Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why ballerinas don’t fall over

“And, since you ask, this is exactly how pirouetting ballerinas avoid falling over as they spin on their toes - while their bodies spin their heads stay focused on a fixed point. As we look at the dizzying array of technologies that are becoming available now, we need to keep our eyes fixed on our objective - creating a managed personal computing platform that users will accept. That means standardizing software components and personalizing with user environment management.”

This quotation comes from from Martin Ingram, Vice President of Strategy at Appsense, appearing in Virtual Strategy Magazine . Published nearby in Bedford, NH, electronic subscriptions are free.

Those of you who have met me might unfairly surmise that I have never studied ballet. A couple of decades ago I was both kickboxing competitively and dating a ballerina (actually two, mostly sequentially, with a slight but embarrassing overlap). On a typical week, the ballerina was far more likely to be bruised and battered than I. The reason: she was trained to rely on the actions of the others in her ensemble, while I was trained to defend myself at all times.

So, to anyone who is installing or integrating new products, I propose the Ingram-McQuilken approach: focus on a fixed point but always be prepared to defend yourself.

With a tip of my hat to my wife, Lee-Ann, who studied ballet, to my granddaughter, Nellie, who studies it today, and to former World Kickboxing Champion Dick “The Destroyer” Kimber, who taught me to keep my guard up.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Morgan Stanley Acclaims the Mobile Internet

Morgan Stanley has just released “The Mobile Internet Report” containing lots of great financial and market data along with some well-designed PowerPoint slides. For a flavor of the report, here are a few excerpts from a truly extensive document.

Material wealth creation / destruction should surpass earlier computing cycles. The mobile Internet cycle, the 5th cycle in 50 years, is just starting. Winners in each cycle often create more market capitalization than in the last. New winners emerge, some incumbents survive – or thrive – while many past winners falter.

A single galvanizing event – like Microsoft's Windows 3.0 launch in 1990, Netscape's IPO in 1995, or Apple's iPhone debut in 2007 – jolts the industry forward and captures the hearts and minds of consumers;

Make no mistake; Apple (and others) are not just trying to upset the cell phone market. They are aiming to transform how communications works, how entertainment and news are distributed, how goods and services are purchased... and how we control all this stuff from the ever-expanding, rechargeable remote controls we carry in our hands. To date, Apple's products and timing have been impeccable.

The US has grabbed the leadership, after being a global mobile laggard for more than a decade – thanks to the likes of Apple, Google,, and many others (including a bevy of startups)… and Silicon Valley competitive juices show no signs of letting up.

According to Morgan Stanley’s model, tech cycles tend to last ten years. We entered the Next Major Computing Cycle – Mobile Internet – 2 years ago.

Big winners in the four previous cycles include the following:

Mainframe Computing (1960s)
Control Data

Mini Computing (1970s)
Digital Equipment
Data General
Wang Labs

Personal Computing (1980s)

Desktop Internet Computing (1990s)
Yahoo! Japan

Mobile Internet Computing (2000s)
Still in the early innings; opportunities abound.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Smart Phones Crying in the Rain

Today I met with Kevin Short of UNH to discuss a lecture series I am preparing on Smart Phones, Virtual Machines, and Cloud Computing. Kevin was the founder of Chaoticom, one of the first companies to successfully build a business downloading music to cell phones. Chaoticom was started in 2000 as a spin off from UNH, and provided me with my introduction to programmable mobile phones. After VC investment, the company was renamed Groove Mobile; it operates today as LiveWire Mobile, which was recently ranked by Deloitte as the 49th fastest growing company in North America.

For the first few years, Chaoticom was a great technological success, but partnerships with the cell phone carriers were hard to come by, particularly in the US where Sprint finally subscribed to the service. Consumer demand grew slowly.

This week I read a post from the Startup Swami that explains this phenomenon. The Swami says: "Our job is to sell umbrellas on every street corner when it is raining. We can't make it rain."

“Allow me to explain. A few months ago, I was in New York City when it began to drizzle. Although I was wearing a nice suit, the drizzle didn't bother me much. However, by the time I had walked a few more blocks, it was pouring. As I waited on the street corner for the walk sign, I spotted a man selling umbrellas on the opposite side of the street. I made a beeline across the street to purchase an umbrella. I didn't care how much the umbrella cost -- he had my solution, and I needed it bad.

“As I continued my walk now with an umbrella in hand, I noticed that there were umbrella salespeople on almost every corner. And almost every single seller was surrounded by people who were waving their cash around to try to get one of those precious umbrellas. A few blocks later, most of the umbrella sellers were sold out.

“Every time I come across a new startup, I ask myself a fundamental question: are there lots of people in the world that are looking for this solution or is the startup trying to create demand? It is very hard for marketing folks to create demand (that's the job of salespeople) -- and it's almost impossible in consumer markets.”

I intend to incorporate this anecdote into my guest lectures on Entrepreneurship and Raising Angel Capital at UNH.

The Startup Swami is Matt Douglas, Founder & CEO of Punchbowl Software. You can find his full blog post here.

iPhone most popular mobile phone in the US, says Nielson

Nielson Wire market research just announced the most popular mobile phones in the US. The iPhone topped the list, no real surprise; among the missing: Nokia. The most popular sites visited were topped by Google Search, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail. The most popular video site was YouTube. Click here to view all their data, followed by a barrage of comments.

Their list:

1. Apple iPhone – 4%
2. BlackBerry 8300 series – 3.7%
3. Razr V3 series – 2.3%
4. LG VX9100 enV2 – 2.1%
5. LG Voyager – 1.7%
6. Samsung SPH-M540 – 1.5%
7. BlackBerry 9530 series 1.4%
8. LG VX9700 – 1.3%
9. LG Vu series – 1.3%
10. BlackBerry 8100 series – 1.2%

Friday, December 18, 2009

Don Dodge on the Future of Computing

Today, in his very influential blog, “Don Dodge on the Next Big Thing”, Don both writes about the work environment at Google and speculates on the future of computing. I’ve known Don for several years; we are both members of the eCoast Angels Network and we have often worked together advising start-up companies such as VKernel. From his post:

The future of computing – I think Google has made three big bets on the future of computing; Chrome OS (browser), Google Apps (cloud), and Android (mobile). The trends are pretty clear. All the exciting new applications are running in the browser, with application code in the cloud, and the cell phone as the platform. Your cell phone will become your primary computer. I think in the near future there will be docking stations everywhere with a screen and a keyboard. You simply pull out your phone, plug it into the docking station, and instantly all your applications and data are available to you. Chrome OS, Google Apps, and Android make this vision possible.

“Think about the cell phone you had 10 years ago, in 1999, and compare it to the phone you have today. More power, more memory, better networks, more applications, etc. Now project 5 or 10 years ahead. The vision of your phone as your computer is not far off. You will be able to decide which applications and data you want resident on the phone and which you want in the cloud. You will be able to plug it in anywhere; in an airport, hotel, airplane, office lobby, etc, and have instant access to everything you need.

2010 the turning point - I think 2010 will be the year that enterprises of all sizes start their transition to Gmail and Google Apps, and take their first steps towards the vision of the future. The move towards Cloud Computing is obvious. Gmail and Google Apps are the easy first steps in that direction. The cost savings are enormous,over $500 per user per year. Compare that to buying software licenses and maintenance from the old style software giants, and add the costs of server hardware, and IT managers to run them.

“The next 5 years are going to be exciting. There will be big changes in the software industry. I am thrilled to be at Google and look forward to being a small part of the movement to the future of computing.”

Don was also interviewed by VentureBeat where he talks about many things, including his new Google phone. Attracting the most vehement comments are his views on Microsoft.

“VB: Now that you’ve left Microsoft, how do you feel about the company’s future?”

DD: At a high level, Microsoft today is where IBM was in late ’80s, early ’90s. When I was just starting my career, IBM ruled the world. IBM was the dominant computer provider in the world — hardware, software, network, you name it, IBM was king. I think in the late ’80s and early ’90s, we saw that shift and Microsoft became king of the hill. And in 2009, 2010, going forward, Microsoft is sort of like IBM. It’s a longtime company with a great tradition and still very profitable, but it’s not the leader. Microsoft is not making the innovative leaps and coming out with the new stuff. People used to fear IBM and they don’t anymore. More recently, startups and competitors feared Microsoft, and I think over the past five or 10 years since that consent decree, I think that changed the company dramatically. I don’t think startups and competitors fear Microsoft the way they did 10 years ago. Part of it is the natural evolution of companies, part of it is the changing culture from that consent decree”.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

VCs still fond of Wireless and the Cloud

If you plan to raise Venture Capital for your Smart Phone or Cloud Computing start-up in 2010, you may be in one of the rare sectors where VCs are optimistic. A survey of US VCs shows the percentage expecting increased investment in these sectors:

Internet 46%
Software 25%
Wireless 30%
Media 33%

Topping their list overall is Clean tech, where 54% predict
increases.Writing in peHUB Wire, Deborah Gage says “Venture funds will shrink and the number of firms will shrink, said a majority of the 325 VCs surveyed, although they do expect to invest a few more dollars in more companies.

“They also plan to invest more in clean tech and Internet companies along with companies in China and India. They favor later stage investments over seed and early stage — a fact that concerns NVCA President Mark Heesen, who worries about innovation — and they expect exit markets to improve slightly, with more mergers and acquisitions and a few more IPOs.

“As a new feature, the NVCA included a list of Tweets provided by VCs on what they expect to do differently next year. Here’s a daring one — ‘More risky.’”

Get all the data here: VentureView 2010 charts