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In The Shadows Of Iraq: Qubad Talabani (Part 1)

Posted on Saturday, Jun 30th 2007

Qubad Talabani is the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and is a representative of the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq. The entire world is all too familiar with the war going on in that country. While I am not interested in exploring the political ramifications of such a war, history has taught us that the rebuilding efforts after traumatic events can bring out rapid business development (or fail entirely and lead a country in a downward spiral). The intent of this interview is to explore at a very rudimentary level the potential for economic development and entrepreneurial opportunities in Iraq. To explore this further, Qubad agreed to discuss the Kurdish story with me, from which it is possible to identify opportunities for investment and entrepreneurial endeavors. >>>

Featured Videos

Why Silicon Valley Lacks True GMs?

Posted on Friday, Jun 29th 2007

I made the comment in an earlier post that Yahoo now needs true GMs, not just glorified functional managers. As I wrote that piece, it made me reflect on the significance of what I just said. Silicon Valley is not a place that has that many true General Managers. In the sense that GE or 3M grooms GMs, the valley simply doesn’t. The structures of the companies are such that there are hardly any GM jobs.

With one exception. The valley, because of its history and culture, has numerous people who have been startup CEOs, and whether or not they were good at it, have had the experience of the full-scale General Manager function. While these entrepreneurial managers may have come up the ranks of engineering or product marketing, at some point, many of them have had to raise money, manage sales, do biz dev deals, and manage finance.

Few of these people, however, end up wanting to go to large companies to become GMs. Why? >>>

Oracle and Enterprise 3.0

Posted on Friday, Jun 29th 2007

As promised in my earlier post on SAP, here is my take on Oracle in the Enterprise 3.0 framework.

Oracle is the world’s leading supplier of information management software and the second largest independent software provider. Its current market cap exceeds $100 billion.

Oracle’s core strength since its inception in 1977 has been its database technology where it has thwarted competition and maintained its number one position since the mid nineties. It was only natural that the company would focus on developing enterprise applications, which integrate seamlessly with its databases. Largely unsuccessful with internal development, it scaled its applications business by acquiring some of the largest players in the market. Today SAP is the only player of note, which competes directly with Oracle in the enterprise software market.

The big question in the context of this series is whether Oracle’s strategy fits in the larger framework of a shift towards the Enterprise 3.0 trend. >>>

Video FAQs

Cracking the Online Video Monetization Nut: CEO Amir Ashkenazi (Part 8)

Posted on Friday, Jun 29th 2007

Here I challenge Amir some more on the business strategy. Technology is wonderful, but are they solving the right business problem? Just because I am looking at a car chase in a movie segment doesn’t mean I am ready to jump and buy a BMW. There is little relevance. On the other hand, if I am searching for a BMW on Google, the keyword search is a direct evidence of intent.

I really wanted to get into his strategic level thinking to see how deeply he has thought through the issues he is going to face, and see if he has devised an effective strategy which he can build the entire company on.

SM: The reason I am not convinced about where we are going with this is because typically the best way to determine video relevancy is not necessarily recognition capabilities because video is often about entertainment. The real phenomenon that is of most importance is the segment that this video is watched by, and it has nothing to do with keywords, visuals and speech. >>>

iPhone Objections So Far

Posted on Friday, Jun 29th 2007

The iPhone isn’t perfect, acc. to the reviews. Here are the objections so far:

1. Fragility of the device, compared with equivalent mobile handsets. The glass case may break if you drop it.

2. Battery Life. Apple says, the iPhone will have 8 hours of battery life. The battery is not removable, hence the option of carrying an extra battery doesn’t exist.

3. The User interface, particularly the touchscreen keyboard innovation. The positive in its favor is a spell checker and auto-correct function that anticipates what you want to say.

4. The speed of Internet access on AT&T’s relatively slow EDGE network.

Despite these obstacles, we will find out shortly, how the hype carries the product.

Web 3.0 & the Semantic Web

Posted on Thursday, Jun 28th 2007

My definition of Web 3.0 is one of the most popular entry points into this blog. In it, I proposed the vision of a web which becomes increasingly verticalized by “Context”, and the relevant Content, Community and Commerce elements are successfully mashed up “in Context”. I also proposed 2 other elements: Vertical / Contextual Search, and Personalization. Thus, I concluded, Web 3.0 = (4C + P + VS).

I got both extremes of reactions to this formula. But I also got some good questions and observations, which, after several months of discussions, warrant a follow-on synthesis post.

One question is about Tim Berner’s Lee’s Semantic Web definition and how it correlates with my vision. Tim Berners-Lee originally expressed the vision of the semantic web as follows: “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.” [Wikipedia]

Well, yes, my vision is similar. Except, while Tim is an academic, and thinks in terms of new technology, I am an entrepreneur, and I think in terms of execution and viable, sustainable business models, not just technology.

So, let me now provide the bridge between Tim’s thoughts and mine. >>>

Cracking the Online Video Monetization Nut: CEO Amir Ashkenazi (Part 7)

Posted on Thursday, Jun 28th 2007

We continue our discussion about the technical and strategic implementation of the technology. The core behind it is a learning system which is fed data from contextual matching as well as inputs from user interaction with ads. Over time, this produces an optimized ad campaign for video-content providers, addressing a validated market need.

SM: How will you be able to determine if the ad you push is the most effective? AA: There are two parts to the magic. One is the contextual matching, and the other is the learning system. We monitor user interaction with the ads very closely. We use the information to optimize the ad selection. Ads which are not effective will be eliminated, and ads which are effective will be displayed more frequently.

SM: There are multiple questions that brings to mind. The first is what is the measure of effectiveness? Second, video is much more contextually complex to analyze than text search, how can you do that? AA: Absolutely, and this is why we have some real rocket scientist on the team. Ben Klein is a well known researcher in the area of machine learning and natural language processing and is a professor at Berkley. >>>

Venture Capital for MicroFinance: Chris Brookfield (Part 8)

Posted on Thursday, Jun 28th 2007

To conclude the interview, I ask about Africa. The general political instability has created an environment which makes it difficult for microfinance investments. However, you have to wonder if some socio-economic stability would not provide increased political stability? A vicious cycle exists, but can it not be concerted into more of a virtuous cycle?

SM: What is the situation in Africa? CB: I don’t work in Africa. Generally, in my opinion, there are some good institutions in Africa. Unitus has one partner in Kenya who is doing very well. For what I do, which is mostly higher growth, more commercial microfinance, you need to have a reasonably domestic political situation. In many communities in Africa it is not clear that you have that. I think Africa will have a lot of potential. There is clearly a lot of need, but the world is a big place. >>>