links for 2010-12-03

  • Optimism can kill your business. There, I said it. Let the comments and rants begin (and if they are anything like those written in response to my Why "Be Passionate" Is Awful Advice post, I'm sure another great debate is on the horizon). But before you say that I'm clueless, out-of-touch with Gen Y, or a detriment to entrepreneurs, allow me to explain my position.
  • You may have heard that "Everything is a function of time and money. You can have it fast. You can have it cheap. But you can't have it fast and cheap." But "bootstrapping" companies continually rework this equation and manage to do both. The entrepreneurial spirit makes fast and cheap a viable option — at least initially. With no massive infrastructure to support or hierarchy that must approve ideas, entrepreneurs are frequently able to do what other organizations can't, won't or don't.
  • In the world of web browsers, it's beginning to look a lot like the 1990s. Back then, the Internet was just starting to become an integral part of daily life and Netscape's Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer vied for dominance in helping users surf the web. By the end of the decade, Microsoft emerged the winner and Netscape faded into dotcom history. This time around, the browser battle includes an increasing number of competitors, most notably Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome. But players such as Apple's Safari and newcomers like RockMelt, a start-up that promises to integrate web browsing with social networking, are banking on innovative features to stand out in a sector where users are reluctant to change — or are unaware of myriad options beyond their browser of choice.
    (tags: browser)
  • While, a year or two ago, the dust clouds of the fallen giant investment banks were still settling, at many a place the discussion opened whether it was the CEO’s business school education that caused him (invariably him…) to act in such a selfish, destructive, and unethical way. For example, Forbes debated the issue heavily under the title “are B-schools to blame?” while at the Harvard Business Review a discussion raged under the highly similar header of “are business schools to blame?” (as if they plagiarized each other… which I thought would add some juice to an ethics discussion…). Although there was the occasional stern defendant of the system, most treated the question as a rhetorical one (“yes, of course!”) and vehemently declared denial itself to be almost as unethical as the destructive actions themselves.
  • Most of us have a long list of things we'd like to do—get more exercise, keep a cleaner house, spend money more responsibly, and deal with e-mail more effectively. But it's notoriously hard to change behavior when it comes to such tiresome chores. On the other hand, a compelling computer game can inspire you to stay up late at night trying to complete a tricky, and essentially pointless, task. Several successful startup companies, including Foursquare and SCVNGR, have harnessed the principles at work in games—so-called "game dynamics"—to motivate people to perform particular location-based tasks. And there is growing interest in finding other ways to harness game dynamics. However, one startup's experience shows that game dynamics can be an unpredictable, and sometimes blunt, tool. Baydin, which makes plugins for Outlook and Gmail, is testing an e-mail game designed to help people achieve "inbox zero"—the state in which the user has dealt with all of his or her messages.
    (tags: email)
  • Conventional wisdom tells us that leaders are the men and women who stand up, speak out, give orders, make plans and are generally the most dominant, outgoing people in a group. But that is not always the case, according to new research on leadership and group dynamics from Wharton management professor Adam Grant and two colleagues, who challenge the assumption that the most effective leaders are extraverts. In fact, introverted leaders can be more effective than extraverts in certain circumstances. The determining factor is who leaders are managing, according to Grant and co-authors Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and David Hofmann of the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School. Their paper, forthcoming in the Academy of Management Journal, is titled "Reversing the Extraverted Leadership Advantage: The Role of Employee Proactivity."
  • Korte says he and six other ex-Google executives (Richard Chen, Keval Desai, Vibhu Mittal, Deep Nishar, Gokul Rajaram, and David Scacco) started AngelPad in order to create space for founders who are slightly older and more experienced than those who join other incubators like Y Combinator or TechStars. And indeed, 60 percent of the founders invited to join the first group of AngelPad companies are themselves Google alumni, usually with several years of engineering experience under their belts. (Korte says that the proportion of ex-Googlers will drop over time, now that the AngelPad application process is open to anyone.)
  • There  seems to be an increasing prevalence of leaders who engage in trash-talking, or “smack-talking,” about their opponents or competitors. While we’re familiar with seeing that behaviour in professional sports and politics, it is spreading. Can it be that the trash-talkers’ brains “made them do it?” Saj-nicole Joni, writing on Forbes.com, describes how high-flying executives such as Mark Hurd of HP, Tony Hayward of BP and Coleen Goggins of John and Johnson, “fell Icarus-like to Earth.” She cites of the work of Dr. Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University biological anthropologist, who has examined neuroscience in relation to the risks of CEO’s bad judgment.
  • In normal times investors will look for “traction” before investing.  We want to make sure we’re in love.  This sometimes frustrates entrepreneurs who just want to “get back to running the business.”  But if you understand it you’ll see that it is perfectly rational and it should also influence how you form relationships with investors.  And remember, if we get married you’re stuck with us, too.

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