Category Archives: Google

World Domination 

This past week was busy with switch, slush, venturecon, VC-PE summit and then walkabout. I hit or spoke or cheered them all on. I love đź’• being in Singapore and it was awesome to witness everyone from around the world coming out to support the city/state that continues to punch well above the weight class that everyone thinks it might be in.

I won’t lie – I am Singapore fanboy. 

When I read stories like this about America, startup slump, I am thankful to be in Asia and specifically at the center of SEA. Pro startup with a government mindful of the challenges ahead but super supportive of tech and the role it will play in future societies.

I worry about America but remain hopeful.

Overall I continue to be concerned about the role of the huge tech companies in our lives and their impact on startups and capitalism.

I can’t wait to read The Four.

And on this subject his weekly newsletter is very timely :: https://www.l2inc.com/daily-insights/no-mercy-no-malice/the-worm-has-turned

The biggest opportunity for the Four

The Four could pull off one of the greatest moments in business, addressing a huge social issue while disrupting an enormous, wildly profitable sector that hasn’t innovated in decades. One or more of the Four should launch a tuition-free university that blends offline and online learning, and charges firms to recruit. Student debt and corporate profits are at an all-time high, meaning we need to flip the model — charge firms, not students, for education.

Apple is also well suited to do this as its brand has roots in education. I estimate the economic value of credentialing is, if taken as a market, likely the largest industry in business with 80%+ gross margins. There would be several ways to create $100B+ in shareholder value and catalyze desperately needed competition. We (universities) have stuck out our chins and deserve fists of stone. Feeding like insecure vampires on the scarcity of our product (dopamine surges through our brains at faculty meetings as we revel in how impossible it is for kids to get into our programs), and praying on the hopes and dreams of families. Education used to be the upward lubricant and a social good. It’s now just one of those things.

Other than each other, there is only one thing between the Four and $1T in market value: the perception of poor citizenship. The small-ball strategies of tax avoidance, obfuscation, and the idolatry of youth and the dollar, may turn big tech into smaller tech.

Thoughts to ponder for sure.

I hope one of the companies steps up and challenges the perception of the role they could play and make America proud.

Thinking about AI

It is easy to go deep in the weeds or try to think about the complicated ways that AI can help make life easier.

I have an Alexa at home and apart from telling me bus arrival times, giving me the morning news update or making it easy for the kids to play some songs on Spotify, I don’t use it much. I do think voice and the home will offer a chance for AI to shine but we are not there yet.

I see the subtle things Apple does with iOS and some of their apps and it helps but nothing earth shattering yet. AI is slowly creeping into all things – like it or not.

As a VC I am trying to think of the many ways AI might permeate normal life and find companies to invest in. I will highlight one way that AI is helping me manage my calendar, yes this is a SeedPlus portfolio company, but wanto talk about the broader implications on AI or machines learning and my calendar.

I have been using Evie solidly for over a year and at first it was more novelty than anything but even in the early stages I liked moving the booking of a meeting off to someone else. I assume this is how people feel about their admin but I have never had a human admin. Of course Evie would always reply and ask me more questions, she was learning, but now those questions don’t come to me as much cause she is evolving and getting smarter.

Our team uses it and scheduling a meeting is simply one email. Find a slot. Book. If outsiders are involved than Evie will talk to them but save me from the back and forth of it all.

Generally I book meetings faster this way and use less of my time in doing so. I can tell Evie my preferences and over time she is even inferring some of them. It’s not perfect yet though. I would like Evie to be able to distinguish between time blocked for outside meettings and time blocked for inside meetings. Example – I would block time for people on my team to book but if they don’t use that time then it is still my time, it would not get booked bny outsiders. I would also like Evie to allow me to cap my overall meeting time – example might be setting a high water mark for how much of a week goes to meetings and if she hits that mark she would alert me as such. I know some of this is managed by time blocking but I also might book some of my own meetings but the thought is that Evie would know once I hit my mark and let me deal with it.

I know there is some chatter on the ‘net about how these personal calendar bots are impersonal. Meaning I should talk to the person and manually book it but I don’t see the issue to be honest. I think Evie is faster than my own calendar management and this means I get people booked faster and they don’t have to hear me find a time or discuss it, Evie just offers up the soonest available time. Meaning I still feel that by using Evie my time is better managed and people get the best of me. Maybe others don’t feel this way but to me this is the beauty of a personal AI bot, my own powers are augemted via technology.

This is what I want to see more of. Example I just had to fill out an India Visa form and it would be great if Apple or Google could pre-fill out the form for me and save a bunch of time. I can honestly think of other things I wish “computers” were doing for me – all in the same category of “augmenting me” so that I get more done in the same span of time. Of course this same “augmentation” could mean that some people are put out of work or are needed less – I am not sure how to defend against that but I know that if much of the world is augmented that overall productivity will go up which everyone benefits from.

However this does lead me to think that society will have issues with grappling how to deal with some folks out of work while others are benefiting. The world has always had this issue though and I think about it a lot when I look at my young kids.

For the time being though I will continue to enjoy the benefits of calendar and meeting automation.

🙂

 

 

Uber’s month from hell!

And now the investors are piling on :: https://shift.newco.co/an-open-letter-to-the-uber-board-and-investors-2dc0c48c3a7#.wro1quz15

#deleteUber

Then the latest on all the sexual harassment

Adding the recode link :: http://www.recode.net/2017/2/23/14717432/waymo-otto-uber-anthony-levandowski-lawsuit

And now :: https://medium.com/waymo/a-note-on-our-lawsuit-against-otto-and-uber-86f4f98902a1#.j81e8os6u

We found that six weeks before his resignation this former employee, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board. To gain access to Waymo’s design server, Mr. Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation. Then he connected an external drive to the laptop. Mr. Levandowski then wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints.

Wow. Not even a professional hijacking. Just straight up stealing and trying to cover it up.

Guessing Alphabet has plenty of cash and an axe to grind. Seems to me it’s time for the CEO to step down and let an adult run the company before it is too late.

Standing up to Google 

Check this rant from the Prof.

https://www.l2inc.com/no-mercy-no-malice/fool-me-twice

The shit sandwich here is that having legitimate news next to fake news has only made the Facebook platform more dangerous. When standing in line at Krogers, your bullshit filter is in high gear and you suspect HiIlary isn’t an alien, despite what the Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids tell you. However, the presence of the NYT and WaPo on Facebook has only legitimized fake news. Fuck.

Dear Hearst, Sulzberger, Murdoch, Newhouse, Burda families:

Remove your heads from your asses. Google and Facebook are your frenemy, minus the friend part. Turn off Google / Facebook / Twitter / Snapchat, form a consortium, and command the space you occupy. Take a page from LVMH’s playbook regarding their presence on Amazon — specifically how they’re not present on Amazon.

I tend to agree but guessing very few orgs have the guts to do anything about it.

Still on the fence…

Another :: http://www.asymco.com/2016/11/02/wherefore-art-thou-macintosh/

More :: http://daringfireball.net/linked/2016/11/01/bjarnason-macbook-pros 

Have to admit – this is a good read :: https://chuqui.com/2016/10/how-apple-could-have-avoided-much-of-the-controversy/

Day to day I use an iPad Pro with the apple keyboard. When I was in the market for a new machine about 6 months ago, I figured the best hardware out there was the iPad Pro. I love the battery life, the true tone display and the always on Internet. Notice I picked the best hardware since I feel that is what you buy – the latest hardware. I figured I could get by with iOS for most of my day to day work.

There are times when this is painful. Crappy websites that don’t handle mobile browsers well, some aspects of file management and Google docs. Google docs tends to just suck on iOS apps and I bounce between iOS and the web version from time to time to accomplish certain tasks. 

However I generally like the ease of carrying around something so small that is always connected. I use it for note taking, reading and just getting shit done. It could be better but I get by.

I was assuming that as soon as apple announced their latest macbook that I would grab it. Now I am not so sure, but there in lies the issue. Apple is introducing doubt among their most ardent fans. I am waiting for the real life reviews to come and to go play with one before I decide. I would like to have a machine at work with a monitor and keyboard and the macbook pro will probably be great for that. 

I would have loved for apple to delighted me so much that I was ready to buy the moment I could. That didn’t happen and apple should see this as a canary in the coal mine.

I also may look for a killer chromebook and force myself to try that world as well since I think it is a glimpse into what the future may look like. For sure I won’t entertain anything from Microsoft cause honestly I think windows still sucks. I spent about an hour the other day making a printer work on windows that just magically works on iOS and MacOS. Microsoft is making some killer hardware and they are getting better at their craft but let’s face it, Windows still sucks hard. No thanks.

I think this post captures my feelings pretty well :: http://mjtsai.com/blog/2016/10/27/new-macbook-pros-and-the-state-of-the-mac/

Adding this link for another opinion on the matter :: http://macdaddy.io/apples-new-macbook-pros/

Disruption

Picked up on this article by Steve Blank over the weekend – such a good read.

I have worked at a few places in my life – startups, corporates, corporates in decline (Yahoo) and joint ventures masked as vehicles for corporates to try and stem declines (HOOQ). All of them share critical components but the corporates trying to deal with disruption can be very interesting. They don’t have it easy but they also continue to display the classic behaviors that got them to where they are in the first place. 

I notice in the local space that there is not a lot of investigative journalism into the big corporates around Singapore. I am guessing it is too touchy of a subject or maybe doesn’t drive page views. Hard to say.

Having just left HOOQ I would like to say a few things about it since I am asked many times why I went from startup land, Spuul, to pseudo startup land – HOOQ. 

Let me list a few reasons:

– I wanted the chance to get to know Singapore Inc. more closely.

– I wanted exposure to Sony and Warner.

– I was generally intrigued by the concept – 2 big studios work with local telco to try and do something cool in OTT.

– The plan had a solid model – the plan that is. The execution – not so much.

I went into the gig with my eyes wide open. I would learn, I would network and I would gain much needed experience on how to deal with a big corporate giant, actually three of them, trying to innovate. I would have a seat at the board meetings – huge learning opportunity. Boards can help a lot if done right.

Lastly, most importantly for me – I would try and see if I could buck the trend of a large corporate trying a new way to innovate but normally failing. The model had the right ingredients – a joint venture versus a subsidiary, good partners, a worthy business to go after and funds. Most startups don’t have these ingredients but then again most startups also don’t come with any baggage. Usually startups have a green field advantage and the right to make plans as they go whereas a joint venture is immediately plagued with too much funds, large parents to make happy and long range planning processes.

Frankly – it is too early to tell what will happen. Right now the market for OTT in emerging markets is early days. It is all about funding, posturing and moon shots. Obviously Netflix and Amazon will be the largest global players. As I keep saying to folks who constantly ask – who is the Amazon of India – Amazon. Just wait and see.

However folks tend to only thing big and forget that there are some healthy niche businesses out there – take Spuul for example. Doing well, but most folks only want to hear about big fund raising or other PR noteworthy milestones as examples of success.

For video we tend to think of Netflix or maybe YouTube. Right now the YouTube of emerging markets is YouTube. The Netflix for emerging markets – is also probably YouTube cause free and piracy are still the leader around the emerging markets. The idea of building out a robust, and profitable, paid OTT service for the emerging markets is still a work in progress.

HOOQ has a shot but iFlix appears to have the early lead. Will guys like Rakuten, Alibaba and HotStar emerge to try and go big? Don’t know yet. Will Netflix and Amazon slowly take over? Possibly. Will Google eventually get it right around the globe when it comes to premium content? I think not likely. Apple – well, they just seem to suck at emerging markets when it comes to payment models so I am not hopeful.

The race is on. I will continue to armchair quarterback it and share more insights as I go.