Monday, May 26, 2008

Trip in the Valley - 05/25

Starbucks at Cupertino Village is just too crowd so I have to sit outside in my rented car around Starbucks to continue using the Tmobile Internet we just paid. Sitting inside my car with two laptops on mademes me feel like two hackers trying to crack the starbucks wifi here.

Then I strongly wish that Clearwire/Spring can make the pan-US WiMax network happen asap, esp. after they got $1B funding from Google, Intel and etc. That's such a nice move and will help every such strategic investor to gain significant leverage in the market. The WiMax will just make B2C wifi device manufactures such as NetGear, LinkSys etc an irrelevant player because no wireless router needed at every home. No need to search/pay for wifi network like what we are doing. No need to buy/install/download various wifi USB adapors. Wow. The get-rid-of-linksys reminds me a cool saying I read from Paul Graham's post: Startup redefine the problem to make status quo irrelevant. So this will also make Qualcomm irrelevant so Nokia etc may integrate Intel's WiMax chips into mobile directly.

WiMax aside, yesterday I'd met two (group) of people in this Cupertino Village. J is talking about an investment opportunity in China and I wish him the best luck. He also talked about the missed opportunity for him to help EA exploring the online game market. Every opportunity has a window and the fast pacing just make every window smaller and smaller. Less and Less time for all of us to wait for a "better" time which usually means less risk.  There are always people want to take more risk than us such as younger, or single (vs. married), linving in rented place (vs. on mortgage) etc. Wait is ok but if the wait will not create any additional value for the opportunity, we lost the opportunity.

Z and G are a team trying to explore the opportunity in the wirelees space. We talked a lot about the most reasonable path to get started for a pure engineer team like them. Three typical risks need to be addressed regardless from investor's or entrepreneur's point of view are technology risk, market risk and management risk which I list in a series of importance for such an engineer team. (Again, entrepreneur and investor like VC are no difference. Entrepreneur invests time and opportunity cost such as resigning from current job. VCs invest in money and network/experience. No one wants to waste time on a bad idea. Pardon the ego.) Alwayse focus on the point where a founding team can demonstrate the most strengthen/value. So an engineer team should not (IMHO) focus on write biz plan, building financial forecast etc. Why? because at the end, the financial forecast will be very likely laughable since you may never have the experience to do so before. And that won't be the point VC may want to check either. Rather, an engineer team may focus on developing a demo to address the technical challenge they identified. Then using own contact in the industry to validate the market need which is the MOST important here for the investors. VCs may not understand the technology but they clearly see the business opportunity when the potential customer, say Verizon here, said yes we are having this difficulty that affects $100M worth revenue and would like to give this technology a try.

Looking forward to meeting more people in my calendar!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Notes taken from Boston Harbor Angels

I was sitting in the monthly meeting of Boston Harbor Angels, a leading angel group at Boston area that hosts monthly meeting at Babson College. The meeting is invitation-only but they give guests invited by Babson or other members opportunity to audit the meeting twice. For those of you from Babson that wants to enter VC industry then remember the managing director of BHA is a Babson MBA alum, Aleksandar Mollov.



So during the meeting I had talked with couple of angels about the current status of angel investment in China and their take for investment opportunities there. Feedbacks are:


Candida Brush, Director of Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College

- Usually angels invest around $20K-$50K of this group, how much money you want to raise from agenl investors may bring a lot of investors to deal with

- Should talk to Professor

Jeffrey E. Sohlis Director of the Center for Venture Research and Professor of Entrepreneurship and Decision Sciences at the Whittemore School of Business at University of New Hamphsire
Ben Littauer, Founder, President, and CTO of Baranof Software 1990 – 1997. Self-funded, profitable from year two. Sold to Tally Systems.
- Angels want to be close with their portfolios to be actively involved so China is too far away
- Angels want to leverage their knowledge/network for their portfolios but few angels have intl. experience
- Regulation risks? For US foreigners invest in oversea and in China?
- Your advisory board will be as attractive as the fund and GPs
Others I'd talked to include:
Ronald Murphy, VP of STDMED, rmurphy at stdmed com
- We are raising a $50-$100M venture fund now with in-house research & development & manufacture capacity to fund ideas in the life science field
Andrew Stern, astern911 at comcast net
- "An agressive angel investor"
Martin Lowenthal, martin.lowenthal yahoo com
- the angel member with the most international experience and background
Update of 2008 ACA Summit at San Diego, CA hosted by Angel Capital Association
- Angel investors can only succeed with a portfolio including certain number of companies. less than 8 is very likely to loose money, 8-10 is reasonable return, for spectectular return need to be around 25 or more
- Angel investors in the US may not be the right group to approach but US angels in China could be the best target

Also seems the Boston Harbor Angels is strengthening the tie with Babson. In the meeting, I see a team of 7 first-year Babson MBA student from the VC/PE club is auditing the meeting and will help pre-screening bplans received.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Three Upgrades, Two results: Ubuntu, Virtual Box and Firefox

Recently I had made two significant upgrade for my laptop. One is to upgrade Ubuntu Linux from 7.10 to 8.04 and the other is upgrade Firefox 2 to Firefox 3. Since I almost spent 99% of my time on those two piece of software, it's very significant. Turn out to be very different experience.

Firefox 3 even though still in beta stage, it works perfect. Firefox 2 is a memory hog  and I tried to switch to Opera browser but weren't satisified so have to stick with Firefox 2. Now the firefox 3 is a great product. It's not only much faster but also has a much improved user interface and experience. One thing I love the most is even though sometimes I have to power off my laptop abruptively, Firefox 3 can remember any text I'd input in an unsaved web form. You will be very grateful as I do if you know what I am talkinga bout.

On the other hand, Ubuntu 8.04 is quite disappoining. Namely, it sometimes cannot resume after  I hibernate the laptop. It just hang there after I power up so I have to power off and reboot. What a joke!

At last my upgrade of the virtulization software, Virtual Box from Sun (originally Innotek a Germany company), from 1.5.6 to 1.6 is another bad experience. It cannot enter full screen mode and has difficult to recorgnize my USB keyboard and Mouse.

I understand there maybe some solution to play around with whatever configuration files which is an essential experience with Linux but Ubuntu 7.10 overall is much better a product than 8.0.4.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Where is plugin for Firefox 3?

I am using Firefox 3 beta for a few weeks and still cannot see updated plugin from yahoo for Firefox 3. Why? Everyone including developers is pay attention to who will be the next buyer of Yahoo?

It's so sad to see that it's someone else but NOT Yahoo! developed the newest plugin for Firefox 3. Is this what Usmair called death of innovation after promising startups acquired by big guys?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Advertising opportunity in China and more

This is my reply to a recent email from the SVCEF (Silicon Valley Chinese Entrepreneur Forum) mailing list and thought someone may like to read it here. The topic is about advertising opportunities in China.

I would only want to convince all advertisers using AllYes (one of the largest ad network in China, imagine its ) now to my platform if my startup can bring clea additinal value to those advertisers. Or put this way, I'd only want to start a company if I am sure this company can bring additional value to advertisers than what AllYes/DoubleClick can offer today. That value should include switch cost for advertisers etc so at the end if my startup can save advertiser $1M per year for the same result by using Allyes or additionally $1M sales by investing same amount of ad $, then I would feel confident to charge a percentage of whatever $1M - 2 x switch cost that equal to.

Behavioral targeting technology, IMHO, is ultimately the data play. Baidu/Google keyword ad is already behavioral targeting technology. Because it display relevant ad based on our behavior (search keyword or URL we are visiting). Their advantage is the huge amount of data that they can run millions of statistics model analysis like using SPSS/SAS which any startup will find very difficult to compete with in terms of efficiency.

That's why Google want to digitalize all books/magazines whatever offline. Because without having those data, Google is just a F22 on the ground running out of fuel. And that's where the opportunity is in terms of offline.

Nokia finally wakes up to formalize its mobile strategy to reinvent itself to be a mobile-centric Google. Google never could get those billiosn of SMS data from China Mobile/Verizon/BT etc but Nokia etc could. Regardless privacy concern, Nokia can easily tap into this Mobile Adword market.

So where is Data? then there is the opportunity.

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