Archives for September 2011

Why Google+ Will be a Big Win for Google (and the rest of us) [UPDATED]

[Originally Published July 19, 2011.  See current updates at end.]

Its always dangerous to make predictions, especially with Google, which tends to (1) garner an inordinate amount of breathless coverage for its every initiative and (2) reveal its true plans slowly while it plays for the long, long, term.  But I’ve been thinking about, reading about and messing about with Google+ quite a bit since getting my invitation a little over a week ago, and based on my observations so far, I am willing to venture that this one is going to be a biggie.  Here’s a baker’s dozen reasons why:

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NFC? NFW! (Near Field Communications is Total Hype) [Updated]

The buzz about near field communications (NFC) is totally missing the point.  NFC is just a contactless (or nearly contactless) replacement for swiping a credit card. But who cares?  The swipe really doesn’t need replacing.  It is no more trouble to swipe a credit card than it is to tap a smartphone on a pad.  20 credit cards stacked up in your pocket is still a tenth the size and weight of your smartphone.  Saving that weight or hassle when you are headed to the gym is hardly a compelling vision.  It is just not valuable to consumers or merchants, especially when you consider the hassles one has to go to in order to manage the security risks.

The excitement is misplaced.  The things to get excited about are systems which handle the payment for you by tapping into the smarts of a mobile device and your identity and your context to create a relationship between you and the vendor, to the potential benefit of both.  Currently an NFC tap is every bit as anonymous and devoid of context as the tried & true credit card swipe.  What you want is a system that knows it is you and allows the merchant to relate to you in the form of loyalty awards, discounts and relevant offers.

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Top 20 Dos & Don’ts with Angel Groups & Early Stage Financing

Ham Lord (center), Anita Brearton (right) and Christopher Mirabile (left).

Ham Lord, Anita Brearton and I gave a talk tonight at Mass Challenge on the top 20 dos and don’ts when dealing with angel groups.  I promised I would share the list, so here it is (video is below if you want to see the discussion unfold):

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Netflix: 3 Lessons From the Pricing Fiasco [UPDATED]

It is by now fairly well known that Netflix had a little bit of a boo-boo recently in switching its pricing plans to force people to pay separately for physical DVDs and streaming.  Customers left the service in droves.  They tried to distract/counteract with an announcement about launching in Latin America, but to no avail.  More customers left than expected, they had to revise their guidance downward and they took a beating on NASDAQ.

Now, I like Netflix very much, and I don’t want to pick on them unfairly – according to their records, I have been a loyal customer since May of 2000, which is a lot of years for those keeping score at home.  But we cannot pass up this chance to purse our lips, grab our chins and shake our heads sagely.  Lest this excellent case study go to waste, let’s ponder what we can learn from this.  Three primary lessons leap to mind:

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What I Look For In An Entrepreneur

I speak to groups fairly regularly about what I look for in an angel investing opportunity, and one of the key factors I always mention is a fantastic entrepreneur.  Someone in the audience invariably asks what I mean when I say that.  (In fact, I was triggered to post this because it happened most recently just today while speaking to a group of MBAs in an entrepreneurial finance class at Babson).

It is one of those hard-to-quantify areas where your gut and your experiences tend to guide you, so I’d be the first to acknowledge that I am relying on instinct to a large degree.  People talk about first impressions, and they can be important, but in my experience, it can take a fairly long time, a number of meetings, and some reflection about the person to develop an accurate gut feeling about someone.

But what I can say with certainty is that when I have a good gut feeling, it is always based on the sense that the entrepreneur is:

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Something From Nothing – Bringing the Store to the Customer

Grocery giant Tesco has launched a mind-boggling new experiment in South Korea.  Ranked at Number 2 in the country’s market, Tesco had fewer stores than its number one competitor, EMart.  Yet it wanted to move into number 1 without adding any stores.  The solution they came up with was nothing short of brilliant, but it wasn’t just a lucky guess; it came from thorough and thoughtful study of the customer.

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