Wednesday, March 27

More SXSW Lists

Another list of Next Big Thing companies from SXSW. Some of them actually have vowels in their names. Most of them aren’t apps, which is kind of refreshing.

Friday, March 22

Pre-Stalk Your Meetings

Charlie is a highly useful mobile app that checks your calendar to see who you’re meeting with next, then uses the Internet data hoses to push interesting things about these people to you.

Wednesday, March 20

Attack of the Apps

There were more Next Big Thing apps than free beer parties down at SXSW (which is a lot). Here’s a couple that stood out:
Vyclone - social video shooting/editing tool. Collects multiple videos from users near each other, let’s others edit them together into one main video. Like Albumatic, but with video. “CoCreation" was a big buzzword this year.
GonnaBe - social-local-mobile app (or SoLoMo if you’re a digihipster) for planning/broadcasting social outings. SoLoMo apps were all the rage last year, although most have been acquired or folded. Highlight was launching themselves again this year.
Thirst - It’s like Flipboard except it’s, um, well, it’s basically Flipboard.
Bizzabo - business conference finder/networking tool. Probably just waiting to get acquired by LinkedIn. 
Takes - Turn your photos into videos. Better overview is here.
Songza - Not new, but I discovered it down there. Basically Pandora/Spotify where songs are grouped by specific themes. Not sure how defendable a strategy that is, but my 12 yr old loves it.

Tuesday, March 19

Tuesday, March 12

Airbnb’s Brian Chesky Talks with Fortune

Here’s some sound bites from the interview:
It’s better to have 100 people who love your company/service, than 1,000 who kind of like you.
Make something a few people want. Use technology to scale once you have the product “right".
As your company and user base grows, there’s a real threat of overcomplicating your offering.  Also a threat of becoming detached from you audience.
Importance of discomfort in your business strategy was a theme, just like the Uber interview.
Storyboard the customer experience. Think about everything a customer goes through before and after they interact with your product.
Don’t build a product based on what appeals to investors. Employees should make a product customers love. Customers will then build a business that investors love.
Hire your community. A lot of their employees were early users or renters.
Don’t do just what will make you win (buy other companies, expand into “safe" offerings). You may not want to work there the next day.
Other companies were positioning themselves as the “Airbnb of X". So Airbnb asked “why can’t we be the Airbnb of X?" They realized that they are really in the mobility industry, not the travel industry. They now offer 1,000 boats for rent. 
President of Lichtenstein listed his country for rent for $7k. Removed it when Snoop Dogg tried to rent it.

Monday, March 11

Miku: The Open-Source Girl Who Conquered the World

Open source culture and collaborative entertainment is going to make the current online music trends look like gramophones.

Stephen Wolfram: The Computational Future

Stephen Wolfram is legendary in the field of computational science. Crazy theoretical concepts that he has turned into a range of sophisticated software tools (Mathematica). You many have heard of his search engine WolframAlpha.
This engine provides answers based on natural language sentences. Type a question or data points and it quickly interprets what you want to know, searches the interweb for data that might answer it, then translates that data into an answer. What’s important is that it doesn’t link to web pages that exist and contain the solution. It actually creates answers, not just find them.
This is pretty cool too:

Sunday, March 10

Special Touch: Special Needs Apps Need You

I worked with Kevin Sitek back in our dot com days. He’s a great designer and happens to have a daughter with cerebral palsy. If you think designing a user experience for ecommerce is tough, try creating communication devices for kids who have extremely limited physical capabilities.
The iPad has been a major advancement in this area. The majority of special needs apps are homegrown tools developed by passionate individuals who have real world needs for them. They lack the usability and design that you would expect an app to deliver. Kevin is launching his own company to bring high-quality solutions to this under-serviced space.
When you are surrounded by thousands of companies at SXSW - each trying to pitch themselves as The Next Big Thing - it’s refreshing to find someone working on truly life-changing ideas. You can learn more about education and special needs apps on his blog =

Hacking Cities for a Better, Sustainable Tomorrow

Main takeaway is that cities are fixated on liberating Big Data, but they are even more fixated on getting the tech for free.
Some interesting programs:

GEEKSTA PARADISE: The Ballers of Uber + GitHub

Part of the Lean Startup conference track.

His first startup in late 90s was a filesharing company that was sued globally for $250 billion until he shut it down (pre-Napster). Uber launches in cities where their business model is legal, expecting they’ll meet resistance. The regulatory playbook is predictable that cities/taxi industry use to try keep them out. It is mostly the taxi industry lobbying cities to pass new laws to regulate them out of operating there. Regulating technology is a threat to shut down innovation. Uber won’t meet them halfway to get a compromised offering into the city. They’d rather pull out and have users lobby city officials on their behalf.
As a fast-growing company, organizational scale is tougher than technology scale (go from 200 to 800 employees). Their first app barely worked and drivers’ phones died after 4 hrs of use. When growing a small company, you need to go from lean to muscular. Keep a lean culture but know when to bulk up offerings/services.
Best quote = “You need to push your business/strategy/services to the point where you get uncomfortable, otherwise you aren’t innovating.” In other words, if you aren’t nervous about a new strategy then you should reevaluate your plans. Discomfort Ideas.
Uber clones (Sidecar, Lyft in SF) are fast followers just recreating the Uber biz model at a local level. They forced Uber to innovate and bring two services to market = High end black car (existing model) and low end price offer/lesser quality (to compete).
GitHub is an extremely decentralized company lacking a lot of the structure you would expect. No departments, no managers (“we replaced manager positions with technology/tools”), no work hours or location expectations.
Their approach to solving problems is what they call First Principles. Basically asking “what’s the problem?” and not allowing a standard solution. Mental reset to solve it in an interesting way. For example, as they grew staff, many started wanting an office. So instead of just moving into an office, they asked “Why do we need an office?” The reason was they were getting kicked out of cafes because too many employees were showing up and spending all day there without buying much. So they decided to treat their office space like a cafe = communal spaces, no set seating chart or hours, barista coffee machine.

Saturday, March 9

Muppets to Mastery: UX Principles from Jim Henson

If you are interested in user experience design, then you should buy Russ Unger’s books =
Russ is currently the Sr UX Leader at GE Capital. I’m fortunate to know Russ, and more fortunate to get into his overflowing UX presentation at every SXSW. This year he presented a mash up of Jim Henson’s innovation cycles and storyboarding with UX principles. And the concept of Henson as hacker. Total crowd pleaser. The Fraggle Rock personification of design/dev departments was more relevant than you would expect. The street team approach to wireframe testing was also cool.
Other interesting tips:
Gamestorming =
Omg-wtf spectrum =
Make your own Muppet =