Tech Market Analysis

This week I attended the All Things D Conference in Ranchos Palos Verdes. It is always a stellar event.

The good and great of the tech industry were there: Tim Cook, Sheryl Sandberg, Dick Costolo, Max Levchin, etc.

But Elon Musk stole the show.

I thought Michael Lazerow’s Tweet best captured the mood of the crowd

I’m sure you know, but Elon was the co-founder (and largest shareholder) of PayPal, the most important payment transfer technology of its era and still the most instrumental to date. He said he wanted to found this company (he had founded a previous company that sold for about $300 million) because he thought the Internet was a big idea.

He was interested in a few other big ideas. Energy independence (so he founded Tesla and Solar City). And space travel (SpaceX). His goal in the second project is to help humans avoid extinction.

I have never sat in a room with an individual where I felt more inspired and humbled. I think the zeitgeist in the room was that we were seeing the successor to Steve Jobs in terms of inspiring us to think big.

And when asked who has inspired him he of course gave a nod to Nikola Tesla.

This made my friend Dorrian Porter‘s KickStarter initiative to create a statue of Tesla in Silicon Valley even more poignant. I hope you’ll consider clicking that link and making even a small KickStarter contribution to support arts & innovation.

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My Blackberry died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.

It seems so long ago that we had to start hiding our Blackberry’s in our pockets to avoid always being chastised.

If you were caught sending out an email on your Blackberry you had to quickly whip out your iPhone to show that – wait! – I have one of these, too.

It is stunning to think about the blind spots that market leaders can develop. For years Palm had such a significant lead in the PDA market it seemed inconceivable that they would be replaced.

I remember when I first saw one advertised in a magazine when I was on a flight from England to the US. I was the proud owner of a Psion, founded by the company Bill Gates once famously said he feared more than any other. I bought a Palm when I landed, ditched my Psion and never looked back.

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I wrote this post a long time ago. When I did it was a little too close to home for a company to have me publish it.  Much time has passed. And I felt it was instructive still so I thought I would publish.

I decided to water down some details to protect the innocent. But both stories are still accurate. I hope it still resonates.

A while back I received a frantic phone call from the CEO of a company in which I invested. He had just received notice from a major media organization that they were going to run a very negative news story.

As you can imagine we began scrambling.

Our first request of the journalist was an appeal for time to digest his information, determine its accuracy, respond to his claims and then the story was his to run with. He granted us a few days.

The founder was as dumbfounded as I was. We had sat down with the entire executive team on 2 separate occasions a year before the journalist called  and had a stated policy to be as “white hat” on this issue as the best in the industry.

We had greatly limited our feature set as a preemptive response to never be on the wrong side of this issue.

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You know the old saying about trust … “It takes years to build and seconds to destroy.”

And once destroyed it is very difficult if not impossible to repair. You need to be the guardian of your own reputation. You need to constantly ask yourself whether your actions in rapidly scaling an online community are worth the potential downsides of destroying trust amongst your users.

I talk about this often with startups in which I’m involved. For example, I have had rigorous debates about the need to crack down on explicit online content – even in the face of lower growth.

My arguments aren’t from a prudish perspective – I’m an ardent believer in free speech – but from a practical one. There are some communities in which “anything goes” is the norm (think Reddit) and others where a zero tolerance approach is required (Disney).

Another fine line companies are skating is with how much user information they make publicly available. Tred this line carefully. We all remember the brushback Facebook had when they launched Beacon.

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Trello versus Asana

Posted on Aug 14, 2012 | 94 comments

For the past several years I’ve undertaken many initiatives to “get more organized,” which basically means to make another attempt at implementing and running a solid task list that I can share with others with whom I collaborate.

 I seem to be really good at kicking off well-structured lists, but less good at “working them.”

I know there’s no real point in creating a task list if you’re not actually going to open it up and parse through tasks.

My working theory is that the best task lists would be fully integrated with email since that’s where we spend much of our working lives anyways.

I guess I should therefore check out Streak, which several people have suggested.

And I’ve promised myself that I would sign up for Boomerang, which I’m genuinely excited to give a go at. I think I’ll add that to my to do list.

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Over the holiday I became aware of a new tech blog that aims to have deep insights into the next generation of technology, which they call The Hypernet.

Why should you care?

Well, it is established by some of the industries more successful investors – Mike Maples and Roger McNamee.

My favorite post was this one (image above) in which they talked about their 10 hypothesis for technology investing.

It maps to a lot of my own views so I was interested to learn more. If you click through to Roger & Mike’s blog you’ll see that this blog post then links to a detailed presentation on the topic.

The ones I focus on the most are 2-7 and 10.

Hope you enjoy it. And I hope they keep up their early momentum.

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