Tag Archives: innovation

Alto Email, The Open Graph, MBA Mondays, and Las Vegas CES

Happy Wednesday.  I thought I’d write another post that points to discussions or products that I’ve been part of recently.   Leave some comments below or reach out directly if you’d like to talk further about any of these.

It’s amazing how much an interface can make or break a product, go Alto!.   In early October, I heard AOL was launching Alto, it’s upgraded mail platform.  I signed up for the limited release and was granted access to the system late last night.  I am impressed so far.  I like the interface a lot.  It’s amazing to see how much of a difference the interface can make.  Font selection, user flow and the overall idea of classifying emails is fairly smart and spot on.   I do not use Sparrow so do not have a point of comparison, but it seems to me like accessing Alto over Gmail (even though Alto is a layer on top of Gmail for me) is the way to go.  What do you think?

The big question for Google, especially if users start accessing Alto as the portal to their Gmail is at what point do they disallow this?  Gmail is a revenue driver for Google in relation to AdWords (ads on the sides and above your emails) and Alto basically gets rid of these.  Will AOL roll out an ads product in Alto?

Get Your MBA On, Advertising Models.  Fred Wilson, a friend, venture capitalist and AVC blogger wrote his latest MBA Mondays post on Advertising Revenue Models.  Being that he and I both know that this is in my wheelhouse, I helped write the piece and linked it back to a presentation I gave in 2011 to the NYC TechStars class (I mentor).  The post was not specifically used to quantify or justify advertising but rather expose the different models within advertising revenue.   I think the post is fairly comprehensive and is a good primer for anyone considering taking advertising dollars.  I’m more than happy to talk more about it which is why I created the short-lived but very specific Marketing Wednesday series.

Fb Open Graph Innovation.   At kbs+ Ventures, we see lots of companies who are innovating around advertising and marketing technology.  This is our core area of the marketplace we invest in and one we’ve considerably doubled down on over time.  An area that we see companies spending lots of time thinking about is the Facebook Open Graph.  FbOG is an underutilized asset/utility for brands and there is a ton of room for brands to engage with it.  We are sniffing around this space to understand the forthcoming players in the FbOG space so if you are someone, know someone or are just genuinely excited about the FbOG, leave a comment and we’ll hook up.

2013 Consumer Electronics Show.  I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas for 2013 CES.  I’ll be there for meetings on Monday/Tuesday so if you’re heading out and want to meet up, certainly reach out and we’ll try to coordinate some time to meet up.  I’m specifically looking to meet entrepreneurs or other folks innovating in/around marketing and advertising technology which actually had solid representation at last year’s (2012) CES.


The Innovation Equation

I attended a talk at the Summit Series led by Chip Conley, the author of PEAK (and various books) and founder/CEO of Joie de Vivre.  Here’s his TED talk.  Over the past 25 years, he’s studied many different emotions and has broken them down into equations.  An example of this is:  DESPAIR = SUFFERING – MEANING

I’m working on a presentation about Innovation.  I’d like to break down the word innovation into an equation as inspired by Chip.

Here’s my stab at it:  Innovation = Execution + Evolution + Inspiration

What are your thoughts?  Is this equation good?  Did I miss anything?

My First Ohours Day Competed

For those note familiar with Ohours, it’s my friend Nate‘s new experiment with helping to connect people looking to network and connect with other interesting people.  He also coded it from start to finish as his working education to learning programming.  I thought I’d try it.

I held my first Ohours day on Friday, January 7.  I made an hour of my time available in 20 minute increments and met with three different people.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect going in and was very curious to see who would pick me.

I will leave out the names of the people I met with due to confidentiality purposes but will give some insight into the content of the meetings and my overall opinions:

  • Probably no shock, all three meetings had to do with entrepreneurship and for me to give quick feedback on certain aspects of their business (fundraising, business development, hiring)
  • The meetings underscore to me that the New York tech scene has a lack of development talent which has been written about quite a bit lately or people just do not know where to look (which seems to be less of an issue now)

Here is some advice if you are using Ohours (and feedback for the product in general):

  • 20 minute meetings are tough.  By the time you are done with intro’s, then you have 10 minutes to talk.  Not a ton of time.  I’d say minimum meeting times should be 30 minutes (an extra 10 mins means a lot)
  • Ohours should send an email with brief bio’s of each person you are meeting with.  I actually had only met one of the three people I had met with before and wasn’t able to research their backgrounds before meeting individually with them.  If Ohours could pull from the various sources online (like LinkedIn) with bio information, it would be helpful.
  • A private feedback mechanism would be helpful to see how the participants in the meeting felt about it.  It could be less about “did I like the person” but more about “did the meeting add or enrich value” (or something along those lines)

The next 2 weeks are grueling for me and laden with travel so I’ll have another Ohours in February.  It’s not posted yet on the site but will tweet it out when it eventually is posted.

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Big Ideas vs. Distance (My Dilemma)

Ideation Dilemna

Anyone else have this dilemma?  What do you do to overcome it?

I always love traveling or working in remote coffee shops because that’s where my mind frees up.

IGA Worldwide was a brain fart of mine when I was walking thru the woods in Saratoga Springs.

Tomzy was ideated when Sherri and I was traveling to a beach location.

I spent a lot of time working on Varick Media Management while working at the Muddy Cup in New Paltz, NY.

The Positives of Tough Times: Revenue Innovation at it's Finest

  • In good times, advertising dollars could be the primary revenue stream of many companies, especially in the digital media world.
  • In the tough times, advertising dollars are a revenue stream of many companies, but companies must diversify their revenues beyond ad dollars.

In these tough times, I’m excited about companies who can create new revenue streams or fine tune their existing streams.

In the video game world, game developers and publishers were selling their product on store shelves and their margins were falling fast.  One of the main reasons margins were falling is because game development costs were rising due to the next gen consoles (PS3, XBox 360, Wii).  We created IGA Worldwide to help game developers/publishers recognize new revenue sources (ad dollars).  Other people created virtual goods platforms and in-game messaging systems.  Entrepreneurship at it’s finest.

Like I said earlier, I’m excited about the new potential revenue sources that are/will be created for the digital media world.

More Important Than Ever: Adoption Curve

For those who have had heard me speak recently either at conferences or in person, I’ve been talking a lot about the Adoption Curve.  The adoption curve may be more important than ever due to the economic environment that we are facing.  Adoption of a product and the associated business model by society is more important than the innovation curve, as the financing market for startups is tough at this moment and survival of the fittest is in full swing.

Everett Rogers created the theory, Diffusion of Innovations, which is a theory of how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Rogers introduced it in his 1962 book, Diffusion of Innovations, writing that “Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.

I’ve created a diagram to illustrate my thoughts:

There is a delta between the Line of Innovation (LoI) and the Line of Adoption (LoA).  The closer your product/service is towards the Line of Innovation, the harder it is going to be to survive today.  The LoA is where the mainstream audience is, and with this audience, comes the bulk of potential dollars.

Too many entrepreneurs innovate and create some wicked technology but don’t account for the adoption line and the market today.  In our economic environment, cash is king today and as I assess startups, I’m looking for them to be closest to the Line of Adoption.

As you build your startup or create a new service within your digital media empire, assess where your new product/service falls and do everything in your power to have it fall closer to the adoption line than the innovation line.

Additionally, it takes time for innovation to be adopted.  The delta that exists between the LoA and the LoI is essentially time.  Every day that we turn the lights on and our employees come to work, we are spending money (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little), so make sure:

Time to Adoption < Money in Bank.

P.S. I think the post title is misleading because this should not be more important than ever.  Every startup should build close to the adoption curve, rather than far out towards the far edge of innovation.

Email. Thought it was going somewhere?

Charlie has an excellent point in this post about email.

So, while the kids, with their rock and roll and their ripped jeans and hacky sacks… err.. chrome spinners, may not have a need for e-mail now, it’s not going away anytime soon. Plus, most alternative methods, like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, require both the sender and the recipient to both be on the same social network. E-mail is a least common denominator. We all have one and it requires no additional signup/login to send someone a message.

There’s been lots of talk about how we need Inbox 2.0 or that kids don’t use email any more (only IM, social network messaging, etc) but remember, they’re not in the work force. Typically, the work force moves at a snails pace (with technology infrastructure) so when kids come of legal age to work, they’ll be using email for the foreseeable future.

Just because a kid uses IM or MySpace to send messages, don’t mean his boss will want to use that. At the end of the day, sending a spreadsheet or pitch document to your team/boss is necessary – whether it’s thru an attachment or an online URL; and email, as Charlie says, is the lowest common denominator of everything [today].

Fred recently (today) posted about messaging and that’s the larger conversation here.  If you step back to 30,000 feet and look at email/SMTP/POP/Exchange/rss/sms/IM/etc – it’s all about messaging.  He believes that there will be open platforms and that’s where it’s going in the foreseeable future.  I agree.  If my Outlook could send SMS messages/IM/etc – and group it all in one place, that would be fantastic.  A great name for this would have been Grand Central, but that’s taken by another startup (now owned by Google) in the telephony industry.  We should potentially call this Penn Station?

We all love innovation and in my opinion, there’s a heck of a lot of it occuring right now in the technology scene. Entrepreneurs are turning out radical new ideas almost daily and we haven’t caught up to even 10% of what they are churning out. Just because kids are using IM to converse with each other, doesn’ t mean we should drop what we’re doing now to adopt these alternative methods of communication. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Also, lets not get too far ahead of ourselves for the innovation curve. Innovation is great – but consumer adoption is more important (to build a sustainable business).

Pace of Innovation

Dictionary.com defines innovation as:

1. something new or different introduced

We’ve all spent countless hours mulling over something or other to be innovated: a new beer cooler, a urinal toy (thanks Drillings), a new cell processor, in-game advertising, etc. A few of us actually do innovate and sometimes come up with a product or service that is a hit: Sergei & Larry, Andy Grove, Trip Hawkins, and countless other innovators.

As more and more people create a new product or service, or better yet, make one better, the pace of innovation increases. Ray Kurzweil predicted that information technology doubles it’s power every year (price, performance, capacity, bandwidth).

Is the pace of innovation too fast? That’s the question that I’ve been asking myself recently. Lets use the following example: For a few summers, I worked on developing a large scale social community around college and high school students. We spent quite a bit of time and hours around this community and were rated fairly highly thru marketshare statistics. Afterall, we owned one of the best domain names, Student.com. A few years later, TheFacebook.com showed up and stole the scene. Many me-too players emerged and KickApps enabled the world to create social community websites, similar to Facebook and others. Hundreds of social networks emerged including networks around pickles, hockey, dark chocolate, stiletto heals, traveling to Idaho, and broken iPhones. Whether or not these are good concepts or not, many of these received some venture or private funding and began building out their own little dynasty. That is… until the next wave of innovation spurs and these are either acquired or slowly die a quiet death.

Innovation is occuring so frequently that many times, business models aren’t flushed out yet and the company goes under. We’re trying to innovate and create as much as possible and the financial markets are supporting it (so far).

A few notes to take away from this:

  • Investors are in a tough spot because of this. Since innovation occurs so regularly, investing into a company without a defendable plan is going to be a rough ride. Very few will make it.
  • We may be more Darwinian than ever. I’m not philisophical but this holds fairly true IMHO. Only the strongest survive is going to play out over time because the world is flat and people have many choices.
  • Your idea is not new is holding true. I’ve stressed this before, but your idea is currently being executed somewhere else in this world. Get ready for competition. Case in point: I’m advising on a project that we thought was earth shattering and as we started talking to people, we realized that we were 9 months behind another company. Pace of innovation is speeding up.

How do you win the war? That’s the trillion dollar question. Build your organization to be as nimble and dynamic as possible, but don’t lose sight of your original vision. You can’t win the war alone either. There are people and companies out there that you can partner with to get your product to market faster, efficiently, and stronger. Go and find them.

Lets innovate.