Ron Conway is right

The “Super Angels” bandwagon is a recent phenomenon.

Ron Conway’s back-to-basic email is excellent and worth a read.

PhD Notes

I am just concluding my first year report on the PhD. I’m happy with it, and feel I have made big progress this year. So far, so good.

However, in parallel I have been re-reading some of the papers that I raced through earlier in the year. Having written my first year report, I see how much depth, detail and nuance I have missed out. I have time to address this, and plan to, but it took me by surprise. Feeling smug at having completed something well, I was was taken aback when I suddenly realized how much better it can be.

Part of this is self-criticism: I am always harder on myself than others. That’s just me. However, in the discovery process that is my doctoral research, I’m realizing that detailed study reveals layers of insight and you have to work hard at it to make progress. I feel that after a year, I’m just starting.

Extinction or survival at IBM

IBM Article in CMR

Great article on how IBM turned around.
Prize winning paper in CMR.

Simple presentation

Here is a great explanation of how the web works, with all its consumer tracking activities. (Thanks, JP).

Angel attitudes

My PhD research looks at entrepreneurs’ attitudes to failure in Germany, UK and USA. An article by Jeff Lynn in TechCrunch talks about a UK angel focus on investment levels rather than returns, a total contrast to recent Ron Conway press. In Silicon Valley, returns are more clearly a driver: having fun along the way and making a contribution are more important than tax breaks and financial planning.

The angel investor culture surely has an impact on entrepreneurial attitudes to failure. Perhaps there is an holistic “portfolio theory” at work here – UK angels tend to see investing as a numbers game involving risk mitigation, tax sheltering and hedging the market. Silicon Valley investors may have a broader range of variables beyond the alpha and beta to drive their investments. What about Germany, too? Does the presence of early-stage support from organizations such as the Fraunhofer institutes distort the motiviation for non-family related investing?

Just a thought. I need to come back to this after some interviews.

After the startup, the scaling

Excellent summary here by Andy Grove about the loss of manufacturing capability and sensibility in the US economy. A bit harsh on setting off a trade war, but common sense and stated with huge credibility. Having startups is great, but scaling some of these successful businesses means making things – manufacturing.

Visualization of Qualitative Data (Capture)

Conducting qualitative research involves specific forms of data capture. How visual techniques can be used in such activities is not widely appreciated. Visual outputs and analysis are well covered in the literature, but visual methods in data capture are much less represented.

Several sources here are on my list for review in the next few weeks (including the Tufte books) as I put my plans together for interviews later in 2010.

  1. MEYER, A. D. 1991. Visual Data in Organizational Research. Organization Science, 2, 218-236.
  2. SLONE, D. J. 2009. Visualizing Qualitative Information. The Qualitative Report, 14, 489 – 497.
  3. TUFTE, E. 1983. The visual display of quantitative data, Cheshire, CT, Graphics Press.

[Thanks to Jonathan Johnson for the Slone reference].

    Semantic Web made easy

    A major reason for venture failure is having a poorly articulated value proposition (what and why, to whom, for how much?). Most technology is complex, and telling its story simply is difficult.

    I love this Metaweb video (shame they just got bought by Google) for telling a complex story so well – all in the length of a pop record.

    Silicon Valley update

    I am back in Menlo Park for the summer. I lived in the valley for fifteen years and still consider myself virtually resident, although I’m studying in Cambridge.

    This week I remembered why Silicon Valley is so great. Within days of arriving, I plug into a network of people who are creative, enthusiastic and active, Its a big network and investors overlap with entrepreneurs in many sectors. Jobs, consulting positions, advisory roles, startup opportunities are here in numbers that simply don’t exist in the UK.

    Its not perfect, but it is wonderful.

    Top 10 Mistakes Made by Entrepreneurs

    Great informal session on what its like to be an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

    The tyranny of choice

    great quote from Roger McNamee in Judy Estrin’s book.

    “Our parents grew up in a world where they had to make three decisions by their twenty-fifth birthday – whom they were going to marry, where they were going to live, and what they were going to do professionally,” observes investor Roger McNamee. “They didn’t have a lot of choices. Now we have a million choices, but we’re entirely at the mercy of our own judgment and skills.”

    Estrin, J. (2008). “Closing the Innovation Gap“. New York, McGraw-Hill.

    Academic training starts today

    Cambridge University Crest

    Cambridge University Crest

    I take my first lecture today as a student at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM). Twenty five years after my last serious academic endeavour, here I go again.
    I spent yesterday collating all the reading I have done in the past year using a research tool (EndNote).  A boring, repetitive task but worth the effort. I then spent an hour catching up on podcasts and videos on the web, where technology startup leaders talked about their experience. The contrast between the diligent, time-consuming reading of academic materials and the immediate injection of ready-for-digestion experience is stark. Part of my research will need to assess all sources, and make sense of all the noise.

    First Day of term

    Freshers’ photograph today, and my first day for buns at the department.

    Moving to academia

    I’ve been working continuously in finance, consultancy and technology since I left university in 1984 and have spent the past decade in a series of technology startups – some successful, some less so.

    Later this year I embark on a PhD program at the University of Cambridge and plan to record my thoughts and research activities on this blog.