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I've been thinking about the tech buzzword "table stakes" lately. It's meant to signify that a company needs to have feature parity with a competitor to be considered competitive. Here's the Wikipedia definition:
There's always been something about that term that didn't sit quite right with me, but I could never quite put my finger on why.
But I just figured it out: Table stakes is a reactionary philosophy. It's the equivalent of Blackberry's incremental phone improvements that were blown out of the water by the iPhone. When a company focuses on table stakes, it'll always be one step behind its competitors. That's why you don't hear startups ever using that phrase, but you do hear it at bigger companies.
I'm really jazzed about a term that was coined over 10 years ago but is just now really starting to become a reality: The Internet of Things, which is often abbreviated as "IoT."
Here's a video by the CEO of ioBridge talking about it:
As devices around us become smarter, we are going to transition from living in a mostly analog world where digital is an interloper, to a world where digital and analog seamlessly co-exist. It's kind of like moving from fire & candles to electricity. When Edison first successfully tested a light bulb in 1879 (it stayed lit for 13.5 hours), electricity was the thing. Now, electricity is so integrated into every facet of our lives that we never think about it. As things around us become smarter, we won't think about the "internet" or the "internet of things" so much as it'll be all around us and we'll leverage these smart objects in ways we haven't even though about yet.
GE calls the Internet of Things the 3rd wave:
Back in February, I tweeted this out:
About a month later, Google notified me that I'd been accepted into their Glass Explorers program. Late last week, I picked Glass up. In this post I'll tell you what my first 48 hours with Glass have been like, what's been great about it, and why I don't believe Glass is yet ready for general public use.
Here's a video of me showing up at Google HQ to get Glass:
After writing recently about what Elon Musk has been able to achieve, I've been thinking a lot about blockers that cause people and companies to fall short of their goals.
This assumes that those goals have been clearly defined. That's often the first problem. Getting everyone in a company on the same page to achieve the same macro objective is the first step in the process. A great litmus test for this is to randomly stop an employee in the hallway and ask them what business they think the company is in. The more varied the answers, the less this first crucial step has been achieved.
And personally, many of us are not working towards a macro goal, but rather, we're just trudging along, one day at a time. I often see people working towards secondary, more immediate objectives without having a clearly defined macro goal. So although it sounds obvious: To achieve success, one first has to define what success means. Have you set macro goals for your life? Mine, in prioritized order, are:
Over on my entrepreneur + tech blog, I post about an area I'm very familiar with: Technology & startups.
Now, I'm embarking on a much bigger challenge: Fatherhood.
Yep, I'm going to be a dad. Here's a picture of our daughter, who will be joining us sometime in late October 2013:
For now, we're calling her "Baby DROdio."
I talk to entrepreneurs who have ideas, and very often they ask what they should do first.
I've had the conversation enough now that I'm going to write a blog on it to give a much more detailed answer than I can in a 5 minute convo or a quick email.
The first thing I'd say is congrats, you have an idea. Not to be too crass here, but ideas are like sperm. They're required in order to bring your startup to life, but an idea alone isn't worth much. In fact, my first big piece of feedback is that your idea is for all intents and purposes valueless. Unseasoned entrepreneurs want to protect their ideas and not tell anyone about them. What I always say is this: If you really believe your idea is so valuable, then go try to sell it to someone. See how much anyone will pay you for it. Let the market tell you how valuable your idea is. If you can get $1MM for your idea, then you've just won the startup lottery and saved yourself from the really hard part: Executing on that idea. I'd sell ideas all day long if I could, but I've never been able to sell a single one -- not even for 1 cent (literally).
So just like sperm, ideas are bountiful and required for life, but they don't accomplish much on their own, and in fact from this point onward in this post I'm going to substitute the word 'sperm' for 'idea' just to drive my point home. And just like only a few dozen sperm reach their destination from millions initially, that's how it goes with ideas as you start to execute on them.
The second thing I'd suggest is you (life)hack together a prototype of your sperm. This doesn't mean the prototype has to be software based. For example, when I started a tech-based real estate brokerage in 2003, part of my model was to use technology to be more efficient, allowing me to give rebates to home buyers. My entire business model was based on establishing strong SEO, building a lead-gen CRM, getting a data feed of the MLS homes database, and lots of other things that would take tons of dev work.
A few months ago I blogged about mobile apps, and a startup in particular that was unlocking data from cars via its mobile app. Recently, my wife turned me on to another great example, a startup called Tile.
If you've ever lost anything -- your keys, your wallet, etc. -- then you'll love Tile, because it'll help you find them. Which means that all of us will love Tile. It's like Lojack... for anything.
Tile is unlocking the data about where your items are and giving our phones access to that data via a mobile app. It's sweet, and it's another incredible example of why I blogged two years ago that mobile is going to be way bigger than we'd imagined.
Check the video out, and pre-order your Tiles too, if you're as much of a fan as we are!
Barnes & Noble gave up on its color Nook reader today. From this NY Times article:
This is why it's critical for a company to clearly define and articulate (both internally to employees and externally to the world) what business it's in. Barnes & Noble was a retail chain book seller trying to make a tablet. That didn't work.
Contrast that with Amazon. Amazon, too, was in the business of selling books originally. But its goal is "To be earth’s most customer centric company." And mobile is extremely customer-centric. Therefore, the Kindle fire is an integral part of Amazon's core goal. It's not a division to be spun off, or a sub-unit of a larger company with an entirely different goal.
I don't know the details of what went on inside of Barnes & Noble. But I'd be willing to bet that the company wasn't willing to de-prioritize its legacy retail business enough to fully bet on the Nook. And because of that, the Nook never got the company's core focus. I imagine that Barnes & Noble wanted to keep the revenue from its legacy business while investing in what might come next. But that means that every decision made at the company didn't have the lens of the company's core focus guiding it.
I've always been a fan of audio APIs / mobile SDKs. For example, if you're watching the Conan O'Brien show and you have the Team Coco app open at the same time, it'll listen to the show and sync up with the show's content, showing the same content or ads on the app as on the TV. That kind of thing feels like magic to the end user, because there's mystery around how the app is staying sync.
But yesterday, Tim, the founder of ShareThis, showed me something that takes audio APIs to a new level, called Lisnr. Although it's marketed as a standalone app, my understanding from Tim is that it's also available as an SDK that app publishers can put into its app.
I'm at a Sheraton hotel in downtown NYC. The iPad Mini's LTE cellular data speed is a blazing fast 39.24 megabits per second. Compare that to the slow-as-molassas 0.26 mbps of the hotel wifi that my laptop is connected to. That means the iPad Mini is one hundred and fifty one times faster than the landline wifi.
This is why mobile wins. This is why the 4G service on the iPhone 5 was such a big deal. Soon the novelty will wear off, and we'll come to expect a constant, turbocharged connection to the digital world from our mobile devices. This is why every business is mobile, even if most don't realize it yet. Because all of us will be interacting with every business from connected mobile devices.