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Fred Wilson’s 2010 Perspective

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Trying to catch up on the RSS feed from Building43. You can definitely see the huge amount of value for hearing thought leaders’ perspectives on the future of the web. And really the emerging importance of the web for small businesses. The power of the web is still predominately a “new frontier” for small businesses and there is going to be a lot of innovation taking place in the next couple of years to help businesses, large and small, harness the value that is out there for the taking.

Below is the video of Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures, discussing his perspective of the web now and where it is going. Not much discussion of small business in this one (perhaps Scoble felt a more FastCompany style interview was appropriate here).

But if you are going to watch a video to really get a good taste of where the web is headed, you can’t go wrong in watching this one.  Lot’s of good insights into USV’s investment philosophy as well as Fred weaves in a lot of their portfolio companies into the conversation.  And to echo on of Fred’s comments, this was a great video that I would have loved to bookmark, throw into a queue and watch on the TV…someone is going to innovate and build that company…maybe I should. :)

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Analogy of Status Updates

It’s been some time since I took the SATs but I always enjoyed the “analogy” section of the test.  Okay, as much as a standardized test can be enjoyable, it is up there with using a freshly-sharpened #2 pencil to fill in those little ovals.  If you don’t remember, here’s an example:


(A) oriole : bird

(B) horse : pony

(C) shark : great white

(D) ant : insect

(E) stock : savings

It seems with growing frequency, I’m pulled into conversations regarding Twitter with many who are just now learning about it.  Great Time article on Twitter by the way.  Yes, I get the often “I just don’t get Twitter.”  I used to think that too when I first heard about the service.  I quickly no longer thought that.  But, recently, I get “Why use Twitter when you can just update your status on Facebook?”  And this throws me right back into the 90’s:  “Do you use the internet?” “Oh yes, I use AOL all the time.”  So back to my SAT analogy:

web : AOL :: Twitter status : Facebook status

Remember the walled garden of AOL, how many users would think that was the web, never venturing out into the wild world of the wide web.  Times change but I see history repeating itself.  The struggle and growing awareness of open and closed systems.  There is a tremendous amount of value being generated off the openness of Twitter than is available within Facebook, where your status network can only be as big who you are willing to have in your personal friends’ list.  The same goes for status in LinkedIn and who you are willing to have in your professional connections’ list.  The situation is certainly more complex than AOL of the 90s but strikingly similar.

Been a while…

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve been doing some traveling (both business and pleasure) and its kept me from posting as much as I would like.  More importantly, at times I lacked total connectivity which I was beginning to think wasn’t possible and it stopped me from reading as much too.

These infrequent occassions of being sans connection without a mobile device pumping the zeros and ones out in the ether does give you pause to take stock of life (being on a ranch in the middle of Argentina can do it too).  Yes, the connections of Friendfeed, Twitter and Facebook are valuable, are changing the personal and business communication landscape and will continue to do so.   We are building life-long connections and friendships through the medium all the time.  That part I did miss when away.

But remember, there are so many other things just as important.  Like the Giants making a huge splash in free agency with fantastic defensive signings of LB Michael Boley, DT Rocky Bernard and DT/DE Chris Canty!  Okay, just kidding. (sort of)  Friends, family, enjoying a nice day outside, going to the gym and going on vacation when you can.  These are just as important.  If you don’t take the time to unplug, even for a bit, I highly recommend it.

So, anyway, now that I’m back and cycling up again, I feel I’m beginning to catch up on my feeds reading and wanted to drop a little note out here.  Flew threw countless number of feeds and postings today.  The one that struck a cord, the latest Kindle.  The Kindle device is vastly improved but that is not what is important.  The ecosystem shift is important, the Kindle iPhone app and deployment to other mobile phones is important.  To me, it has a similar footprint to the movement of apps on the iPhone itself and what that is doing in the mobile space.

Not going to go into it more here but it is clear that there is a movement taking place that could very well be another major shift in the digital media landscape and in “written” content consumption overall.  Media companies must pay attention.  Steve Rubel has a great post from a couple of days ago discussing this very topic.  If you read only one today, I would recommend that be it.  (Well, that would mean you read two today because you had to read this one just to get to that one. :)

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Give Bartz a Chance

Yahoo! Inc.
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The hot news of the day is Carol Bartz being the choice for CEO over at Yahoo! There is plenty of coverage out there about the news.  It seems from everything that I’ve read and how the markets have reacted that the choice is not a popular one.  My two cents on the subject is that we should take a step back and give Bartz a chance to assess the Yahoo! landscape, make some decisions and begin to re-align Yahoo! on the determined course and strategy.  I made some early comments on this over at TechCrunch.

Yahoo! has a tremendous number of assets and really smart people.  Products ranging from search to delicious to flickr all can be knitted together in a cohesive strategy if the right leader and decision making framework is in place.  The boat needs to get pointed in a unified direction. That is why I think Bartz could be a good choice.  She may be new to the web and to media but Yahoo! has a campus full of individuals who are passionate and go to work everyday to build great stuff.  Bartz, from what I’ve read thus far, seems like someone that can assess the playing field for the organization, distill the information and make key decisions.  She clearly understands the gauntlet laid out as she stated:

Yahoo…a company with great assets that frankly could use a little management.

It all seems to blur together at this point but it seems the news regarding the company has been on a downward news cycle since the infamous Peanut Butter memo.  Perhaps there was a lot of merit in that memo where the general gist is that Yahoo! had its hands in too many things and needed to focus.  That is before any of the Microsoft debacle even occurred.  Then everyone coming out of the woodwork to put their view on the situation and what they should do to which Bartz responds:

Everybody on outside deciding what Yahoo should or shouldn’t do–that’s going to stop.

As I said, she is going to need some time to get on the ground, assess and move from there.  She is going to need that chance to do it.  I, for one, believe she should have that chance.  Clearly, she does do:

I can’t give you a timeline. I’m very good at listening, digging around, finding out what’s going on. I don’t expect it’ll take an extraordinary amount of time, but this is a big company. Let’s not put ourselves in some crazy timeline. Let’s give this company some frigging breathing room.

I, again, am bullish on Yahoo!  I think they have some great elements going for it and I never quite rallied behind the concept that they were in real trouble.  Time will tell but I think picking a CEO like Carol Bartz is a step in the right direction in changing the negative momentum that has surrounded Yahoo! for some time and then getting the company plowing forward again.  That’s it, from here out, I plan to give them some room to breath.

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Why does Microsoft Need to Play in Search?

Yesterday, I wrote a post about Microsoft Live Seach Cash Back.  Near the end, I ask a simple question that only has complex answers:  Why does Microsoft have to play in search at all?

Perhaps the answer is obvious:  MONEY.  But that is the easy way out.  Perhaps there are other obvious answers that I’m eager to listen to.  My view is there are tons of ways to make money and Microsoft has some of the strongest (while showing signs of weakness in some cases) revenue streams in their Windows, Office and XBox franchies.

So again, I ask the question:  Why does Microsoft have to play in search at all?

Does Microsoft have to play in every arena that is technology-related and has a large market pie?  That does not strike me as a good strategic criteria and in the long-term, successful companies are successful by deciding what to do as much as the things to not do.  Microsoft has traditionally built an organization that has been able to successfully play in a number of areas due to sheer size, strength, capital and aptitude.  I think those days are over, the technology industry is too multifaceted for any one company to have their hands in too many different cookie jars if you want to lead in any.

Google is the leader in search, that is their core.  Apple is the leader in digital music device, that is in their core.  Why does Microsoft have to be in search with Live/MSN and in digital music device with Zune?  Because they can doesn’t see like the right answer and it sometimes feels like that to me.

To be clear, I am not shaking a stick at what Microsoft has accomplished (in anything they do or have done).  It is incredible what they have and continue to accomplish, particularly from a revenue perspective.  Even what they’ve done online with MSN and Hotmail while I am not a user of either.  So it isn’t about that.

It is about my asking what is truly their core business and why not place so much more focus there rather than diversifying into a space like search that I think everyone knows is a much different “kettle of fish.”  If they spent their efforts in the core, would they be demonstrating amazing new offerings in the area of online office tools, perhaps even acquired Zoho?  Why didn’t they buy Plaxo and integrate it into Outlook (always seems like a not brainer to me) and also consistent with their attempts to grab Xobni.

I don’t know.  There seems like a number of angles that Microsoft can compete from its traditional areas of strength to compete in the online world.  All this talk about Yahoo! and all of the investment in search is geared towards, well, competing in the search space.  But is that necessary when there are so many other (perhaps non-du-jour) areas to play in on the web.

Anyway, just some thoughts…  Interested to here what others have to say on the topic, I’m sure the opinions will be passionate and wide-ranging.

UPDATE on Sunday, May 25:  Tim O’Reilly has a great and very related post to this one up on his blog.   Arrington over at TechCrunch has his own views about the risk to the industry of creating a search monopoly.  I’m much more with Tim on this one.  There is merit to having competition in search and I have no doubt there will be even if everyone does outsource their search to Google in the short-term.  But I don’t see why Microsoft has to be that competition, better to concentrate closer to their core.