Jul 082014
Digital Day for Small Business September 2011showing how to use cloud computing and social media to grow your business

“My job is to spread good news,” says Guy Kawasaki of his role as Canva’s Chief Evangelist.

Kawasaki was speaking to Decoding the New Economy about his role in popularising the online design tool which he sees as democratising force in the same way that Apple was to computers and Google to search.

Democratisation is a theme consistently raised by startups and businesses disrupting existing industries and Kawasaki continues this theme.

“The world is becoming a meritocracy; it’s not about your pedigree, it’s about your competence,” states Kawasaki.

Falling barriers to entry

What excites Kawasaki about the present business climate are the falling barriers to starting a venture. “Things are getting cheaper and cheaper, in technology you had to buy a room full of servers, have IT staff in multiple cities. Today you call Amazon or Rackspace and host it in the sky.”

“Before you had to buy advertising for a concert, now if you’re adept at using social media – with Google Plus, Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram – you have a marketing platform that fast, ubiquitous and cheap.”

“What excites me is there are going to be more technologies, more products and more services because the barriers are so low.”

Creating a valued and viable product

For those businesses starting into this new environment, Kawasaki believes the most important thing a startup should focus on is getting a prototype to market; “at that point you will know you’re truly onto something.”

“If you build a prototype that works you may never have to write a business plan,” says Kawasaki. “You’d never have to make a Powerpoint, you may never have to raise money as you could probably bootstrap.”

Kawasaki view is the MVP – Minimum Viable Product – model of lean product development should have another two ‘V’s added for ‘Valuable’ and “Validated’.

“You can create a product that’s viable, ie you could make money, but is it valuable in that it changes the world?”

“Is your first product going to validate your vision? If it’s not then why are doing it?”

The story Kawasaki tells is the tools to deliver valued and viable products are more accessible than ever before; that’s good news for entrepreneurs and consumers but bad for stodgy incumbents.

Apr 172014

A 16 hour outage by hosting service Bluehost knocks the wind out of this site’s sails.

There’s much to say about customer engagement, engineering and management but it will have to wait for another day.

Oct 082013
How do mobile phone users reduce costs

Now microblogging service Twitter has released documents ahead of a stock market float, it’s possible to start looking at the viability and stock market valuation of the company.

When Facebook’s float was first mooted in early 2011, we looked at how the social media service stacked up against Google a decade earlier. The question was ‘is Facebook worth $50 billion?’

The stockmarket answer was resounding ‘yes’ despite an initial fall that saw investors face a 50% loss in the early days of Facebook being a public company. Today the stock has a market valuation of $122 billion, with an eye popping price/earnings ratio of 122.

So how does Twitter stack up at the valuations being discussed? Quite well it appears when we put it against Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Company Google Facebook LinkedIn Twitter
Market Cap 288 123 27 13
P/E 25 288 901 29

For Twitter, the real challenge is making money from the service and their latest idea is marketing the service as an essential companion to watching TV.

The discussion over how Twitter makes money exposes another problem for the service in it has no obvious revenue stream which makes comparing the platform to Facebook or LinkedIn rather problematic.

Facebook has advertising while LinkedIn has premium subscriber services both of which are problematic.

Not having an obvious revenue model may not turn out to be a problem – as LinkedIn’s P/E shows – and Twitter’s founders are probably more likely than anyway to be the digital media industry’s David Sarnoff.

It may be Twitter makes its money from giving advertisers, marketers and others access to the massive stores of data the company is accumulating.

Whatever way it turns out, Twitter’s going to be the hot IPO news for the tech industry for the rest of the year. At current prices, the investors will be lining up to buy the stock.

Jun 202013
social media workshops for executives and business owners

Yesterday was media briefing day with a number of vendor events, including a very nice lunch with IBM, on the state of the technology industry.

One thing that was particularly striking with IBM Truth Behind The Trends survey was just how out of touch many of the executives quoted in the report seem to be with responses on topics like malware and Bring Your Own Device being firmly behind the curve.

This was borne out at the earlier media roundtable with online security company Websense where they described some of the challenges facing Chief Information Officers in making company boards and senior managers aware of technology security risks.

What surprised most of the journalists in the earlier briefing was just how clueless many of the executives seem to be about online business risks, those who went along to the following IBM briefing realised why – managers genuinely don’t understand how the internet and business technology is evolving.

That should worry investors as markets are changing rapidly and managers who don’t recognise, let alone understand, the shifts happening are jeopardizing the their business’ futures.

Why exactly business leaders are so out of touch is something we look at tomorrow where we examine the background of Australia’s CEOs.

Jun 012013

Twenty years ago, Bruce Springsteen sang about TV having 57 channels and nothing on.

While little has changed on TV, today the web has 57 million websites* offering little beyond click bait and a quick rewrite of someone else’s work.

At the moment that model works for the kings and queens of the digital manor who pocket a few pennies for each of the ten stories their overworked interns pump out in a day but it’s hard to see how that form of publishing adds value to the audience.

The 1990s television stations and cable networks got away with no adding value – and still do today – because they are in industries that are tough for new entrants to enter.

But on the web there are far fewer barriers to new entrants which means offering 57 channels with nothing on, or 57 million websites with no real content, isn’t a long term path to success.

*a wild guess

Feb 052013
The internet has changed booksellers' business

As US bookseller Barnes and Noble shrinks its store network, Mark Athitakis has a tribute to the once ubiquitous chain in The New Republic.

Barnes and Noble was never popular among US independent booksellers because of the perception, probably true, that the chain drove locally owned stores out of business.

What it offered though was a safe, comfortable place for booklovers to gather in suburban shopping malls. As Mark points out, it created a community.

Its stores were designed to keep people parked for a while, for children’s story time, for coffee klatches, for sitting around and browsing. That was a business decision—more time spent in the store, more money spent when you left it—but it had a cultural effect. It brought literary culture to pockets of the country that lacked them.

In recent years that community moved to coffee shops, in the United States B&N’s role was taken by Starbucks, at the same time our reading habits changed and the business of selling books and magazines became tougher.

Now that community is changing again, as the online societies like blogs, Facebook and Twitter become important, the coffee shops have responded with free wi-fi which is a perfect example of how the online and offline world come together.

That need to create communities, either physically or online, is a driving human urge.

Online that role is being catered to with social media platforms and sites like food, mommy or tech blogs where like minded people can gather.

Down at the mall, Barnes and Noble catered for that need in the 1980s and Starbucks in the 1990s. What will follow them may be the next big success in the retail or hospitality industry.

Image courtesy of Brenda76 on SXC

Jan 262013
Is Yahoo! recovering under new CEO Marissa Mayer

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer packed out the room for her interview at the World Economic Forum this week where she spoke about some of the challenges her and the company face.

One of the areas she sees for Yahoo! is in collaborating with other tech industry giants.

Mayer also is making a point of collaborating with companies such as Apple Inc., Google and Facebook, instead of competing.

“It ultimately means there’s really an opportunity for strong partnerships,” she said.

The problem for Yahoo! is that it doesn’t have a lot to offer companies like Apple, Google or Facebook – they are steaming along on their own and have moved ahead of the areas which Yahoo! dominated a decade ago.

Generally in the tech industry partnerships are more the result of the sector’s also-ran coming together in the hope that their combined might will overcome the leader’s advantages.

It’s the same philosophy that thinks tying the third and fourth placed runners legs together will make them faster than the winner.

A good example of this is Microsoft’s tie up with Nokia over the Windows Phone. If anything, the net effect has put Windows Phone and Nokia even further behind Apple and Google in the handset market.

Even when two tech companies have united to exploit their individual strengths, the results usually end in tears. Probably the best example of this was the IBM and Microsoft joint venture to develop the OS/2 operating system which eventually sank under IBM’s bureaucrat incompetence and Microsoft’s disingenuous management.

Those two examples show how partnerships only work when each party has something valuable to contribute and all sides are committed to the venture.

Marissa Mayer’s task is to find Yahoo!’s strengths and build on them, then she’ll be in a position to enter partnerships on an equal basis.

Whether its worth entering into partnerships with the big players though is another question. It may well be that Yahoo! has more to offer smaller businesses and disruptive startups.

Entering into a desperate alliance with Apple or Facebook could possibly be the worst thing Yahoo! could do, the company is no longer a leader and now needs to be a challenger or a disruptor.

Facebook’s locking competitors out of data feeds is an example of how complacent the big four internet giants are becoming, Yahoo! are in the position to upset that comfortable club.

The value of partnerships is that we all have weaknesses and strengths, a properly thought out venture builds on the various parties’ strengths and covers their weak spots. Right now Yahoo! has more weaknesses than strengths.