As the unabashedly analog guy in this resolutely digital company (heck, I used to be a banker before I became an honest business man!), I simultaneously marvel and despair at encounters with cutting-edge technology: How do software and hardware engineers do that stuff, and why can’t I? OK, so I’m pretty good now with my digital camera, and just succumbed to the siren song of Apple and bought an iPhone. But I still use a 70-year old fountain pen, a 50-year old Leica, and have a funky leather saddle (Brooks, of course) on my titanium road bike.
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In the conventional, “textbook” way of doing things, early-stage companies secure initial funding from “friends and family members” or angel investors, then through crisp and timely execution of a well-articulated business plan graduate to a stage of development, and level of sophistication where they are able to attract investment from venture capital firms. The company typically would be formed as a “C” corporation, would recruit a CFO or VP Finance to generate all the projections/spreadsheets and implement all the operational controls that VC’s expect, engage legal counsel to pull together the standard set of documents for a Series A funding round with the standard set of preferences, etc., etc. The company is then set on a standard three to five year trajectory towards either an initial public offering, or as a candidate for acquisition by a large, publicly traded technology or web services company. All bog standard, all terribly predictable and all terribly…uninteresting. But oh! so tempting to head down that well-trodden path as the lowest-friction, least risky way to bring a new idea to fruition.
But, what happens when the core idea of the company itself – how it should be structured, how it should behave in society, what it’s financial and human/social objectives are – is largely at odds with these conventions? Should the founders, board members and staff opt to head down the well-trodden “conventional” path and hope to preserve at least some of the core values and objectives of the company? Or take a chance in pioneering a new way of building a company; one that combines a resolutely for-profit technology business with a deep commitment to social issues? Read the rest of this entry »
I chuckled on hearing a story on NPR this week about a publishing company from Iceland — yes, ICELAND! — that plans to launch free daily newspapers in 10 US cities. Apart from the Iceland connection, nothing unusual about that. The rub is that the newspaper content will largely come from selected web bloggers. Its a sort of vanity press — on paper — for the digerati. The publisher will pay the bloggers for their content, but obviously at a lower rate than, say, the NY Times pays Tom Friedman.
The really interesting thing to me is that the whole idea turns on its head the notion that news in physical form is a dinosaur and that everything good is going digital. Not so, it seems; people still like to hold a newspaper, or book, in their hands. Another thought of possible interest to bloggers whose content might be selected for print publication (“Anablogs”?): the Pulitzer Prize awards for journalism haven’t (yet) favored digital journalists. If ya wanna be famous, ya gotta be in print!
NY Times columnist Tom Friedman has a great talent for breaking through the thick crust of partisan political rhetoric that attaches itself inexorably to every major issue (war, religious fundamentalism, economic development, emerging democracies, etc.) and obscures the facts needed to make intelligent decisions. With his cover story in the April 15, 2007 NY Times Sunday Magazine (”The Power of Green”), he has clearly seized the thought leadership role in describing the enormous opportunities – economic, political and social – presented by “green technology.” Read the rest of this entry »