wesoff from GreenTech Media jokingly mentioned his sidegig as a Yoga instructor and that if the talk got boring, he offered to lead the audience through some sun salutation asanas. Not sure if the reference was intentional, but the pioneers and the entrepreneurs in the solar industry are definitely worth of our salutations.

I personally think that currently solar has a better market fit for developing nations, specially at the so-called bottom of the pyramid (BoP), where there is extreme energy poverty. These folks don't have energy resources like electricity and natural gas and coal-fired plants, etc. -- but the sun shines equally upon them as it does in any other nation, so solar to them is a very accessible resource. Can there be micro-sized solar installations for these BoP communities that will at least light a few light bulbs, help with basic cooking and food preservation, and water purification? For a solar solution combines all these, I'm sure the market there will raise their hands a lot faster than our panelists last night.

Now that would really be worth some heartfelt sun salutations.

Monday, November 24, 2008

BI 2.0, Next Generation BI, and Everythig New and Improved

My fellow blogger Bhupendra Khanal has an interesting post that mentions the challenges associated with BI 2.0/Information 2.0 (he also plugs OpenI, my open source project, which is much appreciated -- Bhupendra, may OpenI karma come back to you thousand-fold :-) 

Software industry, not unlike any other, contains a lot of hype and probably sometimes even more so with all this 2.0 buzz, which probably seems cool to the industry insiders, but is definitely confusing to the market.

Take BI 2.0 (or Information 2.0) for example - what in the world does it mean? Well, turns out, at the end of the day, to most BI vendors, it means more fancy charts and graphs and dashboards, except this time they'll have rounded corners, larger fonts with brighter colors, and maybe a fit of Flash and/or Ajax thrown in for a good measure to demonstrate live interactivity.

All this is fine and well, but all this is also pure BS if you are not helping your user make better decisions, or informing them of something new.

If BI 2.0 or Information 2.0 is to be seen as the "next generation" (it seems you cant' escape these cliches), then it needs to go beyond charts/graphs/dashboard paradigm. BI applications and tools need to be rooted in the knowledge worker's workflow - and should be cognizant of the types of decisions that need supporting. BI needs to be aware of the domain context - i.e. which industry are you supporting? which area - marketing, finance, operations, research..? Because without this, the best BI can do is to provide nice visuals and hope and pray that the user knows how to translates them into intelligence and action.

But software can be better than that if is stops being lazy. And that's my hope with our work in OpenI. We certainly started in the charts/graphs/dashboards paradigm, so we are as guilty as anybody. But as they say in any 12-step plan, "acceptance" is the first step -- and now, we are moving towards a future of BI software that caters to the root need for intelligence -- i.e. not only that you see your data clearly, but you also see it in your specific business context, and get immediate option to act upon it.

For e.g. a marketing analytics BI application - once it incorporates the data about customers and marketing campaigns and resulting purchases -- should not wait for a user to define dashboards and reports, but rather already provide a suite of analyses that answer the most typical marketer's questions - i.e. how effective are my campaigns , who are my best customers/prospects, and what tactics work the best for individual customer segments? And don't stop there btw -- if you have identified some new and interesting customer segments - it should integrate with an online campaign manager tool to immediately launch new campaigns; or publish the list of your most valuable customers to your e-commerce engine or call center platform which know how to treat them in a special way; etc. etc.

Similar scenarios can be applied to other industries and domains too. We as BI software developers just need to imagine differently. And that's what 2.0, new version, or next generation is all about - next level of imagination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Donate Blood, Feel Good

I donated blood today at blood centers of the pacific ( They have this new machine they call Alex. As it draws blood, it separates the RBC from plasma in real time (in this picture I took as blood was being drawn, the packet on the right is "whole blood", middle one is separated RBC, and the one on left is plasma) and it puts the plasma back into your veins. Benefits of this are - more RBC gets collected, blood donor stays hydrated, a lot of time is saved compared to old methods of separating the blood cells later in the lab, thus delaying the availability of blood for transfusions.

But most of all, it feels good.

Find your closest donation center and just go. You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Taking BI Beyond Charts and Graphs

I attended a talk at the monthly BI SIG meeting at SDForum by Christian Marcazzo from Spotfire, now a part of Tibco. I have long admired Spotfire's innovations on data visualization front, so I was curious how they see BI from the whole Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) aspect, and couple of things stood out.

First - if we look at consumer-centric data applications (Zillow, Google Finance, etc.) and compare their interfaces to more traditional enterprise BI applications, it's amazing to see how the latter just doesn't even attempt to look good.

Why is that?

Because enterprise BI app developers aren't under the same pressure to seduce their users like consumer data apps. Zillow, Google Finance, et al live and die by the community they create, so for them, user experience in paramount, and it shows. Most BI apps, on the other hand, are almost developed under the assumption that users are under a “thou shalt always use this BI software” executive order, and as such don't have much leverage in rejecting a software based on poor or sub-optimal user experience.

So they begrudgingly use the BI software for its least interesting/effective use - churn out one report after another. The BI app basically becomes a report production factory.

That brings me to my second point - for BI to be more than charts/graphs/dashboards, it needs to be part of the user's workflow. Now the term "workflow" means a lot of different thing to differnt people, and has recently become a popular box in BI markitechture diagrams - but to me, it basically means that BI app needs to know the various contexts under which its users are using it, and provide a way to add intelligence/insight to the process. BI app by itself should almost be invisible.

Zillow users think of themselves as a home buyers/sellers, not a real estate data analysts. Typical Google Finance users are checking out their portfolio and evaluating stocks, but don't think of themselves as financial analysts. So, why in the world BI applications are hell bent to think of their users are data analyst first, rather than understanding the specific tasks they are trying to accomplish more intelligently?

That's where workflow comes in. BI app needs to understand the nuances of the business domains their users are in, make intelligence available in their task workflow where it's needed, and provide a clear way to act upon that intelligence. Too often we think of BI as a separate app where a user will do analysis, and then the users will jump to other apps where they can take actions -- that's now how users see the world. And without understanding the users, BI apps can't really provide intelligence.

It's time to turn this model around. BI apps should think more like mashups --pull data from any "public" repository with REST like API's, make anlayses available to share and tweak, and make the resulting insights be integrateable to other apps. The more lines get blurred between BI apps and the rest, more successful its adoption is going to be.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Historic Moment for All of Us

I'm not what you'd call religious, but this morning I asked my 5-yr-old and 2-yr-old to join me to pray for Obama's victory.

I'm not always a eager voter, but today both my wife and I were at our local poll station at 8 am.

I'm not a political activist, but today I took the day off so I could make phone calls to get the vote out in FL, OH, PA, MO, CO, and IA. I've never made so many phone calls in a day (close to 500). Last call made was at 6:55 PM PST, literally 5 minutes before polls closed in IA. At times, I felt like a seedy telemarketer, calling people who were already inundated with calls over the past months -- but this election was not a spectator sport, and I'm glad I participated in every way I could.

Regardless of your political affiliation, and whether you voted for Obama or not -- one thing I learned out of all this -- stated so eloquently by Mahatma Gandhi years ago: The only way we can bring about sea change is by "being the change you seek in the world".

For that, I'm thankful to Obama for inspiring millions like me to get involved, and also very hopeful in his presidency. It's a rare moment in history when so many people throughout the world are truly feeling inspired.

Yes We Can :-)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama's Loss Traced To Sandeep Giri

Hacking can't be any more fun than this during the elections. Anyway, don't let this happen

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Striking Overview of the Credit Crisis

Thanks to Dan Roam's post, I discovered some more fun entrees from SlideShare's contest to explain credit crisis in 30 slides or less. This one's pretty striking:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is the Cost for Different Phases of Outbound Marketing

A colleague recently sent me an email asking:
I'm trying to find out the cost/spend associated with different phases of outbound marketing campaigns. At a high level, I'm trying to understand the process as,
  • Idea generation/ Message theme discussions (e.g. what is the campaign all about)
  • Associated content generation (web site promotion, hard print material, email
    content summary, (creative + message) generation  )

  • Outbound execution : actual delivery, publishing of hte message
Can you provide guidance as to,

1. If I missed any major step(s)
2. What % of total cost will be allocated to each of the above if you can add the vertical (retail, hitech software, hi-tech mfg etc), it would help me more
Not that I'm an expert, but my response was as follows - see if you agree or better yet, can add in your 2 cents:

I think you have identified the key themes. I tend to think about outbound marketing in the following categories

  • Who will you contact? who is your audience? what is your access to that market? If you want to  go direct (email, direct mail, telemarketing), how are you going to obtain contact information
    -- homegrown lists, purchased lists?
  • Is there a segmentation strategy applicable? If so, what are you costs/efforts to define/implement it?
  • Once you know who you will reach out to, you need to craft your message. This involves figuring out the creative for each media (email layout, direct mail layout, video or radio ad, etc.) and producing it
  • Different elements of the message - creative content, offer, promotion, etc.
  • How will the message get out? What are the different media channels? Are you going to work with an agency that can manage all channels, or do it yourself?
  • How will you co-ordinate the different channels? e.g. someone who got an email offer ends up calling your telemarketing center, are they all in sync?
  • How well are you able monitor your campaigns in progress and how quickly can you respond to feedback?

This is more around anayltics, but a critical part (of course I'm biased :-) -- which is to look at the operational metrics of all campaigns and optimize mainly for 2 things - determine the most profitable/relevant segments and for each segment, figure out the optimal contact strategy

Cost-wise, execution will be the biggest chunk, probably 50-60% of overall cost, closely followed by "target" (acquisition of contact information or markets).  Rest is probably evenly divided.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What went wrong with the market..

A simple and humorous guide to understanding the subprime mess
Subprime Primer
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: subprime mortgages)

SlideShare Link

Friday, October 10, 2008

Charts and Graphs Soundtrack from PBS Kids

Thanks to Dan Roam's post, and Swivel's post, I'm glad I found this. Start your next "charts and graphs" presentation with this gem from PBS Kids:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Microsoft's BI Vision: Excel = BI Democracy?

I frequently check out Mosha Pasumansky's blog on OLAP. I learned from his recent post that Microsoft announced 2 very interesting milestones coming up on their BI roadmap - project Gemini (which will be the new incarnation of Analysis Services), and SQL Kilimanjaro release (a move toward column-oriented architecture). If not anything else, check out the presentation video from the 1 hour 16 minute mark -- this is a pretty good presentation of common BI challenges at BI level, and I must say the demo is impressive in how Microsoft is thinking about the BI solution stack going end-to-end from data warehouse to Excel and to a web-based view for general interaction.

As someone who is in the "open source BI land", I must confess that I am a fan of some of the Microsoft's BI technologies - namely Analysis Services and SQL Server. Yes, I have reservations around Reporting Services, or embedding BI into MS Office products like Word, or about bloating a solution with SharePoint and PerformancePoint - but as a common denominator, SQL Server and Analysis Services do provide the best price-performance today for a BI backend solution IMHO.

One of the challenges we constantly face as BI solution providers is to call out which is the most common interface for the BI user. In their demo, Ted Kummer and Donald Farmer are right to point out that if left to their own devices, most people trying to do a data analysis will bust out Excel. Solution providers like me don't like this fact for several reasons (a lot of them may be valid) and try to guide our users towards purely web-based interface to do their analysis. The biggest rationale for this is to avoid various versions of Excel files floating around with multiple copies of data and custom calculations (with no QA) -- and so we like to control by having all BI users access data from a centralized web interface, which is reporting data from a centralized repository -- and that way, we know that users will be guaranteed a "single version of truth", and they will be happy.

Is that true though?

In my own open source BI project OpenI, one of the most used feature turns out to be "export to Excel", so try as we may, there are valid reasons to cater towards a BI user's natural flow of anlayzing data, and let them get their data into Excel.

And in that sense, Microsoft's approach may have its merit in looking at Excel as the piece in the front and center for self service BI. Of course, calling it "democratization" maybe far fetched because this democracy will only be true in the Microsoft Office world, but it is a pretty big world of BI users. And for those who would like to stay far away from the Microsoft Office world, there needs to be equally compelling alternate solutions (open source or not).

If not anything, this thinking from Microsoft is worth for all BI practitioners to consider -- and see the demo. We may not agree with the exact tools used, but the use case, or the scenario, of a knowledge worker finding the data/information they need, analyzing it in an intuitive fashion, and publishing it for their peers to see -- that's a key part of what we're all trying to solve. And unless we make it utterly easy and painless, we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

WaMu - "Bank with Confidence?"

This morning I heard Peter Finch on KFOG radio say - "this KFOG news brought to you by WaMu, now a part of JP Morgan; blah blah..", followed by their old tag line - "WaMu, Bank with Confidence".

"Bank with Confidence"? I had to chuckle.

Maybe someone in their advertising will see the irony.

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.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Finding and Targeting Your Most Relevant Customers

Straight up disclaimer: This post here to promote my upcoming webinar on Thursday March 13 (Finding and Targeting Your Most Relevant Customers) -- presented by my employer - Responsys.

It is getting to be almost a year since I joined Responsys (my old company Loyalty Matrix was acquired by Responsys in April 2007). I manage the Interact Insight product, which is the analytics module of the Responsys on-demand marketing platform, Interact.

A lot of the past year has been transitioning our old customers to the Responsys client solution delivery model, and also putting together an analytics product that makes the most sense for Responsys customers. We are releasing Insight version 3.4 this month, and this webinar is to showcase this product as a reference platform/tool to -- you guessed it -- finding and targeting your most relevant customers. Here is the official copy:

Finding and Targeting Your Most Relevant Customers
A Data-Driven Approach to Improving Your Marketing Effectiveness

Join Us for a Live Webcast Thursday, March 13, 2008

In this Leaders Forum live webcast, marketing analytics expert Sandeep Giri wants to help you take a step back, take a deep breath, and really understand:
  • Are my marketing programs working? Really working?
  • Who are my most relevant customers and prospects today?
  • How effective is my communication with my best customers?
Sandeep says the answers are all in the numbers. He'll show you new ways to look at your marketing data and find the key metrics that help you answer these questions and, more importantly, refine your strategy — in terms of defining key customer segments and outlining optimal contact plans for each segment — for improved overall marketing effectiveness.

Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008
Time: 10:00 - 11:00 AM PST (1:00 - 2:00 PM EST)

And a link to register.

Would appreciate it if you can join us for. Also, if you have any specific questions, topics you'd like to be covered -- please feel free to send your comments on this blog.

Hope to see you there.