Posts from April 2004

Disruptive Technologies

I love comments on my blog, even the ones i don’t agree with.

Last month, i wrote a post about Venture Fratricide that generated some of the best comments on my blog. Taken together, they were much better than my original post. In one of them, Giordano suggested i read Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dillema.

I bet that many of you have read this book. I had not. I am reading it now and it is fantastic. It crystalizes so much of what i have experienced over the years in the venture business. There’s nothing new in this book that i did not already intuitively understand, but it gives me a way of talking about these things that have happened to me and my companies (both good and bad) that i didn’t have before. That is a great thing.

Clayton describes “Disruptive Technologies” in the following way. Most technologies are “sustaining” in that they incrementally improve the price/performance of a particular product/service over time. But some technologies dramatically reduce the price/performance of a particular product/service and create a new path. These are the disruptive technologies. They start a new upward moving path and become sustaining technologies, but off a new base. And what is so pernicious about these disruptive technologies is that most companies that are sustaining their products/services cannot immediately adopt the new path because it changes their whole economic model and because their customers have no desire for the lower performance that initially comes with the new technology.

Paid search is a classic disruptive technology. Advertising and direct marketing, even online advertising and direct marketing, was moving nicely along its sustaining path providing ever more performance to marketers for a given price. Then along came Bill Gross and and we had a new path. In the beginning, the price/performance was too low to be interesting to most marketers. So everyone ignored it. But now, paid search is a $2 billion business and is slowly eating away at the margins in the traditional advertising and direct marketing business. It’s just a much better way to reach customers. It’s a new path. And it’s become a sustaining technology that will get better and better.

I haven’t finished this book yet and there may be more posts before i am done. If you haven’t read it and you are in the technology business, i suggest you go get it.

#VC & Technology

Utterly Sure (Continued)

I don’t normally get the desire to respond to the comments i don’t agree with on my blog. I figure that people are allowed to express their opinion as much as i am. An open exchange of ideas and thoughts is what blogging is all about.

But today, i am moved to respond to something i think is important in the upcoming election.

El Jefe writes the following in reponse to my Utterly Sure post:

Hmmm…lessee…a president who stands by his words and convictions or one who can’t make up his mind.

Pretty tough decision this November.

I don’t think its a tough decision. I’ll take the thoughtful considerate decision maker over the hasty bull headed one every time. Recognizing the other side’s perspective and keeping an open mind is something i really appreciate in a leader. I recognize this is a matter of taste and that many americans prefer the illustion of strength that Bush exudes. But not me.


Oil Is The New Slavery

300 years ago, the foundation of the US economy was slavery. Labor costs were low because everyone used free slave labor. The leaders of our country knew that slavery was wrong, but it took over 50 years of infighting and a bitter civil war that devastated a generation of men to rid our country of that disease.

As I look at the front page of the NY Times today and see a blown out building framed on both sides by articles about bombings in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, I can’t help but think that oil is our new slavery.

We know that our addiction to oil is bad. It’s a non-renewable source of energy that is slowly eating away at the atmosphere and leading to global warming. And the countries that control the world’s supply of oil are run by a collection of the worst dictators around. We know all too well about Iraq and our problems there. But what about Venezuala, Iran, and the worst of all, Saudi Arabia? These countries are all bad news. But we fill their pocketbooks every day at the gas pump.

What if we had renewable sources of energy that were clean, affordable, and under our control? That would be nirvana.

I am by no means an expert in this area, but I believe that had our government made renewable energy a priority 25 years ago (as opposed to the investment in space exploration, for example) we would now have a viable renewable energy industry that would be well on its way to achieving my nirvana.

Why don’t we do that? Well, it’s not in the interests of the automobile industry, the oil and gas industry, the labor movement, and a host of other entrenched political interests. It’s certainly not in the interest of our current president who calls the Saudis to discuss his war plans before he talks to his own Secretary of State. After all, he needs these Saudi thugs to lower the price of oil at the gas pump the month before the election to insure he gets another four years.

I think that we are in for some rough times. Ridding our country of its addiction to oil is going to be as long and costly a battle as ridding our country of its addiction to slavery.

Update – I wrote this post this morning right after I looked at the front page of the New York Times. Later this morning, I read the op-ed section. While Friedman doesn’t make the slavery analogy, he sure does feel the same way I do about the lack of investment in renewable energy.


WiFi Is Everywhere

I am in a car headed down 7th Avenue/Varick Street and I just booted up my laptop (no I am not driving) to do some work. From 10th Street south to the Holland Tunnel entrance, I’ve had a strong connection to a series of wifi access points. And none of them are secure. You could probably get better reception on a wifi cellphone in lower manhattan than my T-Mobile phone gives me.

#VC & Technology

NY Dolls Reunion?

Just in from Burned By The Sun:

New York Dolls Rumors Fleshed Out
So, the Boston Globe reports that the New York Dolls are reuniting for Morrissey’s Meltdown Festival, with original members David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain, and Arthur Kane being joined by G’n’R alum Izzy Stradlin on guitar and Libertines drummer Gary Powell. For more on this, as well as a brief explanation of who the Dolls are and why they’re important, click here.

#My Music

AdSense Drought

Lately, Google can’t fill the four ad slots on the right side of my blog.

I don’t know if the problem is Google’s (lack of advertisers) or mine (lack of audience clicking).

But it sure seems odd.

I may have to cut back to two ad slots to avoid the embarassment of empty ad slots.

#VC & Technology

Will Blogging Be Big?

I was talking to Greg Lindsay today, who used to write for – which, sadly, was one of my less successful investments.
He is working on a story for a business magazine which will go unnamed that asks the question that everyone seems to be asking these days – will blogging be big? Of course, I told him, its going to be big. It already is big in terms of audience although nobody in the traditional media wants to admit it.

But Greg, like everyone else, seems to be focused on Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis. I told him that Nick and Jason are smart and doing good stuff, but he should look somewhere other than Gawker and Weblogs Inc if he really wants to see the future of blogging.

I pointed him to Technorati, Kinja, Feedburner, BlogAds, and a host of other interesting developments. I think the Internet is often a big head-fake. It’s not the obvious business model that often generates the most value. It’s the company that figures out to get inside of this beautiful open system and expose hidden value that often wins the biggest.

#VC & Technology