January 24, 2013
My Top 12 Picks for CES 2013: From Speakers & Robots to Accessories & Backpacks
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month was once again a flurry of new products and as always, I felt as if I was constantly surrounded by pitches of TV flat screens, new speaker designs, casing, docking stations, chargers, dancing robots, iPhone accessories, surround sound substitutes, and more. What stood out was the increasing number of vendors participating in the Digital Health pavilion this year.
Clearly, the marriage of technology and health is increasing at alarming speeds, with products and solutions aimed at helping consumers take charge of their health by collecting and analyzing their own personal data, something that wasn't available to us even ten years ago.
It was no surprise that Fitbit won a Best of CES award, a product which tracks your fitness and has been on the market for awhile now. It's inevitable that the health and wellness category is primed to explode in the coming year.
As for other categories? Sure, I'm a geek, but I'm a female geek who loves great design and rich colors. I'm always a sucker for products in luscious colors - the problem with so many of these products is that they're created and designed by men, so often our choices are limited to neon green, bright girly blues and pinks, or red, black and white.
If women designers were behind more products, I'd imagine we might actually see a high end stereo system in an eggplant purple, burgundy or an olive green, something that wouldn't clash with our sofas, curtains and painted walls. I spoke to four speaker companies about this conflict and guess what? Weaving a color design into a living room hadn't even occurred to them.
As a traveler and writer, most of my top picks were focused on products that would be useful for the mobile warrior, often lightweight, reasonably priced and compact.
Degauss Labs Earphones
The SPKRS Series is a line of earphones by Degauss Labs that is focused on top notch sound quality. They tout that the bass is amazing (I haven't received them yet but did see them purr on the show floor). In its price range, SPKRS are durable and comfortable.The all aluminum housing absorbs vibrations and preserves the sound quality. The housing is coated with a special technique making the housing as matte and clean looking as the rest of the earphone, rarely found on metal housed earphones. They feature an enhanced acoustic design that helps music sound smoother.
SPKRS comes in a variety of carefully selected AND fun colors. SPKRS is UNIVERSAL and works with Apple iPhone, and the latest version of Android phones from Samsung, HTC and Sony. Windows phone by Nokia is also supported.
Ranipak Backpacks & iPad Cases
I loved the slick design of Ranipak's new Y.U.M.C. Series. Great for travelers on the go, there are tons of pockets and great colors (particularly liked the eggplant).
All products are done in a great European design with a global appeal.
HyperJuice External Batteries
One of the funkiest designed products I accidentally came across were the HyperJuice external batteries for Apple MacBook, iPhone, iPad, iPod and USB products. Behind the products is Sanho Designs, which design, manufacture and market IT accessories with a focus on Apple accessories, portable power and storage.
Their product brands include: HyperJuice - External batteries for Apple MacBook, iPhone, iPad, iPod, USB products, HyperDrive - Portable digital data storage products for Apple devices, digital cameras, memory cards, HyperShield - Cases, stylus pens and other accessories for Apple devices, and HyperThin - World's thinnest most flexible HDMI cables.
For travelers, their products are a Godsend, particularly for those who carry more than one digital product with them like me. Let's just say I can't wait to test out the HyperJuice Mini, Micro and PLUG and I have a feeling, I'll be a prolific user. The company also is smart about design...and they offer a number of rich and fun colors.
SwitchEasy offers some stylin' products for the iPad and iPhone as well as great compact keyboards, ideal for the digital traveler. They offer iPad cases and iPod Touch cases in a number of designs and rich colors.
Their mission is to provide more reasons for PC users to "Switch" to a better digital lifestyle through our innovative little add-ons.
See below for the Safekey Keyboards Protection, which I plan to try out soon on the road. To the left of the keyboards is one of many beautifully styled iPad cases they offer.
Edifer offers a few speaker options that are perfect for those on-the-go.
Sound To Go PLUS is all about portability - they do an all-in-one micro speaker with re-chargeable Lithium battery. Encased in a brushed aluminum chassis, it features 2 channel stereo with 2 full range 1.25" drivers on each channel (magnetically shielded). It also features a built-in 'Class D' amplifier and a 3" x 1.25" oval passive radiator, which means someting to those in the audio world.
GeoPalz, creators of the first decorative pedometer for kids, introduced the ibitz PowerKey for children and ibitz Unity for parents to its suite of products. With ibitz, a family’s electronics are powered by physical activity. Each ibitz connects wirelessly to select Bluetooth 4.0 phones, tablets and laptops to track physical activity. For kids, the ibitz PowerKey converts physical activity into “keys” that unlock rewards, while the ibitz Unity for parents tracks the overall progress of family health goals.
The ibitz PowerKey for kids not only unlocks access to games and apps, but also allows each user to maintain the health of their own GeoBotz virtual pet character within their app.
Foldable Rubber Keyboards by Chin Fai
Chin Fai has a host of incredibly useful rubber roll up keyboards which are bluetooth enabled, a seriously must-have companion for any traveler.
They also have a host of brightly colorful rubber products which encase iPhones, iPads and other devices to help protect them against wear and tear - you can even drop your product encased by one of these and it protects the outer layer and edges of the device.
HAPIfork, the world's first connected fork that slows down how fast you eat received a substantial amount of attention, so much so that the booth was always full of broadcast cameras, producers, doctors, health afficiandos and people who have lost weight or were looking to...among other eager enthusiasts.
While (full disclosure), I am involved in the company, it is on my picks list because it is a product I was excited about even before their launch and a reason I decided to jump on board. There is no other product like it on the market and for someone like me, who travels incessantly and never seems to have time for a 'slow' meal, it makes for a perfect "throw-it-in-your-bag" utensil which not only will help me slow down how fast I eat on the road, but track it on my desktop and mobile phone as well.
HAPIfork received so much buzz, we had to turn away opportunities knocking on our doorstep because we were limited with only 3 prototypes on the show floor.
I think the "smart" HAPIfork struck a chord with people because it's such a device that can modify your behavior, prompting you to slow things down, thereby eating less, which is better for your overall health and well-being in the short and long term.
Action Camcorders by Astak
For under $300, you can get one of Astak's action camcorders, which comes with a 170 ultra-wide angle lens that supports 1080p HD video recording. You can shoot 8 megapixel photos hands-free and there's a built-in LCD screen, which includes real time display and video playback. The nice thing for adventure travelers, is that there's waterproof housing which goes down to 197 feet or 60 meters. I could have used this handy device when I was swimming with baluga whales this summer in northern Canada.
It also comes with a rechargeable lithium battery and has four recording modes: 1080p 30fps, 720P 60fps, 720P 30fps or WVGA 60fps. It connects via a USB 2.0 and has a built-in microphone. Additional sports accessories are also available. I haven't tested it yet but hope to do a more extensive review if and when I get product in hand.
House of Marley Headphones
I was running to get to an appointment and House of Marley's booth stopped me dead in my tracks. Creative, compelling, and loaded with well-designed noise-canceling headphones in fabulous colors with a deep, rich sound. Their headsets are the culmination of natural materials and technology coming together to make beautiful music.
Stainless steel, leather and high-quality recycled aluminum blend to create a striking, sophisticated look. And the performance meets that look. With battery powered noise-canceling headphones, it reproduces an intimate, authentic sound that lets you truly feel the music.
I can't wait to test these out!
Mizco's iPad, iPod, iPhone Accessories
From Mizco, I came across the iEssentials products. For around $30, they have a 2-in-1 Car and Wall Charger that lets you charge two devices simultaneously, whether you're on the road, in your office or at your home.
I also loved their Diamond Cases for iPhone 5. Their cases are form fitting, so they fit snugly around your phone and includes embedded rhinestones for additional style. Unlike so many products of this ilk, they come in richer non-pastel colors. What I loved most was how durable they felt in my hands.
Moneual Robot Cleaner
Another product I'd love to test out and use is the Robot Cleaner by Moneual, which I saw a demo of on the show floor. A high performance BLDC Motor outputs stronger suction, and is powered by the latest long lasting Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery.
Great for both hard floor and carpeted floor surfaces, the vacuum's mop attachment can be attached for hard floors, allowing for vacuuming and mopping to function at the same time. Twin side brushes allow for a wider, effective cleaning width to brush debris towards the main brush for collecting.
The vacuum can cover up to 1,200 square feet on one charge, depending on clutter, as maneuvering around clutter may impact cleaning time. Additional specialized cleaning modes include corner, shadow, and scheduled cleaning. It even has the ability to return to the charging dock after a cleaning session!
January 24, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Conference Highlights, Events, On Health, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, Travel, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 23, 2013
Edifer, Fab Mobile Options for GREAT Sound On-The-Go
I discovered some great small "speaker" mobile options for travelers and mobile warriors at CES this year. Edifer offers a few options that are perfect for those on-the-go.
Sound To Go PLUS is all about portability - they do an all-in-one micro speaker with re-chargeable Lithium battery. Encased in a brushed aluminum chassis, it features 2 channel stereo with 2 full range 1.25" drivers on each channel (magnetically shielded). It also features a built-in 'Class D' amplifier and a 3" x 1.25" oval passive radiator, which means someting to those in the audio world.
An auxiliary input enables the use of multiple host devices such as smartphones and iPads. They tout their system as a self-contained portable mini-speaker system that delivers exceptional audio performance above and beyond in laptop or tablet speaker systems today.
With smooth curves and a streamlined chassis, the fully portable MP15 by Edifier® is the perfect music companion for all locations. With an SD card, USB slot, MP3 player capability and a built-in rechargeable battery, music can be played for up to 6 hours. Small enough for any bag or pocket, the MP15 packs a punch for sound!
Check them both out for fabulous sound on-the-go.
January 18, 2013
Integrating HAPIness Into Your Life: Reflecting on the HAPIfork Launch
Another CES has come and gone and the HAPIfork is now officially launched. While I’ve attended hundreds of trade shows, probably 20 CES’s and launched dozens and dozens of products over the years, this launch was different.
In the course of one week, HAPIfork, the first connected fork that helps you slow down how fast you eat, garnered media attention from outlets on every continent except for Antarctica and I expect that will come soon given the hype.
People tweeted about HAPIfork from about 80 countries and wrote about it from 73 more. In less than two weeks, nearly 10,000 tweets mentioned #HAPIfork from around the world.
From Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, ABC, NBC, The Today Show, Dr. Oz, World News Tonight to USA Today, the WSJ, Rolling Stone, Jay Leno, the Colbert Report, Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Scientific American and CNET, HAPIfork was brought the world’s attention.
Frankly, given that I think like as much like a journalist as I do a marketing pro, I knew HAPIfork would be hot. After all, it has a lot of unique selling points.
First, it’s a handsome looking gadget with a clean design that comes in five fun colors.
Second, it is unique in what it does: helps you slow down how fast you eat.
Third, it was developed by the French, a country known for enjoying their food and taking long meals.
Fourth, there hasn’t been an innovation to the fork in….I don’t know, perhaps since the invention of the fork itself?
What I didn’t anticipate was how fast HAPIfork’s “hotness” would accelerate, particularly at a show like CES which shows off thousands of new products and innovations from around the world. In other words, it’s a crowded show to make a new product from an unknown company in the U.S. truly shine.
So, what is the sensation really all about? HAPIfork addresses an emotional issue we all have as humans - eating. As a woman, I’ve dealt with issues around weight and eating fast since I was a teenager and there probably isn’t one person who can’t relate to both at least on some level.
While I’ve never been heavy and come from lankier family stock than not, as a teenager and in my twenties, there was a lot of pressure to be thin largely because of the way the media flashed images of models the size of toothpicks. For men, the pressure may not be as acute, however whether it’s for “image” or peer pressure, maintaining our ideal weight isn’t easy for most of us.
And, at the end of the day, it’s not healthy to be overweight and it doesn’t get any easier as we age. In addition to known benefits of having a healthy diet, eating the right food can change your energy levels, your mental attitude and reduce if not eliminate the cravings you once may have had, e.g., starchy and processed foods with excess amounts of sugar.
While I’m not a dietician or a doctor, I celebrate health benefits from a cleanse once a year and notice positive differences in my body when I eat a more alkaline diet. While eating unhealthy food and too much of it is an obvious known issue, what we don’t pay as much attention to as a society is how FAST we eat and the impact it has on our consumption.
When we eat slower, we consume less calories (roughly 11%), we improve our digestion and decrease issues related to gastric reflux. If you’re over the age of 35, ask yourself how many TV ads you remember seeing as a child on antacid products and how many you see today? It ‘feels’ like there’s an antacid commercial on the hour.
HAPIfork is unobtrusive. When you are eating too fast, you’ll receive a gentle vibration, reminding you to slow things down. Some people argue that they don’t need a fork to make them eat slower and can do it on their own. While some people may have that level of discipline, there are thousands of others who need a little help.
We all know people who are so disciplined; they're the people who find themselves at the gym seven days a week. There are others who fare better with a trainer and others who can’t stick with a program at all.
Think of HAPIfork as a personal coach which can prompt you to slow down one aspect of your busy schedule: your meal.
For me personally, the busier my day, the faster I tend to eat and so a $99 investment in a device that can help modify that behavior is a no brainer. Reality check: Apple charges close to that for a plastic adapter cable that merely charges a laptop.
And, let's not forget the countless other plastic gizmos that are priced above $99 in places like Brookstone, airline magazines, TV advertorials and beyond, that don’t help improve your health.
The second issue that HAPIfork touches on is behavior modification, which is important if people want to see improvements in their health or anything for that matter.
Consider This: a coach asks you to work out for 60 minutes a day and yet when you start off, you can’t even make it past 15 minutes without huffing and puffing. In the back of your mind, you think “this is impossible,” and feel like quitting. What if he came back to you and said, “start off with 20 minutes a day for three weeks and then increase it to 30 minutes a day,” and so on. Suddenly you feel that this might be possible after all, you start to see some progress even if its small. Now, how do you feel?
Consider This: you’re a smoker and while your Uncle John quit cold turkey and your family is hounding you to do the same, you don’t seem to have the same willpower as Uncle John. And so, you start to wear the patch and chew the gum so you can reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke a day. Suddenly, your one pack a day is down to four cigarettes a day and then ten a week. Now, how do you feel?
Enter the world of behavior modification and the impact that even slight shifts in behavior can have on your overall health and well-being. Slight behavior modification can lead to moderate and/or dramatic behavior modification over time.
HAPIfork offloads your eating patterns to an online dashboard which you can check on a daily or weekly basis, data you can also access from your phone (Windows 8, iPhone and Android).
The dashboard shows a percentage of how much faster you are eating than you should, so as you slow down, you can see that number improve over time.
The great thing about the data is that you can either choose to keep it private or share with your family or even a doctor who may be working with you on an overall dietary program.
When we start to see incremental improvements in our scores, we can feel not just a sense of ‘hope,’ that yes, we can actually do this, but empowerment.
With empowerment comes changes in behavior and with those changes, comes a healthier and I’d argue, a more integrated and holistic self. The more awareness we have about our habits, the more we can feel empowered to change them based on information we have personally captured.
After all, it’s your body and we only have one in this lifetime. Why not treat it right? It’s harder to do when we don’t realize just how badly we abuse it on a daily basis, whether that be less sleep than we should be getting, smoking, consuming processed food or eating too fast.
I am excited to be working with the HAPILABS team because of how we can help empower others to take control of their health and take control of their lives. If you were at CES, you may have heard HAPILAB’s CEO Fabrice Boutain walk around with his finger up in the air and saying “Join our HAPIrevolution” with a smile on his face.
If you weren’t in Las Vegas, you’ll see and hear that sentiment in our literature, on our website and at the core of the HAPILABS team across three continents. If you ever run into anyone on the HAPILABS team, you’ll bound to be affected by the contagious HAPI energy and desire to help people turn their health and well being into a positive force.
The goal here is not just to launch a fork, but a way of “being and thinking” about your health. In this HAPIrevolution, our hope is that together, we can raise the awareness and take charge of when we eat, what we eat and how fast we eat.
Help us help you so we can collectively reduce the rising numbers of growing disease and obesity in the U.S. and around the world.
Photo Credits: Screenshots from HAPILABS, woman with food from Sara Beyer/Flickr, slow eating and digestions panels from SlowControl, group shot taken in booth on my trusty Canon 7D. Voltaire image from Chanty Elise Designs.
January 08, 2013
HAPILABS Introduces HAPIfork, World’s First Smart Fork, at CES
CES kicked off this week with CES Unveiled, the official media event on January 6 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
HAPILABS, a company focused on well-being in every aspect, whether that is achieved through fitness, diet, your sleep or how you eat, showed off their new HAPIfork at the event. Their goal is to make it easy for people to take control of their HAPIness, health and fitness through applications and mobile connected devices.
The world’s first connected fork that helps you lose weight by eating at the right time and at the right pace is also showing this new smart device at the Showstoppers media event on January 8 at the Las Vegas WYNN Hotel and all week at Digital Health at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The smart connected device, which has a crisp, elegant and clean design, was created by French engineer Jacques Lepine. The HAPIfork will be available in five colors when it hits the market this year: blue, green, white, black and pink.
This smart fork knows how fast you’re eating and helps you slow things down using a patent-pending technology. By eating slower, you can improve the way you feel after every meal, enhance your digestion and reduce your weight.
When you are eating too fast, HAPIfork sends you gentle vibrations and indicator lights so you are aware of when you’re not eating at a pace that is optimal for your health, allowing you to slow down without a disruption to your meal or conversation.
All of your HAPIfork eating data is transmitted to your online account when you connect your HAPIfork to your computer via USB or your smart phone via Bluetooth. This flexibility means you can monitor your health improvement at home or on the road from a mobile device.
You can choose to keep this information private or share some or all of this data with friends who are supporting you, your health and lifestyle.
The complete suite, which will be priced at $99, will include the HAPIfork Device, an Online Dashboard, which stores and reviews your eating-related data and helps you track your progress meal after meal, a Mobile App which allows you to follow your stats from your mobile device, a Online Coaching Program for tips and tricks on eating smarter and healthier, and an Online Social Game, designed to motivate you to implement your new habits with your loved ones.
Below, HAPILABS CEO Fabrice Boutain shows a HAPIfork and HAPItrack prototypes in Paris this past December.
Disclosure: I am a consultant for the company.
January 8, 2013 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Events, On Health, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 01, 2013
The Pain of Upgrades: Migrating from a Lenovo to a MacBook Pro
It's a Lenovo, my second over an eight year period. We all knew the day was coming.
“We” is anyone and everyone who has stopped by my office or seen me using it at an event. They'd hover over me and remark: I can’t believe how slow your machine is, yowsa – how do you get anything done?
The thing is…I've only had it for four years and it's been on its way out for half of those four.
It seems as if I grew up in a world with different standards. The thought of a piece of machinery you paid $2,500 for with all the bells and whistles dying within a few years wouldn’t be acceptable…it’s absurd and yet we've all been brainwashed into thinking it’s not.
Manufacturers and reviewers alike are both to blame for creating such a consumable world where we're constantly shelling out more money for more reliable hardware, which it should have been reliable in the first place.
My refrigerator didn't cost that much nor did the stove in my kitchen and yet both have been purring along for more than a decade. I paid $300 for a car once that lasted longer than my laptops do today and it’s likely that some old guy somewhere in Maine probably is still using it for trips to the grocery store.
When someone sees my two year old iPhone, they look at me as if I'm as outdated as the guy who’s driving that old Oldsmobile. A few friends are trying to get me to upgrade my four year old 24 inch Samsung flat screen monitor when it works perfectly fine.
Call it old fashioned wisdom of sorts, or just common sense, but who said, "if it works, don't mess with it?" Oh yeah, that was my grandfather, not Winston Churchill or Steve Jobs.
When I ask "why upgrade?" I'm told there's better pixels, faster speeds or I’m bound to have compatibility issues.
While Windows 8 is now available, consumers are forced to pay an extra $100 for Windows 7, now outdated. It's the exponential growth thing haunting my every day, the pressure of keeping up with the speed at which technology is accelerating not to mention the pressure we all have financially of trying to keep up with it all too.
Silicon Valley tells me to ‘get over it,’ and just upgrade, but Silicon Valley doesn’t live in the real world where salaries are one fifth of what they are elsewhere in the country and that’s if you aren’t one of the 20 something year olds who made an exit from a not so innovative of an app that got sold to someone with more money than brains.
eMarketer made a 2012 tablet sales prediction of 81.3 million tablets, up from 15.7 million in 2011, and Gartner estimates that sales will multiply to 54.8 million in 2011 and more than 208 million by 2014.
Forrester Research numbers have laptop sales continuing to grow from 26.4 million in 2010 to 38.9 million in 2015, however, while desktop PC sales will decline from 20.5 million in 2010 to 18.2 million in 2015. Mobile is hot and we’re all moving to smaller form factors – the trends make sense.
Take a look at research firm Canalys figures: they have vendor shipments of smartphones close to 489 million smartphones in 2011, compared to 415 million PCs. Smartphone shipments increased by 63% over the previous year, compared to 15% growth in PC shipments.
While mobile will win at the end of the day, the need for laptops and in some cases desktops isn’t going away tomorrow, although some will argue they can do nearly everything they need to on their iPad. While I use one, particularly when I travel, my efficiency on the thing is less than half what it is on a power laptop, even my poor dying Lenovo.
While many of my laptops over a decade have died a slow horrible death, some of them still turn on…..they’re just not usable. As I took a hardware account, I was shocked by the list, although I suppose I shouldn’t have been! Two HPs, a mini HP, a baby MSI wind notebook I bought for a trip to Africa, a Toshiba, an Acer, two IBM/Lenovos and a partridge in a pear tree.
The power chords are out of control because none of them are compatible with each other, even the ones made by the same manufacturer. The result? A digital me and a digital life that doesn’t make things more efficient and yet productivity is the #1 thing I need these devices to deliver me and my business.
The advancements in the last decade are remarkable. For those who argue that the Singularity isn’t on its way, they might want to pause and reflect on just how fast things are moving and that it’s more difficult than ever to keep up with the advancements being thrown our way.
Clearly I'm not a luddite and I love shiny new cool gadgets and toys as much as much as my fellow geeks; remember that next week I'm off to CES for the umpteenth year in a row.
Yet, we need to remind ourselves that technology is an enabler; it needs to enhance our lives not be a hindrance to a more fulfilling life. Dealing with technology glitches, whether that be hardware or software, is something I deal with daily and these issues increase in less than a year after purchasing a brand new laptop. Shouldn’t we demand more from the hardware manufacturers?
I’m about to switch to Mac and while the artist in me is thrilled, I worry about compatibility issues and the learning curve to get me to what people say, will be a ‘simpler life.’
That said, the decision is final. I finally made the plunge and as I write, there’s a Mac Book Pro on its way to me directly from Apple.
While there’s no question, I’m a power user, I decided not to order the ‘very top of the line’ since it offers more than I’ll need. Did I mention that the price is nearly double what I’d pay to get the ‘same specs’ in a Lenovo or an equivalent? Additionally, these beautifully designed machines are heavy, roughly 30% heavier than had I gone for the latest Lenovo or Toshiba.
While I’m eager to start my 'simpler technology life,' I have my doubts. For the Apple fan boys who claim Macs are perfect and problem-free, I’d love to know why I own five iPods and only two of them actually work. My iPhone hasn’t given me any issues so far nor has my iPad, but I haven’t put it through the ringer by loading hundreds of apps like I need to do on my laptop.
While many of you may be okay with upgrading every piece of hardware we own every two years, should you be? How thin do we need our phones to be? How many apps do we really need? How many pixels do we need? How much memory do we really need? If I hear one more person insisting that I spend an additional $500 for a solid state drive, I’m going to scream. These are the same people who will insist I upgrade to an even faster solid state drive in a year and spend $500 again.
It's no wonder we keep spending to keep this senseless pattern alive. We get dished language that goes something like this:
For the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, it's the screen -- all 2880 x 1800 pixels of it -- that will leave others scrambling to play catch-up. Of course, to push that many pixels you need serious horsepower. And the next-gen MacBook Pro (starting at $2,199) delivers just that with a quad-core Core i7 processor, Nvidia Kepler graphics and super-fast flash memory. Did we mention the MacBook Pro is only 4.5 pounds and is nearly as thin as the Air?
Manufacturers stick together, use glossy language to woo us in and build in the same obsolescence. When the industry and consumers comply, no one can complain since they all seem to die a slow horrible death much faster than they should given how much we spend. (see blog post entitled the iPad Mini: Why Apple Thinks You're an Idiot).
But alas, a dozen blog posts from now, I’ll be on a new machine, a Mac Book Pro, and hopefully in some magical way, my technology life will be transformed for the additional $800 I'm spending.
While I’m looking forward to what the Mac Book Pro will deliver, sometimes I want to just toss all of it into the ocean, or give a little pain back to the hardware that has cost me so much value time over the years, not that I’ll ever have the courage of course. That said, it appears not everyone shares my constraint.
Also refer to two posts I wrote a year or so ago on digital personas and digital 'silence.' Here's a blog post on social media turning you into a low confidence anxiety-rich freak.
Photo credits in order of appearance: A mashup created with Webdoc, Scott Kline, CoolGizmotoys.
January 1, 2013 in America The Free, Magic Sauce Media, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On People & Life, On Technology, On the Future, TravelingGeeks, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 21, 2012
The Roku Box: The Perfect & Easy Way to Stream Content
Streaming. So many of us are doing it now to get our content, yet folks like my sister or friends from other parts of the world I keep in touch with through old fashioned email and yes, even sometimes social networks, don't stream. It's not their normal way of viewing or listening to content.
Roku has come up with a way to make it easy for anyone to use. Their mantra or at least one of them is: streaming made simple. With over 150,000 movies and shows instantly available, Roku delivers various titles to match your mood. Using Netflix, you can see up to 1080p HD video or TV shows through Hulu Plus. There are also hundreds of free movies from Crackle or the latest Hollywood releases on Amazon Instant Video. There’s also access to premium services like HBO GO and EPIX, available via participating providers.Roku delivers more than movies and TV shows as well. In the Roku Channel Store, you get instant access to the best selection of streaming entertainment available – over 600 channels, which includes live sports, music, photo and video sharing, games, international programming, radio, tech news, non-tech news, podcasts, cartoons and more.
They also have a great one-stop search feature, where you can find your favorite movies and TV shows all from one place – no matter if they're on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video or Crackle. For example, you can search for a title, keyword or actor. Once you find what you’re interested in, all you have to do is select a channel it's on, and you're ready to start watching.
December 14, 2012
LeWeb's The Internet of Things: From Lightbulbs & Robots to Augmented Reality Apps & Air Quality
From a couple of hundred attendees in the first year, they had 5,000 attendees this past year alone for both their London and Paris events, London being a test, something that they plan to continue doing in the years ahead.
They attract big players like Orange, Microsoft and others and mid-tier players known in Europe and beyond, like Parrot, as well as tons of start-ups eager secure funding and entrepreneurs looking for the next big thing. It's also an incredible place to "schmooze" on the floor at the event itself as well as the umpteen after parties and events they hold in the evenings throughout the center of Paris.
I returned to San Francisco from an exhausting trip of meetings and pow-wows to hear that LeWeb was acquired by Reed MIDEM, one of the leading events organizers in the world. How that changes the format of LeWeb moving forward is yet to be seen, but more budget and marketing should 'in theory' lead to more "high-touch" events, better food and higher profile speakers. That said, it could also drive ticket prices up.
Acquisition aside, Loic and Geraldine LeMeur managed to pull off yet another fabulous event, from A-list speakers to entertainment and networking.
So, who showed up there and unveiled their latest?
Parrot's CEO Henri Seydoux, who I had an opportunity to meet several years ago when they hosted the TravelingGeeks trip I organized to Paris, was as charming as ever on the LeWeb stage in an interview with Loic LeMeur.
Within LeWeb's theme of the "Internet of Things," he made what could have been a 'faux pas' by saying that you can't reference women as things or you'll be in trouble for a long time. It didn't turn into a faux pas though at least from what I could tell, since everyone laughed -- including women. I happen to like their products and team. As an aside, rumor has it that his actress daughter played a role in the latest James Bond film. Ahh yes, the things you learn at LeWeb.
Chris Shipley ran the start-up event; the finalists were: Be-Bound, Qunb and Recommend.
Be-Bound gives you access to the Internet without wifi, aka stay connected to the web without the Web.
A stat for the taking: 3G/WIFI = 14% and 2G = 86%. These guys use the SMS layer. Their business model is using prepaid credits called B-Miles. For example, 3 Euros = 35 Be-Miles, 10E = 200 Be-Miles and so on. They'll also use advertising and couponing to drive revenue.
Their objective is to reach 3.2% of this business over the next 3 years. They said on stage, “our business is cash generating. We hope to achieve cash-even in three years.”
Qunb's platform is all about quantitative data. The idea is you can now visualize and broadcast your own data! How it works: their platform understands your data semantically so your data becomes compatible with other data so they can make sense of each other. They’re going after large corporations who are willing to understand their data and compare it so it makes sense in a meaningful way. Currently, their product is featured on the SAP marketplace.
The last finalist was Recommend, which is a platform that gives you recommendations from people you trust. There seems to be a lot of 'recommendation engines' out there, so I thought this one had the least potential from running a sustainable business in the long run vis a vis the others.
Their pitch is quality not quantity: recommendations from friends only in your network. (friends + friends of friends). They say they will succeed because it’s viral and sticky, sticky because it’s recommendations for every day things and apparently there's also notifications for extra 'value.'
Then, Team Blacksheep gave a demo - well sort of. A flying plane was let loose in the LeWeb audience. The TBS DISCOVERY frame is an upgrade for all Flamewheel F450 frames, using F450 arms and a custom TBS top and bottom plate including power distribution board. It's cool to watch and for geeks who are interested in this, apparently easy to build.
I thought that Netatmo's concept was interesting - they're offering a personal weather station for the iPod and iPad, where you can monitor weather and air quality. Says the team, "we spend 80 percent inside - our lifestyle is indoor and we have to think about indoor air quality as well as outdoor air quality." They have created a weather station to monitor inside and outdoor environments and then they send this data to the cloud.
The team showed real time data across a map of Paris where we could see weather patterns across different sections of the city. They take measurements of environment and are using crowdsourcing to bring this data to people in a way that is usable and "useful."
They think that real estate prices will rely on data like this and can impact prices and other things. The more co2 you have, the more dense your space is, which decreases the quality of your air.
Then, MG Siegler interviewed Instagram's Kevin Systrom, who's always at his polished best. I saw him a few months back in a similar "question exchange" with Sarah Lacy at one of her PandoDaily events in San Francisco.
Polished aside and interesting app or not, I still just can't get over or accept that their app could have been worth $730 million when the Facebook acquisition 'completed' back in September or ever could be. And, I'm a serious photography geek and still don't 'get it.'
Stephanie Hospital and team at Orange hosted a power girls networking bash one afternoon, which I ironically went to with Yossi Vardi, most definitely not a woman.
While it was indeed mostly women, a few male stragglers were there including French photographer Olivier Ezratty who is working on a photo exhibition of powerful women in the digital age. I'll share the latest as his work progresses. He also does a wonderful round-up of LeWeb every year, so check out his coverage here.
Speaking of Yossi, he gave a talk on things start-ups need to think about and tips of the trade. He says, "Pivoting is important because of the feedback you receive along the way, however doing more than 2 pivots is bad."
Additionally, he encouraged young entrepreneurs to network more often, always look for ways to provide value, and to try to find a funder from a mutual contact (someone you trust and someone the funder is likely to trust). He says of investors, "they need assurances and recommendations from people they trust." His main source of deal flow is through friends with credibility.
On exits, he says there's a big debate in Israel at the moment about whether early exits are good. Pros and cons, he notes. Having an early exit leaves a lot of value on the table but if you want a bigger exit, later...you obviously increase the risk because it will take more time.
I also ran into Stephanie Czerny who is one force behind the DLD Conference, held every year in Munich Germany. If you haven't been, you MUST - I keep meaning to return it was so good, if only January didn't present so many deadlines. I love these guys! Not only is the content and networking top notch, but their hearts are in the right place -- they're doing great things for the industry and world.
In the main room, we then moved into physical objects, you know, real tangible products you can feel. The team from Sphero gave a demo on stage of their robotic ball, which has mechanics and two way wireless communication.
They're using 6 axis IMu (essentially a navigation system) so they know where Sphero is going. Think of it as a robotics gaming system.
They said on stage, "We think there's a continuum where games live inside augmented reality and we're trying to mash and bridge the virtual and the real." He adds, "a system of this nature requires strong computational power and you have to build interfaces in virtual and physical world."Ubooly also wants to bridge this world, but for kids aged 4-9. CEO Carly Gloge was on the LeWeb stage showing a stuffed animal that comes to life when an iPhone is stuck inside it using voice recognition.
The "toy" suggests games to the kids in real time and gives feedback on their participation based on the phone’s accelerometer. Price point is cheap and perhaps one of the reasons, it seemed to receive positive feedback. Current going price is around $29.95.
Lockitron also got quite a bit of buzz at the event and apparently others think its cool too - they've already placed some $2.2 million in pre-orders for the device.
The device is a smartphone=controlled keyless door lock. You can reserve one with a shipping date of late May 2013 for $179.
I hung out with the HAPILABS guys who were showing off their HAPIfork, which will be unveiled at CES next month. The HAPIfork is an electronic fork that monitors your eating habits, giving you precise information about your eating schedule and alerting you with the help of indicator lights and a gentle vibration when you are eating too fast.
Below is CEO Fabrice Boutain showing off their first prototype.
The other cool thing I saw was Australian-based LIFX, a revolutionary new lightbulb that takes something that we all use in our homes, and makes it smarter and more efficient. It was launched on Kickstarter, where they raised over $1.3 million.
The LIFX lightbulb is a WiFi enabled, multi-color, energy efficient LED light bulb that you control with your iPhone or Android. How cool is that? See the below video to learn more.
I had an opportunity to meet and chat with the founder of San Francisco-based ReAllocate, who is not about launching a new social media apps or anything that will connect things to the Internet or the Internet to things.
ReAllocate is a global network of engineers, designers and entrepreneurs empowering under served communities through technology and innovation to improve quality of life. I love what they're doing!
They call themselves "ReAllocators" and they engage in digital storytelling to inspire participation, promote collaboration, and raise awareness about humanitarian causes. I hope to visit them state-side.
They supports three program areas that intertwine to create an infrastructure that supports sustainable development through education, ecosystems, equality, and economics. Learn a little bit more about what they're doing in Alaska and in Japan.
I also had fun hanging out with the UK Trade & Investment folks as well. Did I mention all the after events? It's no wonder everyone who ventures to Paris every December for LeWeb is so happily wiped out at the end of it - fois gras, French bordeaux, dark chocolate, crepes, fabulous coffee and more.
In traditional Loic and Geraldine style, they managed to nail a top notch act for the speaker dinner. Four girls in an act called ESCALA wowed the crowd with their violins and energy. See my write-up on them in We Blog the World's Music Section.
The Dublin guys also did a meet-up at a place called Delaville Cafe on Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle. It's a place my Paris buds didn't know about, but the ambiance was great, especially for group gatherings. They too do great things for the industry between their Founders event, Dublin Web Summit and other initiatives. And, I have to admit, like the French, I have a soft spot for the Irish and I love Dublin.
Yet another successful LeWeb, an event I look forward to every December. Loic and Geraldine know how to curate an incredibly bright group of people who are working on things that will help shape technology as we know it and as a result, life as we know it.
I love the initiatives coming out of Europe and LeWeb is the best place in Europe for that global conversation that bridges what's happening on the continent and the rest of the world!!
For hoots, check out my review on UBER's launch at LeWeb (aka in Paris) last year, my LeWeb round-up from 2010, as well as a fun post from 2006 praising the food, suggesting that American conference organizers could learn a lot from their French counterparts.
December 14, 2012 in Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On France, On Innovation, On Mobile & Wireless, On Robotics, On Technology, Social Media, Videos, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 05, 2012
The Singularity Understood & Misunderstood
I've been attending Singularity events since they started having them, before people really knew what singularity meant.
Frankly, most people still don't.
Outside high powered technology circles and intellectuals, singularity isn't a topic that is discussed on dates or at the dinner table, even in Silicon Valley where technology and deals are sexier than toned women in miniskirts.
According to Wikipedia, "the technological singularity is the theoretical emergence of greater-than-human superintelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as an intellectual event horizon, beyond which events cannot be predicted or understood."
Advocates talk about an "intelligence explosion", where superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds, AND most importantly, that they won't stop until the cognitive abilities surpass the human mind.
Whoah Nellie! That's what I said when I first read Ray Kurzweil's book, The Singularity is Near and on many occasions since being involved in "singularity circles" since then. It's a scary concept for mere mortals to comprehend, at least until you better understand the landscape.
The term was popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who I had an opportunity to hang with at the latest Singularity Summit in San Francisco in October. He argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement or brain-computer interfaces might be possible causes of the singularity.
Think of it as an era in time where civilization as we know has dramatically changed. The Singularians (yes, that's what they call themselves), believe that this era will "transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity."
I love that but wonder if technological singularity is the only way (or the best way) to transcend and amplify humans.
There is a group of spiritual and creative types like me who are intrigued by the singularity. We find some truth to it and while some of it sounds attractive and appealing, there's a whole subsection of the singularity world that takes me back to "Whoah Nellie" again and again.
When you sit on the right brain side of the fence for most of your life, you find yourself arguing (oops, debating) with scientists and technologists about all the issues that are often left out of the discussion, like emotions, love and feeling. Oh yeah, and intuition, something women have notoriously 'owned' because we're so damn good at it.
One could argue that in this new era, things like emotion and love will be transformed also, so how we view matters of the heart will not be the same way we view them today. In other words, there's no point trying to figure out how they'll matter in this new era because everything will be transcended: our intelligence and our emotional states.
What I love about singularian culture (if there is such a thing), is the commitment to progress, technological advancement (largely for positive change) and the ongoing, intriguing debate about the future and where we're heading. And, oh btw, it's an opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds who are pushing the needle forward today.
If you have a discussion with someone about singularity who knows what they're talking about, you shouldn't be too far along in the conversation before the phrase exponential growth comes up, a phrase referred to by Moore's Law as a logical reason why we can expect the singularity to happen sooner than some believe.
So, who's among this circle aside from respected futurist Ray Kurzweil (below) and scientist fiction writer Vernor Vinge? It's broad and growing every day.
They've even formed a university around it, whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a new generation of leaders who strive to understand and utilize exponentially advancing technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.
Hans Moravec and Eliezer Yudkowsky are also cited as singularity theorists and the circle is expanding as "its" tentacles dip into other industries.
Speakers at the recent Singularity Summit included thinkers and entrepreneurs such as Julia Galef who spoke on rationality, cognition and the future, Linda Avey who addressed personal genomics, and professor Steven Pinker (below) who took us through a history of violence. (video here)
We also had an interactive dialogue with Daniel Kahneman, heard about artificial intelligence and the barrier of meaning from Melanie Mitchell, and our 'viral' future from Carl Zimmer. (below)
A quest in metaphysics was explored by Jaan Tallinn (below), Robin Hanson's topic was: A Tsunami of Life: The Extraordinary Society of Emulated Minds and Stuart Armstrong discussed how we're 'predicting' AI.
Temple Grandin who has done a lot of work with autism spoke to us about different types of thinking. There's the photorealistic visual thinker (poor in algebra), the pattern thinker (poor at music & math), the verbal mind (poor at drawing) and the auditory thinkers (who are poor at drawing). She brought up the power of bottom up thinking rather than bottom down, where you learn by specific examples. In other words, get out and discover things, citing travel as a great educator. Hear hear.
She says, "many talented, quirky and gifted students are going nowhere because they have no mentors to help them through their quirkiness." So right. While I received emotional support from my grandparents along the way (they raised me), I received more emotional support from random mentors who fell into my life path, amazing accidents in time I thought as a child.
Pinker, who took us on a journey of violence, talked about its connection to literacy. Much of his research wouldn't surprise anyone since its logical: literacy matters for a decrease in violence since it brings reason into the equation, winning over superstitious thinking.
Literacy is also a mixture of cosmopolitanism, where you increasingly consume fiction, drama, journalism and the arts.
The implication of this over time resulted in the need to redefine modernity...what culture means: our tribes, family, community and religion.
Like Kurzweil, I always love hearing Pinker speak. My brain is better off at the end of it.
So, if singularity thinking is drawing some of the best and the brightest, what's the real controversy aside from fear of the unknown, which is inevitable?
Carl H. Flygt quotes Bill Joy in a paper he wrote in 2005 on singularity theory:
“A traditional utopia is a good society and a good life involving other people,” says Bill Joy. “This techno-utopia is all about: ‘I don’t get diseases; I don’t die; I get to have better eyesight and be smarter’ and all of this. If you described this to Socrates or Plato they would laugh at you.”
But the paper goes on to say, "But Socrates or Plato would not laugh at the idea of pure conversation, which cuts off the me-talk before it can start and puts the human being directly in community with the reality of his (her) cosmic consciousness, of his (her) ontological impulses and of his (her) capacity for self-control and settlement into the higher bodies given human nature by its cosmic mereology."
I have no clue whether this paper has any credibility and note that it's also now seven years old...but, it was and is a viewpoint. Naysayer LogicPriest who calls himself an atheist, skeptic, anti-authoritarian and crazy person who likes cat and among other things, science, doesn't discount that AI isn't possible because any system of enough complexity can emerge into intelligence. He feels we may have very little to say to it however.
He writes: "we would need to emulate much of ourselves in an AI. We would need some pretend body and environment, some emulated limbic and nervous system (the brain is only PART of the nervous system, something most futurists forget). We would also need to build a completely different type of computer, one where the architecture is structurally tied to certain actions, one with DNA instructions, separate abstracted layers like our 'reptile' brain to work it's normal, computer functions and higher order processors for complex thought."
Regardless if you're an outside observer who is merely curious, a student of science, or writers like those I discovered in my search who have strong opinions on the topic, technology is accelerating with a force that's hard to deny. It is working its way into our every existence.
Consider that we use it get directions, read digital books, buy products and communicate to the outside world not to mention the people who email a loved one in the very next room rather than have a "human" conversation with them.
We use it for voting, research, asking questions on the most basic things like how to start a lawnmower or how to cook a turkey, sending photos to grandparents, watching a movie and monitoring our diets. We even use it to virtually talk to doctors about our health, consultants about our finances and teachers about our children's education. There's no end to how and where we use it or will use it in the not too distant future. Augmented reality is here and expanding.
The real question is a moral and ethical one. How conscious, present and aware are those who are building and executing the stuff that brings us into the next era, the one singularity promises is nearer than we think? What is their mission for "it" and for "us" as a species?
How will this explosion impact life as we know it? And, for women, artists, creative right brains and expressionists of the world, how will it impact things we hold so dear like love, emotion, physical relationships and our identity around spirituality?
What do you think?
Note: Twitter handles of some of the people either in this world or who talk about it from time-to-time: @raykurzweil2035 @labenz @lukeprog @laurademing @sydney_uni @ricolution @Sydney_ideas @jayrosen_nyc @biotechbusdev @elonmusk @robertwrighter @stephenfry @edge @rkurzban @temple_grandin @laurademing @lindaavey @sapinker @melmitchell1 @carlzimmer @robinhanson @wilbanks @ch402 @magicsaucemedia @noorFSiddigui
November 5, 2012 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 30, 2012
MIT's Jodie Wu, an Inspiration & Force Behind Change in Tanzania
Enough people know I love Africa and the fact that I have spent time there and lived there.
Combine these known facts with her entrepreneur and technology work and it makes sense that we'd have a lot to talk about.
I also love meeting women CEOs who are an inspiration to be around and in the midst of all this background, did I mention that she's only 25?
She was a speaker this September at the event, the second year I made my way across country to Louisville Kentucky to meet interesting people who are help shaping the world.
Her company Global Cycle Solutions is a social enterprise developing bicycle attachments that improve the lives of smallholder farmers. In May 2009, as an undergraduate in mechanical engineering at MIT, she led her team to win the MIT 100K Business Plan Competition, and in August 2009, she moved to Arusha, Tanzania, to launch her company.
Her vision is to end "cycled poverty." I had an opportunity to spend time with her before and after her talk. She says, "so much money is going into foreign aid and it's not being spent effectively. The typical person just needs tools and investment in their education. If they buy it, they need it, if they don’t buy it, then it isn’t good enough.
Fair enough. Even if the technology is advanced and might work in the U.S. or Europe, if Africans don't buy the product, then it means its not solving real needs they have every day.
In Tanzania, Bernard their inventor, is creating water pumps, grinders and pedals and working on designing a better bike for Africa.
Her favorite product they're working on right now is the solar lantern. She says with a smile, "it actually bounces like a ball but it doesn’t break. The most significant thing about the light right away is that when people use it, their productivity goes up right away. People can charge their phones at their houses rather than them having to walk five kilometers just to charge their phone, which is what people are doing today."
When she was asked by someone from the audience about how they decided on price, she said that narrowing down the "right price" was difficult, because it depends on their harvest and the timing of it. In other words, $50 is not a lot but they may not have the money to buy it until their harvest comes in. They are testing the pay per use model and when they have all the money, they can opt to buy their own.
Not a boat load of MIT graduates take off for Africa to start a company. Why Tanzania? She says she asked herself after graduation, “is it really going to make me happy working to make a larger corporation richer? What I love about working in Africa, you can see the impact of your engineering immediately – there’s an immediate satisfaction."
Having lived in Africa myself, I resonate with her sense of satisfaction and the immediate reward. I also remembered such a stronger sense of gratitude and appreciation than we have in the west.
On lessons learned? The best advice she received from one of her MIT mentors was “Just do it.” She also learned that change doesn’t happen instantaneously. She thought she’d be in Tanzania for two years and then move onto other countries, but she learned that two years wasn’t realistic at all. Jodie thought that they'd break even in two years, but they’ve been there for four years and she thinks she probably has another two years before she can move her projects into other African markets.
Other great advice she received along the way is one that everyone can learn from: “if any one task is taking more than 20% of your time, delegate and outsource it.” I laughed out loud when she talked about experiences hiring: “if I don’t love you during the interview process and want to go to lunch with you next week, then I won’t love working with you.” It's so true and yet sometimes we are blinded in the interviewing process because we think of skills more than we think of synergy, at least right away.
Jodie apparently pays all of her employees through her phone. She sees so many opportunities in that area and countries like Tanzania are miles ahead. “LEDs are becoming so efficient and that could change things dramatically for Tanzania and other parts of Africa. Remember that 90% of the population is off the grid,” says Jodie.
They’ve set up a group of village ambassadors who have become their evangelists. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of a virtual sales force but it’s organic...the way it should be.
Jodie is an inspiration and it's great to see her MIT education and knowledge pouring into an eastern African country that needs it so much.
August 12, 2012
Reid Hoffman on Lessons Learned Over 20 Years
Reid Hoffman is one of my favorite entrepreneurs in the technology industry.
I was introduced to him and 'his world' when I first moved to California six or so years ago. There was even a time I was talking to LinkedIn about working with them though it now seems like it was another lifetime. Things move so quickly in Silicon Valley.
Some people decide to move west for access to technology and money, and so they can work with the smartest and brightest people in the industry'. For me, since I'm more of an artist tha a geek, a big part of it was the opportunity to work with "the smart and bright" but it was also a lifestyle and attitude decision.
Silicon Valley represented a fresher, more aggressive, dive in or die approach to business and entrepreneurship that was intoxicating after working in Boston where most company execs took a conservative and apprehensive approach more often than not, operating from a place of fear rather than opportunity.
And, given that I was in the technology industry, doing my thing here only seemed natural. People who personified the best in entrepreneurial attitude in the early days for me were people like Jeff Hawkins, Dick Costolo (he was building Feedburner at the time), and Reid Hoffman.
It was 'this mindset' that was prevalent when I moved west that Reid emphasized this past week in a fireside chat in San Francisco with Panda Daily's Sarah Lacy.
One of the things that I really like about Sarah Lacy's interview style is that she likes to be and "is" provocative and isn't afraid of 'owning it.' Men never seem to get slaughtered for this approach, but women often do, and playing in a world where Hollywood and creativity meets tech and business, I think Sarah pulls this off consistently well.
She asked him about the very analytic and organized way he approached his career. Reid took a more methodical and structured path than so many others I was inspired by at the time, something he admitted to when Lacy took us through his career and myriad of start-ups. He said he made a list of all the skills he'd need to run a company and went through acquiring them one-by-one: from Apple's eWorld project, Fujitsu and SocialNet to PayPal and LinkedIn and everything in between.
"Entrepreneurship is about jumping off a cliff," Reid says. "You have to figure out what kind of founder you are: Design, Product or Engineering? Once you know, then acquire the other skills you need to get to the next level." For him, it was product management early on in his career.
When you start out as an entrepreneur reminds Reid, "you're never going to know the right thing to do all the time." Of his PayPal days, he laughed as he referenced a Peter Thiel quote who had said "I've never learned so much in my life except between 2 and 3 years old." Adds Reid, "If you're not red lining and failing enough, you're not learning enough. Don't beat yourself up and have to succeed all the time."
Advice he shared from his start-ups and things all entrepreneurs should think about:
1. Think about how your product will evolve and plan for it.
2. Think about how and where you'll raise your next round as soon as you've finished raising your first round. If you're not, you'll die.
3. Hire people with deep expertise in areas you don't have but really need.
4. Hire really fast learners - this is more important with early stage start-ups than someone who has 20 years of experience but may not be a fast learner and can pivot with you when things go south.
5. Hire people who are smart collaborative team players. Ask yourself: can they navigate, learn and adapt quickly and shift gears when you change a strategy overnight. He referred to the fact that PayPal had so many near death experiences.
6. Find something unique and new or be first or second. A Groupon variation could work, but not a third or fourth one.
7. Three things you must have is virality, SEO and differentiators so you can build a set of products that can be built into an ecosystem.
8. You should always have a mindset of being terrified. Be paranoid, especially as a developer. (Note: he subscribes to belief that only the paranoid survive).
9. On choosing your team, go for people who share your vision and can go with you through the bad and the good times.
10. Build a team with people you simply can't 'hire.' (I LOVED THIS ONE and it is so so true).
One of the funniest and truest analogies he brought up was how much creating a team and bringing on an investor for a start-up was like a "shotgun marriage." He says with a grin, "Let's have dinner a couple of times, sign a paper and get married. Then you start running very fast, together and you all have to get along. If the alignment isn't there and you can't get along, it's not going to last."
We moved into company experience and opinions, which included both successes and failures.
In the early days of PayPal, the founders (Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk & Luke Nosek) had different ideas of what PayPal 'should be'. He said, "company direction changed often...we pivoted so many times, that it took us awhile to figure out what PayPal needed to be to sustain itself. Staying independent was highly risky given where we were at."
He says of Friendster, "they failed to get their team to operate well. They also had two minute load times which is essentially like saying F-U, go away."
On Tribe, he says "they got taken over by a community that was mostly Burning Man."
Of gigs he was most surprised that failed? After pondering for a bit, he said, "probably Digg because they had so many users and they had momentum."
Of products that haven't really progressed since they started? Yahoo Mail was his first answer, but then quickly added, "but maybe Marissa will fix this."
Of things which have accelerated faster than he thought they would? Twitter, which he passed up as an investor and is sorry that he had. "I couldn't understand their motivation early on," he said, but then suddently I got it, 'oh, it's a public sphere of attention gestures."
I had to laugh because it was a much geekier way of saying what I was thinking in those days "geeks with egos and ideas who needed to talk using as few words as possible with symbols that didn't make sense." Obviously Twitter has evolved into something so much broader today and rather than a platform designed by geeks for geeks, among other things, it has become a megaphones for brands.
On Zynga, he says noting that he just came from a board meeting and there were obviously things he couldn't talk about, "they have a lot of money in the bank, social gaming is an important category and matters and they have tons of users." On what he advises the team: "Don't worry about the market and what they're doing, just focus on building out your vision. The game is in front of you."
Lacy asked him if he felt that Zynga went public too early. "No, I don't think so," he says, "because it will take so long to build products and the rest of their vision out. They're going through a bit of a storm, but they have the fortitude and the team to pull through it." One of his funnier moments was when Mark Pincus asked him when games would show up on LinkedIn. "His answer? "Never," he said with a laugh. "It's not our business."
Then, there's the Facebook IPO. Reid says, "they decided they could increase their offering and when you do an IPO, you need to create a positive outlook for the future."
On LinkedIn and their IPO, he says, "we decided to go with the New York Stock Exchange, because we felt that it aligned better with our own brand."
Lacy asked him if he felt that Groupon went public too early?
"It's easy to get sidetracked and distracted with an IPO," he says. "They need to focus on building out new products....and when you have to deal with so much marketing and press, it is easy to get defocused, rather than concentrating on the things that you need to do to make your product better. They mishandled some of the things around the IPO and got distracted, but I think the relationships they have with merchants is better than people think." Like his remarks about Zynga, he adds, "the game is still in front of them."
On whether they should have taken the Google deal. "I'm always bullish...I think it's better to go long."
What about now and in the future? He says he wants to work on things that make a difference in the world. As for what that means to him? While Reid isn't Pierre Omidyar or Tony Tsieh in that he hasn't spend a chunk of his life in a business that honors and invests in businesses for social good, making a difference is what inspires him more than making money. Hear hear.
He serves on the boards of Do Something (an organization for young people taking action), The Weekend to be Named Later, Kiva.org, Mozilla and Endeavor Global an international non-profit development organization that finds and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Reid - thanks for sharing your inspiring words of wisdom and lessons learned.