Sunday, November 18, 2007

How many online friends could you have?

Wall Street Journal has an interesting article this Friday on the online social network. The column The Numbers Guy citied the research work from an Oxford professor, Robin Dunbar, saying there is a natural limit to a friendship circle, 150 as a ceiling on our personal contacts. But the research is based on the real-life experience. So will online social networking sites help users to burst the numbers? The column said there is possibility since humans have developed this technology to surpass their physical limits on speed, strength and the ability to process information.

I have a little doubt on this. If the research is true, it means we could only maintain 150 friends even if we only live in a small town, while friends could meet and talk everyday. Now even with the new technology, the friend circle will only be like the one in the small town. Those friends are the ones your mind could keep in touch in a frequent basis.

Speaking of this, it depends on how we could define on the friend circle. Will someone who you only met once be called friends? or the ones we could speak everything? If it is the first choice, then our friend circle is definitely enlarged by the Internet. Count my facebook, I got 40 contacts; count my MSN, I got over 200 contacts. But I don't consider all of them friends. So maybe I am still within the 150 circle.

90-second pitch

Pitch to venture capital is a hard one, especially in a short time like 90 seconds. Today, in the 4th Annual Entrepreneur Bootcamp held by Hua Yuan Science and Technology Association, the biggest Chinese VC association in Silicon Valley, ten teams did use 90 seconds to pitch their business idea to get selected by four venture capital firms. They covered industries including health care, online advertisting, gaming platform, custom-made suit and etc. 90 seconds are really short, and it is more based on the presentation skills to win over the others. But this is the valley, and you have to differentiate others in a short time.

Speaking as a whole, the ideas from those teams are very practical, such as ERP software for small manufacturers. Maybe I am too optimistic. but I really want to see some big ideas, at least some big dream to do something to change the world, such as Bill Gates' "making everyone have a PC", or Google's "download the whole web". Without thinking big, I don't think a small start-up could last long. Only dreaming of being bought by a big company is not enough.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spin out or not, that's a question

We've seen a lot of newspaper setting up their websites to upload the content. I had some discussion last week with classmates on if the websites should be spinned off from the newspaper.

I argued that it should be spinned off if the newspaper didn't consider the online business as a long-term plan. Management of the newspaper are always forced to consider the profitability of the online business before the investment. To me, that doesn't make sense. Competitors of those websites, Google, Yahoo or small start-ups, are all funded by venture capitalists targeting at a break-even of at least five years. How could a newspaper website targeting at a one-year profitability compared the other websites targeting at a five-year break-even? That doesn't make sense.

Newspapers still want to leverage their existing resources. However, that's not very true. There are three different dimensions. First, the content is very different between the online version and print one. Online verson focuses more on its quantity, while print one should be more selective because of the space limitation. The second different thing is the advertisement. Advertisers have certain appetite on print and online business. Big ones still prefer print media because of the brand, while smaller advertisers prefer online ads due to budget concern. The third dimension is the content supply. Print media has all its content produced by reporters and editors, while online media should rely more on the grassroot journalism, allowing freelancers and readers to contribute more.

So to me, leveraging the newspaper's resource to set up a online brand is not very attractive. Online readers are too spoiled to be loyal to one brand. That's why Google and Yahoo News are more popular. Online readers need more news portals or news filters, instead of a newspaper brand. So spining off the online business from a newspaper, and developed it creatively, is one of the options to be able to stay in media business.

Of course, my point is debatable.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Time Warner's new CEO

Media has been in chaos these days. Profit, revenue, pressure from Wall Street. It's such a good time to be in the media career since there is chance to find big opportunity. Jeff Bewkes is named to be CEO of Time Warner Inc., the world's largest media company, replacing Richard Parsons on Jan 1 next year.
The annoucement came one day before the earnings is reported tomorrow.
A common question among the high growth industry is if they should make as much acquisition as possible. It will be a pity to lose the opportunity to buy, but it will also be a pity when the acquistion doesn't bring any value. Time Warner still suffers from its AOL operation, while Ebay got trouble in generating value from Skype. So be cautious when making acquisition.