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Month: January 2017

Robotics, Drones, AI and Autonomous Vehicles: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Here

Robotics, Drones, AI and Autonomous Vehicles: The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Here

Oliver Mitchell of Autonomy Ventures, who also blogs at The Robot Rabbi, spoke at our January 26 Investor Breakfast, and the conversation was column-worthy. After all, the robots are coming and that’s very much Oliver’s domain, and their growing presence on the global landscape, along with other technologies, is being referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as Oliver pointed out. In fact, the day before the breakfast, The New York Times ran on piece on How to Make America’s Robots Great Again, pointing out how China is investing heavily in the manufacturing of robots, and the US needs to do so as well.

The big fear is that robots will be – and currently are – taking jobs formerly held by lower skilled labor, and the fear is not unfounded. As Oliver noted, they’re also taking jobs in higher skilled areas, even replacing financial analysts and advisors. So are we looking at some relatively far off dystopian future?

“When I was growing up, computers were only used by large corps or government, and with a few highly skilled operators operating them,” said Oliver. “Not until Windows 95 (was introduced) that computers and personal computers became ubiquitous, and really fulfilled the dreams of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. If I told you a decade ago, or a decade and a half ago, about robots, you’d have thought Robbie the Robot and big industrial robots…Compared to personal computing, we’re standing in 1990 – 5 years before robots become ubiquitous.” Read More...

The Founder’s Guide to the 2017 Investing Landscape

The Founder’s Guide to the 2017 Investing Landscape

Esther Dyson hit it spot on when she said that there are too many entrepreneurs out there, and way too many who don’t know the fundamentals of how to work and/or build businesses properly. Many young entrepreneurs have never worked for a company, or may have worked briefly for a startup that may or may not have gotten traction/funding, and that’s not the same as working for a company that is not dependent on funding – nor are you likely to learn the fundamentals of building a true, sustainable business that way.

We talk to investors all the time and count some as being among our closest friends/longest-standing acquaintances, and they tell us things – provided that they’re shared anonymously – that they would not ordinarily share with entrepreneurs. We’re going to share some of that information with you here and, for the record, with the prior consent of those investors, and a special thanks to Veronica Guzman of WAM Ventures, who did give us permission to mention her name, for her comments and insights.

Many founders – especially first-timers – believe that pitching to investors is a panacea. Note to self: we do attend many accelerator demo days and one investor recently told us that he was writing checks to companies he had met through the accelerator, which is why he goes to demo days: to suss out good companies. Mind you, he was writing those checks to companies he had met through the accelerator three years prior, and not that day. He had been keeping a watchful eye on them, and now that they were ready (meaning, had traction/customers/sales), he was all in. A company that has nominal revenues and has only been in business a few months is asking for major disappointments, if getting funded is their goal at that point, another investor recently noted. “Advisors are telling them to pitch angels this way,” Veronica noted. Read More...

The Innovator’s New Dilemma

The Innovator’s New Dilemma

It has been 10 years since the iPhone first appeared, and when it did, people frankly didn’t know what to make of it. . According to Quartz, “When Steve Jobs stood on the stage 10 years ago today at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, he started out by saying he was launching three new devices: “An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator.” In fact, of course, they were a single device—the iPhone, which would lift Apple’s fortunes to unprecedented heights.” Of course, it was so novel, to many it was also the Blind Men and the Elephant.

Then there’s the new innovator’s dilemma, wherein one can innovate just so much, before one is in danger of running out of ideas, in which case, it’s a long-standing tradition in Silicon Valley to simply steal from a competitor, as in the case of Instagram Stories (Instagram’s shameless Snapchat knockoff is doing marvelously well) “Instagram Stories closely mimics Snapchat—users can broadcast short videos to their followers, which disappear 24 hours after getting sent out,” says Quartz. “Upon its launch, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said he felt no shame about playing the role of copycat. In an interview with TechCrunch at the time of its launch, he admitted that Snapchat “deserve[s] all the credit” for the concept, adding that copying ideas remains somewhat of a tradition in Silicon Valley. “Gmail was not the first email client. Google Maps was certainly not the first map. The iPhone was definitely not the first phone. The question is what do you do with that format?” Systrom said.”

The iPhone may not have been the first mobile phone, not was Facebook the first (essentially) phone book, but it was not a copycat. If there was one thing that Steve Jobs could do brilliantly, it was to think outside of the dispenser. With larger companies swooping in and literally stealing ideas from smaller players, is it game over? Even the iPhone is losing market share, as we’ve mentioned previously. Read More...

To Market, to Market

To Market, to Market

New years always herald prognostications from all quarters (comes with the territory) and of course 2017 is no exception. CB Insights noted that 2016 was not a good year in unicorn land & 7 Unicorns Stumbled, and that it looks grim for 2017. In fact, they noted, deals to unicorns were lower last year than in any year since 2012.

They also pointed out that a group of unicorns is called a fondle.

Before we read the tea leaves, good to look at some of the problems, including the fact that Silicon Valley doesn’t have a lot of respect for marketing, and considering that one of their very favorite mantras is ‘Fail Fast,’ well, disregarding marketing will certainly help to accomplish that, if that’s the idea: Read More...

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