Microsoft’s OfficeLive

Walter Mossberg reviews it: “Office Live, at, is a set of Web-based applications. That means the programs don’t reside on your hard disk but live on Microsoft’s servers. This approach isn’t new, but it’s all the rage now, and it’s part of a trend some in the tech industry call “Web 2.0.” Microsoft is working on a whole series of such products and services, all with the word ‘Live’ in their titles. I’ve been testing Office Live, and I generally like it, though it has some rough edges and the applications it provides are pretty basic.”

Paul Graham’s Boot Camp for Hackers

The New York Times writes:

If it is possible to systematize the archetypal two guys in a garage (and they are generally guys), the year-old Y Combinator wants to do it. The company’s formula is to throw smart people together and provide them $6,000 in seed money per person to cover the initial costs of the company, cookie-cutter legal paperwork and an extensive network of business contacts.

In return, Mr. Graham and his partners Jessica Livingston, Trevor Blackwell and Robert Morris collectively own 1.2 to 12 percent of the company, with an average of 6 percent. The company holds two boot camps a year for about eight groups each session, a summer one in Cambridge and a winter one in Mountain View. Y Combinator is not so much an incubator as a hatchery for baby companies, and as with all things spawned in bulk, some will die, some will flourish and some will eke by.

Creators, Synthesizers and Consumers

Bradley Horowitz writes that for every 1 creator, there are 10 sythesizers and 100 consumers:

As an example take Yahoo! Groups.

* 1% of the user population might start a group (or a thread within a group)
* 10% of the user population might participate actively, and actually author content whether starting a thread or responding to a thread-in-progress
* 100% of the user population benefits from the activities of the above groups (lurkers)

There are a couple of interesting points worth noting. The first is that we dont need to convert 100% of the audience into active participants to have a thriving product that benefits tens of millions of users. In fact, there are many reasons why you wouldnt want to do this. The hurdles that users cross as they transition from lurkers to synthesizers to creators are also filters that can eliminate noise from signal. Another point is that the levels of the pyramid are containing – the creators are also consumers.

MySpace and Youth

Danah Boyd gave a talk recently:

When MySpace was initially introduced, skeptics thought that it would be just another fad because previous sites like Friendster had risen and crashed. Unlike the 20-somethings who invaded Friendster, the teens have more reason to participate in profile creation and public commentary. Furthermore, MySpace’s messaging is better suited for youths’ asynchronous messaging needs. They can send messages directly from friends’ profiles and check whether or not their friends have logged in and received their email. Unlike adults, youth are not invested in email; their primary peer-to-peer communication occurs synchronously over IM. Their use of MySpace is complementing that practice.

Many teens access MySpace at least once a day or whenever computer access is possible. Teens that have a computer at home keep MySpace opened while they are doing homework or talking on instant messenger. In schools where it is not banned or blocked, teens check MySpace during passing period, lunch, study hall and before/after school. This is particularly important for teens who don’t have computer access at home. For most teens, it is simply a part of everyday life – they are there because their friends are there and they are there to hang out with those friends. Of course, its ubiquitousness does not mean that everyone thinks that it is cool. Many teens complain that the site is lame, noting that they have better things to do. Yet, even those teens have an account which they check regularly because it’s the only way to keep up with the Jones’s.

TECH TALK: DEMO 2006: Demo Tips

Alec Saunders of Iotum offers advice for companies presenting at DEMO:

Three things:

1. Treat it as a focusing event for the company. It IS your launch. Drop everything else and focus on this exclusively.
2. Get someone to quarterback the marketing details. Things like matching logos, shirts, quality collateral, etc, all matter. Pre-briefing press and analysts matters. The product matters. You cant focus on it all, and on having a great DEMO.
3. Get professional help on the presentation. We had Shel Israel (veteran of 15 DEMOs) and Bill Ryan (public speaking coach to Steve Jobs). Neither was outrageously expensive. Both improved our presentation immeasurably. I think its no coincidence that all three of the companies that Shel coached for DEMO won DEMOgod awards.

From a structure point of view we treated our presentation as if it was a living, breathing brochure. It had to conform to our positioning. It had to be structured with an opening problem statement to establish need, a claim that we could solve that problem, and proof points to back up the claim. And, it had to follow the Tong/Zagula “Awesome, Awesome, Doesnt SUCK” formula > two positioning elements to wow the audience with capability, and one to assure that it would be painless to use. We showed people how iotum filters and routes calls, how easy it was to set up, and how it makes conference calling dead simple.

Techdirt offers more advice to presenting companies:

  • We get the problem, show us the solution: It’s pretty common in creating a business plan to start out with a detailed description of the problem you’re trying to solve. This makes sense in a business plan or when presenting to an audience who is completely unfamiliar with what you’re doing — but not so much in a demo at DEMO. Too many presenters wasted the first couple minutes detailing a “problem” that was probably widely understood already. Most people either understood the problem after a simple sentence — or if they didn’t, then your problem probably wasn’t big enough to be interesting.
  • Stuff happens, be able to adjust: If, say, your demo is based on a spoof of the TV show 24, and a couple demos before your demo another company also spoofs the show 24… at least figure out a way to throw in a joke about the coincidence.
  • Just ’cause you say your product is great, that doesn’t mean it is great: Dave Hornik has made this point a few times, but it’s worth repeating. Saying your product is great is a poor substitute for showing a great product.
  • Patents, schmatents — show us products: My views on the problems with the patent system have been discussed at length, but no matter how I feel, discussing patents is a waste of time at DEMO. Everyone is here to see products, not to hear about how you’re going to be in litigation with others because you think it’s a wonderfully unique idea to hook up a USB cable to a musical instrument.
  • Don’t pretend what isn’t new is new: Too many companies had what appeared to be “me too” products — and demonstrated them as if they were the first and only ones to have such an offering. If your product is going to be compared to something else, show why it’s different.
  • Stand out: This is perhaps the toughest one, but you’re competing against 70 or so other companies, and they do start to blend together. You have to have something to differentiate yourself. At DEMO you’re not competing with your usual competition, but with the other presenters for the attention of the press and VCs. Have something in the demo that’s memorable which attendees can point to (“oh, the one where the guy had the funky shoes…”) to help people remember.
  • To sum up, I think DEMO is a great concept. Id love to see something similar being done in India to showcase new technologies and innovations developed locally.

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