Monday, February 26, 2007

Next MoMoBoston event: WVOIP

For those in the mobile space, one of the currently hottest subjects in the industry is how VOIP will play in the wireless space. Matt and his friends the organizers make another must-attend Mobile Monday Boston event featuring WVOIP. It will take place on March 5th @ 7PM EST.
See event details and sign up here
Great panel, good networking, highly recommended!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Next Gen Mobile Instant Messaging

Try this:

Got it?
try this:

The mobile instant messaging, to me, is the obvious interaction solution for any teenage on the move. and there's a lot of them.
I came across the Zlango language by referal from a friend, and I love it. Zlango is "revolutionary, simple and practical language...learning the language is unbelievably fast and amusing...always generates a good and playful mood". It's exactly what it is.
Here's why I think it will take off: It took my rusty brain 2 seconds to understand the messages. because they are graphic, and if you don't get it, there's the text below.
Heck, my 7 year old can't get away from their site!
If you're Russian, Polish, Japanese or Hebrew speaking, it makes no difference: This is mobile Esperanto that everyone will get. took me a couple good minutes to figure out what on earth another friend meant when they IM'd me "TTYL" the other day, Zlango make all that go away.
Having graphic, funny, rich messages is a great recipe to drive adoption. But if that's not enough, the guys at Zlango are open to suggestions and new ideas.
And best of all, you can go on the web, create your own messages and do whatever you want with them: get them on your site/blog, email and much more.
I certainly would watch Zlango closely, I think they will make a difference.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I am so excited: Smart Communications, leading wireless telco in the Philippines (22.9M Subscribers), had launched their mobile code scanning service, named DECODE, last Saturday, Feb 10th, 2007.

What's exciting about it, is that the team at Smart did their homework on the factors that will drive consumer adoption:

  • Short learning curve: The Smart DECODE application, although robust, is unbelievably straight forward to understand and use. Moreover, Smart made sure there are guiding ads in newspapers and media

  • DECODE Distribution: Smart made DECODE easily accessible for free on WAP as well as a shortcode to download the application. But- they've taken it one step further: the code reader contains an option to invite your friends to use the application.

  • Attractive offering drives user adoption: During the campaign Smart are "giving away free content during the launch, including free polytones, mms wallpapers and logos"

  • During the launch, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid): Smart team were smart to not overload the consumers on launch with all their options. They get the code readers out there, and gradually introduce new codes with compelling use cases. Very clever.

  • REACH: Everyone has this problem, but Smart, a wireless telco, took control and managed to get DECODE on over 70 (!) of the more popular phone models. It means that in most cases, consumers can share the excitement with their friends, almost no one is left out.

  • Select the right occasion for the launch: Well, this one is a question of taste, Smart chose "LovaPalooza" to launch DECODE: "This past weekend, 6,124 kissing couples in Manila broke the world record for “Most Couples Kissing in One Event”! "

          • Control over the codes: Yup, Smart chose a proprietary code format, mCodes. They had their own reasons, but let me propose just one possible scenario (apologies in advance to QR/DM lovers out there): What if this was based on an open code, say QR. What if some punk, on the launch event, would print some malicious code (I mean, everyone can do ANYTHING with QR, right?) and spread it around Asia mall. What would be the color on the organizers faces?? If you're a telco, better watch out for that trick mate. Smart want and will allow their subscribers to create codes, "Decentralizing the power" to their subscribers. By using this code format, Smart moderate the use format of codes such that all consumers can enjoy predictable user experience, key to a service success.

          • Distribution to intended user base (quote from this blog): "Take note that you need to use your Smart cellphone to download Decode. You cannot download the application using a Globe or Sun SIM, or even your good ol' DSL connection.". OK, you think, what's the big deal, right? teclos can control who downloads what and when. But there's much more here: Smart intended for this application to be for a defined user group: their subscribers. More to come, watch this space...

          And finally, another quote from the chette Blog: "Decode proves that Smart still embraces cutting edge technology. ...If Smart plays its cards right, this technology will be a breakthrough in future mobile services."

          The team at Smart, IMHO, are smart people. Nothing they did here was an afterthought. The way they've handled it so far, they'll take it far, just like other unique, successful services they have. I applaud you!

          I wrote in an earlier post: The jury is still sitting in court (talking about eagerness to see code scanning campaigns consumer feedback). Well, in this case, the jury is slowly leaving the room. I can't wait to hear what they have to say!

          Friday, February 9, 2007

          Standards in emerging spaces

          One of the blessings of recent times in technology is introducing open standards: It turns industries around, it turns products around. It introduces new opportunities and new players that find themselves in a position to enter spaces they've never played before. And its all for the best.
          Naturally in this context, the mobile code scanning space is one that is close to my heart. Clearly an emerging space, disruptive technology that aims to change the realm of how users (and by that I think its targetting consumers mainly) use and percieve their phones. There's a big promise and potential success in this space.
          Looking at this space from a standards perspective, here's a couple of things that can be said:
          • It's an emerging market
          • Barcodes in themselves is not new. Its the innovation that brings code scanning to new phones that have cameras. Its the exploding new services on the phone and on the web that create a compelling story (see this great piece on mobile 2.0 by Rudy at m-trends)
          • Today there are two open standard codes: DataMatrix and Quick Response (QR). Both of which had certain success stories
          • Vendors that are playing in this space are devided in two: those who base their technology on those standard codes and those who either offer proprietary codes or go hybrid (supporting both)

          A lot hads been said about applying standards to this space: in favor and against, for this code format or another: Tommy's S60 Applications blog (Re Standards:"Unless we do something, fragmentation is threatening the whole 2D barcode ecosystem." or, "First: totally agree - go for the standards - QR Codes and Datamatrix (we support them already:). If this is set, half of the battle is won."), Excellent coverage from 'The Pondering Primate' Blog including a coverage on the consortium initiative.

          Why am I writing this? because I'm a little ticked every time I read about someone "declaring the standard" as one format or another. Here's my non-expert take on this.

          Shift thoughts: a while back I was playing in the Push-To-Talk-Over-Cellular space (Lets call it PoC for the mental health of my fingers) . This is just about the time when IMS and IMS-based services were getting some traction and mountains of hype. Several things happened around PoC:

          • It was emerging disruptive technology
          • It was based on revolutionary IMS grounds and thus one of the first of many IMS services
          • It's success, for good or bad, was somewhat an indicator for the whole IMS investments
          • The big infra/phone vendors got together to set a standard to ensure interoperability pretty early in the game
          • Pleanty of smaller players in the space
          • There was a reference technology launch (in the US)

          Similar situation, right? Let me quote from The pondering Primate Blog (becuse I was having the same thoughts at the time): "I agree 100% with this idea, but I question the motives, the companies, and the timing of this effort." (this is in regards to the code scanning consortium).

          Here's how things rolled out from there: 5 big players started standardization. After making some headway, one left and started doing his own thing. Now we're with two different standards. As solutions started materlializing, we now have systems based on two different standard, and not necessarily interoperating. Remember, this is both an infrastructure and client application architecture. Imagine the scenario for an operator: users of one vendor's handset can't PoC to users of different vendor's handsets, both subscribers of the same carrier. Then came Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and created PoC OMA V1.0.

          Is PoC succesful today? You be the judge.

          What's my point? My point is that standards don't create good solutions. good solutions create good standards. How do you know when you have a good solution? When the target user tells you so. When the players in the eco system are forcasting good returns. When there's good adoption and feedback during the trial. when your trial gets good interest from players OUTSIDE of the ecosystem. what happens when you force standards on a premature space? you get bad systems and bad standards, the ones that won't get adoption.

          Back to mobile code scanning: An emerging space, lots of innovation, two open standards that have some success under certain conditions, lots of players. Has there been ANY serious launch (outside of Japan, people in the space know why I'm adding this comment) with measurable criteria that established one code more commercially successful than others?

          Don't get me wrong, I'm all for open standards and that consortium initiative (this could even become one of those once a month meetup some other place in the world kinda thing!) WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT. As an example: Is it reasonable to expect now that all the players in the space to agree on a starting point whose technology works best?

          I say, when it comes to establishing what's a good mobile code scanning system, what defines it, and make that the standard, the jury's still's sitting in the court room

          And for entrepreneurs thinking about mobile code scanning, or are in a similar call for standards on emerging space I say: your job is to excel and innovate, not to reinvent the existing. You'll be competing in a commodity market where others had spent more resources than you'll have during your first step. Get a great product, and set the standards by marching the end user to your shop. Help the consortium by adding your innovation that's been validated.

          Thursday, February 8, 2007

          Mark's Guide: If you want to be in, but there's only 24 hours in the day

          Boston is blessed with a sea of entrepreneurs, startups and interesting folks who are willing to share an advice and give their opinions. That drives a lot of opportunities in events that are about learning, and networking.
          My view is that it is a part of your credibility and strength to "be in the know" on market trends and players in the space you're in, and surrounding it. Not to mention learning from others and creating opportunities through networking.
          However, there's also work to be done, kids to look after...only 24 hours in the day. You can't attend all the interesting events, as interesting as they may be. (BTW, another aspect is that not all the events are free or even cheap, unfortunately).

          One particular feed that I find especially useful is Mark's Guide. It's a site that gets professional interesting events happening in the Boston area into one spot, categorized by interests, groups and events. You can get a great scan of what's happening and is worth attending. For example, I just found another great, useful event to go to, with a very interesting set of panelists.
          But perhaps even a more important feature, is the follow-up summary that Mark posts for the events he attends. Attending events that are close to my heart, this is an ideal solution for me to 'Be there' without being there. Its as close as it gets to having been there.

          From the lion's mouth:
          "MarksGuide™ focuses on topics related to the professional networking scene in Boston, Massachusetts. We offer news and reviews of events, organizations and networking groups as well as other interesting topics related to professional networking. Our goal is to provide people with the information they need to discover and build beneficial professional relationships."

          For those of you in Boston, interested in going to events, opening your minds and having fun networking, I highly recommend Mark's Guide. Really good stuff!

          Wednesday, February 7, 2007

          The quarter tank dilemma, and startups funding

          I've been reading a lot about startup financing. Its never enough, there's plenty of online resources and books. But this one seems to be a repeating subject: To VC or not VC? and when?

          Here's a scenario: you're driving the highway, exits are flying by one after the other. You have another quarter tank, so why not look for a nicer exit?
          So you go: No, not this one, nope, not this one too.
          Before you know it, that nasty red light and beep goes off. THAT'S when the kids start screaming they're hungry and want that ice cream you promised. THAT's when you see the exit without even a gas/food sign and in small fonts: "Next Exit 12 miles"

          I'm no CFO, know nothing about financing, other than being officially nominated as the family bill payer.
          But I'll say this: You better plan your finance strategy a couple steps ahead. the next 'fancy exit' is ALWAYS farther than you think. Whether its a break you get from closing a deal on your last drops, or some divine supervision will draw another investment for you without them knowing you're choked.
          PLAN AHEAD and get that investment if you need to: You know better: doing business cost money: whether its a ticket to the other side of the world for a warm-ish prospect, getting that extra developer in, or a pass into the show where your prospects are. Its one thing to select a hotel that's not as fancy. Its another thing when you can't afford to get out there.
          If you start running short, you won't be visible, you'll find it hard to get in front of prospects and convince them that sweat under your suite is from the heat when its -20F.
          End of financially novice transmission -<

          A shooting star in Manila

          A couple of months ago I spent some time in Manila. It was a good trip, useful, and we're hoping to soon see the results of that team effort.
          Its been my experience not to have too much time on those trips to see the country as a tourist. So you find yourself going around the world, knowing exactly the structure of SFO airport, or where's the closet in the hotel, but knowing almost nothing about the country you're in.
          One of the things I like to do on those trips, since I'm still a curious person, is to learn about the I work with. I find that fascinating and highly enjoyable. Its like taking the non-touristic route in Venice.
          So back to Manila: One of the people I met was pretty junior. 3 months out of the university, young, honest, hard working. She had a critical role in the project, including getting resources, managing people from other departments, doing a lot of the actual work herself, and reporting.
          She excelled at it: diligent, precise, fully vested into her deliverable. clear, useful reporting.
          she was fun to work with.
          I told her superior to closely watch her: a shooting star that will go far.

          About Launch dates, Shows, Demos and planning (Or lack of it)

          We've all been there: the big Launch date/show/demo/... comes close, travelers get their travel plans ready, clever ones set meetings in place and plan for what they want to achieve, and developers do the mainstream development stuff.
          And then lightning hits the bright manager: I've got to have a demo! it's got to dazzle, sparkle, whistle, pour wine and dance! So what if there's two days to the show?
          I've been fortunate to work with several managers in my life. Only few actually set down in advance and planned this stuff: What do you want the impression to be? what are the most important features that are relevant to whom you're about to meet? How much off-mainstream development will this take? are there confidentiality concerns?
          After a couple of good runs against time, into crazy hours, I've made myself this optimistic habit: I go and remind the relevant manager twice ahead of time to sit down and think. AND THINK. Nope, that doesn't help.
          So I'm left asking myself: what's the story? Why is this so difficult? Why is spending the SAME if not less time in advance, saving efforts, resources, getting a better demo, not worth it?
          I don't know the answer, and I'll be happy to learn.
          All I can say is that I view PLANNING as a part of QUALITY. if you don't plan, you won't get as good demo/product/meeting/impression as you could have. You'll use more resources than you would have otherwise. And worst: your team will get used to work without planning. Ever heard of the term SPAGHETTI CODE?!
          One last point: Some people underestimate the value of planning and executing to a timely deliverable in the eyes of the customer. The time factor is as critical to your credibility as the hours you spent developing and testing your deliverable, double. think of all the resource planning on their end: do you expect them to notify their customers that they're "going to be late"? Would their development staff sit on their hands on their budget?

          For those of you out there who are going on meetings, demos, shows, whatever. Do yourselves a huge favor: plan your demos well in advance. the other option's price is too high

          Tuesday, February 6, 2007

          Mobile Monday Boston

          I've attended yesterday's Mobile Monday event. Mobile Monday is a worldwide organization of players in the mobile space that gather on (I guess) the first Monday of each month for a panel on various related subjects. Its such a great setup: The mix of interesting people, hot subjects (in the wireless space) and the entrepreneurship spirit.
          Another group discussing entrepreneurship in the wireless space is the wireless interest group (SIG) of the local TiE chapter. My personal impression is that the latter tends to draw more of the executive/VC level suites & tie types, whereas MOMOBoston draws everyone from students, developers, management to executives.

          This last meeting was about typical issues that young startups face, with an emphasis on HR issues: Who to hire, when, CEO vs. VC hiring decisions etc. it was a great panel including a CEO, Director of HR, VC and Executive-level search firm. (BTW, a stream of the panel can be viewed here).
          I guess a few thoughts crossed my mind as the panel made its way through the event:

          "Shallow pool of handset talent in the Boston area": everyone on the panel agreed that there's an issue around locating handset talent in the area. The immediate resolution, they mentioned, was attempting to relocate talent.

          Here's my version of this one: I'm a handset guy, and, (I think) a good one. Without even knowing me, I'm receiving the following mix into my inbox on a daily basis: 4-5 different great job offers from the west coast and in addition, the same 2.5 local jobs (I won't mention names) that vaguely mention handset experience (coming from 10 different recruiters).
          In fact, as the panel members were saying this, I got another offer for "Job Title: Senior Product Manager, Mobile Handset Products" email...from the west coast. Any questions as to WHY THE LOCAL HANDSET TALENT POOL IS SHALLOW??

          If anyone question my talent specifically, I invite them to see how long it took for a very large, talented group of handset developers, recently jumping off a local sinking ship (no names mentioned) to find themselves again. Unfortunately I believe some of those great guys are still on the limbo.

          Allow me to propose a different way, perhaps more useful way to look at this:
          There are a number of examples for centers of technology in the worlds that had risen from almost anonymity. And I'm saying this with a lot of respect. What made the difference, making those cities now technology centers, attracting everyone from entrepreneurs to Microsoft and Analog Devices?? My guess is as good as anyone else, so I'll take a shot: The university: A good professor teaching the right stuff, attracting other academic figures and then a breed of young talent.
          won't make that overnight difference, but it will make a world of difference over time.
          Something to think about.

          Who to hire? great question: How do you identify the right talent and attitude: the rain maker. It is unbelievably critical to bring in those people who share the fire in their heart and dream the dream. My take on this: look at the spark in their eyes. That thing that will keep them working under the crunch the extra time, the extra effort, knowing that its about team effort. Knowing that you're there with them, even if you've got better things to do at 4AM, you respect and value their efforts.
          The worst candidate to recruit is the one who will drop the pen at 5 no matter what.
          Here's an easy tip: If a candidate answer to the question 'why are you looking to leave?' by 'I don't get enough of it' then make an offer on the spot. They're the people who can see the bigger picture and care far more about the success of the team, company and product, then anything else. They are the people who will turn on their laptop at home after getting the kids to bed and deliver the goods.

          CEO & VC: A little off topic but two friends (or so it seems) sat next to each other. One is the VC guy and the other is the CEO. At one point discussing hypothetical conflicts between VC and CEO on hiring issues. And they seemed great friends. I could only wish that if I became a CEO one day, I'll have those relations too. Good luck to those two!

          The VC guy: Finally, a breezy thought: Why am I enjoying so much hearing and being around VC guys? because they're enjoying it, and that's contagious.
          Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying entrepreneurs aren't, and neither are engineers working the lab till dawn. But still, this is different: They are really projecting a calm, confident feel. They will offer you their highly valuable advice (See Jeff Bussgang fabulous Blog on "VC Perspective from A Former Entrepreneur". BTW, his picture in Terry Francona's office makes him a legend in my book :-)).
          Reminds me of one-of-many post-super bowl comments I've heard the other day about Manning: He's done it. Everyone who told him he can't, they can eat their hats. Now, with that ring, he can really enjoy himself at a different level during the post season.
          VC guys are, to me, a bit like that: they've done it, and they just have a different perspective of the game.

          The next MoMoBoston event will be on March 5th. The topic will be a hot one: Wireless VOIP. For location and updates sign up on MoMoBoston site. Great speakers, good networking...I can't wait!

          Started Blogging

          So I've decided to start writing. Been here several times and decided to pass, not this time. I guess its really down to whether you think anyone has anything to gain from your thoughts or not. Or, you don't care.
          My areas of interest are the intersection of interesting people and networking, the mobile space (phones, content,...), startups and entrepreneurship, my family and friends.
          I'm thankful to be in a position where a lot of interesting things are happening around me, triggering a lot of thoughts. I'd like to share them with you.

          I hope you'll will find this useful and entertaining.