This, the first of our regional blogs, is authored by the technology and financial journalist Dominic Basulto. Dominic is a New York native, has been a senior editor at Corante since day one and has written for a number of online and offline media companies. Send tips or story ideas to: email@example.com.
About this weblog
Here we'll report daily on the latest tech and business developments in New York City. Impossible we concede: comprehensive coverage of the city's every story. What we hope you'll find: tips, tidbits and perspectives you won't find elsewhere. As well as unique insights, original interviews and more that should be of interest to New York's vibrant community of technologists and those who track, invest in and report on them.
"Join local venture capitalists, government officials, and business leaders on Tuesday, November 29, for the launch of the NYSIA Incubator @ 55 Broad Street, New York City’s first incubator facility dedicated to software and IT companies.
Located in the heart of the Wall Street financial district, the NYSIA Incubator will unite technology businesses and induce economic development and growth in New York's software/information technology industry. The Incubator comprises two floors of space for events, training, and offices."
About two months ago, I had a chance to meet the head of the NYSIA, Bruce Bernstein, and take a tour of the facilities. There's a lot of good stuff happening down there. In the coming days, I'll try to highlight some of the exciting companies getting their start at the NYSIA Incubator. For now, here's a link to a feature piece in American Venture magazine: NYSIA Opens Incubator on Wall Street.
New York venture capitalist Ed Sim explains that the sales team of a young start-up company needs to be hungry, motivated and unwilling to take "no" for an answer. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, the salespersons need to be out making orders, not just taking orders:
"One of the fundamental criteria that any startup needs to look for is hunger. If you are a sales rep at an early stage company with no name, no brand, and an unproven product, you better be hungry, make your calls, schedule your meetings and not take no for an answer. What this boils down for me is the difference between "order takers" and "order makers"... So whatever you do when you hire your next group of sales reps, make sure they have the qualifications but more importantly make sure that they have the hunger and desire to win. Make sure that you have "order makers" and not "order takers."
That reminds me of one of my favorite films from the early 1990s, Glengarry Glen Ross (based on the play of the same name by David Mamet), in which Alec Baldwin plays a hyper-manic salesman who tells his underlings that the secret of being a great salesman is as easy as A-B-C: "A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing." (There are so many other great Mamet lines that it's hard to pick the best one - "The leads are weak." The leads are weak? The f*** leads are weak? You're weak").
Adam Balkin of NY1 takes a look at some award-winning inventors - the "Thomas Edison’s and Alexander Graham Bell’s of today." The inventors were recently honored at Popular Mechanics Magazine's annual Breakthrough Awards Ceremony. Among the inventions noted by Balkin: a "rocket bike," the Slingbox, and several advances in assistive technologies - "work that could someday help those with spinal-cord injuries regain their movement... or allow severely disabled people to operate computers with their minds."
When you mention the South Bronx, probably the last thing you think of is telecom. IEEE Spectrum has a nice feature on Urban Telephone and Video, a telecom company based in the South Bronx that competes with Time Warner and Cablevision in offering cable TV, broadband Internet access, and Internet telephony services to New Yorkers:
"In an office building in the heart of the 'hood, on a bustling commercial thoroughfare lined with small grocery stores cheek by jowl with shops studded with large, hand-scrawled signs hawking the latest bargains on household goods and electronics, exists one of the city's original broadband franchisesand the industry's most unlikely success story. The company, Urban Communications Transport, which does business under the name Urban Telephone and Video, has been making a profit in an endeavor that has defeated not a few telecom industry giants..."
If you're a small business owner looking for help in starting up a new business, according to MSNBC (via Entrepreneur.com), one good place to look is a local university:
"Almost every reputable business school has an entrepreneurship program these days, and one of the most practical ways for a student to get some useful training is to make contact with the real world. That would be you. The reason this partnership works so well is that entrepreneurs, running around like madmen trying to keep everything together, often have something of a brain drain in their company. Universities, of course, are filled to the brim with ideas and innovative thinkers."
"The school has a program called GET: Gateway to Entrepreneurial Tomorrows. It's funded by a grant and is aimed at small, minority businesses in inner cities of New York's Mid-Hudson Valley. GET has helped delis, furniture retailers, small cell phone stores, and mortgage origination businesses get started and get growing. The service--which is bilingual--is free and offers entrepreneurs the resources they need to start or maintain a business."
IBM has created a new seven-person venture capital advisory council to "help accelerate innovation in deploying open standards-based solutions, especially for emerging markets around the world." According to IBM, it's important to back open standards in key emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. In addition to supporting open standards-based solutions, the new VC advisory council at IBM will also "continue to identify and develop new partnership opportunities to best help the hundreds of new and innovative start-ups that arise in these countries every day." For example, IBM would be ready to back a start-up company in Moscow or St. Petersburg developing a Linux-based software solution.
Last week, the New York Post had a brief profile of New York-based MaxDelivery, the latest reincarnation of Internet delivery service Kozmo.com. Obviously, there is demand across the city for Internet delivery services -- the only problem is finding an appropriate business model.
It's kinda like what happened with Internet groceries. Webvan and others of its ilk flamed out after running through tens of millions of VC funding, but now it looks like FreshDirect has found a business model that works in New York City.
Red Herring follows up on the New York Post's story about MaxDelivery, noting that "MaxDelivery started on a $1-million shoestring, culled from Mr. Siragusas savings and money he raised from family and friends."
A $1 million shoestring? Damn, those are expensive shoes.
Mostly as a favor to Rupert Murdoch (he doesn't know it, though), we've been browsing the New York Post each day for little snippets of business and tech wisdom. In today's paper, there's a pull-out section called "NYP Biz" that covers topics of interest for small entrepreneurs - like how to raise VC money and what to do when you outgrow your home office.
Thinking about launching a new start-up in the New York metropolitan area but not sure where? Try Newark. Yes, that's not a misprint. According to Business Week, "the New Jersey city had a long slide but is now climbing back and luring new businesses with a great location and cultural amenities... A comeback kid of sorts, Newark has begun a promising transformation over the past decade."
In many ways, Newark's rebound is a function of its location -- midway between Philly and New York with easy access to a major airport. There's more going on beneath the surface, though, says Business Week. After a period of neglect, though, will Newark be able to overcome its negative reputation and lure the types of small businesses crucial to its future success?
Looks like all that's required to be a venture capitalist these days is a fat Rolodex, a BlackBerry, and a little curiosity about new technology. The New York Times reports that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is joining legendary Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins as a 'part-time' partner. Both Rudy Giuliani and Al Gore have also dabbled in the world of private equity after stepping down from public office, and so it comes as no real surprise that Powell would be courted by dealmakers in Silicon Valley. At least he's not staying in Washington to work for The Carlyle Group, which is chock-full of former diplomats and bigwigs who invest in defense sector firms.
"He's soliciting entrepreneurs to send him their company pitches on a recorded audio file, which he downloads for later listening on a bike ride. There's minimal hassle: Entrepreneurs simply tag their audio files at http://del.icio.us with an identifier that Wilson subscribes to, via RSS."
Sounds like a pretty cool idea -- and a great way to level the playing field in the clubby world of venture capital. The days of the 30-second elevator pitch are over: say hello to the brave new world of the 3-minute VC podcast.
Boonty, a Manhattan-based distributor of downloadable video games, has raised $10 million in series B venture capital funding. The new investment financing will be used to expand Boontys technology as well as sales and marketing operations in North America, Europe and Asia. In August, Boonty plans to offer a "web-to-mobile game store" that will enable consumers to download games from the Internet to their cell phones.
Who's responsible for all that adware and spyware clogging up the pipes of your PC? Maybe it's greedy venture capitalists. New York-based advertising software company WhenU has just raised another $15 million in VC financing so that it can continue to install adware on as many computers as possible. That's on top of the $20 million that the company raised in April.
Of course, WhenU claims that it only delivers "contextually targeted ads on the desktop" and that it doesn't engage in user profiling or any other type of activity that would raise the hackles of privacy advocates. Tech Dirt isn't so sure:
"WhenU clearly isn't above being sneaky on its own. Part of WhenU's reform effort was to convince anti-spyware vendors to remove WhenU from their listing, even though the product remained identically problematic -- and most people still had no idea what they were installing. The whole business concept behind adware relies on having those products installed as widely as possible -- which means these companies are always going to be sneaky about what you're really getting. When called on this, they pretend that the real problem isn't about sneaky installs, but that people are afraid they're being spied upon."
The folks over at alarm:clock have put together a great collection of features and profiles of VC-backed companies. One of the companies recently profiled is New York-based BeliefNet, which was founded in 1999 by a veteran of US News & World Report and Newsweek. Anyway, after a long period when content companies were dead on arrival, the company raised $7 million from Softbank's Boston office last month. This was a company that had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after blowing through $25 million in VC money! Alarm:Clock calls BeliefNet the "East Coast version of Salon.com - a heavily funded startup that died and has been resurrected."
Steve Brotman of VCBall says that any entrepreneur only needs to remember two rules in order to be successful: "Don't run out of money" and "Don't be greedy with your equity."
Brotman, a successful New York venture capitalist, explains: "The root of every business failure 100% of the time lies in the breaking of one or both of these two rules... the rest really is commentary. I've never heard of a venture failure that did not boil down to breaking one of these two very simple rules. The solution to almost any business problem lies in these two rules as well, if you think hard enough about it."
(Note: Yeah, this post from Brotman is almost two months old, but it's timeless in its wisdom... Just re-visiting some of the folks on the ol' blogroll and ran across this entry.)
Venture capital money is no longer as easy to track down as it was during the late 1990's, so the founders of ClearContext, a San Francisco-based software start-up, are using their winnings from Texas Hold'em to bankroll their new venture. At ClearContext, the winnings from online poker really add up -- at a rate of $100 to $120 an hour. According to CNET News.com, "the company's fund-raising technique may be a sign of the times in Silicon Valley, where entrepreneurs with new companies are adjusting to a more frugal reality after the go-go '90s."
Anyone know of start-ups in the New York metropolitan area who use their winnings from Atlantic City or Foxwoods as a financing mechanism?
NYU received a $10 million grant from the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation to create a new program in social entrepreneurship. As part of the program, NYU will fund a number of fellowships for both undergraduates and graduates. In May, the foundation also awarded a similar $10 million grant to Harvard.
There are a number of ways that small, under-funded start-ups can choke off growth without even realizing it. One is by having the CEO spend too much time in conferences rather than spending time in the trenches with customers and business partners. Another is by chasing the dream of VC financing. Quite simply, spending too much time in pursuit of VC financing can act as a brake on growth for young start-ups, explains New York venture capitalist Ed Sim. Fundraising becomes a distraction, a diversion of scarce resources that could be better used to build the business:
"When you are a lean and mean startup where you are just beginning to build your management team, every second you spend fundraising means more time that you are not working on your business. I have seen too many entrepreneurs go on the VC tour, spend too much time on fundraising, and consequently miss important milestones. In the end, the extensive fundraising process ends up backfiring since the VCs get concerned about lack of progress."
JD Lasica of New Media Musings points to a story in the Los Angeles Times about "Internet bad boy" Pud Kaplan, who moved from New York to San Francisco, landed some VC financing, and is now in the middle of turning AdBrite ("the Internet's ad marketplace") into the next great online advertising play:
"Remember f***edcompany.com? Philip Kaplan got rich on his edgy mockery of failing dot-coms. Now he has a 'legit' start-up of his own, complete with venture capital backing... Now, instead of tearing down companies, Kaplan at 29 is building one of his own... He persuaded Sequoia Capital, the blue-chip Silicon Valley venture capital firm that backed such companies as Google Inc. and Apple Computer, to invest $4 million in his method of placing ads on websites."
There are finally some signs of life in New York's early-stage VC market! Early stage investment group New York Angels recently announced two new angel financing deals: MediaTile and Spotlight Data. In addition, New York Angels made follow-on investments in three portfolio companies -- Content Directions (CDI), Zero-G and BioScale.
Over the past 18 months, membership in New York Angels has increased from 20 to 54 -- a sign that either the tech sector has bounced back, or that well-heeled private investors are tired of speculating in real estate deals.
Fortune Magazine profiles 25 "breakout" companies that could change the technology landscape in 2005. Two of the companies are based in New York: Scanbuy (consumer bar code technology) and Orchestria (business risk management solutions such as content-scanning software).
From Crain's New York: Internet-based lead generation company SilverCarrot of Manhattan has received $7 million in Series B venture capital funding from a group of investors led by Dolphin Equity Partners.
So what exactly is Internet-based lead generation? Well, SilverCarrot buys banner ads offering deals in order to drive visitors to sites it owns and operates. On these sites, registered visitors are asked about their preferences and whether they would like to receive more information on certain topics. SilverCarrot then passes on those leads to client. Presto! Lots of qualified leads, thanks to the magic of the Internet.
Network World published its annual list of 10 Start-ups to Watch - the up-and-coming tech companies with the types of innovative technologies that can solve networking's toughest problems. The only company from New York was OpTier, which develops software for managing transaction workloads.
How many strategic partners can an early-stage start-up really work with? According to New York VC Ed Sim, the answer is one. That's right, one. Sim explains:
"I can't tell you how many early stage companies I talk to tout their great list of partners. I always step back in amazement at how a small company can support more than one, really large partner in the beginning."
If an early-stage company claims to have a handful of partners, take a closer look to see whether the partner is really adding anything to the bottom line. If the partner is just there for show (i.e. another pretty face on a Web site), then the partnership is really nothing more than a "Barney press release":
"In my mind, if you and your partner are not generating revenue for each other than it isn't a real partnership but rather just a Barney press release. Yeah, you know the "I love you, you love me" kind of partnership that sucks precious resources from a startup and yields no value and no customers."
With that in mind, Sim provides five rules of engagement for making any strategic partnership work. It's hard work, and the fun is just starting once the two parties sign on the dotted line.
"As you may know, I left my job a few weeks ago in order to devote myself full-time to del.icio.us. In order to make that posssible, I accepted an investment from a group of thoughtful and influential investors. The group I chose to work with understands my commitment to maintaining the integrity of the service and the security of your data. They were also willing to take a minority stake, which will keep me in control of the future of del.icio.us.
Union Square Ventures leads the investment group, and the other members are Amazon.com, Marc Andreessen, BV Capital, Esther Dyson, Seth Goldstein, Josh Koppelman, Howard Morgan, Tim O'Reilly, and Bob Young."
In his post "Del.icio.us Dollars," Om Malik speculates that del.icio.us received somewhere around $2 million in VC financing. "Open media dollars are coming thick and fast," he writes.
Earlier in the week, former AOL Chairman Steve Case announced that he was putting $500 million of his own money into Revolution, which will own controlling stakes in companies that provide health care services, leisure travel services and wellness-related products and services.
Within 48 hours, he found a suitable investment target -- Wisdom Media, which operates media properties in the health & wellness category. According to Crain's New York, the company acquired West Virginia-based Wisdom, with the intention of moving the company to NYC. Over the next few months, Case will work some Internet magic on the company to re-brand and re-launch it.
Looking for some VC backing for that socially-conscious venture you've always wanted to launch? Crain's New York reports that NYU's Stern School of Business is accepting proposals through April 11 for its Student Social Venture Fund:
"The fund, which NYU touts as the first student-managed fund at a U.S. business school, will distribute up to $100,000 in grants during its first cycle to organizations that provide aid to students in underserved communities who are undergoing transitions--to middle school, to high school, to college, or to the workforce. The grants will range in size from $5,000 to $50,000 and be used for programmatic, organizational-development and capacity-building support."
New York-based VC Ed Sim, who was recently recognized by Fast Company for his Beyond VC blog, explains why the ability to say "No" to a possible deal is sometimes more important than knowing how to say "Yes." Sim explains: "Having done enough deals, I am of the opinion that if it is extremely one-sided and never makes economic sense, it is a recipe for disaster." One of the problems, says Sim, is that over-heated market segments lead to decisions made by the heart and not by the head. Instead of focusing on bottom-line profitability and ROI, companies start thinking in terms of customers acquired (even if they are money-losing) or market share (or, even worse, "mind-share"):
"From my perspective, one of the huge problems is that there is tons of VC money out there and lots of me-too deals... A space gets hot, lots of venture money pours in, and only a few companies survive while the rest vaporize. We do live in a competitive world and taking market share and killing your competition is part and parcel with being in a startup in a large market. That being said, what killed many companies during the bubble was pursuing market share at all costs..."
After hearing news about the launch of a new urban delivery service in the city, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures analyzes how MaxDelivery.com can avoid the pitfalls of forerunners like Kozmo and Urban Fetch. Given that Fred is a VC, Rule #1 might strike some as counter-intuitive: "Don't accept venture capital."
The problem is that failed ventures like Kozmo tried to become too many things to too many people and expanded to too many cities, too quickly. By not raising a venture capital round, MaxDelivery.com can focus on keeping its inventory down and serving a specific geographic location -- New York City.
Entrepreneurs need to stop thinking so much and start acting, advises New York VC Fred Wilson. Call it "analysis paralysis" or the "Hamlet complex" or whatever you want, but the fact remains that it's impossible to analyze every action and every possible contingency before making an important decision. Venture backers will applaud an entrepreneur who acts and takes risks, even if the action turns out to be misguided later, says Wilson. As Teddy Roosevelt once said:
"In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."
Paid Content shares the news that independent Wall Street research firm Majestic Research has landed a first round of institutional venture capital. A number of Internet heavyweights -- like Nick Nicholas (former Co-CEO of Time Warner), Josh Kopelman (founder of Half.com) and Bill Hambrecht (of WR Hambrecht + Co) -- are lending their public support to the venture, so if you haven't already done so, check out the Transparent Bundles blog from Majestic Research's Seth Goldstein.
"You break it, you own it... The same is true of a company. The VCs on the board often have the power to change out the management of a company. But if they do that, they are responsible for fixing the management and the company... Don't go into a company thinking you can swap out management easily. And don't make a management change unless you are willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty for a while. Because that's what's required when you "own" the business."
Getting business development deals done can be a real nightmare, writes Ed Sim. You might talk to a series of high-level executives about a deal, and each one seems jazzed about it. Then, somehow, almost inexplicably, the deal craters. It doesn't get done, and you've just wasted a lot of time and energy on nothing.
With that in mind, Ed Sim offers a few key tips on how to improve the success rate of your biz dev sales pitches. The key factor is finding out who owns the relationship. In other words, which high-level executive is willing to take ownership of the idea and push it along? This is different than just signing off on the idea and passing the hat to someone else -- it means championing the deal, shepherding it through the rough patches, and making sure all the incentives are properly aligned.
Actually, a classic book for understanding this process is Leading Change from Harvard Business School's John Kotter. In step-by-step fashion, Kotter walks through all the key steps of driving change within an organization. Leaders must establish a sense of urgency, create a guiding coalition, develop a vision and a strategy, communicate that vision to others, generate short-term wins, and empower employees for action. That type of person, though, is hard to find -- and that's why so many business development deals stall.
The new Stony Brook-Calverton Business Incubator, operated by SUNY-Stony Brook on the site of an old Grumman air-test field, will focus on nurturing start-up companies with innovative agricultural, aquacultural and environmental technologies. The first two companies to take up residence at the incubator, says Newsday, will be Lumen Technologies (liquid crystal display systems) and Master Computer (educational-testing software) -- and there are more on the way -- including a cool-sounding outfit called Atlantis Aquafarm.
Venture capital may not be flowing the way that it did during the late 1990s, but deals are still getting done...
On January 4, NYC-based XMPie received $5.5 million in expansion round financing from Israeli VC firm JVP. XMPie's flagship PersonalEffect software "helps businesses get the increased responses of 1:1 marketing by making it efficient to design and produce highly personalized communications, in any media on demand."
On December 30, NYC-based eChalk, "the leader in online communication systems for K-12 schools," received $4.0 million in VC financing from Edison Venture Fund.
On December 23, NYC-based Cyota, "the world's leading provider of security and anti-fraud solutions for financial institutions," raised $7.2 million in fourth-round VC financing.
New York VC Fred Wilson shares some exciting news about his portfolio company iBiquity Digital, which is at the forefront of HD Radio technology: "The leading radio broadcasters, 21 station groups in all representing the vast majority of radio stations in the US, have agreed to an aggressive rollout of a digital signal using the HD Radio standard. These broadcasters have specifically agreed to convert almost 2,000 stations in the coming years. These are the big stations, the ones with most of the listeners across the country. This committment is real and backed up with significant capital. But the most important thing about this deal is it says to the rest of the industry that digital is here and its the future of broadcast radio."
The announcement is ground-breaking, according to Wilson: "It's a new day for the radio business. We will see new devices, new services, new programming, and new listeners as a result."
Others like Atmaspheric, though, do not agree -- they see rivals like satellite radio continuing to chip away at the market dominance of broadcast radio: "I just cant see ever upgrading my radio to HD. Eventually it will be installed in cars at the factory, but Ill choose Satellite radio any day to get the diversity of programming and commercial free stations. Its well worth the subscription price of a CD per month. Just because its new and digital does not make it better. HD Radio is more like adding a new and improved burst to a box of detergent than anything else."
"I have been using Skype for the last 6 months and can honestly say that it not only saves a ton of money but more importantly allows me to end the phone-tag game with my porfolio company CEOs and easily communicate with them. Sure VOIP is great from a cost-saving perspective, but having presence is even more important in my mind. I know when someone is available to speak and when they are not-no more wasted time with voicemails or I'll call you back later..."
According to the New York Times, Internet start-ups looking for cheap, flexible real estate space in NYC might consider the turnkey solutions of Sunshine Realty Management, which operates two sites in Manhattan: 45 West 21st Street and 419 Lafayette. Basically, the company leases entire floors of buildings, divides up the space into cubicles and conference rooms and then offers it at affordable monthly rates to budding entrepreneurs. By New York standards, the prices are dirt-cheap: as low as $295 a month for a basic cubicle. But there's a lot of perks included -- the opportunity to have your mail sent to a real corporate address, the use of on-site conference rooms, and the ability to participate in group health care plans.
The New York Times doesn't actually use the word "Internet incubator" (that would be, like, so 1999) -- mostly because the real estate management company doesn't actually take an equity stake in the companies. In fact, it sounds like many of the entrepreneurs aren't even classic tech executives -- they are astrologers or travel agents or furniture designers. The two loft-like floors at 419 Lafayette, though, were formerly used by Internet consulting firm Razorfish.
Most interestingly, it seems that many of the new tenants are interested as much in the "proximity to others" as the low, low prices. In fact, one stay-at-home office worker interviewed for the piece emphasized that, "I need to get out. That was my main draw..." For the Wi-Fi and Lattes generation, there is obviously a trade-off between between working in public, open spaces that lack certain amenities (private meeting rooms) and working in stuffy, closed offices.
Fast Company has put out an all points bulletin to find the best VC blogs. We hate to turn this into a West Coast v. East Coast thing, but there are a handful of New York-based venture capitalists who run some pretty cool blogs. So, be sure to put in a vote for Ed Sim (BeyondVC), Steve Brotman (VCball) or Fred Wilson (A VC).
Of the Top 50 companies, four were from New York: Base One International (grid computing), Healthwave (medical billing services), R&G Corporation (nanotechnology) and Reinsurex (reinsurance brokerage services). The "national winner" of the competition was New Jersey's Remote Play (RFID technology).
On December 7, NYC-based Rho Ventures announced the final closing of its fifth venture capital fund, Rho Ventures V, with commitments of $425 million. The fund will make a number of diversified bets on the future of the tech sector, with plans to finance young companies in the
communications, IT and healthcare verticals. Rho has more than $1 billion in capital under management and was an early investor in companies such as Ciena, Commerce One, Compaq, Human Genome Sciences and iVillage.
New York VC Ed Sim shares a handful of tips on putting together a top-notch executive team at a young start-up company. This doesn't always mean hiring the "best" or the "brightest" in the industry -- but it does mean hiring someone who understands the corporate DNA and who can execute on the strategic direction of the company. Adding these A-list players has another key advantage: it can make it easier to recruit other A-list players. It's all part of what he calls the A-Player domino effect: "When you hire an A-Player, they bring lots of other A-Players to the table."
New York VC Fred Wilson tackles the question every blogger wants to have answered: How do I make blog bucks? According to Wilson, it's not the blog networks or the software providers that will be the most successful businesses -- "the action is in the advertising platforms and meta data and content distribution systems that are growing up around bloggings and RSS... The big bucks will be made in scalable platforms that leverage all that is happening in the blog world."
At this point, perhaps it's worth re-reading Clayton Christensen's strategic masterpiece The Innovator's Dilemma for a few ideas on how the next stage of "blog innovation" will play out... One point that Christensen makes clear: truly disruptive technologies never occur as the result of successful companies carrying out sound business practices in established markets. It's always the case that newer, cheaper disruptive technologies start at the low end of the marketplace, evolve quickly over time, and eventually displace high-end competitors. By the time that the entrenched incumbents fully realize what happened, it's too late...
One of my personal favorites is the case study of the small Honda motorcycles (the off-road dirt bikes that are ubiquitous these days). When they were first introduced, nobody gave them much of a chance against the more powerful motorcycles from Harley Davidson and BMW. After all, you couldn't even ride them on the highway, so who'd want 'em? Turns out, a lot of people wanted them.
New York VC Fred Wilson weighs in on the increasing complexity of getting deals done in today's risk-averse environment. The investment deal that actually gets done is somewhat of an anomaly. Even after navigating a minefield of lawyers, accountants and overly cautious board members, it's still quite possible that one (or both) parties will walk away from the negotiating table.
So what does it take to get a deal done? There are three key factors -- "a familiarity and trust among the participants in the deal," "a competitive dynamic and a deadline," and "intense focus and effort."
Ed Sim of Beyond VC conjectures that there are two ways that early-stage companies can view product releases: as an airplane shuttle that "takes off only when full" or as a train that "runs on schedule." The date-driven approach is preferable:
"It forces the team to clarify the absolute minimum requirements necessary to deliver the right product for the market. It also discourages feature creep and encourages highly disciplined prioritization. Most importantly, having a date driven release can get everyone at the company aligned. Everyone knows the ship date and sets their schedule accordingly to ensure that all pistons are running..."
Business Week reports that women are opening up new businesses at nearly twice the rate as their male counterparts. An interesting stat: in terms of sales and employment figures, New York ranked among the top five states for privately held companies 51% or more owned by minority women.
In this Inc. Magazine piece, New York VC Jerry Colonna discusses the reality of raising venture capital in the current economic environment. While the VC world sometimes seems like a private club with arcane membership rules, there are real, concrete steps that any entrepreneur can take:
"You MUST get connected. You know that business relies on people connecting with other people and that few great ideas are truly great enough to break through and emerge as successful companies without the founder/entrepreneur/CEO going out and pressing the flesh. So you don't have an MBA. So what? Go out and find a network you can join. If there's none in your area, start a chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) or Young Entrepreneurs' Organization (YEO). Go to you nearest university and meet with the professors there..."
Quick item from Crain's about a Manhattan-based VC firm, SAS Investors, that raised an additional $10 million to invest in early-stage tech deals. (If the name sounds familiar, it's because the firm was formerly known as Silicon Alley Seed Investors). The three-year-old firm has already invested in 10 portfolio companies -- a possible sign that the investment climate may be brightening for garage (loft?) start-ups and other early-stage tech companies. AltAssets notes that the portfolio companies include Enpirion, Hydroglobe, Lemur Networks, Protonex, Reactive Nanotechnologies, Cebatech, and Tacit Networks.