Archive for July 3, 2011

South Korean Schools to Replace All Textbooks with Tablets

Same thing is happening in Turkey too.

Zuckerberg Surprised That People Are Surprised He’s On Google+

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joining Google+ was a major media event, with everyone from Forbes to The Daily Mail covering the fact that the founder established a Google+ profile, building Circles that include former Facebooker Dustin Moskovitz and current Facebook CTO Bret Taylor.

While many were doubtful that the real Zuckerberg would join a competing social service, tech blogger Robert Scoble texted Zuckerberg himself to confirm, tweeting out “Name drop moment. Zuckerberg just texted me back. Says “Why are people so surprised that I’d have a Google account?”

In case anyone is still doubting that it is the real Zuck on there, Scoble tells me that Zuckerberg indeed meant Google+ account when he referred to Google account. But the real question is, why are people so surprised that Zuckerberg would chose to be on Google+?

Perhaps the answer lies in the precedent set by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who seem to have shied away from interacting on Facebook as themselves. (According to Steven Levy, Brin is actually on Facebook as a pseudonym. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is also rumored to be on the service, independently of when Mike impersonated him).

Page’s and Brin’s behavior aside, plenty of other founders (Myspace Tom for example) have shown that it’s perfectly normal to partake and enjoy competitive services, and that it shouldn’t necessarily be considered an act of espionage. I for one just hope Zuckerberg is more prolific on Google+ than he is on Twitter.


Robert Scoble

People Over 35 Have Recently Launched 80% Of Startups

Old athlete

Image: MrUllmi via flickr

See Also:

ARTSPACE CEO: Here Is Why Selling Art Online Was Not Possible Until Now

Skier

Tristan Harris


With all the press coverage devoted to new high tech company founders, you’d think that young entrepreneurs are the only successful entrepreneurs. But the latest research suggests otherwise.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, people over the age of 35 made up 80 percent of the total entrepreneurship activity in 2009. That same year, the Kauffman Foundation conducted a survey of 549 startups operating in “high-growth” industries — including aerospace, defense, health care, and computer and electronics — and found that people over 55 are nearly twice as likely to launch startups in these industries.

There are several reasons for this. First, older entrepreneurs have more life and work experience. In some cases, they have decades of industry expertise — and a better understanding of what it truly takes to compete, and succeed, in the business world. Second, they also have much broader and vaster networks. Even if an older entrepreneur is seeking to start a business in an entirely different industry, they have deep connections from all walks of life — for example, a brother-in-law could be the perfect COO. Third, those over 50 have acquired more wealth, a better credit history (which helps with securing loans), and are smarter with their finances.

It’s true that the older you get, the more risk-averse you become, but the Great Recession has changed that. Many older workers who lost their jobs have decided it was finally time to launch the business they’ve been talking about for years.

As for why older entrepreneurs don’t get as much press coverage? Stefan Theil of Newsweek puts it this way:

“Part of the reason that companies started by older workers don’t get much recognition is because they don’t generally produce hot Web apps or other easily understood products. Instead, they tend to involve more complex technologies like biotech, energy, or IT hardware. They also tend to sell products and services to other businesses, which consumers rarely see but which do most of the heavy lifting in powering innovation and economic growth.”

If you’re part of the Baby Boomer generation, and you’ve always dreamed about starting a business, remember that Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of America’s young tech entrepreneurs are anomalies. You’ve got wisdom and experience on your side.

Are estributors the future of publishing?

By now it is common knowledge that ebooks comprise an ever-growing slice of the book market, and are quite likely to become the dominant book format in the next quarter century. Quick, simple distribution, ease of sale and purchase, and the ability for extensive continuing revision make ebooks a format that is a winner for both publishers and readers alike.

But  there is a disturbance in the book market’s dynamics. Authors have realized that the advantages of ebook publishing, in many cases, allow them to bypass their old publishers and strike out on their own, taking a much larger cut of the profits along the way. After all, if you can make more money, why not?

But despite the lure of increased royalties per copy, can the average writer competently execute the roles of both publisher and author?

It’s an interesting question, as the market forces that have allowed authors to effectively self-publish and keep a larger portion of their sales have also made it simpler for any individual to leverage sufficient resources to become a one-person publishing house. The Internet allows for authors to find, and collaborate, with excellent editors, artists, and formatting specialists to create a truly professional-grade book in both print and digital formats.

But is that for everyone? Will all authors want to take on that massive workload that they had previously passed of to their publishers? Many will, the money is simply that much better. How much better? Imagine your cut of a book sale going from 15% to 70%. It’s a revolutionary change. But not all authors are going to want to take time that they had previously spent writing and run their own personal publishing outfit. After all, every moment spent haggling with an artist over cover art is a moment spent not writing.

Then again, no savvy author wants to simply continue giving nearly all the revenue from their work to a company who they could likely replace, at least in most respects. Want proof? J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, is setting out on her own.

So for the author who doesn’t want to lose the support of a publisher, but wants a bigger cut, something that traditional publishing houses can’t afford, is there a middle-of-the-road option for them? As it turns out, not currently, but that seems to be about to change.

Enter the concept of estributors, the brainchild of J.A. Konrath, ironically one of the largest and most famous proponents of author’s striking out from their publishers and going it alone.

What is an estributor? We’ll start with Konrath’s explanation of the idea:

A facilitator who could be a buffer between the author and the business end of self-publishing. I called this position an estributor.The more I began to self-publish, the more I realized what a time suck it was to take care of all the non-writing parts of the job. When you go indie, you essentially become a small business, and take on all the responsibilities for running that business. That cuts into writing time. Doing quick and dirty assessment of my time management and my productivity, I concluded that I could make more money if I gave an estributor 15% to take care of the business side for me, because my increased writing output would more than make up for that cost. Plus, I’d be happier, because I’d much rather write for a living than run a business.

There is movement towards this becoming a reality. Agency Dystel Goderich is now offering services to its authors that are shocking similar to what an estributor would. But they are toeing the line, as their bread and butter is still representing authors and landing big-dollar legacy contracts. Still, the move is crucial as it shows that diverse players in the marketplace are sitting up and wondering how they can jump on the ebook train, and not miss out on new opportunities that crop up as the traditional world of publishing crumbles around them.

If Konrath’s numbers are correct, meaning that they represent a functional business plan, the idea could represent a sweet spot: Authors can write a book, sign on to a top notch estributor, and have all the details managed, for a livable cut. They still make far more money per sale than they would have with any traditional publisher, but avoid the headache of being completely independent.

Now, for the estributor, they are in effect investing a certain amount of capital into each book that they publish, putting together its editing, cover art, formatting, and promotion. And they are wagering that whatever cut they negotiate for a set period (Konrath says 15%, but might be a bit low), will more than cover those costs, thus earning them a profit.

I would bet that for an established author, the 15% rate is a working number for both the writer and the estributor. As the established author already has some form of brand recognition and fan base, his next book is much more likely to sell well than the first tome of a new author. Therefore, for a newer, unproven author, I suspect that a higher rate for their estributor will have to be negotiated. This will help reduce risk for the estributor. But still, at a cut of 30%, or so, the author is still flipping the old ratios in their favor. And, as an author and the estributor that they work with grow their relationship over the course of multiple books, rates could be re-negotiated simply on a title by title basis.

But what about Amazon: How do they fit into this picture? The company takes 30% of the sales price of a digital book at or over the price of 2.99, a fat margin. This is pure conjecture, but I would guess that in the future, for volume accounts, i.e. big name individual authors and publishers, Amazon will offer a slightly better rate, perhaps reducing their cut by 5 to 10%. That may not sound like much, but over tens of thousands of sales, it adds up.

Why would Amazon do so? Because it wants to keep its crown as the place to sell independent books. Nook is a viable threat to the Kindle crown. And if Amazon does make that sort of rate cut, it would in fact become more economical to run books through an estributor than to go it alone, as they have, literally, the price economies of scale.

Leaving that line of thought, let’s take another look at publishing from the perspective of a young author looking to break into the ‘big time’ with their first book. For that person, would it not be better for them to attempt to land a big publisher, in hopes that the company would drop ad dollars into their work, giving it a much larger sales potential? The answer is a firm probably not. Over the course of talking to several authors during the last year, the tales that have reached my ears have always been the same: Major publishers are putting nearly no promotional money into first books by new authors, as they feel that there is a better return to be earned by investing that money into sure-fire hits (big name authors, books that are tied to movies and brands, etc). One author said that she was assigned to a publicity ‘expert’ who advised her to ‘get on Facebook’ and attempt to push her book there. Then the expert disappeared.

On the right: Konrath. Credit: Spine Tingler Magazin

What I mean by noting that example is that only the biggest titles are given any serious marketing support by legacy publishers, leaving estributors and their low-cost, low-cut model financially viable as they would not have to invest much in per-title advertising to be competitive. Of course, every author always wants the most publicity cash that they can get their hands on, but at least estributors won’t have to treble their per-book investment to compete.

This entire post has been a mental exercise, but one that I hope you found to be illuminating. Remember: Every industry that dealt with the physical distribution of data is ripe for revolution, and you would be hard pressed to find a more hidebound example of this than the book industry.

And finally, Amazon is the market leader in ebooks right now, but that does not mean that other players won’t rise and match it. We are currently living in the infancy of the ebook market, and that is good for authors, readers, and perhaps even the estributors that have yet to be established.

With Google+, Android finally gets its killer app

Over the last couple of years, Android has been fixing a lot of the problems that keep it from being as polished as its slicker and more profitable counterpart, iOS.

With the huge array of Android devices on the market from dozens of manufacturers, it’s incredibly difficult for applications to run identically on wildly different hardware. This means that even current Android hardware isn’t always guaranteed to run the most current version of the OS. It still has a long way to go in this department, but Google is taking steps to help fix some of the issues plaguing the platform.

One major failing of Android may have just gotten its fix directly from the mothership. Google+, if it gains traction, will give Android one of the things that it has been lacking so far, its very own killer app.

The term ‘killer application’ has been around a while. In general it describes an application written for a given platform that provides such a potent draw for users that it becomes a major, if not the main, reason to adopt that platform.

Examples of this in the non-mobile world include Microsoft Office for Windows, XBox Live, Tetris for the Gameboy and the grandaddy of all killer apps, VisiCalc for the Apple II. While some of these products no longer retain their killer app status because of deprecation or distribution, in their moment they represented a major shift in consumer support for the platforms that they appeared on.

Most of the major mobile platforms have had their version of a killer app at one point or another. These things tend to come and go a bit as products wax and wane, but they can provide a big enough effect on user influence that they drive the growth of a platform for a not-insignificant time. One of the prime examples of this in the mobile space is BlackBerry Messenger, which arguably, along with extensive enterprise support, has extended the life of the BlackBerry product by years and most likely accounts for a sizable portion of device sales.

The iOS ecosystem is an interesting case because it is so dominant when it comes to quality applications. The iPhone doesn’t have just one killer app, it has hundreds. Not that there aren’t some very nice apps for Android, but you’ll honestly find most of those hanging out in Apple’s App Store as well, and most likely making more money there too. And, alongside applications that make their primary home in iOS, there are thousands that exist there exclusively.

There are many reasons that a developer may choose to have an app available only on iOS and it would take an extensive amount of explanation to investigate all of the reasons more thoroughly. You can check out this interesting post from Sarah Chang of the husband-and-wife team at Peegos Publishing on why they’re sticking with iOS only for some interesting insight.

But in the end, most major applications will probably end up taking the multi-platform route. Once the Android ecosystem becomes less fragmented and increases its attractiveness in terms of revenue, we could very well start to see pretty much every major app release on both platforms.

Which brings us to Google+, which is available now for Android and will be soon for iOS. While we haven’t seen the iPhone version yet, its easy to assume that it will have at least the same level of polish in its presentation as the version on Android. In fact, because of factors like platform maturity and fragmentation, the iPhone version of the Google+ app may actually be more pleasant to interact with than the Android version.

So, if Google+ will be available on both platforms and may very well work just as good, if not better, on iOS, then how could it possibly be Android’s killer app? The key to the answer is a shift in the way that we define a killer app on a mobile platform.

The instigators of this shift are simple and obvious, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all of the other major social networks have made it impossible for a killer app to be a self contained experience that is isolated on the device. Instead it must have an aggressive social component that makes the device feel alive and connected.

It doesn’t matter how many hundreds of thousands of apps that an App Store has any more. The apps that are the most likely to engage the attention spans of users in an intense way and continue drawing them to the platform in the long term are those that offer a constant influx of content from social networks.

I was talking with a friend about closing his Twitter account, which he did on a whim. The thing that stuck out for me the most is the way that it affected the amount which he used his phone. He found himself picking it up and turning it on much less, even though he has dozens of apps on it, because he new that there was really “nothing new” to look at.

Give it a try yourself, delete your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram apps from your phone and see how much it affects your desire to pick it up and look at it just to see what’s happened in the past 30 minutes on your networks. It’s stunning how much the apps that give us access to our social networks drive the use of our mobile devices.

Google+ taps into this need on a basic level, providing Android users a reason to pick up and use their devices even more. This is what the platform needed, an aggressive play by its creator to give its users something to gloat about. A way to justify their love of the platform and the feeling of support that has, up to this point, been lacking from Android’s creators.

With Google+, Google is casting a spell of longevity and relevance on its mobile platform in a way that no amount of cheap hardware sales could ever do.

Because Google+ is also available on the iPhone you may be tempted to downplay the significance of the app for the Android ecosystem. But, in fact, Google+ was created to inherently take advantage of the more open architecture the Android platform offers. Google will be able to do things with the app on its platform that would never happen on iOS.

Things like a Hangout or Huddle widget, the system wide integration of Google+ into the OS to capture photos and videos or email addresses and phone numbers categorized by Circles will only exist on Android. In the end, it’s safe to say that Apple will never integrate even basic Google+ functionality into the innards of the iPhone’s OS.

And it’s not enough that Apple has its own equivalents to some of these features in its iCloud suite. for instance, every picture can be automatically uploaded to your Google+ gallery every time you press the shutter button of an Android phone, mimicking the behavior of the Photo Stream in iOS. But these photos cannot be instantly shared with a Circle of your friends, they can’t be viewed in a gorgeous, socially enabled, online gallery.

Google is positioned to offer its users an extensively social connected web experience to go along with the mobile app that Apple can’t hold a candle to.

Apple is definitely aware of the potential of this kind of integrate, they have been experimenting with social integration for some time now, as evidenced by the appearance of a Facebook system settings option in unreleased betas of iOS 4. We know now that they ended up making a deal with Twitter instead and will offer extensive sharing options from within system apps in iOS 5.  This still leaves them without an overarching web presence, despite the (for apple) strong social media play that a deal with Twitter represents.

At this point Google+ is still incredibly fresh, with little indications as to its long-term status as a major social network that can play in the same leagues as Facebook and Twitter. Early signs point to widespread adoption among the technorati, but we’ve seen this before with services like Quora, which got great initial traction but has yet to reach the tipping point of momentum it needs to get truly big.

If, and it’s admittedly a big if, Google+ manages to gain traction in the crowded social space, then it stands to garner Google a great toehold in the online social space that will help it to shed its ‘service toolbox’ reputation. It will also give the media giant another place to show its advertising which, lest we forget, is what pays for all of this network building.

But the real winner here isn’t Google as a company, its Android, which will finally get its killer app and a definitive answer to the question “why Android?”

RockYou Goes After Zynga’s Latest Blockbuster

RockYou Zoo WorldRockYou, a maker of popular Facebook widgets, looks like it’s coming out with a game called Galactic Allies, probably an outer-space version of Zynga’s strategy game Empires and Allies. 

A domain name registration by RockYou was spotted by the eagle eyes over at Fusible.com.

With Zynga’s IPO, there’s no question that social gaming is really hot these days. When Zynga came out with Empires Allies, there was some question as to whether a strategy game would work on Facebook. By one measure at least–imitation–it seems to be.

Don’t Miss: The Most Stunning Thing About The Zynga IPO →

To C or LLC, that is the question

Almost every day, I have another startup coming to me and asking for advice about how they should form the legal entity of their business. Almost every day, my answer is the same — Talk to your lawyer. I want to preface this piece by making it clear that I am not qualified to provide legal advice. What I can do is give you a brief, high-level understanding with which you’ll be able to make a better-informed decision.

Unfortunately, talking to a lawyer first isn’t possible for all of us. Legal fees can be unnecessarily high when it comes to articles of incorporation, with many lawyers charging literally thousands of dollars for a service that simply doesn’t justify that sort of cost.

What’s probably even more dangerous, however, is that so many of us wait to form our businesses into a legal entity that protects us from litigation and puts a shield over our personal assets. Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorpNet, explains:

That’s the message I want to put out there. No matter how small you are, even if you’re a sole proprietorship, incorporating or forming an LLC is always a smart idea. Small business owners don’t see the ramifications and the consequences if they’re sued.

Akalp’s CorpNet is a service that helps businesses to find and file the right paperwork in order to get their company legal as an S, C or LLC entity. She makes it clear, though, that CorpNet cannot provide legal advice and only offers statements of facts when it comes to how corporations are designed.

I talked with Akalp this week about the mistakes that businesses make when trying to set up their corporations. Interestingly, the “who, what, when, where and why” method of sorting works best for figuring out what you need to do. But we’re going to flip the order so that things make sense from start to finish.

It’s also worth noting that the things we’ll talk about here only apply to businesses in the United States. If you’re starting your business in other parts of the world, we’ll hopefully get a series together to help you make those decisions, but this is geographically-limited information, for now.

Who

The short answer to this section is “everyone”. For so many of us, we operate under the idea that we should build our business as a sole proprietorship and then form the business entity at a later point. Akalp’s earlier comment gets into the gist of why you want to flip this mentality.

In short, the moment that you decide that you’re going to work with a client/customer/etc, you need to be protected. We live in a litigious society where “sue them” seems to be the answer of choice. With personal judgements that can last up to 22 years, it’s vitally important that your personal life is protected.

Why

First and foremost, what you’re looking for in setting up your business entity is liability protection. If something goes wrong and you get sued, your personal assets are protected. Going back to that statement of 22 years, that is concerning what are known as creditor judgements. So not only are you protecting what you have today, but you’re protecting what you’d like to have in the future.

There are other benefits, as well. Taxes can be lower for corporations than they are for an individual and you’ll have access to deductions that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to claim.

Of course, having the ability to have credit and capital in the name of your business is a huge advantage. There’s a level of professionalism that’s involved with seeing a business name followed by an LLC or Inc. that you don’t get when people are writing checks to “Bob Smith”.

What

Here’s the section that’s not quite so easy to answer. In short, there are four common types of business entities, so we’ll give you a brief overview of them here.

  • Sole Proprietorship: You and yourself. The business is you and you are the business. There are very few benefits to a sole proprietorship, other than simplicity. You most likely will not be able to set up financial or credit accounts in the name of the business and if anyone decides to take your business to court, they’re going after your personal property.
  • S Corporation: These are directed at small businesses and can have some great advantages for those who qualify. However, there are limits that are set as to the number of owners as well as who can be an owner of a corporation filing as an S Corp. Beyond that, all owners are liable for taxes based upon a percentage of their ownership.
  • C Corporation: The short version of this story is that, if you’re planning on raising capital by issuing stock, you’ll need to have a C Corp. It’s not always the best choice for small business owners but it is exactly where you’ll want to go if VCs and other large-scale funding are in your future plans.
  • Limited Liability Company: LLCs are all the buzz of the past few years. They require less complexity in order to be operated but they still offer the protection that pushed you to form the entity in the first place. LLCcs do not have to file separate taxes, rather the owners file themselves and so the company’s profits and losses are subject to the tax rates that are given to the owners. Non-US owners are ideal for an LLC, as are trusts, estates and other corporations since there are considerably looser limits placed onto who can have ownership of an LLC.

Akalp asserts that there are two most-common mistakes when it comes to forming companies. Creating the wrong entity is the first, so this overview should offer you some insight into that. Beyond the type, though, the other biggest issue is a matter of location.

Where

In the US, it’s quite common to see businesses incorporated in the stats of Delaware or Nevada. There are financial benefits to both of these states, as well as some pro-business reasons. Akalp cautions against forming companies in states in which you do not live, however, offering some guidance.

As a general rule of thumb, if your corporation or LLC will have less than five shareholders or members (a condition which applies to the bulk of small businesses), it’s best to incorporate or form an LLC in the state where your business has a physical presence.

Akalp warns against the long-term effects of setting up a business in another state, as well. Due to the logistics of banking, lending and other factors that you’re almost certain to run into as a business, it’s almost always more cost-effective in the long term to form your entity in the state in which you live, regardless of the short-term gains.

Often times, in fact, businesses can find themselves having to pay doubled fees simply because of wanting to do business in other states. Registered agents are often required in the state of filing, even if the company doesn’t physically do business there. Annual filing reports, filing fees and state taxes are other factors to consider, as well. Finally (and possibly most importantly) your state in which you do business will eventually decide that it’s tired of not getting taxes from you. The accrued fees and penalties of having not filed those taxes can quickly out-weigh any initial savings that you might have seen.

When

We started here, but we only brushed the surface of the topic so it’s worth revisiting. The entire landscape of incorporation has changed over the past few years. Akalp started a company called MyCorporation.com after having graduated law school in 1999. At that time, the idea of using online services to incorporate your business was essentially unheard of. Akalp had a big goal of helping out small businesses, though, and she went to work.

By 2004, the company was doing $1 million in gross revenue every month and tax software company Intuit decided that it wanted a partnership. Akalp eventually removed herself from MyCorporation.com and, after her non-compete ran its course, she found herself wanting to get back into the same type of company. Today, CorpNet touts some of the lowest fees in the industry, as well as some of the most complete services. For as little as $29 (plus the fees set by each individual state) you will have all of the paperwork that you need to walk into a bank and open an account.

That’s why Akalp says that it should be a day-one action rather than the eventually status that we often give to it. However, Akalp knows that her’s is not the only player in the space. There are big names such as LegalZoom, Incorporate.com and RocketLawyer that are all biting at the same piece of the pie.

It’s with that in mind that you have perform due diligence. Look at the Better Business Bureau ratings, check out published testimonials and try to find some reviews on your own that aren’t included on each site. Just as you wouldn’t trust only your gut to know the market for your product, it’s worth the time to do your homework when it comes to the products offered by other companies.

It’s an important step and, guilty as charged, it’s one that I neglected to take at an early stage but have since rectified. While I’ll stress again that this isn’t the comprehensive guide, including everything that you need to know, it should make a good starting point. So get legal, then get working. We’re entrepreneurs. Changing the world is just another day at the office.

10 Must-Have Travel Apps for your iOS device

June was a hectic month for me. I attended no less than three “conference-type” events, that had me either in transit or altogether outside of my fair city for 18 days. I learned a lot about what I needed to have along with me for the ride, and I also learned that my iPad (while far better at handling what I needed this time than last year), wasn’t entirely up to the task.

Nonetheless, when it did come in handy, it was a combination of the form factor and several apps available to me that proved to be valuable for long excursions. And while the iPad or iPhone are not full replacements for, say, a notebook on the road, I can attest to 10 must-have apps that every iOS device should have installed before hitting the road.

1. Some form of task management app

I’ve been using OmniFocus for a long time now, but there are other task management/productivity apps that can work; it all depends on how deep into the productivity space you want to go. I’ve got a lot on the go, so OmniFocus is where everything “lives”. When you’re traveling, having some form of “to-do” app is integral, as you’ll need to inevitably add follow-up items for when you get home and add other items of notes throughout your travels. For me, my go-to app was OmniFocus. For you, it might be Things, Flow, Wunderlist, Priorities or one of the other countless apps out there. The key is to pick one and use it — even when you’re on the road.

2. Camera+

I like the native Camera app, but if I’m traveling I like to have a more robust one that can do more with the photos I’m taking, such as zooming in on a subject. Camera+ gives me that and much more. I have barely scratched the surface on what it can do, but in terms of grabbing great shots on the go, I’ve yet to find a more complete camera app.

3. TripIt

TripIt has become my “go to” app for all of my travel itinerary needs. I can have all of my travel info automatically imported into the app (or can email them as well), from flight times to hotel bookings to less obvious items such as ticket information for concerts and such. I can also see alternate flights within the app if I decide to make a change and can discover the best seats to choose when checking in — very handy if you’d like to have as much as leg room as possible on longer flights.

In addition, you can keep track of all of your travel reward points with TripIt if you upgrade to the pro version of the app on its website. But the bare bones version allows for all of the stuff most travelers will really need…which is to figure where they need to be at what time. I’ve tried other apps that purport to do the same, but I keep coming back to TripIt. And now I’m a pro user as well.

This is a multiple page article. Click here for page 2.

How Wayra hopes to create many Silicon Valleys across Latin America

A cloud CRM tool, an online game, an e-health solution and an electronic detector… What could these projects have in common? These are some of the 10 winners of the first Wayra Week, which took place parallel to Campus Party Colombia last week. But what is Wayra?

Wayra, Telefónica’s accelerator for Latin America and Spain

Wayra means “wind” in Quechua, and seems to be benefiting from a good one; it got off the ground in less than 6 months, surprising the skeptics. The idea came from José María Álvarez-Pallete, Telefónica Latin América’s CEO, at the beginning of 2011. He had noticed that the existing talent in Latin America too often had to leave their countries to develop their business ideas. This wasn’t good for Telefónica: for the group to grow, the local ecosystems have to grow as well. This is how he decided to pitch an accelerator to his fellow chairmen; it was approved very quickly and Wayra’s site was launched in April.

Wayra will take place in 8 countries by the end of 2011: Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Chile. Telefónica’s target is to select ten ICT projects to accelerate in each country. Each project will receive between US$30,000 and US$70,000 and will be accelerated during six months (with a possible extension to one year if required by the project’s nature).

But according to Gonzalo Martín-Villa, who is leading the project, Telefónica’s support goes much beyond financing. The teams will be working from Wayra’s offices: Wayra will have one physical location in each country, designed specifically for its needs with the ambition to become a reference. They will be able to network and receive advice from mentors. They will also get administrative and technological support from Telefónica, which will be sharing its know-how. If they need more capital during or at the end of the acceleration process, Wayra will also help the teams in their fundraising. Funds could even come from Telefónica itself: the group recently launched a seed capital fund for the region, Amerigo.

What’s in it for Telefónica

Gonzalo Martín-Villa told me that he is often asked about Telefónica’s ulterior motives: people are often surprised that the group will only take a minority participation in Wayra’s projects, while investing money and resources in accelerating them (four people are working full-time for Wayra in Madrid, assisted by two to three staff in each country.) Moreover, Wayra will also accept ideas that might not directly benefit Telefónica: the group has a first look option and will make its distribution channels available, but if it chooses to pass on a project, this idea can be offered to another partner.

Actually, this doesn’t mean Telefónica is disinterested; it’s only a sign that its goals are more ambitious, as José María Álvarez-Pallete’s declaration shows:

“I want to create Silicon Valleys all over Latin America.”

Telefónica has been present in Latin America for a long time and needs talent to grow locally instead of moving to hubs such as Silicon Valley. The Argentine/Spanish serial entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky (listed in our post on The 25 Most Influential People Tweeting About Entrepreneurship) welcomed Wayra on his blog, calling it “a great initiative”.

The first Wayra Week: why Colombia

Following the calls to projects launched in Colombia, Spain and Mexico, Wayra received an impressive number of submissions in two months: almost 1,500, of which 480 came from Colombia. 30 were shortlisted to participate in the first “Wayra Week” in Bogota last week. It took place in parallel to Campus Party Colombia, of which Telefónica is a sponsor (the next two Wayra Weeks will also happen in parallel to local Campus Parties.) Colombia is the first country to welcome Wayra, partly for a schedule reason, but also because Telefónica knew that the country had interesting talent base and plenty of innovation potential. Still, Gonzalo Martín-Villa confesses that Wayra’s team and jury were surprised by the number and quality of the projects they received.

Wayra Week also exceeded the expectations of Alan Colmenares, who was a speaker at the event. Alan, who moved from Silicon Valley to Latin America 15 years ago, is a believer in the Colombian tech scene. About one year ago, he noticed that the country was falling behind other Latin American countries such as Brazil, and decided to do something about it. He has been trying to push Colombian digital entrepreneurs since then. Writing articles for technology blog VentureBeat and his own blog Tropical Gringo is part of his effort.

Wayra, one of several initiatives for Colombia

Alan is also behind another high-impact initiative: thanks to his perseverance, Alan convinced  Adeo Ressi to bring the Founder Institute to Colombia. The Founder Institute in Colombia focuses on quality rather than quantity: it started with 34 entrepreneurs and is now down to 8 startups. Alan hopes that high-quality companies will emerge from the initiative and thinks that Colombia is a good place to start in the region: it’s big enough to make money once a company gains traction, and small enough to test ideas and differentiate oneself.

According to Alan, “Colombia needs a lot of initiatives”, which is why Wayra is very welcome, since its goal is to help the local ecosystems to grow. He’s hoping there will be interesting synergies between Wayra and Tayrona Ventures, the accelerator he’s about to launch in partnership with PagosOnline’s co-founders (PagosOnline was part of our selection of 10 Latin American Startups You Should Watch Out For.) Although startups with global ambitions are of interest too, this initiative will focus mostly on startups with regional expansion goals and aiming at filling gaps within the Latin America market. This could be an interesting option for some of the 20 projects selected for Wayra Week and who didn’t make it to the final shortlist.

What’s next for Wayra

After three days during which the 30 selected teams received mentoring and polished their pitches, the jury (mostly external to Telefónica) picked 10 winners. Even if they’re all related to IT in some way, it’s interesting to note that they are in fact quite varied, from e-health (Glya) to CRM (Cubbi.co, NetHub Media Go2Do) to online gaming (Toomga) and music (Yimup). The teams will soon move to Wayra’s offices in Bogota and the incubation process will start.

As for Wayra, it’s now gearing for the next series of Wayra Weeks which will take place very soon in Spain (Valencia) and Mexico – the selection schedule for the next countries should be announced soon.

What do you think: will Wayra manage to create Silicon Valley’s across Latin America?

Does privacy exist in a world of social networks and sharing?

We are the connected generation. Thanks to our ever-present mobile devices we are always ‘on’ and connected. This allows us to capture a record of all the great things we do, and share our experiences, our recommendations and our memorable moments with friends, colleagues and the world at large, through the medium of popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp. We broadcast these moments out to the rest of the world. We let others share in our passions and see the details of our daily lives. We have become the lifeblood of information for our friends and followers, and they have taken on the role of gatekeepers as we filter and pump information from network to network.

As the opportunities to share information have become more ubiquitous, there has been an increasingly hyped-up debate and concern around the topic of privacy. But is privacy really the issue? As Jeff Jarvis rightly points out, the reason for using social services is for sharing, not hiding. Twitter and Instagram are prime examples of this, where the user is forced to choose between sharing everything or limiting their sharing to a personally selected group who apply for the privilege. Nonetheless, the fact is that although many of us want to share, we want to be able to fine-tune our audience. This challenges services like Facebook where you determine sharing settings in advance of your broadcast.

Has the notion of a ‘friend’ become too diluted by the many different definitions of ‘contact’ across social media networks? Path is trying to redefine this by limiting the number of friends you can add to 50, encouraging you to only share with your “real friends.” But then the question is whether this really solves the issue? Do we only want to share with our close social circle, or do we (as I would argue) have things we want to share with other groups of contacts we would not classify as “friends”?

The problem is that there is currently no universal standard for privacy settings. Each social network has implemented their own interpretation as it applies to types of content shared on their platform. As social networks open up their APIs, allowing users to give third parties access to their content, their social media content can become spread across multiple services. Every network defines their privacy and sharing settings differently, so there is significant ambiguity around how these settings translate when transferring content among services. If you try to inherit privacy settings from multiple services the level of complexity that results is enormously challenging both from a development and a user perspective.

No one has solved this problem yet, and it is a highly relevant and important issue that needs to be addressed. We need a platform where you can manage and arrange all your connections into one simple structure, allowing you to easily define the privacy layers for how, and with whom, you share your content online. And this platform needs to integrate all the social networks.

Facebook Connect was a good first attempt at this, but sadly they quickly closed down their API that allowed you to invite your Facebook Friends to join third-party services. Now you can only view and add friends who are already signed up to that service. The continuation of Facebook Connect in its original form would have made Facebook the major organ of social media sharing, pumping content between networks and controlling the flow to new arteries of social circulation. For users, this would have allowed them greater control and continuity of how their content was shared beyond the confines of Facebook’s network.

Until we create a unified theory of sharing across social networks, there will continue to be great concern around the conflicting definitions of individual privacy. Regulators, in their efforts to protect internet users, are already discussing how to create barriers to protect the individual and simultaneously stifle social sharing. What we need is not greater personal protection through legal limitations, but consistency and standards that are recognized across social networks.

This past week the Google+ platform was revealed, ushering in a promising new chapter in the movement towards a universal standard of privacy. Google+’s ‘circles’ interface allows users to easily organize their network of contacts into spheres of association. Their organizational model for privacy takes what Facebook has developed one step further by allowing the user to easily visualize their different spheres of contacts, and determine which group they want to share updates with as the final step in broadcasting content. Wouldn’t it be great if I could link that structure to all of my other social networks? Let’s hope that Google+ hurdles past the point where Facebook Connect retreated from and becomes the new heart of social network sharing.

Eric Lagier is the cofounder and CEO of Memolane, a service that creates social media timelines for individuals and companies. Lagier formerly was the director of hardware and mobile business development at Skype.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Josh Hallett

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