I need some time to ease my mind February 6, 2010Posted by David Gillespie in Uncategorized.
Tags: Fred Wilson, Google, Microsoft, startups, yahoo
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When I was writing Digital Strangelove, it was born largely out of work being so busy that I didn’t have time to write semi-daily about the things I was thinking, and I’m starting to feel like I’m all clogged up again in my head – a week where one of your days runs over the course of 18 hours will do that to you.
Anyway, enough of my complaining, I’ve wanted to write this for a couple weeks, and I’m excited to now as I feel really strongly about it. Your friend and mine Fred Wilson was interviewed in January and one of the questions asked was “What common mistakes do start-ups make?” He responds with this:
One mistake see people make is that they hire out the development of the technology…I think that’s a huge mistake. I think the companies need to have the engineers as part of the core founding team…and a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it.
I’m a big believer in a business being free to focus on its core product(s). If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do! Far too many times I’ve seen companies get distracted by an interesting piece of technology or an idea outside their scope or ability to act on. When that happens, your core product suffers, and your competitors who may have been running a distant second seem to close the gap over night.
At the time I was thinking about the future of a start-up I was working in at the time, Hippo Jobs. Hippo had made a range of decisions ranging from ones I agreed with to ones I didn’t agree with at all, but that is going to be the case in any workplace where you are an employee and not an owner, and I don’t pretend for a moment to fully comprehend the situations that lead to some of those decisions.
What I believed then and believe now however is exactly what Fred said; a company needs to be in control of its lifeblood and make everything else someone else’s problem. When Yahoo! finally outsourced its search to Microsoft, it acknowledged what everyone else had long known – they were not a search company. Mind you, neither is Microsoft, which is why I can’t see them taking that battle to Google in a meaningful way.
Hippo had chosen to work with Areeba, an innovative and talented dev shop in Melbourne, Australia. The issue was never the quality of the work, it was a team that cared about the product in a way that was more than a job. Where Fred says “a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it“, listen to it. He also says the key engineer(s) need to be founding members of the company, which again I agree with.
At the end of the day, ideas are a dime a dozen, and you need the people who can execute to have as much skin in the game as you have; anything less is a recipe for disaster.
See video below, quote begins at 4:48.
Someday soon this will all be someone else’s dream January 7, 2010Posted by David Gillespie in technology.
Tags: Add new tag, Consumer Electronics Show, iPhone, Microsoft, Project Natal, Sony, Steve Ballmer, Xbox, Xbox 360
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I was watching Steve Ballmer‘s keynote at CES last night, thinking to myself “This sort of address has its days numbered.” My penchant for drama would have me state we’re witnessing an empire in decline, but I don’t really think that would arrive as news to anyone.
I have a few good close friends who work at Microsoft, and it’s a source of endless debate. At the heart of the issue for me is the lack of clear, single-minded purpose, of intent to do anything other than compete. See “compete” isn’t a strategy, it’s aimless and has you swinging in the direction of anyone who looks like they might do what you do, instead of focussing on the way forward, staring blatantly and openly back infront of you.
A good portion of the talk was spent showing off what other people are going to do with Microsoft’s platform, but devices designed in different ways isn’t really a sexy story. The compelling work, and in my opinion the jewel in Microsoft’s crown (in the same way the Playstation became everything Sony lived for) is the Xbox 360. It is, to my mind, the only space where they are clearly innovating and driving their own path forward, backing it up with an impressive lineup of content. In Xbox they really appear as masters of their own destiny; everywhere else they seem callous, and forever peering over their shoulders at what someone else might be doing.
I highlight Xbox and specifically avoid their much-hyped Project Natal. A tech demo in very controlled environments does not a product make, and having spent a previous life making games for consoles, if the software isn’t there to drive the thing when it launches, it simply won’t matter. There’s also an issue of adoption; I haven’t seen recent figures but traditionally the percentage that even owns a second controller is well below 50%; recent success with music-based games requiring plastic guitars and microphones has surely begun changing that behaviour, though thaty category as a whole is starting to wane.
As for other categories, the less said the better. Microsoft needs a new vision, and it being the media centre of the family home is as good a move as any. Your friend and mine Vik twittered this during the keynote:
Agreed Win7 is a popular & well built OS. But as netbooks become more prevalent, is this what customers will want on their machines?
There’s an increasingly rapid transition going on to web services and away from non-core applications. A friend who came to visit me in Toronto recently only traveled with his iPhone, saying it negated the need for him to have a laptop with him at all. If we entertain the notion for a moment that that is the start of a larger trend, lauding last year’s operating system starts to look less like a success story, and more like a fossil somehow reanimated.
For a brief and fleeting moment I suspect.
When honour is at stake, this vow I will make November 29, 2009Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy.
Tags: advertising, Facebook, Google, Internet service provider, Microsoft, Umair Haque, Value chain
I’ve been thinking a lot about The Three Musketeers – my framework for business models which places them (perhaps overly simply, but simply none the less) into two baskets: All-For-One (self-serving pursuit of value) or One-For-All (pursuit of value for an ecosystem). The former is business as usual up until the advent of Google, at which point things seem to turn, and we see more and more businesses cropping up and being successful by creating value
I had, for the longest time, felt uneasy about Facebook. My sense was that it was founded with All-For-One principles, and I have a hard time viewing it as a business that seeks to create value for an eco-system; it is, to my mind, the second coming of Microsoft rather than the second coming of Google.
I say that, but I also now can’t help but acknowledge the market they have developed for small and local businesses to target customers, and the platform they have provided for brands to interact on a more personal level with fans. In some ways, it lessens the role of the ad industry, which to my mind has a hard time justifying itself as even remotely One-For-All, and so can only be viewed as a good thing.
Once, banks held debt till maturity. The great unnovation was being able to sell it to the next guy, who sold it to the next guy, and on and on and on. What was once a simple, short value chain lengthened to the point of absurdity. Exactly the same value chain pattern is surfacing in media. Ads used to be bought and sold through a short value chain. Facebook ended up serving toxic ads because they were sold through lengthening chains of intermediaries — each of whom shifts the buck to the next guy.
The argument does and doesn’t hold water in places – to my mind it swerves dangerously close in places to the kind of opinion that states ISPs are responsible for their customer’s illegally downloading music. The overall point stands however, which is sacrificing the end-user for the man with money is a short-sighted strategy.
We need to spend more time creating things that user wants in the first place.
That is what One-For-All is all about.
Smoke on the water October 31, 2009Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, technology.
Tags: Biz Stone, Google, Microsoft, Steve Jobs, Twitter, web 2.0
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At the recent Web 2.0 conference, Twitter search deals were announced with both Microsoft and Google, something I was pleased to see given about a week earlier I had made the prediction in Digital Strangelove (slide 178) that a deal was imminent with one of them – turns out it was both.
Biz Stone has gone on the record saying of all the options they are considering for a revenue model, advertising is the least appealing. My feeling on that statement is this: either they changed their minds, or they’ve done a deal to monetise the most natural part of their business while they think about the avenues they’re truly interested in pursuing. It’s akin to having a field of lavender and making a deal with local photographers to let them take pictures, all the while trying to figure out what you really want to do with all that crop.
I could be over-complicating things, an activity that is a favourite of mine as many an ex-girlfriend will attest. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is famous for saying he had little interest in a feature, such as video on an iPod, before revealing it the next quarter. I can’t help but feel the web is so eager to answer Twitter’s revenue question for them that they’ve jumped on the first clue that appeared and cried “Case closed!”
Call me paranoid, this one stays open in my book.
Tags: Apple, Howard Lindzon, Microsoft, Personal computer
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The conversation taking place around the web about Digital Strangelove is truly blowing my mind. All I wanted to do was move the conversation forward a little, the fact so many people have taken the time to work through it, comment on it, think about it and share it means the absolute world, and it’s great getting to visit a bunch of new blogs and engage with different audiences I would never have had the chance to find out about.
Below is a response I wrote to one post in particular on Howard Lindzon’s blog to an anonymous comment that had said (and I paraphrase) “The ultimate goal is to give people what they NEED”, to which I responded:
“Name” – appreciate your thoughts. And for saying I was smart, I wish my high school teachers could see! ;]
I would suggest the ultimate goal is not to give people anything, except for an easier way to spread their own message. It is entirely unquantifiable, but I would love to know how many people with no prior experience just had a stab at recording some music because of how easy it was to use Garage Band.
At the end of the day, I don’t think you should aim to give your customer something meaningful, you should create an environment where they can give something meaningful to you. To use the Apple/Microsoft example, MS is launching a campaign for Win7 based around having listened to its users, whereas I believe it is arguable Apple’s platform tries to facilitate being able to listen to each other. A subtle but crucial difference.
Now, off to find a cushy job in a Think Tank!
(Written, for the record, on a PC. With a Mac to my left.)
The Think Tank comment was due to a wry observation on the part of the poster than I had taken so many slides to say something they thought was blatantly obvious. Maybe they’re right, though other comments had come in stating how concise it was.
Each to their own.
Let me see you do that switch-a-roo May 29, 2009Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, technology.
Tags: advertising, Bing, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Search, Wave, Web search engine
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Ok maybe not that drastic, as Microsoft and Google already play in each other’s spaces, what I find interesting is each company’s desire to innovate in the other’s space, potentially at the expense of the things that got them to where they are.
I have a number of clients at Microsoft and I like to think I challenge them regularly to try and build new markets as opposed to steal other people’s; if Google is going down the same path then that disappoints me greatly. What I do find interesting about the above scenario though is Google’s new email idea, called Wave, doesn’t seem to have monetisation built into it beyond advertising, whereas Microsoft are obviously making a big bet on increasing search revenue via Bing, their new search engine.
Google’s play seems to be closer to an idea where everything is contained in a single space, a move I like, away from distinct destinations. Much like Facebook, they’re seeking a single dashboard from which they can control a user’s experience. Microsoft meanwhile are chasing a better mouse trap. It could potentially be a more lucrative mouse trap, but I don’t think it aligns with where user bahviour is going.
And as we all know now, disruption is never about a better mouse trap.
Go see Tim O’Reilly for more on Wave.
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Love & Marketing November 6, 2008Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, marketing, philosophy, work/life.
Tags: Apple, Blackberry, Bob Dylan, Hugh Macleod, Love Jones, Microsoft, The Hughtrain Manifesto, YouTube
So it seems Bob Dylan isn’t the most obvious place for a lot of people when it comes to great marketing quotes and thinking, I however think there are few better places to start (and let’s face it, it’s a hell of a lot more fun than mining the books everybody else is looking at.
There’s a short piece below expanding on why I think “You can’t be wise and in love at the same time” is a great marketing idea.
Also check out:
Love Jones (fast forward to 5:20)