TIME Person of the Year: You

TIME Magazine writes:

Look at 2006 through a different lens and you’ll see another story, one that isn’t about conflict or great men. It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I’m not going to watch Lost tonight. I’m going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I’m going to mash up 50 Cent’s vocals with Queen’s instrumentals? I’m going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Marketing Online

The New York Times has a story about what P&G is doing:

Procter is joining a growing list of mainstay marketers trying to reach consumers in nontraditional ways, including podcasts, blogs, video games, e-mail messages, cellphones, video-on-demand and pop-up retail stores that stay open only for a short time.

Marketers are eager to experiment with those new methods because it is increasingly difficult to get the attention of busy, jaded consumers with conventional television commercials and print advertisements. Also, nontraditional campaigns can use technology that enables them to be aimed more precisely at the audiences that would most appreciate them and avoid those who might not get the joke.

RSS Reader for Rich Media

SplashCast reviews 10 RSS Readers. The dream: “If I could piece together the various options available to me now, what Id like is this. Id like an online reader with the speed and media handling of Google Reader and the river of news functionality of Newsgator Online. Id like it synced with a desktop reader that combines the stability, 3rd party tagging and river of news of NetNewsWire with the aesthetics of FeedDemon and the media handling of RSSOwl. I dont believe that anyone has yet nailed the cross platform mobile reader that syncs with web and desktop readers.”

VC Business Changing

Robert Cringely writes that AJAX, Google, and YouTube are forcing venture capitalists to adapt.

The old model was for top firms (those run by intelligent people) to look at 800 deals per year and invest in two to six, pumping them with enough money to assure success while also killing off the founders and pushing for an early IPO and VC cash-out. The other VC firms just watched what the top firms were doing, then bought in on B or C rounds where the risks and returns were proportionally lower.

The new model is venture capital masquerading as a combination of hedge funds and investment bankers. Seed rounds are the only rounds and they are limited to angels, friends, and family. Very few companies go public and those that do are unique in their niches. Acquisition has always been the other exit strategy, but if the VCs don’t have a piece of the company being acquired, they can’t enjoy the benefits of a sale, so what’s to do? The VCs start acquiring companies, that’s what, in a classic hedge fund maneuver called a “roll-up.”

A related story on Founders Fund from San Francisco Chronicle.

Office 2007

Guardian has an interview with Jeff Raikes of Microsoft:

If you poll Office users, there’s a couple of things that really stand out. One is that they really see that Office is very important to what they do in their jobs, so they care a lot about it. The second thing is that they’d like to be able to do even more. They recognise there’s a lot of capability in the product that they’re not getting to today. So the research that we put into designing the user experience was to address that issue: to help folks get to more capability and get things done faster and easier. Our research shows they can use 65% fewer keystrokes and less mouse-travel.

People want a results-oriented interface: they want to get things done. So that’s the most notable step with Office 2007.

TECH TALK: Best of Tech Talk 2006: Entrepreneurship and Vision

The other topic I like to write about is on Entrepreneurship. Last month, I wrote about my fifteen years as an entrepreneur. In it, I outlined my roller-coaster ride and looked ahead to the bets I am making:

The first bet is that emerging markets like India are going to be the big markets. We do not have to follow the same technology progression as users in developed markets have done. We can leapfrog. Being based in India gives us an important advantage over others because we are closer to the future markets. If we can make ideas work here, it will be easier to roll them out to other emerging markets and even perhaps to the developed markets.

The second bet is around a mobile-centric future. I tend to use the higher-end phones now a complete switch from two years ago. This gives me a glimpse of what the mass market will expect in a couple of years or less. There is little doubt that the mobile is a transformational device and an incredible opportunity. The challenge is to think through how people’s lives and businesses can benefit from mobiles which will essentially be multimedia computers, connected to the Internet over high-speed networks, and equipped with high-resolution screens.

The third is a world where broadband is a reality. In India, unfortunately, this still seems distant. But one has to assume it will happen. How can computing be reinvented in a world where connectivity is ubiquitous, cheap and high-speed? What kind of content and services will users want? How will entertainment be different?

This world view of mobility and broadband in emerging markets is at the centre of my thinking, my entrepreneurial activities and my investing. It is a world where the second-order effects will be more powerful than the first-order ones. It is more than just Web 2.0, user-generated content, video, social networking and pay-per-click. The real power of this digital infrastructure will come when it is applied to rethink vertical industries like education and healthcare. That will still take some time, but it is something which will happen sooner than we can imagine.

Envisioning the future is a very important prerequisite to building tomorrow’s world which is what I seek to do as an entrepreneur. I wrote about the importance of vision in a Tech Talk in March. An excerpt:

One of the qualities that an entrepreneur must have is the ability to envision the future. Vision might seem a lofty goal compared with the hard (and sometimes, harsh) realities of running a business. But without vision, navigation and decision-making becomes difficult. Vision helps simplify decision-making and an entrepreneur has to get hundreds of decisions right to have hopes of being successful. Without a view of the big picture, making even a small decision can appear to be a mountain to be climbed.

I have attached a lot of value to vision in my career as an entrepreneur. Sometimes, one gets it right. At other times, I have been plain wrong or a little early. I feel very uncomfortable without a long-term view of where the world is headed and how the things we are doing will make a big difference. I like to think of vision as a game-changer one which sets us apart from others because it gives me a clearer perspective on tomorrows world. There is no single view of the future. What I endeavour to do as an entrepreneur is to define a view of the future and work to make that a reality before others.

So, what is vision? To me, vision is painting a picture of tomorrows world. It is about imagining a day in the life of your user with the products and services that you are making, and keeping in mind the changing competitive landscape. It is about thinking through pain points and crafting breakthrough solutions. It is about giving users an experience they may not even be asking for today. To build a vision of the future, one needs to come at it from multiple dimensions because technology and competition do not stand still.

Why is vision so important? For an early-stage company, one cannot compete and win the near-term battles, however well one executes. Others have a far better entrenched position. The entrepreneur needs to look beyond to the next cycle of disruptions that will come and build a vision around those. That is the time of dramatic upheaval and opportunities. The entrepreneur needs to prepare for that. It may take time for these opportunities to manifest. The enterprise needs enough cash and patience for the intervening years. It is not easy because todays pressures and deadlines will tend to take precedence. Entrepreneurs have to make sure vision is not sacrificed at the altar of the present.

Tomorrow: Blue Oceans and Black Swans

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