Tech Alliances

WSJ writes about the eBay-Yahoo and Google-Dell deals:

The deals come amid growing ambitions of the Internet companies that increasingly have them encroaching on one another’s turf. Rivalries are building as Internet penetration in the U.S. has reached a mature, slower-growth phase. That augurs more battles over attracting and retaining current Internet users, who are increasing the time they spend online. At the same time, relationships among many Internet companies exist already, complicating rivalries and prospective alliances.

More scuffles for new alliances appear to already be underway. Google and Microsoft, for example, are competing to provide search technology and related advertising to News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media division, which includes the popular MySpace social networking site, according to people familiar with the matter. A Fox Interactive spokeswoman declined to comment. EBay itself could be a further object of heated courting by rivals. The Yahoo-eBay ad agreement is exclusive to the U.S., leaving open the possibility of eBay doing an ad deal with Google or Microsoft in Europe and Asia.

Entrepreneurial Proverbs

[via Atanu] O’Reilly Radar has an article by Marc. A pick:

Build what you know — this is the most basic advice of idea generation: scratch an itch you have yourself. To make a great company, stop and ensure that your need is broadly felt, and that your solution is broadly applicable — not everyone spends their life in front of a computer, remember.

Your ideas will get better the more you know about business — engineers hate to hear this, but you can generalize up quite far from here: the more you know about everything, the better all of your ideas will get! If you want to start a business and your strength is in development, learning about pricing, sales, marketing, finance, and yes, even HR, all of it will make your product ideas stronger and better.

Mobile Internet

Tomi Ahonen blogs a comment by Google CEO Eric Schmidt: “Mobile phones are cheaper than PCs, there are three times more of them, growing at twice the speed, and they increasingly have internet access. What is more, the World Bank estimates that more than two-thirds of the world’s population lives within range of a mobile phone network. Mobile is going to be the next big internet phenomenon. It holds the key to greater access to everyone – with all the benefits that entails.”

Everybody’s a Network

Jeff Jarvis writes:

In the future of media, which is now, everybody is a network. In the past, networks were defined by control of content or distribution. But now, you cant own all distribution and content is controlled where its created. So, I wonder, wheres the value and wheres the money in the fully networked world?

What is a network now? Your friend pointing you to something to read or watch is a network. The collection of people putting a YouTube video on their blogs makes a network. BlogAds bringing together 800 blogs for an MSNBC.com ad buy is a network. When you subscribe to a collection of feeds, or when you publish up a blogroll, or when you put a tag on your blog post, or when you use a Flickr tag that others use, you are a network.

Web-based Powerpoint Alternatives

Jon Udell writes:

discovered HTML Slidy, the latest initiative by the prolific Dave Raggett, a W3C Fellow whose other notable contributions include the essential HTML Tidy.

Given my skills and inclinations, its no surprise that Im an instant convert. To use it, you create a single XHTML file that pulls in CSS stylesheets and JavaScript code. Each slides content is wrapped in a DIV tag decorated with a class attribute of slide. Folks like me, who compose directly and easily in HTML, will love it.

Along with OperaShow, Dave Raggett acknowledges the influence of Eric Meyers S5. Using Web technology for presentations is hardly a novel idea. But now that the AJAX juggernaut is rolling, old projects are sparking new interest and spawning new offspring. According to Raggett, future plans for Slidy include a mechanism for remotely controlling distributed instances of a slideshow, using the browsers XMLHttpRequest object to listen for navigation commands.

Google’s Desktop Offensive

Business Week writes:

Desktop and the other tools fit with Google’s dual strategies of getting its brand in front of computer users in as many ways as possible, and at the same time creating ways for advertisers to get their message to specific audiences. “The key for them is to continue to leverage search, and then use their position there to garner success in other areas,” says Scott Kessler, an analyst with Standard & Poor’s.

By developing new ways to get Google in front of Web surfers, the company scores a better chance of directing people to its own search engine. Though developers will be able to develop their own Gadgets for the service, several of the new gadget features will be shortcuts to other Google products. The Google Desktop program will also still put the standard Google search bar on the desktop as well. The Notebook program will let users save links, images, and Web sites of interest, and act as a companion to users wherever they surf.

Bar Codes

WSJ writes about new uses:

A rising number of people are using new free services to connect to the mobile Internet by photographing bar codes. The codes — either conventional bar codes or digital ones — are showing up on more products, advertisements, books and even buildings. The technology is popular in Asia but previously failed to catch on in the U.S. after several attempts. Now, improving technologies and the ubiquity of camera phones are triggering a host of new bar-code services.

Nokia Corp. has built its own bar-code reader into new models of two camera phones that are scheduled to become available in the U.S. this fall. Scanbuy Inc.’s. Scanbuy Shopper, expected to be live in the next few weeks, grabs Shopping.com prices and reviews, for example, from a Universal Product Code, or UPC. Nextcode Corp. has launched ConnexTo, mobile software for reading digital bar codes that are cropping up on food packaging and posters. NeoMedia Technologies Inc., which owns mobile-ad firms, will launch its bar-code reader PaperClick later this year.

Dot-Mobi

WSJ writes that the new top-level domain could spur the wireless web:

Mobile Top Level Domain aims to change that in part by setting up a new domain name specifically for wireless Internet Web sites called dot-mobi. Just as dot-com is the domain name for many Web pages on the wired Internet, dot-mobi will become the suffix for Web pages that are formatted for cellphones and other wireless devices, the company says. Mobile Top Level Domain Chief Executive Officer Neil Edwards says the union of the Web and cellphones has so far been “a bad experience” that consumers and the mobile industry have failed to embrace. “Dot-mobi makes the Internet work on phones,” says Mr. Edwards.

Many big companies are backing this initiative because they will all benefit if the dot-mobi suffix takes roots among consumers. Wireless carriers like Vodafone could generate more revenues from data usage. For their part, Google and MSN are looking at advertising on cellphones, which is expected to be more effective than online advertising because the cellphone is perceived as a more personal device.

TECH TALK: Of Blue Oceans and Black Swans: Handling Failure

One aspect of blue oceans and black swans strategy is failure. One is likely to suffer more failures than successes. It is important to handle failure well. For me, when things dont work, I consider two things: what I did wrong, and what can I learn. Sometimes, it takes a long time to answer these two questions time helps one understand the things that wrong much more objectively.

I am of those who believe that failures can teach us more than success can. When I started out as an entrepreneur, I thought Id succeed right away. After all, I had a great education and a good set of ideas. The first two-and-a-half years were perhaps the most trying times of my life, and I was very unprepared for things going wrong. When I look back, that period in my life taught me two things: that failure is more likely that success in a business venture, and humility. It is that period I remember when I think things are going well. (As it turns out, most of my life as an entrepreneur has seen things not go well!)

Today, after all these years, I am much more balanced. Age may have something to do with it also. I am now approaching 39. But I think I have still managed to keep the same passion and excitement that I had a decade ago. A lot has to do with the kind of work one is doing and the belief one has, and the people one is working with.

We were not really taught to handle failure as part of our formal education. Even our professional lives, it is mostly about incremental successes. We work in groups, and the buck does not necessarily stop with us. There are always external factors and other people one can partially be held responsible if things go wrong. But as an entrepreneur, there is no passing the buck. The entrepreneur is completely responsible for the things that go wrong. That increases the pressure. Every day is a challenge. Many daily decisions have ramifications beyond just the immediate future. One cannot keep looking in the rear view mirror and play the what-if game.

Many times, we are quite content with the status quo and we let time pass. We do not want to do things differently because we are afraid of failure. We are hesitant to make big bold bets because we worry about what could happen if things go wrong. Failure is par for the course if we want to play for success. The bigger the bets we want to make, the greater the failures we will experience.

So, think blue oceans and black swans. Imagine the world of tomorrow and build it. In the context of India today, this is even more important we have to make up for many decades of lost time. Technology can provide leapfrog opportunities. They are there in every area. We have do it is to be willing to think different.

Continue reading

Enterprise Tech Startups

InfoWorld writes about 15 companies to watch.

ActiveGrid speeds Web application development
Akimbi virtualizes the application test bench
ConSentry locks down the network
Determina pre-hacks applications against intruders
Fabric7 promises high-end servers at low cost
Fortify scours code for security vulnerabilities
Gigamon offers one view of many monitoring systems
Jitterbit shakes up application integration
JotSpot delivers enterprise wikis and mashups
Splunk combs log files for hidden problems
Sxip simplifies identity management across domains
TrueDemand keeps retailers from running out of stock
XenSource rolls out cross-platform virtualization
Zenprise spots Microsoft Exchange failures
Zimbra’s Web-based platform takes aim at conventional e-mail

Why Web Apps Fail

Bokardo has 14 reasons why Web apps fail. Among them:

They dont have an underlying business strategy of improving peoples lives.

Most business strategy is about making money. However, this is a short term goal. If you focus only on ways to make money, then youll make decisions that in the short term seem good for the balance sheet but in the long term actually work against it. Take the case of LLBean. Where everyone else is trying to get away from call centers and move all of their customer interaction to a web site, LLBean actually allows you to talk to a human being almost instantaneously. Their phone number is easily found on their web site/app. This probably does cost them a lot more than if they had some contact forms or an instant chat room, but it sure does make it quick and easy to give them money. My sister worked at LLBean for a time, and I was always impressed by the way that they empowered her to handle customers. It probably cost them money in the short term, but people remember when you make their lives easier, not harder. Many companies, unfortunately, see the Web as a way to reduce direct communication with customers, when in reality it should cause an increase in communication if youre successful.

Wavion

News.com writes:

A new Wi-Fi start-up called Wavion Networks came out of stealth mode Monday and said it has developed technology to solve many of the problems big cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco face when deploying citywide Wi-Fi.

San Jose, Calif.-based Wavion, which is backed by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, says it has developed software and silicon that not only increase the transmission distance of a Wi-Fi signal, but also alleviate much of the signal loss so that fewer people need to deploy signal boosters.

India: Back to the Past?

WSJ raises doubts about India’s reforms process given Sonia Gandhi’s influence on the government:

To her supporters, Ms. Gandhi is a voice for the dispossessed, stoking a long-overdue discussion about the inequities that come with economic liberalization. But detractors see her as a throwback to the days when her family’s socialist nostrums and quirky populism doomed India to fall behind another Asian giant, China, in economic growth.

In reviving her own moribund Congress Party, the 59-year-old Ms. Gandhi has emerged in the mold of her late mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, a socialist icon passionate about the poor and deeply suspicious about the benefits of global trade.

“We have changed the manner in which economic reforms were perceived,” she told a conclave for senior Congress Party leaders in January, according to a transcript of the speech, “from an excessive preoccupation with [foreign direct investment] and privatization to an overriding emphasis on employment, education, agriculture and health.”

Mobile Media

The New York Times writes:

From Hollywood to the Bristol, Conn., campus of ESPN, companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to adapt their current brands in television, movies, games and news and information to the tiny screens of mobile phones, and creating new programming.

Ultimately, whoever guesses correctly the kind of bite-sized, time-wasting distractions people want to snack on over their phones could be showered with a bonanza of profits, at a time when technology is squeezing the traditional businesses of media and entertainment companies.

TECH TALK: Of Blue Oceans and Black Swans: Convincing Others

The hard part about building ventures with a view to the future is convincing others around that it can work. I face the challenge at work and when I talk to potential partners and customers. The red ocean of competition is very visible. The blue ocean isnt. I have to spend time making others see the world as I see it. I have to outline a vision that may seem outlandish to the one listening. But I have learnt to persevere. It requires great belief in what one is doing.

It is something I think about a lot. For the past year or so, I have spent a large part of my time thinking about the mobile internet and network computing. For me, there are two screens through which one will access the services in the future the small cellphone which we always carry, and the big, mostly stationary computer (or in some cases, the television). In a way, both are computers. (Nokia calls its range of mid- to high-end mobiles as multimedia computers.)

The key point here is that services will mostly be server-based. This is a shift from the world of desktop computers. Also, in countries like India, where broadband has languished due to poorly conceived policies, the mobile is likely to be the primary device for access to these services. The existing Internet leaders come from the world of cheap and plentiful bandwidth, with near ubiquitous presence of computers. That is not the case in India. It may be hard to believe but we do have something that is world-class on the infrastructure side in India the mobile data networks.

But the reality of today is that in both mobile data and network computing, there is a lot that needs to happen and change. Operators control access to mobile data networks, and network computing lacks broadband. These and other challenges are what we need to solve in the ventures I am involved with.

Besides, I need to convince team members that tomorrows world will be very different from today. I tend to live mostly in the future you see that reflected in many of the posts that I do on my blog. I read widely but spend only a limited time with newspapers on what happened yesterday. The future fascinates, but I also need to make sure that it is something that we can make reality. If we dont, we fail.

I prefer to look ahead rather than backwards at who is chasing us. I dont spend too much time thinking about what our competitors are doing. Some of them, of course, have the advantage of having a large user-base and great deal of capital. But if we think innovatively, we can beat them and win big. Sure, the odds are stacked against us, but then that part of the fun of being in the business of entrepreneurship.

Tomorrow: Handling Failure

Continue reading

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.