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Pepsi’s Innovative Business Model for Entrepreneurship

June 14th, 2010 by admin 2 comments »

I was intrigued to hear about the Pepsico 10 challenge, announced at InternetWeek NY in May.

The challenge involves four main components:

How it works

Contestants from around the world are invited to submit their companies for the contest. The only criteria is that require is that the company already have a product, be producing >$250,000 year in revenue, and (presumably, but it isn’t stated on the website) the company should be focused on the Internet (but who isn’t nowadays?).  Ten companies will be selected during a 2-day event at Pepsi headquarters as finalists and invited to pitch to a panel of VCs, Pepsi execs, and other participants.  The winner wins money, fame and a host of contacts for increasing the lifespan of their company.

More details available here.

What’s innovative about this?

It seems like a win-win-win for all parties involved. Entrepreneurs who submit plans presumably get feedback on what works and what doesn’t about their current business model – and what’s needed to scale their businesses.  Mashable is a big winner in associating itself with leading edge entrepreneurial ideas – particularly those that are related to social media. This helps steal the thunder from its competitors (like TechCrunch) by allowing Mashable to report on innovations in entrepreneurship AHEAD of the competition and track potential hot companies of tomorrow.  InternetWeek wins by associating itself with a new model for recognizing entrepreneurship – potentially increasing its readership and following (among those who want to be on the leading edge of technology).  Highland Capital wins by seeing some of the best plans on the planet.  Pepsi, who presumably is matching the largest monetary and time commitment to this experiment, is potentially the biggest winner (although it may be hard to measure this) by associating its most precious asset – it’s brand/name – with young, risk-taking, intelligent entrepreneurs who are trying to change the world. In the world of the Millenials, these young social media start-up execs represent the future leaders…so Pepsi is associating itself with a great group of people.

Wait, Where Have We Seen This Before (Welcome Back Kotter)?

For those of you old enough to remember, the word “challenge” has a rich history at Pepsi, and is in fact a major component of the Pepsi brand. In 1981, here is one of the early commercials released by Pepsi in a series of “Challenges”…which went on to win many advertising and branding awards:

So, creating a “challenge,” in this case to find leading edge social media companies and technologies is a smart fit for this particular company and brand.

What Pepsi, Highland Capital and Mashable May be Missing

A short-coming I see from this model is the lack of specificity in the type of business start-up that is being sought.  What area of consumer internet should the company be from?  What customer needs should the technology address?  By being open to a wide range of opportunities, I think the contest creators may get a lot of applicants who really do not fit the criteria for what Pepsi was initially looking for.  I also think a lot of companies will pass on the opportunity to submit applications because of their uncertainty as to what Pepsi is really seeking.  On the flip-side, by keeping the “scope” wide, presumably the challenge brings in a wider range of opportunities.
Another short-coming might be awareness. The best plans will come to this contest only if entrepreneurs are aware of the contest.  Among 10 entrepreneurs I personally spoke with, only one was aware of the “Challenge” and no one I spoke with planned to submit a business plan.  (yes I realize my sampling was small and random)  Some significant marketing dollars (and lots more PR) need to be applied to this contest in order for it to become known to the community.  Perhaps partnering with Universities, other online social media broadcasters (TechCrunch or Vator.tv, for example) will help in the long run. As a professor at UC Berkeley, I’d love to get my MBA and Engineering students thinking about the contest next year.  Hopefully, Pepsi realizes that it needs to commit to 4-5 years of this model in order to really reap the benefit.

Noth withstanding these things, I like the fact that a major brand who could have spent millions by throwing out more advertising, billboards, and magazine back covers, is devoting some attention to this (yes, I realize the budget for this contest was infinitesimlly small compared to Pepsi’s overall brand annual budget). Give them kudos for trying…and give Mashable and Highland high marks for assisting in an innovative new approach to partnering for entrepreneurship.

Y Combinator …look out! There’s a new innovative model on the block.

The Beatles – Innovation & The Medici Effect

May 23rd, 2010 by admin 3 comments »

Anyone out there have a thing for the Beatles?

OK…I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of the “Fab 4″ since my high-school days in Leonia, NJ.  Maybe “fan” is too light a term.

And, having just spent the past 2 days touring Liverpool (I described it to friends and family as my “Pilgrimage to Mecca”) and reading Jonathan Gould’s 2007 book Can’t Buy Me Love, I’m thinking about what turned the Beatles and  “Beatlemania” into the biggest musical sensation of the 20th Century.  What was the spark of creativity that allowed these four tocreate their own style out of the Liverpool “beat” scene?

Liverpool in 1962 was like Florence in 1452?

I think I have some answers after exploring Liverpool, learning about it’s history, going through the Beatles Experience/Story (museum) and reading Gould’s book.  Liverpool became a modern-day musical version of Florence of the 15th Century.  Liverpool emerged emerged out of no-where, as the newIntersection of rock-and-roll, “beat” music and new attitudes and it was the Beatles that turned creativity into  innovation – invoking  a new style of music that was different from anything else the world had heard before…and as a result, the Beatles catapulted to stardom unlike any other band before or after it. 

How did this happen?

Liverpool has held a reputation – even before WWII – as a blue-collar, rough-and-tumble town.  (although I found it actually quite gentrified when I visited this week).  As primarily a shipping port after WWII the city was also  far smaller, more blue-collar and far less “metropolitan”  than London.  At the time John Winston Lennon, James Paul McCartney, Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) and George Harrison met , Liverpool was well-known for it’s territory-based teenage gangs – and although they weren’t as troublesome as today’s street gangs, they tended to grow and thrive in small groups – competing with one another for neighborhood supremacy.  These mini “city-states” as it were had another interesting characteristic that was found in Florence of the 1500s – they were quite DIVERSE.  The city, more than the average city in Europe was a melting pot of Gaelic, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and English – and the Irish and Welsh are know for their singing abilities. Thus was born a minor “warfare” between opposing gangs to see who could produce the most “new age” music of the time – and that music which emerged was called “Beat” music.

Diversity, as it turns out is the major theme of Frans Johansson‘s work The Medici Effect, in which he describes the creative results of highly diverse cities or groups of people.  I talk about the Medici Effect in a prior post on Intersection, Medici Effect and Creativity. The melting pot of Liverpool created this same kind of diversity for music and entertainment.

While Liverpool was diverse in its musical talent, it’s people and its neighborhoods, it wasn’t completely immune to changes taking place in the world.  Elvis Presley, a hero of Lennon and McCartney, had risen to global fame just 2 years previously.  Little Richard was also admired and studied by the Beatles, as were many other rhythm and blues singers (mostly American) of the early 1960s.

In 1961 and 1962, the Band played extensively in Hamburg, Germany – another melting pot of musical talents from around the world. The Beatles, though, were able to create something new from existing elements.  It was the combination of their own local British  music known as “Beat” music, with what they learned in Hamburg watching others, and combined with a look and feel that their manager (Brian Epstein) brought to them (hair styles consistent mop-style hair, the “group” feel enhanced by one “mod suit uniform for each).

It is uncertain whether fan hysteria brought the Beatles to life, or whether their music and attitudes did the trick.  Whatever the reason, the Creativity and Innovation by this one group of four men still four lasts decades after their 1970 split.  I even find that my own children, Millenials every last one of them, know and recognize Beatles music.  What other groups in the history of rock and roll can claim this much of a renaissance and this long of a lasting impression on generations of music-lovers?

I’d like to hear your opinion….

Personal Brand and Creativity

May 14th, 2010 by admin No comments »

I was interviewed by Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0, on his website this week on the topic of Personal Branding and Creativity.  It got me thinking about the nature of creativity and personal brands on the internet.

In the early days of Yahoo, when I took over marketing and sales, it was clear that the BRAND at the company was both the name/identify of “Y-A-H-O-O” as well as the personalities of Dave Filo and Jerry Yang.  So, our earliest marketing at Yahoo was not expensive television commercials or , it was simple public relations aimed at the top US consumer reads – so with minimal marketing spend we ended up with stories on Filo & Yang in Rolling Stones, People, NY Times, Wired, and more.  All within 6 months of funding and officially launching the company.

In 1996, when I formed Interactive Minds, one could already see the power of Personalities (aka personal branding) on the Web. I teamed up with Howard Rheingold to form a company called Electric Minds.  Electric Minds was initially funded by private angels and Softbank Ventures, but did not survive…we failed to find a business model that would work in that period of the Internet – and our cost structure to produce an early community site was insurmountable.  However, it was an extremely creative endeavor – putting together PERSONAL BRANDS from a variety of technology experts that Howard knew and positioning them as global experts in their field of expertise, then surrounding them with many early social elements.  In a funny way, Electric Minds was an early pre-curser to Social Media market -but was the example of a company TOO EARLY to take advantage of the explosion.  Timing is everything.
Several months after Electric Minds came along, another early community company called The Mining Company, founded by former CEO of Prodigy Networks (@kurnit) came along.  They changed their name to About.com, went public in the dotcom bubble period and today are one of the few pre-bubble community companies still running strong.  About.com took the approach of giving thought leaders for thousands of areas (dogs, boating, stamp collecting) a “voice” and a set of tools for building community.

This is the first example I can think of where personal branding occurred on the Internet with NON-POP CULTURE people/experts and elevated them to Internet notoriety.

In the following years, personal branding has come into vogue in many ways.  First, there as the “Internet Pioneer” – Howard Rheingold is a great example of this. He was followed by Jim Cramer, The Motley Fool, Matt Drudge and Perez Hilton.

Next came the waves of famous Bloggers…..and the age of Youtube celebrities, some of whom, like LonelyGirl15 were not even real…

Now we have Twitterati. 5 Million followers and counting for @aplusk (AshtonKutcher). Byte-sized personal branding at your service.

With each wave of personalities that come to the Internet, they carry their own unique form of creativity – in “voice”/personality, style, and antics.  No one quite communicated like Howard Rheingold (or dresses like him), no one quite had the style of Arianna Huffington, no one has the short-form entertainment appeal of Violet Blue or the techno-social grace of Michael Arrington.

The latest wave of online personalities that are growing include those who are able to capture the heart and spirit of the millenials in several new areas: social consciousness, global savvy, and celebrity.  One great way to watch the celebrity arena is Celebrifi , by Blue Buzz Networks, which I’m mentoring.

Keep a watch for these areas.

See the interview at : http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/personal-branding-interview-randy-haykin/

I’m now thinking about what comes next. :)

The Future of Virtual Puppeteering and Grandparenting

April 24th, 2010 by admin 1 comment »

OK, so I’m still (likely?) many years away from being a grandparent, but if you can’t apply Business Innovation and Creativity to the future grand-parenting skills, then you’re not really trying…

One of my students at UC Berkeley brought up an interesting experiment by Nokia with the artists from Sesame Street.  An article on this can be read here. The experiment has taken place at Nokia’s Palo Alto research center and at first seems far-fetched.

Are you a fan of the science-fiction writer, Neil Stephensen?  Have you read Snow Crash? (virtual reality and the internet at its best)  Cryptonomicom (long but mathematically pleasing)?

My favorite Stephensen book is The Diamond Age, written in 1995. In this story, Stephensen imagines devices not too far off from the iPad, but with a little more communications built in. In the story, a young girl Nell is given a special book by her father, which she becomes quite attached to. The book reads to her and has motion photos and video embedded in it (think iPad).

“Once upon a time,” said a woman’s voice [from the book], “there was a little girl named Elizabeth who liked to sit in the bower of her grandfather’s garden and read story-books.” The voice was soft, meant just for her, with an expensive Victorian accent.”

After some time, the book becomes personalized to Nell, using her name and the name of her belongings and life – and it interacts with her in strange and magical ways. It turns out that the book is animatronically controlled by an actor (or puppeteer) located in China and selected to be young Nell’s guide. The puppeteer does more than TEACH young Nell, by showing up in her life and revealing emotional stories and lessons she gets into the head of Nell and alters her persona.

A quick pause her, as Puppeteering is not all that new to me. As a teenager in Leonia, New Jersey, I created my own puppet show for the local schools and summer camp program, then took the show “on the road”, paying part of my education at Brown University as a puppeteer.  So, I’ve Bert-and-Ernied with the best of them. :>)  Let it not be said that I am ONE DIMENSIONAL entrepreneur-turned venture capitalist-turned-educator-turned-musician-turned-mentor –> there is of course the puppetry.  In 1990, as an Apple employee interested in advanced technologies I worked with Apple’s ATG (Advanced Technology Group) to prepare a speech on “Virtual Puppetry”for a conference on virtual reality.

The device created by Nokia and Sesame Street is an interesting technological combination of virtual puppeteering, distance learning and edu-tainment.  The device allows a child to learn a story, interact with a distant person (grandparent, parent, friend, Chinese puppeteer?), and interact with Sesame Street characters, like Elmo.   Although physically clumsy in its current format, Nokia has essentially brought the concept of Neil Stephensen’s Diamond Age living book to life.

This has several amazing consequences.  Picture, 5 years from now an advance book version of the colorful iPad that is more interactive – a reader can flip thin pages (each interactive, connected via internet and created in virtual ink) to simulate the experience of a real book. Built into the book is a camera that can read the facial expressions of the reader… built into the book is a virtual connection to live people and experts around the world. The book becomes a living communication and learning device that brings to the world literally to the reader and INTERACTS in real time with the needs of the reader.

Apply this to Wikipedia to create the worlds most interactive encyclopedia, apply this to early childhood learning, apply this to games, apply this to sports, entertainment, and research.

Technology is only a few years away from inexpensive paper-thin, computer screens combined with the power of global communication (think: Skype) over internet, we are now just a few short years away from Neil Stephensen’s seemingly incredible dream of virtual puppetry in 1995.

I’d like to her your thoughts on this vision. I’d like to hear Neal’s thoughts on this !

RH

The New Garage Renaissance and emergence of C2B businesses

April 10th, 2010 by admin 4 comments »

As a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur and “mentor” capitalist , I like to look for bets in new spaces and keep on top of industry trends…and historically I’ve placed my bets on software- and Internet-oriented companies, with the occasional excursion into biotech, med device, or cleantech.

What’s caught my attention lately is a shift I perceive in manufacturing and hard-goods spaces - perhaps something set to become a revolution in the coming 10 years – one that could potentially lead some traditional venture capital away from software and back to manufacturing and hardware.

The revolution is in the global manufacturing space and in the ability of “micro-entrepreneurs” to design products from their home/garage, easily prototype their ideas, and eventually produce the products in small lots using a global supply chain that is available, for the most part, online.  This revolution has recently been enabled by a global marketplace (enabled by the Internet), 3D design and printing technology,  and a more flexible approach to manufacturing in the US, China and other parts of the world.

This was the “Old Paradigm” for producing physical products :  an inventor comes up with a concept – sends ideas or sketches to product design house which uses sophisticated CAD programs to design the blueprints for the product – then sends designs off to China to have a prototype build and shipped back. If prototype looked good, show to distributors/channels and take advance orders (or raise money for manufacturing on spec) and use advance orders to hire a manufacturing facility (in East) to produce first run of products. If first run sells out, expand capacity, take additional advance orders and make more goods.  Overall time to market – months or years.

The “New Paradigm” emerging is radically different:  inventors and designers anywhere in the world collaborate over the social net on new designs, and use crowd-sourcing to come up with the best ideas – then rapidly prototype their ideas using 3D printers.  The prototype is modified to match market needs and individual parts are ordered from a global smorgasbord of manufacturing options, assembly occurs in China or perhaps locally (“en garage“), and enough product to fulfill real-time need is producted in JIT fashion.  Products can be modified, customized in small batches. Overall time – weeks or months.

The recent Wired Magazine article by Editor in Chief Chris Anderson calls this new world of manufacturing, “The New Industrial Revolution”.  It’s democratized industry, combined with new ways to rapidly prototype and visualize solid-state models of ideas, and online approaches to open-sourcing just about any part, labor, or manufacturing process needed – right off the web. As Anderson puts it: “Atoms are the new bits“.  The diagram to the left is from the Wired article and spells out the New Paradigm.

You’ve  heard of B2C (business to consumer), and B2B (business to business) – well, this is “C2B” – Consumer to Business – millions of garage entrepreneurs who are close to the consumer , crowd-sourcing ideas for future products and THEN manufacturing them.

I spoke with Ross Stevens, world-renown designer who teaches at Victoria University of Wellington and has a passion for this new culture he calls the “Maker Revolution”. We looked at his way-cool website of design work that he and students at Victoria University are working on futures projects which you can see here.

Stevens, who teaches a course called “Materials & Processes”,  believes that in the coming years, we will be able to make or “print” just about anything we can conceptualize — right to our home  on a low-cost printer. Check out this company that Ross suggested I review:   Ponoko, based in SF calls itself: “a creative place where you can make your ideas real … and sell them to the world. The Ponoko website is like having your own personal workshop and factory … and online showroom to sell your designs.”

Other companies and sites I’ll be tracking in this “maker-market” space include:

  • Makerbot Industries – company makes open-source, low-cost 3D printers and has a great blog on the top of “garage Renaissance and 21st Century manufacturing”
  • Reprap wiki - intriguing community site for sharing “designs that create designs (or self-replicating machines)” – go hear to learn how to print a printer that can print another printer that can print another printer…well you get the idea.\
  • ThingyVerse – a site for sharing 3D printable design and connecting to the global supply chain
  • Panjiva Corp – one of the leading marketplaces for the global supply chain, particularly for small-lot work

…………………


After reflecting on this “new industrial revolution”, printers that print themselves, and the future of 3D design and small lot manufacturing, I have just one question:  when will they invent a 3D bakery printer that can print a truly great cup of coffee and top-notch bagel each morning for me?