Later today we'll be meeting with administration representatives from the White House, State Dept, Commerce Dept, as well as DHS, SBA, and several other federal organizations with impressive TLAs.
So far, it's been an incredible experience for many of us who are political n00bs -- we've actually been pleasantly surprised by the level of encouragement and support from folks here in Washington, and in turn they've been pleasantly surprised at how much progress we've made on the issue since our GeeksOnaPlane trip to DC last September, where we first cooked up our plans and created the StartupVisa.com site.
Yesterday, while we were mid-air from SFO to DC -- with online access courtesy of GoGo Wireless and Virgin America -- we conducted a StartupVisa TweetHall, which was a live twitter meetup of over 5,000 people who used the #StartupVisa hashtag in their tweets. Prominent twitterers who showed their support included Tim O'Reilly, Chris Sacca, Matt Cutts, Craig Newmark (of Craigslist.org), Padmasree Warrior (CTO of Cisco), as well as many other geeks & non-geeks in the US and around the world.
first, let me start by noting i think the Yahoo SearchMonkey initiative is generally a good direction to be heading towards. however, i also think there is a lack of executive cluefulness on tech strategy at Yahoo, as evidenced by the conversation with Kara @ D conf. maybe Jerry just hasn't had enough time to cleanup from Terry's previous "strategy", but regardless i think neither he nor Sue have succeeded in setting a clear direction forward that is game-changing enough to give board members / shareholders reasonable fiduciary leeway to let them continue [mis-]leading the company.
maybe it's time for others with more cogent strategy to step in & give it a shot.
in particular, there was a telling quote from Decker about what the "focus" of the business is (or lack of one, really) that i think reveals the heart of the matter...
Sue Decker, on Yahoo core biz focus:
"we focus on homepage,search,mail & mobile".
i guess Jerry & Sue would argue 4 priority areas isn't a lack of focus, but sure feels like that's at least 1 too many, if not 3 too many. and curiously there's no mention of a transactional focus area, which given all their traffic & content properties & brand familiarity seems like a big missed opportunity -- one that others like eBay, Amazon, & Apple are taking advantage of.
anyway, here's my take on those 4 areas...
1) HOMEPAGE aka "sell the shit out of [limited] premium web portal real estate". not really a great long-term business, imho. short-term monetization is good, but long-term control is limited & therefore not likely good strategic bet. the "home page" will fragment, become personalized, distributed. switching costs are low. Feeds & distributed news flow will be the model. not sure if Yahoo's display advertising biz also fits in this box, but if so that might also be significant... sounds like what Ballmer wants. still not sure it's most valuable asset long-term.
2) SEARCH: barely keeping significant #2 market share in search, but still pretty darn good monetization compared to the rest of their biz. on absolute basis, great biz to be in.. tons of cashflow, even their declining market share in overall growing market probably not bad biz. just sucks on a relative basis to look over at GOOG and think what could have been. good near- to medium-term asset, if they don't keep losing too much share to the GOOG.
3) MAIL: tons of usage, but crappy monetization. see my earlier posts for how to monetize the social graph data in the inbox. imho, this is one of the more interesting assets that currently hasn't been realized in revenue. YahooGroups fits in here as well, which is just a travesty that there hasn't been more attention in past few years. i have a friend there who may pull the bacon out of the fire, but it's a big task given how much they've squandered over past few years. long-term, this has significant potential, but only if they really use it for something that creates user / 3rd-party value. 4) MOBILE: i don't really understand this part of their biz. maybe some traction here outside US i'm not aware of. (i'll refrain from commentary here, since i'm clueless)
anyway, just feels like there could be more being done with using Y! Platform as distribution play to get to all their users. we'll see...
I've been to the Milken Foundation Global Conference, and i'm doing a Startup Metrics talk at SXSW this spring... haven't made it to TED or Davos yet, but if i can ever get invited / get a ticket, those 2 are on my conference wishlist for the next few years...
"The United States congratulates the winners and is calling for calm, and for Kenyans to abide by the results declared by the election commission. We support the commission's decision," said spokesman Robert McInturff. He reiterated a State Department statement from Saturday that asked Kenyans "to reject violence and respect the rule of law."
I'll admit i've only been following this over the past few days, but the recent Kenya election certainly would appear to be far from a free & fair one. EU monitoring officials expressing significant concerns, initial results showing opposition challenger Odinga winning were overtaken by Kibaki at the last minute, slow election result reporting, the Kenyan government bans national news television broadcasts...
and the US State Department is congratulating the election winner?
What. The. Fuck?!?
Perhaps this was an inaccurate report of our country's representatives in this situation... i sure as hell hope so. Otherwise it sounds like we're passively supporting yet another not-quite-democratically-elected African leader.
Someone please explain to me how we could be screwing up US foreign policy any more than we have in the past 6-7 years. Sigh.
75 of the 210 constituencies — meaning more than one-third of the vote — had serious question marks and that the election chairman initially agreed to investigate. But later on Sunday he changed his mind.
Kenya is a close American ally, and a team of Western diplomats, including the American ambassador, tried for hours to persuade election officials to recount the votes. One Western ambassador said they knew that if the dubious results were certified and the president declared the winner based on them, Kenya would plunge into crisis. But the commission would not budge.
“The government was determined to hold onto power,” said the ambassador, who did not want to be identified because he said he feared reprisals from the Kenyan government.
If the above account is accurate, it seems hard to understand why the State Department would knowingly congratulate the winner of a likely fraudulent election process.
side note: i'm a supporter of Unitus, and one of the microfinance groups Unitus has funded is Jamii Bora in Nairobi. they've made incredible progress in helping make business, education, and housing microloans to over 100,000 working poor in Kenya.
if you want to make a real difference for someone, i encourage you to support Unitus and other microfinance organizations around the world.
Dogs & Demons is a rather tough assessment of Japan, focusing on how bureaucratic national politics & the Japanese construction industry have created significant obstacles for the nation to overcome. It's a shocking criticism of how the Japanese built their key political, industrial, and cultural institutions after WWII ended (and to some extent, starting before that after the Tokugawa Shogunate / Edo Era ended). While i don't necessarily agree with all conclusions drawn by the author, the discourse is certainly an eye opener.
The Undercover Economist is a fun read, and provides an excellent way to think about the science, rather than the art, of Economics. If you enjoyed Freakonomics, you'll similarly enjoy this book.
The Cathedral & the Bazaar was originally authored in the late 90's (updated more recently in early 2000/2001) and chronicles the birth of the open source movement. Although i considered myself somewhat familiar with open source concepts & products, this book gave me an entirely new perspective on the subject. Great companion piece to Paul Graham's Hackers & Painters.