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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:

DALMATIAN : DOG ::

(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.

“We put the ‘no’ in innovation”

My wife handed me a full page ad today of Post cereal’s ad campaign that started I believe last month.  The headline:  “Innovation is not your friend.”  The tag line:  “We put the ‘no’ in innovation”

Certainly an attention grabber.  It certainly caught me off guard on first glance.  And I don’t think anyone will be clamoring to steal that tag line from them.

But there is certainly something to the campaign.  We live in a world of innovation, innovation is taking place everywhere around us:  genetics, new sources of energy, the web, sneakers that blink, sneakers that roll, beer that tastes like it has lime already in it…  While innovation is great and the right thing for many companies and products, is that always the case?

Too many times we see companies fall into the trap of innovating to create the next new thing that they lose sight of what got them where they are.  Worrying too much about what is next rather than concentrating on their core competency and ensuring that they maintain their competitive advantage  simply (or not so simply).  Sometimes, remaining the best in your space and at “what you do” needs to be the focus.  

I’ll always be a believer in being on the outlook for new markets, new features (that add value), new technology trends and understanding what could disrupt your business.  At the same time, focus must remain on the core, this campaign speaks volumes to how companies need to remain focused on the core knitting.  Just in the time its taken me to write this post, I like this ad more and more.  And it is just a bonus for Post that I don’t believe anyone is going to try to mimic this campaign.  How ironic. An innovative ad campaign saying ‘no’ to innovation.

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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Disqus must be Disgusted

Okay, I’m probably exaggerating but it sure makes a good headline.  At this point, most have heard the news that Automattic, parent company of WordPress (which powers this blog) acquired IntenseDebate for an undisclosed sum.  Offical news here, here and here.

IntenseDebate is one of the major blog commenting platforms out there.  The other is Disqus, the one I use on this blog and one I tend to favor based on overall reliability and feature set.  Both companies clearly get the value of commenting, user-generated content and the real power of conversation aggregation.  But if I were to put the two on a score card on execution, Disqus demonstrates real innovative thinking on how to put an overall platform together and paint their vision of what conversation aggregation can do and how to do it.  This was evidenced by their very early integration into WordPress and Daniel Ha’s continued work to integrate into FriendFeed once they emerged a critical aggregation player as well.

But, what is also clear is WordPress understands the value and importance of the comments on blogs (not that they didn’t before).  And as the major blog platform, WordPress has the value chain power to use this strategic acquisition to emerge as the leader in blogging as well as commenting.  And it is for this simple but important reason, that they acquisition is a huge coup for IntenseDebate in prepping for the future to potentially become the ultimate winner in this segment.  There is a sheer numbers game here and by WordPress rolling Intense’s toolkit out as part of their builds, it will instantaneously deploy Intense’s technology to blogs everywhere.  That removes one key obstacle for Intense that Disqus will continue to have to overcome in order to gain market share:  convincing blog owners to install.  Now, for IntenseDebate, it happens automatically.

Let’s hope that WordPress remains agnostic in their approach to continue to allow third party developers to build, promote and florish inside the WordPress platform.  I would like to continue to remain a Disqus user and expect to see fantastic things from them.  I will be keen to see how Disqus responds because we could be witnessing a business case of value chain integration that will be very tough to withstand.