Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

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IBM Global SmartCamp Finals: Next Week In NYC

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IBM’s SmartCamp Global Finals are slated to be held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on February 7th.

The SmartCamp initiative was launched in 2010 with the goal of identifying early-stage entrepreneurs who are developing business ventures that would align with the IBM Smarter Planet vision, and give them the visibility, mentoring, and resources that only a large company like IBM can provide.

On the 7th, eight startups from around the world will compete in New York City for the title of “IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year.”

The IBM SmartCamp Global Finals will bring together leading venture capitalists, industry experts, press, analysts, entrepreneurial organizations and academics to network and celebrate entrepreneurship.

The Global Finals will feature eight startup finalists from around the world, from Kenya to France to Singapore. The eight finalists not only come from all walks of life, but they offer a broad range of innovative solutions that all have the potential to make the planet a whole lot smarter.

Finalist HistoIndex, a startup from Singapore, has an imaging solution which will allow for earlier detection and better treatment of fibrosis.

GetWay, a big data startup from Brazil, enables any industry to precisely monitor real-time sales data in retailers spread all over a territory.

And QuintessenceLabs, from Australia, has harnessed the properties of nature as described by quantum science to fortify the protection of data in-transit, at-rest and in-use.

You can be a part of the excitement on February 7th at the SmartCamp Global Finals, where you’ll have the opportunity to network with innovators, business leaders, and experts from around the world, hear the startup finalists’ presentations, and witness the naming of a new IBM Entrepreneur of the Year.

Go here to learn more and to register to attend the event. As an FYI, I had the great privilege of helping cover the event last year in San Francisco, and recorded a video with Scott Laningham (embedded in this blog post) where I summarized what I learned.

TurboTech: IBM SmartCamp Video Debrief

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For you regular readers of this blog, you know I attended and blogged the IBM Global SmartCamp Finals in San Francisco week before last…wow, has it already been two weeks?

In fact, it was two weeks ago today that Profitero was announced as this year’s winner.

Although as I mention in the videocast with Scott Laningham below — in which we talk for about 15 minutes about what I saw, heard, and witnessed at the SmartCamp finals — all the participants, as well as those of we IBM bystanders, were winners when it came to hearing some of these groundbreaking business plans for helping build smarter (and more data-driven) cities around the globe.

I also enjoyed meeting my blogging counterpart, Steve Hamm, who provided extensive coverage on IBM’s Smarter Planet blog and with whom I broke bread…err, noodles…somewhere in Chinatown.  I couldn’t find my way back to that noodle shop if I had to — I’m not sure if Steve could, either.

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals: Guy Kawasaki On Twelve Lessons He Learned From Steve Jobs

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In the last keynote session before Profitero was announced as the “IBM Entrepreneur of the Year,” Garage.com founder, VC, former Machead, and all around tech cheerleader Guy Kawasaki paid a visit to speak to the gathered IBM SmartCamp finalists.

In classic Guy Kawasaki fashion, the renowned tech thought leader, former Apple employee twice-over, and celebrated speaker completely overhauls his presentation to the IBM SmartCamp finals just moments before he went onstage. The audience was certainly NOT disappointed in the change of topic.

Though his talk was entitled “The Art of Enchantment,” Kawasaki, in typical Kawasaki fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants fashion, announced he was supplanting that canned pitch with one more geared towards the gathered entrepreneurial masses, “12 Lessons I Learned Working With Steve Jobs.”

Kawasaki started his pitch by joking that he’d just been in the greenroom where the judges for the competition were gathered, and that there were five bottles of wine in there, so don’t expect a verdict anytime soon!

Then, he got semi-serious and explained he’d worked from Apple on two different occasions, 1983-1987 and again in 1995-1997, so he was uniquely positioned to comment on what all he learned from Jobs.

Before he turned to the lessons, Kawasaki suggested “the world is a lot less interesting without Steve Jobs. Most entrepreneurs would be fortunate to create one standard…Jobs created five or six (the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, etc.)

Kawasaki went on: “I’m sure right now he’s up there telling God how to run the universe.”

Then, on to the lessons.

Number one.  “Experts” are clueless.  As entrepreneurs, if you start listening to all the experts, you will be led wrong.  Time and time again people told Steve Jobs nobody would buy an (insert Apple product here)…At one point, even Michael Dell told Apple they should dissolve the company and give the money back to shareholders.  Ignore the experts. Correlation and causation are not necessarily the same thing.

Rich and famous often equals “lucky.”

Number Two. Customers can’t tell you what they need.  If you ask customers they’ll say give us better, faster, cheaper, and status quo.  Build the product YOU want to use, and that you think the world can use.  Fact: Nobody told Apple to build the Macintosh…iPod…iPad…

Number Three.  Jump to the NEXT curve.  He then explained a simple but revealing analogy.  Ice 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0

Ice 1.0 was when ice harvesters sawed blocks of ice out of the lake when it was frozen and then distributed it.

Ice 2.0 saw the advent of the ice factory, so you could get ice any time of the year, and didn’t have to be in a “cold” city.

Ice 3.0 saw the advent of the “ice box,” better known as the refrigerator.

The ice harvesters did NOT embrace the ice factory, and the ice factories did NOT embrace the refrigerator.  Yet, all served the same purpose: Keeping your food fresh.

So, if you want to be successful, put your solution to the problem in terms of the benefits, NOT the process you use to get there.

Number Four.  The biggest challenges beget the best work.  Ram a big challenge down the throat of your employees.  The challenge Steve Jobs gave us was to compete with IBM.  Remember the print ad we ran. It’s headline was” “Welcome, IBM.  Seriously.” IBM was a magnificent competitor, and it was a great challenge for us to take them on.

So, find a mighty opposite for yourself.

Number Five. Design counts.  Don’t think it’s all about price.  Most people also care about design, and Apple’s premium pricing has proven that over and over again.

Number Six.  Use big graphics and big fonts.  Consider this slide when Jobs introduced the Windows version of iTunes.  It had a massive Windows logo, then underneath the following headline: “The best Windows app ever written.

Number Seven.  Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence, not a sign of stupidity or lack of conviction.  When things change, you have to react and reform.  Steve Jobs demonstrated this when he evolved from accepting no independent applications for the iPhone one year, to fully embracing them the next.

He saw which way the wind was about to blow, and he realized to bolster the iPhone app ecosystem, he needed to open it up to outside developers.

Number Eight.  Value is NOT equal to price.  Nobody ever bought an Apple piece of equipment because it was the cheapest thing.

Number Nine.  A players hire A+ players.  You should always be hiring someone as good or better than you in your own field.

Number Ten.  Real CEOs can demo.  They can run the product, show the product, build stuff with the product.

They don’t hand it over to someone else.  They DO the demo.

Number Eleven. Real entrepreneurs ship.  Don’t worry, be crappy.

Imagine you were the first refrigerator company.  The first fridge had to be better than the best ice factory, but it didn’t have to be perfect.

Once you jump curves, that’s when the real excitement begins. When you ship, you’ll learn more in two weeks from your customers than you will sitting in a dark room.

Number Twelve.  Marketing equals unique value.  Pets.Com was a classic example where that rule did NOT apply.

You have a dog.  You have a cow.  You kill the cow, put it in the can, and give it to the dog.

That was the Pets.com business model.  Shipping dog food. The problem was, it’s dead cows in cans. It weighed a lot.  It was less convenient and just as expensive to order it via the Internet.  It wasn’t unique.  It wasn’t valuable.

And finally, number thirteen. (Never mind Guy said there would only be twelve).

Some things need to be believed to be seen.

But sometimes you also need to believe in things before you will see them.

Written by turbotodd

February 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals: IBM’s Manoj Saxena Outlines The Commercial Opportunity Of Watson

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When it comes to being an entrepreneur, IBM’s general manager for its Watson Solutions group has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.  Twice.

IBM Watson GM Manoj Saxena explains to the IBM SmartCamp finalists the commercial opportunity IBM's Watson technology presents to the world, even as he shares his own unique experiences as an entrepreneur.

When Manoj hit the stage at this afternoon’s IBM SmartCamp Global Finals in San Francisco to explain why he’s back at a big company like IBM, he started with his own start in mind.

Though he’s been with IBM for five years, and had an early background in corporate America at 3M, he started his own company in 1998 (Exterprise), which was acquired in 2001 before he started another company, Webify, which was later acquired by IBM.

One of the reasons he has since stayed at IBM, Manoj explains, is that “it’s the place to be if you want to have impact and change the world.”

He continued: “As you grow older, you start to understand what your core competence is, and mine is converting PowerPoints to products to profits.”

Manoj explained how startup culture and reality has changed dramatically from the dot com boom to present times.  In the past, you would build it and they would come, and it was all about eyeballs, traffic, and the amount of money raised as a badge of honor.

Today, if they come, you can then go build it, but you’d be well advised to validate THEN scale, and that actual revenues are the path to profitability.  Moreover, it’s advisable to take as little money up front as possible, so that you can focus on building value, a business, and not just a startup.

Ultimately, Manoj explained, companies are bought, not sold, and if you focus on building a business around a greater purpose, the riches will come.

He then turned to Watson, and the role the Watson technology is playing as IBM works to build a smarter planet.

Watson, Manoj explained, was a part of an IBM research project that followed in the spirit of the Deep Blue/Kasparov chess match of 1997, but that this time around, more focus was put on the commercialization of the technology.

What made Watson so unique was that not only is it smart at answering questions, but also that it can process and analyze 200 million pages in three seconds. The business implications of such a capability in our emerging data-drowning environment are critical. There are now 2 billion people on the Web, and “businesses on a smarter planet where people are dying of thirst in an ocean of data.”

So, Watson has been geared towards some select industries initially, namely healthcare and financial services, with others yet to come.

On the healthcare front, Manoj revealed some startling statistics. One in five diagnoses today are estimated to be inaccurate or incomplete, and there are 1.5 million errors in the way medication are prescribed, delivered, and taken in the U.S. alone each year.

And yet 81% of physicians report spending five hours or less per month reading medical journals, even as medical information doubles every five years.

Which is where Dr. Watson’s technology can help doctors with their diagnoses.  Not to replace doctors, but to help them winnow down to the most likely diagnosis based on Watson’s ability to rapidly analyze millions of likely scenarios and generate and evaluate those hypotheses to identify the “best” outcome.

As Manoj suggested, think of it as a navigation system for doctors.

Written by turbotodd

February 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals: California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome On Entrepreneurship & Economic Development

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The IBM Smart Camp Global Finals finally have come into the final stretch.

Kicking off the afternoon was guest speaker Gavin Newsome, former mayor of San Francisco and now California Lieutenant Governor.

California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome speaks with the nine IBM SmartCamp Global Finalists and encourages all of them to move to the great state of California to launch their next big business.

Never mind, cheerleader for the resurgent state of California and Silicon Valley as the global hub of innovation and venture capital.

Newsome opened his comments with a warm welcome to the great state of California, and complimented IBM on its “remarkable capacity to get first round draft choices from around the world,” speaking, of course, of the nine IBM Smart Camp Global Finalists in attendance and anxiously awaiting the announcement of IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year later this afternoon.

Newsome explained though California has faced some hard times of late, with 11.1% unemployment, the state is still about inviting the “best and the brightest” to “take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and change the order of things.”

Newsome went to emphasize the importance of education, and joked that “when you [the nine SmartCamp finalists] decide to move out west, all nine of you, you’ll know we’re committed to your talent and growth.”

The lieutenant governor went on to explain California “was always in the future business,” highlighting the state’s open immigration policy and federal/state research partnerships.  As Newsome expanded, “California is not just about researching but about commercializing that research.  It’s not just about the power of an idea, but rather, about the power of an idea being tested.”

Newsome concluded his remarks with a tip of his hat to the IBM smarter planet initiative, acknowledging that 90+% of the world’s population will soon be living in cities, and that smart technology, driven by smarter entrepreneurs, will be key to addressing those growth challenges and creating a sustainable framework for their rapid expansion.

Written by turbotodd

February 2, 2012 at 9:49 pm

IBM SmartCamp Global Finals – Today’s The Day

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If I’ve learned anything hearing the business pitches and talking to a number of the IBM SmartCamp Global Finalists here in San Francisco these past couple of days, it’s that their enthusiasm is infectious.

The IBM SmartCamp Global Finalists enjoy a moment of levity in San Francisco just one day before the anxiously-awaited announcement as to whom the 2011 "IBM Global Enterpreneur of the Year" will be.

Great entrepreneurs generally seem to have some common characteristics: They have passion and commitment, they often have visions and the drive to change the world in some way, shape or form, and, they typically have the perseverance and wherewithal to move forward no matter how difficult the odds.

Such is how I would characterize the nine finalists in IBM’s 2011 SmartCamp Finals. Though there may not be a single common thread in the business ideas that have been brought to the table here — they are as diverse as our increasingly complex and globalized planet — the vision, drive, and eagerness to learn from one another and their Silicon Valley mentors has been a key theme of the IBM SmartCamp.

Sure, everyone would like to get fully funded and go make a gazillion dollars in the next great IPO.  But these finalists seem to realize they need to walk before they can run, and the wisdom and counsel that has been shared in the closed mentoring sessions during the last two days seems to be as distinctly valued as the opportunity to “win” the SmartCamp Global Finals.

The fact is, and it’s been said throughout the past couple of days, ALL the finalists are winners.  They wouldn’t have made it this far in the competition were they not, and no matter who gets the official “win,” it’s very clear that all the finalists have benefited tremendously from the networking and counsel shared amongst they and their peers.

As Facebook prepares to enter the public markets and offer the greatest IPO in the history of mankind, it’s probably a good time to step back and realize there are many ways that entrepreneurs can change the world.

Though much attention and focus has been generated by the consumer-facing social media applications that suck up much of the oxygen and ink, IBM SmartCamp in San Francisco this week has proven once again that the business-to-business opportunities presented by business analytics, and mobile/social/local technologies, are just as profound in the business realm, if not more so, than all the Facebooks of the world put together.

So, stay tuned to this blog and to the Twitter hashtag #ibmsmartcamp through the rest of this afternoon as we prepare to announce the “IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year,” while recognizing all the finalists here at IBM SmartCamp were winners before they ever arrived, and have already changed the world in their own unique and diverse ways.

Written by turbotodd

February 2, 2012 at 8:04 pm

IBM SmartCamp Finalist Profile: Profitero — Real-Time Pricing Intelligence

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UPDATE: Profitero was announced as the “IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year” late this afternoon at the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals.  Congratulations to Volodymyr and his team, and to all the fantastic nine finalists who made it to San Francisco.  You’re ALL winners in our book!

Volodymyr Pigrukh is the CEO and co-founder of Profitero, a Dublin-based startup finalist in this year’s IBM SmartCamp Global Finals which provides a next-generation pricing intelligence service for retailers and manufacturers.

Volodymyr Pigrukh, CEO of Profitero, explains to the IBM SmartCamp Global Finals audience how his startup provides next-generation pricing intelligence to help retailers and manufacturers stay competitive in thin-margin e-commerce environments.

The company is a mere one year and three months old, and though Volodymyr is originally from Belarus, he started Profitero in Dublin.

Like many startup concepts, the idea appeared almost by accident, when his associate who managed several online stores came to realize he had no way of effectively pricing mobile accessories.  So, he developed a prototype solution that would crawl his competitor’s websites and get real-time pricing information that would in turn help his accessories’ website create competitive pricing.

Profitero has already raised $1 million in venture capital, and has 13 full time employees and a few key name brands they’ve already partnered with.

So what’s the value prop? Profitero helps its clients increase sales and maximize profits by leveraging high-quality online competitive data at scale.

This, in turn, allows businesses to react quickly to changes in their competitors’ prices.

To date, retailers and manufacturers have found Profitero’s data essential for pricing strategy, forecasting, price management, merchandising planning, product promotions, and market/brand positioning.

It’s currently monitoring 27.5 million products across 2,500 European retail websites, and it plans to grow this to 100 million products in 2012.

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