Monday, February 26, 2007

BNW #3: Bostonians are Loyal, Hard Working

When it comes to tech entrepreneurship, a Bostonian is a bit like one of those cute border collies (loyal, hard working) instead of a greyhound (fast and sleek).

You can't get a bunch of entrepreneurs and VCs together around here without getting into the whole New England/Bay Area thing. We know they raise more money; we know they have more tech giants.

The MIT Enterprise Forum Brave New Web panel I wrote about here started out on the topic of Web 1.0 and 2.0 and then shifted to the question: "Why does Boston have unique advantages for building Web 2.0 businesses?"

Michael Skok's answer was most endearing: "People here are incredibly loyal and hard working. They're less driven by money." He went on to make the key point that there's no need to think about Boston as "the" location; most young companies today are virtual anyway.

Richard Levandov noted the areas many advantages: a great concentration of young, smart people (350,000 college students) and ready access to capital. "There must be $5 billion under management in this room."

Skok also noted that entrepreneurs need the passion to hit homers, not just singles. "Success begets success; we haven't had that many billion dollar exits." Skok noted that discussions of Web 2.0 tend to present it as a consumer movement, but there's considerable infrastructure behind it. We can expect local companies like EMC to benefit.

Jeff Taylor, who proved it can be done in Boston (with urged entrepreneurs to have the "...fortitude to bring some big ideas out there. You have to take some risks."

Taylor described Boston as a double-edge sword. "We're missing the companies that can buy us and keep us here. We have access to great tech talent but it's expensive. There's nobody to draw from with 5 to 7 years of experience. You have to grow your own talent."

Taylor also offered advice to entrepreneurs: "You have to find the VC who is passionate about your firm. Focus on the RBI - really big idea."

In discussing ways to improve the entrepreneurial climate in New England, David Weinberger offered some succinct advice to investors: "Fund more women." That generated a round of enthusiastic applause.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

CNNMoney Says Old Media Isn't Dead

For Valentine's Day, Paul R. La Monica, a editor at large, kicked off his ode to old media this way:

This Valentine's Day, I've decided to give a big sloppy wet kiss to something that really needs some love: old media.

LaMonica goes on to defend the thesis that old media and new media will co-exist, a blending that one executive calls "media meshing."

People can enjoy both old and new media. Gregory Coleman, executive vice president of global media sales for Yahoo! (Charts) described the phenomenon as "media meshing" at a Yahoo presentation for advertisers in New York Tuesday evening.

Coleman conceded that TV, among other old forms of media, will always be a big draw for consumers and advertisers. The trick is to recognize that more and more people are using various forms of media simultaneously, meshing if you will, and that this meshing can often enhance the media experience for a consumer.

So now I know that when hubby and I are reading email and surfing sites while watching House, we are "media meshing."

I tend to agree with Catherine Marenghi's perspective on newspapers and other "old" media, which she writes about here. It has its place. No website can replace my monthly Vanity Fair, replete with those
lush photos by Annie Leibovitz and those feisty editorials by Graydon Carter.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

BNW #2: Money Doesn't Buy Happiness But It Makes Passion Profitable

From Veep and roving correspondent Kevin Kosh...

That was my takeaway from the keynote presentation by Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire at the MIT Enterprise Forum’s Brave New Web event. Maybe I’m a romantic, but I wrongly expected a keynote full of grandiose ideas from a man who is a “Web 1.0” legend. It was actually a sobering – and quite educational – way to kick off the day. And in an industry with a voracious appetite for hype, and an event the MITEF folks said had the highest attendance since the bubble days, it was starting off on the right foot in my humble opinion.

Even Jeremy’s introduction signaled that he was all about “value” when he quipped that the audience was going to get “two presentations in one,” one on building a successful startup and one on the opportunities in rich media.

The first presentation was the most educational. Jeremy talked about needing people with big ideas, passion and extraordinary perceptiveness, but tempered that with recommendations such as knowing your limitations, focusing on early customers to make them successful and finding the right partners. In fact, one qualifying statement he repeated numerous times was “…even at the expense of broader ideas/vision.” Such a grounded perspective set exactly the right tone for the day, and even before successive panel members invoked baseball and Billy Beane (hey it is Boston after all), during Jeremy’s session, I had written in quotes, “It’s about small ball.” It’s about careful analysis and executing on the little things, walks, steals, singles, doubles and triples to position yourself for success. Plus it’s always better to have the bases full when you crank that homerun and break an 86-year curse…but I digress.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Brave New Web (BNW) #1: Web 1.0 vs 2.0?

At yesterday's sold out/smash hit Brave New Web conference, HBS Professor Joseph B. Lassiter III kicked off the plenary panel by asking his group to comment on Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0, or to quibble about that use of terminology, if they desired. The session then debated the merits and shortcomings of Boston/New England as a Web 2.0 incubator (see next post).

Lassiter joked that with Web 2.0 startups, you've got a 46-year-old CEO. With Web 1.0 companies, you had two 23-year-old CEOs. That provoked a laugh. Jeff Taylor, founder of Eons, said, "Hey I am 46. I can't even get into my site" (which is targeted to the 50-something-plus demographic).

Fox Interactive's Adam Bain is a big sports fan. He reminded us that in 2003, the MLB used the slogan "This Time it Counts," when it was decided that the outcome of the All-Star Game would determine the home field advantage for the World Series. He feels this would be a good tagline for Web 2.0. While Web 1.0 gave us lots of great companies that changed the way we do business (Amazon, eBay, Google), Web 2.0 is going to change the way we interact and is producing whole new genres of media and business (rather than Web businesses that were modeled after traditional businesses). (This was a nice tie back to Jeremy Allaire's contention that online video has produced the "voyeurism" genre - a minor but significant example of Bain's point.)

Masthead's Richard Levandov said he's never really bought into these terms. He sees an evolution, a continuum, in the technology.

Michael Skok (North Bridge Venture Partners) noted that Web 2.0 involves shifts in technology, social behavior and business models, and he sees companies taking advantage of all three of these. You've got a technology infrastructure that's ubiquitous and free or cheap (open source and SaaS-based applications). You've got folks swapping four million files on line and interacting as never before. And you are seeing companies with revolutionary business models.

Eon's Jeff Taylor noted that in this new world, it's still all about brand. "If you get your brand right, everything else will come. Our site is about spirit and inspiration - which sure beats drying up like a raisin." Taylor also noted that he loves the fact that he can follow the customer every minute of the day, using new Web tools.

The ever-charming David Weinberger (Cluetrain author, now with the Harvard Berkman Center) noted three important trends:
  • Sites are beginning to share their services in a way that lets us build completely new applications
  • People have always been what drove the Web forward
  • Growth of metadata that allows the loosening of boundaries; it turns out that it's far better to let information go, so that people can collaborate. We're seeing a lessening of corporate control and a resulting reformulation of business.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

JupiterResearch: Teens Love Online Videos

Anyone with a teen at home will find no surprises here. If you're lucky, your teen has shared the priceless videos of Mentos/Diet Coke explosions, brides and bad hair and the guy who does an ad-quality video (created on his Mac) on how much he hates his Mac.

JupiterResearch has given us the numbers to quantify this trend. Jupiter found that 53 percent of online teens watch video on the Internet occasionally and 22 percent of them view video weekly or more frequently. (Judging by the viewing patterns in our house, one can safely assume much of this viewing goes on between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.)

From the press release:

"Younger consumers tend to be extremely savvy about online media so it's not surprising that teens are making significant use of Internet video," said Joe Laszlo, Senior Analyst and Research Director with JupiterResearch. "Moreover, teen frequent video viewers tend to be both active online and socially influential. For example, 47 percent of them buy products and services online, compared with the 33 percent of online teens overall who make such purchases."

(Again - more real-life validation. Our credit card bills back up these assertions.)

Jupiter has just published a report, Teens and Online Video - Understand Young Viewers to Target them Effectively. The report goes for US$750 and you can check it out here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Boston-Power Launch was Electric!

Since I'm not on the Boston-Power team, I can brag without inhibition about the terrific job the team did with the launch of the company last week at Demo. The company unveiled its next-generation lithium-ion battery platform at the exclusive event, which always attracts the tech glitterati.

It was a great honor for Boston-Power just to be selected to present at DEMO 07 and we've already bragged about that here. But the week was capped off by the announcement that Boston-Power CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud has been honored with the prestigious DEMOgod™ award by the conference organizers. (This has sparked lively internal discussions about whether she is more properly a DEMOgoddess, but we've decided we're too happy with the award to tinker with a trademarked term.)

The DEMOgod™ distinction was bestowed on only 10 out of 68 DEMO 07 presenters to recognize “…their ability to clearly articulate the significance of their debuting technologies despite the pressures of a jaded audience, a make-or-break level of expectation, and a glowing red six-minute count down clock.”

Dr. Lampe Onnerud presented on-stage last Thursday with HP Distinguished Technologist Dr. John Wozniak.

My hat is off to the team, which generated coveraged in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Red Herring, Gizmodo, Engadget, CNET, PC Magazine, and countless other pubs. You can see it all here.