Entrepreneurs Are Predators

Tom Evslin writes:

Predators are smarter than prey. Hare-brained is an insult; sharp as a fox is a compliment…Predators learn terrain; they can learn the habits of prey theyve never seen before. They learn where to wait patiently and when to pounce. The play of kittens and cubs is as important to the development of their brains as it is to their muscles and their reflexes. And the play is full of stumbles and pratfalls learning experiences, in other words.

The ultimate sin in the entrepreneurial organization is not making a mistake, its hiding a mistake. Saying I was wrong is the first step towards getting something right. The greatest weakness of the imperial CEO is that no one will tell him that he is wrong. A CEO has to insist on hard work, fast decisions, risk taking, and mistake recognition especially recognition of the CEOs own mistakes. A CEO who rewards those who tell her when shes wrong can quickly correct her mistakes.

Triple Play Phone Companies

[via Om Malik] Newsweek writes:

HomeChoice is among the first in the newest, and self-styled grooviest, generation of telecoms. They look like hip media groups and call themselves “digital home network providers,” furnishing a telephone connection, high-speed broadband access and on-demand television stations, which allow users to replay and skip programs on channels designed by in-house staff. Workers at HomeChoice, for example, drew the cartoon mascot and handpick shows for its children’s channel, SCAMP. Launched in 1999 HomeChoice is still private. FastWeb followed in Italy the following year, and other entrants now include Iliad of France and Yahoo! BB of Japan.

In Asia, telecoms looking for content to fill their “pipes” have even started to invest in movie and music production. Last year, South Koreans spent an estimated $185 million on digital musicof which the telecoms raked in more than 70 percentand forecasts put that figure as high as $1 billion by 2009.

Tech for Small Businesses

WSJ writes:

Thanks to new technologies small firms can look — and in many cases operate — like only larger firms could just a few years ago.

“You want to give the impression that you are efficient, creative and professional, and that you have access to all the resources and capabilities that a large business does,” says Bruce Judson, a faculty fellow at the Yale School of Management and the founder of three Web-based small businesses. “Certain technologies can help you do this.”

In the effort to look bigger than they are, small businesses can start with the Internet. In the past, hiring a Web designer to launch a site with the necessary links, animation, stereo sound and interactive navigation was prohibitively expensive for many start-ups. They could create a Web site — but it would look as small-time as they were.

New technology, however, makes it easy for pretty much anybody to offer a Web site to rival the big guys. ImpactBuilder.com offers industry-specific multimedia templates that let an enterprise build a complex Web site or deliver Web-based presentations.

Web 2.0 Economics

Imair Haque has some excellent posts [1
2 3].

Web 2.0 is a shift to from tight, hierarchical architectures which realize exponential network FX, to loosely structured architecture which realize combinatorial network FX.

More simply, Web 2.0 is about the shift from network search economies, which realize mild exponential gains – your utility is bounded by the number of things (people, etc) you can find on the network – to network coordination economies, which realize combinatorial gains: your utility is bounded by the number of things (transactions, etc) you can do on the network.

Why Tagging is Expensive

[via You’re It] Ian Davis writes:

On the surface tagging seems to offer a new paradigm of organising information, one that reduces the cost of entry and so enables a long tail of participation to emerge. I’ve come to realise that the cost isn’t removed, instead it’s displaced and possibly increased. Tagging bulldozes the cost of classification and piles it onto the price of discovery.

In my view the total cost of an information retrieval system is the cost of classification plus the cost of discovery. In the formal classification world you have a very small number of people incurring a high cost in order to reduce the costs incurred by a very large number of people. In contrast the tagging world has the unit costs reversed: it’s cheap to classify, expensive to find. But the numbers of people involved are large in both cases so you end up with a lot of people paying a tiny cost to classify added to a lot of people paying a high price to discover. I think it’s pretty likely that the total cost is going to end up much higher than in the classification scenario.

What’s the cost I’m talking about? It’s people’s time. Time spent searching for things that should be easy to find.

TECH TALK: Building a Better India: What We Can Do

If we had great urban visionaries who could think of making our cities wonderful living spaces, we wouldnt have to worry too much about it. But, unfortunately, we are not so blessed. While we do have some good thinkers in positions of power, the execution that we see around leaves a lot to be desired. And yet, amongst us, we have plenty of smart-thinking people who, while not part of the government, could perhaps be willing to contribute some time (and perhaps money) in making their neighbourhoods a better place.

I got this thought while talking to a friend in Bangalore. He and others have helped mobilise enough citizen power to get a public-private partnership to fix the road around where they live. Now, they are turning their attention to a nearby lake. People have even contributed funds where the government has expressed helplessness. This sort of initiative needs to be replicated everywhere across India. Instead of us just sitting around waiting for the government or the municipal corporation (or for that matter the local MP or MLA) to do things, we need to aggregate the wisdom of crowds along with the collective experience and help improve things in the neighbourhoods where we live.

While this will not solve the problem of better roads immediately, I do believe that what will happen is that as we start seeing things improve us, there will be examples set for others to follow. It will also raise our expectations. It will also force greater transparency in the government decision-making so we can ensure that funds get allocated appropriately and projects are monitored closely.

In this context, I am reminded of the broken window theory. Malcom Gladwell wrote in his book The Tipping Point: Broken Windows was the brainchild of the criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. Wilson and Kelling argued that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes.

Lee LeFever adds: In the book, he shows how New York City used this theory to combat crime in the 80s and 90’s. They found that small things like keeping the subways free of graffiti and stopping the fare jumpers helped combat crime because these small actions related a sense of caring as opposed to apathy. It signaled that the city was taking the subway back. Criminals were less likely to act out in an environment that was cared-for — and caring for the subways helped stamp out crime by fixing the broken windows.

This may sound very idealistic, but it is our only hope. We cannot wait for that miracle worker to come, wave a magic wand, and solve all the problems. We have to contribute more than just our taxes and complaints to help build a better India. Luckily for us, the tools are now at hand to help us mobilise and co-ordinate action.

Tomorrow: Tools for Action

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