This blog has led to action - make sure to visit the
Monday, December 29, 2008
If you have not done so, please consider the Entrepreneur Commons idea:
Click on the "vote" button showing the current number of votes
And if you like the idea, please forward to as many of your friends as possible, as we need many more votes to make it to the top 10.
Thank you for your help.
Best wishes for 2009 :-)
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Social Capital (Nan Lin's definition): resources embedded in a social structure which are accessed and/or mobilized in purposive actions
Social Business (from Michael): "ALL businesses are social in an era where meaning & perception is derived from broadband empowered individuals rather than capital intensive broadcast communication networks."
This is very much in line with what I had in mind when I started the discussion on Social Edge. And seems to fit a lot of the other comments that came up.
And it reinforce my conviction that we need something like the Vindex to attach a number to the concept, and make it easy for everybody to understand and visualize the value.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Thank you Gizmo project :-)
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Thursday, December 11, 2008
My take on this is that the success of Muhammad Yunus with Grameen bank and microfinance in general has resulted in a narrowing of the definition of "Social Business" to what he specifically focuses on: poverty.
Meanwhile there is a broader definition that we should look like, as a way to prevent the concept of "Social Business" from being marginalized. We cannot afford to fall into the comfortable idea that "Social Businesses" are focusing on fixing the world issues while the rest of us are doing business as usual. We need to reverse the trend by moving the concept of "Social Business" from being a niche to being the standard.
Please give us your input on this idea and how to go about it:
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Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Open Invention Network (OIN) unveiled a program Tuesday that aims to make it easier for patent and trademark office examiners -- and others -- to access prior art, increase the quality of patents granted, and decrease the number of poor quality patents. [...] The sponsors hope the program will ultimately promote their goals of greater freedom in the open source community to expand the Linux platform.
Full article here
Another step in the right direction. Sadly patents are often used as a way to prevent other people to do things. Large corporations are often times filing many with no real intent to build anything but more to make sure that if somebody else tries they will have a way to stop them or at least slow them down while they try to catch up...
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Friday, December 05, 2008
I am using eCairn to track what is happening in the blogosphere around Entrepreneurship/ Social Entrepreneurship / High Tech/ Venture Capital (tracking about 350 blogs total), and I use eCairn's influence ranking on these blogs to prioritize my reading and commenting (see here how they do this - this is NOT about traffic but rather who links to what).
Here is the list of the top 150 blogs that I find relevant for entrepreneurs in general, with a bias for high tech and social entrepreneurship and a special interest on the funding side.
Future updates will be posted on the Entrepreneur Commons website.
Something that you may find useful for yourself...
Top 150 blogs for Entrepreneur (based on the influence ranking by eCairn):
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008
A business by nature is always in transition, trying to get from one phase of the life-cycle to the next:
closure of some sort: dissolution, merger, IPO etc...
Each of these phases require a team with a different set of skills.
And then when the transition from one phase to the other is achieved, the team needs to get re-organized to meet the requirements of the new phase the business is in.
In addition to and independently from the internal tensions created by this constant change, there are natural tensions between the various stakeholders.
And there are many of them:
- external contractors
- other legal and fiscal stakeholders
Of course, you can always manage the tensions through open communication, and most of the time this is good enough. This is where a strong company culture makes a big difference, because everybody's interest tends to be more aligned, thus minimizing the risk of friction.
But then again and typically over time untold issues accumulate. Some problems will disappear because the people involved will leave, but some tension will also slowly build up because not everybody has the option of getting out: investors need an exit strategy, the entrepreneur needs a transition plan, etc...
This is when you need a trusted advisor: think of it as your doctor, and as doing regular checkups.
When it comes to your health, you would probably agree that prevention is better than waiting until the problem starts surfacing.
Similarly for a business it is much better to check the health of the relationships within the business rather than wait until the business is in trouble.
And the person you need should be from the outside, free of any potential conflict of interest so that the all stakeholders can have a truly open discussion with him/her.
It should not be the company lawyer, because you would not want him to know too much about you personally.
It should not be the company CPA because you may want to keep your own financial issues for yourself.
It should be somebody at the heart of the business ecosystem that all stakeholders can trust without second thoughts. Somebody who can pull in the necessary resources and work with them to help resolve issues without being responsible for the direct execution a specific task (which may create conflict of interest). The general contractor who will coordinate the work between the architect and the various contractors on the job.
What you will get
A trusted advisor who will listen and can bring into the discussion his own prospective from many years of business experience
- A trusted neutral third party to provide mediation between all the stakeholders within the business ecosystem at large
If you agree that your business would be better off with such a person, please contact me: marc at dangeard dot com
Monday, December 01, 2008
Check it out if you want more details on how the idea came and how the Obama administration could help entrepreneurs.
If you like what you read, please vote for the idea here:
Click on the "Vote" button showing the current number of votes.
And then don't forget to forward the info to your friends, as we need a lot more votes if we want to make it to the top 10.
Thank you for your help :-)
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's a movement of citizens inspired by the presidential campaign who are now submitting ideas for how they think the Obama Administration should change America. It's called "Ideas for Change in America."
I've submitted an idea and wanted to see if you could quickly vote for it. The title is:
Sponsor a structure for entrepreneurs to support entrepreneurs
You can read and vote for the idea by clicking here.
The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by Change.org, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.
Can you click here to support Entrepreneur Commons?
And feel free to spread the word :-)
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Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thank you for this honor :-)
Here is Nathaniel's list:
Name - Erik Hersman
Twitter - @whiteafrican
Why You Should Follow - Founder of Ushahidi, blogger at AfriGadget and WhiteAfrican, all around smart guy and great tracker of the African technology and innovation
Name - Guy Kawasaki
Twitter - @guykawasaki
Why You Should Follow - Founder of Alltop, social media evangelist and best selling author on entrepreneurship, tweets regularly with practical advice for traditional and social entrepreneurs
Name - Vanessa Mason
Twitter - @vanessamason
Why You Should Follow - Blogger and tracker about all things global health, international development, and creative solutions to poverty and inequality
Name - Marc Dangeard
Twitter - @mdangear
Why You Should Follow - Founder of Entrepreneur Commons and general advisor to social entrepreneurs
Name - Joe Solomon
Twitter - @engagejoe
Why You Should Follow - Social media consultant working with Social Actions, Joe's Twitter stream is a hub for all online social innovation
Name - VCTips
Twitter - @vctips
Why You Should Follow - An aggregator of great tips for those entrepreneurs who are pitching or looking to pitch to venture firms and angel investors
Name - Jon Gosier / Appfrica
Twitter - @appfrica
Why You Should Follow - Jon's Appfrica project does a phenomenal job keeping track of social technology innovations with ramifications for the developing world
Name - Social Entrepreneurship at Change.org / Nathaniel Whittemore
Twitter - @socialentrprnr
Why You Should Follow - Our official Socialentrepreneurship.change.org Twitter account - get updated about new posts and interesting projects
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Monday, November 17, 2008
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Friday, November 14, 2008
Here a summary of the essay:
Territories as defined by government have become disconnected from the ecosystems in which people and business live and work. New ways of communicating have created an additional layer on top of these territories and ecosystems, ultimately defining new territories in which we have to coexist.
These new ways of communicating have also created a culture of participation.
As a result, governments need to reconsider their processes, they need to foster participation and learn to manage collaboration between multiple stakeholders from both the public and private sector. Rather than deregulation, this calls for a redefinition of the role of government, and of the culture we share.
Material - our physical world has evolved:
- For the longest time, territories were an administrative mapping of geographical regions.
- More recently, business ecosystems have appeared in metropolitan areas, and they typically overlap several administrative areas, creating a layer on top of the original mapping, and adding a level of complexity in the management of geographical communities.
- As a result, the administration of the physical space, and the power over what can be done where, is a conversation between multiple stakeholder that are a mix of private and public organizations.
- In addition people and companies are more mobile now than they used to be. This means that there is competition between various regions of the world through the ability of those involved to choose where they go. The conversation cannot be a one way conversation, it requires a participative process.
Immaterial - our life also happens online:
- The latest progress in telecommunication, with ubiquitous access to information enabling telecommuting, is redefining the concept of "community center". People can work from home, they can work while they are on the move (airports, hotels, cafes, etc...), the center is now a virtual place that does not necessarily map to a physical place. Yet another layer has been built on top of physical territories.
- the emergence of online communities, and of online tools to manage the collaboration between users, have created a culture of participation.
New territories - material
Where the material meets the immaterial at the most basic level is in the house, where it is now possible to navigate between the physical and the virtual space, to be in many locations at once. And therefore this is where we should look to define new territories we live in, looking at the use of the space in the house and how it creates new infrastructure requirements to better serve individuals and the community around them.
New territories - immaterial:
To foster the participation that people have come to expect, we need to implement the following:
- direct economy: involving the consumer in the value chain
- direct knowledge: involving the student in the learning process
- direct content: involving the user in the production of content
- e-government: online access to public document and online transactions
- ubiquitous connectivity: wifi or wimax everywhere
- geotags: virtual tags for physical places
- digital spaces: internet cafes, creative corners
- techno-squares: technology in public spaces
- new services: for example digital books allowing shared comments and notes
- Thinktanks open to citizens
- Digital governance: joint efforts involving multiple stakeholders from the public and private sector, managed in total transparency
Meeting these new requirements create challenges on the government side:
- grassroot power vs hierarchy
- bridging the digital gap
- government as a process rather than a solution
- from enforcement to engagement
- re-defining the role of politicians
- measuring intangibles
- re-emphasizing culture
More specifically government must foster participation through the following:
- manage change
- map the various existing layers on top of the new territories
- establish common values
- push for results
- get stakeholders buy-in
- establish a core group before allowing others interested players into the conversation
- favor a pragmatic approach rather than a decision process based on ideology
- share best practices across the various new territories
- measure progress and results
To conclude, the emergence of new territories creates the need for an evolution from democracy as we know it to participative democracy, with an unavoidable overlap between the 2 systems while they coexist, which will create tensions. But rather than deregulation, it calls for a redefinition of the role of government and of the culture we share.
A lot of work still remains to be done and we should be ready for exciting times to come...
Can you tell me here how I am doing?
Global Entrepreneurship week is next week.
I have submitted a challenge - change the world in one minute.
Can you do this?
How am I doing?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
One year after I discussed the end of the VC era (see my previous post here), I am happy to report that the word is now officially out, and the following powerpoint says it all. The one issue where help is really needed is Seed investment, and because unfortunately, as I also discussed earlier in this blog (here) Angels are not the answer. I have started Entrepreneur Commons as a way to try to resolve the issue, this latest post from VentureBeat will certainly help build momentum :-)
How am I doing?
To me a social business is any business who is focused NOT on maximizing profit BUT RATHER on maximizing Social Capital within the ecosystem it exists in, using the broad definition of Social Capital to be the credibility you have within your community.
I believe that this is the kind of business we need to change the world beyond the focus on poverty and to resolve the broader set of economical and ecological challenges we are facing today.
And to help with the process, I like the idea of trying to come up with an index that would help us evaluate the social capital of people or organization. One simple measure that you can try to optimize (because this is human, we like to optimize things and competition is healthy). I am exploring the idea with the Vindex and there may be other possible options.
In the end, the main issue at this point is lack of focus on the investment side: people know how to invest in general to maximize profit, but when it comes to social businesses, everybody has their own view of the world and their own goals to fulfill and matching demand (social businesses looking for cash) with offers (social investors with very precise ideas of what they think is wrong and a mission to change things) is hard at this point. And it will stay like this until there is a way to focus everybody or enough people involved that the lack of focus is compensated by shear volume (as it is in regular financial markets).
I think the 2nd is what we should try to push for: when people realize that what has gone wrong with the world is because we try to maximize profit, and when they will agree to move to maximizing social capital (=sustainable capitalism), and they start using an index that allows everybody to compare despite the lack of focus from one mission to the other, then we will have a good story to tell.
So if you want to help, get your Vindex now for you and your business and please let me know how it feels to you and others around you working on this as a measurement...
How am I doing?
Sunday, November 09, 2008
The environment and sustainability group — which called for “a fundamental reboot” in 2009 — said that the crisis in fuel, finance, and food were “just canaries in the coal mine. They are early warning signs that the system is not sustainable.”
innovation and creation and invention are the real cures and the real means for growth and I hope we concentrate on them. WEF head Klaus Schwab does address the theme in his closing: “entrepreneurship in the global public interest.”
I like that last bit. It would be nice that these people look into the financing of these entrepreneurs as a way to help them do a more efficient job at changing the world. Entrepreneur Commons is focusing on this, hopefully more will see the need...
Saturday, November 08, 2008
If you like the concept and would like to explore further, please create a Vindex for yourself or your company here
Here is mine, show me yours :-)
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
It’s Your America: Share Your Ideas
The story of the campaign and this historic moment has been your story. Share your story and your ideas, and be part of bringing positive lasting change to this country.
Thank you Barrack Obama for pushing the vision...
- it grows when you give, rather than when you take,
Friday, October 31, 2008
I believe that the answer is Yes, but there is a need to clarify how we can go about it:
Going back to Blended Capital as discussed in the post, there is one big issue that has not been resolved yet is what is it exactly? While everybody understand at a high level the concept, or what some other people call double or triple bottom line, it is very hard from the investor prospective to figure out what you can expect from it. You know you will get less return, but how much and how do you figure out good deals and bad deals? There is an issue of estimation and measurement of success that still needs to be resolved.
One way to deal with this is what we are doing with Entrepreneur Commons (www.entrepreneurcommons.org), using debt instead of equity. Because equity creates tension between the investor and the entrepreneur, for example by forcing the issue of exit: the investor needs his money back at some point, but who do you sell too, and should you really? (the Ben& Jerry things)
With debt, everything becomes a lot easier: you know exactly when you will get your money back and how much you will get, and you can benchmark this against the market to decide whether you are comfortable with a given rate for a given "mission".
In addition to clarifying the issue, debt is a good thing because we have historical data on what can be done. Microfinance is for a big part about helping entrepreneurs in developing countries. This is debt to finance small businesses.
And "Social Capital" in the US can be done the same way, with the difference that you need more than a few dollars to help an entrepreneur here. And the good news here is that you do not need huge amounts of money in the US either: according to Inc Magazine, and looking at their Top 5000 fastest growing companies, the average capital to get started for companies in the list is $25K, and if you look at their top 500 it is $75K.
The default rates from Grammen Bank (microfinance) are 1 to 5%, so very manageable, and there is no reason why we could not do as good in developped countries.
So there is an opportunity to make a big impact, and I am convinced that Social Capital is the next big thing because we have no other choice if we want to world to become a better place...
Originally posted as a comment by mdangear on VentureBeat using Disqus.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
While Entrepreneur Commons has been focusing on early stage investment, special situations call for special action and we are considering raising an emergency fund for Entrepreneurs with existing businesses and existing customers who are now being left without credit options because of the current financial crisis.
In order to confirm the size of the need and opportunity for funding, we are asking entrepreneurs and investors to fill out the following survey:
If you are an entrepreneur - click here
If you are an investor - click here
If you are in France, a similar survey has been launched to see what could be done specifically for entrepreneurs there:
Let's get some action going!
Friday, October 24, 2008
Entrepreneur Commons presentation at Socap2008
Check it out...
Time for companies large and small to think about their Social Network Support system. And a good opportunity for me to plug in my friends at eCairn - www.ecairn.com :-)
For the first time since 1978, there was no venture capital-backed IPO in the US during a quarter, making the second quarter of 2008 the worst on the EVCA records. This was attributed to the consequences of the liquidity crisis - but is this so? In October 2006, Steve Dow already launched a first statement which rippled through the venture capital sphere, by declaring that the venture capital model was 'broken'. Too much money chasing too few deals, not enough exits, no real perspectives of substantial profits on the short term: the diagnosis was severe, especially from this seasoned partner at Sevin Rosen. This was in fact the mark of a much needed revolution in the venture capital world [click here to read more].
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The Entrepreneur Commons mentioned on Igniter.com in a post discussing the components that would make up core building blocks for a new kind of venture capital:
The key in this lies in the interdependence between the micro-funds and the commons. The commons nutures and convenes community. Funds add some fuel and spark by investing and catlyzing conversations. The ventures serve themselves through supporting each other and participating in the commons.
I’m continuing to refine this as I move toward a working example and will continue to think out loud as I go. And if you haven’t checked it out - take a look at the Entrepreneur Commons being led by Marc Dangeard. He’s farther along and is tackling similar issues as he goes. The similarities and even more so, the differences, are interesting and good fodder for conversation.IGNITER, Oct 2008
Check out the whole article.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
This is a great tool that allows you to comment on any page on the web, and see comments by others. It should make the experience of reading the news (for example, it apply to any content really) way more interesting.
I like that you can create group that are public or private to share your comments with people who care about one issue or another.
Another great step forward for us users...
great entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett are doing philanthropy because they recognize that there are things to do beyond building great companies that make a lot of money. And when they decide to address an issue, it becomes an important issue for the rest of the world.
This is excellent news...
The one flag I have on this is that this process feels like it may be fishing in the dark: if you take a flashlight and point towards the water, you will attract a lot of fish. But if your goal is to remove all fish from the pond it may not be the best way. What happens to things that are not important to the rich guys?
It is great that people at the top of the pyramid are helping people at the bottom, there should be one more things they do when they get into it: instead of (or in addition to) focusing on "mission driven" efforts and on addressing specific issues, they should also consider investing in platforms (people, basic infrastructure) that will allow people who need help to help themselves.
For example: funding non-profit (that I see as beta test programs to establish blueprints), then help them evolve from cost centers to zero-cost or profitable centers by either becoming for-profits (as happened with micro-finance, MFI being turned into profitable businesses) or becoming programs that are licensed to the government because they are fixing social issues better than how the government was doing before (as Tom Siebel is doing with the Meth Project).
I believe that this is what Muhammad Yunus recommends when it talks about creating hybrid structures. And this is where philanthro-capital really will meet social capital.
And since this is my blog: if you are Bill Gates and you are reading this, this is why you should consider invest in the Entrepreneur Commons :-)
Monday, October 13, 2008
What if peer-to-peer loans weren’t just a tool of international development? What if, even more, they were about more than individuals? What if peer-to-peer loans could be leveraged to create communities of support and opportunity around innovative enterprises?
Marc Dangeard is building Entrepreneur Commons to do just that.
Friday, October 10, 2008
What you have left, and I love the words, is your social capital, the one that describes "trust and giving between family, friends and communities". Hopefully you have accumulated some of that if you want to be able to go through the bad times without too much hardship.
This social capital is one that grows when you give, rather than when you take, and it does not decrease when you use it right: a really wonderful thing.
What is interesting is that the same words also describes "a business serving a community purpose", and I see a lesson here that this is what we should focus on if we want to avoid going over and over again through these bubbles and busts.
The answer has been here always, in the definition of the concept itself, but we forgot to pay attention: Social Capital is where we need to look for an answer to get us out of this cycle of crisis. The success of microfinance has shown us that it is working for poverty in developing countries, it will help resolve our other issues in other places...
Thursday, October 09, 2008
According to the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, 93% of Americans believe that a company should have a presence on social media sites and 85 percent believe that these companies should use these services to interact with consumers. Cone, a Boston-based consulting firm, also found that men are far more likely to interact with a company through social media than women are. 56% of consumers believe that a company is providing them with a better service by interacting with them on social media sites.
Thank you Dominique for pointing this one out...
Saturday, October 04, 2008
The article is a very good explanation of why we need efforts like the Entrepreneur Commons...
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
And what he develops in the first chapter of his book "Creating a world without poverty - social business and the future of capitalism" resonate even more deeply:
"Capitalism takes a narrow view of human nature, assuming that people are one-dimensional beings concerned only with the pursuit of maximum profit. The concept of the free market, as generally understood, is based on this one-dimensional human being. Mainstream free-market theory postulates that you are contributing to the society and the world in the best possible manner if you just concentrate on getting the most for yourself."
The result is supposed to be a system that self adapts to situations and self corrects because people are dedicated to that one mission of maximizing profit.
The problem is that it does not work, as we can witness now on the financial markets.
Instead of self adjustments we get regular market failures, not exactly what the intent was.
What I see happening really is that creative mathematicians have invented financial products that generate big multiples out of nowhere and purely from speculation, allowing them to rip huge profit out off businesses or real estate properties regardless of the value they truly represent. Bubbles that end up blowing up.
If we are going to fix this system, I would like to follow Muhammad Yunus train of thoughts:
"The presence of our multi-dimensional personalities means that not every business should be bound to serve the single objective of profit maximization"
This is also what Bo Burlingham puts forward when he presents "Small Giants - companies that choose to be great instead of big".
When the sun goes down somewhere, it goes up somewhere else. This crisis is an opportunity, let's hope we learn to come back to the basics of what business should be about: adding real value on the ground, rather than maximizing financial ratios.
Monday, September 29, 2008
we are also working on behalf of our limited partners to provide a return on their investment and that, in some instances, can admittedly result in a conflict of interests between us and the entrepreneur
For a VC to write this is at the minimum an understatement, there is a HUGE conflict of interest between a VC and an entrepreneur:
- the VC is paid by investors (LPs) to generate for them as much of the value as possible from a given business. What matters is how much the return will be in the end.
- Meanwhile, the Entrepreneur is trying to generate value from the business for himself.
To say that you could work in the middle to keep both happy cannot be true: if you are a VC your job is to generate as much value as possible for your LPs and nothing else. Your duty goes to fulfilling the engagement made to the person who trusted you with his/her money, no choice if you want to keep the LPs trust and your job as a VC.
What is probably true is that they may try to make it as painless as possible for the entrepreneur, but this is a very different proposition. In the end, we know where the value generated goes when VCs are involved: LPs first, whether they are comfortable with it or not.
It does not mean that you should not work with them, but clearly you should know what you are getting into...
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Mr. Fishman, who has been on the job for less than three weeks, is eligible for $11.6 million in cash severance and will get to keep his $7.5 million signing bonus, according to an analysis by James F. Reda and Associates.
That's $19.1 just to show up for the job. Congratulations for the negotiation skills!
In my book, you get money when you add value, but I am not sure where and how value can be measured in this case. From what I see, the real value was in getting the contract. But if you are good enough to convince people to pay you just for being involved, good for you. In the end the blame goes to whoever agree to granting you such a big gift with no restriction.
Despite the contract, I would feel bad about taking so much money when people at the bottom are struggling, but that's just me, and probably why I am not up there with the other guys, which is fine thank you :-)
Mr Fishman is not to blame, but his case is a striking example of how screwed up the system is. No wonder Wamu ended up where they are now...
And the sad thing is that I am sure there is a lot more of this going on around Wall Street.
Hopefully this crisis will allow us to really rethink how we do things on the financial markets. What is happening is no accident, more like the normal consequence to playing too much with the numbers to the point where what we do becomes completely disconnected from the reality on the ground. Somebody messed up with the modeling and the statistics, forgetting that there are real people and real businesses behind the spreadsheets.
Forget the kids out of business school, anybody involved with finance should spend some mandatory time working in a real business with a down to earth salary before they are allowed to do what they do. Maybe this will make a difference and allow then to keep their sense of reality when they get into playing with the big numbers.
From the layoff that are happening in New York, London and all over the place, a lot of the financial guys are getting the lesson now.
Too bad we have to learn the hard way...
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
And the post mentions Twitter and Disqus as example of these services in the Now Web.
While I like the concept of Now Web, I believe that Twitter and Disqus belong to 2 very different worlds, at least for now.
I see Twitter as an equivalent of a virtual water cooler where people can come and discuss once in a while (even though some people seem to live there). Disqus on the other hand is a tool to manage conversations with the blogosphere and engage with bloggers. One is truly in the Now, the other is more in the "building over time".
When a blog is equiped with Disqus, or IntenseDebate (what I have on my blog), you can post comments, track replies but also get more info on the bloggers who commented, what other conversations they have other places, what blogs they publish on. With these tools you can accumulate over time records of conversations and connections with bloggers, you can build your personal intellectual property outside of your own blog and you can build a reputation within the group that emerges naturally from all these interactions.
And Twitter is a good complement to let the crowd now that you are doing all these things.
So for Disqus or IntenseDebate rather than Now Web, I would talk Relationship Management, and the good news is that if they can be categorized as such they are one step closer to the enterprise, and therefore one step closer to cash for the entrepreneurs and their investors.
No question in the end that both will make it to the enterprise, as Yammer demonstrated this week at TechCrunch 50. The way we function within and without the enterprise is changing, it will be interesting to see how far this goes...
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
And the timing is perfect, because this week I just received the special issue of Inc magazine where they give us some good statistics on what is happening in the trenches. The numbers give a good prospective on the relationship between VCs and Entrepreneurship - facts from their top 5000 (five thousand, no mistake here, this is what they give us):
- median amount of capital to launch the business $25K
- only 3% of the top 5000 received venture capital
Guy's plan B is right on: forget VCs if you can, this is expensive money anyway, and just focus on building the business with what you have.
Meanwhile I will keep working on the Entrepreneur Commons to help with the "Friend and Family" part, the initial funding that can make all the difference.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
$40 billion was invested in U.S.-based startups across all sectors during the past 12 months, compared to $36.2 billion during the year leading up to Aug. 31, 2007. The rounds got fatter, too, as there were 3,084 deals in the past year versus 3,219 in the previous period.
More money, less deals, the funding gap in the US is getting bigger. This is not going to help entrepreneurs trying to start their businesses, I see this as a flag that things are not improving when it comes to financing startups.
Meanwhile the same post mentions that the number of European deals only decrease slightly while the total amount spent is 5% less. So I assume from what I read (there is no number there on this) that the funding gap is decreasing in Europe, something good.
I wish we could see that trend in the US, it would certainly help entrepreneurship. With the economy as it is, it is time for the spreadsheet guys to give the entrepreneurs some room back...
Monday, September 08, 2008
Just commented on Venture Beat post regarding Joost:
The sad thing about Joost is how much money is being spent on an idea that as you say - "I found the idea of Joost to be compelling" - is just an idea.
It seems to me that we have here a typical case of too much money to people who belong to the VC club. They were successful, and therefore they were able to raise a lot of money on just an idea. And then they were able to spend that money without a real need to go and test it against the market until it was all built nice and fancy, with the money spent, only to discover that the market is not here. Not now, not for what they have to offer today. Oops.
Even better, after it did not take off, there were able to get even more money to try to fix the whole thing, in a typical human trait that when you have sunk in cost, you tend to spend more to make it right even when it does not necessarily make sense.
And this is the bad news when you have too many friends with too much money: easy get easy spend. No need to worry about paying the rent at the end of the month, no real need to be smart about your go to market (you have the friends - you have the doe - you have the buzz), just be happy with your idea and go build a nice desktop client that everybody will love. ..
Forgetting one detail: medium is content. So in this case it does not really matter that you have a client or something in the web browser, what matters is what type of content you are showing on a computer.
People are not necessarily interested in left overs from the majors, or old stuff that they agree to let you watch on the PC for free. The type of content that works on the PC has proven to be the 3mns short video, like you have on YouTube. Except that content on YouTube is all over the place, and it is hard to sort out the junk from the rest.
If they are going to spend more money, I believe it should be in producing quality content that works with the PC as a medium.
OR as you suggest, change the medium and go back to TV by becoming an equivalent of ActiveTV or a Tivo, allowing people to watch TV content on their TV, except that is would be coming from the Internet with some kind of box to make the connection.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
I am a geek, I have an iPhone, and I love Star Wars - a cliche probably.
And when I updated to the iPhone 2.0 software, I was very happy to find this cool PhoneSaber app (one of the best free apps they were offering then from my prospective) that could make the noise of a light saber when I moved my iPhone, as if I was fighting the dark side myself. Except I lost that battle: I had to reset the iPhone and then I discovered that the lawyers from Lucas Film had Apple remove the PhoneSaber app from the Apple Store because it was not an official Star Wars app. So no more showing off in front of my kids, big brother wants me to behave...
Now the official story is that something that looks like PhoneSaber may come back at some point, but how much of a turnoff is this? I am not sure I will be too excited about the Official Guys feeding me their approved soup after I had a taste of something really cool and creative that was free and did not seem to hurt the brand in any way. All of a sudden it feels like I am in a relationship with an abusive master, who takes away what I like only to give it back when he feels like it. How healthy is this?
With more and more user generated content being posted to the web every day, brands should learn to give some freedom to their consumers, so that the creativity that exist is not killed, but rather channeled for the benefit of all. It is ok to create a cool PhoneSaber app, and good for the brand if people like it and spread it around. If the app is free, it seems to me there is more harm done to the brand when you force the removal of the app than by letting it be, something with the enforcement of copyright has gone wrong in this case.
What is sure is that this is just another example of more to come: social media and open source are about people feeding each other stories and applications, and Media will have to evolve if they want to remain relevant. Maybe "Open Characters" and "Open Stories" should the next big things...
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
This is the story of a very successful entrepreneur who was looking for a cash out event, pressed by the early investors in the business (the "friends" who need to see a return on their equity at some point).
And it starts with a good event, a very juicy acquisition by a US Public Corporation.
And then after that, nothing is the same anymore...
And the big change really is that the acquired company becomes part of this big machine where nobody is responsible for anything, and nothing can be done without the scrutiny of somebody else, which makes it hard to have any decision taken:
- the board is supposed to drive the company, with the CEO to execute on the plan
- the board is supposed to represent investors
- when investors are a crowd of small stock holders who sometime don't even know they own the stock because it is through a mutual fund, then clearly they are not in charge and who represents them, and how this person was chosen, is anybody's guess. Maybe they represent the larger stock holders, or maybe they are just here because they belong to "the club".
- the board members have director's insurance, so the one thing that is clear is that whatever decision is taken, they are not directly at risk unless they did something really really bad
Back to my entrepreneur who is now a VP in this corporate world:
- he cannot do anything without providing piles of documents that will show that the board members have inquired about the matter,
- and then the real decision in the end comes from the CFO who will confirm whether the ROI can justify the investment,
- and this decision only comes after the lawyers have cleared the matter on the legal side.
What is also clear in the end, is that if anything wrong happens, he will take the blame because whatever he provided will probably be missing a "key" info that would have made the whole difference...
Unfortunately this does not fit the hypergrowth environment that my entrepreneur lives day in day out in his part of the business, and it really makes his life miserable.
And then customers are all confused too, because the deals that could be done before are no longer there: everything has to fit within the very narrow definition of how deals are made with the corporation, because it impacts revenue recognition and should comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. So letters are being sent, trust relationships are being damaged and ultimately the pipeline is being threatened.
At this point, you just hope that what started as a good acquisition is not going to turn into a bad deal because of the blindness of the system.
What's for sure is that whatever happens, nobody will really be responsible:
- the members of the board are doing their job
- the lawyers are doing their jobs
- the CFO is doing his job
- and my newly VPed friend is doing his job as best as he can within this context
If nothing comes out of this new association, everybody can blame somebody else, and the loosers (the stock holders) can only blame themselves for not unloading the stock earlier.
The amazing part after all this is that the system (public equity) still seem to be working from the high level prospective. The train is on track with no conductors, but I guess that as long as people trust that they are going in the right direction then the system holds...
For my part, I will stick to entrepreneurship, and my friend will probably not breathe this corporate air forever :-)
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Discussion about Entrepreneur Commons on Social Edge (Skoll Foundation) is now live - please comment
Feel free to go there and add your comments to the discussion.
And feel free to forward to anybody who could be interested :-)
Friday, July 25, 2008
- an instant messenger for exhibitionists
- a tool to add another layer of randomness into your life
Now who would want to use this? Are you an exhibitionist? some people are... Or are you so bored, stuck and so lazy to work on it that randomness seems to be a nice way out?
Or could there be something else?
One interesting point to me clearly is the issue of randomness. And since I am a fan of management by statistics (and you should too if you have read "Out of the crisis" from Deming ), I am wondering whether it can be the base for a new system.
If you have read "The Secret", you will know that the world is like a big open catalog, and all you have to do is ask and you will get what you want out of it. Start putting yourself in the mood for getting it and it will come. Or if you are a Buddhist, you will know that the reality of life is that it is so complex that the world around you that you believe you are influencing is really out of your control, and therefore the best you can do is work on freeing yourself from the stress of it to be in the "Now" as good and as serene as can be, and good thing will come out of it, if not in this life certainly in the next one or the one after (I apologize for this shortcut description, but this is good enough for the point I am coming up to - if you want to know more, I recommend reading "The Monk and the Philosopher", a great read on the matter)
So now and given that we have no control (and twitter, and the web in general with its information overflow is what we are getting), but that even with things beyond our control we can get what we want, would it be possible that twitter is actually a great tool? Should we embrace chaos? As I am on Twitter (http://twitter.com/mdangear), and knowing I cannot read it all, should I spend the time even looking? What's in for me?
One interesting option is that chaos is the system in itself, and therefore when using Twitter I am just formalizing what happens in the real world anyway, similar to LinkedIn formalizing relationships that were established through networking before, and making an existing mechanism more fluid and more efficient.
If this is the case, all I have to do is follow as many people as possible, and hope that many will follow me. And then I will keep throwing tweet-bottles in the ocean, trusting that the ocean will throw back answers when I need it. Statistically the system could work given enough users... or not ?
How does it work for you?
Thursday, July 24, 2008
If anything the current slowdown creates opportunities: if web2.0 in the enterprise helps productivity, there is a real incentive for companies to seriously look into it.
We may have to wait until after the elections to see the real momentum, but time is ripe for startups now. It should be fun in the coming months...
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
If you are considering trying to raise funds from investors (angels or professional investors), you should consider the following:
There are 2 types of investors really:
- the ones who know you (friends and family), and
- the ones who do not know you (angels, VCs, etc...)
Getting money from people you know will be the result of the history they have with you. They will be able to trust you as an entrepreneur and trust that if they like the plan you have you will be able to execute on it. I call it "opportunistic fundraising" and this is always worth considering this kind of investment money.
Talking to the other group is doing active selling, except that you are selling to investors instead of selling to customers. There are many issues related to selling to investors: - Investors have no pressing need to buy. They have a limited amount of money to spend, and you are just one among many presenting to them, so while you could be the hot project, the next guy could be that too. And time is on their side, because the more they wait, the more you will need the money and the better the deal potentially. This means your sales cycle is going to be very long, and while you are spending time trying to sell to investors, you are not selling to customers and therefore you are not helping the business itself.
- Investors are not customers, so the story you are building to please them may not be the right story for the market. I see many entrepreneurs try to fit their strategy within the perceived expectation of investors, with buzz words, the hockey stick, the minimum 50M revenue within a few years, and inflated funding requirement to be able to get into the VC framework. So selling to investors sometimes contributes to corrupting the initial plan, which is a good way to get into failure.
- Ultimately, having sold to investors may feel good as it can be perceived as a validation, except that this is not a validation from the market, and therefore does not guarantee success at all. All it does is make it more comfortable for everybody while waiting for more customers. But if the plan you have sold to investors does not work, you will be help responsible for the failure, which mean adjusting the plan later on will be costly to you as the entrepreneur, if not deadly. More difficult than adjusting your plan when you are in charge...
So I believe the best way to raise money is to go to friends and family, and then figure out how you can start generating cash from the little you were able to get there. The good news is that if you look at the top 500 companies of Inc magazine (companies doing between 7x growth for 3 years and 30x growth for 3 years), the average starting capital is 75k, and only 8% ever raised more than 1M. So even with a little you still have a chance to fit within that group of hot companies. This clearly beats have one chance in a 100 to be picked by a VC, only to be told then that you have one chance in 10 to really make it big.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I am exploring this new channel as a way to share some of the experience I have accumulated on entrepreneurship.
Here is a first post explaining what the issue I see with equity at the seed financing stage, and how the Entrepreneur Commons fund can change the current dynamics.