FoundersDen: prototype of startup heaven?

Where you rent your office space can dramatically change your opportunities. I’ve been studying this lately, having gotten around to TechStars, Y Combinator, Dog Patch Labs, and now FoundersDen.

What did I see at FoundersDen?

1. The network. Zack Bogue, one of the four guys who are running FoundersDen, is married to Marissa Mayer. Think he can’t get your company in front of nearly anyone? Well, look at the other three founders, including Jonathan Abrams.

2. Diversity of assistance. With four founders they can cover you with legal and technical help, not to mention pretty much any other startup company.

3. Diversity of companies you’ll work with. They have more than a dozen companies working here, including many of the smartest people in the business (I saw Charles Hudson working at one desk). That makes for interesting conversations at lunch, but also means you’ll find help with the problems you are facing.

4. Location, location, location. It’s right near Techcrunch and the train station, not to mention tons of other startups.

Anyway, enjoy this look around FoundersDen where we discover what could be termed as “startup heaven.” One problem, you gotta get invited to rent a desk here, so start networking!

Samsung, Motorola, and HP set stage for iPad 2

iPad ads everywhere

OK, we’ve seen the best tablets now that the industry can offer.

At CES Motorola Xoom won best of show.
Last week we saw the HP TouchPad, which looks even better.
Finally, today, at the very end of its presentation, Samsung launched a 10-inch Tablet.

But let’s go back through my mantra:

“The only thing that matters is apps.”

I want you to repeat that over and over until you get it.

Which one has Flipboard? iPad.
Which one has the History of Jazz? iPad.
Which one has Rupert Murdoch’s Daily? iPad.
Which one has Oprah’s new app? iPad.

Shall I go on? I could go on all day long.

The entire tablet world comes down to apps.

Does Android’s (er Motorola, Samsung, or all the others) new large tablets have them? No.
Does HP’s new large tablets have them? No.
Does RIM’s new large tablets have them? No.
Does Microsoft’s offering have them? No.
Nokia? It isn’t even in the game.

In other words, what the entire industry just did is give Apple a huge differentiator that they will drive a truck through. One that will be packed full of iPad 2s headed to its stores.

Where Samsung took only a few minutes to show off what it’s tablet actually does, look for Apple to showcase new app after new app.

We’re living in an iPad world. All the others can only dream.

Photo credit: I shot this picture of an iPad ad in the Paris subway.

Developers tell me I'm nuts and say Nokia, RIM, Microsoft are still screwed

Man, my email has been flowing ever since yesterday morning with lots of responses to my “Nokia Fans: you’re nuts!” post.

Most say that the newly-joined Microsoft/Nokia still has no shot getting them to write apps and that RIM is even worse off.

I tried to ignore them, but then Nick Long appeared in my life yesterday afternoon.

Who is he?

Senior technical lead at Dreamworks Animation. You might know them, they do a lot of the special effects in movies. But that’s not why he was at my house yesterday. He was there to show me a mobile app that he and partner Paul Robinett will ship sometime this summer. I was impressed with their mobile app, but they asked me to keep it quiet until they shipped.

That said, I saw my chance. Here was a real live developer who is building a mobile app so I invited them down to the Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton bar for a few drinks and some conversation. I want you to listen to the conversation that happened down at the bar. Developers hold all the cards in this game. Remember my point yesterday: EVERYTHING in the smartphone race is about apps. EVERYTHING.

So, if guys like Nick won’t develop for your platform you are dead.

Listen to what Nick says:

“What are you going to develop for?”

“It’s pretty simple…Android and iPhone.”

“What do you think of the announcements today?”

“Nokia is screwed.”

But then we go into more detail about just how screwed. It’s an entertaining conversation and a rare look into how developers think.

They also explained how the non-Apple or Google companies could woo him.

The short answer is: they are screwed.

One other insight from this conversation? They feel that Instagr.am will be one of the last apps that will ship on only iOS. That’s an interesting insight too.

Dear Nokia fans: you're nuts!

Nuts!

Nokia-Microsoft concept phones

If you go over to Nokia’s announcement where they announced a sweeping deal with Microsoft and read all the comments you’ll see that most of the comments are in total despair mode.

It’s like a bunch of Google employees are astroturfing the comments there. “I’m gonna buy Android” they all say. Many others say “how can Elop (Nokia’s CEO) bet on a failed platform?” Other blogs are calling this note “a suicide note.”

You all are nuts.

So, let’s all take a deep breath together and calm down. I know it’s shocking to hear that your beloved Symbian sucks, but I’ve been saying it for years and you’ve been calling me names. I come from the future and I know you don’t like to be dragged into it.

You’ll soon come to see that Windows Phone 7 actually rocks and actually is a lot nicer to use than Android.

“So why has it sold so poorly then Smartass Scoble?”

Because it has no apps.

Nothing matters in this world more than apps. Write that on your forehead. Write that on the mirror on your bathroom wall. Write that on your car windshield. Whatever it will take so you remember it.

HP execs know this. Google’s execs know this. Everyone in Silicon Valley knows this.

Apps are the ONLY thing that matters now.

Why? Because when a customer, whether in Cape Town or San Francisco or Tel Aviv walks into a store to buy a smartphone they will NOT want to feel stupid.

What makes you feel stupid when buying a Smartphone? Buying one that doesn’t have the apps your friends are taunting you with.

Right now Nokia and Windows Phone 7 are out of the game. That’s why Google’s exec, Vic Gundotra, is calling them both “turkeys.”

Does this get both into the game? Yes!

Here’s why.

1. Nokia has distribution. Distribution Google doesn’t yet have. Nokia has dealers and stores in the weirdest places on earth. Places Apple won’t have stores in for decades, if ever.

2. MIcrosoft has a great OS. I like it better than Android. If you actually USED a Windows Phone 7 you’d see that to be true.

3. Microsoft has great developer tools.

4. Microsoft has Xbox. Which has just been rejuvenated with Kinect (hottest selling product in history, even hotter than the iPad!) IE, some parts of Microsoft ARE cool!

5. Nokia has great hardware design and supply chains. They always have great cameras, great screens. Supply chains matter. A lot more than anyone thinks (the stuff Apple never talks about, but works its ass off on is supply chain management — I got to see this first hand when I visited China).

You add that all up as a salad and now the smart developers have to take another look at Microsoft and Nokia. They can’t ignore them like they can RIM (we all know people won’t use a lot of cool apps on a Blackberry).

So, should Nokia have gone Android? No way. That takes them through a real commoditization (IE, non differentiated) minefield. One that Nokia execs aren’t smart enough to get through.

See, what you don’t know is Nokia just doesn’t have the right people to play in this new world. They needed to join the engineering teams at Nokia who know how to build great hardware with someone else who knows how to build services. That someone else is Microsoft. No one else was as strong a fit and if you think Google is it, well, sorry, no. That would be even worse for Nokia because Nokia needs to have something different than HTC has (Nokia can’t compete with China’s brightest minds).

So, sorry, Nokia fans, you just aren’t looking at this deal the right way.

This is the only way Stephen Elop could go in this war to get app developers excited again.

What you should be asking yourself is “can Elop really execute?” That I’m not so sure about and we’ll only know for sure six to 18 months from now. But the strategy is the right one.

You should buy a Windows Phone 7 before you run off your mouth. That’s why you all are nuts when you say you’re buying Android. What a hoot!

Photo credit: Iain Buchanan, Creative Commons licensed photo.

UPDATE: Engadget just released these Nokia/Microsoft concept phone photos.

Car battery of future: inside IBM's coolest lab

This article is reprinted from Building43, Rackspace’s lab where we discover bleeding edge technologies and companies.

The days of $1.50 gasoline are long gone, and high costs coupled with environmental concerns have ignited a search for the battery that will power the cars of the future. IBM is at the forefront of this effort with its development of the lithium air super-battery.

The goal “is to create a battery that will power the typical family car about 500 miles between recharges,” explains Winfried Wilcke, Senior Manager, Nanoscale Science and Technology with IBM. “Today’s batteries…fall short of this goal by quite a factor, with [the best batteries] only lasting approximately 200 to 240 miles.”

Bridging this gap requires drastically increasing the battery’s energy density by making it lighter. IBM reduces the weight by getting rid of the heavy transition metal oxides like cobalt oxide or manganese oxide and replacing them with a lightweight, high-surface carbon structure.

The lithium air battery represents “the highest energy density of any imaginable system,” says Wilcke, “but it’s not easy to do. It’s a long-term project currently in its early science phases, but in the last six or seven months we have gotten a lot of positive results, which make me cautiously optimistic that this can actually work.”

Wilcke hopes to have a lithium air battery in cars by 2020. A battery that could power a car for 500 miles would certainly be worth the wait.

More info:

IBM Research – Almaden web site: http://www.almaden.ibm.com/
IBM Research – Dr. Winfried Wilke: http://www.almaden.ibm.com/background/?wilcke

The new compensation: going to anti-hoarders?

Yammer's founder, David Sacks

Today Rocky and I visited Yammer’s headquarters and had an interesting chat with founder/CEO David Sacks.

Don’t know what Yammer is? Two-and-a-half years ago they won Techcrunch 50 for its enterprise collaboration system (think Twitter for businesses). Now they are a lot more than that, and growing fast. Tons of big businesses like Chevron are using Yammer to help people work together.

That interview will be up soon, but during our chat I asked him when companies would be compensating people based on the value they are pouring in the system.

I got a very strange look.

A year ago I asked Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff the same question and got the same strange look.

Tells me I’m onto something.

Here’s what I am thinking of.

If someone adds a lot of value into a company’s internal system Yammer could keep track of that (thanks to engagement, etc) and when yearly bonuses get handed out management could just look to see who has put the most value into the system.

Fairly straightforward, but it’s interesting that both Sacks and Benioff don’t want to push this potential use of their systems. At least not in public.

Why would that be?

Well, they are both in adoption mode. They are still trying to convince people and companies to use these systems instead of more private email.

Remember back when I worked at NEC (a huge world-wide company?) When I left there all my email was private. I don’t have access to it anymore. Neither does the company.

Lost value.

But now Yammer and a host of other companies are trying to convince people to do their work “in the open.” In other words, instead of writing down some detail about a sales account in email, or in a contact manager only one person has access to, put that up on a news stream and into a contact manager everyone can see.

This freaks many employees out.

Why? Being open is antithetical to how they were trained. Many people think they are compensated by the value they hoarded.

Think about a lawyer. They went to school to gain exotic knowledge that they hoarded. People paid them for this hoarded knowledge.

Today? We’re asking people to blog, Tweet, put up YouTube videos, and to use Yammer and other systems like Salesforce.

That’s scary for a lot of people.

So, when I go and ask whether we should compensate people based on the information they SHARE with a company, that’s a topic these new CEOs aren’t quite willing to talk openly about.

Why? It freaks the information hoarders out and makes them less likely to change to information sharers. In such a world old systems like Microsoft Sharepoint stay relevant and new systems like Yammer don’t get adopted.

I’m quite convinced though that in the future at least some of big-company compensation will come from whether you have good knowledge sharing skills.

It’ll just take a couple of years to get there. In the meantime these new CEOs will remain a bit cagey about the potential for compensating people based on how good their Yammering is.

Oh, and now you also know why they are watching reputation systems like the ones that Quora just put in place.

Photo credit: David Sacks photo shot by Robert Scoble in Yammer’s San Francisco headquarters.

UPDATE: Brian Solis talk at lift, called “Digital Currencies” gives a further hint as to what this world might look like.