Why The Self Driving Car Might Actually Work

This week, the inaugural Code Conference took place on the West Coast and much of the buzz was about Google’s self driving car.  Google co-founder Sergey Brin unveiled the car and showed at least one video of a driver-less car which pretty much looks like a gondola.

(image from recode)

I’ve been thinking about self-driving cars for a little while now.  As you might (or might not) know, I enjoy cars.  I’ve blogged about the automotive industry a bit, I got to work on multiple automotive pitches on the agency side, and over the years frequent the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance to enjoy the culture of automobiles.  I’ve also owned my fair share of cars:  some that go fast and some that go slow.

I have a relationship with my cars.   Some cars I care about more than others.  But if I’m leasing, that relationship ends every 36, 39, or 48 months.  I’m onto my next car.   If I own a car, I’m looking at where I’ll achieve maximum value for my sale/trade-in and look to optimize for that.  Note, history tells us that the longer you hold onto an owned car, the more value you get out of it.   For me, value is not correlated to happiness- there might be a slight correlation, but I look to switch my cars more frequently than the typical American of 11.4 years.

As Google showcases it’s self-driving car, the definition of a car doesn’t change, but the value and utility it brings is very different.  Instead of having to worry about driving – and basically concentrating on the road, you now get [potentially] substantial time back in your day.

For me, I am in my car for about 30 mins each weekday.  15 mins to and from the train station.   While those 15 mins each way are not significant, when you add them up over a week, that’s roughly 2.5 hours that I’m sacrificing of my time to drive to the train.  Instead of buying cars that hug the road, sit low, and have 510hp, I can focus on the cabin of the car and basically ride in an office or living room on wheels.  Cars will have more Bentley interior amenities than Ferrari* amenities (though Ferrari is getting Apple’s CarPlay).

I digress.

My relationship is with technology when it comes to cars.  At the end of the day, a car is a set of wheels, an engine, and a lot of modern day computers. Cars today just work….. and for the most part they do.  I noticed my wife had a day-time-running light that was not working today… but that didn’t stress me out.  The car worked fine; when we have a free moment, we’ll bring it back to the dealership and have them fix the light.   Cars have become very utilitarian.

This used to not be the case.  If you ask your pops, your grandmother, or anyone else older than you, you’ll see that they had stronger relationships with cars.  Why?  Because cars used to be a lot more temperamental and they’d break.  They were also newer.  They were to the left on the gartner hype cycle.  When a car had issues, you put on your old jeans and you crawled under your car and fixed it.   You build a relationship with your car.  You might have even named your car.  Or kissed it.  My father named his old Land Rover, Sunny.  That name stuck with me.The self-driving car might actually catch on because replacing your car today is less emotional than ever (IMHO).  For most people**, your car is a utility and you are looking to maximize your efficiency in the day.  If you could check your email or text messages on the way to taking your kids to their soccer game, I’m sure you’d chose that over than actually driving the vehicle.

When we do adopt the self-driving car, the actual car itself will be commoditized (if not already) and will move to the fabric of life.  We won’t think about the car, we’ll think about everything we can do while in the car.

 

* If you’ve ever been in a Ferrari, you’ll be amazed at how little is in the car.  It’s about the driving experience, not the cabin experience.

** Not everyone falls into this bucket.  I’d personally want to keep a car that I could drive.  I get a lot of enjoyment out of driving and taking control of the road.

 

 

 

Some Good Reading for This Week

Been a super busy couple of weeks but wanted to highlight some posts/articles that have been getting my attention as of late:

The Internet of Things by Benedict Evans.  This man is smart and gets me thinking.  Great post.  Fred Wilson posts a follow-up this morning.

The NYC b2b list via Bowery Capital.  A major plus since the list has been open-sourced.

Economics of a Small VC by Charlie O’donnell.  Great recap of how a small VC operates and is a great primer for entrepreneurs to understand how that side of the ecosystem operates.

Who Will Fight for your Digital Rights?  by Andrew Parker.  Short but sweet post making you think about who will stand up for your rights/identity online.  Very Mozilla.

#codecon  Sorta upset (at myself) that I forgot to get a ticket and book my travel.  This conference flew under my radar.  Looking forward to attending next year.

Zero to One.  Blake sent me an advanced copy of his new book with Peter Thiel.  Excited to read it.

Fubnub.  Excited to check out this new project by uberhacker Kevin Marshall.  Should be a better way to take notes.  Also, Amol has a new co that’s focused on note-taking (which pushes email’s boundaries) as well called Knotable.  Check that out.

Any good posts I’ve missed?

Google Controls 41.8% of total Internet Ad Spend

I was doing some financial modeling for a new initiative we’re thinking about at work and wanted to see how many ad dollars there were per Internet user.  Based on my simple calculations, it’s on average* $40.88 per user, per year.

And ….by the way, Google controls around 41.8% of total Internet ad spending.  Wow.

Internet Ad Spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Note, I said average above.  We know that some markets value users higher than others.
** Link to the Google doc with above information is here

VRM, The Intention Economy, and The Thank You Economy

It’s not uncommon for me to get the questions, what looks interesting to you these days? … or where are you focused?  Since joining Mozilla, I’ve filtered pretty much all of my knowledge and history with “user empowerment” and the area I keep coming back to is the quiet but growing VRM space.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s Vendor Relationship Management, the opposite and complimentary tool of CRM:  Customer Relationship Management.

PowertothePeople

The VRM conversation is being championed by Doc Searls of Harvard Berkman Center but at this point, the ecosystem is growing larger than the one individual.  You might recognize Doc’s name as he was one of the authors of the book, Cluetrain Manifesto and followed it up with The Intention Economy.

In the beginning of The Intention Economy, Doc posits that soon, customers will be able to:

  • Control the flow and use of personal data
  • Build their own loyalty programs
  • Dictate their own terms of service
  • Tell whole markets what they want, how they want it, where and when they should be able to get it, and how much it should cost

When you think about these four points, they empower the customer/user and play nicely into the idea of VRM.   Joe Mandese, a VRM list subscriber and all around amazing MediaPost Editor-in-Chief wrote a piece recently titled:  Acronymity:  The Three Most Important Letters You’ve Never Heard Of.  In this piece, Mandese writes about the shift from brands at center to users at center of the value equation.

Per the above points and Mandese’s piece, you’ll start to see some consistency around empowering the user.

On Madison Avenue, there is a lot of talk about empowering the user but the funny thing is, it’s done completely opaque, without user permission (or with permission under a ton of legalese), and the user has been given no access to their data…. among many other things.

Social media has pushed us a little closer to a world of VRM….incrementally- but at least in the right direction.  In social channels, users have a voice – one that can be exponentially radiated.   If I have a bad experience on Delta, a simple 140 character tweet can help solve the problem where not-so-long-ago, it took a penned letter and weeks of waiting to hear back from them.

In The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuck writes, now customers’ demands for authenticity, originality, creativity, honesty, and good intent have made it necessary for companies and brands to revert to a level of customer service rarely seen since our great-grandparents’ day, when business owners often knew their customers personally, and gave them individual attention.

Books

The power of social media (individual voices) and VRM (individuals being empowered, commercially or otherwise) will put us ahead in the next decade.  It’s a bigger opportunity than search (SEM*).  So, this is where I’m focused for now and hiring people and meeting people who want to experiment here.   If you do, please contact me.

* SEM:  probably one of the purest forms of intentcasting which plays into the VRM space but is not entirely the VRM space.

 

Are You a Mozillian?

I’m sitting in my hotel room in San Francisco having bought a one-way ticket here late this past Wednesday night.   Why did I come out with no-end in sight?  I bought a ticket because we were in the midst of a crisis and wanted to be closer to our senior leadership team and board.

For those who don’t know, I joined Mozilla in December of 2013 and am now a Mozillian.  I lead our Content Services group.

I tweeted last night the following:

But this post is not going to be about what everyone is talking about online regarding Mozilla.  Or my Tweet last night.  This post is what Nick Bilton tried to do with his NY Times article but did not point to something that’s very important to me and ultimately, us as Mozillians.

The majority of the media and world lacks an understanding of what Mozilla does and why we do it.  We’re a non-profit.  We have certain ideals and values.   And much more.

What I’d like to do is point you to a video that is super important to us.  It’s on YouTube and it’s called “Are you a Mozillian.”  In the video, it has many clips from the Mozilla Summit that was held in 2013.  You’ll hear from many different Mozillians about what’s important to us and where we are headed.

What’s important about Mozillia is that it’s not about any one of us.  Darren Herman at Mozilla is just one person.  But the overall Mozilla Project is much, much larger than me or any of my peers.  What we are doing is a big challenge but one that is ultimately needed in this world.   We have come to lean on the Internet and take it for granted.  That’s OK – as long as you know that there are certain values that are being upheld to make that Internet experience innovative, open, and creating opportunity for all.

If this is interesting to you, read more about our mission.

Note, I wasn’t asked to write this.  I just got sick of reading all of the negative articles online.  Life is too short for negativity.  I like to surround myself with people and content that move things forward.  I hope you do too.

The Apprenticeship I Would Want

I received an email from an industry friend and fellow Silicon Alley Golf Invitational player who alerted me of the TubeMogul/IPG Apprenticeship program.  I’ve been living under a rock lately so I totally missed this when it first came out in early March but here is one of the pieces written up about the program.

I don’t have any more information than anyone else reading the websites but looks like you spend 6 months learning the ins/outs of TubeMogul and then the next 6 months learning the ins/outs of IPG, a very large and respected agency holding company with a nod towards advertising and media technologies.  I wonder if it’s paid?

This apprenticeship is fantastic.  Forget TubeMogul or IPG for a second.  Just think of spending 6 months at a leading video publisher and then 6 months on the agency side.  You will learn a lot.  This is the opportunity to get your footing in the right place, learn what you like/don’t like, and start to form an opinion in the ad tech industry.

So, if you’re not gainfully employed, graduating University or are looking to jump ship, you should check out this apprenticeship.  More here.

… and absolutely love the initial question re: LumaScape – place TubeMogul + IPG on the landscape.

2014 Silicon Alley Golf Invitational

Ten years ago I setup a golf game for founders of technology companies in New York.  We played at a semi-public course in Westchester County.  There were four of us.  The next year, we each invited another founder; there were eight of us.  And since, it’s grown.  Founders and executives of digital media startups, venture capitalists, marketers, agencies, all coming together to network + play golf.   No agenda, no nothing.  Just good times.   As seen in WSJ, Business Insider, Betabeat, and more.

I call this event the Silicon Alley Golf Invitational.  And it’s back for 2014.  Our ten year anniversary.  June 9 in Westchester County, NY.

If you are interested in playing, sponsoring, or inquiring for press, please use this form.

For those who have played in the past, you’ll receive a formal invitation over the next 3 weeks as we get together the sponsors and logistics.   For those who have never played in the tournament before, please inquire at the link above (or here).

A huge shoutout to previous sponsors Slyce, Spongecell, Buzzfeed, 33 Across, MediaOcean, PulsePoint, Varick Media Management, MDC Partners, kbs+, and Solve Media.

Time to dust those clubs off and hit the driving range!

 

We’re Hiring, Want to Join Mozilla?

It’s time to start hiring and building out our Content Services team at Mozilla.  I’ve spent the past ~90 days working internally to lay an initial plan of action and now I need talented folks to join my team.

We are looking for people who are ready to challenge the status quo in content.
We are looking for people who want to evolve content distribution and delivery.
We are looking for people who care about driving sustainability for Mozilla.

If you do your diligence, you’ll see that there are plenty of stories and posts about Mozilla and “ads” and for good reason… we’ve been fairly mum on everything else so far.  Not everything we’re focused on is advertising related – actually, it’s approximately 25% of Content Services remit in 2014.  But an advertising background is helpful because I believe in order to change something, you need to know how it worked in the past.

We are looking for [content] data scientists.
We are looking for business development folks (here & here).
We are looking for content and advertising technologists.
We are looking for UX, engineering, and business strategy folks.
… and even a Content/Advertising hacker in residence.

Read Mozilla’s mission.  Watch our YouTube videos.  We’re not your typical company; which is what makes it super special to me.

I have high expectations and hopes for this team as does our community.  We have standards and trust to uphold and we will do it and be successful with it.

If you have done your homework and the above is interesting, apply thru the careers website and contact me here to let me know.

Teaching Your Kids How to Play Sports

My kids are at the age where they are starting to participate in sports.  I get excited about this because I played sports growing up and enjoy them today – both watching and participating.  One of the highlights of last summer was watching my son [who was 4 at the time] and my wife do a competitive home-run derby in our backyard.  And he wasn’t hitting off a tee!

I took the kids ice skating last weekend and while my older one had taken skating lessons in the past, lets just say he’s still learning.  And my daughter who is younger, seriously enjoys ice skating but she’s all over the place on the ice and enjoys making ice angels versus taking long strides.  I find them both adorable on the ice.

Ive been talking to Kevin Marshall recently about what he’s building with Coach Wizard.  I’ve known Kevin for years and have brainstormed with him a bunch about different projects I/he was working on.

He’s back at it with Coach Wizard and is helping solve a fundamental issue that I am witnessing per the above:  how can parents or guardians (or anyone else) can teach kids sports.  Most of us are not trained coaches.  I have no idea how to teach my kids to ice skate as I’ve not taken lessons in 25 years, so I completely forgot what instructors once taught me.  But… eventually** I, Coach Wizard could provide lessons so that I can teach the kids how to skate.

The goal of Coach Wizard is to provide lesson plans, drills, etc for things you can do at home to practice in between formal team-practices.  Makes a lot of sense to me.

If this peeks your interest as an investor, advisor, or someone who could use Coach Wizard with your children’s team/league/whatever, reach out to Kevin or on twitter @falicon.

* I don’t think ice skating is part of his initial product roadmap for lesson plans
** Note, I’m not currently an investor but I am informally advising.    My intentions with this post are to get more people aware of what Kevin and his SWAT team are doing.

Opening Night of DMB Tour – You Want to Go?

I’m super excited as during this time of year the Dave Matthews Band releases their tour dates.  I’m a huge fan of the band and have been to my fair share of shows.  I have never seen the band play in Texas which is where their opening night is.  So, I want to change that.

On May 16, they are playing about 40 miles north of Houston, Texas.  Since Houston is very easily accessible via many airlines, I’m planning on going to the show.  It’ll be a tour opening show, an entirely new set (2 sets, both acoustic and electric), and a new venue for me.

I figure I’d fly down the morning of the 16th, get settled into the hotel and drive up the venue for the show.   Post-show, drive back down, sleep, and head back to NYC the next day.

Ideally, we’re all responsible for buying our PIT tickets which we’d probably need to go thru Stubhub or somewhere similar.  Tickets will go on public onsale in a month or two.   Won’t be cheap but should be a fantastic show.

Not a cheap trip, but I certainly want to go.  One of those bucket-list shows.
Ping me if you are interested in going.