Recent Blogs

16 Year Old Foresees The Death of Advertising

NFTE winners announcement

I had the great pleasure of attending the South Florida finals of the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) last week and what I learned should scare Google, Yahoo, and every company dependent on advertising. In short, the takeaway is that advertising is dead – we simply just don’t know it yet.

[If you’ve never heard of NFTE, they are a wonderful organization. They teach high school kids how to start a business. Having been a judge at some of the past competitions, I can tell you that I’ve seen 15 and 16-year old put to shame entrepreneurs that are twice, three times or more times their age – I mean – these kids are learning how to pitch!]

So here’s what happened. Daniel, who’s 16 years old, presented his idea of having a DJ service that serves high school kids his age and as he grows older he can sell to college students – his unique selling proposition was that he was a kid and only a kid can understand the musical tastes of kids. Makes sense, right?

Anyway, he goes through his deck, about a dozen slides tops and one of the judges asks him: “How come you have zero dollars in your budget for advertising”. His answer:  “I don’t need any, customers will find me through word of mouth and social media”.

Sure there could be a cost with doing that (time and maybe hiring someone to do it for you) but the point is that you can do it yourself. You can create your own community. That’s what fan pages are on Facebook. That’s what successful blogs are all about. That’s what Meetup, Ning and LinkedIn groups are all about.

So roll forward, 20, 30 or 40 years into the future. Every entrepreneur has a similar first response. I’ll skip the ad budget and put effort into building a community on Facebook or whatever is popular at the time. Hey, isn’t that what many are already doing? How scary indeed if you depend on ad revenues.

So, what do you think? Will advertising eventually devolve and become less important? Where are the opportunities here? What are you going to do to get Daniel’s business?

BTW, Jessica won ‘cause she had a kick-butt idea to create a custom wall design business that required minimal capital to start. In VC terms Daniel’s business might have more immediate scale but Jessica’s can definitely be something that she can grow now and into her future.

If NFTE’s in your neighborhood, get involved. And bring along some of those over the hill entrepreneurs in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and more and have them witness a 16-year-old pitch a deal like a pro really should.

Moses Created Cloud Computing (no not Jobs!)

Moses created Cloud Computing, not Jobs

At what point did this thing called “cloud computing” come to life? Was it when the marketing folks got together and decreed that what was needed was to resurrect 1960’s era leased computing under a new name. Was it when Jeff Bezos woke up one day and said “holy cow, we need a cloud”?* Or did Al Gore have something to do with it?

Personally, to me, cloud computing was the day Moses (the internet) brought down from the mountain (ubiquitous wireless and mobile access or the cloud) the tablets (iphone/ipad/ aka I gotta have one). It’s that precise point in time when three factors reached critical mass: the internet, wireless access and a device that showed us mere mortals where we could take our computing – namely everywhere. I’m sure I heard someone say “holy cow” on that day June 27, 2007 – the day Apple iPhones went on sale.

That was less than three years ago and here are the steps I see this revolution taking:

1. Baby is born – June 27th, 2007

Internet + Mobility + Killer device

OK, we have the Internet. We have mobility. We have a two killer devices now (the iPad and the iPhone) – Apple is in this camp – but we’ll need more. And yes, Google, I know you’re trying, but try harder.

2. Mommy and Daddy learn to walk

Big corporate IT spenders move to the cloud to save money. Storage is the first hot thing, followed by infrastructure (i.e. servers). This is what is happening now. It’s propelling the ability of us mere mortals to talk to our jobs and to connect us to our paychecks. The more this happens the more baby learns to walk.

3. Baby learns to walk

We’re seeing this already but the pieces aren’t in place yet. We need more infrastructure, more cloud, more corporate IT moving to a cyber existence. In particular, we need our applications and all our files on the cloud. When this happens, we – you, I, your neighbor across the world – we all become hyper-connected. We will be in an age of frictionless music, video and information (I said frictionless, not free). There will be over 6 billion people talking to each other. Will this be the new age of enlightenment? Will this in fact be what Moses (the Internet) was bringing to us?

It will all happen very quickly. Heck, how old is the internet? July 25, 1995 – that’s the day Netscape (the first really popular web browser company) went public. That’s ground zero, the day the world heard the bang. That’s only 15 years ago. And, June 27th, 2007 is just short of three years ago. Holy cow indeed!

So chime in. When do you think cloud computing started? What caused the tipping point? But most of all: what are the main forces at work? If we can envision those forces, we can envision the next Facebook, Netscape, or Google. Let’s invent the future together!

Hello World

Hello WorldHello World! Recently, I’ve been watching the Stanford iPhone online class and taking a few other online classes on programming to deepen my understanding of mobile applications. So, it just seems appropriate that my first blog be called “Hello World”. – as every beginner in programming is taught to write a simple program that does nothing except say: “HELLO WORLD!”

What I intend to do with this blog and what it will turn out to be will not be unlike the process that a startup goes through as it tries to find that magical product market fit or what used to be mysteriously called a business model – in short, that combination that brings you customers and makes you money (or famous or whatever measure you are looking for).

To begin with this blog is supposed to be about the things I am most passionate about and that I like the most (excluding music, lots of indie music, art, lots of contemporary art and movies that got two thumbs up or the Palme D’Or). Namely, it’s going to start by being about:

  • Generating revenues – or how the heck am I going to come up with an idea, and once I come up with it how the heck am I supposed to get customers and make money with it.
  • Technology – lots of others folks cover this far better than I, but my focus is on technology as a tool. Just ‘cause it’s cool can be nice to talk about with your friends, but will it be used, will customers come, will it make money are the things that interest me. You could say, this is about products and customers – hey, see, this blog is already trying to find its own product market fit.
  • Finance & Operations – After having seen Steve Blank’s Why Accountants Don’t Run Startups I want to make it clear that I am NOT an accountant. To me finance is about the business model and how you make the beans. I’ll leave it up to the accountants to actually count the beans. So, Finance and Operations is all about running the business, and the the business model. What works, what doesn’t. Who’s doing it right. Who’s doing it wrong. IMHO.
  • International – It’s about extending your reach, thinking outside the box, thinking outside your borders, really getting out of the building. When you do that internationally, you’ll encounter all sorts of new and interesting challenges and I’ll talk about that here.

So, there you have it. That’s my first blog posting.

Please leave me your comments so I can be on my way to a really great product market fit – aka content to reader fit.

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