October 05, 2012
A Visual Journey of DEMOFall 2012
I missed DEMOFall last year if I recall and hate to miss a DEMO since I'm a huge fan of their events, having gone for years (and years). I'm also a media partner every year. As always, they had a great line-up of companies, many start-ups making the trek over from Asia and Europe to unveil their latest and greatest on the DEMO stage.
Some of the highlights included a kick-off Beer reception in the Oktoberfest theme. The great thing about such a theme is fabulous dark German beer and fashionistas like Jolie O'Dell showing up looking like Heidi. (it doesn't seem to matter what outfit she puts on or color her hair is, she always looks smashing).
The downside? The food of course. It was great to reconnect with old friends, some of whom I only see at Demo every year. Not everyone was as stylish as Jolie of course, but the pressure of women pulling out in the stops in Silicon Valley has Dylan Tweney rethinking what he puts on before he goes out of the house...yup, even the socks! (see my geek fashion hurts my senses piece).
Dean Takahashi decided to support the theme in one way he knew how: put on an Irish hat to support the Germans of course. :-)
In all seriousness, the beauty about Demo is that after hours (and before hours), people still know how to have fun. Below - is it easy to recognize a Brit among us? After all, the Brits know how to let loose despite myths that they don't. (Trust me, I lived there...ask me for stories sometime).
The every so "fun" Redg Snodgrass and Andrew Scott announced Taploid, a gossip tabloid for the digital age, so hey, they were just celebrating their unveiling after all...
Speaking of celebrating and having fun, Dave Mathews and co-founder of InTooch Julian Salanon demonstrated to the audience that they can START to have fun if they only freed their lives from business cards with their new mobile app. Hear hear.
Given that this event was Matt Marshall's last DEMO event, Neal Silverman bid farewell to Matt on stage while the audience cheered him on (and yes, we even stood up and whistled). Erick Schonfeld takes over in 2013 and am looking forward to seeing what direction he takes things.
There were also the traditional DEMO God awards that DEMO is notorious for. This year's winners included: bandu from Neumitra, Birdeez, ElectNext, Flinja, RentLingo, and VPC from Neurotrack (Alzheimers development).
One conference - multiple personalities. Up on day one was Ray Kurzweil, who talked about everything from singularity and speech recongition to nano bots and our brains. Up on day two was Twitter co-founder Ev Williams.
In between each category, a group of "sage" panelists came out and gave their opinion on every app that presented - what they liked and didn't...and why!
Journalist Rob Pegararo made the trek from DC...
There was, as always, loads of schmooze time as well and on the last night, a farewell celebration party thrown by Citrix.
LIFEPROOF iPad & iPhone Cases Lets You Swim With Your Devices Or Toss 'Em Around
I ran into a cool 'hardware' product at the DEMO Fall Conference this past week -- or rather series of products. LifeProof produces waterproof cases for your iPhone and iPad that allow you to take them with you from sea to land and back again.
When I first saw the cases, I had that initial reaction that I have with all early products - the case was in black, designed for men and while practical, not sexy and stylish enough for me to want to use.
While their iPad cases still only come in black, their director of communications Jonathan Wegner assures me that a case in white with a soft gray border is coming soon. What about purple, blue, peace or teal I was thinking? Send me anything other than black when they arrive please since the geekier "darth-vader" like versions of today are not going to cut it for my already stylin' iPad.
There are more options for the iPhones on the other hand -- they come in blue, red, turquois, purple and pink. YAY! she says as he pulls them out.
The idea is incredibly useful. Adorning your iPod with one of their cases allows you to take your mobile devices to places where they'd otherwise fear to tread - oceans, ponds, even the shower! It's not just waterproof but apparently dust-proof and shock-proof. Once you add the case onto your iPhone, you can throw it on the floor, toss it overboard or talk on it in the rain.
Unlike other iPhone and iPad cases, LifeProof offers a sleek low profile that barely increases the size of your device.The LifeProof iPhone and iPad cases are supported by an array of action mounts. Their pitch? take your device in the water, dirt or snow. They support iPhone 4 / 4S and have cases for Apple iPad 2, and the iPhone 5.
October 04, 2012
Givit Aims to Make Mobile Video Editing & Sharing Commonplace
The creator of video sharing technology and software for Cisco’s defunct Flip Camera – once a really popular recording device – Givit, has channeled its expertise into a new service poised to make mobile video editing and sharing commonplace.
Unrestricted by length, number of clips or automated editing, Givit has cracked the code in the this race with a powerful, simple new iOS app that transforms raw footage into something polished and shareable on Facebook or YouTube in about 30 seconds.
Unlike any other social video app on the market, Givit’s unique features include:
- Live Highlighting – While recording a live event, simply tap to highlight critical moments. Tap to recap back seven seconds, or start/stop record at any point.
- Multiple Clips – There are no limits to the number of video highlights that can be combined to create the final product.
- No Length Restrictions – Share highlighted video reels of any length or size.
- Effects - Add motion effects (slow-motion, speed-up), music and transitions to polish and finish the highlight reel.
- Sharing Options – One-click social sharing to Facebook or YouTube; or, share video privately and securely by email.
- Cloud Storage – Upload highlighted videos to the Givit cloud for permanent storage, or highlight videos from any other source imported from Givit.
- Facebook App – Watch and share highlighted videos directly from the Givit Facebook app.
- Free – Givit is free for anyone to use, offering 5GB of storage at signup and premium packages for avid users.
October 03, 2012
With InTooch, Instantly Turn New Connections Into Relationships That Matter
For those of you who go to a lot of conferences and events like I do, collecting business cards, exchanging data and keeping in touch with people after the fact is a daunting task.
Sure, there are apps who have promised to faciliate the exchange of information in the past, but most require both people to have the app installed or the need to work in some unnatural and awkward way.
And, then there's card scanners. I've invested in three over the years and two of the three ended up in a yard sale not so long ago.
The other one I donated to Goodwill.
Bottom line, they're not accurate so you're stuck stuck fixing all the mistakes or retyping the contact info into your database for the second and third time.
I recently started working with a French-founded start-up called InTooch who is now based in Silicon Valley.
Selected to present their technological innovation with over 75 other companies on the DEMO Fall stage this week, their demo will be included in the social media category.
Did you realize that of all the people you meet at a conference or even in a personal situation, you won't stay in touch with 85% of them? InTooch aims to not just decrease that number but improve those relationships using their app.
The great thing about the product is that it's easy, it's fast and it's free. Instantly, the moment you meet, the InTooch social connector exchanges contact information and connects you on your preferred social networks on the fly.
While many apps have tried to solve the contact update and data overload problem, most require both people to have the app installed for it to work, or they involve connecting in an awkward way.
In doing research about how people around the world stay connected, they discovered that the majority call each other to exchange numbers in real time more than they connect on social networks and exchange a business cards. InTooch takes it a step further by allowing people to share more than just numbers in real time, including your social data.
How it Works:
Whenever you meet someone you want to stay in touch with, simply call their cell. The app detects that you have called someone for the first time and prompts you automatically to exchange your business or personal contact information.
Works on Any Receiving Device: you can send and receive new contact information regardless of what phone the other person has. If the other person doesn’t have InTooch, it simply sends a link and the rest is done seamlessly through their social connector technology.
Social Network Integration: In just one call, you can connect through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. There’s no need to search for a contact in each social network nor to send invitations – connections are simply established on the fly.
No Need for Both Parties to Have the App: unlike so many solutions which require both parties to have the app installed to work, InTooch works regardless of whether the person you just met has it on their phone, making it the most natural, straight forward and easy way to share your personal or business details. Obviously if the other person has the app, exchanging data is even faster.
New Connection Highlights and Personal Match Score: For personal encounters, InTooch brings augmented reality to your connections, alerting you to all the things you have in common with another person (friends, places you visited, music, movies you like, social network info, check-ins, interests you share) so you can instantly engage in mutually interesting conversations.
It also provides a matching score based on an algorithm which calculates the probability of how well you should get along with that person.
Geo-Tagging of New Connections: since it’s much easier to remember where and when you met someone than his/her name, InTooch automatically tags the location of the initial connection, so you also can search for people by when and where you met them.
Privacy (Control What Data Your Share): InTooch respects your privacy, allowing you to customize what information you want to share and with whom.
InTooch is available for download at http://www.intooch.com and is free for users. Currently, InTooch works with both the Android and the iPhone (except for iOS6), with support for iOS6, other platforms and mobile devices coming later this year.
October 3, 2012 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Client Media Kudos, Conference Highlights, Events, On Mobile & Wireless, On Technology, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
8 Commerce Apps Strut Their Stuff at DEMO 2012
On the DEMO Fall 2012 stage this afternoon, eight commerce apps showed off their latest and greatest at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA.
Invenia announced the launch of ENSAFER, an innovative cloud encryption service. Ensafer offers users of Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and alike, to encrypt their data integrated in their service of choice, with all complexity hidden. Ensafer is end-to-end encryption technology, solving an unsolved demand -- the encryption of files as you store, share and collaborate with them in the cloud. They peg themselves as "security by design."
Billing itself as the Expedia for telecom deals, WIRESURFER online marketplace provides small and medium businesses with an easy way to research telecom providers and their promotions as well as order services from national carriers for free.
They provide a map so you can click on any part of the country to find the best deals nationwide and the layout is slick and clean, so you can compare deals side-by-side. Using wiresurfer, SMBs can compare the offerings from national carriers including AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast Business Services, EarthLink, InterCall, tw telecom, Windstream and XO Communications.
eBREVIA unveiled something they're calling the eDiligence Accelerator. The company's initial software employs natural language processing technology developed at Columbia University to assist attorneys and business professionals in analyzing, extracting information from, and summarizing legal documents.
Then we moved to fashion. Well, sort of. THREADMATCHER is a social commerce website that allows users to curate the clothes that they both own and wish into virtual closets, and get relevant recommendations by following the curation of others who share as similar style.
The team says, "ThreadMatcher provides the ultimate personalized shopping experience. To users, it's a style expansion. By following the curation of others who share a similar style, users can find out what's new at their favorite brands as well as discover other products and brands that they wouldn't have otherwise known -- all this directly from people whose style they trust."
Like I said, it doesn't mean the site is design and fashion conscious, but it does curate people with like-fashion interests. It seems like a perfect app for Silicon Valley geeks who don't have a clue how to dress.
Other apps shown in the Commerce section included Plus2 Technologies, Plutus Software, Trinity Group and Gaxsys.
October 02, 2012
Intel Capital Global Summit Invests in 10 Innovative Tech Companies
Intel Capital, Intel Corporation's global investment and M&A organization, kicked off its annual Intel Capital Global Summit by announcing investments in 10 innovative technology companies.
Intended to help these companies grow to the next level, the investments reinforce the Global Summit's 2-day agenda focused on company building.
Totaling approximately $40 million, they cover a range of technologies from collaborating in the cloud and delivering enhanced digital entertainment to simplifying mobile payments and enabling new forms of device interaction.
The investments include secure content sharing platform Box; Bollywood and South-Asian content distributor Hungama.com; integrated circuit design house FocalTech; social radio platform Jelli; social game developer LIFO Interactive; mobile proximity platform NewAer; e-payment platform, PagPop; cloud services provider Tier 3; 3-D game developer Transmension; and mobile advertising provider UUCun.A bit about some of the investments:
Box is one of the fastest-growing private enterprise software companies in the world, delivering an intuitive, powerful and secure content sharing platform that users and IT department's love.
From India, Hungama.com is a digital entertainment company with the country's first and largest on-demand digital entertainment storefront. The storefront has over 2.5 million pieces of content across genres and languages in the form of music tracks, movies, music videos and mobile content.
Jelli is a social radio platform that combines the reach of radio with the engagement of the Web. Jelli's consumer experience allows listeners to control radio playlists through real-time voting and game elements via free iPhone and Android apps and Web experience. Jelli's advertising platform enables real-time ad serving and listener engagement across social, mobile and broadcast platforms, creating unique insights for advertisers.
Korea-based LIFO Interactive is a social game developer. Its best-known game on Facebook, Train City*, attracted more than 8 million users worldwide last year. The company is currently developing a mobile version of the hit game, scheduled for release later this year, and has several mobile games in development for iOS, Android, and Windows 8 app stores.
NewAer has created a proximity platform enabling any phone, tablet or computer to automate actions based on who or what is detected nearby. Developers add NewAer's mobile scanning engine software development kit to their apps and then tie into NewAer's back-end interface to enable service "triggers." For example, ToothTag*, NewAer's showcase app for Android devices, allows users to "tag" people, places or things based on their wireless presence and set rules like automating call forwarding when leaving the home or office. NewAer's platform breaks the limitations of GPS point references, making possible the next generation of smart location-based services based on elastic geofence events.
Brazil-based PagPop operates a mobile payment online platform that allows professionals and small business owners to accept credit cards for payment. PagPop's technology transforms any feature phone, computer, landline or smartphone with a swipe device, into a credit card payment machine. As a result, payments can be made anytime, everywhere in an easy, affordable and secure manner.
Tier 3 is a leading provider of enterprise-class cloud services, combining both infrastructure (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) in a comprehensive cloud management platform. The Tier 3 Cloud increases IT operational efficiency and flexibility through advanced cloud orchestration and management capabilities that support the entire business application portfolio, from development to production environments and business-critical applications.
China-based Transmension is a television-focused gaming service provider, which specializes in providing and enabling the delivery of high-quality games to TV screens via IPTV, smart TVs and cable TV carriers. Transmension has collaborated with leading game studios to distribute their games to millions of families.
Also from China, UUCun, is a mobile Internet ad platform connecting phone makers, app developers and advertisers. The company's solution has been deployed in approximately 20 million newly shipped smartphones this year. The company is expanding its platform and technology to enable not only mobile advertisements but also more value-added services.
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.
September 20, 2012
Now in its Third Year, Tech4Africa Hits Johannesburg Next Month
Now in its third year, Tech4Africa is a premier mobile, web and emerging technology event held in Johannesburg on October 31-November 1 at The Indaba Hotel, Gauteng.
The theme is “Unlocking the next billion consumers” and sessions will be focused around mobile and content, the enterprise opportunity, entrepreneurship and financing, social business and innovation.
The Developer Day and Hackathon on the kick off day includes three tracks: a day on Agile
software development, a Hackathon with sessions on Ruby on Rails, Python,
Raspberry Pi, PhP etc., as well as workshops for social media marketers on apps
ecosystem and monetization.
Keynote speakers include IBM's Tom Rosemalia and Ralph Simon of Mobilium, with other speakers being Amolo Ng'weno, MD of Digital Divide Data in Kenya; Neal Ford, Director, Software Architect and Meme Wrangler at ThoughtWorks; Vérone Mankou, CEO of Way-C in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Emma Kaye, CEO of Bozza, Josh Adler, social entrepreneur and others.
A Google G+ Hangout will be held live at the conference so that tech hubs from around Africa can be part of the conference and so that delegates can interact with a panel, asking questions and finding out more about what is happening on the ground in Senegal, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Kenya, Congo and other parts of Africa.
Disclosure: we are a media partner of the event.
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.
August 06, 2012
The Geek 'Fashion' Culture of Silicon Valley Hurts My Eyes
When I first moved to Silicon Valley, I found myself overdressed most of the time, and my New England meets Europe and New York style of dressing just didn't float well with the very youthful techies who showed up to parties in torn jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.
While I fought it at first, I have always taken a 'become your target audience' approach to marketing and PR and since that's my biz, I turned geek for awhile.
After a year or so, I found myself dressing down nearly all the time, even at industry events. I'd wear sleeveless shirts, jeans and sweater wraps which was probably a tad too young for me but then again I was surrounded by engineers who were barely out of puberty. It was about as 'down' as I could dress and still look at myself in the mirror.
Dressing 'down' may have made me assimilate a bit better into geek culture, which was a culture I needed to wrap my head around, but it never made me 'feel good.' I always felt that 'dressing down' was 'dumbing down' who I was even though we only have to look at how many of the geek powerhouses dress who are running fat multi-million companies to know that they don't go hand-in-hand.
That said, dressing 'up' makes me feel 'up', behave 'up' and think 'up,' most of the time. It doesn't mean that I don't get brilliant ideas at 3 in the morning when I'm at my computer in shorts and a t-shirt, because that happens often. Or in the shower, like it does for most of us, when our brain has a few moments to get away from the always-on overcharged place it has been operating for hours at a time.
Those who are close to me know that the fashion sense or lack thereof in Silicon Valley makes me crazy and is one of the things I hate about living here. I miss the fashion sense and energy of New York and most of Europe. And, even though Boston was far too conservative for my taste, at least women wore dresses, jackets and jewelry that you marveled at from time-to-time or wanted to touch. New England men may not win any top prizes for fashion, but they know how to throw on a well-cut jacket and the right shoes for an occasion when they need to.
Many women are tactile, we love touching and that doesn't just mean our significant other, it means materials too. The first thing I do when I'm in a shop and see something I like is walk up to it to 'feel' the material so I'd know immediately whether I'd 'feel' great wearing it.
I remember being at an opera once with my ex and we were in the second row. He was an opera guru and could never understand why I had to sit so close to the front of the stage. When the lead opera star came out wearing a vibrant eggplant Asian silk dress with a mustard and turquoise sash that was so decadently beautiful I nearly cried, I informed him that I was close enough to nearly feel what it was must have felt like on. You don't get that from the balcony or even from the 20th row.
When I first started blogging and was part of the early blogging trendsetters, there weren't many women in the scene, so the fashion culture of those RSS-education days was sadly lacking. In the early BlogHer years, when it was all bloggers and no brands, the style was eclectic and all over the map, but one thing that was consistent was the use of vibrant colors. See my photo blog post from 2005 that showed some of the styles of women bloggers at the time and my 2007 post when Project Runway designer Chloe Dao inspired female bloggers to cut up materials and create their own designer t-shirt in a variety of bright, fun colors.
That 'offering' couldn't have been more enticing for someone like me who craves a whole lotta art, fashion, style, craft and creativity in my life. I don't get enough of great art, design and fashion in the start-up world although frankly if there were more women founders, then perhaps we'd have more creative 'offerings' for the world to play with and the UIs would look like a mixture of Vogue and Apple rather than Evernote and Delicious.
The New York Times just ran a piece entitled "Techies Break a Fashion Taboo" and with a title like that, how can you not be drawn in? As they rightfully point out, "Silicon Valley has long been known for semiconductors and social networks, not stilettos and socialites. But in a place where the most highly prized style is to appear to ignore style altogether and the hottest accessory is the newest phone, a growing group of women is bucking convention not only by being women in a male-dominated industry, but also by unabashedly embracing fashion."
Ahhh, beautiful MUSIC TO MY EARS. I'm thinking, breathing and saying all at the same time: GO GIRLS! How can I help?
I had an idea awhile back about throwing a Geek Fashion Show, a bit in 'New York runway' format in someone's home. The idea is that geeks would be forced into fabulous designer clothes, women would whistle and ooh and ahh, and perhaps a little female attention might turn things around.
Somehow I think that if the woman didn't have a device dangling from her body he could play with, she may not be that interesting to him. Okay, I'm being harsh here, but as someone who has been in the Bay Area for 7 years now, I feel less feminine in San Francisco and Silicon Valley than I've felt anywhere else I've lived (and that's 10 countries and 5 states folks).
This energy comes from increased polarity between sexes (or masculine and feminine energies if the same sex). The stronger the polarity, the stronger the chemistry. Polarity is when a woman assumes her femininity in a relationship and a man assumes his masculinity. Since I moved west, I feel as if everyone and everything is equal, everyone and everything is a community, everything and everyone are partners and there's no difference in energy when I'm talking to a man or a woman. There are plenty of people who will disagree with me but I wonder if those who will have ever lived in South America, Italy, the South, Paris or the Caribbean. And god no, I'm not advocating for a return to a 1940s housewife culture, and if you think I am, then you're missing the point.
Polarity plays into dress and fashion too. What I find attractive in a man (clothing, walk, voice) is not necessarily what three of my closest girlfriends will find attractive, but when we dig into attraction at its deepest level in our conversations, what rises to the surface is that "Je ne sais quoi" that creates that feeling of 'want and desire' -- a polar opposite reaction if you like, the trigger that makes a woman feel like a woman around him. When that reaction is the strongest, it is when he's tapped into his (or her) masculine side, whatever that happens to be.
So I guess its no secret by now that I find a man who knows how to dress attractive. And, while I'm heterosexual, I'm drawn to women who know how to dress well too. Sure, dressing well is a matter of personal taste, but regardless of what your taste is, one thing is certain: when a woman dresses well, there's 'care and thought' into matching clothes, shoes, accessories and colors into a creation of sorts she feels best represents her personality. To me, that's powerful, confident and sexy. The same applies to men, at least for this East Coast-born chica who has spent many years living in Europe.
This photo from geeksdreamgirl.com in a post called Geek Fashion Does it Matter reminded me of how I often feel in Silicon Valley.
She writes: "geeks are made up of all kinds, but a frat-looking dude in an Abercrombie or Ed Hardy shirt is going to look more out of place at a con than a chick dressed as Hermoine after she drank the cat Polyjuice Potion."
Outside of Silicon Valley, it all looks out of place, yet geek 'fashion' has hit parts of Europe and just when I was about to guess they were from Silicon Valley, a Dutch, Irish, German or Israeli accent came out of his mouth. Frightening.
Take this photo found on Laughing Squid, where Bill Nye the Science Guy Teaches Chris Hardwick How To Tie a Bowtie. They both look like the whole process is just a tad too painful.
Even if nerdy checked shirts aren't to your liking, it's a helluva lot better than this:
Photo credit: Randy Stewart
The above shot of Ben Huh is more along the lines of the every day fashion I deal with everyday living in Silicon Valley and it hurts. I've been so reluctant of saying so this publicly for so many years because of the backlash that I've kept my moans to close circles. But for crying out loud, it hurts all of my senses and I can no longer not say so.
Says GQ of the the Ben shot: "we can tell you just rolled out of your 1,000-thread count bed sheets and picked out the nearest T-shirt in or around the laundry basket." What's really sad is that most of these guys are actually proud of a statement like that.
Then there's this eyesore. An invitation to the White House and this is the best that Faceook's Mark Zuckerberg can pull together?
Something tells me this was a PR decision or a defiance "this is who I am so f-you" attitude decision. Above photo taken from Hollywood Reporter in an article entitled Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Named Worst Dressed in Silicon Valley. Just attend any of the countless events on the geek events list and you'll definitely find worst nearly any night of the week.
Or dare I suggest crossing the bridge and hanging out in Berkeley for awhile. (Apologies to all of my Berkeley friends who will never speak to me after that comment, but c'mon aready - can't we just call a spade a spade? Just because you're not great at fashion, it doesn't mean you don't ace a million other things in life).
Foursquare's Dennis Crowley just made #5th worst dressed men of Silicon Valley by GQ (although he actually lives in New York, but just dresses like he lives on the other coast).
Photo credit: Getty Images
They're a little harsh in their write-up especially since I personally adore Dennis, but I have to admit, its incredibly accurate: "Unless Crowley is making a social statement about the threat of student loan debt, it's time to graduate past the junior section."
I feel that way about 90% of the men who can't make an effort to graduate past high school.
Remember the way Bill Gates used to dress? Even if you think this shot looks like he's graduated to the Connecticut suburbs and the colors so don't work with his skin tone, you have to admit, he's at least graduated past high school. Enfin!!
Photo credit: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg
I'm surprised that GQ put Craig Newmark on the list, who I also personally adore. Here's the thing: Craig makes an effort whether you think its fashion perfect or not. He's not in a t-shirt he grabbed from his laundry basket, he gets the 'shoe' thing (the man is never seen wearing tacky neon sneakers that don't match anything else), he wears great scarves and the hat just suits him. Of all the men they could have chosen in Silicon Valley, really? I can give you 50 other men who should have made the GQ list. Personally, I think "it" works for him, wrinkled shirt and all. How many men do you know who have wrinkled shirts who aren't geeks?
Photo credit: Getty Images.
From a post in Blog.stylert.com, they ask: "Are you a real geek? Are you proud of being a geek? You can be cute (or sexy), yet embrace your geeky style. Geek fashion refers to the embracing of stereotypically unpopular “geek” characteristics such as glasses. They dress almost identical to hipsters but verge more towards being into comic books, pop culture, technology, etc. rather than hipsters who are more into poetry, brooding, and generally being pretentious.
The definition: Well, basically, you take key pieces of a typically geeky wardrobe and wear them with purpose and aplomb, to make a point. Not because you’re clueless and out of the fashion loop, not because you can’t afford Ralph Lauren — because you want to. Think thick black glasses, pinstriped suits with skinny ties, sweater vests, and pocket protectors — a hipster vibe with a nerdy edge."
This doesn't mean a TechCrunch t-shirt with jeans and sneakers. They write: "many elements that arguably define “geekiness”, such as varying degrees of social awkwardness, mathematical ability, strong interest in science and/or science fiction and fantasy, and varying degrees of disinterest in one’s personal appearance, remain unfashionable."
The point? Get creative. Care at least a little. Mix geek with other styles. For example:
Photo credit: Blog.stylert.com
Says the NY Times piece, "despite the geek stereotypes of hoodie sweatshirts, flip-flops and thick glasses, it makes perfect sense, these women say, for people interested in technology to be intrigued by fashion. They quote Marissa Mayer pictured above left, who said in February: “Like components of software,” she said, “fashion designers learned how to do this shoulder, put pleats on the skirt that way.” Apparently she once paid $60,000 at an auction for lunch with Oscar de la Renta. I wonder if she'll use her elevated salary at Yahoo for luxury wanna-haves like this one?
Thinking like 'software components,' she asked Naeem Khan to make the dress for her wedding to Zachary Bogue, a financier, in 2009. "She gave the designer a spec (a set of requirements that engineers write for new products) for the gown, including scalloped trim, an A-line skirt and lace, preferably with snowflakes." Too funny, but if its the way her brain works, it's the way her brain works.
Compare the above set of four men to the below set of three women. What draws you in more regardless of your sex? Great style is great style is it not?
From left: Theresia Gouw Ranzetta, an investor at Accel Partners in Palo Alto, Calif., Sukhinder Singh Cassidy runs the video shopping site Joyus in San Francisco; Ruzwana Bashir is a founder of Peek, a Web travel start-up in San Francisco.
Well done ladies and don't ever stop wearing great color and great design regardless of how much push back you get.
Keep the trend going so we can add just a little bit of sex appeal to the Bay Area. Silicon Valley is starving for and in need of a whole lot more sex (appeal :-) and while the geeks may not admit it, if they go there, and get the benefits and rewards that it might bring, they may just never look back.
Photo Credits: above triage photo: Heidi Schumann for NY Times, Marissa Mayer, left, head of Yahoo, with the jewelry designer Monique Pean in 2010): Jemel Countless Getty Images and photo upper right: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times.