Akio Morita’s “Made in Japan” is an excellent book which was recommended to me very highly by a friend of mine. Here’s top 9 advice from the book:

1) Positioning and finding the customers: When Sony came up with their first tape recorder which was the size of a suitcase, they were baffled by why nobody was rushing to buy them. Then, Morita-san, an engineer, forcefully realized: having a unique technology and being able to make unique products are not enough to keep a business going. You have to sell the products and to do that you have to show the potential buyer the real value of what you are selling. So, he knew that to sell their recorder they would have to identify the people and institutions that would be likely to recognize the value in the product.
They realized, at the time there was an acute shortage of stenographers, so they went to the Japan Supreme Court and they sold 20 machines almost instantly!

2) Adding value: It’s ok to license or use someone else’s technology if you add value on top of that. Sony licensed the first transistor technology from Bell Labs. It was ground-breaking at the time, but it was not enough. They came up with the ingenius idea of trying the negative-positive-negative configuration for the transistor, hence making the transistor faster since negative electrons move faster than positive ones. Along with trying and perfecting the “phosphorus doping” method which Bell Labs said was unusable, they came up with the first commercially-feasible transistor in their transistor radio.

3) Perseverance and vision: Texas Instruments was the first company to put out a transistor radio but TI gave up the product without putting much effort into marketing it. As the first in the field, they might have capitalized on their position and created a tremendous market for their product as Sony. But they apparently misjudged that there was no future in the business of small, portable radios and gave up.
4) Value of the perception of the company: Morita-san believed that a trademark is the life of an enterprise and that it must be protected boldly. A trademark and a company name are not just clever gimmicks-they carry responsibility and guarantee the quality of the product.

5) Marketing is almost everything: This advice is for the entrepreneurs coming from a technical background. Marketing is really a form of communication. It’s educating the customers to the uses of your products. Without this, the company will surely fail.
6) Innovation vs Market Research: This advice is a bit controversial. Sony’s plan from the beginning was to lead the public with new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want. Morita-san believes the public does not know what is possible. So instead of doing a lot of market research, Sony refined their thinking on a product and its use and tried to create a market for it by educating and communicating with the public. Examples: Walkman, Betamax, Consumer video cameras, etc. Morita-san asserts that no amount of market research could have come up with Sony Walkman idea or predicted that it would be so successful.
7) Trust your vision: When Sony came up with their first small pocket transistor radio, Morita-san came to New York to sell it to the American market. At the time they were desperate for cash and were barely making their payroll. The people at Bulova loved the product. They said “We definitely want some of these. We will take one hundred thousand units.” Morita-san was stunned, it was an incredible order, worth several times the total capital of Sony at the time. But they said there was one condition: Sony would have to put the Bulova name on the radios.
That stopped Morita-san. When he started Sony, he had vowed that they would not be Original Equipment Manufacturers(OEM) for other companies. So he refused the order despite everyone around him thinking he was crazy. Bulova told him nobody knew Sony’s name but with Bulova’s name on the radios, they would be sold like hotcakes. Morita-san said: “I am now taking the first step for the next fifty years of my company. Fifty years from now I promise you that our name will be just as famous as your company name is today”.

8 ) Management: Morita-san always looked for people who can be persuasive, can make people want to cooperate with them, for management positions, as management is not dictatorship. Also the performance of a manager is measured by how well that manager can organize a large number of people and how effectively he or she can get the highest performance from each of the individuals and blend them into a coordinated performance.
9) Employees: The business does not start out with the entrepreneur organizing his company around himself with the worker as a tool. The entrepreneur starts a company and then he hires personnel to realize his/her idea, but once he hires employees he must regard them as colleagues or helpers, not as tools for making profits. There has to be mutual respect and a sense that the company is the property of the employees and not of a few top people.

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I have just returned from an intense 3-day media summit in Abu Dhabi. I took some photos and tweeted from the summit, but here are some key take-aways:

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is very ambitious. And is not shy to show it. The summit was held at a brand-new futuristic hotel built on top of a Formula-1 race track. Abu Dhabi has established the Abu Dhabi Media Company (with an unlimited fund for investments) and twofour52 to become a media center. Recent investments of ADMC include the very promising Vevo (Hulu for music videos, with Sony Music Entertainment) and Gazillion (which holds the rights to all Marvel Comics characters).

Carriers
Carriers are very afraid. Not from competition or government regulation. They are very afraid that they won’t be able carry all the upcoming heavy bandwidth from mobile web and smartphones with streaming media.
Smart carriers like Korea’s KT sees the solution with dumping off as much load as possible to WiFi, so they will play nice with WiFi. Not so smart ones will see WiFi as the enemy. Even LTE won’t help, as it had collapsed already once in Korea under very heavy load.

Asus
Watch out for Asus. Their ‘Less is More’ philosophy paid off big time for them, as they took over the netbook market. After watching their Chairman Shih at the conference mention MIT’s “Sixth Sense” technology over and over again, I am very excited about the possibility of walking into a Best Buy one day soon and picking up an Asus Sixth Sense device. They are very innovative and will win.

AMD
AMD CEO mentioned they will go for the PC and tablet markets and will completely abandon the mobile market. His words were ‘we will go for the larger screens and will not compete in the small screen market’. With their acquisition of ATI, and NVidia going big for mobile with Tegra 2 and similar chipsets, I don’t know if this focus is a good thing or will end up very bad for them.

News Corporation
Rupert Murdoch’s keynote: Copyright is top priority, creativity needs to be fostered and funded. Middle East is key. Moving some of his international TV stations from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi, along with his global online advertising unit.

Who will pay for news?
Undecided. Many panels, many speakers, lots of discussion, many ideas, no consensus. All ideas but one will fail. The market will decide which model will win. The only consensus was that the winning business model will come from a startup.

The upcoming Media Industry/ISP battle
There will be a huge battle between the media industry and the ISPs. Media Industry is hell bent on bringing the non-working three-strikes rule to the US from France. In France, it doesn’t work (piracy is up in France after the law). File sharers find other ways ( darknet, freenet, direct-download sites – which can’t be tracked) if bittorrent is tracked.
Media Industry needs a Plan B. Technology will get around their courtroom ambitions. Again this area is ripe for startup innovation and disruption.

Eric Schmidt
Google CEO apparently gave his Barcelona Mobile World Congress speech verbatim. Nevertheless, key take-away was “Think Mobile”. Google engineers now start with a mobile-focused approach to every new app. Google Buzz for Mobile is a fantastic example of this. A thin mobile web front-end coupled with cloud computing is the future, as Mark Suster has been talking about recently. And one last thing, of course Android tablets ARE coming (Chrome OS or Android wasn’t made clear by his comments though).

The perfect summary on how to build a startup, from Mark Suster‘s blog post on why ‘failing fast’ is a wrong mantra to instill in entrepreneurs:

  • Define a market problem that you believe you can solve
  • Research this market by doing market sizing, looking at existing products, talking to customers and deciding how you will make money
  • Validate that you can make money before starting. This means looking at what your buyer pays for similar products now, what the history of other people who have tried to monetize in this way have experienced, what your costs to acquire customers will be and what you believe you can make over the customers’ lifetimes.  These are all assumptions – nothing more.  I believe passionately that if you don’t do a financial model you shouldn’t spend any time or money building a product.  You want to talk about the ultimate “fail fast” – how about if you fail before you’ve spent any money building product because you validate there isn’t a big enough market or you can’t make money?
  • If you believe there is a market then build a prototype product that you can show customers, investors and potential employees.
  • From there build the MVP (minimum viable product).  I believe in launching with a small set of features and learning from the market before you spend too much money building out a feature rich product or before you put serious capital to work.
  • If you validate that there’s a market then go for it!  If you don’t believe that your product is resonating then pivot and find one!

Read the whole post here.

I hear it from friends almost everyday: “Do you know some space to hold my event?”

It’s a huge problem for all event organizers, who are mostly always creating these events for the benefit of the community, not to make a buck (most of the events are free). Then, why, oh why, is it so difficult and time-consuming to find a space?

Boston has the Microsoft NERD center. Great idea. Available for anyone to hold tech/startup events. Benefits the community. Makes it much easier to organize events. Takes out the venue cost and concern. Benefits the supplier. Improves the community.

So, who is up for helping the NY startup community?

Just announce that you are making your venue available for tech/startup events in the city and the community will surely pay you back with more business, gratitude and karma. Everybody wins.

Google Buzz, Day One

February 10, 2010

Google has practically ‘infinite’ resources, an amazing, scalable infrastructure and smart people. Buzz was the obvious next  step for them combining:

*Google Latitute (which is probably going to join Lively and Jaiku soon),

*Google Wave (didn’t get the traction),

* Google Profiles,

* Google Places (which was obviously a pre-cursor to this, competing with Yelp)

* Gmail

* Mobile-browser ‘Near Me Now’ feature on google.com

Well done:

1) Mobile version is browser-based and well-done. The future of mobile functionality is not ‘apps’, it is definitely ‘browser-based’. No one will download an app to look at some photos or check a reservation, too much friction. (Try adding any mobile homepage to your homescreen as a shortcut to get the same ‘app-launching’ effect ).

2) Haven’t tried the Android Google Maps integration but, again, that was the obvious next step for Google to have a social layer.

3) Yahoo launched a similar product last year, but nobody stood up and took notice like this. So good job hitting at the right time with a well thought-out web and mobile stack.

4) Gmail integration. ( Need Google Apps integration too, obviously).

5) Fine-grained privacy settings.

6) Asymmetrical following structure.

7) Voice-recognition integration. Decreases the friction of publishing more data while on the go.

Needs work:

1) Need the “Import from Twitter / Facebok” feature and Buzz needs to do a better job of ‘suggesting’ friends. ( Orkut integration is suspiciously missing from this section as well)

2) The post layout, ‘like’ and commenting system is an exact copy from Facebook. Need more innovation there.

3) Need OpenID access. Why is this open to only Gmail users?

4) Being able to post to Buzz and have that trickle to all my other accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn mainly).

5) Need Google Toolbar integration, so I can post a link from any website with a click.

Google usually just tracks usage and other analytics and pulls the plug if there’s not enough traction. I hope they continue building this product, as it is not there yet but will definitely be another powerful social media tool for users. I especially like its ‘utility’ aspects.

How to save Twitter

January 31, 2010

You get an email from Twitter. “Bob Brown” is now following you!

So exciting, somebody is actually interested in you, in what you have to say, they will read everything that you write.

Then you click on to see Bob’s Twitter page. Bob is following 14,865 people. And 14,201 people are following him.

Actually, Bob will NEVER read what you have to say. In fact, Bob is most probably using a bot that follows you, and if you don’t follow him back, unfollows you. This is how ‘marketers’ build their Twitter follower numbers.

Twitter is going downhill to becoming a very crowded room where everyone is talking constantly. If everyone is talking and no one is listening, what is the total value of posting your thoughts and brilliant insights there?

For a while, I’ve been trying and keeping the number of people I follow to under 100. I can read most of what these people are saying and I can interact with them. And since my limit is 100, I am very selective about who I follow. “I am having coffee”->unfollow. “@dave yea!’->unfollow. “Here is what I had for breakfast’->unfollow.

Twitter should limit the number of people you can follow to 150 (which is Dunbar’s number). Dunbar’s number is the theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.

This will make Twitter a very clean and nice room where people are listening to each other and will increase the overall experience.

Now, when someone follows you, it will mean something. It will not be a spammer, a social media ‘guru’ or someone who just wants you to follow them back.