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Showing posts from 2015

If 87 Unicorns fell in the valley, would they make a sound?

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This post was also published in VentureBeat.A lot of noise has been made about the inflated valuations of Aileen Lee’s unicorns and the amount of money they have raised. There are rumors that uber-unicorn Uber is now raising an additional $1 billion, in order to continue to fuel growth financed by losing a rumored two dollars for every dollar in revenue. On the one hand, that seems irrational; but on the other hand, loss-fueled growth is how companies like Amazon became the behemoths they are today.In the broader context of Silicon Valley technology companies, the unicorns in aggregate form barely a ripple in the fabric of space-time. According to CBInsights, there are 87 Unicorns in the United States, with a combined valuation of $312 billion. Cross-referenced with Crunchbase, those 87 have raised a cumulative $48 billion, with over half of that amount invested in the top 14 unicorns.What if all of these unicorns vanished to Candy Mountain tomorrow? What would the ramifications be a…

How Twitter lost the stream wars

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This post was also published in VentureBeat.Unlike other category-defining Internet companies, Twitter has struggled to meet both user growth metrics and Wall Street’s expectations. There are a lot of possible explanations for Twitter’s user growth problems, but they really boil down to one simple thing: As the content shared into streams grows exponentially, the streams have to get smarter in order to remain relevant to users.Twitter presents cards in a straight reverse chronological stream that shows all content. The more people you follow and the more you use Twitter, the worse the Twitter experience becomes.Facebook took a very different tack. Back in 2008, Mark Zuckerberg established Zuckerberg’s Law of Information Sharing, which predicted that the rate people share information like status updates and photos would double every year. In 2009, Facebook acquired Friendfeed for $50 million, integrating a team that was using content shared from external sites to learn what users like…

Regulating the sharing economy: how Uber et al will soon face new rules

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This post was also published in VentureBeat.Uber’s fifth year anniversary highlights that sharing economy services have rapidly become persistent and mainstream. Uber facilitates over one million rides a day. It’s estimated Airbnb will make $6 billion in gross bookings in 2015.Legacy regulatory environments were first ignored and then fell by the wayside or changed as people recognized that a customer-reviewed driver in a personal modern car was just as good, if not better, than a sociopath in a yellow Crown Victoria. However, Uber drivers are now congesting major cities, and neighbors of Airbnb-listed rentals don’t want to live adjacent to what is effectively a hotel.As the adage goes, bureaucracies are created to solve a real problem, actually address the problem, and then simply sustain themselves. There is no doubt that taxi commissions and hotel regulations have far exceeded that threshold. Jurisdictions like Las Vegas that forbid street-side pickups in conjunction with hotels t…

How tech is leading us back to a village-style life

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This post was also published in VentureBeat.There has been a lot of discussion about how the acceleration of technology is decimating the middle class and traditional jobs. But there has been very little discussion of an emerging trend where individuals are opting out of these same jobs people fear will disappear.Driven by a post-scarcity economic model whereby you can live very frugally if you choose to, some workers (mostly college-educated and urban) are opting out of the now traditional work structure and choosing their own path. As Chelsea Rustrum puts it in her book It’s a Shareable Life, “You can live a life dictated by choice, passion, and freedom — a life where your … experiences are of the highest value.”They are opting into alternative, passion-based professions that have gained popularity and acceptance, such as craft beer producer or yoga teacher, and that have flexible hours. Twenty years ago, if Bob, the valedictorian, showed up to his high school reunion and said he w…

Push comes to shove: the new way we interact with information

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This post was also published in ReadWriteWeb.Since its inception in the 1960s, the modern computer has offered humans the same “pull computing” paradigm: make a query, get a response. Or, as we often experience it: Go to the haystack, try to find the needle.But that’s quickly changing. As software grows more intelligent and learns more about our preferences and behavior, it seemingly gets to know us. That knowledge makes software more valuable because it means that it can deliver things to us, perhaps even before we know we want it. We are at the start of the era of push computing.Pushmi-PullyuWith push computing, a computer is no longer just a question-and-answer service; it’s expected to proactively figure out what’s interesting to you and deliver that data. On mobile, that’s often an actionable stream of cards and timely notifications of important items.Push computing represents a major shift in architecture from the pull relationship computers have long maintained with users. Comp…

Goodbye, SaaS — hello, Containers-as-a-Service

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This post was also published in VentureBeat.When Salesforce’s Marc Benioff first started pitching on-demand CRM software, people thought he was insane and were convinced software-as-a-service would never work. Although we are now living in a SaaS heaven with all of the benefits of software that is always available and up-to-date, we are also beginning to see the SaaS hell naysayers were warning us about.When selling Salesforce to a mid to large organization, Salesforce expects multi-year contracts with pre-negotiated user counts, exactly like the on-premise predecessors it ridiculed during its early days. The whole idea of “pay for what you use” has been subsumed by the realities of the sweet cash flow dynamics of a traditional enterprise sale, which ends up as shelfware when customers over-provision.Compounding this issue is that the expense is accounted as an operating expense that affects EBITDA, a key Wall Street metric, while on-premise software was accounted as a much more pala…

Small screens, big decisions: how mobile is forcing businesses to rethink software

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This post was also published in VentureBeat.One of the biggest problems in software is feature bloat. Even sprightly new companies that base their competitive strategy on minimalism and ease of use can eventually fall prey to the same force that bogged down their predecessors.For example, one could argue that thanks to feature bloat, Salesforce is more complicated today than Siebel was when Salesforce first promised a simple, cloud-based solution. The promise of simplicity must quickly meet the business reality of closing deals or improving productivity — and for many software vendors, the promise of simplicity gets lost as they add customers, all of whom have feature requests.Feature bloat happens because as software vendors add diverse customers, they end up adding features that are rarely used or only applicable to fringe use cases — many of the same ones that plague their incumbent competitors — ultimately slowing down the software and adding unnecessary complexity.A new vendor t…