Month: March 2014

55 Startup Pitches + 900 Attendees + Great Food = Success at Plug and Play Expo March 27, 2014

A well-known fact about the current US financial recovery is that without the Silicon Valley’s tech industry, the lackluster recovery wouldn’t be a recovery. One thing is for sure, there is anything but lackluster opportunity in the Silicon Valley, especially if the pitches of 55 startup companies at Plug and Play’s Expo on March 27, 2014 indicate where things are going.

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The 55 companies that presented deserve congratulations for the guts to do all that entrepreneurs do to turn ideas into value propositions worthy of presenting to an audience of venture capitalists, media, industry peers, competitors, fellow entrepreneurs and supportive friends, family and fools. The judges voted and selected winners from the sessions of the day, two from Brand & Retail (Tulip Retail and runner up Mashgin) and three from Startup Camp, Portfolio & International (Shippo, Goji and Altitude). Ultimately, the real winners are those that secured funding sufficient to take their ideas to market and perhaps become the next eBay, Facebook, Twitter or Amazon.

I leave it to others to focus on the successes of the winners and share here some thoughts for those who did not win in votes or dollars. Among other things, you face the challenges of demonstrating value to entice investment, of pivoting to new opportunities or of running to insolvency to start again at some future time on a new idea.

Demonstrate Value

Did you present a true value proposition? Whatever you are engaged in, remember the primal objective is to create value, value for your customers, value for your investors and value for yourselves; this isn’t just about the experience culminating with drinks and tasty BBQ chicken strips. Reasons abound for why investors do not understand a value proposition, the most obvious being you have not figured out or understood what a value proposition really is. Another less obvious reason involves some introspection. The idea may not have presented well due to incomplete information on slides, poor presentation skills, language barriers and even holding the microphone too far away so the audience cannot hear. These things and others get in the way of people understanding your results.

Pivot

If at first you don’t succeed, pivot! A shout out to Redtroops who, in the six weeks since I first met them, has pivoted to their pitch at the event and is now positioned as an eBay for in app advertising. For those not familiar with pivoting, take a look at the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and get ready for exciting changes of direction based on insight gained from hypothesis testing.

Insolvency

Value propositions cannot be found and presented well, hypothesis testing on pivot options yields no better options, all other efforts are expended and the cash runs out. Battle wounds result and every successful entrepreneur has them. Even the entrepreneurs that appear to strike gold on their first attempt made some mistakes. Enjoy the failure.  Look internally for what went wrong.  Learn from what you discover.  Continue to find ways to use technology to solve the world’s problems.

Ambient IQ : Intelligence Anywhere & Everywhere

Can things around us really be intelligent?  Can they learn our habits and make our lives easier by doing things automatically for us?  Can the information be turned into actionable insight that if followed will save people time and money?  The answer is a conditional yes.

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The VLAB Ambient IQ event March 18, 2014 brought together entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the field of ambient intelligence.  These people work to solve challenging problems associated with understanding our behavior within our environment.  They work to understand how to make decisions with regards to multiple facets of our lives based on intelligence created by aggregating information from multiple sensors.  This is no easy task.

Some of the solutions that were discussed are absolutely intriguing.  I’m going to touch on a few of them, which will lay a strong argument to answer a strong yes to the questions above.  But don’t worry, I’ll wrap it up with a good explanation for my conditional yes position.

First, let’s take a look at Automatic which produces a device that connects your car and smart phone.  Automatic allows you to understand how you are driving and make better driving decisions that improve fuel economy.  It helps you keep your vehicle well maintained.  It remembers where you parked.  It even notifies authorities if the vehicle is involved in a collision.  I want to try it out.

Electric Imp allows you to connect many devices to the internet via a cloud service and hardware platform.  Turning on or off power to devices via a mobile phone and knowing how many eggs are in the fridge are some of the things that become possible with Imp-enabled devices.  The applications of a platform such as this are essentially limitless, particularly because the platform serves as an enabler.  For example, the platform can enable a connection between Automatic and an Imp-connected power strip.  You drive home at night and your Automatic-connected car lets your Electric Imp connected lamp know to turn on the light in the dark living room.  Electric Imp is promising technology that can make life easier.

The conditional yes above, though, comes because the technology is not easy enough to use yet.  Sure there are many cool things that ambient IQ can become, but the solutions are not fully integrated and they are not easy for the average consumer to use.  Knowing ahead of time that Automatic would be at the event, I decided to test out the Bluetooth connection from my iPhone to the car I purchased last month.  I ran into trouble because while whoever I called with the car could hear me, I could not hear them.  I gave up troubleshooting after a few minutes because of other obligations plus I know that between now and the time I figure it out, my iPhone has other solutions that enable conversation while in motion.

It would take a person hours and a great deal of expertise and determination to connect a Wally home wireless sensor network, FitBit fitness monitor, Nest thermostat, WeMo switch, Lockitron locks, Automatic enabled car, Hiku shopping scanner and Iro sprinkler system.  Along the way they would run into bumps similar to my Bluetooth phone issue.  But, early adopters are persistent and will pave the way for people to benefit from these technologies in the future.  If you think this is a far-fetched idea, think back a decade to the process of setting up a home computer network.  It was a challenge and nearly impossible for the average Joe.  Now, however, even the computer illiterate can go to Fry’s, pick up a wireless router, and have the internet connected to their wireless devices in a matter of minutes.  The user interfaces are simpler.  The instructions are clearer (with nice pictures).  The process is easier for the consumer.

Over the next decade it is obvious that advances will be made with connected devices and that ambient IQ will increase.  These will help change my conditional yes to a yes.  Solutions that are easier for the consumer will make my conditional yes an absolute yes.  I would love to try to connect every internet enabled device on the market and work to make the process easy for the user, the consumer, the person, the friend or the family member who benefits when their life is just a little bit easier.

Wearable Technology: Fashion, Fad or Future?

I see them everywhere, pedometers, smart watches and Google Glass.  Of course, I am in the Silicon Valley and attend many technology related events so I expect to see at least a few extra devices a week but even outside the Silicon Valley, people are purchasing and using sensor enabled wearable technology.  This begs the question, in the world of technology solutions, is wearable technology fashion, fad or the future?

Answer:  All of the above.

Fashion encompasses not only clothing and hair styles, it includes accessories and even how one behaves.  If you’re donning Google Glass, you are making a fashion statement and it has not taken long for people to describe glass wearer behavior, glassholes beware.  Wearable technology devices such as pedometers are encouraging people to change their behavior to be more active.  In the health arena hundreds of ideas are being hatched to improve health by monitoring and suggesting changed behaviors.

Does anyone remember the cute electronic pets of the 90s?  Fad.  Some wearable devices entering the market today will fall into this category.  They will be here and then gone in a few short years, unlike other 90s devices such as those by Palm which led the way to the smart phones of today.  Those designing and launching wearable devices need to make sure their products are really useful or they will become no more than a fad.  Don’t take this as me saying fad-like wearables should not be developed and sold; these fad wearables are necessary to pave the way for the wearables of the future.  The businesses producing them are going to learn a great deal and pivot on to future ideas that will create the future of wearable devices.

A look at the future of wearable technology has me excited for all the ways technology will be working for people.  This leads me to these eight wearable future predictions:

1)      Wearables of the future will be more than fad devices; they will satisfy customer needs.

2)      Where wearables are silo solutions now, in the future they will be better integrated with other wearables and the wider Internet of Things.

3)      Companies that combine the information of multiple sensors in multiple wearable devices will create more value for their consumers than producers of single wearable devices.

4)      Wearables will become more intelligent because of developments in sensor technology and the ability to translate data from these sensors into insight via analytics.

5)      The cost of sensors will continue to go down, thus enabling more uses and innovation with sensors in wearable devices.

6)      Wearable devices will need less frequent charging because of better energy storage and lower energy consumption.

7)      People are going to use wearable technology to make a statement about who they are.

8)      People are going to use undetectable wearable technology by using wearable ultra-sensitive micro sensors, sensors smaller and more sensitive than the innovative seat belt microphone in Audi’s R8 Spyder that enables clear cell phone conversation with the top down at lightning speeds.

See the introduction to Wearable Predictions 9 & 10 here: An Update on Wearables Predictions

See the Industry Watch for each prediction here:

Who to Watch for Prediction #1 Wearables Will Satisfy Customer Needs

Who to Watch for Prediction #2 Wearables:  Silo to Integrated w/IoT

Who to Watch for Prediction #3 Wearable Alpha: More value from multiple wearable devices and sensors

Who to Watch for Prediction #4 Analytics & Sensor Tech Improve Wearable Intelligence

Who to Watch for Prediction #5 Wearable Sensor Costs Decreasing

Who to Watch for Prediction #6 Energy: Improved Storage & Lower Consumption for Wearables

Who to Watch for Prediction #7 People to Make Statements with Wearables

Who to Watch for Prediction #8 People Use Undetectable Wearables

Who to Watch for Prediction #9 Wearable Data Ownership Debate

Who to Watch for Prediction #10 Wearables Enable Contextual Awareness

Back to Wearable Technology

5 technologies that are shaping the future of design

A nice snapshot of how sensor tech, robotics, 3D printing, synthetic biology and crowd-funding are opening up opportunities in designs that put technology to work for you.

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Theatrical robots. 3D printers that churn out cells. Wearables for infants. These types of technologies might be “out there,” but they show off key enabling technologies that are pushing the future of design forward These types of technologies were highlighted at Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Design Conference in San Francisco on Monday.

While these technologies are paving new paths for design practices, designers will be the ones that make sure these new infrastructures and platforms deliver a valuable experience to the user. As design firm Frog’s AVP of Innovation and Strategy, Timothy Morey, put it, “designers need to be at the front end of the sensor transition so they can humanize it.” The same could be said for building helpful robots, or developing tomorrow’s 3D printing tools that could deliver the next industrial revolution.

Here are five enabling technologies that will pave the way for how designers should think and work, and…

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TrintMe: Building a Better Mouse Trap

Have you ever been interested in someone but been too shy and too afraid of damaging a friendship to want to stick your neck out there and even ask someone to meet for a cup of coffee? Social anxiety is a problem that affects some people on a deep level. With other people it can be only a fleeting issue that crops up with insecurities now and again, like when you become clumsy in the presence of someone you are attracted to. Do you make your true intentions known and take a chance at rejection or do you let life pass you by never knowing what might have been?

In the world of technology, dating sites have harnessed the power of analytics creating places for people to discover new connections but until now technology has not solved the anxiety problem associated with the fear of sharing your true intentions.

TrintMe, a Facebook integrated app, allows you to express your true intentions (or trints) to friends and second degree connections. If trints match, both friends are notified. For those with a fear of rejection who want to express friendly intentions without using the not-so-classy Bang With Friends type tools, TrintMe may offer a better mouse trap.

TrintMe founder and CEO VS Joshi whose own lost chance at a possible relationship was the inspiration for this app explained, “Social networks have created online communities. These online communities of known people need an intermediary. TrintMe is trying to be that intermediary between friends and friends-of-friends.”

TrintMe will hold a product launch Thursday, March 13 at HackerDojo. Visit trintme.eventbrite.com to RSVP for the launch event. You do not have to wait for the product launch to try TrintMe; the app prototype available in the app store for free download so you can discover for yourself if this technology can work for you. You can also follow TrintMe on Twitter @trintme.

Hey, Mr. Blogger, What Kind of Technology Do You Like?

My last conversation last night among yet another meeting of Silicon Valley technologist minds began with this question, “Hey, Mr. Blogger, What Kind of Technology Do You Like?”

The answer: Any advancement in technology that makes life easier. I am the guy who said, “Don’t work for technology; make technology work for you.”

If you take a look at the topics I touched on last night, you’ll understand that the kinds of technology that can do this encompass a wide range.  Here is a peek at some of the things I talked with people about yesterday:

In the Bathroom: Smart Toilets, Composting Toilets, Electronic Toilets, Smart Toothbrushes

In the Car: Vehicle Safety, Microphone Sensors (Hands-free cell phone conversations in a convertible at over 140 mph with the top down), Technology solving traffic problems, Finding your parked car

In Outer Space: Searching for extraterrestrial life

In Recognition: Voice Recognition, Face Recognition, Pet/Animal Recognition (which is harder than human facial recognition because of the millions of hairs involved)

In Robotics: Factory automation, precision and cost savings, In-home/personal robotics

In Sensors: Reduced costs, millions of uses to make smart everything

In Intelligence: Artificial Intelligence, Ambient IQ, Derivative Intelligence, Intelligent Recruiting and your smart phone as a gateway to all the other things listed here and more…

There were some wild ideas out there. For innovation and idea generation you have to let your mind go to the extremes and then back off a little bit to settle on ideas that can go somewhere. The world has been changed by dreamers who think of the extreme, who mull it over in their minds, who take it inch by inch out to the far reaches, out to dreams which eventually become reality.  I like all technology that works for you and in the process I enjoy learning about all proposed technology innovations, regardless of how extreme.  Eventually ambitious applications of futuristic technologies may be working for you.

This interesting article highlights the advances of biomedical science through technology that will someday eliminate the need to harvest blue blood from horseshoe crabs.

This interesting article highlights the advances of biomedical science through technology that will someday eliminate the need to harvest blue blood from horseshoe crabs.