Monthly Archives: July 2008

Politics as Usual

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My friend Carolyn feels compelled to run against this woman for obvious reasons.
I hope she wins!
Ishot3_2

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What Makes a Company?

I’m gearing up for our fall FastTrac Growth Venture programs, so I’m thinking consecutive thoughts again about the issues confronting entrepreneurs and startups.

When I get back to Phoenix in a month I know I will be asked to sit down with people who have great ideas, and some who have products. However, few of them will actually have a viable business, much less a company.

So it’s time to go over those differences again, this time using a Phoenix company, Cartfly, as an example. Cartfly is going through some big changes (most of which are still in stealth mode and can’t yet be talked about), so I will probably have to roll around to them again in a month or so to give an update. But it has been around for two years, so let’s just "use" them.

The company started as UStrive, which was (and is) an application development lab. It quickly developed one application it really liked, a simple online store for merchants.

So the guys, Josh and Bob, had an idea. And the idea became a product. The product is easy to use and free, so a lot of small merchants have adopted it. And because there’s also a business model, which means a way to get paid and make money, Cartfly.com is a business.

Social networking is getting bigger, so Cartfly developed a "widget" that allows its merchants to share their stores on MySpace and Facebook. This is good for bands, and many bands use it.  But social shopping is a quickly-changing space. People are trying to decide how to monetize social networks, and how to sell to all the people on them. Going forward, Cartfly will change.

That’s the part now in stealth mode. Cartfly has had a new idea, which they  have developed into a new product, that has the potential of taking the company into a bigger (much bigger) business.

And this is how they become a real company. A company doesn’t have just one idea or one product, or even one business if it wants to compete and survive. It’s the old example of the railroads, who didn’t realize they were in the transportation business.

To grow, a company also takes on people beyond the founders. In fact, for a company to have long-term potential, it has to grow past the founders, as Intel has, or Microsoft. And as Apple and Yahoo are on the way to either doing or not doing:-)

Cartfly, in the next couple of months, will morph in one fell swoop from a small business into a bigger company. Stay tuned. ??I will let you know when I can talk about it in more detail. đŸ™‚

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Barack Obama Has Already Changed Everything

Taking a trip overseas to meet world leaders may not look like it helps workers in swing states at home, but Barack Obama’s confident attitude toward talking to the world has already changed everything. For everybody.

This morning on ‘The Today Show" I watched Brian Williams 
interview Iran’s snarky President Ahmadenijad. What a difference in the man’s attitude. The interview is live, from the presidential grounds on Teheran. And he comes to it willing to talk. "If the American approach changes, Iran will have a positive response." Why has this changed? I think it’s because the world thinks Obama will be elected and willing to take a more collaborative stance toward countries that used to be called "The axis of evil."

American statesmen have confronted Iranians for 50 years, says Ahmadenijad. Iranians have learned to work around it. But nuclear weapons are so 20th century. His country is not trying to make a bomb. He said it several times. And after all, America is moving back to nuclear power, so why shouldn’t Iran? Shouldn’t we believe them? Our lack of trust in others has already cost us dearly.

I believe the Bush administration’s change in attitude signals even our own response to Obama’s comments during the primaries. Watching the attitude of the American people toward Obama must have influenced Bush’s willingness to sit down with Iran again and work toward a diplomatic solution.

I think everyone in the world is waiting for Obama to be elected, and depending on us, the citizens, to get it done.

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Mobile Social Networking

I’m sitting in a panel on Mobile Social Networks at AlwaysOn Innovation Summit 2008. Who is going to win in mobile social networking, and what does winning mean are the big questions.

The panelists are from MySpace, INMobile, Buongiorno, ZipClip, Nokia and Intercasting.  This is an entire new group of players for me, except for MySpace and Nokia. And clearly the space hasn’t taken off yet; but people are preparing for it.

Mauro del Rio, the chairman of Buongiorno says the mobile  use in Europe is twice in what it is in the US. He says, however, that we are ahead on social networking. Buongiorno is a mobile entertainment company that is actually making money:-) "As we aggregate content and provide a unified experience for the user,

The panelists agree that the mobile experience will be very different from that of sitting in front of a PC. And it will be different in every country, because it’s cultural. Babur Ozden, the CEO of ZipClip, says we are very far behind in the US.  He says he can stream video from Istanbul and Beijing, but with a 3G phone he can’t get a signal outside the conference room at Stanford.

Where is Nokia going to make money in mobile social networking? They think through sale of devices, through advertising, through applications of their own, such as music services, and through the 900 million handsets they now have in use. But the users in the chat room say they don’t want Nokia to pick their apps for them.

Nokia has done research across 20 markets that proves users are only talking on their phones 12% of the time. The rest of the time they are working with photos, social networks, etc. Especially in emerging markets, the natural DNA is mobile, and the experience isn’t going from the PC to the phone–the social networking experience starts with the phone.Img_0423

"The ultimate goal is to be the first link in the value chain. That means you need to own the address book (aka the social graph). And it doesn’t necessarily mean that the entrenched social networks will win. The great thing about the Facebook mobile app is that it replaces your address book on the phone with your Facebook friends."–Sean Conahan, CEO of Intercasting.

The address book is the killer app for mobile social networking. It’s a means of reaching out and communicating.

Open identity and APIs are very important for this space. MySpace is allowing the address book to grab user information for the phone. Facebook, right now, is not. MySpace believes in openness and collaboration, and by extending their APIs, they are offering their data for mutual benefit.–John Faith, GM and VP for Mobile, MySpace.

There are large interests now trying to pander to the consumer by syncing all the address books.

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“Mad Men” to BlogHer: 40 Years of Women’s Rights

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So I’m sitting here in a large, mostly empty ballroom at BlogHer2008 at the Westin St Francis  with @Geekmommy and @MariaNiles, watching Erin Kotecki Vest participate in an Oovoo video stream with some participants from Netroots Nation, which is taking place in Austin. Technologically, it’s a disaster: the audio sounds like everyone’s in a nightclub at 3 AM on drugs or underwater in a diving suit, and the video freezes and wavers.

But the audacity of trying to live-stream these kinds of communications in real time, with the ability for the audience to respond in real time, is mind-boggling.

An hour ago, we were on NewsgangLive, a panel of callers from all over the world who join each other at 1 PM PST to  discuss technology and news. The technology failed us there as well, since once I had called in and lent my pin code to Laura Fitton  so she could call in, I couldn’t get back in to the call. (This was a message from the gods about my talking too much I am sure). Not to mention the fact that the hotel’s wi-fi was so overloaded that we couldn’t see the stream.

But there we were, ragtag group of early adopters, with two phones streaming to Qik, another stream coming from UStream.tv, and about ten callers through Calliflower.com. We were connecting, in every sense of the word.

There’s no way to describe to the "real" world how real this online camaraderie feels to us. This weekend I have a houseguest staying with me. I met her on Twitter and Newsgang, and I opened my home to her without a second’s hesitation.  And she headed from the other side of the country to stay with me, also without fear.

Online social media tools are huge. At BlogHer2008, mommybloggers are talking about how blogging saved their lives, carried them through and out of their post-partum depressions, restored self-esteem, and gave them some economic power as well. Mommyblogging, which started as a form of personal journaling, has demonstrated the power of women in the economy, and made motherhood a form of acknowledged work. Like out-of-the-home work.

Older women were saying that the entire nature of motherhood has been altered by blogs, because women are no longer "trapped" at home without access to information, fearful and alone with babies they don’t understand yet.

But they are not just blogging about potty training woes. 36,000,000 women are online and blogging. And a great many of them are blogging politically, using their voices to cause social change.

That’s the power of BlogHer so far for me. It’s not anything that is said in any one session; rather it’s the sight of all these empowered, self-expressive women.

"Mad Men," a TV series about the 60s, the era in which I entered the workforce, begins its second season on July 27. Look at the plight of the women in that show, both those who work and those who don’t, and put it alongside BlogHer2008 and you will see what has happened to and for women in the last 40 years.

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Adventures with the 3G iPhone

I stood in the line for five hours. I signed a two-year contract. And I traded a perfectly useful (and almost new, because Apple had just replaced it) iPhone for the new iPhone 2.0 just to be a geek.  Or maybe a jerk.

I’m not unhappy with the 3G iPhone. But I wasn’t unhappy with the other one either. On balance, I probably would have been fine with not upgrading, but I cannot resist a new toy. I singlehandedly power the consumer economy.

Here’s the good and bad news: 3G is not that much faster than 2G. When I send photos, the best way to send them is wi-fi. I don’t think my new phone is that much faster. Does it put my life in my pocket? No. I will still take a laptop to conferences to live blog, and when I edit someone’s book, you can be sure it will be on a big screen:-) (Yes, I do that.)

The battery life has already been commented on ad nauseum. I suppose if you turn off the GPS and wi-fi it lasts longer, but then what’s the point? I actually do turn them both off through most of the day, and I carry the charger with me as well.

The form factor is almost the same, except my new phone has a white plastic back, which will soon be obscured by the case I ordered, because I’m sure it will scratch. It’s spiffy, though. The new phone’s a little thinner, but you wouldn’t notice it unless you weighed them with one in one hand and one in the other. Who cares about the small improvement?

The App Store is the best part of the new launch, and I could have had that on my old phone.  But I forgive Apple the whole Saturday experience because I love the App store. I have downloaded Typepad, iZenGarden, SmugMug, Brightkite, and Kyte.tv. I’m not really a gamer, so I don’t have any of those games yet. I will try them, but they’re not first on my list.

The Brightkite app doesn’t work well, and neither does SmugMug. That’s disappointing. Typepad, which is the software I use for this blog is awesome. And IZen Garden is beautiful.

I must admit that I also really like the GPS services, because I can type in an address on Google Maps and it will draw me a purple line from where I am to where I need to go. I’ve never had that before.

Am I satified? Yes.  Am I blown away? No. If you don’t have an iPhone, get one. If you have a first generation iPhone and you want to spend money on something else, keep it.

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Have You Bought Gold?

Barack Obama has finally said "there is little doubt the United States is in a recession." After Phil Gramm told us we were in a "mental recession," and John McCain allowed as how specific people might be in a recession. Jesus Christ, as my father would have yelled, what does it take for a politician to admit we are in trouble? I’ve been screaming that we’re in a Depression for a few months now on Newsgang Live and elsewhere, and people on TV say it’s not a Depression unless there’s a run on the bank.

All right, have some data points with your martini: Bear Stearns had a run on the bank a couple of months ago, and got bailed out by  some backroom deal between the Fed and Jamie Dimon.  The stock of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the buyers of all our mortgages, has sunk to about  28 cents. It’s only not zero because the government has promised to bail it out. And this weekend IndyMac Bank was taken over by the FDIC because — you guessed it — there was a run on the bank.

How does that affect ordinary people who do not have subprime mortgages and weren’t greedy speculators?

Well, the new person who is running IndyMac Bank after the takeover, who used to be a high exec in the FDIC, warned everyone to make sure they had no more than $100,000 in any single bank, because $100k is all that the FDIC insures. Unless it’s in an IRA, in which you can have $250k insured.

So you are not even safe in cash. I’ve warned my kids to watch their bank accounts. Myself, I never keep money in a bank if I can help it.

A month ago, Citibank lowered my HELOC to the amount I had left outstanding (I had slowly been paying it off, which was stupid in retrospect.) They said it had nothing to do with my payment history, but happened because the value of my home had almost certainly declined. And yesterday I signed on to my Wells Fargo account, which I have had for fifteen years and use for both business and personal use, and found that my line of credit there, too, had been frozen. No late payment, no indication of problems on my end. The banks are just scared shitless and in a state of paralysis. This affects EVERYBODY.

That takes me back to my friend in Arizona who committed suicide at the beginning of June. I knew then that things were tough, because he wasn’t a lightweight thinker, an unresourceful person, or a crook. He just saw it coming.

What will happen now? As I’ve said before, the government will come in and try to do something. Whatever it does may or may not work. Worst case scenario, the FDIC fails, and we all lose everything we have in  American banks. Or the government starts printing money, in which case the value of the dollar falls even lower than it is now, and we become like Russia in the 90s or Argentina, with double digit inflation.

Or maybe I’ve got the scenarios reversed, and the best case is the failure of the FDIC…

Have another martini with your data?

Oh: you want a solution? Buy gold. Practice non-attachment. Take your dogs to the beach:-)

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