Friday, October 22, 2010

What's Next According to VCs?

On Monday at the Digital East conference, the obligatory VC panel answered the obligatory question on what the new, new thing is going to be.  These sorts of panel questions usually lead to the same answers -- cloud services, social media, programmable web, hey I hear cleantech is going to be big.

But for some reason, this panel gave what I thought were some particularly insightful insights.

  •  E-Commerce is ready to start attacking hard businesses.  John Backus of New Atlantic Ventures started off the discussion with one of my very favorite themes.  Selling books and cds on the web was very web 1.0.  Selling shoes and clothes on the web was very web 2.0.  It's time to figure out how to sell the tricky things -- the unique items, the vintage items, the mass customized items, the collectors items.  In particular, John called out fine wines as an area that he thought the web was ready to solve.  I can think of a half dozen other areas.
  • It's time to take another look at digital media.  John Backus also hit one of my other favorite themes right on the head by noting that digital media is just beginning to take flight on the internet.  The ad spend in digital media is finally gaining momentum and the predictions and trends are all beginning to come true.  My sweet spot in this area is digital music -- as I've told anyone that will listen, digital music is still fighting World War I.  It's time to get out of the trenches and embrace some of the new technological developments to harvest the money that is becoming available.  
  • The new internet is perfectly situated to provide the "last mile" of bricks and mortar commerce.  Don Rainey of Grotech Ventures discussed this hyper local meets internet 2.0 trend, my third favorite theme.  Using an analogy to the last mile of phone and internet services to your home, Don noted the many tools that the internet was developing for small and mid-sized business to reach out to and acquire customers in efficient and inexpensive ways.  He also noted how the internet can help these small businesses with time sinks such as appointment setting.
Some great and unexpected thinking.   

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Identity through Design

(Originally posted on youNEQ on 7/25/10)

This weekend, I watched "Helvetica" again.  If you haven't seen it before, it's a wonderful documentary about the history of the Helvetica font.  What makes it such a good re-watch is that, as it explores the history of Helvetica, it also manages to explore the entire history of post-war graphic design.  And during this exploration you encounter many of the great graphic design luminaries of the past 70 years.

What struck me this time in particular was the the notion that we express our identity through our design choices.

The last statement of the movie is by Rick Poynor, a noted thinker on cultural criticism and design theory. His final thought is roughly the following:
To care about [design] in the way that you care about the clothing you are wearing, as an expression of who you are, or your haircut ... or how you decorate your apartment ...  
We accept the idea of identity being expressed in that way, through these consumer choices, well now it’s happening in the sphere of visual communication and there’s no reason -- as the tools become ever more sophisticated -- why this just won’t go on developing and developing and developing.
I think that Mr. Poynor is exactly right and I also believe that there is no reason that this line of analysis is limited to graphic design.  People want everything in their life to speak to them and their personal identity -- including their belongings.  Belongings can also work as an expression of self and identity.  People should not simply be limited to making "consumer choices" when they choose how to express their identity.   This is one of the cornerstones of the youNEQ project.  We look forward to exploring it with you. 

-- Hank
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Find the Truth...

Today, at the Digital East conference in Tysons Corner, Don Rainey of Grotech Ventures made a sage observation -- he said:
When we look at a startup.  We look for a commitment to test, to trial and error, to finding the truth.  That's what we are looking for.
To me this speaks to a fundamental philosophy of startups.  Are you coming at your idea with a commitment to discovery?  Or are you coming at it with a commitment to entitlement?

In today's startup environment there is a significant amount of lip service paid to "lean startup" methodologies and etc.  However, checking into the self professed lean startup movement is only meaningful if you can adopt the three principles Don hits --  Are you committed to testing?  To trial and error?  And most importantly, are you committed to finding the truth?  Because, believe me, the truth is out there.  There is a business model that will work for your idea.  The trick is discovering it and the path is through iteration and experimentation. Click Here to Read More..

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some Housekeeping

Hey folks,

Just a quick housekeeping post.  First, I wanted to give you a heads up on some great events coming up that I will be attending -- if you will be at any of these, shoot me a text or email and we can meet up.

The first is Digital East happening tomorrow, October 18th, in Tysons Corner.  My good friends at Network Solutions are one of the many sponsors.  The conference is sold out, so I've got high hopes for it.

Next is The Venture Forum's Top 25 of the Last 25 event on October 27 at Center Stage in Richmond, VA.  This event is going to highlight the top 25 central Virginia entrepreneurs from the last 25 years.   Should be a great event and a good opportunity to check out the new Center Stage complex.

Then, on November 17 and 18, I'll be at the Internet Summit 2010 in Raleigh.  This is co-hosted by my great friends at Southern Capitol Ventures (the hardest working VCs I know).  I went last year and it was a fantastic event.  Should be even better this year.

Last, don't forget SXSW.  It is still a few months away, but I'm already pretty excited for it.  I may have two companies ready to demo there and I've got my fingers crossed about doing a panel presentation.  See you there.

On the blogging front, I know I've been relatively quiet on this blog.  Recently, I have been focused on the youNEQ project as well as a different digital media project.  I have been blogging a bit on the youNEQ blog and will start cross-posting some of the generally applicable ones over here.  I am also working on some new posts for this blog too.

All my best,

Hank Click Here to Read More..
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Dividends and Preferences by Hank Heyming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.