Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Power Of Platforms

I am presently involved full-time in implementing a quite extensive, long-range business plan I've been developing for many years. It's been eight years since I decided to invest into one of my own business ventures. Everything since then has been done for clients. This project is so compelling that I have no choice but to stop everything else and just do this. After all, how often does a guy like me have the chance to become one of the leaders in the global technology world?

Think "Platforms"

The foundational idea under my efforts is that the way to build a hugely successful global company is to establish and own a widely adopted platform, not by relentlessly iterating individual services or products. Microsoft and Intel just had a near 30-year run doing it. Apple's done it once for nearly 30-years (Mac), and is now setting the pieces in place to do it again for the next 30-years (iOS). Underwriters Laboratories has done it for 100-years. Define a platform. Get adoption. Watch as the world builds out its businesses and entire industries that foundationally include reliance on or usage of your product or service. As more commerce spins around your platform you have more insulation from competition, less pressure on pricing and margins, the increasing benefits of scale, and growing affirmation of the value and worth of your offering. Platforms rock... and can be sustained for decades.

The problem is that when markets emerge and are established, competitive platforms rapidly appear, fight for attention and adoption, and the landscape in the new market pretty quickly settles into a small number of platforms with enough mass and traction to be profitable. Once the hierarchy of platforms becomes well established in a market, everything I said above applies: Nobody is going to upset that order for decades. How many companies attempted to bust Microsoft's OS licensing model and were crushed? How many companies tried to usurp Apple's iPod's leadership in music players, only to fail? How many safety standards organizations have come and gone over the past century in efforts to displace UL?

Trying to displace an established platform in an existing market is a dead man's play for a new business. Better to go do something else... anything else. And, while doing something else, keenly watch the world around you for the signs that a new market is emerging, and put yourself in the right place to establish one of the platforms for that new market. Do that, and you, too, can have near-monopoly success and profits for a few decades.

We Are At A Pivot Point

I've watched for many years as the computer market has slowly turned, and the cell phone market has gently drifted, and the two of them moved onto tracks that put them on a head-on collision course. Today, the most forward edges of the two industries are making contact in what will rapidly grow into one of the most massively destructive, disruptive crashes in all business history. Over the next three to five years, the entire order of things in both industries will be shattered. Leaders will fall. New entrants will appear and prosper. Whole categories of products and services will disappear and new ones will rise in their place. And then, clearly starting within 3-years, all of it will settle down and begin revolving around a small number of core platforms, and everyone will be structurally locked out again for a few decades.

We are in that wonderful early period of chaos in what is currently, nervously referred to as "mobile computing" when old platforms are failing, and new ones are being readied for battle. We are at the cusp of a one-time opportunity to boldly step forward and declare that we, our offering, is the future of this new market, and then seize one of those precious top platform positions.

That's the way reality works, the way platforms work, and the way the next crazy, critical two or three years will work in "mobile computing." A handful of platforms will emerge and gain traction, and lock into a decades long fight. And, from there, anyone else coming along late to this party will be relegated to competing for last place.

The stakes? Some substantial portion of a $100 billion to $500 billion annual sales global marketplace.

Owning A Slice Of The Future

The expression goes that, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

There is an approach to defining a platform for this new market that is strikingly different from the earliest competitive approaches now being seen. It is more forward thinking and embraces a more future-oriented set of techniques than the others. It is more consumer friendly. It is more developer friendly. It is cheaper to build, but works better. It is 90% built, today. It can be put into the market in less than a year, and scaled from there. It is called DotGT, and I and my team are relentlessly working to get it to market.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Twisted Path To VC Funding

I am in Silicon Valley to raise $5 million to found a company that will change the face of computing and communications forever.

People who know me would offer varying opinions about my personality, skills, my sanity. I've led a helluva life. And, at 52, I carry every lesson I've ever learned. None of those relate to what's involved in raising investment capital. They mostly relate to how to build great products that sell really well, and avoiding the pifalls common to that process.

Until recently I thought I was pretty good at understanding complex systems. After all, how many other people on the planet understand how microprocessors, networking, wired and wireless communications, operating systems, application software, and user interface and industrial design all interactively intertwine to define great products?

I have never encountered anything as complex and bewildering as the mind of a venture capitalist.

My simplistic view of VC guys has always been that they lived to find those rare deals that would safely generate massive percentage returns on their investments

I was wrong.

It appears that actual VC guys live to find simple deals that they can easily understand, and that fit neatly into their personal preconceptions about how things work. Those are the dimensions of their box.

Perhaps in time I could ferret out the reasons VC guys are like this. However, as the guy creating the deal, my motivation is to craft the best company possible, and that requires that I focus on understanding all of the elements affecting my business plan -- not on what may have twisted the thinking of a VC guy.

Over the past decade I've met and worked with and developed strategy with some of the smartest people in technology. Together, a few of us have incrementally evolved a reality based plan to meet the needs of the global market for the coming generation of small computing products. We have de-risked the venture to the point of humor. Every element large and small is based on off the shelf components, easily integrated. The result is much greater than the sum of those parts.

So, here we are, 200+ man-years into the project, within a year of hitting the market and shattering two different global industries. I am dropping off letters each day at the front desk of VC firms asking for appointments to talk about our project. And nobody is replying.

Shame. We can create order out of the chaotic mess that is presently both the computing and communications sectors. And, from that realignment would come profits. Lots of them.

And, some uniquely clever VC guy who is more in love with profits than his own preconceptions could hit the mother of all home runs.

I am in Silicon Valley to raise $5 million to found a company that will change the face of computing and communications forever.

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