I subscribed to the spoof startup blog Vooza the other day and duly received my first email today, which was a sketch about the overuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements in startup-land.
A couple of hours later I was on Facebook and I saw an appeal from a friend for an NDA template. Now being an entrepreneurial guy myself I confess I have previously thought that ideas are everything. So I commented as much and thought the gist of what I wrote was worth re-blogging.
As someone who has signed numerous NDAs and who has also made others sign my own NDAs, I get where he was coming from. No one does original ideas any more and especially not in the Zimbabwean business community with its multitude of hair salon and bar 'tycoons'. However, I have now learnt that ideas are never worth as much as the execution. The person who succeeds in business is always the one who executed the idea well. Therefore, an idea done well is better than any NDA because no one will copy it if they can't do it better than you.
I'm not too sure why everyone is getting worked up trying to explain to right-wing libertarians hell-bent on defending our 'freedoms' that 3D printing guns is a bad idea. I think all we need to do is point out to them that porn is responsible for popularising most major developments in technology and that 3D printing won't be any different. The only technology that was failed by the porn industry was the fax machine, but that's because faxes were notoriously slow at coming!
If conservative men's past form on attitudes towards sexual matters is anything to go by then their reaction to 3D printed porn would be fun to watch. I'm no expert but judging by the equal number of affairs and hypocrisy across the political spectrum, then even conservative women need gratification too; and too much time spent shooting guns and patrolling borders for defenceless Mexican economic migrants whilst the women are at home could really have nasty side (front, back and other) effects. The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon has shown us many things about women that Mills & Boon only ever hinted at. And I'm betting that that demography includes a lot of conservative wives and their daughters. I can foresee a scenario where Daddy's plastic always runs out just when he needs new bullets and right around the same time a young lady gets a new blow-up boyfriend! That's before we even talk about men and what our collective penchant for vivid porn would do for 3D printing. Doubtless 3D printing is a cool idea, but restraint is due from everyone, whether they're in it for sexual freedom or the freedom to maim and kill. Let's stick to screw and nuts printing please. Hold the porn and easy on the guns.
It's 12 minutes of normal time to go in a League Cup semi-final and Chelsea are playing away to Swansea. Given the direness of their performance up to this time, Chelsea are deservedly losing the tie though it is nil nil on the night and a couple of late goals could send it into extra -time with the chance of an unlikely victory. The ball goes out and the self-appointed king of the ball-boys faffes around delaying to give the ball back to Chelsea's young Belgian forward Eden Hazard. The ball drops to the floor with the ball-boy hitting the deck as fast as Didier Drogba hunting for a penalty, with Hazard still seeking the ball for there is the small matter of the game to get on with (which the ball boy is obliged to help with on account of his current employment). But no, he promptly manages to position himself over the ball like a flanker having broken free from a scrum to score a try with all at stake in the Rugby World Cup final. Hazard feels around for the ball using all his bedroom tactics for such unsighted foraging under heavy clothing and having felt the ball delivers a swift kick which loosens it from under the ball boy and delivers it on the other-side. Cue pandemonium.
What follows is a truly sad reflection on modern life.
The ballboy, who can be found on Twitter, has at the last count now accrued 90,000 followers! How sad do you have to be to want to follow the ballboy who comically feigned injury whilst deservedly having had a ball kicked from underneath him? Unfortunately twitter is full of such types despite anything that techies and journalists would like to tell you about it. Truly sad in a very amusing way.
I've just seen a review on Venturebeat about a photo sharing and discovery website called Fancy. It's sort of like Pinterest but with the inbuilt ability to purchase items in the picture or book hotels and flights to the places depicted. The nugget is that it all seems to have been done in a non-intrusive way which still puts the user experience first and the commerce distinctly in the background.
For some reason the author of the Venturebeat article doesn't like this and he thinks they should have done the classic start-up move of concentrating on the users and finding a business model later. To be honest I never believe it when start-ups like Twitter et al pull this move. To me it just means that either they've got a cool but useless technology which no one will pay to use or that they will put ads on their app, but only after fooling 10 million people that they won't ever pimp them to the highest bidder.
Fancy haven't done anything new but they've obviously looked at similar apps and wondered if it all could have been done better. That's something which I've mentioned on this blog as one of the hallmarks of a solid business idea. I personally don't really use photo discovery apps apart from the odd time I stumble onto a great Flickr stream which I'll fully explore. But if I did I wouldn't mind if Fancy offered me the option to buy the stuff in the photo in a very discreet way that doesn't take away from the experience. I'm not talking Google text ads here people!
I think they may be onto something which Facebook, Google and Flickr would love to have done. Now look out for the Fancy guys to pimp themselves to one of those companies and get a decent bag of money for their start-up; which is entirely fine by me as long as they don't pimp me around. Check them out.
Fred Wilson on AVC recently wrote a blog post about how he ended up 'illegally' streaming a New York Knicks match because there was no 'legal' way for him to pay for it without actually going to the match. In that situation he had been willing to pay even $25 for the priviledge. The post is aptly titled #screwcable!
In and amongst the support for what Fred did were some well argued contrarian views. The quote below is not one of them though it raises an important issue.
The players, owners, league spend money to enter into contracts with cable companies and specialized networks, who in turn negotiate with advertisers to bring viewers an entertainment medium. They have real costs to all of this. But because someone doesn't like that there are fees or limitations or other obstacles within the creating group's model, it's okay to simply "hack" in and take what one likes?
I agree that a lot of planning and investment goes into making a profitable business out of a sports team or even any other entertainment performance like a music album or whatever. Those investors and operators are perfectly entitled to charge what they want and how they want in order to recoup their costs.
For me the big caveat in all the above that turns someone like Fred into a 'pirate' is the fact that during business planning a conscious decision has been made to have this sports package not appeal to him. That is through a combination of pricing, segmentation rights, down to stadium capacity, match day scheduling and location. When all is said and done the rights holders have put together a package which they believe will earn them the most revenue possible in order to recoup costs that they have deemed as appropriate for this enterprise.
In simple terms; when selling their package rightsholders are consciously saying #screwyou to a certain percentage of interested parties. Nothing wrong with that. It's their prerogative and a balance HAS to be found.
What I find interesting is that there seems to be a belief that it's okay to then go after these people who have already been told to screw themselves as if they actually mattered to the business model. They don't really; and any plan should not have taken into account revenue from someone who has been told where to go or revenue lost by that person consuming that service in a way that does not deprive other willing buyers. The fact is no business can sell all their products to everybody all of the time. Someone has to be out of the loop even though digital products make that scenario theoretically possible.
Naturally there are people who infringe copyright and would have been perfectly able to legally consume it. It is wrong of course, but I believe that every business model has to try to have low enough barriers to allow people to take up the product. In a previous post I referred to the concept of a consumption threshold. This is something that is generally not a feature of high quality digital content, though Louis C.K seems to have found a balance between price and protection and he is succeeding despite those who are saying #screwyou to him. It's probably because he only tried to 'screw' relatively few people in the first place!
- #screwcable (avc.com)
Maybe it shouldn't amaze me because the world is full of dumb people and it should be expected that now and again I'll run into the misguided opinions of some of them. But it's amazing that in this day and age some people still don't get that Facebook is just another communication tool. Same as text, MMS, letter, postcard, fax, phone, email, smoke signals or Morse code.
Facebook and the internet enable communication in general and are not specifically for narcissists and voyeurs. The dumb people who don't get this irritate me by trying to put across to me that they are somehow holier than I because they don't use Facebook to share their 'pregnancy news'. To say that a communication tool is sad and pathetic doesn't make sense to me. A tool is only as sad and pathetic as the information going through it. In other words if you think Facebook is sad and pathetic maybe you need to look at your 'friends' first. A communication tool can only be labelled useful, useless or other such adjectives. This doesn't apply to Twitter which as an open publishing platform that is actively trying to take on the soul of it's content. Go ahead and call Twitter sad if you like.
What people should realise is that you can have 3 connections or even less on Facebook and exclude your cousins or whoever because of that long running feud your Mom hold's against her sister for not letting her borrow her mascara when they were teens. If you were going to send photos of your newborn to your 3 siblings, Facebook is just as good a tool as any to send those pictures with. You don't even have to accept one more friendship request or make yourself discoverable to that crush from Year 6 who thinks you're the one that got away simply because one curious day you decided to give him a quick peck on the lips.
It's true that voyeurs and narcissists do have it slightly easier on Facebook but only in broadcasting to other voyeurs and narcissists. There are plenty of people who very privately share information and pictures with only the people they care about. The internet can be a lot like real life in that sense. Most of the people saying dirty jokes online would likely have been saying them offline.
Anyway, let me stop this rant before I point out about the absolute contradiction of someone actively publicising the fact that they don't publicise something! LMAO!! (as the Facebook generation would say).
Some time ago Fred Wilson on AVC.com posted an article about how annoying he finds it when people describe copyright infringement as stealing. He has a point. Infringing a copyright is not stealing. It is just that an infringement. Both are wrong and in most countries illegal, but they are not the same.
I also find it very annoying when people use words that should apply in an effort to get me on their side. It's a bit like that scenario where someone tries to turn you against another person by telling you something bad they are meant to have done. Except in this case the the squealer doubts that they have sufficient ammo to get you worked up and have to dress it up. A lot.
And so it is that the digital protection agencies and creative unions are uncomfortable about factual copyright debate and it seems that 'By-Any-Means-Necessary' is their new strategy. Unfortunately Fred didn't eloquently put his point across and his article soon generated into another 'How do I make money from my digital product?' debate.
Here on Stunted By Reality we don't like minced words and I tip my hat off to the commenter who noted the real difference between copyright infringement and theft.
Theft would be stealing a sculpture, or... picture.
Copyright infringement would be taking a picture of the sculpture and posting it online, or producing a replica of the sculpture.
Either act deprives the author the right to enjoy the benefits of his/her work, but they are totally different concepts.
I'll add that theft will definitely deprive an artist of the ability to sell his sculpture, however infringement does not do so. I am not saying that infringement is OK; I'm just saying lets not use hyperbole in trying to paint the picture.
If a serial groper terrorised women on public transport, by all means we should throw the book at him and even throw away the key, however it still wouldn't mean that he committed rape. That would be sexual assault no matter how depraved his groping technique was.
I'm always coming up with business ideas based on my own experiences and needs. One of the best I've had recently was a phone application to document the things that my kids say and do. Actually it's third best idea I've had recently.
The idea is to be able to compile a document or repository of the funny, weird and wonderful things that my (our ) children say, because they do say a lot of funny stuff. I already take a lot of pictures and video of them but sometimes I just want to note down a quote that I found funny. My solution was to build an application that allows you to store little things like that; notes, pictures etc. and you would be able at a future date to have it all published into a book. Perhaps even an annual about your kids.
I think it's a great idea, and one that I don't even need to ask what your opinion is because frankly anything to do with kids is going to sell. The hard bit would be the marketing but that's the case in any business. However, women are probably the best demography to market because they talk so much. If one gets to like something, best believe that the whole world is going to hear about. Plus most women don't really shop around. I've always said that if I sold cars I'd sell only pink hatchbacks! Anyway, the idea is also great because lets face it, which parent doesn't think that their kids are the funniest and cutest, despite us constantly observing at first hand other seemingly deluded parents?
So I got round to checking the idea, as I normally do with all my ideas. No matter how good your idea is always check that no one has yet done it. I've said before on this blog that a good idea either solves a problem, or copies another good idea well, or exploits lack of market knowledge or serves a neglected market.
All those factors mean that if you have had a good idea then someone has already done it; if it's a great idea then ten people are already doing it. If no one is doing it you have to ask yourself why.
So after Googling my idea, I found that someone has already done it. Not only that, but they have done it in almost exactly the way I envisioned it. I'm not really upset though, but just impressed with the other guys execution. My fan-boy brother is away so I don't have an iPhone to test their app, but it looks good. And one thing I believe is that if I can't do something better than the other guys then there's no point doing it. Take a bow Kid's Quip Journal.
*Okay I have to admit I could have come up with a better name than that, but touché!
I've never been annoyed by online ads. I just never really pay any attention to them but the more interesting ones sometimes catch my eye. Whether it's because the targeting has been spot on and I am actually looking for that item or just it's plain eye catching. Consequently I've never installed an ad blocking plug-in in any of my browsers. Until today.
I signed up to GiffGaff (a new UK mobile network) about a month ago and did it from their website. I even managed to convince four people to switch to them, and guess what I get in return? My browser is now polluted with GiffGaff flash ads. WTF? Whose idea is this?
Sadly enough this stupidity isn't just reserved for whatever network is running this campaign but also to Google who also try to get me using Chrome even when I'm surfing on their browser! So now I have been moved to install Ad Block Plus. No more dumb ads for me. Well.... except for the Google Chrome BS.
It didn't come as a surprise when HP decided to kill off all it's WebOS related projects. From the time they paid $1.2 billion dollars for Palm in order to get their hands on the by all accounts 'great' operating software they have consistently made the wrong moves.
With the company making most of their money from selling hardware to other companies it was always a dumb move in my opinion to get rid of the Palm brand once the acquisition had gone through. Palm had pedigree in the high-end consumer market that formerly crossed over into the business user market way before RIM ever got there. It didn't stop HP from renaming all the Palm devices with the HP prefix which I think never had the same brand cache to compete with Apple. HP definitely skipped a beat there as they could have had their own 'Lexus' of the mobile world. A brand with which they could package the best part of their low-end stuff in a shiny slightly different case and still have users falling over themselves to buy it in the mis-guided belief that it was somehow more exclusive because it was pricier. Works every time in these days were even us poor people can buy a Mercedes or an iPhone without paying a penny upfront.
In addition I think that Palm had only lost the battle with Apple simply because their pockets were not as deep. The only thing they probably needed from HP was their money. Can you imagine where Palm would be now if HP had poured in another billion, given the Palm access to their manufacturing base and stayed well clear? The initial Palm Pre wasn't good hardware, but I think there was enough to work on and if they'd simply been given the money to match Apple's annual release cycle and copy HTC's lineup of all-touch and qwerty keyboard handsets, they might have made an impact.
Only 18 months after the right move was stunted by the wrong strategy we now hear that HP are throwing the towel in following the dismal sales of the WebOS tablet. Not only that, but they are also looking to spin off the whole PC and hardware business and acquire the UK software house Autonomy. Leo Apotheker the CEO who has only been in the job less than a year has called the moves and it seems that just like Mr Elop at Nokia he already had pre-conceived ideas about what direction he wanted to go before he joined.
I can see where he's going with this. He wants HP to be making high margins. Well higher than they are right now and higher than you can get flogging hardware to corporates. It's admirable but sometime you just have to stick to making money the best way you know how. There's isn't much evidence that HP know the services and software business or that they can stake out a claim against, Microsoft, Apple and whilst fighting away the millions of small start-ups with new and innovative ways to do the same things cheaper and faster.