Seed Investing

Fred Wilson writes why seed investing is less risky than later stage investing:

My basic point is in seed/early stage investing you ante a little, see your cards, decide if you want to invest more in your hand, see some more cards, etc, etc. You get to stage your risk capital as the investment shows itself to you over a number of years. You can manage all kinds of risk this way; management risk, valuation risk, technology risk; and market risk. Classic later stage investors want to be in the last venture round and in that scenario, you are putting all your chips on the table before you’ve really seen your cards.

Later stage investors can’t impact the development of the company. They have to accept the direction that has been put in place before they came in. We typically invest in pre-revenue companies. Usually they have the technology platform in place and in most cases, they have launched something with some success. But getting the business model and market entry strategy (the angle of attack) right is key.

Netflix CEO Interview

From WSJ:

WSJ: Why does Netflix face a lot of questions from analysts about the sustainability of its business even though you’re showing strong growth?

Hastings: That’s easy. We’re sure that we’re going to be buying cars in 25 years, whereas renting DVDs through the mail in 25 years? For sure that’s not going to exist. That’s what creates the overhang — there’s a known obsolescence. Now we can argue about whether that’s 10 years or 25 years [away]. Some people probably think it’s five. I think they’re wrong. It’s probably more like 20.

WSJ: So it’s a question of when, not if, DVD rentals will go away.

Hastings: That’s exactly right. If one thinks of Netflix as a DVD rental business, one is right to be scared. If one thinks of Netflix as an online movie service with multiple different delivery models, then one’s a lot less scared. We’re only now starting to deliver the proof points behind that second vision.

The New AT&T

The New York Times writes:

The new AT&T has 66.5 million land-based telephone lines, 61 million wireless subscribers, 12 million broadband lines, and sells local phone service in 22 states. It has 302,000 employees.

AT&T’s $242.77 billion market capitalization by far surpasses that of the next largest phone company, China Mobile, at $ 183.13 billion, and is double that of the nearest American competitor, Verizon Communications, at $109.62 billion. The companys come a long way largely on Ed Whitacres vision, said John C. Hodulik, an analyst with UBS. Right from the beginning, he realized the benefits of scale in the telecommunications business.

Relationship Economy

Doc Searls writes about what it would take to build it:

First, I think we need protocols. These should be modeled on the social ones we find in free and open marketplaces. They should work like the ones Sayo talked about in his Socratic dialogue with me on the airplane. They should be simple, useful and secure.

Second, we need ways of supporting transactions. This is a tough one, because to work they need to be low-friction. I should be able to pay IT Conversations (or any public radio station, or any podcaster) as easily as I pay for a coffee. Or better yet, as easily as I tip a barista. So PayPal won’t cut it. (Not the way I’ve experienced PayPal, anyway.)

Third, we need ways of selectively and securely asserting our identities, including our choice to remain anonymous. This means getting past sign-on hurdles on the Web, and past membership silos out in the physical world (such as the ones that require a special card, or whatever). Again, the friction should be as low as possible.

SMS Groups Services

Library clips has a list.

Groups SMS is in vogue at the moment as there are lots of services popping up. These services all have the main purpose, sending a group of people or your contacts a message they can access on their phone, and being able to reply to the group or senderbut these services do differ in the details.

Some have a web and mobile web presence (even a social network), some you can send text via a webform or email, and even send and receive text by RSS, email or IM.

Some of these services are more leader to group (one to many) one way communication, whereas some are many to many, eg. one to group (or contacts) or group to group (or contacts) SMSing, and replying.

Some have group voicemailing, and there are a few that have a Text-In information service.

TECH TALK: Creating Indias New Cities: Learning from Our Past

Last weeks Tech Talk discussed some of the challenges facing India. In seeking how to address them, one of the ideas put forth by my colleague, Atanu Dey, is the focus on urbanization and the creation of new cities. Over a 10-part series spanning two weeks, Atanu outlines how we need to create the new cities that India so desperately needs.

Isnt it astonishing that 2,600 years ago, when most of the world was living in tiny little human settlements, the Indus Valley civilization had well-planned cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro? Some of these cities appear to have been built based on a well-developed plan. The streets of major cities such as Mohenjo-daro and Harappa were paved and were laid out at right angles (and aligned north, south, east or west) in a grid pattern with a hierarchy of streets (commercial boulevards to small residential alleyways), somewhat comparable to that of present day New York. The houses were protected from noise, odors, and thieves, and had their own wells, and sanitation. And the cities had drainage, large granaries, water tanks, and well-developed urban sanitation, the Wikipedia article on urban planning says.

What is even more astonishing is that now, two and a half millennia later, most of the current inhabitants of land of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro civilization live not in well planned cities but in tiny little impoverished villages, and some in ill-planned congested mega-slums. The shame of the whole thing is that as a collective not only have they lost the knowledge of what cities mean but also they dont even dream of building and inhabiting cities. One wonders when the regression started and what led to the death of the spirit that built those ancient cities. Something snuffed out the spirit, something killed those dreams, something made the inheritors of such great vision and accomplishment into myopic poverty-stricken masses living in misery, huddled into very primitive small villages.

The world or at least some parts of it has moved on. They have built many wonderful cities, much grander in scale than Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. Over the centuries, human civilization has progressed pari passu with the development of cities. Immense understanding and knowledge of what works and what doesnt in city planning has accumulated.

With a modest investment in airline tickets, our leaders can visit great cities and see them with their own eyes. They dont even have to imagine. Yet they refuse to dream or perhaps they are incapable of dreaming. Perhaps they are too busy with their incessant bickering over who gets how much of the little pie of material wealth that is created. Their mental poverty doesnt afford them the luxury of dreams. They just want a little bit more, not something better. Their vision has narrowed to focus on how to continue to live in villages. I have yet to hear or read of even one leader of India calling for the creation of great well-planned beautiful cities. More shameful than our material poverty is the poverty of our imagination and aspirations.

We have the power to imagine a different future even if our leaders dont. Using our collective wisdom and skills, we have the power to dream big. More importantly, having dreamt the seemingly impossible dream, we have the power to make that dream a reality. We need to ask the question: if not us, who else?

Tomorrow: Designer Cities