Monday, August 30. 2010
The New York Times on Location based services:
Venture capitalists have poured $115 million into location start-ups since last year, according to the National Venture Capital Association, and companies like Starbucks and Gap have offered special deals to users of such services who visited their stores.
The Fist Generation services (Loopt, Dopplr etc) have by and lerge failed to gain traction. So far what has worked with 2nd generation location based services is game based rewards (eg becoming mayor of a place) but these rewards are ultimately about bribery (eg becoming mayor gets you a free offer). Shopkick plays for the endgame by giving you money off coupons when you shop at a certain shop - it's the online equivalent of newspaper coupon clipouts.
But never fear, the CEO of Loopt claims that people born after 1981 (ie below 30) have lower privacy requirements, and thus a larger demographic will emerge year by year:
So, two contradictory views - the NYT arging that the market is limited, the CEO of Loopt arguing that the only way is up. I have another explanation for the people after 1981 being less privacy aware, and this is simply that they are young and have less to lose - as the NYT notes:
In other words, perhaps at (about) 30 people start to have responsibilities, and for various reasons become far less interested in displaying their location.
Sunday, August 29. 2010
Interesting hypothesis from Elias Bizannes about an emerging seed Investment bubble - he did the maths on Y Combinator:
Y Combinator for example has funded 206 companies to date. At an average $10k in capital as well as $600 in travel costs (applicant companies can get up to $600 in reimbursement costs), they've put at least $2m in seed capital and assuming 10-20% of companies get accepted (an assumption by us), then reimbursed travel costs are between $450-900k. (Note: this is extremely conservative to the point of unrealistic, as companies receives $10k per person so the cost is actually closer to double or $4m in seed investment -- but we're doing this to prove a point.)
I am looking at this article for 2 reasons, viz:
- I haven't done the maths he has, but judging by the number of articles (and people I have met recently) that are popping up around the "seed investor" ecosystem it makes me think of "Incubators 2.0" (remember them, they bombed in the Dotcom boom), and it just smells like there is a bubble coming.
Also, there is considerable turmoil in VC-land as its economics change, and one can see that one strategy a lot of newer companies are using is to charge into the "funding gap" where Angels (and VCs) have traditionally feared to tread. And, as Fred Wilson recently pointed out, the issue is not te $Xm investment that is key for the funder, its the 2-3 times $Xm follow up investment that really allows them to take value - if the Seed Funds have kept it, that is.
The WSJ had a go at the dearth of women in Tech (by which I think they mean ICT, as in my experience there are loads of women chemists and biologists) and asked why:
Only about 11% of U.S. firms with venture-capital backing in 2009 had current or former female CEOs or female founders, according to data from Dow Jones VentureSource. The prestigious start-up incubator Y Combinator has had just 14 female founders among the 208 firms it has funded.
Various Tech worthies stepped in, none so much as TechCrunch, who points to quite a well known problem for conference organisers:
Unfortunately this is one of those areas where a lot of very "sensitive" people live, so it is virtually impossible to have a rational, fact based conversation (just try and imply that the science continually implies that male and female brains are different for example. ).
Also, people tend to neglect the simple maths. I did a BSc and an MSc in Engineering, and men outnumbered women at least 10:1 in both degrees. It starts there, with the basic ratios skewed like that. It won't get better until that ratio changes.
Also - for what its worth, my own experience from managing, working with and being managed by women is that:
And here is the rub - when it comes to the wire, and it's your *ss on the line too, you give the task to someone who has enough confidence and enough competence.
So the question is threefold:
Until these issues can be honestly addressed, there will always be a problem with women entrepreneurs in IT.
Update - Following a few Twitter exchanges, Shefaly Yogenrda has written a very thoughtful piece in response and JP Rangaswami takes an interesting viewpoint about exclusio.
Saturday, August 28. 2010
Crank Handle 2.0 - did someone really grant a patent for this?
Paul Allen's company is suing all the websites with deep pockets because he has a patent on how a website is designed (see above) - NYT Digits
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Interval Licensing is suing 11 companies, including tech giants Apple and Google, alleging patent infringement. Below, a look at the patents in the lawsuit.
The implications of these are fairly widespread, as these things really are going back to trying to patent crank handles (an abuse of the early days of patents in the UK, which forced early steam engine pioneers to use moon and sun gears). We've built examples of nearly of all these things over the last 5 years or so and knew nothing of Mr Allen's patents, coming up with them quite independently (along with many other people I'm sure) because - surprise, surprise - this is the only real way to do them.
I bet there are loads of people out there with circuit diagrams in powerpoint going back 15 years that look just like this, its just that - silly us - we never thought to patent anything so bloody obvious! In fact surely some of the pre internet systems would have prior art here, never mind the early push systems? As with Facebook trying to trademark English words that are 500 years old, sadly the US system all too often rewards deep pockets, not deep intelligence.
What is needed, apart from a radical shakeup of the US patenting system, is - in my opinion - in patents like these is for the next level down - how they do some of this to be patented, not this level.
Addendum - and that the plaintiffs actually be making something, not just amassing patents and handing out lawsuits
Friday, August 27. 2010
Facebook is currently trying to register the word “Face” as a trademark. (It already owns the trademark on “Facebook”). Facebook took over the trademark application for “Face” from a company in the UK called CIS Internet Limited, which operated a site called Faceparty.com
It is also trying to patent the word "Like"
They are also going after companies with similar names like Placebook etc now, just because they have the pockets. (Whoever owns Phasebook.com, Faecebook.com and Fazebook.com - watch out!)
Maybe this is the way for Olde Media to make money again - use their cash to trademark all the popular words and then charge everybody for using them. If I recall correctly, to trademark something in the US is about $5k, so if I trademarked "and" and then charged every US media source $.001 a pop for using it, I reckon I'd be a gazillionaire by dinnertime.
Sadly, in the US they will probably get away with it, the whole US IP/Trademarking scene is (too often) essentially a "who pays, wins" game, irrespective of prior usage, legal rights or whatever.
Wednesday, August 25. 2010
WSJ on the Inconvenient Truth about location based services:
Will business continue to use the service? Several other pieces have to fall into place for the services to become more mainstream, said Sree Sreenivasan, a digital media professor at Columbia University. “You need customers who buy into the technology and are willing to use it, and you need businesses that are savvy enough to use it in a smart way to harness that,” he said.And think of Location generation 1.0 - anyone remember Loopt, Dodgeball and Dopplr?
Still, anyone who is still going when the Dotcom boom 2.0 starts is bound to cash in. Everyone sing after me - Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah Staying Alive
Grauniad remembering nothing and forgetting nothing from the DotCom boom methinks:
In essence the article is somewhat like a cigarette ad - warning you that this stuff can seriously damage your wealth, while nonetheless pumping up the value. But those of less tender years will have seen all this before in the DotCom boom. And here it comes again:
Forgetting Nothing - that very small amounts of illiquid shares trade at stupid prices above real value.
Another snippet readers may want to look at relating to this - some, ahem, "assertively entrepreneurial" companies see this as a marvellous opportunity to add value in a way that bankers call "arbitrage"
Here we go again, time to throw the pensions into the bonfire of the vanities - and the meedja is leading the charge?. But in The Old Days you got pre-flotation shares at pre-flotation prices, not at a secondary market price driven by scarcity and speculation. Another notch on the post for flat earth news it would seem perhaps? Those who cannot remember the past......
Last time round Netscape's IPO started it all off. On the strength of this, guess who we're tipping this time.
Proof that Craigslist is turning into Olde Media, with all the attendant issues - Boston Herald:
Attorney General Martha Coakley fired off a letter to Craiglist yesterday, calling on the Web site to yank its “adult services” section as state attorneys general nationwide also stepped up the pressure.
A few short years ago, and it was local newspapers that were feeling that sort of heat.....
Worrying news from Ars Tech re Journal of Consumer Research* paper on making people hand over privacy data - we are not ratinal and and over more intimate details to (probably) riskier sites:
The researchers set up two survey web pages, one of which looked very official: it had the Carnegie Mellon University seal, and referred to a "Carnegie Mellon University Executive Council Survey on Ethical Behaviors." The other, well... Comic Sans featured heavily in the site design, and the survey page was entitled "How BAD Are U???" In a pre-test, far more people rated the official-looking page as a safer option for transmitting personal information.
[The researchers] collaborated with The New York Times to create a web survey entitled "Test your ethics," which asked participants to rate the ethicality of a set of actions. But, in the process, users were asked to indicate whether they had ever engaged in those activities, under the pretense that it might color their ratings.
Add to that the way gaming reward functionality is increasingly used (Gaming rewarsd have been shown to be effective at getting people to divulge stuff as they rewad them for it) and you have a perfect culture for privacy raiding.
*There is no link to the paper unfortunately, so I haven't actually read it. Ars Technica is one of he more sanguine blogs however.
Tuesday, August 24. 2010
Both Forrester and Ars Tech try and explain why the Intel/McAfee deal is being done:
1. This is not just about “antimalware-on-a-chip-for-smartphones”. Another side-effect of people not understanding the deal is that they oversimplify it by reducing it to this one aspect...... this is about a wide range of embedded security features (not just AV, but data security and system integrity) on a wide range of devices.
Security is Job One
I'd be happier if (i) they agreed with each other and (ii) that word "strategic" didn't keep popping up (I ciulled a lot of the text in both articles, so you can't see it but you can get the sense even from what I pasted up).
In other words I still don't think anyone really knows what is going on.
(Page 1 of 4, totaling 36 entries) » next page
More Broad Stuff
Poll of the Week
Will Augmented reality just be a flash in the pan?
Creative Commons Licence
Original content in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons License