Thursday, July 19, 2012

    Connecting Robert Scoble

    Robert Scoble
    The coolest thing happened last week when I went to a Startup Dream Team talk featuring Robert Scoble.  At the talk, Scoble discussed how our phones in the very near future will start knowing everything about us.  It will start with continuous GPS tracking, where the phone will learn a user's habits, recognize the patterns and then serve the user information accordingly.  For example, the phone knows the usual route the user takes to work, if it detects an accident, it automatically alerts the user and routes a new path.

    Father down the line the phone will be able to communicate with various other surrounding objects via different radios.  This could mean that the phone will know immediately when the user gets into his car, via Bluetooth or RFID and then proceed to serve up the relevant traffic information.  Even farther down the line, will be the elimination of the phone and the advent of wearable technologies that will be able to actively recognize and interact with the surrounding environment.

    In essence, Scoble states that the future of technology will be about putting the user in context.  Taking into account user behavior, time, place and environment, technology will be serving users immediately relevant information.

    When Scoble said context, I was reminded that I had heard and even seen this executed just a month ago at Startup Weekend San Diego (SWSD). At SWSD Qualcomm offered cash prizes for teams that best integrated Context.Beta SDK (now called Gimbal) into their products. The Context SDK developed at Qualcomm Labs was in beta at the time, but it did almost everything that Scoble said was coming up in the future. In addition, Breadcrumbs, the app that won Qualcomm's grand prize was an app that constantly tracked the user and then served him with immediately relevant information. It seems the future was a lot closer than Scoble thought.

    The cool part of this story is that immediately after the Scoble talk, I went back to my office and tweeted Scoble and Roland, the project manager for the Context.Beta SDK/Gimbal.

    I did not think much of it, especially since Scoble never retweeted or mentioned me, but the next day I see this on Scoble's blog:
    Today I was talking with Roland Ligtenberg, product developer at Qualcomm Labs. While talking with me I realized just what Qualcomm was up to.
    Even though nobody knows, it feels pretty damn cool to have connected Scoble with Roland to make that blog post happen.

    Sunday, July 15, 2012

    China Application: HUB-Ventures Investor Day

    On Wednesday, I attended Investor Day hosted by Hub Ventures. The Hub is an international organization that creates co-working spaces for companies with social missions. That night, HUB-Ventures, the 3 month in house incubation program that provides funding and mentorship to a select group of startups was graduating its second class.

    After countless local, mobile and social pitches, it was great to to hear ideas that had legitimate claims to changing the world.  While getting wowed by the presenters, it suddenly occurred to me that some of the startups could very well make it in China.

    Below are the three startups whose products I could see making it in China:


    Most of the world's coffee is grown on small farms and cooperatives where record keeping and ordering is still handled on paper.  Acopio aims to bring these small growers to the digital world with their data management software that will allow producers to track operational data as well as clearly communicate with lenders and buyers.    

    Currently, Acopio's focus is on South American producers, but I can easily see this software used by Chinese coffee growers in Yunnan.  In addition, due to the high likelihood that Chinese and South American farmers are at the same technology level, bringing Acopio's software to China would just require some translation.          

    Africa's Talking

    With the heavy focus on smartphones, it is easy to forget that the most popular phone in the world today is the Nokia 1100, a dumbphone.  Africa's Talking wants to help developers build apps for the much larger dumbphone market by creating a universal platform that would be adopted by service providers.  M-Pesa a mobile payment system originated out of Kenya has shown that there is a great demand for practical mobile apps.    

    In China, the smartphone market is growing rapidly but the large majority of Chinese still own dumbphones so there is definitely a large market for dumbphone apps.  However, if Africa's Talking were to shift its focus to China, it should do so fast because dumbphones are a rapidly sunsetting business.    

    Project Repat

    Apparently, I have been missing out a on a new trend called upcycling where discarded textiles are creatively remade into new textile products and then sold for a higher price. Project Repat has turned upcycling into a big business, by partnering with big brands to take their unsold merchandise off their hands and then upcycling it to be sold back under the same brand.

    China being by far the largest textile manufacturer in the world, has an abundant supply of defective and rejected goods that could be upcycled right out of the factory.  Taking into account the lower labor and shipping costs, upcycled products in China would be very competitive in the global marketplace.