The Real Digital Divide

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The Economist cover story The Real Digital Divide cited research that suggests the mobile phone is the technology with the greatest impact on development. In contrast with the UN’s top-down approach to build ICT centers in the hope to close the “digital divide,” the wide spreaded mobile phones in developing countries enable people to close the divide themselves.

In a typical developing country, an extra ten phones per 100 people increases DGP growth by 0.6 percentage points. Farmers and fishermen use mobile phones to call the markets to get the best price for their produce. Small businesses use them to shop around for supplies. Mobile phones are used for cashless payments in Zambia and other African countries.

e-Mobilizer builds exactly on the concept of the pervasiveness of cellular infrastructure in developing countries. I think the effect of moible phone on development is just staring to unfold.

eBay Launch Online Classifieds

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These days, everything moves fast. Here we go: eBay launched the online classifieds websites in Canada, China, Germany, Japan, France, and Italy.

The company, named Kijiji, is a start-up within eBay by a small team of entrepreneurial employees. It builds local communities online and offers services from chatting about the best restaurants in the cities, trading, to looking for babysitters. It’s another version of Craig’s List International.

Although eBay’s stock fell today after the announcement, I believe that eBay is heading towards the right direction!

View from the Top

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At GSB monthly speaker serial, the Silicon Valley legend John Doerr of KPCB gave a talk about View from the Top. People asked “from the top of what?” He joked: obviously from the top of Sand Hill Road. I have heard John Doerr talk before, it’s always interesting to hear him again. John started by saying what makes a great venture – he emphased on the “greatness.” Here is his matrix:

  • A+ leadership and passionate founders
  • Committment to technology excellence
  • Large, rapidly growing and unserved markets
  • Team of talents

As a visionary who funded Netscape, Yahoo, Google, and many other great companies in the Silicon Valley, people naturally asked what he sees as the industrial and technology trends. Here is what on his list:

  1. Wi-Fi, wireless, handweb
  2. Entreprise secuirtya nd search
  3. Consumer content, services and search
  4. Open source
  5. Energy innovations
  6. Evidence-based EMR
  7. Personalized medicine
  8. Social entrepreneurship

I am particularly impressed that John Doerr, as a traditional venture capitalist, gave special attention to social entrepreneurship. The room was quiet when he talked about problem of global poverty and what we can do to solve the problem. I hope his talk inspired more young people devoting their lives to social entrepreneurship.

In the end, John Doerr recommended a list of books to read: 1) Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure; 2) The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living; 3) Inside Intuit: How the Makers of Quicken Beat Microsoft and Revolutionized an Entire Industry; 4) Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration.

e-Mobilizer Won e-Challenge

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e-Mobilizer won the first round of the BASES Entrepreneurship Challenge. This challenge is considered one of the world’s most prestigious business plan competition. I am very excited about this.

The e-Mobilizer service is a Web portal with a mobile interface that allows users to post their products and service information via cell phones to the Internet marketplace to engage in a sale.

The biggest problem facing micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries is the inability to access the larger public market and its market information. They do not have efficient channels to reach customers. This disadvantage creates a major obstacle that limits their potential, and often forces them into a life of hopelessness and poverty.

e-Mobilizer solves this problem by leveraging the existing cellular infrastructure to connect micro-entrepreneurs to the Internet marketplace through cell phones. The service empowers micro-entrepreneurs, mostly women, and helps them to grow their businesses and generate incomes to send their children to schools.

Just like micro-credit gives the poor people access to capital, e-Mobilizer gives them access to markets and information. It is a powerful mean to fight global poverty.

There were about 330 million cell phone users in China at the end of 2004, in contrast with 80 million Internet users The number of cell phone users is predicted to reach 550 million in China and more than 3 billion worldwide by 2008.

Shwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

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Pamela Hartigan, the Managing Director of the Shwab Foundation for Social Entreprenreurship, give a presentation about how the foundation supports some of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

The Shwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is founded by Klaus Schwab, President and Founder of the World Economic Forum. It’s primary purpose is to build a network of the most outstanding social entrepreneurs and influence the world leaders with the alternative solutions for the world problems. It’s a pretty new initiative, but it’s getting some high profile media exposure and starting to create the awareness of the general public.

Pamela went through the selection process and gave the stories of the well known social entrepreneurs. She mentioned to create employment opportunities for the unemployed is critical as a social entrepreneurial endeavor – which is my project all about.

Future of Microcontent

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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

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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

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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 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

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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.

Leadership Style

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Leadership That Gets Results by Daniel Goleman (Harvard Business Review) is the best article I have read so far in this class. I have learned so much from it. In the article, Daniel Goleman argues that there are six leadership styles:

  1. Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance
  2. Authoritative leaders mobilize people toward a vision
  3. Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony
  4. Democratic leaders build consensus through participation
  5. Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction
  6. Coaching leaders develop people for the future

Going through Managerial Style Questionnaire is quite a self-discovery process. My final scores are:

  • Coercive: 3
  • Authoritative: 8
  • Affiliative: 3
  • Democratic: 8
  • Pacesetting: 5
  • Coaching: 9

My dominant styles are: Authoritative and Coaching
My back up style is: Democratic

The insights from this exercise are:
– Although I have a tendency to be nice and compassionate to people, my score on Affiliative style is not high (30 %). I do push back on things that I don’t agree with, although I hardly ever confront people.
– On the other hand, my score on Pacesetting style is 50 %. I can see that I can be easily trapped in this style because I am perfectionist and can be intense sometimes, I have a tendency to demand others to do the same.
– I am surprised to see that Democratic is my backup style. Sometimes I have strong opinions and I like to do the things the way I wanted. I guess over time I have learned to be democratic!
– People who don’t know me well have a hard time to believe that Authoritative is my dominant style. The fact that I am quiet, speak softly, shy sometimes and smile all the time makes people think I am not a strong leader.

I am a little surprised to learn that success of a leader has so much to do with his/her emotional intelligence. Going through the emotional intelligence capacities, I did a self-assessment:

The things I believe I am doing well:

– Emotional self-awareness: the ability to read and understand your emotions as well as recognize their impact on work performance, relationships and the like.

– Trustworthiness: a consistent display of honesty and integrity.
– Conscientiousness: the ability to manage yourself and your responsibilities
– Achievement orientation: the drive to meet an internal standard of excellence
– Initiative: a readiness to seize opportunities

Social Skill
– Visionary leadership: the ability to take charge and inspire with a compelling vision
– Developing others: the propensity to bolster the abilities of others through feedback and guidance.

It seems that areas that I need pay most attention are:

Social Awareness
– Organizational awareness: the ability to read the currents of organizational life, build decision networks, and navigate politics.
– Empathy: skill at sensing other people’s emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns

Social Skill
– Communication: skill at listening and at sending clear, convincing, and well-tuned messages.
– Conflict management: the ability to de-escalate disagreements and orchestrate resolutions
– Building bonds: proficiency at cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships

To summarize, I am doing better in self-awareness and self-management. I am not doing so well in social awareness and social skill. That’s why I feel uncomfortable at workplace. I feel I cannot be myself. I found this analysis extremely helpful. Now I have a clear picture what I can work on to improve myself in order for me to be successful in the work environment!!