The Now Economy Items
May 5, 2006

Some VC and Research Lab links

Innovation, The Now Economy By: ams

It’s a Friday afternoon, and I’d like to clean up my desktop with a list o’ links I’ve found interesting over the past few weeks:

The Personal Bee aggregator for VC & Startup news. Feels a bit like some of the concepts behind Newroo/Fox. Here are several stories I got to from there:

  • the MIT/Lemelson Prize for inventors goes to an LCD pioneer from Menlo Park.
  • Sequoia, via Kedrosky:

    E&Y: Why is it crazy that LPs are willing to invest so much in venture capital?

    Leone: The returns have been miserable. If you take away a couple of exits, such as Google and MySpace, there haven’t been meaningful returns generated. There are [venture] firms that have never generated a positive return or have not even returned capital in 10 years that are raising money successfully. And that surprises the heck out of me. People talk about the top quartile — its not about the top quartile, it’s barely about the top decile, or even a smaller subset than that.

  • Khosla Ventures actually does still invest in computer-related stuff, not just the cool new life- and green- sciences, from this BusinessWeek blogpost by Justin Hibbard:

    one of his inaugural portfolio companies was SkyBlue Technologies, Inc. The Redwood City (Calif.) startup was founded a year ago by Stanford U. computer science professor Monica S. Lam and her fellow researchers, who are developing open-source virtualization software that lets systems administrators remotely manage PCs. Traditionally, companies have used programs like CA’s Unicenter or HP OpenView for this task. Virtualization sacrifices some performance to keep the management program running independently from the PC operating system, which can become unstable. It’s a clever use of an under-exploited technology that has had a recent resurgence on server computers and has produced at least one recent hit startup, VMWare. SkyBlue calls its class of software ready-to-run (R2R) and has launched a portal site, itCasting, to promote collaboration on R2R software. William J. Raduchel, CEO of Ruckus Network and former CTO at AOL Time Warner, is on SkyBlue’s board. The company raised $1 million last August and $2.26 million from Khosla and others in March.

    [In other recent manageability news, Intel announced vPro, a desktop featureset hopefully-analgous to Centrino, raising the possibility of yet-more feature wars such as XML processing smarts on the server side. ]

The New York Times recently had a piece on academics investigating the IBM-sponsored “services science” field

ComputerWorld’s Gary Anthes, a dedicated reporter on the research-and-innovation beat, wrote a piece on the looming anniversaries of the oldest CS departments.:

  • John Canny, chairman of the electrical engineering and computer science department, University of California, Berkeley: “Computers aren’t very valuable yet, because the applications they perform are still elementary and routine. It’s actually remarkable how much we spend on IT, considering how little it does. The most widespread applications are still e-mail and Microsoft Office. That should tell us something.

    What we really need to be thinking about is what people are doing with computers and how we could help them to do those things much better. Since most people are doing knowledge tasks, that means machines understanding their owners’ work processes much more deeply, finding semantically appropriate resources with or without being asked, critiquing choices and suggesting better ones, and tracking synergies with other groups within a large organization. Computers will leverage the human resources in the company more at a knowledge level. They will directly tie what they do to the creative processes of employees. The economic impact of that would be much bigger than anything we have seen so far. ”

  • Jaime Carbonell, director of the Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University: “Artificial intelligence. Although those words may be somewhat out of fashion these days, much of the deep excitement and universally useful apps descend therefrom. For example: speech understanding and synthesis in handheld devices, in cars, in laptops; machine translation of text and spoken language; new search engines that find what you want, not just Web pages that contain query words; self-healing software, including adaptive networks that reconfigure for reliability; robotics for mine safety, planetary exploration; prosthetics for medical/nursing care and manufacturing; game theory for electronic commerce, auctions and their design to ensure fairness and market liquidity and maximize aggregate social wealth.”
  • Bernard Chazelle, professor of computer science, Princeton University: I roll my eyes when I hear students say, “CS is boring, so I’ll go into finance.” Do they know how dull it is to spend all-nighters running the numbers for a merger-and-acquisition deal? No.
  • Canny: We’re losing in quality — principally to bioengineering, which is now the best students’ top choice — and diversity. It’s a problem of social relevance. Minorities and women moved fastest into areas such as law and medicine that have obvious and compelling social impact. We’ve never cared much about social impact in CS.
  • Chazelle: Much of the curriculum is antiquated. Why are we still demanding fluency in assembly language today for our CS majors? Some curricula seem built almost entirely around the mastery of Java. This is criminal.

    The curriculum is changing to fulfill the true promise of CS, which is to provide a conceptual framework for other fields. Students need to understand there’s more, vastly more, to CS than writing the next version of Windows. For example, at Princeton, we have people who major in CS because they want to do life sciences or policy work related to security, or even high-tech music. In all three cases, we offer tracks that allow them to acquire the technical background to make them intellectually equipped to pursue these cross-disciplinary activities at the highest level.

  • Carbonell: CS needs a great communicator who lives the excitement, is deeply respected by his or her peers, and can reach out and communicate clearly with any educated person via his books. We have no such person in CS. Perhaps Raj Reddy [a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor] has the right kind of talents.

Finally, please don’t miss Bill Burnham’s excellent survey of opportunites to push ‘persistent search’ forward.

December 7, 2005

CN Alumni startup Renkoo praised in SJ Merc

Event Driven Architectures, The Now Economy By: ams

Congrats! – an amazing mention for a pre-release service… Looks like the buzz campaign is working well for Adam and Joyce, and a tip of the hat to the whole Renkoo team for making such a polished impression on no less than Mike Langberg.

InternetNews also covered the demo, with a zinger from Esthr at the end.


Online software, services taking new look at how we manage time

By Mike Langberg, Mercury News
Wed, Dec. 07, 2005

… Of the several start-ups presenting at When 2.0, my favorite was Renkoo.

The Palo Alto company plans to launch an online service early next year that will provide a shared space for small groups to plan events.

If you want to invite a list of friends to a party with a fixed time and place, it’s easy to use the existing Evite service. But Evite doesn’t work well when you’re not sure what you want to do, or what your friends prefer.

With Renkoo, you can send a query by e-mail, instant message or cell-phone text message, perhaps asking, “Who wants to go for a hike this weekend? What’s the best time for you, and where do you want go?”

Your friends then reply with their preferences, and the group goes back and forth — with the dialogue recorded on a single Web page — until there’s a consensus.

Renkoo, named for a form of Japanese poetry called renku or renga where people take turns writing verses, will be free to users and hopes to make money through ads and sponsorships.

Adam Rifkin, Renkoo’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said he aims to solve a basic problem: “You can never get enough information on what your friends are doing.”

While it’s much too soon to know whether Renkoo or any of the other bold proposals at When 2.0 will succeed, the vision at least is clear.

In a few years, we’ll effortlessly manage our time by entering appointments on whatever Internet-connected electronic device is at hand — a computer or a cell phone or a personal digital assistant — and those appointments will instantly appear on the calendars of others we designate.

If we change the time of an appointment, it will instantly update the calendars of others.

Public and group events we want to track, from upcoming rock concerts and professional hockey games to our children’s soccer team schedules, will automatically pop into our calendars.

There are lots of technical, security and privacy issues yet to resolve, but the benefits are big enough that families may ultimately be freed from running their lives through scraps of paper stuck to refrigerator doors.


Has Time’s Time Come?

By David Needle

Rather than manage events already planned, Renkoo focuses on making events happen. “We bring friends together in the process,” CEO Adam Rifkin told internetnews.com.

He said services like Evite are for larger group functions that already have a fixed time and place. With Renkoo there is, among other features, a real-time voting mechanism, so people can decide on a time for lunch, movie or other gathering. The original planner can decide when to rein in the votes and chatter in order to set the details of where and when. Renkoo also accepts SMS text messaging, and it’s experimenting with links to instant messaging services as part of the site.

While many of the vendors were optimistic that they could break new ground on the consumer side, at least one attendee was skeptical.

“These things are great if you’re an extrovert,” said Chris Nesladek, a user interface designer for Intuit. “But you’re only organized if you have responsibility. For a lot of 18- to 24-year-olds, having a calendar or updating your schedule doesn’t matter.

For young and old alike, Dyson had this comment worth considering in a recent edition of her Release 1.0 newsletter: “You can’t create time. You can only steal it, reallocate it, use it or waste it.”

December 12, 2004

Can Brain Imaging Reveal the Seat of Strategy?

The Now Economy By: ams

Below is a tantalizing paper combining fMRI imaging with an economics experiment. The headline’s a tease, of course, but it’s that kind of grand thinking that even gets little ideas rolling. The paper itself doesn’t sound too astounding, and certainly isn’t explanatory, but it was also only written up six months ago…!

Social Science Working Paper No. 1189: Mental Processes & Strategic Equilibration: An fMRI Study of Selling Strategy in Second Price Auctions

Social Science Working Paper No. 1189 wp1189r.pdf

Mental Processes & Strategic Equilibration: An fMRI Study of Selling Strategy in Second Price Auctions

Grether, David; Plott, Charles; Rowe, Daniel; Sereno, Martin; Allman, John. 06/2004.

Abstract: This study is the first to attempt to isolate a relationship between cognitive activity and equilibration to a Nash Equilibrium. Subjects, while undergoing fMRI scans of brain activity, participated in second price auctions against a single competitor following predetermined strategy that was unknown to the subject. For this auction there is a unique strategy that will maximize the subjects’ earnings, which is also a Nash equilibrium of the associated game theoretic model of the auction. As is the case with all games, the bidding strategies of subjects participating in second price auctions most often do not reflect the equilibrium bidding strategy at first but with experience, typically exhibit a process of equilibration, or convergence toward the equilibrium. This research is focused on the process of convergence.

In the data reported here subjects participated in sixteen auctions, after which all subjects were told the strategy that will maximize their revenues, the theoretical equilibrium. Following that announcement, sixteen more auctions were performed. The question posed by the research concerns the mental activity that might accompany equilibration as it is observed in the bidding behavior. Does brain activation differ between equilibrated and non-equilibrated in the sense of a bidding strategy? If so, are their differences in the location of activation during and after equilibration? We found significant activation in the frontal pole especially in Brodmann’s area 10, the anterior cingulate cortex, the amygdala and the basal forebrain. There was significantly more activation in the basal forebrain and the anterior cingulate cortex during the first sixteen auctions than in the second sixteen. The activity in the amygdala shifted from the right side to the left after the solution was given.

November 23, 2004

CommerceNet’s zLab Website & Open House

The Now Economy By: ams

I’m proud to announce the debut of a new website for zLab, CommerceNet Labs’s center for decentralization research. We’ve only been in business for a few months, but we’re already assembling a great team and a series of publications & technical reports

What’s more, we’ll be moving in to our new offices in Palo Alto after the New Year, so to celebrate the launch of our website, the holiday season, and to bid farewell to our ever-so-humble headquarters, data center, conference center, and webcasting studio, we’re inviting all of our readers to a zLab Open House & Holiday Mixer with food, drinks, music, and a wee, wee bit of speechifying about our plans for 2005! Please RSVP via eVite.

November 19, 2004

Mmmm… delicious…

The Now Economy By: ams

I’ve been spending a lot of time with del.icio.us lately, and am struck by the “me-ness” of the service, as explained by peterme:

While del.icio.us thrives as a “social bookmark” site, it depends on the me-ness of the activity — by and large, I’m saving items to del.icio.us that interest me, that I might want to return to later, and the posting-for-others aspect is largely secondary. It’s an added benefit, but not the raison d’etre.

One of the key emerging trends we’re seeing with things like del.icio.us and Flickr is the merging of personal information architecture and public/shared/group/emergent information architecture. And one of the things we’re seeing in the *use* of these systems is self-centeredness — how else do you explain the prevalence of “me” on Flickr?

To get back to the notion of annotating space — I would argue that people will annotate space much like they annotate the web, or annotate their photos… More in a notebook sense, a journaling sense. The annotations are explicitly *not* “meant for other people” — they’re meant for yourself, they only have to make sense for yourself, and if others stumble across them, great, fine.

Jon Udell called it: real-time bookmarking and tagging and tight feedback loops lead to better collective filtering and sharing of information in an increasingly interconnected world.

My delicious page is now something I think about whenever I visit a page and think to myself that I might want to visit that page again. It’s like explicity pointing out parts of my personal web that I would highly recommend to others.

See also: How do you use del.icio.us?, by Roland Piquepaille.

November 11, 2004

Former CommerceNet CEO Resch Re-emerges

The Now Economy By: ams

Congratulations, Mark!

Copyright-sharing group delves into science | CNET News.com

Creative Commons, a nonprofit group aimed at carving out ways to share creative works, is expanding from the realm of copyright into patents and scientific publishing.

The Stanford, Calif.-based organization said Wednesday that it hired former CommerceNet executive Mark Resch as its new chief executive officer. It also tapped entrepreneur John Wilbanks to be the director of its newly formed Science Commons division.

“Wilbanks’ addition as leader of the new Science Commons branch…marks a very exciting new phase, as the Creative Commons model is tested in uncharted areas of intellectual endeavor,” Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School professor and organization founder, said in a statement.

The group’s move into the scientific sphere could help add new weight to growing criticisms that the current patent process has become too inflexible and often awards too much protection to ideas that aren’t genuinely unique.

November 11, 2004

W3C 10 Symposium

The Now Economy By: ams

Rohit will be attending W3C 10 on December 1…

Speakers and panelists will discuss the history of the Web, W3C’s central role in the Web’s development, and their visions of the Web’s future. The program is built on two themes:

The world of W3C is leading the Web to its full potential. W3C is the steward of the World Wide Web. The organization’s vision, mission, collaborations, and specifications have and will make a difference. During the symposium, speakers will relate stories about the Web’s origins and describe its impact over the past ten years. Members will be thanked and congratulated for their accomplishments. Speakers will present their visions and dreams for the future of W3C and the Web.

One Web with access for all. The Web is a universal, open and easily accessible medium that empowers people. One of W3C’s primary goals is to make the Web’s benefits available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability. W3C’s Activities illustrate the consortium’s commitment to universal access. During the symposium, speakers will present the Web of meaning — the Semantic Web — and Web access for everyone, everywhere.

November 4, 2004

Report On Election Market Making

The Now Economy By: ams

Bettors for Bush – Political futures markets claim they’re more accurate than opinion polls. So, how’d they do yesterday? By Daniel Gross

Bettors for Bush
Political futures markets claim they’re more accurate than opinion polls. So, how’d they do yesterday?
By Daniel Gross
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2004, at 12:15 PM PT

The exit polls were way off. The pre-election opinion polls weren’t much better. But how did the markets do at predicting the outcome Tuesday night?

The past few years have witnessed the rise of political futures markets—online trading operations that allow you to bet on (or, if you prefer, “invest in”) candidates. The theory behind the markets is that they ought to do a better job of forecasting elections than polls. After all, if stock investors efficiently factor all available information into the price of a stock, why wouldn’t they do the same for a presidential candidate?

October 11, 2004

Forex market nearly $2T/day

The Now Economy By: ams

It’s official — or as official as it’s going to get in such a decentralized market — the daily turnover in currency trades is nearly double the oft-quoted trillion-dollar-a-day mark…

The Wall Street Journal version of this story on 9/29 noted that “the surge in trading levels indicates that foreign exchange is becoming increasingly well established as an asset class in its own right as an alternative to stocks and bonds.”

Triennial Central Bank Survey of Foreign Exchange and Derivatives Market Activity 2004

“Average daily global turnover in traditional foreign exchange markets rose to $1.9 trillion in April 2004, up by 57% at current exchange rates and by 36% at constant exchange rates as compared to April 2001”

October 9, 2004

Web 2.0

The Now Economy By: ams

I posted my Web 2.0 Notes on my typepad for anyone who’s interested…