Archive for June, 2009

Building Businesses

Sitting down to write a whitepaper, I figured I’d find a good model to start with first! I was told to check out some of the whitepapers over at Khosla Ventures — and it was a gold mine of great information. I thought I’d go ahead and share it with you.

They have 2 main sections for “entrepreneurial resources:” (1) industry views, and (2) building businesses.

There are some fantastic whitepapers in these categories:
- entrepreneurship
- people & management
- product management
- sales effectiveness
- risk management

If you know of any other publically available sources of great whitepapers like these, I invite you to please leave a comment below, or Tweet it with the hashtag #UbiquitousVC

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USSD: Lost in the Crowd?

All day long I am surrounded by BlackBerry and iPhone apps and business models. After listening to an intriguing talk by Nathan Eagle, a Professor at MIT, I started to think about how a single application can be developed to reach everyone in developing countries (a much larger proportion of mobile phone users than those in developed countries). Nathan mentioned that some applications in developing countries use USSD protocol as opposed to SMS or data-rich applications. I wanted to learn more.

Here are some of my findings:

USSD (“Unstructured Supplementary Services Data”) is a mature core mobile-network technology similar to Telnet; it is session-based. In fact, it is as old as GSM technology — and guess what — it works on EVERY GSM-based handset from a Nokia 1100 to a BlackBerry Bold.

Mobile software developers are constantly trying to find a way to write (code) once and reach many (different handset models). USSD can work for some application types, but not all. USSD will not offer feature-rich capabilities, but it can send and receive data through sessions (no data is saved on the device), allow for navigable menus, and it can interact with billing accounts on-file with wireless carriers.

After doing some research, it seems as though this technology is predominantly being exploited in developing countries, where there have been some very creative uses of USSD applications.

Here are some of the many uses this technology can provide (at a much cheaper cost than SMS messaging — a huge consideration for communication in developing countries):
- Mobile banking and payments
- Point-of-sale banking (using your mobile prepaid account as the source of payment)
- One-time password request notifications
- Weather services
- Menu-based navigation of corporate or city services
- Advertising
- Voice Chat
- Roaming

As it stands, USSD technology is being underused primarily due to a lack of available applications and content providers, a lack of understanding, and a lack of motivation at the operator level. Only recently, Bharti and Vodafone have productized this medium by launching USSD portals; largely however, this technology is under-developed and under-utilized.

Comments on a LinkedIN thread about USSD showed the following benefits of USSD technology (post from Gaurav Sarin):
1) Handset agnostic – 99% compatibility of active handsets
2) Easy Surfing – browser based experience for customers
3) Free content discovery for customers – since most operators do not generate CDRs of USSD sessions
4) Real Time session with the server – faster & more secure than SMS
5) Higher reliability as compared to SMSSMS has a 70 -80% successful delivery rate

What are your thoughts on USSD?

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Global VC Blog Directory

Attention all entrepreneurs and start-ups!

A comprehensive list of VC-authored blogs have been compiled by Larry Cheng, a Boston-based VC. The list was ranked by number of Google Reader Subscribers as of May 2009.

If you’re getting serious about pitching for venture dollars, I suggest that you start subscribing to some of these blogs (just add them to your Viigo feeds).

It’s important for entrepreneurs to know about a number of things before pitching for dollars:
1. Understand the psychology of VCs
2. Understand the business models of VCs
3. Understand how to pitch VCs
4. Understand how NOT to pitch VCs
5. Understand WHEN to pitch VCs
6. Pitch VCs with a focus in your business sector
7. Don’t pitch VCs with your competitors already in their portfolios
8. Know your pitch cold
9. Spend a few extra minutes on the slide deck
10. Know the risks associated with your business (model) and suggest mitigating strategies
11. The list goes on…

Many of the blogs listed in the index will give you lots of tips in these areas. Happy reading!

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Google Wave

Google announced “Google Wave” at the Google I/O conference last week. Google says that their technology is a new tool for communication and collaboration on the web, coming later this year.

After watching the video and speaking to a friend at the event, I think this product is going to be hugely successful for a few reasons.

1. VERY Open API
2. Widget architecture to allow plug-ins like Firefox allows for dynamic functionality
3. Multi-faceted use cases (consumer, prosumer, enterprise)
4. Google already has a massive reach
5. The technology allows real-time updates to multiple locations (i.e. edits or updates to a wave will be shown in real-time to friends, colleagues, and places that the wave may be embedded such as blogs or a website)
6. Drag and drop from desktop to web
7. Ease of adding and removing(??) Wave participants
8. Playback functionality of Waves (I am excited to see how this gets further developed)

If you are reading this, and are from Google, I would love an invite to the Wave sandbox to give it a trial pre-launch!

Watch the video at http://wave.google.com/

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