Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Steve Jobs way of building companies

I just finished Steve Jobs Biography a couple of minutes ago and for those of you who don’t want to read the entire book, I suggest you read the last ten pages. In those ten pages, Walter Isaacson just let Steve Jobs talk about how to build companies.

His point is that only engineers or product minded people can lead product companies to greatness. He uses one of Henry Ford say to make his point: “if I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told they wanted a faster horse”. Once a salesperson or a finance person is brought into the top job, then the focus of the companies changes to an incremental approach rather than a leap forward approach. Both types of CEO would focus the company on creating a faster horse and a sales person would bring the next dollar available and the finance person would optimize to increase cash flow. But none of them would focus on creating the automobile and be able to take a leap like Steve Jobs did with the Iphone and more recently the Ipad.

And once a company has changed its model, it perpetuates itself as people brought in, compensated and promoted are all enabling an incremental approach and the product persons who are able to produce leap forward approaches are not listened to so it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and things stay that way for a long time.  This is the traditional innovators dilemma revisited when incumbents have lost their edge and new companies are being started to leapfrog them.

Of course, people could argue that Tim Cook’s promotion as Apple CEO is a blow to the entire argument or that the reasoning is biased by Steve Jobs’ own experience or even that the sample he is using is not broad enough and the hypothesis should be tested by Business Scholars to validate his point. All those points are fair and square but even then, I would still think there is a kernel of truth to it. There is no doubt in my mind that Steve Jobs was one of the greatest innovators of his time and that he has found a formula to replicate innovations over and over again. This is bad news for innovators because if there is one replicable model associated with innovation then the risk of the endeavor has now significantly decreased and can be replicated by other companies as well. If that is the case, we should see an exodus of Apple Executives to other companies interested in learning and replicating the model very soon.

The book is rather unclear about the recipe itself and the details are lacking about how to make it work but I found nuggets here and there and the best way for you to make your mind would be to read the book to get your own take on what it is that Apple did of course, join apple and learn from within.
Steve Jobs widget provided by VB Profiles

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steve Jobs, one of the greatest minds ever

Today, Steve Jobs resigned from CEO role at Apple. As he puts it “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” I am not going to write a Eulogy for Steve Jobs as I fully expect that he will keep on going but I wanted to say in this blog how grateful I was to have been in Silicon Valley at the same time as he was. This mind is one of the most fertile that the world has ever seen: from the MacIntosh to the Ipad, Steve Jobs has been at the forefront of many innovations. In a way, he is like Leonardo Da Vinci of technology. What I find amazing is that he has consistently delivered new innovation to the market over a long period of time. Delivering one significant innovation is not easy and few people will ever do it. He did it over and over again. No doubt that this mastery of innovation will be studied in Business Schools for a long time.

I am adding a link to a thoughtful article from Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat  http://bit.ly/rrFcCA as well as an a profile on hub.spoke.com.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reputation.com US$ 41 million raise on Twitter.

I was trying to get an overview of the Reputation.com raise of US$ 41 million on Twitter and the results are quite interesting:

1) Most tweets are in fact "retweets" of primary source of information with no value added content;

2) Twitter has a role of selecting the right primary sources which in this case are the wsj, VentureBeat and the press release; in a sense, it create a perfect market place for news where the news that are most retweeted are the winners because they are the most read;

3) Twitter was not conversational in this case or not on this subject: some people tried to make sense of such a big round and for which purposes. Some people were suspicious of the business model (would people pay? will the company sell data to advertisers...) but nobody really engaged with them. Maybe the news of this fund raise was not exciting enough and I will keep trying to find other news that are more conversational.

Note that I was only able to find less than a handful of reference of the fund raise on Google Plus. It may be that people are sharing information privately or that Google is not doing a great job at indexing Google Plus yet.

Anyway, congrats to Reputation.com on this round. They are great partners and we look forward to more interaction with this fabulous team.

Attached is the storify story with the most interesting or most retweeted tweets: http://storify.com/philippe_cases/reputationcom-41-million-dollar-round-coverage-on-

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is Curation the future of the social Web?

I was sitting on a panel moderated by Ben Parr on the subject at Parisoma with the CEOs of Scoop.it, Storify and Start-up digest. For a round up of the panel, please see: http://storify.com/philippe_cases/round-up-on-the . The panel was very thoughtful and engaging and Ben Parr, I have to say, is brilliant. He threw at the panel and the audience three bones that we could not handle and yet they are going to be a big part of the social web moving forward: the first one was email overload, the second Google+ and by the same token Google and the last one was mobile.

I guess the subject of the panel was a follow up on an article that Ben wrote about a fireside discussion between Reid Hoffman and Liz Gannes at the Web 2.0 expo in San Francisco where Reid Hoffman hinted that Web 3.0 would all be about data ( http://mashable.com/2011/03/30/reid-hoffman-data) . Another line of thinking is that Web 3.0 will be about managing information overload. As the social web is creating massive amount of data, the question is how does the user keep up and leverage the resources available around him to make sense of this massive amount of data. Whether you listen to Reid Hoffman who emphasizes structured data or the proponents of the information overload concept who emphasized unstructured and media content, it leads to the same definition of web 3.0 which is to manage the massive amount of information being created by the social media. I don’t like the idea of just managing information overload as I found it too restrictive. I think it is much more about making sense of it rather than managing it.

If the type of data is one obvious discriminator of technologies people are going to use, the other obvious one is who is going to manage and I would venture three possible venues: algorithmic, human or algorithms trained by human. At the end of the meeting, I was discussing about the latter with Andrei Ustinov who is training bots at Virtuoz to answer self service questions. Those types of bots understand what the user is asking and are able to present the right content to the user. These are trial and error systems and human needs to be there to tweak the systems.

Of course, in order to be fully complete, we would need to understand the application (what it is that the system actually does) as well as the privacy policy being used to process the data and this would make a complete web 3.0 system. Reid Hoffman approached the subject of privacy policies without calling it that as he is using the notion of explicit versus implicit data. At the end of the day, I think that this is going to be more than just a question of data being used but more what the application is doing with the data as well as the control that the user has over this data.

If you look about it this way, Curation is going to be a small fraction of Web 3.0 but probably the one with the most social impact as everybody could become medium as well as amplifier. I think there are a lot of start-up opportunities everywhere but my own personal take having been an early investor in Inquira is that the combined curation and aggregation approach holds a lot of promises as a system could look at collections of content at once rather than one content at a time, making the curation more scalable.

Another way to look at the same issue of what is Web 3.0 is from a technology standpoint. An interesting article published this morning by Edd Dumbill ( http://oreil.ly/qaBgss ) argues that Google Plus will commoditize the social layer. I will leave this assumption to him as I believe that the social layer is already commoditized by Facebook, Twitter and Google and we don't need one unified layer for everything. And he goes on to define a social layer as a layer enabling to identify, share, notify changes of address, annotate (commenting on content) and communicate. Guillaume Decugis thinks that curation will be the next layer of technology to be commoditized as it will surface the topics that a user would be interested in, both explicit (what the user is declaring he is interested in) as well as implicit. In this case, curation is the entire web 3.0.

How you define the problem is key to answer the question the panel was asked: if you are thinking about it as information overload then email management is part of the solution. In all cases, Google as well as Google Plus will be part of the discussion as technology providers as well as actor in the space and Mobile will accelerate the growth of data and provide another set of data of its own such as location as well context to start with.
I am very intrigued to see where all of this is going…..This is exciting and I am waiting to hear new definitions of Web 3.0.
Reid Hoffman widget provided by Spoke

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Few thoughts on Google+

I have been playing with Google+ for more than two weeks now and I really like the product even though I find it overwhelming. Ok, it is Google next attempt to catch up with Facebook and lay down the foundation for a meaningful social connection layer. In a way, it was necessary for Google to not become irrelevant as social overcome any type of algorithm to find relevant links about what you are interested in.

So far, Google has been able to demonstrate that Google Plus is very cool as a platform to post articles or message and it seems to be catching on in the “social network” community. What worries me about Google’s approach is twofold: 1) it is an attempt to recreate Facebook and my question is do we need another Facebook? Do companies need yet another profile and if yes, what is this profile supposed to be when the company has a web site that you can access already easily through a Google search? If I have a blog, do I need to push my info to Google Plus when people can find this information easily by typing by name followed by blog, as a consumer, I have spent massive amount of time to build my profile on LinkedIn, why do I need to build another one when you can access that I already built 2) it is a massive attempt in unifying all Google properties which creates massive issues of privacy policies as well as a very palatable lack of interoperability between the Facebook, Apple and the Google platform. In a way, I would have loved for Google to build their social networking layer but keep the information discovery mechanism that it already owns with Google Search and the Web as the publishing platform.

For me as a user, what changes? Well, I have now five platforms that I need to check on a daily basis: Email, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and mobile. In addition, I have a little bit of fun with Foursquare but just to play with a couple of friends so it doesn’t count. What am I going to do as my time is already very short? I am probably going to cut one of those platforms. I don’t think it is going to be Facebook as all my family is there. It cannot be email or mobile so at the end it is going to be neck to neck between Google Plus and Twitter.

Now, who is going to win or lose in this battle, it seems to me that three companies will be hurt pretty badly Twitter and LinkedIn:
1) Tumblr is right at the end of the tunnel and they are seeing the train coming. Google+ is all about posting and it is really easy to do;
2) Twitter because their installed of active users is pretty small, geeky in nature and prone to use new technologies and more importantly because Google + is far superior to twitter as a media platform. If I use Google +, I can see a post and I can see what people commented in the post, which Twitter doesn’t do;
3) LinkedIn: the emergence of profile on Google Plus is going to commoditize the biggest asset of LinkedIn and clearly hamper its ability to develop their social networking capabilities. Luckily for LinkedIn, Google wants all profiles to be public but I can see companies like Monster or other leverage Google social graph to develop their own LinkedIn clones. Fortunately, LinkedIn has already critical masses in the HR management market;
4) More stretched is WordPress even though I really think that there is a risk here as Google has its own blogging platform. To which extent this is going to be successful will depend on how successful Google Integration strategy is going to be. Microsoft has been successful with Office and there is no reason why Google could not be successful in the same way by commoditizing each feature by providing an integrated approach;
5) Regarding Facebook, I think Facebook is strong enough to compete and resist to any attempt of that magnitude. Obviously, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the Facebook base with all the privacy issues that plagued the company and some may be ready for a change anyway so people will be tempted to switch but people will realize that Google is not as flexible as it seems, witness is their requirement to make your Google Profile public.
6) Lastly, of course, Yahoo and Microsoft are becoming even more irrelevant and the three real platforms of choices for the consumer are slowly becoming Google, Facebook, Apple and maybe Amazon.

Regarding my new year's resolution, I have done the half marathon and well on my way to be paperless before the end of the year. This said, I lost my beautiful pen last week on a plane and i bought one right away. So unconsciously, I may still not be there yet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year's resolutions

I never thought about New Year resolutions except when I was a kid and at the time, I was maximizing the amount of New Year’s gifts not aiming to try new things and stretch myself. The type of promise I was offering was to be good in school and nice with my family and that was usually enough to get the job done. Good news is that we didn’t have to give the gifts back if we didn’t fulfill the promise. I think there is one reason beyond the fact that, at the time, I could not keep one Franc in my pocket more than ten minutes and I was broke all the time and the reason is that in Europe, the true End of Year is anywhere between June 30st and July 31st, between when school stops and when the majority of the people goes into vacation. The beginning of the next year is really September 1st when the last people go back to work. That is when resolutions are being shaped and carried forward into the next year. Christmas Vacation and New Year Celebration are four month into the year and it may be a time to pause and readjust but not a time to come up with a complete new set of resolutions. Living in the United States, things are very different. Thanksgiving is the actual end of the year when we celebrate what happened last year and the New Year is effective January 1st when we celebrate what’s to come. Even New Year’s Eve is not called end of year but the Eve of the new one.

So this year and for the first time, I have decided to come up with a set of resolutions and here they are: the first one is that I am going to run a half marathon between May and June. To tell you the truth, this is the most challenging goal as I have not been the type of guy who challenges himself just to learn something about him. It may have been a big mistake but I always found that there was plenty of good learning in my everyday life when I was stretching myself in every possible way that I didn’t find any benefits in running or climbing a mountain (for more on the benefits of running: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ans/psychology/health_psychology/running.html) . The second one is that I am going to take control of my diet and make sure that I am getting the right amount of calories as well as other ingredients on a weekly basis. I have been injured last year with the groin and I gain 20 pounds as results. It feels that the reason is that I don’t really know what I am eating and because of that I can’t pace myself from one meal to the other. And the third one is one is that I am moving completely paperless by the end of the year. Here this is my contribution to the environment. After all, we don’t have to cut any trees when we don’t need to. I will also try to understand what the true benefits are and whether the economy I am making on paper are not wasted on more electricity consumption. Of course, I am going to use this blog as a way to keep track of my progress on all fronts.

Monday, March 01, 2010

When music score makes me discover great artist

The last few years, while watching a movie in a theater, I had the same experience happen to me several times and those experiences tend to stay in my memory associated to the movie, making the movie alive at the same time as the music.

Obviously, the first it happens to me was for the music of "The hours". Obviously, the composer was Philip Glass himself and the music blended so well with the movie. Each reinforcing the other to become only one.

The last two examples came later. The first one was the music of there will be blood. I could not stop listening to this music enjoying every note of it and then when the name appeared. I noted to myself. Interesting he has the same name as the Radiohead guitarist just to realize later that they were the same person and the second one was yesterday watching a single man with a young composer that I didn't know: Albert Korzeniowski. The songs remain in you and you spend your time thinking about listening tot them again and again.

Three great music scores by three great artists for which I am hoping to hear more of in the coming years.