TradeNet in Africa

The Economist writes about an innovative use of mobiles: “TradeNet, a software company based in Accra, Ghana, will unveil a simple sort of eBay for agricultural products across a dozen countries in west Africa. It lets buyers and sellers indicate what they are after and their contact information, which is sent to all relevant subscribers as an SMS text message in one of four languages. Interested parties can then reach others directly to do a deal.”

GPS, LBS and Ads

Dave Winer outlines a futuristic vision:

I program a destination into the GPS and start driving. I notice that it tells me to cut over to Solano Ave from Marin Ave about 20 blocks before reaching the destination. This is odd, I think, because Marin is the faster street, it’s primarily residential and wide, where Solano is heavily commercial, with lots of cars entering and exiting, stopping and starting. Lots of pedestrians too, and in California we like to stop for them (at least this driver does).

How curious, I thought. Why make me go this way. I decided to check it out. When I got to Solano, there’s a convenience store right there. I practically have to turn into its parking lot. How convenient, I thought, a perfect opportunity see if they have Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke… Later I realized something, the scary vision, the patentable scary vision.

There’s no way the GPS knew there was a convenience store there (a national brand, btw), but in five or ten years, I’m sure they will. And further, Toyota will make a deal with the chain to direct traffic by their store, as opposed to their competition. Remember in a lot of businesses it’s all about location. What if someday everyone has GPS, like everyone has automatic transmission now (they didn’t used to, believe it or not). That could be much more valuable than advertising. It’s not about impressions, it’s about delivering customers. Literally!

A SmartPhone Future

AllAboutSymbian has a feature by Krisse, who “looks at why $50 phones are revolutionary while $500 ones aren’t, and then describes what the very last smartphone ever made will be like.”

Here’s one possible vision of the day smartphones stop growing up:

– All your files and applications would be stored and accessed online, the smartphone’s only major task would be to run the internet application/browser so you can access those files and apps when you’re on the move. The online apps would include all communication and media functions, as well as navigation, payment, timekeeping etc.

– The internet connection would be fast and reliable enough to stream all your media files, and the connection’s latency would be small enough not to be noticeable to the average person.

– There would be cameras in the phone which would have such high resolutions and frame rates that the human eye wouldn’t be able to distinguish between them and upgraded models, so upgrades would be pointless.

Mobile Marketing

The Pondering Primate writes:

What happens to wireless carriers when VOIP and WiMax aren’t just concepts? What happens when voice is free?

With all of the upcoming mobile applications, shouldn’t this be an exciting time for a mobile operator?

Advertising is about to encounter a significant obstacle with the mobile phone. Will mobile carriers be able to figure out how to get permission from consumers in order to reach them at anytime and anywhere?

It all boils down to permission and creativity.

Advertisers can’t just slap a 30 second ad on the highest rated TV shows/channels anymore. The consumer has Tivo and DVRS which allow the consumer to retrieve, or be in control of “permission”.

Mobile Search

MocoNews writes: “As mobile search becomes more personalized (and the signs are everywhere that this will be where the action is in 2007), the capability to deliver ads based on the individual users patterns, preferences, location and activity will be the essence of a search engines competitive edge.”

TECH TALK: When Bad Things Happen: Looking Ahead

I can think of many other incidents in my career as an entrepreneur where Bad Things have happened. But when I look back at them, each one of them has helped me learn and grow. Each one has helped the business even though at that time I had no idea why. As a result, I panic a little less when unforeseen situations arise. One can never plan for every possible scenario, but it helps to have some experience of dealing with different situations from the past.

When one is an entrepreneur, there is an implicit acceptance of the unknown. Bad Things will happen which can destroy a business. It could be a software failure. It could be a sudden exodus of key talent. It could a damaging story in the media. It could be a competitor launching a product or service that seems to be faster, better and cheaper. I have experienced all of the above. And lived through each of them and emerged stronger. What is needed is a firm belief that out of every Bad Thing there is another Good Thing waiting to be created. The Bad is obvious, the Good is not. The Bad is the present, the Good is the Future. It is not easy to think of the calmness of the sea when one is caught in a turbulent storm.

Therein lies the challenge for the Entrepreneur and Manager. One has to rise and see the bigger picture, and put things in context. This is very important to also convey to the other team members. This is perhaps the most important lesson that I have learnt through the years the Outside must hide the Inside. Whatever tensions and pressures one feels within cannot be made to come out on the surface. Else, it will cloud decision-making and adversely affect team morale. When Bad Things happen, it is important to get everyone to rally around and battle it out together. This calls for exceptional leadership. And that is what the Entrepreneur/Manager needs to provide when Bad Things happen. One cannot lose ones cool or make statements which can come back to hurt oneself or the business. There is a need for equanimity. There is a need for the body language and persona to be positive whatever be the feelings within.

I know that we may quickly forget about what happened yesterday and move on. But I also know that sitting in our war room we all grew up a little yesterday. Bad Things will always happen. No amount of prevention planning can completely eliminate them. How one deals with them is what true entrepreneurship and real management is all about.

Postscript

A note from Atanu Dey on this Tech Talk:

Neitzsche had famously said, “Whatever does not kill me, only makes me stronger.”

It is a truism of course that we learn from tough times. Adversity is a more efficient teacher than mere good times, it “nurtures strength of spirit.” I am reminded of Max Ehrman’s advice:

“Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.”

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