BitTorrent’s Bram Cohen

Fortune profiles Bram Cohen:

Since the birth of the Net, programmers had been stumped by how to transfer massive filesmovies, TV shows, games, software, whateverwithout incurring astronomical bills or risking frequent failure. Cohen knew he could find a solution; all it would take was time, good code, and brute intellect. He had all three. The money would take care of itself. I didnt have any clear plans when I first started, he says. I wasnt worried, partially because what I was doing was really cool, and partially because Im broken and cant feel anxiety.

What he came up with was BitTorrent, a deceptively simple program that has grown into the hottest way to download anything bigger than a music filefrom the legal (like militaryvideos.nets amateur videos of the war in Iraq) to the infringing. It makes pirating a copy of the latest movie out of Hollywood a snap. All it takes is a free download of the BitTorrent softwaresomething 45 million people have doneand anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.

Mobisodes

The New York Times writes:

n the past year, media companies have begun experimenting with broadcasting original programming made specifically for mobile phones to increase awareness of their television shows and movies. And interest in such programming may grow further: last week, Apple introduced a video iPod, which, while not a mobile phone, is another test of consumers’ interest in portable entertainment.

So far, efforts by media companies are modest, limited largely to games, ring tones and wallpaper. But interest is growing, particularly in “mobisodes,” short series that are already popular abroad.

In the United States, the News Corporation has been at the forefront, creating “24: Conspiracy,” based on a 20th Century Fox Television serial; another serial based on “The Simple Life,” a reality show that starred Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie; and two other serial dramas not tied to television shows. But other entertainment companies are entering the fray, focusing on comedy and animated shorts.

Plastic Solar Cells

Technology Review writes:

Plastic solar cells can’t yet compete with conventional silicon photovoltaics for efficiently producing large-scale power. But they’ve become good enough that at least one company, Lowell, MA-based Konarka, has moved past the proof-of-concept phase and is putting them into products.

Konarka’s solar cells are printed or coated on rolls of plastic — much like photographic film. Tiny particles embedded in the film then absorb light and spit out electrons, which are transported by an electrolyte and harvested by electrodes.

Ads to Feeds

Dave Winer makes a point to think over: “Intrusive ads, the ones that Google sells, are so so tired. Feeds containing commercial information people want, are wired.” In other words, the shift will happen from search to subscriptions.

Web 2.0 Analogy

Steven Johnson writes:

The difference between this Web 2.0 model and the previous one is directly equivalent to the difference between a rain forest and a desert. One of the primary reasons we value tropical rain forests is because they waste so little of the energy supplied by the sun while running massive nutrient cycles. Most of the solar energy that saturates desert environments gets lost, assimilated by the few plants that can survive in such a hostile climate. Those plants pass on enough energy to sustain a limited number of insects, which in turn supply food for the occasional reptile or bird, all of which ultimately feed the bacteria. But most of the energy is lost.

A rain forest, on the other hand, is such an efficient system for using energy because there are so many organisms exploiting every tiny niche of the nutrient cycle. We value the diversity of the ecosystem not just as a quaint case of biological multiculturalism but because the system itself does a brilliant job of capturing the energy that flows through it. Efficiency is one of the reasons that clearing rain forests is shortsighted: The nutrient cycles in rain forest ecosystems are so tight that the soil is usually very poor for farming. All the available energy has been captured on the way down to the earth.

TECH TALK: Bootstrapping a Business: John Hagel and Brad Feld

In a recent blog post, John Hagel laid out the challenge and importance of bootstrapping a business:

Bootstrapping is about capability building.

It is a widespread phenomenon, visible in biological evolution (indeed, it may even have played a role in the emergence of life itself) and a wide range of other complex adaptive systems. In this context, most of the discussions treat bootstrapping as an emergent process it is something that plays out on its own, governed by its own dynamics.

It is a powerful concept with implications for business far beyond the startup world. It potentially helps businesses to cope with accelerating change and growing uncertainty, provides an interesting new way to think about leverage, learning and innovation, enhances scalability of business operations and may even provide a key to at least one form of increasing returns. It is also a critical concept for economic development.

Perhaps as businesses grow larger and gain access to more resources they lose interest in bootstrapping as a management technique. That would be a big mistake. Bootstrapping imposes both a discipline and a creativity that has enormous value regardless of the scale of operations. If we need a reminder of that, just look at the bootstrapping that continues to shape the vast ecosystems encircling our globe.

For an entrepreneur, the fundamental question is how to begin. How does one bootstrap the business? Brad Feld, a venture capitalist, put together a how-to list for entrepreneurs:

1. Figure out how much cash you really have
2. Figure out how much time you really have
3. Pick a domain and go deep
4. Surround yourself with experienced people
5. Find angels
6. Figure out who you want to look like in 5 years
7. Get customers.
8. Learn everything you can about what you are about to do
9. Figure out your fallback plan
10. Figure out what to do if you fail (face your fears before you start)

The last point is worth keeping in mind. As Feld writes:

Figure out what to do if you fail (face your fears before you start): One of my favorite quotes is from Dune – “Fear is the mind killer.” I’ve always believed that fear is one of the most completely useless emotions. “What if I fail” is one of the biggest fears of a startup entrepreneur. Face it – play with it – figure out what happens if you fail. In most cases, failure is not going to be death (although it could be very uncomfortable). Understanding what your fears are and trying to stare them down in advance of actually encountering them will help you enormously in the process of trying to create a new company.

Tomorrow: Greg Gianfortes Book

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