Dish Antennas as billboards

Startup has become a loosely defined term, thanks to somewhat lax editorial standards at publications who want a piece of “startup” traffic mojo. That is my only quibble with this visual story about a Chilean telecom Claro that is giving women small business owners an option to use Dish Antennas as billboards. Such a great idea and should be copied worldwide! #

No One Can Think Outside the Box

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Taxi services think inside a box. So did Blockbuster. So does Microsoft. But here’s the thing. Uber, Netflix, and Apple also think inside boxes. So do you. So do I. A box is a frame, a paradigm, a habit, a perspective, a silo, a self-imposed set of limits; a box is context and interpretation. We cannot think outside boxes. We can, though, choose our boxes. We can even switch from one box to another to another. Boxes get dangerous when they get obvious, like oft-told stories that harden into cultural truth. Letting a box rust shut is a blunder not of intention but of inattention. Boxes are invisible until we look for them. Let’s look. Figure 1 presents a real company as shown by its an­nual report. If you’d bought its stock at 21 9/16, you’d have almost quadrupled your money over the subsequent four years. My question for you:
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Quiz Yourself: Do You Lead with Emotional Intelligence?

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Performance Can’t Be Measured by Company Growth Alone

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Is your company focused on the right priorities? How do you know? Companies measure performance not only to learn where they’ve been, but also to figure out where they’re going. Since scarce resources often require setting priorities — doing more of one thing at the expense of doing less of another — knowing where improvement efforts are going to yield the greatest returns is critical to getting the most out of a given investment. For example, when it comes to driving shareholder value, there are two fundamental components of cash flow: profitability and growth. Should you invest equally in both? If not, which of these two should get the nod? Should you focus on getting costs under control or expanding into a new geography? Should you invest in differentiation to command premium prices or work to secure more customers, even at lower margins? Without a rigorous understanding of how you’re
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We Should Want Robots to Take Some Jobs

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The latest witch hunt is underway and gaining momentum. The witches are the rapid innovation in robotics and computing, slated to replace humans in performing increasingly sophisticated – i.e. “white collar” – tasks and so displace jobs across the employment spectrum. The dominant dismal view is that rapid technological innovation has been gobbling up jobs faster than it is creating them. Technological change is causally connected to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States. For example, as David Rotman wrote in a 2013 MIT Technology Review called “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs” about the work of MIT’s Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee:
[Brynjolfsson and McAfee] have been arguing… that impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years. Even more ominous for workers, the
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The Daily Startup: Joyus Captures $24M for Online Shopping Videos

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Joyus, a company that has created sort of an online version of the Home Shopping Network, has picked up $24 million in funding, Lizette Chapman reports for Dow Jones VentureWire. The company shoots short videos that feature products. The videos have ads alongside so people who view the videos can easily shop for items in them. Walt Disney Co.’s venture arm, Steamboat Ventures, led the funding round, which included Marker LLCAccel Partners, InterWest and Time Warner Investments. ALSO IN TODAY’S VENTUREWIRE (subscription required): One Drop, a company that will combine a redesigned glucometer with mobile applications, social components and a big-data platform, has raised an $8 million Series A round as it pushes to get its devices on the market by next year. The company’s chief executive, Jeff Dachis, previously co-founded digital-marketing company Razorfish. Carena, a company Continue reading "The Daily Startup: Joyus Captures $24M for Online Shopping Videos"

Apple Watch: perfection has its flaws

Nautilus magazine is featuring an interesting commentary/critique of Apple Watch — extolling its design and engineering, but also pointing out its obvious flaws. This material science & silicon view of the Apple watch, is intelligent, interesting and refreshing, especially compared to all the populist handwringing around quitting the “watch” by page view whores. This is worth a read, whether you like the Apple watch or not. #

Zoning Out Can Make You More Productive

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Thanks to our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices, there is no longer a technology reason why we can’t be working every minute of every day. In principle, that should help us get more useful work done—we can use every minute for maximal efficiency. But while it’s obvious that our devices make us more productive in some ways, what’s less obvious is an important way they can actually harm our productivity: by interfering with mind-wandering, also known as daydreaming. When we turn to our devices every time we get bored or find a break in the flow of work, we keep ourselves constantly processing new information. Being “always on” like this can make us less productive because it can block the brain processes that occur when we let our minds wander. Neuroscience and psychology research show that mind-wandering facilitates creativity, planning, and putting off immediate desires in favor of future
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Steph Reminds Me Of Maravich

There are two great series going on right now. One is the BlackHawks vs Tampa Bay Lightning series in the NHL.  I am a BlackHawks fan and they stole the first game in Tampa.  We will see what happens in the second one. I never played hockey.  Never found the time to skate in the winter since I spent all my time on the hardwood; and they don’t make skates in size 14.  I like to watch the game.  Since I played a lot of basketball, I like to watch. The game has changed tremendously since I played it.  Adding the three point line was huge.  When I was younger, only the old ABA had the three point line.  The physicality of the players has also changed.  Players are bigger, more agile, and exponentially stronger than when I played. When I played, coaches said if you lifted weights you’d screw Continue reading "Steph Reminds Me Of Maravich"

How Banking Analysts’ Biases Benefit Everyone Except Investors

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Wall Street analysts influence markets and companies daily. They release earnings forecasts and investment recommendations moving stock prices and changing investors’ portfolio decisions. These movements in turn generate responses from corporate leaders that make changes in operations, strategies, acquisition, and investment plans. No wonder CEOs and CFOs spend significant amounts of time communicating with the influential analysts covering their firms. But how unbiased are the earnings forecasts that they release? To answer this question we studied Wall Street analysts that provide earnings forecasts for banks and other types of financial institutions or non-finance companies (‘banking analysts’). We classified all companies that are rated by the banking analysts as likely future employers or not, based on whether they have a sell-side equity department. (Companies with a sell-side equity department hire banking analysts of their own and so are potential future employers.) And we found that banking analysts’ forecasts are in
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Where Are We Headed?

I have been telling lots of people that I am writing a book about our transition past the industrial economy. If you have been reading Continuations for a while you know that this has been the subject of much of my writing here. So why write a book? For starters I greatly enjoy reading books so the idea of writing one is appealing. But what is the goal, what am I trying to accomplish with the book? The key reason is that I am trying to influence where we are headed. Earlier this week I tweeted the following:
The range of possible futures for humanity is daunting: from nuclear self-annihilation to terrestrial abundance and interstellar travel

We live in an age of extreme possibilities. On one extreme when you visit Europe and/or follow what Putin has been up to in Russia it is hard not to fear a regression to Continue reading "Where Are We Headed?"

Tweetbot for Mac 2.0

Tweetbot for Mac 2.0: Twitter for Mac continues to suffer from its on-again, off-again death. They clearly don’t consider it a first-class citizen compared to the other clients. So I highly recommend the new Tweetbot for Mac 2.0, which I’ve been trying out the past week or so. First-class all the way. 
Yes, it’s $12.99. But you should be okay paying for a piece of software you’re going to use a ton. Plus, it’s OS X Yosemite-pretty. 

Feature Friday: Pinning Wifis

I’ve started using a cool mobile app called WifiMap. It does something quite simple but also quite useful. When you have the app on your phone and you are using a public wifi (open or password protected), you simply open WifiMap and it gives you the opportunity to “pin” that wifi on a map and supply the password, if there is one. Then, when you are out and about, maybe in a foreign city, maybe in a new neighborhood in the town or city where you live, you can open WifiMap and find the nearest wifi that you can get onto and do work or play. That’s it. It’s simple. But quite useful.

a16z Podcast: The Cool Stuff Only Happens at Scale – with Chris Dixon, Herman Narula, and Vijay Pande

  Distributed computing frameworks like Hadoop and Spark have enabled processing of “big data” sets — but that’s not enough for modeling surprise/rare “black swan” or complex events. Just think of scenarios in disaster planning (earthquakes, terrorist attacks, financial system collapse); biology (including disease); urban planning (cities, transportation, energy power grids); military defense … and other complex systems where unknown behaviors and properties can emerge. They can’t be modeled based on (by definition impossible) limited data. And parallelization for this is hard. But what if companies and governments *could* answer these seemingly impossible questions — through simulations? Especially ones where we can directly merge in knowledge and cues from the real world (sensors, sensors everywhere)? CEO of Improbable Herman Narula and professor-in-residence Vijay Pande discuss this and more with Chris Dixon in this episode of the a16z Podcast. And as Herman says, “the cool stuff only happens at scale”.

Why We’re Only Just at the Beginning of SaaS

We may have been talking about SaaS companies for more than a decade, but we’re still just at the beginning. The legacy software companies including Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and and IBM control 83% of the market cap of software businesses, representing $830B in market cap. The largest SaaS company, Salesforce, is just about half the size of SAP, and Microsoft is 8x bigger. In revenue terms, the legacy vendors control an astounding 93% of revenue: $245B compared to $19B.

Why We’re Only Just at the Beginning of SaaS

We may have been talking about SaaS companies for more than a decade, but we’re still just at the beginning. The legacy software companies including Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and and IBM control 82% of the market cap of software businesses, representing $800B in market cap. The largest SaaS company, Salesforce, is just about half the size of SAP, and Microsoft is 8x bigger. In revenue terms, the legacy vendors control an astounding 91% of revenue: $240B compared to $24B. While cloud software may not be able to wrest all the revenue from legacy players - there are after all some institutions where security remains paramount and cloud solutions just won’t fit the bill - SaaS startups have enormous opportunities before them. In addition, some of the revenue of SAP and Microsoft and Oracle is SaaS revenue, particularly as these business begin to acquire. SAP’s acquisition of Concur added $700M+ in Continue reading "Why We’re Only Just at the Beginning of SaaS"

CockroachDB Scampers Off With $6.3 Million to Tackle Database Shortcomings

An open-source database startup with a creepy-crawly name is the latest investment by Peter Fenton, the veteran Benchmark venture capitalist behind Twitter, Zendesk and many other tech firms. The database company, CockroachDB, announced Thursday it closed a $6.25 million Series A financing led by Fenton, who was a lead or early investor in a string of consumer and business-software startups including Twitter, Yelp, Zendesk, Hortonworks , New Relic and Docker. Google Ventures , Sequoia Capital and FirstMark Capital are also participating the financing round, as are tech executives Rob Bearden, the chief executive of Hortonworks; Alex Polvi, the CEO of CoreOS; and Jeff Hammerbacher, a Cloudera co-founder and chief scientist. New York-based CockroachDB is the latest business-tech firm based on the mission of bringing the quality of technologies used inside of Google to the rest of the world. The Web search giant is widely considered to have some of Continue reading "CockroachDB Scampers Off With $6.3 Million to Tackle Database Shortcomings"

Madrona Venture Group Closes Sixth Fund at $300 Million

Madrona Managing Directors, Tim Porter, Matt McIlwain, Scott Jacobson, Paul Goodrich, Len Jordan.
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Madrona Venture Group closed its sixth fund at $300 million, the same size as its last fund, but the firm could have raised as much as $500 million, according to Managing Director Matt McIlwain. The firm also added no new limited partners and was unable to give all the current LPs the allocation they wanted, he said. “If we had a different strategy, we could have raised a much larger fund, but we like our strategy and like returning multiples of capital and are significant investors ourselves,” Mr. McIlwain said. “We want top quartile returns, and this is a good fund size for us.” Madrona invests in seed and Series A rounds in information technology startups. It is one of the largest venture capital firms in Seattle, an area that has seen rapid growth Continue reading "Madrona Venture Group Closes Sixth Fund at $300 Million"