Startups in US

Paul Graham writes about the magic and magnetism of Silicon Valley:

Startups happen in clusters. There are a lot of them in Silicon Valley and Boston, and few in Chicago or Miami. A country that wants startups will probably also have to reproduce whatever makes these clusters form.

I’ve claimed that the recipe is a great university near a town smart people like. If you set up those conditions within the US, startups will form as inevitably as water droplets condense on a cold piece of metal. But when I consider what it would take to reproduce Silicon Valley in another country, it’s clear the US is a particularly humid environment. Startups condense more easily here.

It is by no means a lost cause to try to create a silicon valley in another country. There’s room not merely to equal Silicon Valley, but to surpass it. But if you want to to do that, you have to understand the advantages startups get from being in America.

Real Virtuality

The Economist profiles Carl Bass of Autodesk:

It will be the ability to experience a thing before it is built, says Mr Bass. Before bending actual metal for a new Boeing aircraft, for instance, its designers ought to be able to feel what it will be like to sit in as a passenger, to fly it as a pilot, and to fix it as ground crew. Architects should be able to enter a building that exists only in their imagination and their software in order to see how light falls into it at noon in January and dusk in June. They should also be able to simulate the experience of people trying to get out of a building in a hurry if, God forbid, someone were to fly an aeroplane into it; to feel how it shakes in an earthquake, and so on.

If all this sounds like the visions of virtual reality long touted by science fiction and Hollywood, that is unfortunate but unavoidable. Ordinary people are already having the sort of experiences that Mr Bass describes, through the medium of online games such as Second Life, which lets its visitors create anything they can imagine: with a few clicks, they can build houses, islands and spacecraft, and walk through or fly over the things created by other players. To be useful to real-world engineers, however, Mr Bass thinks that virtual reality should stimulate as many of the five senses as possible. In software today, says Mr Bass, we’re at a pretty crude approximation of sight only. Within a decade or so, he thinks, Autodesk should be able to model touch and hearing as well, although smell and taste will be harder.

Better IM Search writes about Kozoru:

The premise behind Kozoru’s BYOMS (build your own mobile search) technology is that consumers looking for something while in instant messenger want to act on the information: find out the latest weather forecast, settle a bar bet over when Teddy Roosevelt was first elected or read a news story someone on the train just mentioned.

A user’s different BYOMSes are listed as buddies in their messaging client and each BYOMS can contain a distinct list of search sites. Thus, the “News” buddy will search only on selected news sites while “Impulse Buys” will list shopping sites.

Baidu’s Services

Baidu is China’s largest search engine. MarketWatch

Baidu Knows is considered a knowledge exchange, an emerging catchphrase that essentially describes a site where people can ask questions and provide answers. Simply put, they exchange knowledge.

Baidu offers virtual points to encourage users to provide quality answers. The points go toward virtual promotions, like manager, senior director and president. The more points a person gets, the higher their virtual position.

Baidu Postbar is a place where users can type in a query, say “Beanie Baby,” and then land on a message board about Beanie Babies.

Essentially, Baidu Postbar is a way to find fresh buzz about what you’re interested in.

And most recently, Baidu launched Baidu-pedia, a Chinese version of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Motorola’s Q

Paul Golding writes:

It is, like the RAZR, a very slim device. It is nice to hold and looks like something you want to own and touch – and I mean touch, or carry, as opposed to many PDAs that you really want to bury away in some carry bag or leather pouch.

I have long argued that bigger-display devices with keyboards are the future, for two reasons. One is that it’s simply just too damn difficult to engage with useful mobile services on a tiny device. The second reason is that the upcoming generation of portable games players are used to Nintendo DS, Sony PSP devices and iPods. What’s been missing is iconic design. Perhaps the Q is going to be tipping point for mass uptake of smart devices, which could lead to greater demand for mobile services once users get a taste for what’s possible on a smart device versus a tiny phone.

TECH TALK: Education and Reservation: My Views

On a recent Saturday afternoon, my wife, Bhavana, and our year-old son, Abhishek, went to the malls. We first went to Atria Mall, which had just opened recently. Then, we went to High Street Phoenix, with the obligatory walk through Big Bazaar, Indias equivalent of Wal-Mart. I was visiting the malls after quite some time. On our way home, I could not but help reflect on how times have changed. I was telling Bhavana that the real Indian revolution was happening around us. A mix of malls, mobiles, media, money and movies are reflective of the new India that is emerging. She summed it the change in one word: attitude.

As recently as a decade or so ago, we were still very conservative in our outlook and spending. That has been the biggest change. Urban Indians are now much more liberal and willing to spend. The Atria Mall at Worli is full of international brands. The mall is designed very well also there is a feeling of openness and space You see people walking around mobiles in one hand, and shopping bags in the other. The revolution that India is witnessing, more than anything, is one of attitude.

The Indian middle class has always been talked about as a sleeping giant. In the period immediately after the reforms of 1991, many companies came to India salivating at the prospect of a 200 million strong middle class. Most were disappointed. Those were the early days. It has taken time but finally the promise of the middle class purchasing power is being fulfilled. It has taken over a decade, but now the mix of increasing incomes and the environment around is making a youthful population a magnet for global and local brands.

Malls are sprouting everywhere. The media is shaping a change of attitude more liberal, more open, laced with a bit of activism. Malls, movies, and mobiles mirror the me attitude the most visible status symbol for the young, and personalised with the latest ringtones. India is creating, after China, one of the largest segments of consumers with lots of disposable income.

In all this, there is one note of dissonance the government. The events of the past month centred around the reservation of seats in Indias higher education system for the backward classes has angered a large segment of urban society. People see the move for what it is dirty, caste-driven politics, with no intent to do any good for the masses. The shock is compounded by the fact that a person like Dr. Manmohan Singh should stand by speechless as all of this takes place.

For India and Indians to realise its true potential, one of two things needs to happen either we need a government that understands the true aspirations of the youth and focuses on solving Indias problems at the root, or people take matters in their own hands to counter the short-sighted policies of those in power. The issue about reservation in education shows clearly that the first is unlikely to happen in the near future. The second option is the only solution.

Tomorrow: My Views (continued)

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