Emerging Markets Turbulence

WSJ outlines the reasons for the fall in stock prices in emerging markets like India:

Expectations that central banks around the world, from the U.S. to Europe and eventually Japan, may be preparing to raise rates more aggressively than previously anticipated. News last week that the U.S. consumer-price index rose faster than expected raised the specter that interest rates will have to climb further to curb inflation. Even the recent retreat in commodity prices has not been enough to blunt inflation fears, and since many developing countries are commodity producers, these declines have weighed on their economic outlooks.

Selling by hedge funds and other more speculative investors is aggravating emerging-market losses. These investors, who aim to lock in short-term gains, will often sell their best stocks to ensure profits and cover any losses in other positions. So a sell-off in India may cause pain in Russia or Brazil, despite different economic outlooks and stock valuations.

Microsoft’s Search Assets

Information Week writes how it intends to tackle Google:

Microsoft has two assets they don’t: its Windows monopoly and the huge number of programmers who write software based on its technology. “This is Microsoft’s play against Google–the 2 million Visual Studio users,” says Rick Sherlund, a managing director at Goldman Sachs. Microsoft is building into the next version of Visual Studio a tool code-named Atlas for creating Ajax-powered Web sites; Atlas apps will be able to tap into Microsoft’s new adCenter auction system for Internet advertising. Google also is trying to build an Internet-based portfolio of software that developers can tap into; it will include the ability to store files and search them over the Web. “That’s the endgame,” Sherlund says.

Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, due in January, will be able to search a PC’s hard disk, the Web, and company intranets through a search bar and “search-oriented folders” that let users create custom views, says Microsoft VP Kurt DelBene. One target of searches will be sites hosted on SharePoint servers, technology DelBene says Google hasn’t sufficiently accounted for in its algorithm. “SharePoint is exploding within our customer base, and Google hasn’t paid a lot of attention to promoting SharePoint sites as first-class search results,” he says.

RSS to SMS for Notification

[via Smart Mobs] Marshall Kirkpatrick writes:

The world today is clearly threatened by information overload, but that’s far from the worst problem we face. The right tools for dealing with the barrage of information available can help us deal with the long list of other, more frightening problems facing humanity.

One new class of tools will do just that – by delivering new items in any RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to your mobile device by SMS or to your IM client. (If RSS is new to you, there are intro links at the end of this post.)

What does that mean? It means that you can receive automatic near-real-time notification on your phone of, for example, any new internet search results for a query you’ve set up, any press releases or media statements from corporate or government adversaries or allies, or notification of any other new information that you’ve set one of these tools to be constantly looking for. Look once and subscribe. This does not require computer programming skills; it’s only as new as e-mail was a decade ago.

Mobile Internet Usage

ClickZ writes about the services driving usage:

According to Andrew Stollman, president of Q121, the services help encourage adoption of mobile Internet services and work to blend the experiences of consumers in both the mobile and Internet worlds. This personalization ability will help to drive overall adoption of the mobile Internet.

Another driver for mobile Internet services are those that focus on increasing a user’s productivity. Go2 provides directory assistance and navigation services to mobile power users. I spoke with Lee Hancock, CEO of go2, who told me their services are used by people who use the go2 mobile services to get around, obtain information, and ultimately increase their productivity. These services will also be key to driving adoption of the mobile content market, particularly for the business/power user.

Raising Money

Fred Wilson writes:

There is one thing I know for sure about raising money from investors. If you don’t want the investor’s money, they will want to invest even more. It is a sure thing.

Lately I’ve been taking a lot of meetings with entrepreneurs I’ve known for years, many of whom are starting companies again after taking some time off. They call me up, and ask to come in and get some advice from me, but tell me they don’t need money. I take the meeting, they lay out what they are doing, I give them some advice, then we break. Never once do they ask for money.

It’s a great strategy because the best way to raise money is to ask for advice and the best way to get advice is to ask for money.

TECH TALK: Of Blue Oceans and Black Swans: My Bets

Placing bets in card games is, arguably, easier than doing the same in business. In business, there are many external factors which play a role in ultimate success or failure. It takes a long time to know whether one has won or not. And even then, success is not permanent any mistake can be the last for an entrepreneurial venture.

In the past few years, I made two bets in Netcore which did not work out. One of them was on thin client software. We created Emergic Freedom on a Linux-based platform a few years ago. My belief was that server-centric computing made a lot of sense in emerging markets like India both from an affordability and manageability perspective. I tried selling that to companies in India. I failed.

There were two key factors which I had not taken into account. I was passionate about open-source and Linux, corporate users couldnt care less. Their world revolved around Microsoft Windows and Office. They got the real thing for zero cost via piracy. I was, in their eyes, offering an inferior solution for more money. Also, at that time, because the thin clients were not cheap enough, there were no significant savings on the desktop hardware.

Out of this failure emerged Novatium, which has built network computers capable of connecting to both Linux and Windows terminal servers, and running applications faster than they would run on most desktops. We had to do the hardware from scratch to present a significant cost savings for companies. Novatium is only now starting to go to market, and early reactions are positive.

The second idea that did not work was that of Visual Biz-ic making software for small- and medium-based enterprises integrate together like Lego blocks. For this to work, we needed to be able to get reliable broadband connectivity and that is still some way off in the future in India. Also, business processes in SMEs are not all alike, and wed probably have spent a much larger portion of our time customising these blocks. In addition, the underlying computing infrastructure was missing in most Indian SMEs computers were still not used by everyone and so the need for electronic workflows was still limited.

I think the time for Visual Biz-ic will come but I was too early, and too optimistic. A year ago, we suspended the project after spending two years of development time internally. The idea of an ASP for SMEs is still something which appeals to me, and it is something that will happen soon enough.

My current bets are mostly around the mobile internet, computing as a utility, broadband services (rich content), the EventWeb as the centre of our lives rather than the document-based Web that we see, and mobiles being used for making payments. All of the companies I am involved in have a long road ahead in each case, the intent is to build the business out rather than sell it at the earliest possible opportunity. Part of the problem with big futuristic bets is that venture capital isnt easy to come by. I am willing to invest in these ventures until I believe that either the destination is unreachable or the starting assumptions were wrong. And even then, there will be learning to take ahead.

Tomorrow: Convincing Others

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