When First Mover Doesn’t Help You

An engineer I know was infuriated to find that a software architecture proposal a friend had done several years ago and presented to Microsoft as an enhancement to work done at InterProphet appeared in another company’s patent claims – even though he’d presented a similar idea to Microsoft long before. “Well, I guess I can at least go to my grave claiming we did it first” he laments. And as I was there – I can vouch for them. They did it first. This happens occasionally, and we have to ask ourselves “Does being first really matter”?

First mover isn’t always best mover if you’re dependent on a behemoth like Microsoft. It’s when the market is ready – even IBM and Cisco face this problem. The first mover in Cisco’s area was Proteon. They had 100% of the router market. Haven’t heard of them? Not surprising.

What Makes a Great Venture? It’s the team, execution, and trust…

John Doerr spoke with his usual inspirational passion at the Stanford Entreprenuerial “Thought Leaders” seminar. He asked “What makes a great venture?”. Well, I’ve been around the startup block a few times or more, so that’s easy – team and application. “What makes a great company?” How about focus and execution. And “What makes a great group?” Piece of cake – interdependence and communications. And most importantly – trust.

I’ve heard most of this stuff time and time again, so I was jazzed he wanted to skip a lot of the canned presentation and move on to questions. So my question that got written under the biz catagory was:
“WSJ reported last week that ad revenues are finally moving substantially to Internet / online from print. Does this mean, as some claim, we’re in a “second Internet bubble”, or do you think it’s just the promise of the first Internet rush finally realized – in other words, it just took longer than expected.”

While a lot of others were of the “gee, what’s hot to invest in” and “how about my pet venture” variety (and dispatched quickly), mine made him pause a while and think about it. Can you see why?

Lean Times for Silicon Valley “Fighting for Every Penny”

Chris O’Brien of the SJMN put together a very good think piece on the state of Silicon Valley’s economy, and it isn’t pretty. “As companies try to cut costs throughout the food chain, the number of tech jobs continues to decline.”

Where are the jobs and the sales? “There are a ton of opportunities overseas” (Christine Heckart, Juniper’s vice president of marketing). And why? Simple – costs. “In the first 20 or so years of the technology age, the vendors held all the cards. But now, the fulcrum of power is not with the vendors or consultants. It’s with the customers” (Gary Beach, publisher of CIO Magazine).

This impacts all levels of our industry – not just IT workers, but sales, marketing, suppliers and manufacturers, and even investors.

While the article is quite gloomy – “They’re all fighting for a pie that isn’t increasing as fast as they’d like to tell their shareholders. Everyone is aggressively trying to cut costs. You’ve got to fight for every penny.” (Martin Reynolds, technology spending analyst for Gartner) – the fundamental assumption by all these experts is that tech needs will remain static, resulting in an ever-shrinking market dominated by a few big players. While that may be true for all those incredibly complicated and expensive enterprise integration companies that CIO’s are obsessing over, these companies are not the tech trend-setters of Silicon Valley and perhaps should rightfully be outsourced. New “takes on tech” are always the beginning, not the end, of the cycle.

San Jose State University School of Business Neat Ideas Fair

If you’re just plain tired of seeing slick pitches from con men and want to see a little genuine business enthusiasm and love of technology, check out the Neat Ideas Fair video invitation from Chris Surdi, student President of the San Jose State University School of Business Entrepreneur’s Society.

I’ve already heard today from one due diligence guy who said he was going to stop in after he received the invitation playing in email. “I really liked his pitch to come and see the students”. He also told me he cancelled another more elaborate “venture showcase”, because it’s “always the same”, but the student fair looked interesting because “you never know if you’ll spot a diamond in the rough”.

The Neat Ideas Fair runs today and tomorrow. Hope you all can make it – it’s good for Silicon Valley professionals to support our schools and entrepreneurs of the future.

Fun Friday: We’re Just Collecting a Little Marketing Info, Please Just Don’t Move…

I’ve chatted on occasion about consumer issues like the built-in failure mode design of the non-titanium vaio (see Remember when “design” meant “reliable”). But these are primarily good tech designs gone bad for cost / supply reasons. What about when we make good tech go bad because we want it bad? Well, marketing people are exceptional at this, except when they get caught – then they yell and complain and say they didn’t understand the tech. Well, should we believe them? If you do, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Well, got another one for you. Speedstick is running a “win a roadtrip” contest. If you purchase a product, you have a pull-off sticker with a code. You go to the site http://speedstick.com/roadtrip, input your contest code under the peel-off label, and enter your personal info. So just to see how they run this little “contest”, I decided to visit the site and play exactly by the rules to see if they do. And would the answer surprise you? Maybe not…

Dreamworks PDI Makes Wishes Come True

“Shares of DreamWorks Animation SKG made their Wall Street debut today to rave reviews from investors, who sent shares of the producer of “Shrek 2” and “Shark Tale” soaring at the opening bell.” according to Josh Friedman and Jesus Sanchez of the LA Times. “The stock of the Glendale, Calif.-based animation house began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at $38 a share — $10 or about 38% more than the $28 initial offering price set Wednesday. In later trading, DreamWorks shares had slipped below $37.”

So all those folks who watched IPO Fatigue? Watch PDI” last August, where ExecProducer CEO William Jolitz called it right with PDI/Dreamworks should be laughing all the way to the bank today. Oh, and if you missed it, you can still see what you didn’t know about at William Jolitz on ExecProducer MVP. Who knows – maybe his next company tip will put you on easy street.

Partying with Mr. BIG in SF

Last night marked the launch of BIG (the Bay Area Interactive Group) and what a party it was. Over 525 people were packed the Mezzanine in San Francisco. I haven’t seen this kind of action since, dare I say it, the first Internet bubble. Are we in for a second Internet boom?

As Scot McLernon of CBS MarketWatch announced proudly in a kind of interactive theater on a platform in the middle of the floor, “Rumors of the death of the Internet are greatly exaggerated.” Sure looked it from the bodies swirling around the floor. John Durham added “It started right here in San Francisco, and we’re bringing it back”. Lynn Ingham, Advertising Age chimed in that putting on this party was like “herding cats” but it came together, while Brian Monahan of Universal/McCann said it all hinged around the “power of the brand”. All very obvious statements, yet immensely pleasing to the crowd. After such a miserable four years since the bubble burst in April of 2000, who could not be pleased?

So why did BIG start moving “big-time”? According to Jon Raj, Visa, there are a lot of “good indicators”. Highest in everyone’s minds – the IPO of Google validates the interactive marketing mechanism for ads on the Internet (see How Google Took the Work Out of Selling Advertising). BIG thinks that the continued high cost of TV / radio ads, coupled with the fact that more households are getting high-speed connectivity means we’re at a turning point.

It’s an Inside Pitch on a Fast Ball…

One of the neater things that you can do with MinutePitch is to capture top startup CEO’s strut their stuff and compete for funding with a click of a button. I’ve been to a number of Pitch Competitions over the years, where I’ve watched the room gyrate like a whirling dirvish when a CEO hits a home run. I’ve always thought “Wow, I wish I could see that again in instant replay”. But the moment is lost, and everyone slumps back in their chairs. Sometimes, that CEO doesn’t even get a follow-on, because the next pitch is sooo boring it drives out everything else, including that great pitch just before.

So I was lucky enough to be off with my friend and fellow Berkeley physics alum Rick Bentley this weekend as they were shooting his company’s first pitch. And was it ever fun. He did it on the spot, on location, at the airport between flights. Why the airport? Because he’s serious about security and he’s a pilot. This is absolutely cool, and definitely the way pitches should be done – so you can capture the moment and make it last.

IPO Fatigue? Watch PDI!

“Forget Google. The one to watch is PDI.” ExecProducer CEO William Jolitz talks about the “other IPO” happening soon right here in Silicon Valley – the PDI Dreamworks debut. One digital media success like Pixar is an anomaly. But are two digital media successes the start of Silicon Hollywood


Follow the money story from start to pay off, the excitement, the risk, and how consumer electronics, Sony’s “iPOD killer” and 3G fit in here. Join William Jolitz, ExecProducer CEO on his private channel William Jolitz on ExecProducer MVP as he discusses IPO Fatigue? Watch PDI!

Lights, Camera,…No Sergey, the camera is this way!

Everyone’s talking Google – and Google decided to make a roadshow movie. But what do the critics say?

Mike Langberg of the San Jose Mercury News wasn’t impressed. He gave it a thumbs down. In his article “Investors get few details from Google’s somber video” on Saturday, he had this priceless critique:

“…The lighting was so bad in some shots that faces were in shadow. There was no bouncy background music. The PowerPoint slides interspersed among the talking heads weren’t animated. And the four never walked around or did anything more dynamic than gesture with both hands.”

Contrast that with the instant biz video I did for our partners at MinutePitch to inaugurate their service. It has jazzy music and good lighting and all that, and I used a *Canon A60* camara and ordinary lights and just emailed the clips and went out to my Forum for Women Entrepreneurs lunch – it was on the web and had been viewed by the time I got to Bucks in Woodside from Los Gatos. Gee, even my kids use A60’s with video clip for their own movies, and they don’t have a movie crew! And I did better than Google did? Wow!