Future of Microcontent

MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLAB) presented a panel discussion on The Future of Microconetent and Mobile Device Applicaiton at Stanford Graduate School of Business. David Arfin, CEO of Gloolabs gave the presentation on microcontent and mobile device applicaitons. Here are a few interesting points:

  • 2 billion mobile subscribers worldwide in 2005
  • 600 handsets are sold every year, and 2/3 of them are camera phones.
  • 20 million digital cameras
  • 7.7 billion digital impages were printed
  • 82 billion SMS were sent in 2004
  • 50 million MP3 players

So, what are the implications of these numbers? I guess some people smell the money, others see this as a new opportunity. Entrepreneurial spirit never dies! But what is the microcontent anyhow? Here are some characteristcs:

  • user-centered
  • bi-directional
  • often in small clips
  • come from many sources
  • leverage existing networks

Examples are: short articles, micro games, Podcasts, QuickCast, screen-savers, micro-ads, SMS, MMS or LBS, music ringtones, photos, etc. There will be professional and personal applications.

The Panelists also said there will be “tornado” since big guys like Microsoft, Apple, HP, Nokia, Yahoo!, AOL, Google are already entereing the scene.

Connect the Unconnected

An innitative kicked off by the GSM Association in an effort to develop “ultra-low cost” mobile handsets for the developing countries. The handset is priced at $30 to $40 to make it affordable for the poor. Motorola has launched the first such phone built on its new C114 platform for durability and long talk time. Motorola will ship 6 millions of this handsets in the second quarter of 2005. It’s estimated that potential market for this segment is about 100 million per year.

I think this is a great first step to connect a world of unconnected. Although some 80 percent of the world’s population has wireless coverage, only 25 percent can afford to use mobile services. It will have a significant impact in my project as mult-nationals enter the emerging markets. It’s exciting!

Entrepreneurship Conference

I was very excited to attend Stanford GSB 2005 Conferenece on Entrpreneurship. I heard about this conference only a few days ago. Luckily, I was still able to register.

The Morning Keynote

The morning keynote speaker Jeff Bezos told his story of starting Amazon.com. I was little late so I sit in the meeting room to watch the live video of the talk. He talked about choosing a name for the company, competition, media publicity, strategies, etc. It appears to me that most successful entrepreneurs are great speakers. Or, at least, they are all becoming great speakers.

Forming and Managing a Board of Directors

There are many interesting sessions. I was torn between Forming and Managing a Board of Directors and How the CEO Affects Firm Culture. Finally, I went to Forming and Managing a Board of Directors. The following people are on the panel:

Todd Masonis of Plaxo, Heidi Roizen of Mobius Venture Capital, Carol Sands of Angels’ Forum, and Jim Watson, of CMEA Ventures. Travis Nelson was the moderator. They gave very good suggestions for selecting a board of directors:

  • Size of board of directors should be relevant to the company’s. Normally between 3-5 people, with ideal size of 5 people.
  • Never have more than 3 VCs on the board
  • Outside directors are crucial because they bring in outside eperspectives
  • Do not have more than one employee on the board for the reason that board will discuss many sensitive issues such as compenstion, aquisition, etc.
  • Select the board members carefully and make sure to check credentials, looking for someone who is willing to put the time.
  • Set the term limit for board menbers (except VCs). Usually, two year is a good term
  • CEO is responsible to keep the board informed. There should be no surprise at the board meetings.
  • The number 1 reason that CEO gets fired is that he/she let the company run out of cash.

The Lunch Keynote

The lunch keynote speaker is Donna Dubinsky, who co-counded Handspring with Jeff Hawkins. This is my first time to hear Danna speak. She appears to me a very straight forward and competent. Her topic was Lessons of an Entrepreneur:

Lesson 1: It’s All about the Team. Donna stressed that it is very important to have good and right people on board. One of the major reasons that Palm succeeded at the first place is that they have star employees.

Lesson 2: You Can’t Row Straight with on One Paddle. You should always have multiple options. For example, doing financing and acqusition at the same time.

Lesson 3: Stratgies Don’t Move Mountains. Bulldozers Do. No matter how good you are at strategies, if you cannot execute, it doesn’t matter at all.

Lesson 4: Ignore Sunk Costs. If you made a mistake yesterday, you should move on today, rather than trying to saving yourself from that mistake.

Lesson 5: Managing by How Things Are, not by How You Wish.

In the end, Donna suggested that three partners are more stable than two partners. From my gut feeling, I believe this makes sense.

The Early State Sales Force

The afternoon sessions include Path to Liquidity from Abroad, Build A Management Team, and Build an Early Stage Salesforce. I think the Early Stage Sales Force was very helpful. Chuck Devita of Growth Process Group was the moderator. The panelists are Steve Blank, Janet Chaffin from Velosel, and Scott Edgington from Voltage Security.

An important take-away for me from this session is to have a parallel process for product development and customer development in the early stage. The customer development process includes customer discovery – customer validation – customer creation – company creation. It’s important for the founder/CEO to get facts outside. The sale force is the main engine to generate revenue for the company. Normally, it cost 10% of company’s revenue to compensate the sales people.

At the end of session, Chuck talked about Sales Management Process Model. It starts out with company’s goals, linking with the sales compensation and sales cycle model, and then it goes to funnel development and pipeline for each of the 4 quarters. I thought this is a very powerful sales management model. I would like to refer it back in the future.

Asiloma Offsite

We had a wonderful offsite meeting at beautiful Asilomar Conference Center. It’s just nice to get away from telephones, TVs, highways, and everything else… I miss the nature.

The two-day retreat is, in my opinion, the best part of the fellowship. We did workshops, role-plays, and exercises. We even watched the movie! Not only we had time to hang out more, we got to know each other’s project much better.

During the break, we walked on the beach, watched the sunset, and biked on the 17-mile drive! We enjoyed spetacular beauty on the coast of Pacific Ocean.