What Will You Do With Your Extra Second?

30 Jun
June 30, 2015

Whenever I asked my late father-in-law about what he wanted for his birthday, he would always ask for a “time stretcher.”  He wanted to have even one more second of life to enjoy and treasure.  He also wanted even one more second to get things done.  So, he hoped to stretch time.

Well, today is leap-second day.  An extra second is added just before midnight.  What will you do with your extra second?

Leap seconds were not needed for most of humanity. We could not tell that the Earth’s spin had been slowing down until we had something more precise than an astronomical clock.  It probably wasn’t even important until we had really precise atomic clocks. Now, these clocks are out of sync with our astronomical clock.  Hence, we add a second.

Does anyone care?  CNET says that we should consider the camera developed by MIT researchers that is so fast it can actually capture a trillion frames per second, allowing scientists to track the movement of actual photons.  We have to account for it.

What does it matter to you?  Well, my father-in-law would have cherished his extra second.

What Being A TechStars Mentor Meant To Me

09 Jun
June 9, 2015

Two years ago, I wrote this blog entry about how meaningful it was to be a TechStars mentor. Tonight, the new TechStars class is announced and I will be at the kick-off dinner.  I hope that this summer will be as significant as that term was.  Here is my previous blog entry:

TechStars Demo Day has come and gone.  It has been 13 weeks since I first met the start-up entrepreneurs in this program.  And, after these 13 weeks of mentoring some of the brightest and most talented entrepreneurs I have ever met, I find that I am sad that the intensity is over.

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Your Robot Is Coming To Serve You

14 Jun
June 14, 2013

Visualize what your first personal or office service robot will look like. What do you imagine? Depending upon your age, you may think of Rosie Jetson, C-3PO or even Bender. (Greatest TV Robots of All Time.)

Your service robot is coming, but it won’t look like any of the robots in the image above. Instead, it will probably look like an iPad on a stick or an iPhone in a tiny tractor.  (See DoubleRobotics and Romotive.)  Products that look like this will be on the market by the end of the year. And, they will be cheap. The Romotive product is just $150. (Romo store)

A major revolution is happening in the robotics market and it is driven by the smartphone. When you grab your phone to make a call, you may not think about the amazing array of sensors, processing power and memory in that device. Due to high volume smartphone manufacturing, components that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars just a few years ago are now just a few dollars or less. Look at the list in the graphic below:

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Windows 8 Wishes It Is The New Coke

07 May
May 7, 2013

Tami Reller, head of marketing and finance for the Windows business, said in an interview today with the Financial Times that it was changing “key aspects” of Windows 8.  The FT called it “one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago.”

But, will Microsoft take advantage of this New Coke Moment?  Do they understand that marketing is not just about new features and a great interface?  Marketing is often about the relationship human beings have with their brands.

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Netflix and the Buggy Whip Industry

24 Apr
April 24, 2013

Less than two years ago, Netflix was the butt of jokes by late night comedians.  Remember Qwikster? Netflix was going to spin-off the DVD service and re-brand its ubiquitous little red envelopes. Members would be able to join the two services — at a higher price, of course. Netflixquickly lost 800,000 subscribers and the good will of many more.  The stock fell about 30% within 24 hours.  The company apologized (see the apology parody and the apology itself).  Many thought that the harm could be permanent.

Yesterday, Netflix’s stock shot up 24% after it announced that the number of subscribers jumped nearly 10% in one quarter. What made the difference? How do you turn around a company on the brink of a disaster?  (At least a PR disaster)

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The Marathon And The Meaning Of Freedom

20 Apr
April 20, 2013

I am not a runner.  Never have been.

I was not born in Boston.  So, locals will never consider me to be a native, no matter how long I live here.

Yet, there is something about the Boston Marathon that gets into the soul here.  Actually, the Marathon is just part of a bigger thing that celebrates the rise of the individual and the support of the community.  It is part of the unique, bigger experience of Patriot’s Day weekend.  Perhaps, it is the ultimate expression of individual freedom and the support of neighbors.

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You Promised Me Mars Colonies. Instead, I Got Facebook.

16 Apr
April 16, 2013

Last week, I was mentoring one of the TechStars start-up companies — a company that I have met with many times before.  I advised them that the problem they were tackling was much too big for such a small team.  I said that they should find a smaller problem that they could solve well and then solve it better than anyone else.  I still think that was sound advice for them.

But, as I was driving home, I started to think about this advice and I compared it to what excited me earlier in my career.  As head of marketing for Dragon Systems, I felt that I was on a mission to change lives through speech recognition.  And, we did change lives.  I remember a project where we enabled workers with repetitive stress injuries to stay on the job instead of going on disability because they did not have to use their hands to work. It kept people fulfilled and active.  I also remember a favorite project of mine where we provided speech recognition on mobile devices to officers at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  By dictating at a crime scene, officers took better and more complete notes. I was told that conviction rates went up and department efficiency improved as a direct result of the speech recognition software.

I am proud of the part that I played.  It was a defining period in my life.

But, will the founders of the start-ups at TechStars, the MassChallenge and the Cambridge Innovation Center have the same sense of purpose that I did if they take my advice?  Will they feel like they changed the world?

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Marketing Makes The First Sales Call

11 Apr
April 11, 2013

“Marketing Makes The First Sales Call” is already one of my all-time favorite quotes — and heard about a month ago.  John Neeson, co-founder and managing director of Sirius Decisions, said it at the MassTLC Marketing Summit on Doing More with Less.   I have never heard it so elegantly.

Technology marketing has changed.  Marketing used to be all about getting leads and handing them off to the sales force.  We had to produce exciting events and pretty literature.  PR was suspect because it could not be quantified by a lead count.  Get the name! Sales would do the rest.

I knew that this was no longer true.  But, I had never seen the data before.  The chart above shows that half of decision makers want to meet a sales rep only to keep up on industry trends or after the decision has been made.   John says,

Marketing makes the first sales call. Buyers are doing more and more online, socially with their peers and subordinates so by the time a sales person first interacts with a buyer, a good portion of the sales cycle is complete. This means marketing is making the first impression and sales call – this will dramatically change the emphasis of marketing in the next five years.

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Doctor Who Meets Google Glass

08 Apr
April 8, 2013

What will you do when the intergalactic evil takes over Google Glass.

In this week’s season opener of Dr. Who on BBC America, we learn that (SPOILER ALERT) evil protagonists can monitor the Doctor’s activities by capturing all of the images on all the cameras in the world using wifi technology.  Using image recognition and their huge databases, the protagonists can track the Doctor around London and sense when their hideout is in danger.  (“I do love London.  So many cameras,” says the the deliciously whacked Miss Kizlet.)

At first, I thought about the outrageous science.  Bah!  How could a central service capture all of the images from cameras around the world using wireless technology.  Who would allow that!

Welcome, Google Glass.  We have the technology today and it is in our midst.  Instead of a camera, you have eyeglasses with a screen that allows you to search the web.  Data is closer than your fingertips.  Email is a whisper away.  Yelp! while walking.  And, you can document your life with photos and video just by saying “Glass, take a picture.”

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You’ve Got Facebook Home — Or, Not.

06 Apr
April 6, 2013

Back in the early days of the PC Web, we had the portal wars.  AOL, Excite, Yahoo, Snap!, Lycos, Netscape, and MSN battled to capture the first screen when you launched your browser.  Vendors talked about “capturing eyeballs” on the way to what the user wanted to do.

These “portals” were aggregated home pages that were customized with your email, your contacts and your interests.  iGoogle, which came a little late to the party, was described as “your personalized Google page. Add news, photos, weather, and stuff from across the web to your page.”

The PC Portal Wars are over.  iGoogle is being discontinued in August.  We all know what happened to the AOL, which was once the leader of the pack of portals.  The most common PC home page is a simple search box.

But, it looks like Facebook has decided to skip the lessons learned by AOL and the others with this week’s announcement of Facebook Home.

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