Category Archives: Google

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.

Updated :: More questions than answers on the facebook/liverail acquisition

Now we have Facebook actually shutting LiveRail down. This is what I ultimately expected would happen. Tough industry…

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So what I originally feared has happened :: http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/07/facebook-liverail-ad-serving/

Quite a blow to some folks…

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Been waiting to see if there was any proper analysis written dissecting the Facebook acquisition of liverail – so far I haven’t seen much.

There is some good notes over at statechery – http://stratechery.com/2014/daily-update-microsoft-phone-wearables-office-facebook-acquires-liverail-google-right-censor/. But I think this is for subscribers only:

Small excerpt:

This is another very smart and rather obvious acquisition for Facebook: they have the best user data, while video ads are the fastest-growing and most lucrative (on a per-ad basis) digital ad units. LiveRail ties the two together in a very nice, and almost certainly a very profitable bow.

I subscribe to the daily update and the comments part of stratechery – https://stratechery.com/membership/. I don’t comment much but I read all the updates and enjoy them.

So far the general digest of the deal is video is booming and video ads will boom and therefor Facebook should get in on the action. Rumor has it that a huge amount of youtube referral traffic is from Facebook but that Facebook doesn’t capitalize on it well. I am not sure this helps that issue much unless Facebook intends to build a proper video product and keep that action in the stream. If that were the plan then Facebook needs video advertising kit and liverail would obviously be a great fit.

What I am not seeing many people talk about is what happens to the customer centric side of or the b2b/b2b2c side of the liverail business under Facebook? I have no previous experience of integrating a product that one uses to build a consumer product that then is acquired by Facebook. We are not talking about things like Instagram but what liverail is for most people is something they don’t see. Consumer facing products like Spuul, for example, use liverail to power our video advertising. Something that really has nothing to do with Facebook or their goals. So I am curious to see what will eventually happen here. One thought is liverail gets better and due to the money, vision of Facebook they turn the platform into a full-scale offering to compete with google in the video ad space(doubleclick/adx). This would be the vision of Facebook starting to rival google in all things advertising and is not anchored to the Facebook product. Sure maybe user data and such helps here but the idea is I don’t need Facebook when I use liverail but that the product gets better at targeting/profile when Facebook is integrated. This might be cool.

The other idea, not the one I am hoping for, is that liverail starts to inwardly focus on being a tool for Facebook advertisers and becomes less and less the ecosystem play to rival google. I think one has to watch the technology or product direction some to see what happens. For example liverail missed the instream video ad play and is now playing catch up. Google acquired a company to solve this problem cause google is in it to win it. Liverail might also be able to win it with the Facebook backing.

A lot of companies also use liverail to build their own SSP’s in certain regions since this is a niche play but most folks don’t want to recreate the core ad plumbing. Time will tell if Facebook continues to support this use case of liverail.

For now I don’t know how to read the tea leafs here. Liverail must have wanted the exit versus going public. Good for them but now we are down one piece of independent plumbing used to make video ecosystems. This could be bad or possibly under the Facebook umbrella it actually gets more powerful.

Watching and waiting…